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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Samuel 26

 

 

Verses 1-25

1 Samuel 26:1-25

Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah.

The reproach of the enemy

Dr. Maclaren is specially emphatic in connecting Psalms 7:1-17 with this part of David’s history, and indicates its value in helping us to understand the rapid vacillations is Saul’s behaviour.

1. It is headed Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord. That is, it is an irregular ode; like a stream broken over a bed of rocks and stones, expressing by its uneven measure and sudden changes the emotion of its author. We have often to sing these Shiggaion metres; our songs are frequently broken with sighs and groans.

Happy are they who can find themes for singing to the Lord in every sad and bitter experience!

2. The title proceeds, concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite. Who was this Cush? The word means black. It may possibly refer to the colour of the skin and hair, and been given as a familiar designation to some swarthy Benjamite. Some have supposed that it was David’s title for Saul. Others have referred it to Shimei, the Benjamite, whose furious abuse of the king, in the hour of his calamity, elicited such plaintive resignation from him, such passionate resentment from Abishai. If the psalm be carefully examined, it will be found to hear a close resemblance to the words spoken by David, when Saul and he held the brief colloquy outside the cave at Engedi, and afterwards at the hill Hachilah. On comparison of psalm and narrative it seems more than likely that, Cush was one of Saul’s intimate friends and constant companions, and that he was incessantly at work poisoning the king’s mind with malignant and deliberate falsehoods about David.

I. Search your heart to see if these slanders have foundation in fact. Perhaps those quick, envious eyes have discerned weaknesses in your character, of which your closest friends are aware, but they have shrunk from telling you.

II. If there is no basis for them, rejoice! How thankful we should be that God has kept us from being actually guilty of the things whereof we are accused! We might have clone them, and worse.

III. Take shelter in the righteous judgment of God. We are his servants, and if He is satisfied with us, why should we break our hearts over what our fellow servants say? It is, after all, but a small matter with us to be judged of man’s judgment.

IV. Abjure more completely the carnal life. Why do we smart under these unkind and slanderous words, which are as baseless as uncharitable? Is it not because we set too high a value upon the favour and applause of men?

V. Leave God to vindicate your good name. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Verses 1-25

1 Samuel 26:1-25

Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah.

The reproach of the enemy

Dr. Maclaren is specially emphatic in connecting Psalms 7:1-17 with this part of David’s history, and indicates its value in helping us to understand the rapid vacillations is Saul’s behaviour.

1. It is headed Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord. That is, it is an irregular ode; like a stream broken over a bed of rocks and stones, expressing by its uneven measure and sudden changes the emotion of its author. We have often to sing these Shiggaion metres; our songs are frequently broken with sighs and groans.

Happy are they who can find themes for singing to the Lord in every sad and bitter experience!

2. The title proceeds, concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite. Who was this Cush? The word means black. It may possibly refer to the colour of the skin and hair, and been given as a familiar designation to some swarthy Benjamite. Some have supposed that it was David’s title for Saul. Others have referred it to Shimei, the Benjamite, whose furious abuse of the king, in the hour of his calamity, elicited such plaintive resignation from him, such passionate resentment from Abishai. If the psalm be carefully examined, it will be found to hear a close resemblance to the words spoken by David, when Saul and he held the brief colloquy outside the cave at Engedi, and afterwards at the hill Hachilah. On comparison of psalm and narrative it seems more than likely that, Cush was one of Saul’s intimate friends and constant companions, and that he was incessantly at work poisoning the king’s mind with malignant and deliberate falsehoods about David.

I. Search your heart to see if these slanders have foundation in fact. Perhaps those quick, envious eyes have discerned weaknesses in your character, of which your closest friends are aware, but they have shrunk from telling you.

II. If there is no basis for them, rejoice! How thankful we should be that God has kept us from being actually guilty of the things whereof we are accused! We might have clone them, and worse.

