1 Samuel 26:21
Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do you harm, because my soul was precious in your eyes this day…
I. SAUL'S HISTORY JUSTIFIES THIS EXPRESSION, INASMUCH AS HIS PUBLIC LIFE WAS MARKED BY A CONTINUED ATTEMPT AT THOROUGH INDEPENDENCE OF GOD. Here is discoverable the great secret of Saul's downfall. This was his folly, here he erred. He made the attempt to get on without God.
1. This was folly — first, because it was subversive of all that reason and wisdom suggested. For the very being of a God is of itself a fact sufficiently indicative of the place which the creatures of that God should occupy. It was attempting to alter the relative positions of the Universal Sovereign and of His subjects — the relative position of the Great Proprietor of all and of those who are entirely at His disposal. The laws of nature, in regard to matter, allow no interference with them which would subvert the relative conditions of strength and weakness, independence and dependence, without such results as expose the folly of the attempt. Let the lighter materials, of which the superstructure may be safely built, be employed for the foundation, and let the heavy blocks — the solid masses — of which the foundation should consist, be used for the superstructure, and the builder will soon have to say, "I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly." Attempt to frame a raft of some substance whose specific gravity is greater than that of water, and the moment you launch it on the waves it will sink, and imminent peril will ensue, and you will just have been "playing the fool." Or come to nature's laws as regards moral beings — indulge a course of Action which subverts these. Let the rule be that the child's will shall take precedence of the parent's, the servant's of the master's, that superior and inferior should change places, and would not the results in families and households soon prove that all this was but "erring exceedingly?" And shall there be any success where man, dependent man, thus takes or attempts to take the place of independence? Can he rid himself of God, when, at the utmost stretch of self-will, he is asking, "Who is Lord over me?"
2. Besides, if it be against all reason to put our own will into the place of God's, it is not less against our interest to do so. Saul, indeed, attempted to do as well without God as with Him; but did he succeed? Did he get on as well without God as with Him? And did ever the history of a single individual justify the supposition that this was possible? It is only "the blessing of the Lord" which "maketh rich, and he added no sorrow with it."
II. APPLICABLE AS THE SENTENCE WAS TO THE WHOLE RETROSPECT OF HIS HISTORY, IT WAS PREEMINENTLY APPROPRIATE TO THIS PORTION OF IT. In many respects he had thus erred; in one respect most especially and distressingly so. He was now addressing David, a man whom on every ground, he ought to have loved, for he was lovely in himself, and he had done Saul good service; and, moreover, he stood in very near relationship to him — the husband of his daughter, the bosom friend of his son. It is not difficult to gather the reasons of this verdict pronounced upon himself; and they demand our attention, because they expose to our view points of possible error in our own conduct. His folly and error consisted in treating a man as his enemy who was, in reality, his best friend. Have you ever, like Saul in reference to David, felt the risings of dislike to your friend, because, in some form or another, he seemed to stand in the way of your cherished plans and self-gratifying projects? Beware how you listen to the suggestions of the evil spirit. Saul's folly consisted, not simply in treating as an enemy the man who was really his best friend, but in attempting, by this very conduct towards David, to fly in the face of those Divine arrangements to which, however humiliating their character, he was bound, in meekness, to have submitted. God had assigned the kingdom to David: Saul was determined to keep it for himself and his family. It was the one purpose of Saul's life to defeat God's arrangement; and nothing promised so readily and directly to accomplish his object as the death of David, and this became, therefore, the one great point at which he aimed. Yet never does a man commit himself to a harder, and at the same time more fruitless, enterprise than when he fights against God's providential arrangements — when, for instance, God is evidently calling on him to give up some plan of his own — when God is requiring him to take a humbler level, and he will grasp tightly and hold tenaciously the position which everything combines to tell him is not for himself nor his family, but for another. "Their folly shall be made manifest to all men;" and not less shall it be felt by themselves. Submission, which they would not render voluntarily to One who has a just right to claim it, will be wrung out of them reluctantly by One against whom "none ever hardened himself and prospered." Saul, alas! admitted his error, but took no steps to turn his confession to practical advantage. Let us be careful against such a neglect. Let us proceed at once, by God's blessing, to act out our convictions.
(J. A. Miller.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
WEB: Then Saul said, "I have sinned. Return, my son David; for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly."