AC Gaebelein (1861-1945) – The Annotated Bible Proverbs P01/02

The Annotated Bible

Proverbs Chapters 1-15

By
Arno Clemens Gaebelein (1861-1945)
Copyright – Public Domain

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LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

LNW: As a personal note to this book by AW Pink on King David, I found it very helpful in so many different ways.  Unlike many commentaries of today, AW Pink wrote with true insight from the Spirit and appropriate application of that insight to life’s daily encounters and challenges.  I think you will find this book a most revealing and helpful tool in your walk (wise decision making) and growing in Christ to lead a holy life before God and man.

Proverbs 1:1-33

Analysis and Annotations

A detailed analysis, as we have made it in other books, cannot be fully made in this collection of proverbs. Most of them are detached and each has a message by itself. To interpret each separately, to point out the many spiritual lessons, as well as prophetic application, to show their relation to other portions of the Word of God and to explain them by incidents taken from the Bible, would require volumes; and even then the spiritual meaning would not be exhausted. All we can do is to hint at their meaning and give some annotations which, under God, may be helpful in the closer study of this book

I. INSTRUCTIONS OF WISDOM GIVEN TO SOLOMON

CHAPTER 1

1. The Introduction (Pro 1:1-7)

2. Warning against evil companions and covetousness (Pro 1:8-19)

3. The appeal of wisdom (Pro 1:20-33)

Pro 1:1-7. The introductory words of these verses present the object of the book. These proverbs were given to Solomon, and contain instructions he received from the Lord. They are given to him that he might know wisdom. The word “wisdom” is the characteristic word of this book for it occurs in the original language 42 times, which is 6 times 7. Six in Scripture is the human number, while 7 is the divine number. Wisdom is the first thing to be acquired, and that is followed by instruction, or admonition, to receive the instruction, the discipline of wisdom. The instructions are in justice, judgment and equity and they give subtilty to the simple. The word “subtilty” means prudence; the word “simple” has the meaning of “guileless.” Solomon was a young man when the Lord answered his prayer for a wise and understanding heart, and in these proverbs given to him he received “knowledge and discretion” (thoughtfulness). Thus by the Word of God comes wisdom and that produces understanding and a moral character in the man who trusteth in the Lord and is obedient to Him. To hear marks the wise man, and hearing will increase learning, learning will give understanding so that proverbs can be understood and also the interpretation. The latter word is only used once more in the Old Testament. It has the meaning of “satire.” The words of the wise and their dark sayings (riddles) are the words of the wise men of this world, the philosophers. The meaning is not that these wise men were the instructors of the young monarch, but that the divinely given proverbs rightly understood would protect him from accepting the foolish things of human wisdom, of philosophy. “This verse (Pro 1:6) intimates that the aim of the book is to confer an initiation which will make the possessor free of all the mysteries of the wise” (T.T. Perowne).

Pro 1:7 contains the keynote to the entire book. (See Pro 9:10; Ecc 12:13; Job 28:28; Psa 111:10.) The word “fear” means a godly fear, reverence. This fear of the Lord is mentioned fourteen times in Proverbs. This childlike reverence, so sadly lacking among the young of our day, is the beginning of knowledge; there is no true knowledge apart from the fear of the Lord. It means to acknowledge the Lord, adore and worship Him, bow in faith to His revelation and put it above everything else. The foolish despise wisdom and instruction, they follow the philosophies of this world. To acknowledge the Lord to reverence and fear Him is thus written over the portal of the house of wisdom.

Pro 1:8-19. The practical instructions begin with an exhortation of obedience to the father and mother. “My son” is the address of the Lord to Solomon, who thus acknowledges him as His child. Obedience to parents is not only commanded in the law dispensation; it is as prominent in the dispensation of grace, as we learn from Eph 6:1 and Col 3:20. One of the marks of the last days among those who profess Christianity who have the form of godliness but have not the power of it, is “disobedience to parents” (2Ti 3:1-17). Such disobedience, so prominent today among professing Christians, is coupled with disobedience to God and rejection of His Word. Much of the ungodliness today has its source in this disobedience. This is followed by warning against wicked associates, those who are lawless and desperate men, thieves and murderers, who pass through the country greedy for gain. Solomon is exhorted not to walk in the way with them. The one who fears the Lord walks in separation and keeps away from the paths of the wicked. Pro 1:16 is quoted by Paul in the third chapter of Romans. There is a striking resemblance of this passage to Psa 10:1-18 in which we have a description of the wicked, prophetically indicating the man of sin. (See annotations on that Psalm.)

Pro 1:20-23. Wisdom now speaks and wisdom in this first section of Proverbs is a person, a divine person. The eighth chapter gives us a wonderful vision of that Person, the Son of God, who is the Wisdom. First stands the call of Wisdom. The call may be answered or rejected. Wisdom promises if the call is obeyed, “Behold, I will pour my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” But if the call is refused the consequences will be disastrous. The appeal of wisdom closes with a precious promise.

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely

And shall be quiet from fear of evil.

This appeal of wisdom, the call, the promise, the refusal and the calamity of the refusal to listen to Him who speaks furnishes an excellent theme for preaching the Gospel to the unsaved.

Proverbs 2:1-22

CHAPTER 2

1. The pursuit of wisdom and its results (Pro 2:1-9)

2. Preservation from the evil man and the strange woman (Pro 2:10-19)

3. The path of the righteous (Pro 2:20-22)

Pro 2:1-9 This second chapter of divine instructions begins with an exhortation to pursue after Wisdom. The sayings of Wisdom, that is the Word of the Lord, must be received, laid up, the ear must incline to hear them, the heart must be applied to understanding. In verse 3 mention is made of prayer. There must be crying after knowledge and for understanding and that must be followed by seeking and searching. If these conditions are fulfilled then the fear of the Lord is one’s portion as well as the knowledge of God. These are excellent instructions for the study of the Word of God. If followed then the Lord will give wisdom (Jam 1:5). He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous. He Himself is the Wisdom and in Him are laid up all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). He also is a shield (the better word for buckler) to them that walk uprightly, and the way of His saints is preserved by Him.

Pro 2:10-19. When Wisdom entereth the heart and the soul rejoiceth in true knowledge, what blessed consequences will follow! There is preservation and deliverance. The way of the evil man, the proud, the ungodly and their crooked ways hold out no attraction to those who love and seek wisdom. Then for the first time the strange woman, the foreign woman is mentioned. While a prostitute is meant, the warning to Solomon was to beware of the allurement of those who were outside of the commonwealth of Israel, the heathen Canaanitish cults in which prostitution played such a prominent part. If we look on these instructions as given to a young man, we see the temptations out lined which are peculiar to the young-disobedience to parents, evil companions and the lust of the flesh.

Pro 2:20-22. He who ordereth his conduct according to divine instruction will walk in the way of the good and keep the paths of the righteous, dwelling in the land of promise while the wicked have no such hope.

Proverbs 3:1-25

CHAPTER 3

1. The call and promise of wisdom (Pro 3:1-10)

2. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom (Pro 3:11-20)

3. Promise and instruction (Pro 3:21-25)

Pro 3:1-10. The call to obedience is followed by promise. The promise is like all the promises to an earthly people “for length of days and long life”. Here are some blessed exhortations loved and cherished by all His people (Pro 3:5-7). How happier, and more fruitful the children of God would be if they obeyed constantly this instruction: “in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”

Pro 3:11-20. Pro 3:1-12 are quoted in Heb 12:1-29. The man who findeth wisdom, that is, who knows the Lord, is happy. If we look upon wisdom as personified in the Lord Jesus Christ we can read “His ways are pleasantness, and all His paths are peace. He is a tree of life to them that lay hold on Him, and happy is every one that retaineth Him” (Pro 3:17-18).

Pro 3:21-34. The words of the Lord kept are life to the soul, grace to the neck; they insure safety; they protect and keep by day and by night. Each verse has a blessed meaning. This chapter ends with the promise that the wise shall inherit glory while the promotion of fools will be shame.

Proverbs 4:1-27

CHAPTER 4

1. Solomon’s training (Pro 4:1-9)

2. Hear, O my son: Receive my sayings (Pro 4:10-19)

3. My son, attend to my words. (Pro 4:20-27)

Pro 4:1-9. This passage shows the early training which Solomon received and he passeth on the instructions. It is said that these verses formed a model for many Puritan homes in England and the Scotland of the covenant. He was the beloved one, his father’s true son. Note the different exhortation, about wisdom: Forget it not; forsake her not; love her; exalt her. Then the promises: She shall preserve thee; she shall keep thee; she shall promote thee; she gives honor; an ornament of grace for the head and a crown of glory. If we take wisdom and make it the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, what blessed food for the soul we will enjoy!

Pro 4:10-19. Here we find instructions for Solomon and all the godly with the corresponding promises. Then there is the warning concerning the path of the wicked and a contrast between the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked.

But the way of the righteous is as the dawn of light

That shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

This is a blessed statement. As soon as we accept the true wisdom, the Lord Jesus Christ, we enter upon a way which faceth the east, the sunrise. The light of the coming dawn illumines that path, and at some time the perfect day will break when all shadows flee away.

Pro 4:20-27. Instructions to receive and to obey the words of wisdom are the contents of this address. The eye is never to be taken off from the words of the Lord; they are to be kept in the midst of the heart. How important to listen to such counsel, even for us His children:

Keep thy heart with all diligence;

For out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 5:1-23

CHAPTER 5

1. Shun the strange woman and sinful passion (Pro 5:1-14)

2. The life of chastity (Pro 5:15-23)

Pro 5:1-14. It is a warning against literal fornication and the accompanying spiritual fornication, turning away from the worship of Jehovah and worshipping idols. The dreadful results of sinful lust are vividly described. How many a young man has found out the truth as given in these words in his licentious life.

And thou mourn at thy latter end

When thy flesh and thy body are consumed.

Solomon received these repeated warnings, yet after great prosperity and honor came to him, and his glory spread in every direction like many a rich and successful man of today, these warnings were not heeded and he had to experience in his own life the truths of these words he had penned by the Spirit of God.

Pro 5:15-23. Here we have a sweet exhortation and picture of marital fidelity and a picture of true love in family life. How the Christian family should manifest something greater than this is revealed in Eph 5:1-33.

Proverbs 6:1-35

CHAPTER 6

1. The surety (Pro 6:1-5)

2. The sluggard (Pro 6:6-11)

3. The naughty, good-for-nothing person (Pro 6:12-19)

4. The strange woman (Pro 6:20-35)

Pro 6:1-5. These are instructions concerning contracts, in being surety for a neighbor and the danger connected with it.

Pro 6:6-11. The sluggard is commanded to go to the ant for a lesson. (See also Pro 30:25.) The ant is a marvellous little creature. That which modern science has found out by close observation of the life of this little insect is here tersely stated by the words of the Lord, the Creator. They swarm in the woods and in the fields; they work day and night; they capture, train and nourish aphides, which they use as a kind of slave. They build vast and symmetrical mounds, which they use as homes and barns, and which are, relatively to the size of the tiny builders, three times larger than the Egyptian pyramids. They march and labor in unison, have their own wars, nourish their sick, and all is done without a chief, an overseer or a ruler. Yet man with a higher intelligence and a higher work to do can be a sluggard.

Pro 6:12-19. The description of the sluggard is followed by that of a worthless person. It is a son of Belial (the term used in the Hebrew) whose picture is drawn. He is a naughty person, a good-for-nothing, a man of iniquity; he has a lying mouth. A minute description of his way and work is given; everywhere he makes mischief and causeth division. But suddenly there comes the calamity upon him. He shall be broken and that without remedy. Such is the way of the man who despiseth wisdom, follows his old nature and plunges ultimately into the outer darkness. Finally there will yet appear “the man of sin,” that wicked one, in whom all these evils will culminate and he shall suddenly be broken without remedy. (See Dan 11:45.) We do well to read carefully the six things which the Lord hateth (Pro 6:16-19).

Pro 6:20-35. The words of the Lord, the commandment and the law as stated here, are of unspeakably great importance. They are to be in the heart and about the neck.

When thou walkest, it shall lead thee;

When thou steepest, it shall watch over thee;

And when thou wakest, it shall talk with thee.

They are a lamp and a light; they are the way of life. Then follows another description of the evil woman, a warning not to lust after her beauty nor to be taken by her eyelids. These oriental women painted their faces; by plucking their eyebrows they made them almond-shaped. Alas! that in the society of the twentieth century the women and girls of a so-called Christian civilization should do the same thing, and we fear, for the same purpose as the whorish woman described in this chapter.

Proverbs 7:1-27

CHAPTER 7

The entire chapter is a continuation of the strange woman and the warning against her. The Word and the law of the Lord will keep the obedient son from her. If Solomon had obeyed the Word of God, not to multiply wives (Deu 17:17) his end would not have been spent in the degrading fellowship with the harlots of other nations. The description is very graphic. What the word pictures is as prominent in the great centers of Christendom as it was thousands of years ago in Babylon and Egypt. And so it is still true:

She hath cast down many wounded;

Yea, many strong men have been slain by her.

Her house is the way to hell,

Going down to the chambers of death.

But think of Solomon after having received these inspired descriptions and warnings, that he should have been forgetful of them all.

Proverbs 8:1-36

CHAPTER 8

1. The call and appeal of wisdom (Pro 8:1-11)

2. What wisdom is and what wisdom gives (Pro 8:12-21)

3. Wisdom; the Person, who He is (Pro 8:22-31)

4. The renewed appeal (Pro 8:32-36)

Pro 8:1-11. This is one of the most interesting chapters in the entire book. It begins with a call and appeal of wisdom, much like the call and appeal of the first chapter. If wisdom calls, has a voice, then wisdom must also be a person. Who personified wisdom is we learn most blessedly in this chapter. Wisdom calls to the sons of men; wisdom speaks of plain and excellent things; she speaks the truth; her words are the words of righteousness; wisdom is better than rubies.

Pro 8:12-21. This section may well be looked on as an introduction to the sublime revelation in Pro 8:22-31. Wisdom is a person and what wisdom gives, the power wisdom has, makes it clear that wisdom is a divine person. Kings and princes rule by that person, as well as the nobles and judges of the earth. The powers that be are ordained by this wisdom. And that person says:

I love them that love Me

And those that seek Me early shall find Me.

This wisdom has riches and honor to bestow; has durable riches and righteousness; the fruit of it is better than fine gold; those that love the wisdom will receive an inheritance. In the next place we hear who that person is.

Pro 8:22-31. The Wisdom is the Son of God. The personification of wisdom is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This wonderful passage is a great prelude to the incarnation and the subsequent redemption work of the Son of God. Here Solomon beheld the highest of all; he had a vision of the Messiah of Israel, the Son of David, whose wisdom, peace and kingdom of peace and glory he but faintly foreshadowed. The critical school must of course deny this application to our Lord. “The passage played a great role in subsequent thought, for it lies at the back of much of the speculation of Philo, and at a subsequent period was greatly employed by Christian theologians in support of their doctrine of the person of Christ through their identification of wisdom in this passage with Logos (the Word) of the fourth Gospel” (New Century Bible).

Wisdom was possessed by the Lord in the beginning of His ways, before His works of old. But that is the beginning without a beginning.

In the beginning was the Word; and because the Word, the Son of God, is God, He like God has no beginning. The word “possessed” has also the meaning of “formed”. “This word has been a battleground of controversy since the days of the Arian heresy. But it is well to remember that, all theological questions apart, it is impossible to understand the word, whatever rendering of it we adopt, as indicating that wisdom ever had a beginning, or was ever properly speaking created. Wisdom is inseparable from any worthy conception of Him who is “the only wise God” (1Ti 1:17), and therefore is like Him “from everlasting to everlasting” (Perowne). Wisdom, the Son of God, was always with God from everlasting. Before there ever was anything created, before the mountains were settled, or even the earth had been made, He was. And when creation began He was there. He, the Son, was by Him, as one brought up with Him. From the greater revelation in the New Testament we learn that all things were created not only for Him, but also by Him (Col 1:16). Wisdom speaks: “And I was continually His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” This can only be true of God the Son. And furthermore He says: “Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delight was with the sons of men.” His delight was so great, that He laid by His glory, and left His eternal dwelling place to become man and redeem man by the death of the cross.

It is interesting to observe that this glimpse, this adumbration of a great truth, which was only to become fully clear in Christ Jesus our Lord, was advanced a tittle in clearness and completeness by a book which is not considered to be inspired, the so-called Book of Wisdom, in a passage which must be quoted: “For she (i.e., Wisdom) is a breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God and the image of His goodness. And being but one, she can do all things; and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new; and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God and prophets. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with Wisdom. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of stars; being compared with the light, she is found before it.”

Pro 8:32-36. Then follows the renewed appeal. Wisdom says, “Whosoever findeth me findeth life.” How true of our Lord; in Him we find and have life. note the two occurrences of “blessed” in this paragraph.

Proverbs 9:1-18

CHAPTER 9

1. The invitation of Wisdom (Pro 9:1-12)

2. The contrast with Folly. (Pro 9:13-18)

Pro 9:1-12. The first section of Proverbs closeth with a contrast of Wisdom and Folly, both personified. The one, our Lord, the other under the symbol of a foolish woman. Wisdom sends forth her invitation after her house is built and the feast is spread. It reminds us of the parable of the great supper (Luk 14:1-35). Here too is the gracious invitation, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mingled.”

Pro 9:13-18. Folly too has her house and sitteth in the door on a seat in the high places of the city to call to her victims. She invites to the stolen waters, so sweet to the natural man, to eat bread in secret places, equally pleasant. But what is the end? “The dead are there; … her guests are in the depths of hell.” The foolish woman is the world with its lusts.

Proverbs 10:1-32

II. THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON: CHAPTERS 10–19:19

Beginning with the tenth chapter we have the collection of proverbs given by inspiration through Solomon. In this section the personal address, “My son,” and the personal exhortations are missing. It will be noticed that each verse in this section contains a proverb, consisting each of two lines, mostly of an antithetic character, except Pro 19:7, which has three lines instead of two (a tristich).

