“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, … .” So begins Charles Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities. That’s the way my wife and I look back on the days when I was a student in seminary. In those first two years, we often did not know where the money would come from for food or tuition or hospital bills. They were hard times in many regards, but they were also the best of times as well. Over and over, we saw God’s hand of provision and protection. We experienced God’s grace and care through many generous and supportive friends, and through unexpected answers to prayer.
I think David would say the same thing of his early years, before he came to power as Israel’s king. He had some difficult times. He was the youngest son, and it seemed as though he got all the dirty work. His brothers did not look up to him, but treated him with a measure of disrespect (1 Samuel 17:28). He wasn’t even present for selection as Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16:10-11). After he was anointed as Israel’s next king and had defeated Goliath, he had to flee from Saul, who sought to perpetuate his reign by killing his replacement.
These were difficult days for David, but they were also the “best of times.” David learned to deal with danger, and he also learned to fight (see 1 Samuel 16:18). He came to rely upon God and to love His Word. He learned obedience and submission, even when his life was endangered. He developed close, enduring friendships and alliances.
It is the early portion of David’s life that will be the subject of our study in this lesson. We will begin with the anointing of David in 1 Samuel 16, and we will end at the period in time when David has been appointed as king of both Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 10). There are many exciting stories in our text with many important lessons for us to learn, so let us listen well to what God has to say to us through the life of David, his friends, and his enemies.
God rebukes Samuel for continuing to mourn for Saul. He was not to be pitied. God had dealt with him justly. Samuel is then commanded to go to a man named Jesse in Bethlehem and to anoint one of his sons as Israel’s next king. First, the thing that arrests my attention in this text is the fear expressed by Samuel and by the elders of Bethlehem:
2 Samuel replied, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me!” But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you should do. You will anoint for me the one that I point out to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord told him. When he arrived in Bethlehem, the elders of the city were afraid to meet him. They said, “Do you come in peace?” (1 Samuel 16:2-4, emphasis mine)
We need to remember that up to this point in time David has not been designated as the next king. Goliath has not yet been slain by David. David is an unknown shepherd boy. In other words, Saul is not threatened by David; he is threatened by anyone who might play a role in the designation of his replacement. Saul is a man who reminds me a great deal of Herod, who would kill all the young boys living in and around Bethlehem, just to prevent one of them from becoming the “king of Israel” (see Matthew 2:16-18). Samuel even feared that Saul would kill him, as he was the logical one to anoint the next king. Saul was a very dangerous man.
Second, the thing that stands out in these verses is the one whom God chooses to be king. Like most of us, Samuel looked at the oldest son and assumed he was the one God had chosen. He was wrong. Saul was the kind of man Israel wanted for its king. The oldest son of Jesse was probably something like Saul in terms of age, height, and strength. Saul was a man who was physically dominating – he stood head and shoulders above his countrymen (1 Samuel 9:2), but his heart was not inclined toward the Lord. This time God would appoint a man whose heart was rightly inclined toward him. David was a good-looking young man (16:12), and he was regarded as a “brave warrior,” even before he killed Goliath (16:18). We know that Saul’s armor was too large and cumbersome for him, so David had to be a smaller man, at least a lot smaller than Saul; and, it would be safe to say, he was youthful (17:33, 43).
There is a great deal of concern these days about “racial profiling,” but I would suggest to you we should also be concerned about “leadership profiling.” It is a well-known and commonly accepted fact that a disproportionate number of leaders in America are men who are “tall, dark, and handsome,” so to speak. In the Christian community, we have our own version of “leadership profiling.” The governing boards of church and parachurch organizations are most often white-collar, successful businessmen. When we look for leaders, we give a disproportionate emphasis to education, intelligence, self-confidence, assertiveness, and most of all, success. We might do well to give further thought to God’s choice of David as Israel’s king, and let us not forget the words of the Apostle Paul on this matter:
26 Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were members of the upper class. 27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 29 so that no one can boast in his presence. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).171
Let us remember, the disciples were not men whom we would have chosen to be our Lord’s apostles either:
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
Let us take heed to our text and to the words of the Apostle Paul. Let us beware of the Saul’s, and be on the lookout for the David’s.
The anointing of David by Samuel marked him out as God’s choice for Israel’s next king. It may well be that David’s brothers breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Saul would try to kill anyone who appeared to threaten his continuation as king. But beyond designating David as God’s choice for king, David’s anointing was accompanied by the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit:
So Samuel took the horn full of olive oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day onwards. Then Samuel got up and went to Ramah (1 Samuel 16:13).
As with Saul’s anointing (10:1-11), the Spirit of God was given to empower God’s king to carry out his task. When the Spirit abandons Saul and comes upon David, it is a sure sign of things to come. From this point on, things will never be the same for either Saul or David.
This is indeed one of the more perplexing texts in 1 Samuel. It is not really surprising to read that the Spirit of God “turned away from Saul,” but it is puzzling to read that “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14). If God is taking the kingdom away from Saul and giving it to David, we can understand why the Spirit would depart from Saul (verse 14) at the same time that it is given to David (verse 13). But why would God send “an evil spirit” to torment Saul?
Surely we must ask ourselves, “Why would God send an evil spirit to torment anyone?” We would expect Satan to be doing this, would we not? The answer is probably to be found in the first two chapters of the Book of Job. There we read that Satan had to ask God’s permission before he could bring about great suffering for this saint. While Satan is the immediate cause of Job’s suffering, Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. Job suffered at the hand of Satan, only because God allowed it. I assume that the same is true in our text and, thus, the author could speak of this as “an evil spirit from the Lord.” God is not the immediate cause of Saul’s troubles, but He is the One who is ultimately in control of all things. This may not be all that different from what we find in the New Testament:
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus (John 13:2).
And after Judas took the piece of bread Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27).
Turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5)
The bottom line is that God is sovereign, and nothing takes place that is contrary to His divine purpose and plan. An evil spirit can torment a man only because God allows it, and in that sense, it could be said that it is “an evil spirit from the Lord.” I must also point out that by Saul’s jealousy and uncontrolled rage, he has opened himself up for satanic activity.