III. Take shelter in the righteous judgment of God. We are his servants, and if He is satisfied with us, why should we break our hearts over what our fellow servants say? It is, after all, but a small matter with us to be judged of man’s judgment.

IV. Abjure more completely the carnal life. Why do we smart under these unkind and slanderous words, which are as baseless as uncharitable? Is it not because we set too high a value upon the favour and applause of men?

V. Leave God to vindicate your good name. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Verse 7

1 Samuel 26:7

Saul lay sleeping within the trench.

The danger of spiritual lethargy

The circumstances of Saul, and the manner in which he was treated by David, may have a warning voice to unbelievers, careless, thoughtless, and slumbering in their sins. The King of Israel was bound to David by every tie of gratitude, as to the man who had saved his life and kingdom. Yet with all unthankfulness the most flagrant did he aim if possible to destroy him. With this unrighteous purpose, he had followed David into the wilderness of Ziph, and every malignant feeling was arrayed against the man after God’s own heart. And what is the unbeliever’s state in reference to God? Hath not the Most High visited him with providential and spiritual mercies? Look how eternal love is manifested, in that “Christ hath died for him, the just for the unjust, that He might bring him to God.” What is the result? Hath this flow of goodness softened and melted him into deep repentance, adoring gratitude, and holy reconciliation? No; look how the offender is pursuing the Lord to dishonour Him--mark how the carnal mind is enmity against God. The lips, to which God hath given language, ere opened to blaspheme Him. The feet, to which He hath given motion, walk in the way of scorners. In prosecution of his unrighteous purpose, Saul had pitched in the hill of Hachilah, whither David and Abishai his sister’s son followed him. And when they came, “behold Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and the spear stuck in the ground at his bolster; but Abner, the captain of his host, and the people lay round about him.” His army, confident and well appointed, were at his bidding and hard at hand; he looked for no resistance, but expected soon and safely to possess and destroy his enemy, and he fell asleep in the fulness of security. In that warfare which the rebellious sinner wages with his offended Maker, how often doth self-confidence lull his soul to sleep in the trench! His heart is lulled to sleep by the deceitfulness of sin. The very forbearance he hath received serves to deepen his lethargy. Satan leads him blindfold into danger. Jonah slept in the storm; Samson slept in the lap of Delilah, while the Philistines were upon him; Sisera slept in the tent of Jael the Kenite; and thus doth the soul without Christ sleep amidst the terrors of impending wrath. A deep sleep had fallen upon Saul “from the Lord.” O tremble, lest, while ye are wrapped up in this insensibility, an offended God should continue and deepen the spirit of slumber upon you in judgment. Saul slept securely, but he was in the power of his enemies. David had good reason to regard him as a foe; and how shall God regard you who depart from him? Abishai said unto David, “God hath delivered thine enemy into thy hand this day.” Is your spiritual slumber so deep that ye cannot hear Satan express a similar desire? Doth he not long to put, forth his hand for a first and final stroke against your lives? (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)


Verse 9

1 Samuel 26:9

Destroy him not.