It is impossible to give a detailed analysis of these chapters, nor can we take up each proverb separately for meditation. This must be left to each reader. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, and a prayerful study of these terse sayings, the heavenly wisdom given in these chapters can readily be found. There is no end to practical application. Yet even in these chapters a certain order is maintained. The contrast in each chapter is between the righteous and the wicked, between right and wrong.

CHAPTER 10

The Godly and the Ungodly in Life and Conduct

The opening proverbs are concerning treasures, earthly substance. What an important sentence, “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing!” Throughout these proverbs there are the warnings concerning getting riches, or as it is expressed in a modern phrase “getting rich quick” (Pro 28:20), and the dangers connected with it.

These grave warnings of Wisdom are especially needed at the present time in England and America, when the undisguised and the unrestrained pursuit of riches has become more and more recognized as the legitimate end of life, so that few people feel any shame in admitting that this is their aim; and the clear unimpassioned statements of the result, which always follows on the unhallowed passion receive daily confirmation from the occasional revelations of our domestic, our commercial and our criminal life. He that is greedy of gain, we are told, troubleth his own house. An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed. A faithful man shall abound with blessings, but he that maketh haste to be rich (and consequently cannot by any possibility be faithful) shall not be unpunished. He that hath an evil eye hasteth after riches, and knoweth not that want shall come upon him. “Weary not thyself,” therefore, it is said, “to be rich;” which, though it may be the dictate of thine own wisdom, is really unmixed folly, burdened with a load of calamity for the unfortunate seeker, for his house, and for all those who are in any way dependent upon him (Expositor’s Bible).

There are also warnings against being slack, which maketh poor, while the hand of the diligent, he that is up and doing, maketh rich. We find promises and assurance for the godly like these: “Righteousness delivereth from death … the Lord will not suffer the righteous, the soul of the righteous to famish … blessings are upon the head of the just … the memory of the just is blessed.”

The walk and conduct of the two classes are contrasted, especially in relation to the mouth and lips. The walk of the righteous is the sure walk (Pro 10:9); the mouth of the righteous is a well of life, it is a fountain for good Pro 10:11. In this proverb we are reminded of Joh 4:10; Joh 7:38, the believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit welling forth waters of life. While violence covers the mouth of the wicked and hatred does nothing but stir up strife, love, the true love in the heart of the just covereth all transgressions. (See 1Pe 4:8 and Jam 5:20.) Whoever has understanding his lips speak wisdom. In all these proverbs there is something to be learned in a practical way and many blessed lessons are written here for all who desire to walk righteously, godly and soberly in this evil age. Here is a test, for instance, “He is in the way of life that heedeth correction” Pro 10:17, corrected translation). But as soon as one forsaketh reproof he errs. How well it would be if children of God would daily consider Pro 10:19. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” The fear of the wicked, the fear of the Lord, the hope of the righteous and the expectations of the wicked are furthermore contrasted in this chapter.

Proverbs 11:1-31

CHAPTER 11

The Contrast Continued

The continued contrast in this chapter between the righteous and the wicked contains many precious gems, sweet to faith and wholesome for instruction. In the second verse there is a warning as to pride. Pride and shame are vitally linked together, as is lowliness and wisdom. Lowliness therefore is true wisdom. A Rabbinical comment on this passage says, “Lowly souls are filled with wisdom as the lowly places are filled with water.” Again riches are mentioned. They profit nothing in the day of wrath. (See Zep 1:1-18.) But righteousness delivered from death (Pro 11:4). What wisdom there is in Pro 11:8, “The righteous is delivered out of trouble, but the wicked cometh in his stead.” Even so will it be when the Lord comes and gives rest and deliverance to His own and trouble and wrath to the wicked 2Th 1:1-12). Pro 11:19 has been rendered:

He that is steadfast in righteousness is so unto life,

And he that pursueth evil doeth so unto his own death.

The delight of the Lord, declares the next proverb, is in the way of the upright, who remain steadfast in righteousness.

In Pro 11:30 we read that the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, not the righteous is a tree of life, but the fruit of the righteous, which means that he gives forth blessing and life to others, and that is here expressed in one sentence, “and he that winneth souls is wise.” (See Dan 12:3.)

Proverbs 12:1-28

CHAPTER 12

The Contrast in Relation to Various Conditions

In these proverbs we have the righteous mentioned, his thoughts, his words, his domestic relationship, his attitude toward animal creation Pro 12:10); his diligence; all is contrasted with the wicked in these beautiful antithetic expressions of wisdom. The thoughts of the righteous are right Pro 12:5), because his heart is right; his words bring deliverance Pro 12:6); in speaking truth he showeth forth righteousness Pro 12:17); his tongue is health Pro 12:18); the lip which uttereth truth shall be established for ever Pro 12:19); he knows nothing of lying lips, but dealing truly he is the Lord’s delight Pro 12:22). All is summed up in one statement, with which the chapter closeth: “In the way of righteousness there is life; in the pathway thereof there is no death.” Happy are we if we know this way, which is Christ Himself, and if we follow Him.Pro 12:21 speaks of the blessing of the righteous, “There shall no evil happen to the just,” that is, all things must work together for good.

Proverbs 13:1-25

CHAPTER 13

The Contrast: Advantage and Disadvantage

The contrast in Proverbs concerning the righteous and the wicked is continued in this chapter, showing mostly the advantage of the righteous, illustrating a statement found in the prophet Isaiah: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings” Isa 3:10). Then the contrast: “Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him” Pro 13:11). The righteous eats good by the fruit of his mouth; the transgressor receives violence. There is fatness for the soul of the diligent and nothing for the soul of the sluggard. Righteousness keepeth; wickedness overthrows. While the light of the righteous rejoiceth, the lamp of the wicked shall be put out. These are some of the contrasts.

In Pro 13:7 is a statement which may be applied to our Lord: “There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.” He who has all the riches made Himself poor for our sake.

Then there is warning against pride. In fact the proverbs abound in these warnings. “By pride cometh contention” Pro 13:10). To the proud who refuseth correction cometh poverty and shame Pro 13:18).

Proverbs 14:1-35

CHAPTER 14

The Wise and The Foolish: The Rich and The Poor

The contrast now concerns the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor. Let us see some of these contrasts. “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise shall preserve them” Pro 14:3. The foolish shoots forth his foolishness like a branch. Separation from the foolish man is commanded in the seventh verse. The wise cannot have fellowship with the foolish, as the believer is not to be yoked to the unbeliever. Fools make a mock at sin Pro 14:9). The word “sin” in the original means “trespass offering.” That is exactly what the foolish man does, including the religious fool; he denies both sin and the blessed provision God has made to deliver from the guilt and power of sin. But among the righteous, says the next line, there is favor (acceptance). Because the righteous owns himself a sinner, judgeth himself and accepts God’s redemption through the one sacrifice.

How true it is “the heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger does not intermeddle with its joy” Pro 14:10. We can tell our troubles and sorrows to others, but the bitterness of the heart cannot be revealed, but it is known to One who is touched with our sorrows and the bitterness of life through which we pass, for He Himself passed through it also.

Here is another deep saying, which shows that behind this wisdom uttered by the wise king, there is another who knows all what is going on in human life and in the heart. “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness” Pro 10:13. How often the sorrowful, the downcast covers all with forced laughter and no one suspects that underneath the mirth there is heaviness. This is true of children of the world, the foolish who reject true wisdom and know not the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of the poor and the rich we read that the poor is hated; the rich has many friends Pro 14:20). He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoreth Him hath mercy on the poor” Pro 14:31). To deal kindly with the poor and the lowly is God-like. The righteous will manifest his righteousness in a practical way by considering the poor.

Precious are two other proverbs in this chapter.

In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence;

And His children shall have a place of refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,

To depart from the snares of death. Pro 14:26-35)

Proverbs 15:1-33

CHAPTER 15

The Better Things

One can read through the proverbs recorded in this chapter and ask the question, What are the better things?

A soft answer which turneth away wrath is better than grievous words Pro 15:1. The tongue of the righteous which useth knowledge aright is better than the mouth of fools Pro 15:2. Better is the prayer of the upright than the sacrifice of the wicked Pro 15:8). Better is he that followeth after righteousness than the way of the wicked, for the one the Lord delights in, the other is an abomination Pro 15:9). Better is the heart that seeketh knowledge than to feed on foolishness Pro 15:14). Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith Pro 15:16). This fits many in our own days. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith Pro 15:17). Better it is to be slow to anger than wrathful Pro 15:18). Better is the plain way of the righteous than the thorny way of the slothful Pro 15:19). Better is to hear reproof than to refuse it Pro 15:32).

Some other deep sayings are found in this chapter. For instance in Pro 15:11.

Sheol and destruction are before the LORD,

How much more then the hearts of the children of men.

(Destruction, or Abaddon, is used in Rev 9:11.)

All is known to the Lord. The unseen world as well as the future; all eternity is known to Him. All is naked and open before Him. He knoweth the hearts of men, yea even our thoughts afar off, before they ever pass through our finite minds.

Twice prayer is mentioned in this chapter, in Pro 15:8 and Pro 15:29. Not alone does the Lord delight in the prayer of the upright, but He also heareth them. “The LORD is far from the wicked, but He heareth the prayer of the righteous.”

Proverbs 16-31 continued in separate post.

AC Gaebelein (1861-1945) – The Annotated Bible Proverbs P02/02

The Annotated Bible

Proverbs Chapters 16-31

By
Arno Clemens Gaebelein (1861-1945)
Copyright – Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

LNW: As a personal note to this book by AW Pink on King David, I found it very helpful in so many different ways.  Unlike many commentaries of today, AW Pink wrote with true insight from the Spirit and appropriate application of that insight to life’s daily encounters and challenges.  I think you will find this book a most revealing and helpful tool in your walk (wise decision making) and growing in Christ to lead a holy life before God and man.

Proverbs 16:1-33

CHAPTER 16 In the Light of the Lord

The name Jehovah (LORD) appears eleven times in this chapter of Proverbs. The Lord has the final word, for to man belong the preparations (or plans) of the heart; but from the LORD is the answer of the tongue. It is the same thought as in our English proverb–“Man proposes–God disposes.” Man loves to justify himself, his ways are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits; He is the judge of ways and motives. Our works are to be committed (literal: rolled upon) unto the LORD, then establishment and blessing will follow. It is strange that these three verses were omitted in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.

The LORD hath made all things for Himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil Pro 16:4. Much error has been taught in connection with this verse. Some have taught that God made some wicked. It is not said that God makes a man wicked, for “He made man upright” Ecc 7:29), but being wicked by his own choice he comes under the irrevocable law which dooms him to “the day of evil,” of calamity and punishment. By this, the Apostle teaches us, even in its final and most awful form, is revealed not the arbitrary predestination, but “the righteous judgment of God” Rom 2:5-29, T.T. Perowne).

The abomination to the Lord is to be proud in heart. Pride, not only pride as it works out in deeds, but pride as nourished in the heart, seen by the eyes of the Lord alone, is equally an abomination to Him. How much there is in these days! The second stanza of this proverb speaks of joining hand in hand, or hand to hand. It is the much praised “team-work,” confederation, alliance, etc., to do a big work and make a big name. Much of this attempt of doing “big things” in the day of “small things” has its source in the pride of the natural man.

In the sixth proverb of this chapter we have a Gospel text. The word mercy is literally “grace.” The word “purged” is the word translated elsewhere by “covered” or “atoned.” In the Lord Jesus Christ and His work is revealed “grace and truth” and by His work so blessedly finished on the cross our iniquity is covered. Then comes the fear of the Lord which results in departing from evil.

If a man walks in righteousness, in true humility, if he pleaseth the LORD, then his enemies will be silenced and not talk against him. Only too often the charges brought against the children of God by the enemies of truth, are the result of not walking in the truth.

Comforting to faith is the ninth verse. We may devise, plan, and often worry as we make our plans but behind it stands the LORD and in spite of our failures and mistakes “He directeth” the steps of the righteous.

Twice more the name of the LORD is given in this chapter. “And whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he” Pro 16:20. The only true happiness is to know the Lord, to trust Him and to follow Him. Inasmuch as we may increase in knowledge of Him, in confidence and in practical obedience our happiness is an increasing happiness. In the last verse we read that the disposing of the lot is of the LORD. The lot was used in the Old Testament. It is mentioned rarely in the New Testament, once preceding the day of Pentecost Act 1:26).

After the Holy Spirit came to guide and direct no lot is needed any longer. We pass over the many other blessed instructions recorded in this chapter. Private meditation and prayer unlock the many riches deposited in them.

Proverbs 17:1-28

CHAPTER 17 Diverse Proverbs

Of the twenty-eight proverbs found in this chapter we point out but a few. “The fining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold; but the LORD trieth the hearts” (Pro 17:3). Man may try silver and gold, but God only the hearts. And He tries the hearts by the refining process, trials and afflictions, the process which rests in His own hands. (See Psa 66:10-12; Mal 3:3-18; 1Pe 1:7.)

“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love, but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends” (Pro 17:9). To cover a transgression does not mean to ignore sin. How he who has sinned and is in transgression is to be dealt with is given to us in Gal 6:1-5. To act in the spirit of love towards one who has sinned is Christ-like. To repeat the matter, gossip about it, harp on the shortcomings and failure, is Satan-like, for he is the accuser of the brethren.

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” Pro 17:17). This is beautifully illustrated in the case of David and Jonathan 1Sa 18:1-30; 1Sa 19:1-24; 1Sa 20:1-42). And the great Friend, the brother born for adversity, is the Lord Jesus Christ. He loveth at all times; His love is limitless and timeless. It is the love which passeth knowledge.

Proverbs 18:1-24

CHAPTER 18 Proverbs of Personal Instruction

There is first a warning against separation produced by desire, that is for gratification and pleasure, and not for a righteous purpose. Such a one becomes an enemy of true wisdom and one who intermeddleth with all wisdom. This proverb finds a New Testament illustration in Alexander the coppersmith, as well as Hymenaeus and Philetus, and Diotrephes of whom John writes in his epistle. A fool foams out his own folly. This proverb in Pro 18:2 is illustrated by many of the critics of the Bible. They have no delight in true understanding but their own hearts are laid bare by their mad oppositions to God’s Holy Word.

The fool’s mouth, his lips, the talebearer (whisperer), and the slothful are the themes of the proverbs in Pro 18:6-9. Then we read “The Name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe” Pro 18:10). The Name (Ha-Shem, in Hebrew) stands for Jehovah Himself. He is the place of refuge, of shelter, protection and safety for all who in faith turn to Him. In Him is our peace and safety. The Hebrew meaning of “is safe” is “set on high.” Even so if we flee to Him and become His, we are exalted in Him, seated in Christ in heavenly places.

Another proverb of solemn meaning is found in Pro 18:12. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility. Scripture abounds in illustrations of these two lines. The truth stated here is still being manifested in the lives of men and women. The only place of safety for God’s people is the place in the dust, the place of humility.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” Pro 18:21). The Epistle of James (chapter 3) speaks in the same manner of the power of the tongue and its misuse. Evil words will bring evil results. But the tongue speaking the words of life and love, as given in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a power for good, the power of life–and oh! what shall the harvest be in that day!

Proverbs 19:1-29

CHAPTER 19:1-19 Further Proverbs on Personal Instruction

One may be poor, but walking in integrity, he is far ahead of him who is perverse in his lips and is a fool. Then we find proverbs about fretting against the Lord; warning against false witness and speaking lies and other matters. We call special attention to Pro 19:12.

The King’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion.

But his favour is as dew upon the grass.

It may be applied to Him who is The Lamb of God and also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Some day He will roar in His displeasure and manifest the wrath, so well deserved by the world. But even then His grace will be revealed, for in wrath He will remember mercy, the mercy promised to Israel. “I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth its roots as Lebanon” Hos 14:5).

We then read of a foolish son, a contentious wife, concerning houses and riches, a prudent wife. There is a warning against slothfulness, and exhortation to keep the commandments and to pity the poor, for giving to the poor means lending to the Lord. The son is to be chastened as long as there is hope and a warning against sinful wrath. This verse marks the end of this section of proverbs.

Proverbs 20:1-30

CHAPTER 20 Proverbs as to Personal Conduct

Proverbs of warning and instructions as to personal conduct are found mostly in this chapter; a number of them are of special interest if applied to Solomon. The first one is concerning wine and strong drink. As the use of wine among the people of Israel was legitimate the warning is against intemperance Deu 14:26). The Bible gives many illustrations of the truth of this proverb-warning. We may think of Noah, Lot, Nabal, Ben-hadad, Belshazzar and others.

From all the good things we select the following. In Pro 20:3 is instruction which makes for peace. It is the fool who meddles and thus produces strife, but it is an honor for man to cease from strife. In Pro 20:13 we find a warning against self-indulgence. In Pro 20:19 the talebearer and flatterer is mentioned. The sin of flattery should be avoided by all the godly for it nourisheth pride and works nothing but evil.

Many great and noble men have been ruined by admiration and popularity, who might have thriven, growing greater and nobler, in the fiercest and most relentless criticism. Donatello, the great Florentine sculptor, went at one time of his life to Padua, where he was received with the utmost enthusiasm, and loaded with approbation and honors. But soon he declared his intention of returning to Florence, on the ground that the sharp assaults and the cutting criticisms which always assailed him in his native city were much more favorable to his art than the atmosphere of admiration and eulogy. In this way he thought that he would be stimulated to greater efforts, and ultimately attain to a surer reputation.

Pro 20:22 gives another beautiful instruction. “Say not, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and He shall save thee.” To put everything in the hands of the Lord, to trust Him and wait for His own time, that is true wisdom. But it is a lesson hard to learn. The twelfth chapter of Romans gives the same instruction. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Also 1Th 5:15 : “See that none render evil for evil;” and 1Pe 3:9; “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing.” How blessed it is to wait on the Lord, to bide His own time, and in waiting to know that He does all things well. Thrice in this chapter the king is mentioned: in Pro 20:2, Pro 20:26 and Pro 20:28. These verses may be applied to Him, who is greater than Solomon, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. When He comes again He will deal with the lawless and with His enemies, but His throne is not only a judgment throne, but it is also upheld by mercy.

Proverbs 21:1-31

CHAPTER 21 Personal Instructions as to Life and Conduct

In the proverbs of this chapter the Lord is mentioned five times. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” Pro 21:1). The rivers of water are “water-courses,” the irrigation system known to the ancients, opening and shutting sluices directed the flow of the waters. Thus the Lord governs the king’s heart as He directs the affairs of men. The Lord pondereth the hearts Pro 21:2). The same truth is stated in Pro 16:2; self-justification suits the natural man but the Lord testeth all hearts. How well it is to remember in all our conduct, that truth, so comforting to the believer, expressed by Peter, “Thou knoweth all things.” More acceptable than sacrifice to the Lord, is to do righteousness and judgment Pro 21:3). This may be compared with1Sa 15:22, Hos 6:6 ; Mic 6:6-16. The words of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew give the same truth. “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice”Mat 9:13). At the close of the chapter two additional statements are made concerning the Lord; “There is no wisdom nor understanding, nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30). No matter how man may plan, how cunning the enemy may be, it will all come to naught, for the Lord is above all. How well Eliphaz the Temanite expressed this truth when he said: “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their craftiness; and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong” Job 5:12-27). Safety is not by “the horse prepared against the day of battle, nor by might or by power, but safety is of the LORD” Pro 21:31). How well then to look away from man and look to the Lord and to know in Him is our safety. The other proverbs in this chapter giving direction as to life and conduct, warning against the high look and the proud heart, getting of treasures by a lying tongue, against heartlessness in refusing to hear the cry of the poor, against loving pleasure and luxurious living, against covetousness and other matters do not need further annotations.

Proverbs 22:1-29

CHAPTER 22 Instructions Continued

Better than great riches, better than silver and gold is a name and loving favor. If a person has riches and a bad name and is not well thought of, he is less honorable than the poor man who has a name and good reputation. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says: “A good name is better than precious ointment” Ecc 7:11). The third verse has a wise message: “The prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on, and suffer for it.” The Lord has revealed in His Word the evil which is in store for the sinner and the impenitent. He also has prepared a hiding place, an ark of safety, in His Son, our Lord. The prudent believeth the Word and flees to the refuge; the simple, the unbelieving, pass on and suffer for it when the evil comes. Humility and the fear of the Lord has a reward, while thorns and snares are in the way of the froward. sowing and reaping is found in Pro 22:8 and Pro 22:9. He that soweth iniquity reaps vanity, or calamity; he that has a bountiful eye, who looks upon the poor and needy with kindness and supplies their wants reaps blessing. In Pro 22:11 we read, “He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be hisfriend.” In such, whose hearts are pure and whose words are gracious, the Lord, the King, delights.

Beginning with Pro 22:18 we find another call to hear, and to apply the heart to His knowledge: “For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee, they shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.” This is the personal message to Solomon by the Lord, heeded by him for many years and finally disobeyed.

The proverb of Pro 22:28 : “Remove not the ancient landmarks, which thy father has set,” is a restatement of Deu 19:14. It is repeated in Pro 23:10. In Job 24:2 we read “Some remove the landmarks.” These landmarks were for Israel sacred things, for their possessions were staked off according to the Lord’s will; to meddle with them was a transgression. While Israel, God’s earthly people had landmarks, God’s heavenly people also has landmarks of the heavenly realm, the blessed doctrines of the Word of God, which constitute the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints. And how man removes these landmarks in our day! How true it is, “Some remove the landmarks,” that which our fathers cherished, believed and trusted in. The rationalist, the ritualist and the delusionist do it constantly and thus destroy the foundation upon which everything rests.

Proverbs 23:1-35

CHAPTER 23 Instructions Continued

The opening proverbs of this chapter treat of self-restraint in curbing the appetite and give manners to be observed in the presence of a superior. Warnings against riches and their uncertainty are contained in Pro 23:4 and Pro 23:5. How well it would be if the great mass of professing Christians, and some true believers also, would consider this instruction: “Labor not to be rich.” But this exhortation as well as the exhortation in1Ti 6:1-10 is overlooked, and many who profess to have their riches in Christ, in the heavenly places and never ending glory, weary themselves with earthly gain, and aim to become wealthy. But riches have wings; they can fly away swiftly as does the eagle when he mounts heavenward. This too is mentioned in the epistle to Timothy, in which those who are rich are charged not to be highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but to be rich in good works. The evil eye mentioned in Pro 23:6 has nothing to do with the superstitious belief that some person with an evil eye can cast a spell to harm others. It means a dishonest, insincere person, one who is pharisaical. While he urges to eat and drink, puts on a friendly front, in his heart he entertains other thoughts.

Not to envy sinners is commanded in Pro 23:17; one who walks in fear of the Lord all the day long looks to their end, though they may prosper now, their prosperity will end, but the expectation of him who fears the Lord will not be cut off.

Beginning with Pro 23:22 is another call to hearken. Parents are to be obeyed. The truth is to be bought and never to be sold, as well as wisdom, instruction and understanding. There is a price often to be paid for the possession of the truth. Some have suffered even unto death to possess the truth, and in its defense. Then in Pro 23:26 is the familiar exhortation, “My Son, give me thy heart, and let thine eyes delight in my ways.” This word is often misused when applied to sinners, the unsaved. It is addressed to a son. The gospel does not come to the sinner with the exhortation “give”; the sinner has nothing to give. The gospel comes with an offer and if the offer of free grace is accepted, the believing sinner becomes a child of God, a son of God and an heir. Such a one is to yield his whole heart to the Lord, and his eyes are to delight in His ways. Thus Jehovah spoke to Solomon. The chapter ends with proverbs relating to self-indulgence, the sin of intemperance and all that goes with it.

Proverbs 24:1-34

CHAPTER 24 Instructions Continued

In the final instructions of this chapter we find first a description of the evil men. Their heart studieth destruction; their lips talk mischief. This theme is repeatedly referred to in this chapter. In Pro 24:15 the evil man is addressed not to lay wait for the righteous and not to spoil his resting place. The Lord takes care of the righteous; he may be overcome by misfortunes seven times, yet will he rise again. Different it is with the wicked when he falls into mischief. Yet there must be no rejoicing over the fall of the enemy, nor gladness when he stumbled. This displeaseth the Lord. Still higher is the command of the New Testament, “Love your enemies; … recompense no man evil for evil; … overcome evil with good.” There is to be no fretting because of evil men nor envy (Pro 24:1 and Pro 24:19). Why should the righteous be envious at the wicked in their prosperity? The Thirty-seventh Psalm enters more fully into this; but here the same answer is given in a terse way. The wicked have no reward; their candle will be put out. Their calamity riseth suddenly, and who knoweth the ruin of them both? which means that the Lord and the king, will deal with the wicked. Another proverb of this chapter we mention: “If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small” Pro 24:10). The hour of trial is the hour which brings the test. When adversity brings despondency, and even worse, murmuring, it is an evidence that the heart does not fully trust the Lord.

The last section of this chapter is introduced by the statement, “These things also belong to the wise,” or as it may be rendered, “These also are sayings of the wise.” The chapter ends with a vivid description of the slothful. His field and vineyard bear witness to his character. They are grown over with thorns and covered with nettles and the stone wall is broken down. And why all this? “Yet a little Sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands in sleep.” An illustration of this sluggard can be found a thousand times over again in our own land.

Proverbs 25:1-28

IV. THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON COLLECTED BY THE MEN OF HEZEKIAH

CHAPTER 25

Here begin the proverbs which the good king Hezekiah, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, added to this book. “This title is interesting as affording a proof that a revival of literary activity accompanied the revival of religion and of national prosperity which marked the reign of Hezekiah. The men of Hezekiah were doubtless a body of scribes engaged under the direction of the king in literary labors.”

Very fittingly the opening verses of this collected portion of proverbs relate to the king. While it is the glory of God to conceal a thing, the glory of kings is to search out a matter. God has many things concealed as to Himself, the great universe, creation and His ways in providence; but kings should inquire diligently into the matters brought before them and search them out in their administration of justice. Some day the great King who is coming, the King of Kings, who knows all the secrets of God as well as the hearts of men, will search out all things and bring the hidden things to light. When that day comes the fifth verse will see its accomplishment.

Take away the wicked from before the king–

And His throne shall be established in righteousness.

When He comes to establish His throne of righteousness, to rule as the true Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness and of Peace, the wicked and evildoers will be taken away in judgment. Only then can there be a righteous government.Pro 25:6 and Pro 25:7 remind us of the parable of the great supper spoken by our Lord in Luk 14:1-35. Pro 25:21 and Pro 25:22 are quoted by the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 12:20). And that is followed by another saying as to the conduct of the righteous man. “The north wind driveth away rain; so does an angry countenance, a backbiting tongue.” The backbiter does the work of Satan and the Lord hates the slandering tongue as He hates the flattering tongue. The believer can show an angry countenance, without sinning, and cut short the pernicious work of the backbiter Eph 4:26).Pro 25:28 gives a good definition of true self-control, the rule over one’s own spirit.

Proverbs 26:1-28

CHAPTER 26 Concerning the Fool and the Sluggard

Eleven times we meet the word fool in this chapter. Three different words are used in the Hebrew for fool. The first is “avil” which signifies weakness. The second word “kesil” occurs nearly fifty times, means fat or dense. The third word is the Hebrew “nabal,” which is derived from the verb to fade, or to wither; it means a vulgar, bad man who has given himself over to wickedness. The natural man in his condition, his darkened mind, his sinfulness answers to much that is said about the fool in this book. As snow in summer and rain at harvest time are quiteimpossible in Palestine, so is honor for a fool. A fool may utter a curse, as they often do, and wish something evil, but being causeless, it will not be fulfilled. The fool needs correction, the stripes for his back, he deserves no answer, and if he is answered it must be according to his folly. The foolish questions mentioned in the New Testament may well be considered here Tit 3:9. The tenth verse Pro 26:10 is doubtful in its translation. A better suggested rendering is the following:

A master workman formeth all himself aright,

But he that hireth a fool hireth a transgressor–

That is, a master does everything right; a fool spoils everything. The eleventh verse is quoted in 2Pe 2:22. The Apostle applies it to the outward professor of Christianity who turns back to the world after a period of profession and reformation. The true child of God is never described as a dog, nor could the other sentence in Peter’s Epistle mean a true believer. “The sow that was washed turned to her own wallowing in the mire.” A hog may be washed, yet in spite of the washing he is still a hog. So a sinner may profess salvation yet may never have been born again, and after a brief period of profession turn again to his old sins and habits.

The slothful man, the man that deceiveth his neighbor, the talebearer, the contentious man, the lying tongue and the flattering mouth, furnish other proverbs. How true it is “A flattering mouth worketh ruin.” Every godly man and woman should hate and avoid flattery.

Proverbs 27:1-27

V. INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN TO SOLOMON

In the three chapters which follow 27-29 we find the change we have noticed before. These proverbs are addressed to a person and the phrases “My son” and the personal address, “thou,” “thy” and “thyself,” are again used in these chapters. Like the previous sections, so here we find instructions which were given to Solomon.

CHAPTER 27 Instructions and Warnings

The opening proverb warns against procrastination. No one can be sure of what the next day may bring forth.True wisdom is not to trust the future day, for it may never come, nor are we to dwell in the past. While it is today we must live and act and leave nothing undone which can be done today. How true this is of salvation which is offered for today–now is the day of salvation. How many have been lost forever by procrastination, by thinking a more convenient time would come. Well has one said, “The thief which cheats us of our days and beggars us of our wealth is the specious thought that tomorrow belongs to us.” The illusion is as old as the world, but is today as fresh and powerful as ever. Jam 4:13-17 gives the same lesson. In the second verse we find a warning as to self-praise. Self-praise is one of the worst forms of pride, that pride which another proverb states Pro 16:18-33 “goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

“Open rebuke is better than secret love” and “faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” Pro 27:5-27. A wise man welcomes open criticism and rebuke, though such rebuke may wound, yet being given by the faithfulness of a friend, it is far better than the deceitful kisses of a flattering enemy. The 14th (Pro 27:14) verse may be linked with these statements. “He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse unto him.” Insincerity lurks behind such loud, pharisaical protestations of friendship.

A great truth is given in Pro 27:19 : “As in water face answereth face, so the heart of man to man.” The still pool of water was man’s first mirror. Gazing in it the face is reflected. As truly as the face seen in the pool is like the face which the water reflects, so truly does one man’s heart reflect the other’s. Though there may be culture, education and a certain refinement, underneath each human being there is the same corrupt, fallen human nature.

Proverbs 28:1-28

CHAPTER 28 Warnings and Instructions Continued

The wicked is a coward; the righteous man, because he trusteth in the Lord and knows the Lord is on his side, is as bold as a lion. It is the conscience which makes a coward of the wicked man.

This chapter has many sharp contrasts and important warnings and exhortations. We point out a few. Those who forsake the law, turn their backs upon the revelation of God, refuse obedience to Him, praise the wicked, they make common cause with them. Those who keep the law, obey God’s Word, are contenders for the faith Pro 28:4. Evil men are blind, but with seeking the Lord comes understanding, the blind eyes are opened Pro 28:5. A wise son is he who keepeth the law; such was Solomon till he plunged into apostasy and darkness Pro 28:7. Then in the ninth verse is another pithy saying. He “that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” It is the same truth as stated in Psa 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

An important message is contained in Pro 28:13. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Every attempt to cover up sin is a failure. How much of this is done today, not merely the covering of individual sins, but the denial of sin itself. The modern theology useth much ingenious argumentation which tries to make out of sin something else; speaks of it as a mere defect, as if it were some kind of a taint in the blood, a hereditary and therefore unavoidable weakness, something for which man is not responsible. All these inventions, which sweep aside the declarations of the infallible Word of God, are “covering up.” No mercy can there be for those who deny sin and sins. The fig leaves must be torn away with which man still tries to cover his nakedness. There must be confession, repentance, self-judgment and then of course trust in Him who died for the ungodly.

The next proverb Pro 28:14 contains a beatitude. “Happy–or blessed–is the man that feareth always.” He who has found forgiveness is sheltered by the precious blood, walks in newness of life and in godly fear all the day long.

We mention Pro 28:25 and Pro 28:26 : “Trust in the LORD brings blessing; and he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.”

Proverbs 29:1-27

CHAPTER 29 The Final Instructions

These final instructions given in proverbs cover the similar ground as those in the previous chapters. Wisdom shines out in each, and the contents of every proverb shows that the author is not Solomon but He who is perfect in knowledge. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Scripture abounds with examples of cases of hardening the neck and the heart, like Pharaoh, Ahab and others. This proverb will be finally proven to be the truth when an ungodly age will end with judgment for those who were often reproved and continue in sin.

Once more the sin of flattery is mentioned. “A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet” Pro 29:5. Flattery is akin to lying and can never be right, but is always a mistake, which results in the gravest consequences. More servants of the Lord have been spoiled by flattery than in any other manner. It is literally, as this proverb says, “spreading a net for his feet.”

In Pro 29:23 we read, “A man’s pride shall bring him low, but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.” It should be connected with the proverb in Pro 26:12, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceits? There is more hope of a fool than of him.” Pride always brings low; humility always brings up. The highest place is the lowest place. “The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” Pro 29:25. The fear of man is born of unbelief. The Christian who fears man shows clearly that he is not looking to the Lord, but to man. The fear of man surely bringeth a snare, it leads to men-pleasing and men-praising. And because one seeks the honor which comes from man and not the honor which cometh from God only, man, his approval or disapproval, is feared. The fear of man is as dangerous, as subtle and as un-christianlike as flattery, talebearing, backbiting, whispering and the other evil things mentioned in these proverbs.

This chapter concludes the proverbs of Solomon. As we have seen, the instructions which he received, first from the Lord, and the instructions which were given such which were for his conduct and life, for guidance and direction, and the proverbs which were revealed to him to give to others. We express once more the belief that every true Christian should devote more attention to these God-given instructions. How much there is in all of them for all classes of believers!

Proverbs 30:1-33

VI. THE WORDS OF AGUR THE SON OF JAKEH

CHAPTER 30

Some hold that Agur is another name for Solomon. This opinion is also upheld by the Talmud, which speaks of six names which belonged to the King: Solomon, Jedidiah, Koheleth, Son of Jakeh, Agur and Lemuel. But this opinion cannot be verified, nor do we know who Agur the son of Jakeh was. The Septuagint and the Vulgate have translated the Hebrew words and formed a sentence out of them. “Agur” means “assembler” and Jakeh has the meaning of “pious,” so that some think that Agur means an unknown godly man who gathered these sayings and they were embodied in this book. We leave the name as it is, and believe that Agur, the son of Jakeh, is the name of the author of this chapter. “Whoever Agur was, he had a certain marked individuality; he combines meditation on lofty questions of theology with a sound theory of practical life. He was able to give valuable admonitions about conduct. But his characteristic delight was “to group together in quatrains visible illustrations of selected qualities or ideas” (R.F. Horton). The opening verse also tells us that he spoke to Ithiel (God with me) and Ucal (I shall be able). The Revised Version has a marginal reading instead of the two names Ithiel and Ucal: “I have wearied myself, O God. I have wearied myself O God, and am consumed.” We do not adopt this.

The structure of the chapter itself is different from the other chapters in this book. It begins with a prologue, containing his confession, in which he shows a spirit of deep abasement and acknowledgment of his own ignorance Pro 30:2-33).

This is followed by five questions concerning creation and the Creator and His Son Pro 30:4.

The questions are answered by God’s revelation. This is indicated in the next two verses Pro 30:5 and Pro 30:6.

Next comes a prayer by Agur the son of Jakeh Pro 30:7-33).

One proverb follows next in the tenth verse. After that come the so-called “quatrains,” six groups of proverbs each consisting of four things. Between the second and third group a single proverb is inserted Pro 30:17 and at the close of the chapter stands another proverb.

In the prologue he takes the low place, and in his confession manifests the deepest humility, with no taint of pride, thus illustrating the true humility enjoined in the proverbs of Solomon. Because he confessed that he had no understanding nor knowledge of the holy, the Lord gave him all what he lacked.

The questions he asks are concerning the Creator. “Who is He that hath ascended up into heaven and descended? Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His Name, and what is His Son’s Name, if thou canst tell?” He knows there is a Creator. He cannot question the eternal power and Godhead, which alone can account for this ordered universe. He has not, like many thinkers, ancient and modern, dropped a plummet down the broad deep universe, and cried, No God. He knows there is a God; there must be an intelligence abled to conceive, coupled with power able to release this mighty mechanism. But Who is it? What is His Name or His Son’s Name? Here are the footsteps of the Creator; but where is the Creator Himself? (Expositor’s Bible) By searching God cannot be found out; the fullest answer is given in the New Testament. We are reminded of Joh 3:13. We know Him who has ascended, because He descended from heaven; Who is the Lord and Creator of all, now in God’s presence as the glorified man, and some day He who ascended into heaven will descend again.

That in the next place the Word of God is mentioned, that is the written revelation of God, is not without meaning. Man needs this revelation to know the Lord, and have the question answered which human speculation and scientific research can never answer. On account of the statement “add thou not unto His words” critics have surmised that the canon of the Old Testament must have been completed when this chapter was written. They have put the date long after the exile. But such a conclusion is unwarranted. God had commanded long before that nothing should be added to His words Deu 4:22). The prayer of Agur in Pro 30:7-9 is closely linked with the foregoing verses. He prays for deliverance from vanity and lies, that he may have a true and honest heart, so necessary for the reception of the truth of God; then he prays to have neither poverty nor riches. Poverty might induce to steal and take the name of God in vain, then His Word would be rejected by him; and riches would mean the same, as it might lead him to say, Who is the Lord?

The proverb in the form of a command in Pro 30:10 is isolated from the trend of thought in this chapter. The first quatrain comes next in Pro 30:11-14. Four times the word generation is used, describing the classes of people frequently mentioned in the preceding chapters of proverbs. Then follow four things which are insatiable. The climax is reached gradually. The horseleach (or vampire) has two daughters by name of “Give.” Even so is the poor heart of man; and there are three and four things of the same character; the unseen regions into which disembodied spirits are going day after day, year after year; the barren womb; the earth upon which rain descends yet is never filled with water, and the fourth thing, the fire, which never saith, it is enough, which consumes till nothing is left. These unsatiable things mentioned are symbolical of the condition of the natural man, always taking in yet always, restless and never satisfied. Then there are four things inscrutable: The way of the eagle in the air; the way of the serpent on a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the ocean; and the way of a man with a maid Pro 30:18-33).

Four disquieting things are given in Pro 30:21-23. In Pro 30:24-28 the four little things, yet wise, are pictured. They are the ants, the conies, the locusts and the lizard (not spider as in the A.V.). Here are lessons for man: the sluggard, the fool, the evil man, and other characters touched upon in proverbs are put to shame by the sagacity of these little things. Four graceful things conclude these sayings: A lion, a greyhound, an he-goat and a king, against whom there is no rising up. So may the righteous man act. Bold as a lion, swift as the greyhound to carry out the Lord’s will in the Lord’s service, climbing the steeps like the he-goat, and always victorious like a king undefeated. We see that these statements of Agur have a definite bearing upon the entire book of Proverbs inasmuch as they restate and illustrate the different characters, such as the ungodly, the unwise, the fool, the sluggard, the proud, the righteous, the godly, the humble, etc., mentioned in the book. Agur’s message ends with a word of counsel to exercise self-restraint.

Proverbs 31:1-31

VII. THE WORDS OF KING LEMUEL TAUGHT HIM BY HIS MOTHER

CHAPTER 31 The Virtuous Woman

“The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him”; this is the superscription of this chapter. Who is King Lemuel? No king by that name is known. We do not hesitate in saying that it is Solomon. It means “unto God” one who is devoted to the Lord. In all probability Solomon’s mother called her boy by this name, and here is the record therefore of the instruction given by Solomon’s mother. The warning is once more, and that very earnestly (shown by the thrice asked “what?” What shall I say unto you?) against licentiousness, against wine and strong drink. The brief words of the mother’s exhortation end with a request to act righteously as king, to stand up for those who are appointed to destruction, to plead the cause of the poor and needy.

The final portion of the book of Proverbs is a description of the virtuous woman. This section is quite different from the rest of the book, like many Psalms and the Lamentations it is alphabetically arranged. The virtuous woman, who is far more valuable than rubies, is described in her home as a faithful wife, a painstaking mother and the competent mistress of her household. There is no need to allegorize this description and apply it to the Church, as some have done. But this virtuous woman stands out in prominent and bright relief–a relief against the descriptions of “the strange woman,” the adulteress so repeatedly mentioned in Proverbs Pro 2:16-22; Pro 5:1-23; Pro 22:14; Pro 23:27, etc.). One of the proverbs is expanded in this beautiful picture drawn by the Spirit of God: “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor from the LORD.” But how few of the modern women reach this ideal! How few among Christian women measure up to it!

Thus ends the book of Proverbs, the book filled with practical instructions, warnings; food for thought and meditation; filled with wholesome counsel, with direction and guidance, the wisdom which is from above.

AW Pink (1886–1952) – The Life of David (P04 of 12)

The Life of David

Chapters 25-32 (P04 of 12)

By
AW Pink (1886–1952)
Copyright – Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

LNW: As a personal note to this book by A.W. Pink on King David, I found it very helpful in so many different ways.  Unlike many commentaries of today, A.W. Pink wrote with true insight from the Spirit and appropriate application of that insight to life’s daily encounters and challenges.  I think you will find this book a most revealing and helpful tool in your walk (wise decision making) and growing in Christ to lead a holy life before God and man.

Chapter Twenty-Five-His Sorrow At Ziklag
1 Samuel 29 & 30

Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust” (Ps. 16:1). This is a prayer which, in substance at least, every child of God frequently puts up to his heavenly Father. He feels his own insufficiency, and calls upon One who is all-sufficient. He realizes how incompetent he is to defend and protect himself, and seeks the aid of Him whose arms are all-mighty. If he is in his right mind, before starting out on a journey, when any particular danger threatens him, and ere settling down for the night’s repose, he commits himself into the custody and care of Him who never slumbers or sleeps. Blessed privilege! Wise precaution! Happy duty! The Lord graciously keep us in a spirit of complete dependence upon Himself.

“The Lord preserveth all them that love Him” (Ps. 145:20). Most Christians are readier to perceive the fulfillment of this precious promise when they have been delivered from some physical danger, than when they were preserved from some moral evil; which shows how much more we are governed by the natural than the spiritual. We are quick to own the preserving hand of God when a disease epidemic avoids our home, when a heavy falling object just clears our path, or when a swiftly-moving auto just misses the car we are in; but we ought to be just as alert in discerning the miraculous hand of God when a powerful temptation is suddenly removed from us, or we are delivered from it.

“But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thess. 3:3). The Lord’s people are surrounded with a variety of evils within and without. They have sin in them, and it is the cause and fountain of all the evil and misery which they at any time feel and experience. There is the evil one without, who endeavors at times to bring great evil upon them. But the Lord “keepeth His people from evil,” not that they are exempted wholly and altogether from evil. Yet they are kept from being overcome by and engulfed in it. Though they fall, they shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth them with His right hand.

Wondrous are the ways in which God preserves His saints. Many a one has been withheld from that success in business on which he had fondly set his heart: it was God delivering him from those material riches which would have ruined his soul! Many a one was disappointed in a love affair: it was God delivering from an ungodly partner for life, who would have been a constant hindrance to your spiritual progress! Many a one was cruelly treated by trusted and cherished friends: it was God breaking what would have proved an unequal yoke! Many a parent was plunged into grief by the death of a dearly loved child: it was God, in His mercy, taking away what would have proved an idol. Now we see these things through a glass darkly, but the Day will come, dear reader, when we shall perceive clearly that it was the preserving hand of our gracious God thus dealing with us at those very times when all seemed to be working against us.

The above meditations have been suggested by what is recorded in 1 Samuel 29. At the close of our last chapter we saw how mercifully God interposed to deliver His servant from the snare of the fowler. Through his unbelief and self-will, David found himself in a sore dilemma. Seeking help from the ungodly, he had placed himself under obligation to the king of Gath. Pretending to be the friend of the Philistines and the enemy of his own people, David was called upon by Achish to employ his men upon the attack which was planned against Israel. Then it was that the Lord interposed and preserved the object of His love from falling into much graver evil. He now graciously made “a way to escape” (1 Cor. 10:13), lest His poor erring child should be tempted above that which he was able.

And how was that “way to escape” opened for him? Ah, this is the point to which we wish to particularly direct our attention. It was not by means of any visible or outward work, but through the inward and secret operations of His power. The Lord turned against David the hearts of the other “lords of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 29:3-5); and in consequence, Achish was obliged to part with his services. Ah, my reader, how often was the Lord secretly working for you, when He turned the heart of some worldling against you! If we were more spiritual, this would be perceived more clearly and frequently by us, and we should then render unto our gracious Deliverer the praise which is His due. David’s discharge from the service of Achish was just as much a miracle as was his deliverance from the enmity of Saul; it was as truly the working of God’s preserving power to rouse the jealousy and enmity of the Philistine lords against David, as it was to shield him from the javelin which the demon possessed king hurled at him (1 Sam. 18:11).

“So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel” (1 Sam. 29:11). Commanded by the king of Gath so to do (v. 10), there was no other prudent alternative. Thus the snare was broken, and David was now free to return unto his own city, not knowing (as yet) how urgently his presence was needed there. Stealing away amid the shadows of the dawn, the flight of David and his men was scarcely any less ignominious than was the banishment of backslidden Abraham from Egypt (Gen. 12:20). Though God often extricates His people from the dangerous situations which their unbelief brings them into, nevertheless, He makes them at least taste the bitterness of their folly. But, as we shall see, the shame which the Philistine lords put upon David, turned to his advantage in various ways. Thus does God sometimes, graciously over-rule unto good even our failures and falls.

“So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.” Delivered from a sore dilemma, a heavy burden removed from his shoulders, we may well suppose it was with a light heart that David now led his men out of the camp of Achish. Blithely unconscious of the grievous disappointment awaiting them, David and his men retraced their steps to Ziklag, for it was there he had deposited all that was chiefly dear to him on earth: his wives and his children were there, it was there he had formed a rest for himself—but, apart from God! Ah, how little do any of us know what a day may bring forth: how often is a happy morning followed by a night of sadness: much cause have we while in this world to “rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11).

Though David had now been delivered from his false position as an ally of Achish against Israel, not yet had he been brought back to God. Deep exercises of heart were required for this, and He who preserveth His people from fatal backsliding saw to it that His erring servant should not escape. Though He is the God of all grace, yet His grace ever reigns “through righteousness,” and never at the expense of it. Though His mercy delivers His saints from the sad pitfalls into which their folly leads them, usually, He so orders His providences, that they are made to smart for their wrong-doing; and the Holy Spirit uses this to convict them of their sins, and they, in turn, condemn themselves for the same. The means employed by God on this occasion were drastic, yet surely not more so than the case called for.

“And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire” (30:1). After a three days’ march from the camp of Achish, hoping to find rest in their homes and joy in the bosom of their families, here was the scene upon which the eyes of David and his men now fell! What a bitter moment must this have been for our hero! His little all had vanished: he returns to the place where his family and possessions were, only to find the city a mass of smoking ruins, and those whom he loved no longer there to welcome him. When we leave our families (though it be for only a few hours) we cannot foresee what may befall them, or ourselves, ere we return; we ought therefore to commit each other to the protection of God, and to render unto Him unfeigned thanks when we meet again in peace and safety.

“And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way” (30:2). Let us learn from this that it is the part of wisdom, on all occasions, to moderate our expectation of earthly comforts, lest we should by being over-sanguine, meet with the more distressing disappointment. Behold here the restraining power of the Lord, in preventing the Amalekites from slaying the women and children. “Whether they spared them to lead them in triumph, or to sell them, or to use them for slaves, God’s hand must be acknowledged, who designed to make use of the Amalekites for the correction, but not for the destruction, of the house of David” (Matthew Henry). Blessed is it to know that even in wrath God remembers “mercy” (Hab. 3:2).

“And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way.” From this we may also see how sorely David was now being chastened for being so forward to go with the Philistines against the people of God. Hereby the Lord showed him he had far better have stayed at home and minded his own business. “When we go abroad, in the way of our duty, we may comfortably hope that God will take care of our families, in our absence, but not otherwise” (Matthew Henry). No, to count upon the Lord’s protection, either for ourselves or for our loved ones, when we enter forbidden territory, is wicked presumption and not faith. It was thus the devil sought to tempt Christ: Cast Thyself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and the angels shall safeguard Thee.

“So David and his men came to the city, and behold it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (vv. 3, 4). Ah, now he was tasting the bitterness of being without the full protection of God. As a homeless wanderer, hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, despised by the Nabals who dwelt at ease in the land, yet never before had he known the like of this. But now, under the protection of the king of Gath, and with a city of his own, he learns that without God’s shelter, he is exposed indeed. Learn from this, dear reader, how much we lose when we enter the path of self-will. In the first shock of disappointment, David could only weep and wail; all appeared to be irrevocably lost.

“It was indeed no wonder that David’s heart was stricken. He had never before known what it was to be smitten like this by the chastening hand of God. Of late he had seemed even more than ordinarily to be the subject of His care: but now the relation of God seemed suddenly changed into one of severity and wrath. During the year that David had watched his father’s flock, during his residence in the courts of Saul, during the time of his sorrowful sojourn in the wilderness, during his late eventful history in Ziklag, he had never experienced anything but kindness and preservation from the hand of God. He had become so long accustomed to receive sure protection from God’s faithful care, that he seems to have calculated on its uninterrupted continuance. He had lately said. ‘The Lord render unto every man his righteousness. . . and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.’ But now the Lord Himself seemed turned into an enemy, and to fight against him. Nor could the conscience of David have failed to discern the reason. It must have owned the justice of the blow. Thus, however, the bitterness of his agony would be aggravated, not lessened” (B. W. Newton).

“And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite” (v. 5). Why did the historian, after specifically stating in verse 2 that the Amalekites had “taken the women captives,” enter into this detail? Ah, is the answer far to seek? Is it not the Holy Spirit making known to us the prime cause of the Lord’s displeasure against David? His “two wives” was the occasion of the severing of his communion with the Lord, which, as we have seen, was at once followed by Saul’s renewed attack (see 25:43, 44 and 26:1, 2), his unbelieving fear (27:1), and his seeking help from the ungodly (27:2, 3). We mention this because it supplies the key to all that follows from 25:44, and so far as we know no other writer has pointed it out.

“And David was greatly distressed: for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved (bitter), every man for his sons and for his daughters” (v. 6). Poor David! one trouble was added to another. Heartbroken over the loss of his family, and the burning of his city, additional distress was occasioned by the murmuring and mutiny of his men. They considered the entire blame rested upon their leader, for having journeyed to Achish and left the city of Ziklag defenseless, and because he had provoked the Amalekites and their allies (27:8, 9) by his inroad upon them, who had now availed themselves of the opportunity to avenge the wrong. “Thus apt are we, when in trouble, to fly into a rage against those who are in any way the occasion of our troubles, when we overlook the Divine providence and have no due regard to God’s hand in it” (Matthew Henry).

“On all past occasions he had ever found some to sympathize with, and to console him in his afflictions. In the house of Saul, he had had the affection of Jonathan, and the favor of many beside: even in the wilderness, six hundred out of Israel had joined him, and had faithfully struggled with him through many a day of difficulty and danger: but now, they too abandon him. Enraged at the sudden calamity (for they also were bereaved of everything)—stung to the quick by a sense of its bitter consequences—imputing all to David (for it was he who had guided them to Ziklag)—even they who shrunk not from the sorrows of the cave of Adullam, and who had braved all the dangers of the wilderness, forsook him now. They all turned fiercely upon him as the author of their woe, and spake of stoning him. Thus stricken of God, execrated by his friends, bereaved of all that he loved, David drank of a cup which he never tasted before. He had earned it for himself. It was the fruit of his self-chosen Ziklag” (B. W. Newton).

And what was the Lord’s purpose in these sore trials which now came upon David? It was not to crush him and sink him into despair. No, rather was it with the design of moving him to “humble himself beneath His mighty hand” (1 Peter 5:6), confess his wrong-doing, and be restored to happy fellowship. God’s heaviest chastenings of “His own” are sent in love and for the benefit of their subjects. But to enter into the good of them, to afterward enjoy “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” therefrom, the recipient of those chastenings must be “exercised thereby” (Heb, 12:11): he must bow beneath the rod, yea, “hear” and “kiss” it, before he will be the spiritual gainer. Thus it was with the subject of these chapters, as will appear in the immediate sequel.

Chapter Twenty-Six-His Recourse In Sorrow
1 Samuel 30

In our last we directed attention to the gracious manner in which the Lord put forth His interposing hand to deliver David from that snare of the fowler into which his unbelief and folly had brought him. Ere passing on to the immediate sequel, let us pause and admire the blessed way in which God timed His intervention. “To everything there is a season . . . He hath made everything beautiful in His time (Eccl. 3:1, 11): equally so in the spiritual realm as in the natural. Probably every Christian can look back to certain experiences in life when his circumstances were suddenly and unexpectedly changed. At the time, he understood not the meaning of it, but later was able to perceive the wisdom and goodness of Him who shaped his affairs. There have been occasions when our situation was swiftly altered, by factors over which we had no control, which called for us to move on: but the sequel showed it was God opening our way to go to the help of others who sorely needed us. So it was now with David.

