And David became greater and greater, for the LORD God of Hosts was with him.
I. GREATNESS WELL-DERIVED. All greatness is in some sense from God; but all does not spring from his favour. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction" (Psalm 73:18). He that becomes "a great man" through unjust violence, the oppression and swallowing up of the weak, low cunning, unscrupulous ambition, insatiable avarice, or an absorbing activity of mind and bevy which excludes God from thought and life, cannot rightly attribute his success to the blessing of God. Such greatness is disastrous, and carries a curse with it. It is reached by serving Satan, and accompanied with slavery to him and participation of his doom. He was not altogether lying when he said (Luke 4:6, 7) that the power and glory of the world were given by him to those who would worship him. The world abounds in instances of greatness so won. But the greatness which is a gift of God's favour is reached by paths of truth and uprightness and piety; by the strenuous employment of all the powers, indeed, but in harmony with the Divine will; not so much, therefore, with the purpose to grow great as to be of service to others. It is rather accepted as a gift of God than sought; and is accepted "with fear and trembling," lest the strong temptations which accompany all worldly greatness should become victorious. Such greatness is accompanied with a good conscience, and may be without serious peril to the soul. It may foster principles of godliness and benevolence. It qualifies for high service of others, and, so employed, enlarges the heart and elevates instead of degrading the character. It thus ministers to the truest greatness - that which is spiritual and eternal.
II. GREATNESS WELL-ACCOMPANIED. Some, the greater they grow the less of God they enjoy; they gradually forsake him, and he at length abandons them. But there are those of whom it may be said, as they grow great in this world, still "the Lord God of hosts is with them."
1. How the great may secure this blessing. By:
(2) Devotion of their enlarged powers to the service of God and of man.
(3) Constant prayer. On the other hand, pride, selfishness, and prayerlessness will separate them from God.
2. The benefits they will derive from it.
(1) The highest and purest enjoyment to which worldly honours and resources can minister.
(2) Preservation from the perils of their position.
(3) The power to gain the best kind of good. from it.
(4) And to do the most good by it.
(5) Greatness thus accompanied is likely to be lasting.
Finally, spiritual greatness combines in a pre-eminent degree the two excellences of being God derived and God accompanied. It springs from the favour of God, and secures its constant enjoyment. It consists in abundance of spiritual wisdom, holiness, and love, and consequent power for good; in the honour which these bring from God, and in the confidence, affection, and respect with which they inspire men. It has the advantage of being accessible to all, its conditions being, first, faith in Christ and God; and then the fruits of faith, such as love, humility (Matthew 18:4), obedience to God (Matthew 5:19), self-control (Proverbs 16:32), self-denying service (Matthew 20:20-28). Such greatness is intrinsic and essential. It is best for ourselves and best for others. It is inseparable from the man himself, and, surviving all worldly distinctions, goes with him into eternity, and abides forever (see 1 John 2:17). - G.W.
I. THE TIDE OF PROSPERITY.
I. WHAT DAVID DID. "He went on."
David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of Hosts was with him.
I. WE CONSIDER THE GREATNESS DAVID HAD JUST REACHED. Six successive steps, at the least, had the eternal God taken in his behalf on the way to his advancement.
1. He caused that a full and loyal call should come from the realm over which he was now to rule as the second king (ver. 1.)
2. The Lord trained David for the position he was to occupy by a long and intricate process Of providential discipline (ver. 2.)
3. Moreover, God had chosen David intelligently, years before, and announced him as the man who should come after Saul (ver. 3.)
4. Then, too, God helped on David's greatness by providing for the stability of his government a capital and a royal abode (ver. 7.)
5. God's gentleness made David great in that a perpetual presence was vouchsafed to him for his entire life (ver. 10.)
6. Then, also, God had made this monarch great by opening his intelligence so that he should understand the meaning of Divine Providence, past and future, and admit its special reach (ver. 12.)
II. THE GENTLENESS IN THE DIVINE DEALING WITH HIM from his first recognition as a shepherd-boy to this final establishment of him in the throne of Israel; is that in particular among the attributes of God which he acknowledges just now. The poet Goethe has left behind him, in his autobiography, this somewhat curious sentence as a revelation of personal fact: "I was especially troubled by a giddiness which came over me every time that I looked down from a height." Many people, since his day and before it, have had the same characteristic disturbance; but it has more often been a height of ambition than merely a height of tower or precipice. But there is no symptom of giddiness in the quiet ascription of his gratitude: "Thy gentleness has made me great."
1. God's gentleness had borne with David's want of memory.
2. Then, also, there was David's want of faith, with which the Almighty bore in a like spirit of gentleness.
3. To this we may add that God's gentleness is disclosed in his patiently bearing with David's want of courage.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
1. He "went on" with his appointed work. David was not alone in this. Every man has a work given him by God. David was, above all things, a servant of God, and every man may be that if he will!
2. He "went on" in the face of opposition. He was opposed by the Jebusites, and later by the Philistines. If we are in the path of duty, let us go forward! 'Tis patient going on that wins! In school and college, in workshop and office, perseverance triumphs. Even so is it in the godly life. "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." "To patient faith the prize is sure," etc.