Vengeance left with him to whom it belongs

Our attention has been called to the fact that the first great victory achieved by David was over his own spirit. As we pursue his history, we are glad to find that his first triumph of this noblest kind was not his last. His cruel and implacable foe, who had come out with three thousand armed men determined either to take him prisoner or to hunt him to death, was now entirely in his hands. It was a golden opportunity, and David made a golden use of it, for he refused to avenge himself, and suffered his deadly enemy to depart in peace. For three years he had lived the life of a fugitive, and in many ways and places had sought to shelter himself against the unrighteous and pitiless wrath of Saul. There were many things to enkindle his resentment and make forbearance towards Saul a most difficult virtue. Think of what be had lost, and what he had suffered! How strangely things combined together to make the worse appear the better course! The promise and the providence of God both seemed on the side of instant and complete vengeance! But David was versed in the Law of God: and in one of the earlier books of his incomplete, but precious, priceless Bible, he had read these commandments: “Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 12:1-8; Leviticus 13:1-59; Leviticus 14:1-57; Leviticus 15:1-33; Leviticus 16:1-34; Leviticus 17:1-16; Leviticus 18:1-30). David’s generous forbearance touched the heart of Saul, disarmed him of his rage, melted him into tears, and constrained him to become a suppliant at the feet of the man for whose blood he had been thirsting. This second display of magnanimity on David’s part was a greater triumph of saintly principle than the first. All the former reasons in favour of avenging himself still existed, and in greater force, because of the additional sufferings he had endured; and now there was to be added another reason of almost irresistible power, he had cast his pearl before swine which had turned again to rend him. His kindness had been shamefully abused, and evil had been returned for his good. The King’s life, which he had nobly spared, was consecrated afresh to the work of securing his destruction. To spare it a second time was for David to sharpen the sword by which he himself would be slain; and that surely would be charity degenerating into fanaticism. It is evident that David’s faith in God was one of the great roots out of which all these fruits of forbearance and patience and compassion grew. He was confident that God would in His own way and in His own time fulfil the promises which had been made; and, therefore, instead of taking the matter into his own hands, he could rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. They say that “Revenge is sweet.” There can be no doubt of the truth of this, for perverted natures have perverted tastes, and loathe what they ought to love, and banquet with delight on what they ought to abhor. David had feelings in his heart which would have been intensely gratified if he had taken vengeance on his enemy; but would not his revenge have been like the book the seer did eat in the Apocalypse, sweet in the mouth, but bitterness in the belly? Patience and meekness and forgiveness are often very hard to exercise, but when they become matters of memory, are they not things of beauty, and a joy forever? The poet tells of one who sat by the grave of the friend from whom he had parted in anger, and wept at the remembrance of his former harshness:--“Cruel, cruel the words I said! Cruelly come they back today.” Probably there are men now sleeping in the dust who in their lifetime wronged and injured you. If you forgave them, and prayed for them, and sought to bless them, does the memory of that Christ-likeness on your part ever give you a moment’s sorrow? Yes, revenge may be sweet, but, like all the pleasures of sin, it is but for a season. Mercy is God’s delight. He who receives it through Jesus secures his passport to the skies. He who learns to imitate it, lays up treasure for himself in heaven. Happy he who by the grace of God so carries himself toward them that curse him and despitefully use him, that he does not invoke his own condemnation, when, in his daily prayer, he cries, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.” (C. Vince.)

Who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord and be guiltless?--

David’s magnanimity

I. The persons here concerned are Saul and David and the state in which the text shews us these two was that of enmity. Consider, therefore, that the prince that was his captive now, and at his mercy had somewhile since descended so below himself, as to become the envier and detractor from his praise, was poorly jealous of the honours he had purchased, and tried to blast the laurels he had gathered, at the expense oil so much painful boil and hazard; and ‘tis no little share of grace and goodness that can restrain a young aspiring hero from taking vengeance on the maligners of his praise, and from removing all impediments in his pursuit of fame and glory. When men’s lives are so apparently sought after, they usually lay all respects aside, and listen to the dictates of unruly Nature. He was a false, perfidious prince. Nothing affects a generous mind so sensibly as being cheated under shew of friendship; and treachery is never viler than when ‘tis covered with the mask of godliness. But further, be was perjured. He had but lately taken a solemn oath before the Lord and Jonathan, David should not be slain. And when a prince has thus abandoned common honesty, broken the sacred cords that knit societies, and keep up governments and mutual correspondences, he is justly delivered into the hands of those whose innocence and good credulity he had imposed on, and abused almost to their destruction. Oh, what a mighty measure of God’s grace must fill the heart of him that then could say, “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” There are some things besides our lives and persons, in which, if we are touched, we think ourselves extremely injured; and they are specially our friends, our fortunes and religion; and David was in every one of these affected more or less by Saul’s implacable pursuit, and hunting after him. But notwithstanding all this, great as he was in court, great as he was in camp, and greater yet in favour of the people, he would not venture on the impious fact, still it was, “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” ‘Tis surely with ambition, as with other passions, the imaginary joys are greater than the experienced and substantial ones: The hopes and expectations far exceed the pleasures of possession. Whatever cares belong to crowns, they lie concealed within their circles, and are more seldom seen than felt. But this temptation found no place with David, young, and gay, and vigorous as he was and even so near the crown, Ahab by conniving at Abishai’s blow, he might have been in full and sure possession of it; yet he suffered not himself to be transported beyond the bounds of rigid honesty and loyalty, and still cries out, “The Lord forbid.” Now, to conclude, and to complete this character, and lastly, to these great advantages of being son-in-law, a mighty man of valour, and accepted in the sight of all the people, of knowing Saul rejected, and himself designed for successor, the greatest yet of all advantages, and that is opportunity; that without which all others signify but little; and that with which alone men serve their turns, and make up the defects of all the rest; that pander to all sin, and fatal snare of virtue! That has ruined many thousand souls and betrayed them into most detestable commissions. Opportunity, that few have virtue, few have strength sufficient; to withstand, and of all opportunities, none are so strong, and work so powerfully upon the minds of men as those that look providential ones, and seem to come from God. Yet this was David’s opportunity, and yet withstood.