We should not fail to see the providential hand of God in all of this. Saul was now subject to fits of demonic tormenting. His servants recognized this was demonic in nature, and they seemed to know that music could sometimes soothe a tormented soul like Saul’s. So they recruited David, who was a skilled musician, to play his lyre and thus calm Saul’s troubled spirit. The end result of this – David was introduced to the protocol of royalty, on-the-job training for the days when he would become king.
One might assume that all of Saul’s sinful actions were the result of this “exchange of spirit,” but I don’t believe this is the case at all. Let us remember, Saul’s two great “kingdom-depriving” sins172 were committed before the arrival of the “evil spirit,” and were done before the Holy Spirit had been removed! Further, the “evil spirit” was not constantly tormenting Saul, but rather came and went. The evil spirit prompted Saul to thrust his spear at David (18:10-11; 19:9-10), but other acts of Saul seem to have come from Saul himself (20:30-33).
It is important for us to note that Saul’s jealousy and uncontrolled rage did not suddenly surface when Saul realized David was his replacement. Saul was demonized and subject to fits of rage, before he knew David was to replace him. David did not make Saul what he was; Saul was that way, even before the time the Spirit of God left him. Before David was anointed, both Samuel and the elders of Bethlehem greatly feared Saul (16:2, 4). I think one could make a case for the position that Saul’s sin opened the door to satanic involvement. Sometimes we are quick to blame Satan for our sins, when we are the source. In my opinion, the “evil spirit” merely enhanced Saul’s sin.173
Israel’s king was to be a man who would lead the nation in war:
We will be like all the nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20).
Then Samuel took a container of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head. Samuel kissed him and said, “The Lord has chosen you to lead his people Israel! You will rule over the Lord’s people and you will deliver them from the power of the enemies who surround them. This will be your sign that the Lord has chosen you as leader over his inheritance” (1 Samuel 10:1).
Both of Saul’s major sins were related to his being commander-in-chief of Israel’s army. In chapter 17, we will see how Saul failed to live up to his duty as king, and how David fulfilled his responsibilities as God’s newly-anointed king.
1 The Philistines gathered their troops for battle. They assembled at Socoh in Judah. They camped in Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the men of Israel assembled and camped in the valley of Elah, where they arranged their battle lines to fight against the Philistines. 3 The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites on another hill, with the valley between them. 4 Then a champion from the camp of the Philistines came out. His name was Goliath; he was from Gath. He was close to seven feet tall. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and was wearing scale body armor. The weight of his bronze body armor was five thousand shekels. 6 He had bronze shin guards on his legs, and a bronze javelin was slung over his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed six hundred shekels. The shield bearer was going before him. 8 He stood and called to Israel’s troops, “Why do you come out to prepare for battle? Am I not the Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose for yourselves a man so he may come down to me! 9 If he is able to fight with me and strike me down, we will become your servants. But if I prevail against him and strike him down, you will become our servants and will serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “I defy Israel’s troops this day! Give me a man so we can fight each other!” 11 When Saul and all the Israelites heard these words of the Philistine, they were upset and very afraid (1 Samuel 17:1-11).
Saul was the one who was to lead his soldiers in battle. He was also the “Goliath” of Israel, for he stood head and shoulders above the rest of the people (1 Samuel (9:2; 10:23). Saul was the champion of the Israelite soldiers, yet he was not to be found on the front lines of battle, but looking on from a safe distance. At the time when his soldiers needed Saul the most, he was filled with fear. It is no wonder that his men were fearful as well (17:11, 24).
The Israelites and the Philistines faced off with each other, each on a hillside, separated by a valley with a stream flowing through it (17:1-3, 40). For forty days, these two armies had faced each other. The Israelites seemed fearful that they could not defeat the Philistines. I suspect the Philistines were trying to lure the Israelites down from the hillside, so that they could employ their chariots in the valley (compare 2 Samuel 18:8; 1 Kings 20:23). The Israelites seem to have been silent, but Goliath was arrogant and profane.
Goliath was certainly a giant, but any Israelite, who was familiar with history and with God’s Word, should not have been intimidated. In Genesis 12:3, God made it clear He would deal with anyone who cursed His people. The incident at Kadesh, recorded in Numbers 13, was all about the Israelites’ fear of the giants in the land of Canaan. But God promised to deliver these giants into their hands, and He did. Hannah’s prayer in chapter 2 also addressed this issue:
9 He watches over his holy ones,
but the wicked are made speechless in the darkness,
for it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.
10 The Lord shatters his adversaries;
he thunders against them from the heavens.
The Lord executes judgment to the ends of the earth.
He will strengthen his king
and exalt the power of his anointed one” (1 Samuel 2:9-10).
In chapter 14, Jonathan had faced a similar situation, but he would not allow the odds against him to keep him from fighting the Philistines:
4 Now there was a steep cliff on each side of the pass through which Jonathan intended to go to reach the Philistine garrison. One cliff was named Bozez, the other Seneh. 5 The cliff to the north was closer to Micmash, the one to the south closer to Geba. 6 Jonathan said to his servant who was carrying his equipment, “Come on, let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will intervene for us. Nothing can prevent the Lord from delivering, whether by many or by a few” (1 Samuel 14:4-6).
This was a situation that required faith in the God of Israel, and Saul lacked that faith. It would require another, who had greater faith, to stand up to Goliath and the Philistines. God divinely orchestrated events so that David would see and hear the blasphemies of Goliath first hand. His father sent him to check on the welfare of his three older brothers, who were fighting the Philistines under Saul’s leadership:
22 After David had entrusted his cargo to the care of the supply officer, he ran to the battle front. When he arrived, he asked his brothers how they were doing. 23 As he was speaking with them, the champion named Goliath, the Philistine from Gath, was coming up from the battle lines of the Philistines. He spoke the way he usually did, and David heard it. 24 When all the men of Israel saw this man, they retreated from his presence and were very afraid (1 Samuel 17:22-24).