“My times are in Thy hand” (Ps. 31: 15). Yes, my “times” of tarrying and my “times” of journeying; my “times” of prosperity and my “times” of adversity; my “times” of fellowship with the saints and my “times” of isolation and loneliness; each and all are ordered by God. It is blessed to know this, and more blessed still when the heart is permitted to rest thereon. Nothing is more quieting and stabilizing to the soul than the realization that everything was ordained by omniscience and is now ordered by infinite love: that He who eternally decreed the hour of my birth has fixed the day of my departure from this world; that my “times” of youth and health and my “times” of infirmity and sickness are equally in God’s hands. He knows when it is best to bring me out of a distressing situation, and His mercy opens the way when it is His time for me to make a move.

While David and his men were in the camp of Achish, the Amalekites took advantage of their absence, fell upon the unprotected Ziklag, burned it, and carried away captive all the women and children. Their husbands and fathers knew nothing of this: no, but God did, and He had designs of mercy toward them. Their sad case seemed a hopeless one indeed, but appearances are deceptive. Though they were unaware of the fact, God had already set moving the means for their deliverance. Unlike us, God is never too early, and He is never too late. Had David and his men been discharged by Achish a week sooner, they had been on hand to defend Ziklag, and a needed chastisement and a great blessing from it had been missed! Had they returned home a week later, they had probably been too late to recover their loved ones. Admire, then, the timeliness of God’s freeing David from the yoke of the Philistines.

“So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (1 Sam. 30:3,4), Observe, there was no turning unto God, or seeking to cast their care upon Him! They were completely overwhelmed by shock and grief. Perhaps the reader knows something of such a state from painful experience. A heavy financial reverse which plunged the soul into dark gloom; or a sudden bereavement came, and in the bitterness of grief all seemed to be against you and even the voice of prayer was silenced. Ah, David and his men are not the only ones who have been overwhelmed by trouble and anguish.

“And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons, and every man for his daughters” (v. 6). The turning against him of his faithful followers was the final ingredient in the bitter cup which David was now called on to drink. But even this was of God: if one stroke of His chastening rod avails not, it must be followed by another; and if necessary, yet others, for our holy Father will not suffer His wayward children to remain impenitent indefinitely. So it was here: the sight of Ziklag in ruins and the loss of his family did not bring David to his knees; so yet other measures are employed. The anger of his men aroused him from his lethargy, the menacing of his own life by intimate friends was the way God took to bring him back unto Himself.

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6). Here is where light broke into this dark scene, yet care needs to be taken lest we make a wrong use of the same. No one sentence in God’s Word is to be interpreted as an isolated unit, but scripture must be compared with scripture. Much is included in the words now before us, far more than any human writer is capable of fully revealing. Attention needs to be directed unto three things: first, what is pre-supposed in David’s “encouraging himself in the Lord”; second, what is signified thereby; third, what followed the same. If we take into consideration the real character of David as “the man after God’s own heart,” if we bear in mind the whole context recounting his sad lapses, and, above all, if we view our present verse in the light of the Analogy of faith, little difficulty should be experienced in “reading between the lines.”

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Ah, much is implied here. David could not truly “encourage himself in the Lord” until there had been previous exercises of heart: conviction, contrition, confession, necessarily preceded comfort and consolation. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28: 13): that enunciates an unchanging principle in God’s governmental dealings, with unconverted and converted alike. Had there been no repentance on David’s part, no unsparing condemnation of himself, no broken-hearted acknowledgment unto God of his failures, he would have been “encouraging himself” in sin and that would be “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.” Not only has Christ died to save His people from the penalty of their sins, but He has also procured the Holy Spirit to work in them a hatred for the vileness of their sins! And as there is no forgiveness and cleansing for the saint without confession (1 John 1:9), so there is no acceptable “confession” save that which issues from a contrite heart.

There is great need today for the above principles to be explained unto and impressed upon professing Christians. Neither God’s glory will be maintained nor the good of His people promoted, if we conceal and are silent about the requirements of His righteousness. God’s mercy is exercised in a way of holiness: where there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness; where there is no turning away from sin, there is no blotting out of sins. Something more is required than simply asking God to be gracious unto us for Christ’s sake. There are many who quote “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), but there are few indeed who faithfully point out that that precious promise is specifically qualified with, “IF we walk in the light as He is in the light.” If we avoid the searching light of God’s holiness, if we hide, excuse, repent not of and refuse to make daily confession of our sins, then the blood of Christ certainly does not “cleanse” us from all sin. To insist on the contrary is grossly dishonoring to the Blood, and is to make Christ the Condoner of evil!

Weigh well the following: “If they pray toward this place, and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin, when Thou afflictest them: then hear Thou in Heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy servants . . . If Thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever Thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which Thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for Thy name: Then hear Thou in Heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. If they sin against Thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and Thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto Thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto Thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto Thee . . . Then hear Thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Thy people that have sinned against Thee” (1 Kings 8:35, 36, 44-50). And God is still the same. No change of “dispensation” effects any alteration in His character, or in anywise modifies His holy requirements: with Him there is “no variableness neither shadow of turning” (James 1:27).

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Having sought to indicate what is pre-supposed by those words, let us now briefly consider what is signified by them. The same Holy Spirit who convicts the backslidden saint of his sins, works in him a sincere repentance, and moves him to frankly and freely confess them to God, also gives him a renewed sense of the abounding mercy of God, strengthens faith in His blessed promises, and reminds him of His unchanging faithfulness (1 John 1:9): and thus the contrite heart is enabled to rest in the infinite grace of God; and being now restored to communion with Him, the soul “encourages” itself in His perfections. Thus, just as the Holy Spirit delivers the saint from heeding Satan’s counsel to hide his sins, so also does He rescue him from Satan’s attempts to sink him in despair after he is convicted of his sins.

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” This means that he reviewed afresh the everlasting covenant which God had made with him in Christ, that covenant “ordered in all things and sure.” It means that he recalled God’s past goodness and mercy towards him, which reassured his heart for the present and the future. It means that he contemplated the omnipotency of the Lord, and realized that nothing is too hard for Him, no situation is hopeless unto His mighty power, for He is able to overrule evil unto good, and bring a clean thing out of an unclean. It means that he remembered God’s promises to bring him safely to the throne, and though he knew not how his immediate trouble would disappear, without doubting, he hoped in God, and confidently counted upon His undertaking for him. O Christian reader, when we are at our wit’s end, we should not be at faith’s end. See to it that all is right between your soul and God, and then trust in His sufficiency.

When all things were against him, David’s faith was stirred into exercise: he turned unto the One who had never failed him, and from whom he had so sadly departed. Ah, blessed is the trial, no matter how heavy; precious is the disappointment, no matter how bitter, that issues thus. To penitently return unto God means to be back again in the place of blessing. Better, far better, to be in the midst of the black ruins of Ziklag, surrounded by a threatening mob, than to be in the ranks of the Philistines fighting against His people. Have we, in any way, known what bitter disappointment means? And have we in the midst of it turned unto Him who has smitten us, and “encouraged” ourselves in Him? If so, then like David, we may say, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept Thy Word” (Ps. 119:67).

O that it may please the Lord to bless this chapter to some sorely distressed soul, who is no longer enjoying the light of His countenance, but who is beneath His chastening frowns. You may be borne down by sorrow and despondency, but no trouble is too great for you to find relief in God: in the One who has, in righteousness, sent this sorrow upon you. Humble yourself beneath His mighty hand, acknowledge to Him your sins, count upon the multitude of His mercies, and seek grace to rest upon His comforting promises. When faith springs up amidst the ruins of blighted hopes, it is a blessed thing. What has just been before us marked a turning-point in David’s life; may it be so in yours. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee” (Ps. 55:22).

O my reader, be you a believer, or an unbeliever, none but God can do you good, relieve your distress, remove the load From your heart, and bring blessing into your life. If you refuse to humble yourself before Him, lament the course of self-will which you followed, and turn from the same, you are your own worst enemy and are forsaking your own mercies. But if you will, take your place before Him in the dust, repent of your wickedness, and seek grace to live henceforth in subjection to His will, then pardon, peace, joy, awaits you. No matter how sadly you have failed in the past, nor what light and favors you sinned against, if you will own it all in brokenness of heart unto the Lord, He is ready to forgive.

“And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?” (vv. 7,8). Here we see the first result which followed David’s turning back unto God. It is blessed to observe that the Holy Spirit has thrown a veil of silence over what took place in secret between David and the Lord, as He has over Christ’s private interview with Peter (1 Cor. 15: 5). But after telling us of David’s encouraging himself in the Lord, He now reveals the reformation which took place in his conduct. Nothing was said of David’s seeking counsel from God when he journeyed to Achish (27:2), but now that he is restored to happy fellowship, he will not think of taking a step without asking for divine guidance.

Very blessed indeed is what is recorded in verses 7 and 8. Moses had laid it down as a law that the leader of Israel should “stand before” (Eleazar) the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in” (Num. 27:21), and in compliance therewith, David turned to the priest, and bade him seek the mind of the Lord as to how he should now act in this dire emergency. Learn from this that obedience to the revealed will of God is the best evidence of having been restored to communion with Him. Of course it is, for it is the very nature of love to seek to please its object. Let us test, then, our practical relation to God, not by our feelings nor by our words, but by the extent to which we are in actual subjection to Him, and walking in a spirit of dependency upon Him.

Notice here how indwelling grace triumphed over the promptings of the flesh. Mere nature would urge that David’s only possible course was to rush after the Amalekites and seek to rescue any of the women and children who might yet be alive. But David was now delivered from his impetuous self-confidence; his soul was again “like a weaned child.” God was now to order all the details of his life. Alas, most of us have to receive many hard knocks in the by-paths of folly, before we are brought to this place. It is indeed much to be thankful for when the feverish restlessness of the flesh is subdued, and the soul truly desires God to lead us step by step: progress may not seem so swift, but it certainly will be more sure. The Lord graciously lay His quieting hand upon each of us, and cause us to look unto and rest in Himself alone.

Chapter Twenty-Seven-His Pursuit Of The Amalekites
1 Samuel 30

We are now to be engaged with the blessed sequel to David’s putting matters right between his soul and God, and his encouraging himself in the Lord. At the close of the preceding chapter we saw that the first result of his returning to God was that he summoned the high priest with his ephod, and “enquired of the Lord” whether or not he should pursue after those who had burned Ziklag and carried away his wives captive. This exemplifies a principle which is ever operative when there has been a true reformation of heart: our own wisdom and strength are disowned, and divine help and guidance are earnestly sought. Herein are we able to check up the state of our souls and discover whether or not we are really walking with the Lord. Backsliding and a spirit of independency ever go together; contrariwise, communion with God and dependence upon Him are never separated.

As we pointed out in our last, the Mosaic law required that Israel’s ruler should stand before the priest, who would ask counsel for him as to whether he should go out or no (Num. 27:31). In like manner, the saint today is bidden to “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5). No step in life should be taken, be it great or small, without first waiting upon God for direction: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). To seek not wisdom from above, is to act in self-sufficiency and self-will; to honestly and earnestly apply for that wisdom, betokens a heart in subjection to God, desirous of doing that which is pleasing to Him.

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him”: if this be faithfully done, then we may be fully assured that “and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6). The serious trouble into which David fell when he sought refuge in the land of Gath, had arisen immediately from failure to enquire of the Lord; but now he consulted Him through the high priest: “Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?” (1 Sam. 30:8). Blessed indeed is this. Would that we might learn to imitate him, for our fleshly efforts to undo the consequences of our unbelief and folly only cause us to continue going on in the same path which brought God’s chastening upon us; and this is certain to end in further disappointment. “Be still, and know that I am God” is the word we need to heed at such a time: to unsparingly judge ourselves, and suffer the hand that has smitten to now lead in His path, is the only way to recovery. Only then do we give evidence that disappointment and sorrow have been blest to our souls.

Unspeakably precious is it to note the Lord’s response to David’s inquiry: “And He answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (v. 8). “See the goodness and perfectness of the grace of God. There was no delay in this answer—no reserve—no ambiguity; more even was told than David had asked. He was told not only that he might pursue, but that he should surely recover all. In a moment the black cloud of sorrow that had hung so darkly over David’s soul was gone: agony gave place to joy: and he whom his companions had been dooming to death, stood suddenly before them as the honoured servant of the Lord his God, commissioned to pursue and to conquer. He did pursue, and all was as God had said” (B. W. Newton).

“So David went, he and the six hundred men that were with him” (1 Sam. 30:9). The force of this can only be perceived and appreciated by recalling what was before us in verse 6: “David was greatly distressed, for the people spake of stoning him”! What a change we behold now! The enmity of his men has been stilled, and they are again ready to follow their leader. Herein we see the third consequence of David’s spiritual return and encouraging himself in the Lord. First, he had submitted to the divine order, and sought guidance from God. Second, he had promptly received a gracious response, the Lord granting the assurance he so much desired. And now the power of God fell upon the hearts of his men, entirely subduing their mutiny, and making them willing, weary and worn as they were, to follow David in a hurried march after the Amalekites. O how much do we lose, dear reader, when we fail to right matters with God!

“So David went, he and six hundred men that were with him.” Here is David’s response to the word he had received from God through the high priest. Without taking rest or refreshment, he at once set out in pursuit of the ravagers. Tired and weak as he well might be, David was now nerved to fresh endeavors. Ah, is it not written, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31)? So it ever is. If we truly desire spiritual guidance of the Lord, and humbly and trustfully seek it from Him, our inner man will be renewed, and we shall be empowered to follow the path of His ordering.

“And came to the brook Besor, where those that were left behind stayed” (v. 9). This teaches us that when we are in the current of the revealed will of God, all will not, necessarily, be plain sailing. We must be prepared to meet with difficulties and obstacles even in the path of obedience. It was by faith in the word that he had received from Jehovah that David turned from the ruins of Ziklag, and faith must be tested. A severe trial now confronted David: fatigued from their former journey and their spirits further depressed by the sad scene they had gazed upon, many of his men, though willing, were unable to proceed farther; and he left no less than two hundred behind at the brook of Besor.

“But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor” (v. 10). Considerate of the state of his men, David would not drive or force those who were faint to accompany him. Further proof was this that our hero was now again in communion with God, for “He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14)—alas, how often do those who profess His name seem to forget this. But though his company was now reduced by one third, and, as verse 17 plainly intimates, was far inferior to the Forces of the Amalekites, yet David relied implicitly on the Word of the Lord, and continued to push forward.

“And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins; and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire. And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to this company? And he said, Sware unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company” (vv. 11-15). We shall consider these verses from two angles: as they add to what has been before us above; as they contain a lovely gospel picture.

In the verses just quoted we may perceive the seventh consequence which followed David’s righting things with God. First, he encouraged himself in the Lord: verse 6. Second, he submitted to the divine order and sought guidance from God: verse 7 and 8. Third, he obtained light for his path and assurance of God’s help: verse 8. Fourth, the power of God fell upon the hearts of his men, subduing their mutiny: verse 6 and making them willing to follow him on a difficult and daring enterprise: verse 9. Fifth, the renewing of David’s strength, so that he was able to start out on a forced and swift march: verse 9. Sixth, grace granted him to overcome a sore trial of faith: verse 10. And now we are to observe how the Lord showed Himself strong on their behalf by ordering His providences to work in David’s favor. Such are some of the divine mercies which we may confidently expect when the channel of blessing between our souls and God is no longer choked by unjudged and unconfessed sins.

A most remarkable intervention of divine providence is here before us. David was pursuing the Amalekites, and from this incident we gather that he knew not in which direction they had gone, nor how far ahead they were. God did not work a miracle for them, but by natural means provided him with a needed guide. The men of David came across one, who was sick and famished, in a field. He turned out to be an Egyptian slave, whom his master had barbarously abandoned. Upon being brought to David, he furnished full particulars, and after receiving assurance that his life should be spared, agreed to conduct David and his men to the place where the Amalekites were encamped. Let us admire the various details in this wondrous secret provision which God now made for David, and the combined factors which entered into it.

First, stand in awe of the high sovereignty of God which suffered this Egyptian slave to fall sick: verse 13. Second, in permitting his master to act so inhumanly, by leaving him to perish by the wayside: verse 13. Third, in moving David’s men to spare his life: verse 11, when they had every reason to believe he had taken part in the burning of Ziklag. Fourth, in the fact that he was himself an Egyptian and not an Amalekite: verse 11— had he been the latter, they were bound to kill him (Deut. 25:19). Fifth, in moving David to show him kindness: verse 11. Sixth, in causing the food given to so quickly revive him: verse 12. Seventh, in inclining him to freely answer David’s inquiries and be willing to lead him to the camp of the Amalekites. Each of these seven factors had to combine, or the result had never been reached: God made “all things work together” for David’s good. So He does for us: His providences, day by day, work just as wondrously on our behalf.

Approaching these verses (11-15) now from another angle, let us see portrayed in them a beautiful type of a lost sinner being saved by Christ. There are so many distinct lines in this lovely gospel picture that we can here do little more than point out each one separately.

1. His citizenship: “And they found an Egyptian in the field” (v. 11). In Scripture Egypt is a symbol of the world: the moral world to which the unregenerate belong and in which they seek their satisfaction. As another has said, “It had its beginning in Cain’s day, when he ‘went out from the presence of the Lord,’ and he and his descendants builded cities, sought out witty inventions of brass and iron, manufactured musical instruments, and went in for a good time generally, in forgetfulness of God. And that continues to this day. The land of Egypt figures this. There Pharaoh, type of Satan, ruled and tyrannized.”