II. Consider the reason David gave for his refusal of Abishai’s and the soldiers’ proffer, “It is the Lord’s anointed.” The laws of God did certainly secure the lives of kings as well as other men’s, if it did no more. The Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come, or he shall perish in the battle, that is, I leave him to God’s disposal; let God, the Judge of all the earth, do with him as he pleases. And though we think the leaving wicked kings to God is the lightest and the kindest expression of nothing in the world that can be; yet we would quickly alter our opinions and be of David’s mind, if we would give ourselves leave to consider:

1. That he hates injustice more.

2. That he is much more ready.

3. Much more able to punish it than we can be. (W. Fleetwood.)


Verse 21

1 Samuel 26:21

I have played the fool.

Playing the fool

The greatest and most difficult problem which the Church of God has had to face in all ages, and has had to try and solve is this--how to prevent men and women playing the fool. Thank God all down history there have been those who were bold enough to put out a protest, who, in spite of tremendous difficulties, were bold enough to call upon the fools not to deal so foolishly, and to the wicked not to set up their horn. And, believe me, the protest is stiff required. In spite of all our advance, in spite of our free education, there is still a vast number of those who walk in the ways of folly. Education is not enough to prevent a man playing the fool. You find men gambling away fortunes honest men have made, and you find men who try to drown their sorrows in what is called the sparkling cup--forgetting all the time that they are drowning their souls in perdition. You have no right to charge at God’s door the things that you ought to charge at the door of your own folly. It is always being done--the Lord this, and the Lord that; it is you.

1. The folly of banishing God from life. Well, now; I find in God’s Word that, there are three very special forms of folly which He there points out. I don’t know whether you have observed that Psalms 14:1-7 and Psalms 53:1-6 are word for word the same; and in both there is this statement: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Literally in the Hebrew that is not just the idea of the writer. It is, “The fool hath said in his heart, No God”--that is, “No God for me.” The folly here spoken of is a much more common folly--I mean the folly of the man that says, “I do not want God in my life, I do not want God in my home, I do not want God to rule and control in my heart.”

2. The envious fool. Furthermore, you find another description of a foolish person in Psalms 73:1-28 --the foolishness that is envious at the prosperity of the wicked. It is an old problem.

3. The money-grubbing fool. Another definition of a fool that I must not omit tonight comes in connection with our Blessed Lord’s ministry, and that is Luke 12:1-59 --“Thou fool!” What does it mean? Oh, it means that to put much emphasis on temporal things, and to neglect eternal things, and to set much value on things that pass away, and neglect the things that do not pass away, is the act of a fool.