The Israelites had grown accustomed to Goliath’s ranting, but David recognized it for what it was. He knew that Goliath must be opposed and silenced:
26 David asked the men who were standing near him, “What will be done for the man who strikes down this Philistine and frees Israel from this humiliation? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he defies the armies of the living God?” 27 The soldiers told him what had been promised saying, “This is what will be done for the man who can strike him down” (1 Samuel 17:26-27).
David’s older brother was greatly incensed by David’s words. No doubt they struck home. Why wasn’t someone standing up to this loudmouth Philistine? So Eliab hotly retorted:
When his oldest brother Eliab heard him speaking to the men, he became angry with David and said, “Why have you come down here? To whom did you entrust those few sheep in the desert? I am familiar with your pride and deceit. You have come down here to watch the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28)
What complete and utter disdain Eliab had for David. Others could recommend David to Saul as a “brave warrior” (16:18), but not Eliab. We should not forget that Eliab was passed over by Samuel (and ultimately by God), who anointed David as Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16:6-7). All Eliab could hear in David’s words was childish curiosity and even foolishness. Perhaps we see now why God quickly passed over Eliab.
Saul responded in a very different manner. Someone brought word to the king that there was someone willing to stand up against Goliath. Saul seemed to seize upon this in desperation – anybody but him could go take on Goliath. Saul did not overlook David’s youth, and he even sought to discourage him from fighting Goliath:
32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged. Your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” 33 But Saul replied to David, “You aren’t able to go against this Philistine and fight him! You’re just a boy! He has been a warrior from his youth!” (1 Samuel 17:32-33)
David informed Saul that he had been prepared for this day, as he had stood up to other daunting foes, while keeping his father’s sheep (such a simple and meaningless task, so far as Eliab was concerned, (see 17:28). God had given David victory over a lion and a bear. God would do the same with Goliath, especially since His reputation was at stake:
36 Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them. For he has defied the armies of the living God!” 37 David went on to say, “The Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear will also deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!” Then Saul said to David, “Go. The Lord will be with you” (1 Samuel 17:36-37).
Saul was convinced. This is rather amazing, since David’s actions might very well precipitate a major confrontation. For whatever reasons, Saul let David go with his blessings. He offered David his armor as well, but it was much too large for him. What a rebuke it must have been to Saul to look at David, wearing his armor, eager to carry out the task that should have been his and, then, to see this “lad” with a suit of armor emphasizing Saul’s stature, as a reminder he was Israel’s giant who should have opposed Goliath.
David was determined to fight Goliath with the weapons he had employed before. David hastened to the front lines to confront Goliath. He had no armor, no sword, only his staff, his sling and his shepherd’s bag, filled with five smooth stones. When Goliath realized only a young lad faced him, he was offended and angered. What an insult, to send a young lad to take on the champion of the Philistines. The author makes it very clear this is a spiritual matter:
43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you are coming to me with sticks?” The Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, so I can give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David replied to the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand. I will strike you down and cut off your head. I will give the corpses of the camp of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God 47 and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand”
(1 Samuel 17:43-47).
David runs toward Goliath, sling twirling in the air. Years of practice (not to mention God’s hand) had prepared David for this moment. We know that some Israelites were very skilled with the sling (Judges 20:16). The stone is very precisely aimed and strikes its target – the forehead of the giant. The stone sinks deep enough to stun Goliath. This gave David time to rush to the giant, “borrow” his sword, and cut off his head, before he could defend himself. The Israelites began to hotly pursue the Philistines. David brought the head of Goliath to Saul, who looked on from a safe distance, and then inquired about the identity of David’s father.174
David’s victory over Saul propelled him into instant prominence, something like the faith and courageous death of Cassie Bernall, the 17-year-old girl who was shot at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. But as David gains more and more fame, Saul comes to fear him. David was greatly loved, both by Saul’s son Jonathan (1-4), and by his daughter Michal (18:20). Saul, still unwilling to lead the army of Israel in battle, put David in charge of his men of war. This was well received by warriors and also by Saul’s administrative staff. Finally, things came to a head when Saul overheard some women singing David’s praises after a victory in battle:
6 When the men arrived after David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women from all the cities of Israel came out singing and dancing to meet King Saul. They were happy as they played their tambourines and three-stringed instruments. 7 The women who were playing the music sang,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
but David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:6-7).
That was the final straw for Saul, who now looked upon David as a challenger for the throne:
8 This made Saul very angry. The statement displeased him and he thought, “They have attributed to David tens of thousands, but to me they have attributed only thousands. What does he lack, except the kingdom?” 9 So Saul was keeping an eye on David from that day onward (1 Samuel 18:8-9).
In one sense, Saul was absolutely right – David was the one who would become the king of Israel in his place. But he was wrong to distrust David, as though he was seeking to unseat him from his throne. Jealousy seized Saul, and he sought to kill him with a spear as he played the lyre for him in his house.
From this time on, Saul set out to bring about David’s death. At first, he tried the indirect method. He encouraged David to go to war with Israel’s enemies, hoping that David would be killed in battle. Saul even offered his daughters as a wife for David, if he would but show himself courageous in battle. Instead of dying in battle, David racked up one success after another, and became even more popular with the people. Saul’s plan was backfiring. When David killed 200 Philistines as a dowry gift, Saul had to give him Michal, his daughter, in marriage. Saul’s fears were only multiplied.
Finally, Saul decided he must take the direct approach. He ordered his servants to kill David (19:1). Jonathan cared greatly for his friend David, and he warned him that his father was seeking to kill him. Jonathan also spoke with his father and temporarily persuaded him that David was a faithful servant. Saul vowed not to harm David. This lasted until David once again went to war and had great success. Saul’s jealousy, fueled by an evil spirit, prompted him to attempt to put David to death with his spear for a second time. Saul then sent his servants to David’s house to seize him and put him to death. With Michal’s help, David was able to escape. David fled to Samuel and told him all that had happened. Saul learned that David and Samuel were at Ramah and dispatched an armed squad to capture David. But each time a squad arrived, they would prophesy. Who, under the control of God’s Spirit, could seize God’s anointed? Finally, after unsuccessfully sending armed messengers for a third time, Saul went himself, only to be overcome by the Spirit and prophesy himself (19:23-24). Don’t you wonder what Saul prophesied? I wonder if he prophesied that David would indeed become Israel’s next king?