2. His woeful condition: “I fell sick” (v. 13). Such is the state of every descendant of fallen Adam. An awful disease is at work in the unregenerate: that disease is sin, and “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15). It is sin which has robbed the soul of its original beauty: darkening the understanding, corrupting the heart, perverting the will, and paralyzing all our faculties so far as their exercise Godward is concerned. But not only was this Egyptian desperately sick, he was starving: he had had nothing to eat or drink for three days. Well might he cry, “I perish with hunger” (Luke 15:17).

3. His sad plight: “my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick” (v; 13). He was a slave, and now that his master thought he would be of no further use to him, he heartlessly abandoned him and left him to perish. “And that is the way the devil treats his servants. he uses them as his tools as long as he can. Then, when he cannot use them any more, he leaves them to their folly. Thus he treated Judas, and hosts of others before and since” (C. Knapp).

4. His deliverance: “And brought him to David” (v. 11). No doubt he was too weak and ill to come of himself; and even had he the ability, he had never used it thus, for David was an utter stranger to him! Thus it is with the unregenerate sinner and that blessed One whom David foreshadowed. Therefore did Christ say, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). Each of God’s elect is “brought” to Christ by the Holy Spirit.

5. His deliverer: No doubt this half-dead Egyptian presented a woe-begone spectacle, as he was led or carried into the presence of the man after God’s own heart. But his very ruin and wretchedness drew out the compassion of David toward him. Thus it is with the Saviour: no matter what ravages sin has wrought, nor how morally repulsive it has made its victim, Christ never refuses to receive and befriend one whom the Father draws to Him.

6. His entertainment: “And gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins” (vv. 11, 12). Precious line in our picture is this of the divine grace which is stored up in Christ. None brought to Him by the Spirit are ever sent empty away. How this reminds us of the royal welcome which the prodigal received and the rich fare that was set before him.

7. His confession: When David asked him to whom he belonged and whence he came, he gave an honest and straightforward reply: “He said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite” (v. 13). Strikingly did this adumbrate the fact that when an elect sinner has been brought to Christ, and been given the bread and water of life, he takes his proper place, and candidly acknowledges what he was and is by nature. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us” (1 John 1:9).

8. His obligation: “And David said, Canst thou bring me down to this company?” (v. 15). In this we may see how David pressed his claims upon the one whom he had befriended, though it is blessed to mark that it was more in the form of an appeal than a direct command. In like manner, the word to the believer is, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

9. His desire for assurance: “And he said, Sware unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company” (v. 15). There could be no joy in the service of his new master until assured that he should not be returned unto the power of his old one. Blessed is it to know that Christ delivers His people not only from the wrath to come, but also from the dominion of sin.

10. His gratitude: “And when he had brought him down” (v. 16). He was now devoted to the interests of David, and did as he requested. So Christians are told, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). O for grace to serve Christ as ardently as we did sin and Satan in our unregenerate days.

Chapter Twenty-Eight-His Recovery Of His Wives
1 Samuel 30

“And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines and out of the land of Judah. And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled” (1 Sam. 30:16, 17). We resume at the point where we left off in our last chapter. These verses form a solemn sequel to those previously pondered, and set before us the other side of the picture which was then considered.

The Amalekites, in all probability, knew that the Israelites and Philistines were engaged in fighting each other a considerable distance away, and supposed that David and his men were assisting the king of Gath. Deeming themselves secure, they imprudently began to riot and make merry over the abundance of spoils they had captured, without so much as placing guards to give notice of an enemy’s approach. They lay not in any regular order, much less in any military formation, but were scattered in groups, here and there. Consequently, David and his little force came upon them quite unawares, and made a dreadful slaughter of them. How often when men say, “Peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3).

Just as the sick and abandoned Egyptian who was befriended by David typified one of God’s elect being saved by Christ, so these flesh-indulging Amalekites portray careless sinners who will yet be destroyed by Him. Solemnly is this announced in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” And again, “Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds, which they had ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14, 15).

Yet, such unspeakably solemn warnings as those which God has given in His Word have no restraining effect upon the unconcerned and Satan-drugged world. The vast majority of our fellows live as though there were no eternity to come, no judgment day when they must appear before God, give an account of the deeds they have done in the body, and be sentenced according to their works. They know full well how brief and uncertain this life is: at short intervals their companions are cut down by the hand of death, but no lasting serious impressions are made upon them. Instead, they continue in their pleasure-loving whirl, impervious to the divine threatenings, deaf to the voice of conscience, disregarding any entreaties or admonitions which they may receive from Christian friends or the servants of God.

O how tragically true to the present-day life of the world is the gay scene presented to us in the verses we are now pondering. Those care-free Amalekites were “eating and drinking and dancing.” In their fancied security they were having what the young people of this degenerate age call “a good time.” There was an abundance of food to hand, why then should they deny those lusts of the flesh which war against the soul? They had been successful in spoiling their neighbors, why then should they not “celebrate” and make merry? All were in high spirits, why then should they not fill the air with music and laughter? Yes, similar is the fatal reasoning of multitudes today. But mark well the fearful sequel: “And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day.” Alas, what was their carnal security worth!

David was just as truly a type of Christ in his slaying of the Amalekites as he was in befriending the poor Egyptian. Ah, dear reader, he who saves those who submit to Him as their Lord and trust in Him as their Redeemer, shall as surely judge and destroy them who despise and reject Him. He will yet say, “But those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay before Me” (Luke 19:27). How will it fare with you in that day? The answer to this question will be determined by whether or not you have truly received Him as Prophet to instruct you, as Priest to atone for your sins, as King to regulate and reign over your heart and life. If you have not already done so, seek grace from above to throw down the weapons of your warfare against Him and surrender yourself wholly to Him.

“The young man of Egypt was with David when he came upon the Amalekites. He once belonged to their company and was one of them. Had he not been separated from them he would have surely shared their fate. If unconverted, you are of that world of sinners ‘whose judgment now for a long time lingereth not.’ Turn from it now ere the vengeance of God destroys you with it. God has borne with it long. The sins of Christendom reach up to heaven, and cry for vengeance. Christ is your only refuge. Come to Him now, and, like Noah in the ark and Lot in the mountain, you will be safe from the sweeping storm. Like the young man of Egypt, you will be taken out of the world and away from this scene before the stroke descends. You will appear with Christ, along with those ten thousand holy ones who accompany Him when He comes to earth to war and judge” (C. Knapp).

Let us now return to our narrative and seek its practical teaching for the Christian today. “And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah” (v. 16). How many miles it was that the befriended Egyptian led David and his men we do not know, but probably some considerable distance: that they were supernaturally strengthened for their strenuous exertions after their previous fatigue, we cannot doubt. Justly did God make use of this poor Egyptian, basely abandoned, as an instrument of death to the Amalekites.

“And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels and fled. And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil nor anything that they had taken to them: David recovered all” (vv. 17-19). Here is the blessed sequel to all that has occupied us in the preceding verses of this chapter. What a proof that David’s heart was now perfect toward the Lord, for most manifestly did He here show Himself strong on his behalf, by granting such signal success to his endeavors. Ah, when our sins are forsaken and forgiven, and we act by the Lord’s directions, we are just as likely to recover what we lost by our previous folly.

“And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drove before those other cattle, and said, This is David’s spoil” (v. 20). The seeming ambiguity of this language is removed if we refer back to what is said in verse 16: the Amalekites had successfully raided other places before they fell upon Ziklag. The spoil they had captured was kept separate, and the cattle which they had taken in the territory of Philistia and Judah David claimed for his own portion: the noble use which he made of the same we shall see in a moment.

“And David came to the two hundred men which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them” (v. 21). The expression “whom they had made to abide by the brook Besor” shows plainly that those fatigued men earnestly desired to follow David further, and had to be constrained not to do so. Typically, it tells us that all Christians are not equally strong in the Lord: compare 1 John 2:13. The Hebrew word for “saluted” signifies “he asked them of peace,” which means, he inquired how they did, being solicitous of their welfare. Though all Christians are not alike spiritually robust, all are equally dear unto Christ.

“Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart” (v. 22). In the most favored company there will be found selfish men, who being ungrateful to God for His kindness and favors will desire to enrich and pamper themselves, leaving their fellows to starve, for all they care. Even amid David’s band, were certain sons of Belial, wicked men, of a covetous and grasping disposition. No doubt they were the ones who took the lead in suggesting that David be “stoned” (v. 6). Their real character was here made quite evident: in their evil suggestion we may see how the heart of David was tested.

“Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand” (v. 23). David’s reply to the selfish suggestion of some of his grasping followers was meek, pious and righteous, and it prevailed unto their silencing. Note how gently he replied even to the sons of Belial, addressing them as “my brethren”; but observe that he, at the same time, maintained his dignity as the general-in-chief, by directly denying their request. Yet it was not a mere arbitrary assertion of his authority: he followed his “Ye shall not do so” with powerful reasonings.

First, he reminded these selfish followers that the spoil which had been taken from the Amalekites was not theirs absolutely, but that “which the Lord hath given us.” Therein David inculcated an important principle which is to regulate us in the discharge of our Christian stewardship: freely we have received from God, and therefore freely we should give unto others. Miserliness in a child of God is a practical denial of how deeply he is indebted unto divine grace. Second, he reminded them of how mercifully the Lord had “preserved” them when they attacked a people who greatly outnumbered them, and how He had also “delivered” the Amalekites into their hands. They must not ascribe the victory unto their own prowess, and therefore they could not claim the booty as wholly belonging unto themselves. It is not a time to give way to a spirit of greed when the Lord has particularly manifested His kindness to us.

Third, he pointed out that their evil suggestion most certainly would not commend itself unto any wise, just and right-thinking people: “For who will hearken unto you in this matter?” (v. 24). When the people of God are in the majority, they will vote down the propositions of the covetous; but when the unregenerate are allowed to outnumber them in their assemblies, woe unto them. Fourth, David reminded them that those who tarried at Besor did so out of no disloyalty or unwillingness: they had fought valiantly in the past, and now they had faithfully done their part in guarding the “stuff” or baggage, and so were entitled to a share of the spoils: “But as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike” (v. 24).

The whole of the above illustrates the fact that when a backsliding believer has been restored to communion with God, he is now in a state of soul to enjoy his recovered possessions: they will no longer be a snare unto him. When God takes something from us to teach us a needed lesson, He can, after we have learned that lesson, restore it to us again. Often, though not always, He does so. Faith is now dominant again, and receives the recovered blessings from the hand of God. One who has been truly restored, like David, who knew what his own failure has been, will permit of no such selfishness as the sons of Belial advocate. Those who had stayed at home, as it were, should share in the victory. That was true largeness of heart, which ever marks one who has learned in God’s school.

But there are always some who would wish to stint those possessing less faith and energy, yet he who realizes something of his own deep indebtedness to divine grace rejoices to give out to others what he has gained. When the Lord is pleased to open up some part of His precious Word unto one of His servants he, with enlarged heart, welcomes every opportunity to pass on the same to others. But how often are those who seek to pour cold water on his zeal, urging that it is not “wise” or “timely,” yea, that such teaching may prove “dangerous.” While it is not fitting that we should take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs, on the other hand it is sinful to withhold any portion of the Bread of Life from hungry souls. If God has restored to us any portion of His truth, we owe it to the whole Household of Faith to impart it unto as many as will receive it.

“And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the Lord” (v. 26). “David not only distributed of the spoil to all who had followed him in the wilderness, and shared his dangers there—he also remembered that there were some, who, though they had refused to quit their position in Israel, and had shrunk (as well they might) from the cave of Adullam, did nevertheless love and favour him. Yet though they had drawn back from following him, and had declined to partake of his cup of sorrow, David, in the hour of his triumph, refused not to them participation in his joy. Such is the liberality of a heart that has sought and found its portion in grace (B. W. Newton).

Very blessed is what we find recorded in these closing verses of 1 Samuel 30. Those who view God as the Giver of their abundance will dispense of it with equity and liberality: they will seek to restrain injustice in others (v. 23), establish useful precedents (v. 25), and share with friends (vv. 26-31). The Amalekites had spoiled some of those parts of Judah mentioned in verses 26-31 (see vv. 14, 16), and therefore did David now sends relief to those sufferers: it was the part of justice to restore what had been taken from them. Moreover, he had a grateful remembrance of those friends who secretly favored him during the time of Saul’s persecution, and who had sheltered and relieved his men in the time of this distress (v. 31). Instead of selfishly enriching himself, he generously befriended others, and gave them proof that the Lord was with him.

Fearfully divergent may be the effects produced on different persons who pass under the same trials and blessings. The “sons of Belial” companied with David during the night of his sorrow (as Judas did with Christ), and were also made the recipients of his mercies; yet they now evidenced a state of soul which marked them in God’s sight as “wicked men” (v. 22). What more abhorrent to God than that which would narrow the expansiveness of grace: what more hateful in His sight than a selfishness which sought to extract out of His free favors an excuse for enriching itself by despising others—cf. John 12:4-6. But how different with David: from the ruins of Ziklag he rose, step by step, to a higher faith: manifesting dependency upon God, seeking His guidance, obtaining energy to pursue the enemy, and exercising largeness of heart in sharing the spoils with all. Thereby did he furnish an eminent foreshadowing of Him who ‘took the prey from the mighty” (Isa. 49:24), “led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8).

Chapter Twenty-Nine-His Lamentations For Saul
1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1

The final chapter of 1 Samuel presents to us an unspeakably solemn and terrible scene, being concerned not with David, but with the termination of Saul’s earthly life. In these chapters we have said little about him, but here one or two paragraphs concerning his tragic career and its terrible close seem in place. A solemn summary of this, from the divine side, is found in Hosea 13:11, when at a later date, God reminded rebellious Israel, “I gave them a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath“: the reference being to Saul.

The history of Saul properly begins at the eighth chapter. There we behold the revolted heart of Israel, which had departed further and further from Jehovah, desiring a human king in His stead. Though Samuel the prophet faithfully remonstrated, and space was given them to repent of their rash decision, it was in vain: they were determined to have their own way. “Nevertheless the people . . . said, Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (8:19, 20). Accordingly, God, “in His anger,” delivered them up to their own hearts’ lusts and suffered them to be plagued by one who proved a disappointment and curse to them, until, by his godless incompetency, he brought the kingdom of Israel to the very verge of destruction.

From the human side of things, Saul was a man splendidly endowed, given a wonderful opportunity, and had a most promising prospect. Concerning his physique we are told, “Saul was a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (9:2). Regarding his acceptability unto his subjects, we read that when Samuel set him before them, that “all the people shouted, and said, God save the king” (10:24): more, “there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched” (10:26), giving the young king favor in their eyes. Not only so, but “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul” (11:6), equipping him for his office, and giving proof that God was ready to act if he would submit to His yoke.

Yet notwithstanding these high privileges, Saul, in his spiritual madness, played fast and loose with them, mined his life, and by disobeying and defying God, lost his soul. In the thirteenth chapter of 1 Samuel we find Saul tried and found wanting. The prophet left him for a little while, bidding him go to Gilgal and wait for him there, till he should come and offer the sacrifices. Accordingly we are told “he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed.” And then we read, “but Samuel came not to Gilgal, and the people were scattered from him”—having lost their confidence in the king to lead them against the Philistines to victory. Petulant at the delay, Saul presumptuously invaded the prophet’s prerogative and said, “Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering” (13:9). Thus did he forsake the word of the Lord and break the first command he received from Him.

In the 15th chapter we see him tested again by a command from the Lord: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not: but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (vv. 2, 3). But again he disobeyed: “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (v. 9). Then it was that the prophet announced, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (vv. 22, 23). From that point Saul rapidly went from bad to worse: turning against David and relentlessly seeking his life, shedding the blood of God’s priests (22:18, 19), till at last he scrupled not to seek the aid of the devil himself (28:7, 8).

And now the day of recompense had come, when he who had advanced steadily from one degree of impiety to another, should miserably perish by his own hand. The divine account of this is given in 1 Samuel 31. The Philistines had joined themselves against Israel in battle. First, Saul’s own army was defeated (v. 1); next, his sons, the hopes of his family, were slain before his eyes (v. 2); and then the king himself was sorely wounded by the archers (v. 3). Fearful indeed is what follows: no longer able to resist his enemies, nor yet flee from them, the God-abandoned Saul expressed no concern for his soul, but desired only that his life might be dispatched speedily, so that the Philistines might not gloat over him and torture his body.

First, he called upon his armor-bearer to put an end to his wretched life, but though his servant neither feared God nor death, he had too much respect for the person of his sovereign to lift up his hand against him (v. 4). Whereupon Saul became his own murderer: Saul took a sword and fell upon it”; and his armor-bearer, in a mad expression of fealty to his royal master, imitated his fearful example. Saul was therefore the occasion of his servant being guilty of fearful wickedness, and “perished not alone in his iniquity.” As he had lived, so he died: proud and jealous, a terror to himself and all about him, having neither the fear of God nor hope in God. What a solemn warning for each of us! What need is there for both writer and reader to heed that exhortation, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living of God” (Heb. 3:13).

The cases of Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18) and Judas the traitor (Matt. 27:5) are the only other instances recorded in Scripture of those who murdered themselves. The awful sin of suicide seems to have occurred very rarely in Israel, and not one of the above cases is extenuated by ascribing the deed unto insanity! When the character of those men be examined, we may perceive not only the enormity of the crime by which they put an end to their wretched lives, but the unspeakably fearful consequences which must follow the fatal deed. How can it be otherwise, when men either madly presume on the mercy of God or despair of it, in order to escape temporal suffering or disgrace, despise His gift of life, and rush headlong, uncalled, unto His tribunal? By an act of direct rebellion against God’s authority (Ex. 20:13), and in daring defiance of His justice, suicides fling themselves on the bosses of Jehovah’s buckler, with the guilt of unrepented sin on their hands.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan” (31:8-10). Though Saul had escaped torture at their hands, his body was signally abused—adumbrating, we doubt not, the awful suffering which his soul was now enduring, and would continue to endure forever. Saul’s self-inflicted death points a most solemn warning for us to earnestly watch and pray that we may be preserved from both presumption and despair, and divinely enabled to bear up under the trials of life, and quietly to hope for the salvation of the Lord (Lam. 3:26), that Satan may not tempt us to the horrible sin of self-murder for which the Scriptures hold out no hope of forgiveness.

“Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag” (2 Sam. 1:1). David had returned to Ziklag, where he was engaged with dividing the spoil he had captured and in sending presents to his friends (1 Sam. 30:26-31). “It was strange he did not leave some spies about the camps to bring him early notice of the issue of the engagement (between the Philistines and the army of Saul): a sign he desired not Saul’s woeful day, nor was impatient to come to the throne, but willing to wait till those tidings were brought to him, which many a one would have sent more than half way to meet. He that believeth does not make haste, takes good news when it comes, and is not weary while it is in the coming” (Matthew Henry).

“It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped. And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also” (2 Sam. 1:2-4). This Amalekite presented himself as a mourner for the dead king, and as a loyal subject to the one who should succeed Saul. No doubt he prided himself that he was the first to pay homage to the sovereign-elect, expecting to be rewarded for bringing such good news (4: 10); whereas he was the first to receive sentence of death from David’s hands.

“And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan be dead? And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I. And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. And he said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me, for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord” (vv. 5-10). This is one of the passages seized by atheists and infidels to show that “the Bible is full of contradictions,” for the account here given of Saul’s death by no means tallies with what is recorded in the previous chapter. But the seeming difficulty is easily solved: 1 Samuel 31 contains God’s description of Saul’s death; 2 Samuel 1 gives man’s fabrication. Holy Writ records the lies of God’s enemies (Gen. 3:4) as well as the true statements of his servants.

From 1 Samuel 31:4 it is definitely established that Saul murdered himself, and was dead before his armor-bearer committed suicide. That is the unerring record of the Holy Spirit Himself, and must not be questioned for a moment. In view of this, it is quite evident that the Amalekite who now communicated to David the tidings of Saul’s death, lied in a number of details. Finding Saul’s body with the insignia of royalty upon it—which evidenced both the conceit and rashness of the infatuated king: going into battle with the crown upon his head, and thus making himself a mark for the Philistine archers—he seized them (v. 10), and then formed his story in such a way as he hoped to ingratiate himself with David. Thus did this miserable creature seek to turn the death of Saul to his own personal advantage, and scrupled not to depart from the truth in so doing; concluding, from the wickedness of his own heart, that David would be delighted with the news he communicated.

By the death of Saul and Jonathan the way was now opened for David to the throne. “If a large proportion of Israel stood up for the rights of Ishbosheth, who was a very insignificant person (2 Sam. 2-4), doubtless far more would have been strenuous for Jonathan. And though he would readily have given place, yet his brethren and the people in general would no doubt have made much more opposition to David’s accession to the kingdom” (Thomas Scott). Yet so far was David from falling into a transport of joy, as the poor Amalekite expected, that he mourned and wept; and so strong was his passion that all about him were similarly affected: “Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword” (vv. 11, 12).

“Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth; and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Prov. 24:17). There are many who secretly wish for the death of those who have injured them, or who keep them from honors and estates, and who inwardly rejoice even when they pretend to mourn outwardly. But the grace of God subdues this base disposition, and forms the mind to a more liberal temper. Nor will the spiritual soul exult in the prospect of worldly advancement, for he realizes that such will increase his responsibilities, that he will be surrounded by greater temptations and called to additional duties and cares. David mourned for Saul out of good will, without constraint: out of compassion, without malice; because of the melancholy circumstances attending his death and the terrible consequences which must follow, as well as for Israel’s being triumphed over by the enemies of God.

“And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed? And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died. And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lord’s anointed” (vv. 13-16). As an Amalekite, he was devoted to destruction (Deut. 25: 17-19), and as the elect-king, David was now required to put the sentence into execution.

The last nine verses of our chapter record the “lamentation” or elegy which David made over Saul and Jonathan. Not only did David rend his clothes, weep, and fast over the decease of his arch-enemy, but he also composed a poem in his honour: 2 Samuel 1: 17-27. Nor was it mere sentiment which prompted him: it was also because he looked upon Saul as Israel’s “king,” the “anointed” of God (v. 16). This elegy was a noble tribute of respect unto Saul and of tender affection for Jonathan. First, he expressed sorrow over the fall of the mighty (v. 19). Second, he deprecated the exultations of the enemies of God in the cities of the Philistines (v. 20). Third, he celebrated Saul’s valor and military renown (vv. 21, 22). Fourth, he touchingly mentioned the fatal devotion of Jonathan to his father (v. 23). Fifth, he called upon the daughters of Israel, who had once sung Saul’s praises, to now weep over their fallen leader (v. 24). Sixth, his faults are charitably veiled! Seventh, nothing could truthfully be said of Saul’s piety, so David would not utter lies—how this puts to shame the untruthful adulations found in many a funeral oration! Eighth, he ended by memorializing the fervent love of Jonathan for himself.

Chapter Thirty-His Sojourn At Hebron
2 Samuel 2

The news of Saul’s death had been received by the exiled David in characteristic fashion. He first flamed out in fierce anger against the lying Amalekite, who had hurried with the tidings, hoping to curry favor with him by pretending that he had killed Saul on the field of battle. A short shrift and a bloody end were his, and then the wrath gave place to mourning. Forgetting the mad hatred and relentless persecution of his late enemy, thinking only of the friendship of his earlier days and his official status as the anointed of the Lord, our hero cast over the mangled corpses of Saul and Jonathan the mantle of his noble elegy, in which he sings the praise of the one and celebrates the love of the other. Not until those offices of justice and affection had been performed, did he think of himself and the change which had been affected in his own fortunes.

It seems clear that David had never regarded Saul as standing between himself and the kingdom. The first reaction from his death was not, as it would have been with a less devout and less generous heart, a flush of gladness at the thought of the empty throne; but instead, a sharp pang of grief from the sense of an empty heart. And even when he began to contemplate his immediate future and changed fortunes he carried himself with commendable self-restraint. At the time David was still a fugitive in the midst of the ruins of Ziklag, but instead of rushing ahead, “making the most of his opportunity,” and seizing the empty throne, he sought directions from the Lord. Ah, we not only need to turn unto God in times of deep distress, but equally so when His outward providences appear to be working decidedly in our favour.

David would do nothing in this important crisis of his life—when all which had for so long appeared a distant hope, now seemed to be rapidly becoming a present fact—until his Shepherd should lead him. Impatient and impetuous as he was by nature, schooled to swift decisions, followed by still swifter actions, knowing that a blow struck speedily while all was chaos and despair in the kingdom, might at once set him on the throne; nevertheless, he held the flesh, carnal policy, and the impatience of his followers in check, to hear what God would say. To a man of David’s experience it must have appeared that now was the opportune moment to subdue the remaining adherents of the fallen Saul, rally around himself his loyal friends, grasp the crown and the scepter, vanquish the gloating Philistines, and secure unto himself the kingdom of Israel. Instead, he refused to take a single step until Jehovah had signified His will in the matter.

The manner in which David conducted himself on this occasion presents an example which we do well to take to heart and punctually emulate. The important principle of action which was here exemplified has been well expressed by another: “If we would possess temporal things with a blessing, we must not eagerly seize upon them, nor be determined by favorable events or carnal counsel: but we must observe the rules of God’s Word, and pray for His direction; using those means, and those only, which He has appointed or allowed, and avoid all evil, or ‘appearance of evil,’ in our pursuit of them: and then whatever else we fail in, we shall be directed in the way to the kingdom of heaven” (Thomas Scott). “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6).

To “acknowledge” the Lord in all our ways means that instead of acting in self-sufficiency and self-will, we seek wisdom from above in every undertaking of our earthly affairs, beg God to grant us light from His Word on our path, and seek His honor and glory in all that we attempt. Thus it was now with David: “And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” (2 Sam. 2:1). This is very blessed, and should be linked with all that was before us in 1 Samuel 30:6-31. What is here recorded of David supplies further proof of his having been restored from backsliding. Previously he had left the cities of Judah “inquiring” of his own heart (1 Sam. 27:1), but now he would only think of returning thither as God might conduct him. Alas, that most of us have to pass through many painful and humiliating experiences ere we learn this lesson.

“David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” Though the Lord had promised him the kingdom, though he had already been anointed by Samuel unto the same, and though Saul was now dead, David was not hasty to take matters into his own hands, but desired to submit himself unto God’s directions and act only according to His revealed will. This evidenced the fact that he really trusted in Him who had promised him the kingdom, to give it to him in His own due time and manner; and thus he would possess it with a clear conscience, and at the same time avoid all those appearances of evil with which he might know the remaining adherents of Saul would be ready to charge him. So fully did he fulfill the word of his early Psalm: “my Strength! upon Thee will I wait” (59:9). We never lose anything by believing and patiently waiting upon God; but we are always made to suffer when we take things into our own hands and rush blindly ahead.

“Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” David was prepared to go where the Lord bade him. His particular inquiry about “the cities of Judah” was because that was his own tribe and the one to which most of his friends belonged. “And the Lord said, Go up”: that is, from Ziklag into the territory of Judah, though He did not specify any particular city. This is usually the Lord’s method: to first give us a general intimation of His will for us, and later more specific details little by little. He does not make known to us the whole path at once, but keeps us dependent upon Himself for light and strength, step by step. This is for our good, for our training, though it be a trying of our patience. Patience is a grace of great price in the sight of God, and it is only developed by discipline. May grace be diligently sought and divinely bestowed so that we shall heed that exhortation, “let patience have her perfect work” (James 1:4).

“And the Lord said unto him, Go up”: the absence of anything more definite was a testing of David. Had the flesh been dominant in him at this time, he would have eagerly jumped to the conclusion that he was fully justified in leaving Ziklag immediately and taking prompt measures to obtain the kingdom. Blessed is it to see how he responded to the test: instead of rushing ahead, he continued to wait on the Lord for more explicit instructions, and asked, “Whither shall I go up?” (v. 1)—to which part of Judah, Jerusalem or where? He had paid dearly in the past for taking journeys which the Lord had not ordered, and for residing in places which He had not named for him; and now he desired to move only as God should appoint. Reader, have you yet reached this point in your spiritual experience: have you truly surrendered unto the lordship of Christ, so that you have turned over to Him the entire government and disposing of your life? If not, you know not how much peace, joy and blessing you are missing.

“And He said, Unto Hebron” (v. 1). This is recorded for our encouragement. The Lord is never wearied by our asking! Nay, the more childlike we are, the better for us; the more we cast all our care upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7), the more we seek counsel of Him, the more He is honored and pleased. Has He not told us, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6)? That means just what it says, and we are greatly the losers, and God is dishonored, just in proportion to our disregard of that privilege and duty. The old hymn is true when it says, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.” The readiness of Jehovah to respond unto David’s inquiry, is a sure intimation of His willingness to hear us; for He is “the same, yesterday, and today, and forever.”

“And He said, Unto Hebron.” There is a spiritual beauty in this word which can only be perceived as we compare scripture with scripture. In the Old Testament “Hebron” stands typically, for communion. This may be seen from the first mention of the word: “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord” (Gen. 13:15). Again, “So he (Jacob) sent him (Joseph, on an errand of mercy to his brethren) out of the vale of Hebron” (Gen. 37:14)—figure of the Father sending the Son on a mission of grace unto His elect. “And they gave Hebron unto Caleb” (Judges 1:20): the place of fellowship became the portion of the man who followed the Lord “fully” (Num. 14:24). How fitting, then, that the restored David should be sent back to “Hebron”—it is ever back unto communion the Lord calls His wandering child. O how thankful we should be when the Holy Spirit restores us to communion with God, even though it be at the cost of disappointment and sorrow (Ziklag) to the flesh.

“So David went up to Hebron” (2 Sam. 2:2). God had graciously granted him the needed word of guidance, and he hollowed out the same. O that all his actions had been controlled by the same rule: how much trouble and grief he had then escaped. But they were not; and this makes the more solemn the contrast presented in the next statement: “And his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail, Nabal’s wife the Carmelite” (v. 2). Here was the one blot on the otherwise fair picture: the lusts of the flesh obtruded themselves; yes, immediately after his having sought guidance from God!—what a warning for us: we are never safe a single moment unless upheld by the arm of Omnipotence. As we have seen in earlier chapters, Divine chastisement was the sequel to what we read of in 1 Samuel 25:44, so now we may be assured that his retention of “two wives” omened ill for the future.

“And his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron” (v. 3). Those who had been David’s companions in tribulation were not forgotten now that he was moving forward toward the kingdom. Blessed foreshadowment was this of “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2: 12).

“And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah” (v. 4). David had been privately anointed as Saul’s successor (1 Sam. 16:12, 13), now the principal princes in the tribe of Judah publicly owned him as their king. They did not take it upon themselves to make him king over all Israel, but left the other tribes to act for themselves. No doubt in this they acted according to the mind of David, who had no desire to force himself on the whole nation at once, preferring to obtain government over them by degrees, as Providence should open his way. “See how David rose gradually: he was first appointed king in reversion, then in possession of one tribe only, and at last over all the tribes. Thus the kingdom of the Messiah, the Son of David, is set up by degrees: He is Lord of all by divine designation, but ‘we see not yet all things put under Him’: Heb. 2:8″ (Matthew Henry).

“And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabesh-Gilead, and said unto them, Blessed be ye of the Lord, that ye have showed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him” (v. 5). David expressed his appreciation of what the men of Jabesh had done in rescuing the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, and for the kindly care they had taken of them. He pronounced the blessing of the Lord upon them, which probably means that he asked Him to reward them. By thus honoring the memory of his predecessor he gave evidence that he was not aiming at the crown from any principles of carnal ambition, or from any enmity to Saul, but only because he was called of God to it.

“And now the Lord show kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing” (v. 6). David not only prayed God’s blessing upon those who honored the remains of Saul, but he promised to remember them himself when opportunity afforded. Finally, he bade them fear not the Philistines, who might resent their action and seek revenge—especially as they no longer had a head over them; but he, as king of Judah, would take their part and assist them: “Therefore now let your hands be strengthened and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them” (v. 7). Thus did he continue to show his regard for the late king. By sending a deputation to Jabesh, David instituted a conciliatory measure toward the remaining adherents of Saul.

“But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul’s host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim” (v. 8). This is a solemn “But”, traceable, we believe, to the “two wives” of verse 2! David was not to come to the throne of all Israel without further opposition. Abner was general of the army, and no doubt desired to keep his position. He took Ishbosheth, apparently the only son of Saul now left, to Mahanaim, a city on the other side of the Jordan, in the territory of Gath (Josh. 13:24-26): partly to keep the men of Jabesh-Gilead in awe and prevent their joining with David, and partly that he might be at some distance both from the Philistines and from David, where he might mature his plans. “Ishbosheth” signifies “a man of shame”: he was not considered fit to accompany his father to battle, yet was now deemed qualified to occupy the throne to the exclusion of David.

“And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel” (v. 9). The nation in general had rejected the “Judges” whom God had raised up for them, and had demanded a king; and now in the same rebellious spirit, they refused the prince which the Lord had selected for them. In type it was Israel preferring Barabbas to Jesus Christ. Abner prevailed till he got all the tribes of Israel, save Judah, to own Ishbosheth as their king. All this time David was quiet, offering no resistance: thus keeping his oath in 1 Samuel 24:21 and 22!

“The believer’s progress must be gradual: his faith and his graces must be proved, and his pride subdued, before he can properly endure any kind of prosperity: and for these purposes the Lord often employs the perverseness of his brethren, without their knowledge or contrary to their intention. In the professing Church few honour those whom the Lord will honour: before Jesus came, and in each succeeding generation, the very builders have rejected such as Heaven intended for eminent situations; and His servants must be conformed to Him. Ambition, jealousy, envy, and other evil passions, cause men to rebel against the Word of God, but they generally attempt to conceal their real motives under plausible pretenses. The believer’s wisdom, however, consists in waiting quietly and silently under injuries, and in leaving God to plead his cause, except it be evidently his duty to be active” (Thomas Scott).

Chapter Thirty-One-His Testing
2 Samuel 2

It is a wonderful thing when a wayward believer is brought back to his place of fellowship with God, as David had been, though it necessarily involves added obligations. It is sin which causes us to leave that place, and though at first sin be a sweet morsel unto the flesh, yet it soon turns bitter, and ultimately becomes as wormwood and gall unto him who has yielded to it. “The way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:14): the wicked prove the full truth of that fact in the next world, where they discover that “the wages of sin is death”—a death agonizing in its nature and eternal in its duration. But even in this life the transgressor is usually made to feel the hardness of that way which his own mad self-will has chosen, and especially is this the case with the believer, for the harvest of his ill sowings is reaped—mainly, at least—in this world. The Christian, equally with the non-Christian, is a subject under the government of God, and doubly is he made to realize that God cannot be mocked with impunity.

Strikingly and solemnly was this fact exemplified in the history of Israel during Old Testament times, this principle supplies the key to all God’s governmental dealings with them. The history of no nation has been nearly so checkered as theirs: no people was ever so sorely and so frequently afflicted as the favored descendants of Jacob. From the death of Joshua unto the days of Malachi we find one judgment after another sent from God upon them. Famines, pestilence, earthquakes, internal dissensions and external assaults from the surrounding nations, followed each other in rapid succession, and were repeated again and again. There were brief respites, short seasons of peace and prosperity, but for the most part it was one sore trouble after another. God did not deal thus with any other nation during the Mosaic economy. It is true that heathen empires suffered, and ultimately collapsed under the weight of their lasciviousness, but in the main God “suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16), and “the times of this ignorance God winked at” (Acts 17:30).

Far otherwise was it with His own covenant people. This has surprised many; yet it should not. Unto Israel God said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” Yes, and that has been commonly recognized by readers of the Old Testament, but what immediately follows has very largely been lost sight of—”therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). Ah, it was not “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I wink at your sins, excuse your faults, and pass over your transgressions.” No, no; far from it. It was unto Israel that God had revealed Himself, it was “in Judah He was known,” and therefore would He manifest before their hearts and eyes His ineffable holiness and inflexible justice. Where they were loose and lax, despising God’s authority, and recklessly and brazenly breaking His laws, He would vindicate His honor by making it appear how much He hated sin, and hates it most of all in those who are nearest to Him! See Ezekiel 9:6!