II. WHAT DAVID BECAME. He "grew great." David "grew great" in his kingly power, and honours, and victories, great in the eyes of his foes, and great in the estimation of his subjects. The large majority have to be content with mediocrity. Most natures possess a spark of wholesome ambition, but in many cases it has become smothered and buried! Many throw away splendid opportunities of becoming at any rate greater than they are. The idler, the spendthrift, the drunkard, etc. Ambition may be worthy or unworthy. He who aspires to be great in an honourable calling by honourable means, to push his way by dint of hard work to the front, is surely to be commended! Let us grow great without sacrificing our integrity, or not at all! If we may not rise on the wings of righteousness let us be content to keep on the ground! Above all, let it be our aim to grow great morally and spiritually. But moral ennoblement comes from a higher source. Tennyson's Arthur, speaking of the Knights of the Round Table, says: —
"I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the king as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their king,
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To honour his own word as if his God's,
To live sweet lives in purest chastity."Write "Christ" instead of Arthur and you have the patent of a higher nobility than earthly sovereign ever bestowed.
III. THE SECRET OF DAVID'S PROSPERITY. "The Lord God of Hosts was with him." The secret of all real greatness is in having the Lord on our side. How can we secure His presence and help? How did David secure these?
1. He trusted God.
2. He acknowledged and consulted Him.
3. He obeyed God.The same method of ensuring the Divine help is open to all. If we would go on and grow great, if we would prosper in all right ways we must begin to walk in those ways. Have we made the great commencement? He calls us now!
1. David as sole ruler over Israel. Every tide has a turning, and at last the ebb-tide of David's misfortunes began to flow. Judah had for seven and a half years been subject to David's sway, and now all Israel was anxious to array itself under his banner. The account given in our lesson is very meagre, but a fuller account in (1 Chronicles 12:23-40) will prove that the whole proceeding was full of pomp. Adding up the military escorts there mentioned, we find that they reached the grand total of three hundred and forty thousand eight hundred, For three days there was universal rejoicing and festivity. Thus with ceremonies of appropriate dignity, the former shepherd was at last recognized as sovereign over all God's chosen people.
2. As military conqueror. Soon after his installation as king over all Israel, David began to cast wistful glances at Jerusalem. It was really the Gibraltar of Canaan. But thus far, by reason of its impregnable situation, it had defied the efforts of the Israelites to capture it, though on one occasion they had been partially successful. David therefore laid plans for its complete subjugation. Thus David gained a kingdom, a capital, and a religious centre from which to rule his people.
3. As king among nations. Prosperity at home was followed by the recognition of the sovereigns of other nations. Among them was Hiram, king of ancient Tyre. Distant rulers sought alliance with the king of Israel, and courted his favour. So he advanced, and became great. The tide of prosperity swept far up on the sands of David's life, and the promise of happiness and usefulness was golden.
II. THE CAUSE OF PROSPERITY.
1. David recognized that it was not for his own individual sake that God had thus prospered him, but that it was "for his people Israel's sake." If he had stopped to think, he would have recognized that he was no more talented a man than Saul had been. Saul began well, when raised to the throne. In some respects, indeed, Saul had the advantage over David. At this time in his life David probably recognized all this, and ascribed the glory to Him to whom it belonged. Had he only always borne this in mind, he would have made fewer mistakes and committed fewer sins than he did. So long as his thought ran God-ward he was safe; but as soon as his mind began to say, "by mine own might," he lost power and fell. These first few years of David's reign were among the happiest of his whole life. His hardships as an exile were at an end. He no longer lay down and rose up in fear of his implacable enemy. He was no longer separated from family and friends, and driven from post to pillar like a wild beast. His heart was not tried by the apparent contradiction between God's promise and God's performance. The promise of the kingdom had been made good, and David felt that "all's well that ends well." Moreover, the people had not yet become alienated from this ruler. The enthusiasm of a united and prosperous nation, led by a wise and talented military chieftain, still pervaded all classes. The great and overwhelming temptations of royalty had not yet enfeebled the moral character of the king. Enlarged life, filled with unusual opportunities for usefulness, spread out before him, and filled him with the enthusiasm of full manhood. This was David's "golden age." He stood at the beginning of a career which might be almost perfect in its achievements. So stands many a young man and woman. Life stretches out before them, and is full of grand possibilities. The restraints incident to childhood and the years of tutelage are over. Powers of body and mind are in full vigour, and hope stands with face erect and confidence on its brow. Friends applaud, and predict great success in future days. Well is it for such persons to remember that God is the source of all their talents and of the conditions of their future success.
(A. F. Schauffler.)
(R. C. Ford, M. A.)
(H. Clay Trumbull.)
Great Thoughts.Progress and improvement are every man's duty. It is not right to remain as we were, or as we are. We ought to be all the time gaining and growing in experience and attainment and grace. It may be to our shame that we are just where God put us, and that we have just what God gave to us. A man whose looks were spoken of contemptuously, said in rejoinder, "You've no right to find fault with my looks; I'm just as God made me." "I know it, and that's what I'm blaming you for," said his critic; "you've never made any improvement on yourself." That answer made a fair point. If God puts us at the bottom of a hill, or at the beginning of a road, it may be for us to mount or to proceed, and not to stop where we are. It. was the man who retained just what his Lord gave him, and who was ready to give back that at the day of reckoning, who not only lost his possessions, but was cast out into outer darkness as an unprofitable servant. Remaining just as God made us may be the cause of our condemnation.
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