Knowing that Saul will once again seek to kill him, David flees to Naioth in Ramah. Here David secretly meets with Jonathan, who assures him that he will not allow his father to harm him. He promises David that he will seek to discover his father’s intentions so far as David is concerned. Saul becomes so angry with Jonathan that he seeks to kill him:
30 Saul became angry with Jonathan and said to him, “You stupid traitor! Don’t I realize that to your own disgrace and to the disgrace of your mother’s nakedness you have chosen this son of Jesse? 31 For as long as this son of Jesse is alive on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established. Now, send some men and bring him to me. For he is as good as dead!” 32 Jonathan responded to his father Saul, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33 Then Saul threw his spear at Jonathan in order to strike him down. So Jonathan was convinced that his father had decided to kill David (1 Samuel 20:30-33).
David and Jonathan then meet again secretly. Jonathan informs David of Saul’s intentions and urges him to leave, but with a treaty of peace between them:
Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for the two of us have sworn together in the name of the Lord saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever’” (1 Samuel 20:42).
From this point on, David is a full-fledged fugitive. He flees from place to place, just a few steps ahead of Saul. This is where we come to “the best of times” and the “worst of times.” It was not always a good time for David, because he was sometimes fearful and made choices that would hardly seem wise or godly. One of his mistakes cost a number of people their lives. In chapter 21, David fled to Ahimelech, the priest at Nob. David did not speak truthfully to Ahimelech. He told the priest that Saul had sent him on a secret mission. David asked for a sword and was given the sword of Goliath, which he had taken from the Philistine when he killed him. He also asked for bread and was given some of the holy bread usually reserved for the priests and their families. Doeg, the Edomite, happened to be there and to see David. When Doeg later made this known to Saul, he had the priests and their families killed, even though they had knowingly done nothing wrong.
Twice David fled to the land of the Philistines, and both times this would appear to have been a mistake. In chapter 21, David went to Gath and sought sanctuary with Achish, king of Gath. It was this song that once again got David into trouble:
10 So on that day David arose and fled from Saul. He went to King Achish of Gath. 11 The servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one that they sing about when they dance, saying,
“Saul struck down his thousands,
But David his tens of thousands.”
12 David thought about what they said and was very fearful of King Achish of Gath. 13 He altered his behavior in their presence. Since he was in their power, he pretended to be insane, making marks on the doors of the gate and making his saliva run down his beard. 14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at this insane man! Why did you bring him to me? 15 Am I lacking in fools, that you have brought me this man to display his insanity in front of me? Should this man enter my house?” (1 Samuel 21:10-15)
Later, David fled a second time to the king of Gath, along with 600 of his men (1 Samuel 27:1-12; 29:1-11; 30:1-31). David told Achish that he did not want to be a burden to him and asked for a place where he, his men, and their families could live. The king gave him the city of Ziklag. By skillful deception, David convinced Achish that he and his men were raiding Israelite towns, thus furthering Philistine interests. David’s scheme eventually backfired in a couple of ways. First, the town of Ziklag was raided by a band of Amalekites, and all the families and possessions of David and his men were captured and taken as spoils of war. Second, when the Philistines went to war against Israel, David and his men barely escaped from having to go with them.
David had some very dark moments in the years he was fleeing from Saul, but there were also some bright spots. When David was a fugitive, David’s true friends endangered their own lives to stand with him. Jonathan sought out David on more than one occasion to encourage him:
16 Then Jonathan son of Saul left and went to David at Horesh. He encouraged him through God. 17 He said to him, “Don’t fear. For the hand of my father Saul cannot find you. You will rule over Israel, and I will be your second in command. Even my father Saul realizes this.” 18 When the two of them had made a covenant before the Lord, David stayed on at Horesh, but Jonathan went to his house (1 Samuel 23:16-18).
Abigail also encouraged David and gave him some very good counsel:
28 Please forgive the sin of your servant, for the Lord will certainly establish the house of my lord, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord. May no evil be found in you all your days. 29 When someone sets out to chase you and to take your life, the life of my lord will be wrapped securely in the bag of the living by the Lord your God. But he will sling away the lives of your enemies from the sling’s pocket. 30 The Lord will do for my lord everything that he promised you, and he will make you a leader over Israel. 31 Your conscience will not be overwhelmed with guilt for having poured out innocent blood and for having taken matters into your own hands. When the Lord has granted my lord success, please remember your servant” (1 Samuel 25:28-31).
Abigail’s husband, Nabal, was truly a fool. When David asked for a token of appreciation, he spurned David and his request. This was not an innocent mistake, because Nabal was aware of who David was:
10 But Nabal responded to David’s servants, “Who is David, and who is this son of Jesse? This is a time when many servants are breaking away from their masters. 11 Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and give them to these men? I don’t even know where they came from!” (1 Samuel 25:10-11)
Nabal’s folly is even more apparent when his words in verses 10 and 11 are compared with Abigail’s words in verses 28-31. She knew that David was going to be Israel’s next king, and she treated him accordingly. Nabal rejected David as Israel’s next king, and he responded accordingly. When Abigail intercepted David, on his way to kill all the males in the household of Nabal, she proved to be a great encouragement to him.
Even Saul was an encouragement to David. When David risked his life to appeal to Saul, he responded with these words:
20 Now look, I realize that you will in fact be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 21 So now swear to me in the Lord’s name that you will not kill my descendants after me or destroy my name from the house of my father” (1 Samuel 24:20-21).
What an encouragement to hear these words from the lips of Saul. Saul knew that David would, indeed, be king someday, taking his place. Hearing this from Saul was an encouragement to David in his darkest hours.