4. The self-important fool. We dwell upon the special foolishness which attached to Saul, King of Israel. His foolishness lay in this, that he had an overweening estimate of his own importance. Saul was head and shoulders above his people, a pity for him, because it turned his head. Oh, it is a dreadful thing to be over-conscious of your own importance. God can do nothing with a man like that till He has brought him down, down, down, down. “He bringeth down the mighty from their seats, He exalteth the humble and meek.” Then there was another great mistake Saul made, he fought against David. He knew that David was indeed the Lord’s anointed; he knew that David ought to have the throne; he knew that David had been infinitely kind to him. But Saul determined, in the pride of his heart, to have David’s life; there was a confederacy against him, the Lord’s chosen.

5. God’s remedy for folly. It would be sorry work to talk about the follies of men and women if one could not tell of a remedy. The fool requires two things. He requires a revelation of wisdom, to meet his folly; and he requires a revelation of power, to overcome his weakness. Is there such a revelation? Yes, here, and nowhere else than in that book. (Marcus Rainsford.)

Playing the fool

Now, if Saul’s folly mainly consisted in yielding to the impulses of passion, and obeying the dictates not of duty but of a selfish heart, with no regard to the consequences, certainly he has no lack of successors. A few choice specimens have come under my personal notice. My album has some rare portraits: and the first I shall name is

I. The idler. If the world contains a genuine fool, it is the young man who wastes his time. Some things God gives often, others only once. Youth belongs to the latter category, and if it be thrown away is beyond recovery. Idleness is always demoralising. Almost all the moral havoc that is wrought amongst young men is effected after the office door is closed. Few men go wrong when they are busy at work. Tell me how a youth spends his evenings and his half-holidays, and I shall have a good idea of his character. The worst thing you can do of an evening is to do nothing. You may easily predict a man’s future when you know how he spends his hours of leisure. The next portrait I have to present, is

II. The buffoon. There are many who seem incapable of a serious thought. They jest at everything. They live in an atmosphere of hilarity. They treat life as if it were a great joke. There is scarcely a trace of gravity or good sense in them. They are to society only what bells are to horses, making plenty of jingle, but not assisting to draw. It is a poor ambition this; the habitual jester is an empty fribble. Such men have no reverence in their nature. They have not a conception of the dignity of manhood. They have scarcely respect even for religion, and some profane quotation from Holy Writ is enough to set them in a roar. Let all such characters awaken within you a feeling of revulsion. Do not associate with them. Admissible they might be in a menagerie, but life is too serious to tolerate them. The next page of my album introduces to us:

III. The worldling. The next on my list is:

IV. The sensualist. I mean the man who is a slave to his baser passions and wallows in the mire of bestiality. The pure shrink from his touch; his breath blights every innocent thing.

V. The persistent unbelieverse (J. Thain Davidson, D. D.)

Playing the fool

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.)

The folly of man

This is not the kind of thing a man would say if he gave himself time to think. It is not a statement made after preparation. Men do not speak in this wise after thought and preparation, and that fact makes the utterance the more valuable, for it is under such stress of circumstances that men often reveal the ever present, but habitually hidden, consciousness. It was so with Saul on this occasion.

1. This man was a man of good family and position in life. His father was Kish, “a mighty man of valour,” and the marginal reading most strikingly catches the thought of the original word--“a mighty man of substance; a wealthy man.”

2. Notice, also, that he was a man of splendid physique--a choice man is the word, a goodly man, a man standing head and shoulders above his fellows, handsome and strong. Let no man ever put any false value upon incompetency in the physical realm. Saul started with the magnificent capital of a strong physique.

3. Again, he was a man of simple life, living at home, interested in his father’s affairs, by no means a prodigal.

4. He was, moreover, a man of modest disposition.

5. And then, once again, he was a man of courage, not the courage that vaunts itself, which is of the very essence of cowardice, not the courage that talks, but the courage that farms until his nation is insulted, and then strikes. Now, this is the man that says in the words of my text, “I have played the fool!”

Notice Saul’s opportunities.