David did have his moments of doubt and despair:
David thought to himself, “One of these days I’m going to be swept away by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of searching for me through all the territory of Israel and I will escape from his hand” (1 Samuel 27:1).
But these moments passed. It was during the days when Saul sought to kill David that David rose to the occasion. These were some of David’s finest moments. David showed his true colors when his circumstances provided him with the opportunity to kill Saul and when his men urged him to seize the moment.
The first instance is recorded in 1 Samuel 24. David and his men were hiding from Saul in the inner recesses of a cave. Of all things, Saul stopped at this very spot to relieve himself privately. You can imagine how it must have felt to see the king so close and to know his men were just outside. If Saul had known they were there, they would have been trapped. David’s men told him that the Lord had given him this opportunity to kill Saul, but David refused:
6 He said to his men, “May the Lord keep me far away from doing such a thing to my lord, who is the Lord’s chosen one, by extending my hand against him. After all, he is the Lord’s chosen one.” 7 David restrained his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. Then Saul left the cave and started down the road (1 Samuel 24:6-7).
David did get close enough to Saul to cut off a portion of his robe, and then after Saul left the cave, David was conscience-stricken. He called out to Saul and let him know that he had been given the opportunity to kill him but had not done so. He wanted Saul to know that he was still his faithful servant, and that those who told him David sought his life were wrong. Saul was deeply touched by David’s actions and asked David to promise that he would not destroy his whole house after he became king. David did promise this to Saul, and they parted. Unfortunately, Saul’s change of heart was temporary.
The second opportunity for David to kill Saul is recorded in 1 Samuel 26. The Ziphites have betrayed David to Saul by indicating where he was hiding out. When Saul arrived, David had his scouts locate Saul’s camp. David, along with Abishai, Joab’s brother, made their way into Saul’s camp while all were fast asleep. They threaded their way among the soldiers and managed to get by Saul’s bodyguards. Abishai was more than willing to end Saul’s life:
Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me drive the spear right through him into the ground with one swift jab! A second jab won’t be necessary!” (1 Samuel 26:8)
David once again refused to lift a hand against Saul, the Lord’s anointed. If Saul were to be removed, God would be the One to do it:
9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill him! Who can extend his hand against the Lord’s chosen one and remain guiltless?” 10 David went on to say, “As the Lord lives, the Lord himself will strike him down. Either his day will come and he will die, or he will go down into battle and be swept away. 11 But may the Lord prevent me from extending my hand against the Lord’s chosen one. Now, take the spear by Saul’s head, his jug of water and let’s get out of here!” (1 Samuel 26:9-11)
David then took Saul’s spear and jug of water, as proof he had stood beside the king while he and his bodyguards slept. He cried out to the king, calling attention to the fact that when he had an opportunity to kill him, he did not take it. Once again, Saul admitted he was wrong:
21 Saul replied, “I have sinned. Come back, my son David. I won’t harm you, for you treated my life with value this day. I have behaved foolishly and have made a very terrible mistake.” 22 David replied, “Here is the king’s spear.” Let one of the servants cross over and get it. 23 The Lord rewards each man for his integrity and loyalty. Even though today the Lord delivered you into my hand, I was not willing to extend my hand against the Lord’s chosen one. 24 In the same way that I valued your life this day, may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all danger.” 25 Saul replied to David, “May you be rewarded, my son David. You will without question be successful.” So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place (1 Samuel 26:21-25).
The story of Saul’s death is a tragic one. When the Philistines gathered to fight Israel, David and his men came all too close to being a part of this (28:1-2; 29:1-11). Saul is terrified, and Samuel is dead. This is one of the few occasions when Saul seeks divine guidance, but it is too late. In desperation, Saul seeks guidance from the grave. Saul does not seek guidance from heathen deities, but from Samuel, the deceased prophet. In order to do so, he must employ a medium. This, of course, is clearly forbidden. Saul himself had removed the mediums and magicians from the land (28:3). He instructed his servants to find a medium, the witch of Endor. Disguising himself, Saul went to her and asked her to conjure up Samuel. The woman was terrified when Samuel appeared. Every indication is that this was really Samuel. His message to Saul was certainly consistent. At least this time, he didn’t have to worry that Saul would kill him! Samuel informed Saul that God had turned against him and that he was to die in battle. Tomorrow, God would hand him over to the Philistines. He and his sons would die, and God’s prophecy through Samuel would be fulfilled.
The following day, the Philistines prevailed over Saul and the Israelites. Saul’s three sons, including Jonathan, were killed (31:2). Saul’s death did not come so easily or quickly. An archer’s arrow found Saul and seriously wounded him. Knowing that he would die, Saul pled with his armor bearer to kill him quickly, rather than to let him fall into the hands of his enemies and be tortured. His armor bearer could not kill the king, and so Saul fell on his own sword. This does not appear to have done the job either, if we are to believe the words of the young Amalekite:
6 The young man who was telling him this said, “I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa and came across Saul leaning on his spear for support. The chariots and leaders of the horsemen were in hot pursuit of him. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me. I answered, ‘Here I am!’ 8 He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ I told him, ‘I’m an Amalekite.’ 9 He said to me, ‘Stand over me and put me to death. I’m very dizzy, even though I’m still alive.’ 10 So I stood over him and put him to death, since I knew that he couldn’t live in such a condition. Then I took the crown, which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm. I have brought them here to my lord” (2 Samuel 1:6-10).
Saul could hardly have died a more miserable death, but the humiliation did not end:
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip loot from the corpses, they discovered Saul and his three sons lying dead on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off Saul’s head and stripped him of his armor. They sent messengers to announce the news in the temple of their idols and among their people throughout the surrounding land of the Philistines. 10 They placed his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and hung his corpse on the city wall of Beth Shan (1 Samuel 31:8-10).
When David heard of the death of his king and of his beloved friend Jonathan, he was deeply touched. His mourning for Saul, as well as for Jonathan, was strong and sincere. David’s tribute to Saul in
2 Samuel 1 honored Saul for all of his accomplishments and omitted his many sins (“love covers a multitude of sins”). David executed the young Amalekite for his role in taking the life of the king. It was the end of an era.
Now that Saul is dead, David will quickly – and almost automatically – become Israel’s king. This is not the case at all. It will be more than seven years after Saul’s death that David becomes king of all Israel. David sought God’s guidance and returned to Hebron, where he was anointed king over Judah (2 Samuel 2:1-4). David’s first kingly act was to reward the people of Jabesh Gilead for courageously removing Saul’s body from public display and giving him a proper burial (2:5-7).
Abner, Saul’s uncle and general of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, and installed him as king over Israel. Israel thus had two kings: David was king over Judah, and Ish-bosheth was king over the remaining tribes of Israel. The seeds for a future division in Israel were being planted during the years Israel had two kings. A very senseless confrontation occurred between Israel and Judah, due largely to the egos of Joab and Abner. A contest erupted into a brief war in which a number of men died. Abner killed Joab’s brother, Asahel, before the fighting ended.
As the conflict between the house of Saul and the house of David continued, Abner took one of Saul’s concubines, an action that appeared to signal a claim to the throne (see 1 Kings 2:13-25). Ish-bosheth was rightly concerned, but when he challenged Abner, his general (who better to orchestrate a military coup?), Abner reacted strongly. It was this challenge that prompted Abner to shift his support to David as the legitimate king of Israel, rather than Saul’s descendant, Ish-bosheth. Abner negotiated an arrangement with David, but when Joab learned of it, he killed Abner, avenging the blood of his brother, Asahel.
David’s response to Joab’s vengeance played a crucial role in the healing of the nation. David publicly mourned Abner’s death and strongly reprimanded Joab for his actions. The Israelites recognized that none of this intrigue was of David’s doing and that he did not approve of it (2 Samuel 3:36). Shortly thereafter, two of Ish-bosheth’s servants killed him and brought his head to David in Hebron. They had seriously miscalculated David’s response, for David had them executed for their deed. He, who would not become king by taking Saul’s life, would not reward those who took the life of his son. Finally, after seven- and-a-half years of conflict, David becomes king of all Israel:
1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron saying, “Look, we are your very flesh and blood! 2 In the past, when Saul was our king, you were Israel’s general. The Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel; you will rule over Israel.’” 3 When all the leaders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, King David made an agreement with them in Hebron before the Lord. They designated David as king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign and he reigned for forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah for seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned for thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 5:1-5).
At this moment in time, Jerusalem (then known as Jebus) was controlled by the Jebusites. David captured the city and occupied it as his capital. No doubt, its strong defensive position, which made it difficult to conquer, made Jerusalem appealing to David as a city that would be easier to defend as his capital:
9 So David lived in the fortress and called it the City of David. David built all around it, from the terrace inwards. 10 David’s power steadily grew, for the Lord God who leads armies was with him (2 Samuel 5:9-10).
One can imagine why the Philistines might have strongly reacted to the news that David had become king over all Israel. When the Philistines came in force, seeking to find David, David and his armies were divinely instructed to attack, and God gave David a decisive victory over Israel’s enemies. As they fled, the Philistines cast their idols aside as dead and useless weight (5:21).
David then sought to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. The problem was he was not careful to transport the ark in the way God had prescribed. Instead, it was transported as the Philistines had done, on an oxcart. When one of the oxen stumbled, it appeared that the ark might be overturned, so Uzzah reached out to stabilize it and was struck dead for his irreverence. David was angry because it appeared that God had “rained on his parade.” The ceremony abruptly ended, and the ark was stored in the home of Obed-Edom.
There must have been some serious soul-searching after Uzzah’s death, but then David realized why this tragedy had happened. They then brought the ark to Jerusalem:
11 David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, along with the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. 12 He told them: “You are the leaders of the Levites’ families. You and your relatives must consecrate yourselves and bring the ark of the Lord God of Israel up to the place I have prepared for it. 13 The first time you did not carry it; that is why the Lord God attacked us, because we did not ask him about the proper way to carry it.” 14 The priests and Levites consecrated themselves so they could bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. 15 The descendants of Levi carried the ark of God on their shoulders with poles, just as Moses had ordered according to the divine command (1 Chronicles 15:11-15).
13 Those who carried the ark of the Lord took six steps and then David sacrificed an ox and a fatling calf. 14 Now David, wearing a linen ephod, was dancing with all his strength before the Lord. 15 David and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord, shouting and blowing trumpets (2 Samuel 6:13-15).
1 The king settled into his palace, for the Lord gave him relief from all his enemies on all sides. 2 The king said to Nathan the prophet, “Look! I am living in a palace made from cedar, while the ark of God sits in the middle of a tent.” 3 Nathan replied to the king, “You should go and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” 4 That night the Lord told Nathan, 5 “Go, tell my servant David: ‘This is what the Lord says: Do you really intend to build a house for me to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house from the time I brought the Israelites up from Egypt to the present day. Instead, I was traveling with them and living in a tent. 7 Wherever I moved among all the Israelites, I did not say to any of the leaders whom I appointed to care for my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house made from cedar?”‘ 8 “So now, say this to my servant David: This is what the Lord of hosts says: “I took you from the pasture and from your work as a shepherd to make you a leader of my people Israel. 9 I was with you wherever you went, and I defeated all your enemies before you. Now I will make you as famous as the great men of the earth. 10 I will establish a place for my people Israel and settle them there; they will live there and not be disturbed any more. Violent men will not oppress them again, as they did in the beginning 11 and during the time when I appointed judges to lead my people Israel. Instead, I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that he himself will build a house for you. 12 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. 14 I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. 15 But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent.” 17 Nathan told all these words that were revealed to him (2 Samuel 7:1-17).