1. He is the chosen of God; the choice is Divinely, definitely stated. He had opened before him a door, passing through which he should find the life--simple, and modest, and strong, and beautiful, that had been preparing in the past--put into a place of activity and of service, of which he had never dreamed. What scope for his powers in the kingly office! What chances to bless his fellow men! This was his opportunity.

2. Then notice another fact proving how great that opportunity was. He had the friendship of Samuel, a man of God, a seer, the leader of the people.

3. Then remember this also, in speaking of his opportunity. It is said of him that “there went with him a band of men whose hearts God had touched.” This man with such glorious opportunities is the one who, coming near the end of life, surprised in a crisis, cries out, “I have played the fool!”

This is not the story of a man who made final shipwreck in the early years of his life, or the story of a man who had no chance in life, who inherited forces that damned him, but the story of a man who seems to have had everything in his favour at the beginning--his own person and character were magnificent, his surroundings highly favoured and privileged, and yet this man came at last to say that he had played the fool.

1. I find the first point of that failure on the day when Samuel had come with the hosts of the people for the crowning of the man whom God had chosen to be king. Where was he? Hiding away. A man has no business to be modest when. God has anointed him for work. There is a modesty that is blasphemous. It is of the very essence of a self-centred life, and if God has anointed a man to be king, that man sins when he allows modesty to hold him back from the kingly office. What was it? Failure to follow God at all costs and against all inclinations. Here is the beginning of all the trouble that wrecked this man’s character and life, that spoiled his opportunities, that drew from him that which was at once an awful confession and a wail of anguish. “Behold! I have played the fool!”

2. From that day pass over the years, and come to the day of impatient waiting at Gilgal. Samuel did not come, as he was expected, and Saul arrogated to himself the right to offer a sacrifice, an act that was not lawful to him. Underlying that act is the spirit of rebellion, the rebellion of a self-centred life.

3. Follow him still further, and notice the degeneration of character. The man who began by hiding away, and then became self-dependent, and then fell into disobedience and lying, now becomes rash, and takes an oath upon him which jeopardises the life of the fairest man in his kingdom, his own con Jonathan.

4. Mark the process still further, and see him at last. In the early years he was himself among the prophets, speaking by the inspiration of the wind of God that passed across his soul. See him now creeping in the darkness of the night to the witch of Endor, asking for some occult subtle revelation of secrets because the light of day is blotted from his life. And the--What then? Suicide! You may call it anything you like, but if I ask a man to slay me, and because he refuses I fall upon my sword, what is it, if not suicide? What are the causes? First, as we have said, lack of loyalty to God. Life makes shipwreck of itself except when the hand of God is upon the helm; no matter how fair and glorious and beautiful the promise of morning, night will bring disaster and defeat, unless there is the loyal handing over of the will of man to the will of God. But mark how this works out in life; see how the man, when once his life is taken out of the Divine government and control, neglects his beat friends, Samuel, David, Jonathan; mark how he fails to understand the opportunity of his kingship. A man who seems only to have seen in kingship an opportunity for fighting and victory and possession, forgets the greater fact, that the king is to be shepherd also, to provide for his people, protecting them from harm, feeding and leading them like a flock.

Let us in a few closing words gather up what seem to be the lessons of that life.

1. First, advantages do not ensure success. The fact of your family, the fact of your disposition, the fact of your physical power, the fact of your courage, all these things are to be valued, but none of them will ensure success. I pray you, do not undervalue the fact that your father believed in God and your mother prayed. The young man that undervalues such facts is already playing the fool, and unless he learns ere it be too late the infinite value of that possession, he will do so to the end of time. Your parents gave you no capital to start in life with, do I hear you tell your friend? It is not true; your father gave you an example of cleanness and honour, your mother of devotion and prayer, and the man who wants any other capital than that should go to the workhouse and stay there! Where would some of us be if God had not barred the way for us by a mother’s prayer and a father’s godly life? A man may have all these, and play the fool at the end. Your disposition may be in your favour--you are the very man that will make shipwreck if you do not mind. It is not the cold, cynical man that is in danger of making shipwreck so much as the man of laughter and life, the man who is the centre of every social circle. That is the man the devil is after, because he is the man that God loves.