David had gotten settled in Jerusalem. He had built a palace for himself, but it seemed inappropriate for the ark to be kept in a tent. David conceived the idea of building a temple in Jerusalem, and he proposed the idea to Nathan, the prophet. Nathan responded positively but without consulting God. It seemed like a great idea, but it would be Solomon who would build the temple, and not David.
God’s response to Nathan – which he conveyed to David – put the matter of a temple into its proper perspective. God made it clear that He did not ask for a “house” to dwell in. Since He had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, God had chosen to dwell in a tent, and He was very content with these accommodations. The fact of the matter was that God could not be confined to such quarters. This is precisely the argument that Stephen takes up in the Book of Acts:
46 “He [David] found favor with God and asked that he could find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands, as the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and earth is the footstool for my feet.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
Or what is my resting place?
50 Did my hand not make all these things?’” (Acts 7:46-50)
God turns the tables on David. Would David build a house for God? No. God will not allow David to do this, though Solomon will. But God is going to build a “house” (a dynasty, that is) for David. God will raise up David’s descendants to sit on the throne of their father. This will be a perpetual dynasty. This covenant will most certainly be fulfilled; it will be fulfilled once and for all when Jesus, the “Son of David” sits on the throne:
30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen: you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
At last, Israel has a king, a king who delights in God’s law, and whose heart seeks after God. One might ask why God did not immediately appoint David king, rather than to bother with Saul. I think there are several reasons why God gave Saul to Israel as her first king. First, the Israelites asked wrongly. They had rejected God as their king and Samuel as their prophet and judge. To give them a godly king would have been to reward Israel for their sin. Second, Saul was precisely the kind of king the Israelites thought they wanted. He was tall, perhaps dark, and surely handsome. He was a man who had all the physical earmarks of a great leader, or so they thought. Third, God gave them Saul, so that the Israelites would appreciate David for who and what he was, in stark contrast to Saul. Finally, God gave Israel Saul as a king, so that he might help to equip David for his role as king. Saul’s persecution of David was used of God to make a godly man of David.
Our text is incredible, with many lessons for those who would learn from it. Let me suggest several areas of application.
First, it teaches us some very valuable lessons regarding submission. What a model of submission David is in his relationship to Saul. Even when Saul is seeking to kill David, he will not raise his hand against God’s anointed. When David has the opportunity to take Saul’s life, he will not do so. He looks to God to remove Saul. Submission is not always a simple matter, as some seem to think. Sometimes, submission becomes complicated, as our text indicates. Jonathan was faced with a number of hard choices regarding submission. He, as a son, and as a subject of the king, was to submit to his father. But Jonathan must obey God rather than men. Thus, he cannot and will not kill David, even when his father issues the order to do so. Since David is to be Israel’s next king, Jonathan must also submit to him. Jonathan must have a clear hierarchy of authority, so that he can properly submit himself to others who have more authority than he.
The same is true of Abigail. Her foolish husband, Nabal, rejects David as Israel’s next king. He will not give David any of the gifts he has requested. Abigail has an obligation to submit to Nabal, as her husband, but she also is obliged to submit to David as the future king of Israel. She, like Jonathan, must walk the very fine line of obedience and submission by seeking to be submissive to two different men. It is my contention that Abigail was being truly submissive to Nabal, when she did what he would have forbidden.175 Let us remember, she risked her life to save her husband. She was not seeking her own interests, but his.
Second, our text has something to teach us about spirituality in the spirit world. Saul’s visit to the witch at Endor is indeed bizarre. It does not appear to be normative either. Even the witch is surprised and terrified by what happens. I believe in this instance God did something most unusual, as part of the divine discipline Saul deserved. Saul reached out, as it were, for this forbidden fruit, and God gave him a taste of the underworld – one that scared him to death.
There appears to be a deliberate contrast between Saul and David when it comes to the presence of God’s Spirit with each of them. In 1 Samuel, we see the visible manifestation of the Spirit in the life of Saul on several occasions. The Spirit first came upon Saul shortly after he was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 10:10). The Spirit again “rushed upon Saul” when he heard how the Ammonites had threatened Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 11:6). The Spirit of God also came upon Saul at Naioth in Ramah, preventing him from killing David (1 Samuel 19:23-24).
Then, there were also the occasions when the evil spirit came upon Saul, prompting him to oppose David. Twice this happened (18:10-11; 19:9-10), resulting in Saul hurling his spear at David. Notice that these evil spirit enabled attempts on David’s life failed. This “evil spirit from the Lord” was the evil spirit the Lord allowed to energize Saul, but whom He also prevented from being successful.
As I see Saul in 1 Samuel, a spirit overcomes him on a number of occasions. Sometimes, he is overcome by the Spirit of God; more often an evil spirit possesses him. When God’s Spirit comes upon Saul, it is a sovereign act of enablement, one not prompted by Saul himself. When an evil spirit comes upon Saul, it seems to be because his own sins have almost invited satanic involvement.
Saul, a very unspiritual man, is frequently empowered by a spirit, good or evil. David, on the other hand, is a very spiritual man, and yet we read only once of God’s Spirit coming upon him:
So Samuel took the horn full of olive oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day onwards. Then Samuel got up and went to Ramah (1 Samuel 16:13, emphasis mine)
I am reminded of a text in the Gospels:
30 “This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him, but I came baptizing with water so that he could be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. 33 And I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:30-33, emphasis mine).
The Spirit of God came upon David once, and it remained on him. The Spirit of God came upon Saul on several occasions, but it is obvious that He did not remain with Saul. We are clearly told that the Spirit of God abandoned Saul. Then, an evil spirit came and went. Saul was not a spiritual man at all. David was. The Spirit of God came upon David and remained on him. The one time David feared that God’s Spirit might forsake him was when he sinned (Psalm 51:10-11).
There are those who would equate spirituality with spectacular manifestations of the Spirit. I do not doubt or question that God is free to manifest Himself in many ways, some of which may be spectacular. I do question the assumption that a spectacular manifestation of the Spirit proves that the individual involved is truly spiritual. Let us not forget that by these kinds of outward appearances, Saul would seem more spiritual than David. Let us remember that this kind of “spirituality” is often seen in the Book of Judges, when the Spirit of God comes upon men like Samson. Even Balaam’s donkey could impress us by these standards, but these men were not willing instruments in the hands of God; they were not spiritual.