2. Again let me remind you that opportunities do not crown men. God may have called you to a great opportunity in life, and you may even enter upon the opportunity and yet miss it. How, then, says one man, can I live so as not to play the fool? Hear this. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Surrender to God, loyalty, obedience; these are the things that ensure a man against folly and against failure. You can never achieve the possibilities that slumber in your personality until you have exercised the kingship of your being, by putting the crown of your manhood upon the brow of the Man of Nazareth. Find your way in humility and loneliness to the Cross, and looking into the face of the world’s God and King say, “Oh, Nazarene! Thou hast conquered;” then you will begin to live. No man can make shipwreck if Christ he King. No man can be lost in the swelling flood if the Pilot with the pierced hand is at the helm. Yield to Him, man, tonight. Yield to Him who alone is able to realise the possibilities of your being, and bring them at last to God’s consummation. (G. Campbell Morgan, D. D.)
.


Verses 21-25

1 Samuel 26:21-25

Then said Saul, I have sinned.

Saul’s second reconciliation

When a man like Saul has wept, and spoken words so morally noble, it is but fair to credit him with sincerity and permanence. At the time of his reconciliation he meant every word he said. Yet in a brief period we find Saul going down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men to seek David, who had been reported as hiding himself in the hill of Hachilah. Then came the gush of emotion upon the part of Saul. The weapon which conquered him in the first instance conquered him also in the second. Forbearance was mightier than weapons of war. The sword has slain its countless thousands, but love holds the universe in sweet and glad captivity.

I. It is proved that the deepest and sincerest emotion may be transient in its moral effects. We left Saul reconciled; we find him again in arms. There are two things which are often mistaken for Christian feeling.

1. Selfish gratitude for unexpected preservation.

2. Admiration of moral nobleness in others. See bow this is applicable to hearers of the Gospel. Men hear of Jesus Christ’s sympathy, love, beneficence, etc. Feeling may be exhausted. “Past feeling.”

II. It is shown that self-control is in proportion to the estimate formed of the Divine element that is in man. How was it that David withheld his hand when Saul was delivered over to him as lawful prey? Human nature said, Strike; another voice said, Forbear! Twice David might have slain Saul, and twice he spared his life. We want to know the secret of this marvellous self-control. We find it pithily stated in the interview between Abishai and David. Abishai said, “Thine enemy.” David said, “The Lord’s anointed.” Two different views of the same man! The one narrow, selfish, superficial; the other profound and true. So it is with every man: he is not to be measured merely by his personal relations to ourselves. Pray to see the highest and divinest aspect of every man’s character. We shall thus be enabled:

1. To hope something even of the worst; and

2. to do something in the negative work of sparing, even where we cannot do anything in the positive work of reclaiming.

Paul had respect even for a weak man, not because he was weak, but because Christ died for him. By taking the highest view of man, he was enabled to do many things for the sake of the Christ that was in him. “But when ye so sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”

III. It is shown how much better it is to trust our interests to the working out of Divine laws than to care for them with narrowness of spirit. “As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him,” etc. Why fight with thy own poor weak fist? etc. Why prefer murder to Divine retribution? Why narrow down bureau life to a paltry duel? etc. The battle is not yours, but God’s. Shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?

IV. It is clearly shown that flight from danger is perfectly compatible with the highest courage. David was never chargeable with cowardice, yet he escaped like an affrighted man. “If they persecute you in one city,” etc. There is a time to fight (Goliath); there is a time to fly (Saul). The one was an uncircumcised Philistine, the other was the Lord’s anointed. Understand that there are differences of conquest. David conquered Saul as surely as he conquered Goliath. God sees His own image in us. To recover it he sent His Son. (J. Parker, D. D.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 26:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-samuel-26.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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