David is an example of the man who is “full of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit comes upon him once, and abides in him, just as the Spirit came upon our Lord and remained on Him. The manifestations of the Spirit were often not spectacular. In David’s case, as with our Lord, their spirituality was evident in their love for God and in their desire to do His will. Over and over, we find David seeking God’s will. Seldom do we see this with Saul. Whenever God will not reveal Himself to Saul, Saul will attempt to hear from one who has died (via the witch at Endor). Let us be careful not to judge spirituality by outward appearances
(1 Samuel 16:7). The presence of the Spirit is more certainly known by one’s character than by one’s charisma. Paul has much to say about this in 1 Corinthians.
Third, our text has much to teach us about suffering. Suffering was God’s means of preparing David for the throne. (Saul experienced no such suffering.) Those years of being looked down upon by his brothers, of caring for a small flock of sheep, of being hated and sought as a criminal by Saul, were all a part of God’s process of preparing David to reign. It was during his time of suffering that David was tempted to kill Saul, but he refused. It was during his times of suffering that David wrote some of his most beautiful psalms. Suffering prepared David to reign:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Matthew 5:10).
16 The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)—if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:16-17).
10 So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God,
that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.
11 This saying is trustworthy:
If we died with him, we will also live with him.
12 If we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we deny him, he will also deny us (2 Timothy 2:10-12).
7 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. 9 And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 and he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:7-10).
David’s suffering also served to test the faithfulness of David’s friends. It was David’s true friends who endured with him in the times of his adversity. Jonathan proved himself to be David’s true friend when Saul sought to kill him. Repeatedly, we find Jonathan encouraging David in the midst of his trials. Later on in David’s life, when Absalom temporarily seizes the kingdom, suffering will prove who David’s true friends are.
Suffering also made it clear who David’s enemies were. There were the Ziphites, who betrayed David’s whereabouts to King Saul (1 Samuel 23:19). There was Doeg, who informed Saul that David had been to Nob, where he obtained food and his sword. It was his betrayal that cost many priests and their families their lives (1 Samuel 22:9ff.). Nabal showed his true colors, as well by his rejection of David as Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 25).
We, too, may either be a Nabal, or an Abigail, a Doeg or a Jonathan. We have been called to identify ourselves with Christ, who was rejected by men and crucified on the cross of Calvary:
17 This I command you—to love one another. 18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15:17-21).
10 My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you and I fill up–for the sake of his body, the church–what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24).
12 Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you (1 Peter 4:12-14; see also 2:18-25).
In addition to identifying ourselves with Christ in His sufferings, we are called to identify with those who are suffering for Christ:
32 But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. 33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. 34 For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession (Hebrews 10:32-34).
Suffering for the sake of righteousness – innocent suffering – is a test of our faith and endurance, as well as a test for others who must choose whether they will identify with the sufferer or not. Every week, we observe the Lord’s Supper (communion). We celebrate our Lord’s suffering and death on our behalf. Let us remember that we are not only called to identify with His sufferings in church, but we are called to identify with His sufferings as Christ lives out His life in us during the week. Though we would prefer to bypass this time of suffering and rejection, it plays a vital role in our lives and in God’s unfolding program of redemption.
Fourth, as I read of David’s experiences in this text, I am struck with the similarities between his kingdom and our Lord’s kingdom. David was seemingly a person of no standing or prominence when he was designated as Israel’s king. Our Lord came to earth as a child born into a poor family; His birthplace was a stable. David was scorned and rejected by his brothers; so was our Lord. David’s life was sought by a king who was terrified and intensely jealous of any other king who might challenge his kingdom. King Herod, who perceived Him as a threat to his kingdom, sought our Lord’s life. David was introduced as Israel’s king long before he actually became king. Our Lord was introduced as Israel’s King, and He is yet to return to claim the throne. Those who were the outcasts of society surrounded David. Many of those who follow Christ are those who are the outcasts of society (see Acts 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When David came to rule as king, he had to unite those of Judah with the other tribes of Israel who were in conflict. Our Lord’s kingdom unites rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, slave and free.
As we reflect on our text and on the ascent of David as Israel’s king, let us look beyond and behind him, to see the One whom his kingdom anticipates – our Lord Jesus Christ. My friend, John Maurer, led one of the discussion groups in our church that discussed this lesson. He reminded us of the statement of another. In essence, John said, “Let us not forget that while David was a hero, he was an imperfect hero. The real hero of all history is God and God alone.” To Him be the glory.
Those who rejected David were all destroyed. Saul did not succeed in killing David; God saw to it that Saul lost his life. Those who rejected David became his enemies. More than that, they became God’s enemies, and for this they paid an eternal price. Jesus is God’s King, God’s Savior. To embrace Him as King of Kings and the Savior of sinners is to choose eternal life. To reject Him, is to choose eternal torment. I pray that He is your King.
170 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on March 18, 2001.
171 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
172 These would be: (a) His failure to wait for Samuel in chapter 13; and, (b) his failure to totally annihilate the Amalekites in chapter 15.
173 In my opinion, this is the case with Judas in the New Testament. His greed seemed to open the door to satanic involvement.
174 There are certainly questions that arise from Saul’s question. How could this man not know who David was, if David had worked so closely with Saul as a musician and as his armor-bearer? We do not have time to attempt a full response to this question, but I shall make a couple of comments. First, Saul did not ask who David was, but who his father was. Saul had promised to release David’s family from their obligation to pay taxes (17:25), and so knowing David’s father was important. Second, a king has many servants who attend to him, and so Saul might have considered it beneath him to know much about any of those who were near him. Surely the author was aware of the apparent discrepancy and expected the reader to figure it out. It may well be that he deliberately included this question, seeking to show the reader that Saul was so self-absorbed that he didn’t remember David, though he should have.