That is why another of Israel’s prophets announced unto those who had, under a temporal covenant, been taken into a bridal relation to Jehovah, “she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2). Does that strike the reader as strange? But why should it? Are not the sins of the professing people of God doubly heinous to those committed by them who make no profession at all? What comparison was there between the sins of the nation of Israel and the sins of the heathen who were without the knowledge of the true God? The sins of the former were sins against light, against an open and written revelation from Heaven, against the abounding goodness and amazing grace of God toward them; and therefore must He, in His holiness and righteousness, make the severest example of them. Make no mistake upon that point: God will either be sanctified by or upon those who have been taken into a place of (even outward) nearness to Himself: see Leviticus 10:3.

Thus, Amos 3:3 becomes a prophecy of God’s dealings with Christendom. The great difference which existed between the nations of Israel and the Gentiles, finds its parallel in this era between Christendom (the sphere where Christianity is professedly acknowledged) and the heathen world. But with this additional most solemn consideration: increased privileges necessarily entail increased responsibilities. Under this Christian era a far higher and grander revelation of God has been made in and through and by the Lord Jesus Christ, than ever the nation of Israel had in Old Testament times. If then Israel’s despising of God in His inferior revelation was followed by such awful consequences to the temporal welfare of their people under the old covenant, what must be the consequences of the despising of God in His highest revelation under the new covenant? “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:25).

But what has all the above to do with the life of David? Much every way. God dealt with individual saints, who had been taken into spiritual nearness to Himself on the same principles, governmentally (that is, in the ordering of their temporal affairs), as He treated with the nation as a whole, which enjoyed only outward nearness to Himself. Hence, as David sowed in his conduct so he reaped in his circumstances. As we have seen in the last few chapters, God had acted in marvelous grace with the son of Jesse, and following his repentance and putting things right with the Lord, had unmistakably shown Himself strong on his behalf, ending by bringing him to “Hebron” which speaks of fellowship. Thus, David had now reached the point, where God said to him, as it were, “sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee” (John 5:14).

Should it be asked, “But what has all of this to do with us? We are living in the ‘Dispensation of Grace,’ and God deals with people now—both nations collectively, and saints individually—very differently from what He did in Old Testament times.” That is a great mistake: a glaring and a horrible one. Glaring it certainly is, for Romans 15:4 expressly states, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning”: but what could we “learn” from the ways of God with His people of old if He is now acting from entirely different principles? Nothing whatever; in fact, in that case, the less we read the Old Testament, the less we are likely to be confused. Ah, my reader, in the New Testament also we read that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). Christians are also warned, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Horrible too is such teaching, for it represents the immutable God changing the principles of His government.

What has been pointed out in the above paragraphs is something more than an interesting and instructive item of historical information, explaining much that is to be met with in the Old Testament Scriptures, throwing light upon God’s dealings with the nation of Israel collectively and with its prominent men individually; it is also of vital moment for Christians today. “Righteousness and judgment are the habitation” of God’s “throne” (Ps. 97:2), and our temporal affairs are regulated and determined according to the same principles of God’s moral government as were those of His people in by gone ages. If the distinguishing favors of God do not restrain from sin, they most certainly will not exempt us from divine chastisement. Nay, the greater the divine privileges enjoyed by us, the nearer we are brought unto God in a way of profession and favor, the more quickly will He notice our inconsistencies and the more severely will He deal with our sins.

“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28,29). Here is a statement of the broad principle which we have been seeking to explicate and illustrate. True, in this particular passage the application of it is made unto apostates, but the fact is plainly enough revealed that the greater the privileges enjoyed the greater the obligations entailed, and the greater the guilt incurred when those obligations are ignored. The same principle applies (though the consequences are different) in the contrast between the sins of the Christian and the non-Christian. The sins of the former are more heinous than those of the latter. How so? Because God is far more dishonored by the sins of those who bear His name than by those who make no profession at all.

The same principle, as it applies to gradation by contrast, holds good of the individual Christian in different stages of his own life. The more light God gives him, the more practical godliness He requires from him; the more favors he receives and privileges he enjoys, the more responsible is he to bear increased fruit. So too a sin committed by him may receive comparatively light chastisement; but let it be repeated and he may expect the rod to fall more heavily upon him. In like manner, God may bear long with one of his backslidden children, and though the path of recovery be a thorny one, yet will he exclaim “I richly deserved far severer treatment.” But when the backslider has been restored and brought back into communion with God, another departure from Him is likely to be attended with far worse consequences than the former one was.

“But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:4). Yes, “feared,” not trifled with, not that we may the more confidently give free rein to our lusts. A true apprehension of the divine mercy will not embolden unto sin, but will deepen our hatred of it, and make us more earnest in striving to abstain from it. A spiritual apprehension of God’s abounding grace toward us, so far from begetting carelessness, produces increased carefulness, lest we displease One so kind and good. It is just because the Christian has been sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption, that he is exhorted to watchfulness lest he “grieve” Him. The more the heart truly appreciates the infinitude of God’s wondrous love unto us, the more will its language be, “How can I do this great wickedness against Him!”

“But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.” Not a slavish and servile fear, but the fear of the Lord which is “the beginning of wisdom”: that fear which reverences, loves, worships, serves and obeys Him. Genuine gratitude for God’s pardoning grace will move the soul unto suitable filial conduct: it works a fear of being carried away from the heavens of His conscious presence by the insidious current of worldliness. It is jealous lest anything be allowed that would mar our communion with the Lover of our souls. Where the pardoning mercy of God is thankfully esteemed by the soul, it calls to mind the fearful price which was paid by Christ so that God could righteously forgive His erring people, and that consideration melts the heart and moves to loving obedience.

“But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.” Yes, once more we say “feared,” and not “trifled with.” The word unto backsliders, who have been pardoned and graciously restored to fellowship with God, is “Let them not turn again to folly” (Ps. 85:8): that is, let them beware of any cooling of their affections, and slipping back into their old ways; let them pray earnestly and strive resolutely against a sinful trading with God’s mercy and a turning of His grace into lasciviousness. We serve a jealous God, and must needs therefore be incessantly vigilant against sin. If we are not, if we do “return again to folly,” then most surely will His rod fall more heavily upon us; and not only will our inward peace be disturbed, but our outward circumstances will be made to sorely trouble us.

That principle was plainly enunciated in the threatening which the Lord made unto Israel of old: “And if ye will not be reformed by Me by these things, but will walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:23,24). If the first sensible tokens of God’s displeasure do not attain their end in the humbling of ourselves beneath His mighty hand and the reforming of our ways, if His lesser judgments do not lead to this, then He will surely send sorer judgments upon us. Ezra recognized this principle when, after the remnant had come out of Babylon, he said, “After all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserved, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break Thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not Thou be angry with us till Thou hast consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?” (Ezra 9: 13, 14). Then let us beware of trifling with God, particularly so after He has recovered us from a season of backsliding.

Instead of taking up the details of 2 Samuel 2:9-32 (the passage which immediately follows the verses considered in the preceding chapter), we felt this topical one would prove much more helpful in paving the way for those which are to follow. Those verses record an encounter between the rival factions, the gauntlet was thrown down by Abner, the general of the followers of Ishbosheth (Saul’s son), and the challenge was accepted by Joab, who headed the military forces of David. Neither side brought their full army into the field, and the slaughter was but small (v. 30). The men of Abner, the aggressor, were routed, and at the close of the day their captain begged for peace (v. 26). Knowing the pacific intentions of David, and his loathness to make war upon the house of Saul, Joab generously called a halt (v. 28); and each side made their way homeward (vv. 29-32).

And now a word upon the title we have given to this chapter, and we must close. David was now located at Hebron, which signifies communion or fellowship. The men of Judah had made him their king (2 Sam. 2:4), which though a step toward it, was by no means the complete fulfillment of the promise that he should be king “over Israel” (1 Sam. 16:1, 13). David made kindly overtures unto “the men of Jabesh-Gilead,” the followers of the late Saul (v. 5), expressing the hope they would now show fealty to him (v. 7). Would the Lord continue showing Himself strong on his behalf, by turning the hearts of the rival faction toward him? The need for this was evident (vv. 7-10), yet it was easy for God to heal that breach and give David favor in the eyes of all. Would He do so? How far will the present conduct of David warrant this? for God will not place a premium on sin. David is now put to the test: how he acquitted himself we must leave for the next chapter.

Chapter Thirty-Two-His Failure
2 Samuel 3 and 4

In our last chapter (so far as the application of the principles enunciated therein related to him who is the principal subject of this book) we endeavored to show that very much hinged on the manner in which David now conducted himself. A most important crisis had been reached in his life. The time which he spent at Hebron constituted the dividing line in his career. On the one side of it was what we may designate as the period of his rejection, when the great majority of the people clave unto Saul, who hounded him from pillar to post; on the other side of it, was the period of his exaltation when he reigned over the nation. When pondering the different events which happened in the first stage of his career, we sought to point out the moral connection between them, seeking to trace the relation between the personal conduct of David and the various circumstances which the governmental dealings of God brought about as the sequel. We propose, by divine aid, to follow a similar procedure in taking up the details under the second stage of his career.

In chapter twenty we saw how David displeased the Lord by his taking unto himself two wives (1 Sam. 25:43, 44), and in chapter twenty-two we noticed how one sin led to another; while in chapter twenty-four we observed the divine chastisement which followed. In chapter twenty-six we dwelt upon David’s putting things right with God and encouraging himself in the Lord, following which we traced out the blessed results which ensued (chapters 27, 28), terminating in his being restored to full fellowship with the Lord, as was typified by God’s directing him to “Hebron.” There he received a “token for good” (Ps. 86: 17) in the reception which he met with from the men of his own tribe, who came and “anointed David over the house of Judah” (2 Sam. 2:4): that was indeed a promising intimation that if his ways continued to please the Lord, He would make “even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). On the other hand, that “token for good” only becomes the more solemn in the light of all that follows.

How much there is in the later chapters of 2 Samuel which makes such pathetic and tragic reading. Few men have experienced such sore social and domestic trials as David did. Not only was he caused much trouble by political traitors in his kingdom, but, what was far more painful, the members of his own family brought down heavy grief upon him. His favorite wife turned against him (6:20-22), his daughter Tamar was raped by her half brother (13:14), his son Ammon was murdered (13:28, 29). His favorite son Absalom sought to wrest the kingdom from him, and then he was murdered (18:14). Before his death, another of his sons, Adonijah, sought to obtain the throne (1 Kings 1:5), and he too was murdered (1 Kings 2:24,25). Inasmuch as the Lord never afflicts willingly (Lam. 3:33), but only as our sins occasion it, how are these most painful family afflictions to be accounted for?

If the Holy Spirit has been pleased to furnish us with any explanation of the sore trials which David encountered in his later life, or if He has supplied us with materials that serve to throw light upon what is recorded in the second half of 2 Samuel, then that explanation must be sought for or that illuminating material must be inquired after, in the early chapters of that book. This is a principle of great importance in order to a right understanding of the Scriptures. As a general rule, God hangs the key for us right on the door itself: in other words, the opening chapters (often the first verses) contain a clear intimation or forecast of what follows. True, in some cases, this is more apparent than in others, yet concerning each one of the sixty-six books of the Bible, it will be found that the closer be the attention given unto its introduction, the easier will it be to follow the development of its theme. Such is obviously the case here in 2 Samuel.

“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (2 Sam. 3: 1). The battle referred to at the end of the previous chapter, though it went so greatly in favor of David, did not put an end to the warfare between him and Ishbosheth. Though Saul himself was no more, yet his son and subjects refused to submit quietly to David’s scepter. For another five years they continued to manifest their defiance, and many were the skirmishes which took place between his men and the loyal subjects of David. The latter was loath to employ harsh measures against them, and probably his magnanimity and mildness were mistaken for weakness or fear, and encouraged his opponents to renew their efforts for his overthrow. But little by little they were weakened, until Ishbosheth was willing to make a league with David.

“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.” The contents of this verse may well be taken as a type of the conflict which is experienced in the heart of the Christian. David, exalted to be king over Judah, may be regarded as a figure of one of God’s elect when he has been lifted out of the miry clay (into which the fall of Adam plunged him) and his feet set upon the Rock of ages. As 1 Samuel 2:8 declares, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.” But is all now henceforth peace and joy? Far from it. Inward corruption is there, and is ever assailing the principle of grace which was imparted at regeneration: “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). What is the outcome? Is the flesh victorious? No, it may annoy, it may win minor skirmishes, but little by little the flesh is weakened and the spirit strengthened, until at the last sin is completely destroyed.

“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David.” Thus the kingdom of Israel was rent asunder by civil war. That it should last so long, when David was clearly in the right, has presented quite a problem to the commentators. Personally, we regard the contents of this verse as a plain intimation that David was missing God’s best. This is an expression we use rather frequently in these pages, so perhaps a definition of it here will not be amiss. Let it be pointed out here that it is by no means equivalent to affirming that God’s counsels may be thwarted by us. No indeed, puny man can no more defeat the eternal purpose of the Almighty than he can cause the sun to cease from shining or the ocean from rolling. “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3).

There is a vast difference between the promises of God and His eternal decrees: many of the former are conditional, whereas the latter are immutable, dependent upon nothing for their fulfillment save the omnipotence of God. In saying that many of the divine promises recorded in Holy Writ are “conditional” we do not mean they are uncertain and unreliable, no; we mean that they are infallible declarations of what God will do or give providing we follow a certain course of conduct: just as the divine threatenings recorded in Scripture are a declaration of what God will do or inflict if a certain course be pursued. For example, God has declared “Them that honour Me, I will honour” (1 Sam. 2:30). But suppose we fail to “honour” God, suppose we do not obtain that enabling grace which He is ever ready to give unto those who earnestly seek it in a right way—what then? The same verse tells us: “And they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.”

Take for instance the declaration made in Joshua 1:8, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” First, let it be pointed out that that verse has nothing whatever to do with the eternal destiny of the soul; instead, it relates only to the present life of the saint. In it God tells us that if we give His Holy Word the first place in our thoughts and affections, and regulate both our inner and outer life by its teaching, then He will make our way “prosperous” and we shall have “good success.” This does not mean that we shall become millionaires, but that by heeding the rules of His Word, we shall escape those rocks upon which the vast majority of our fellows make shipwreck, and that the blessing of God will rest upon our lives in all their varied aspects and relations; an all-wise and sovereign God determining both the kind and measure of the “success” which will be most for His glory and our highest good.

Nor are the principles enunciated in Joshua 1: 8 to be restricted in their application to those who lived under the old covenant: inasmuch as the governmental ways of God remain the same in all ages, those principles hold good in all dispensations. From the beginning of human history it has always been true, and to the end of history it will continue so to be, that “no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). On the other hand, it is equally a fact that those who are not subject to God’s Word, who follow instead the devices of their own hearts and give way to the lusts of the flesh, suffer adversity and come under the rod of divine chastisement; of them it has to be said, “Your sins have withholden good things from you” (Jer. 5:25). In other words, they have missed God’s best: not that they have failed to obtain any blessing which He had eternally decreed should be theirs, but they have not entered into the good of what God’s Word promises should be the present portion of those who walk in obedience thereto.

“O that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned My hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him: but their time should have endured forever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee” (Ps. 81:13-16). What could be plainer than that! This passage is not treating of the eternal counsels of God, but of His governmental dealings with men in this life.

The key to the above verses is found in their immediate context: “But My people would not hearken to My voice; and Israel would none of Me. So I gave them unto their own hearts’ lust; and they walked in their own counsels” (Ps. 81:11, 12). The children of Israel walked contrary—not to the eternal purpose of Jehovah, but—to His revealed will. They would not submit to the rules laid down in God’s Word, but in their self-will and self-pleading determined to have their own way; in consequence, they missed God’s best for them in this life, instead of His subduing their enemies, He allowed those enemies to subdue them; instead of providing abundant harvests, He sent them famines; instead of giving them pastors after His own heart, He suffered false prophets to deceive.

Many more are the passages which might be quoted from the Old and New Testaments alike, which set forth the same great fact, warning us that if we walk contrary to the Scriptures we shall certainly suffer for it, both in soul and body, both in our estate and circumstances, in this life failing to enter into those blessings—spiritual and temporal—which the Word promises to those who are in subjection to it. That is as true today as it was under the old economy, and it supplies the key to many a problem, and explains much in God’s governmental dealings with us. It certainly supplies the key to David’s life, and explains why the chastening rod of God fell so heavily upon himself and his family. Bear in mind carefully what has been said above, read the passage which now follows, and then there is no reason why we should be surprised at all that is found unto the end of 2 Samuel.

“And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his first born was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom, the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital. And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron” (2 Sam. 3:2-5). In the light of all that has been said in the preceding chapter and in this, there is little need for us to attempt any lengthy comments upon these unpleasant verses. Here we see David giving way to the lusts of the flesh, and practicing polygamy; and as he sowed to the flesh in his family life, so in the flesh he reaped corruption in his family. Three of the above-mentioned sons were murdered!

The subject of polygamy as a whole is too large a one for us to deal with here, nor can we discuss it at length as it bore upon the lives of the different patriarchs. God’s original creation of only one man and one woman indicates from the beginning that monogamy was the Divine order for man to heed (Matthew 19:4, 5). The first of whom we read in Scripture that had more wives than one, was Lamech (Gen. 4:19), who was of the evil line of Cain. And while Moses, because of the hardness of Israel’s heart (Matthew 19:8) introduced the statute of divorce, yet nowhere did the Mosaic law sanction a plurality of wives. The limitation of one wife only is plainly suggested by such scriptures as Proverbs 5:18 and 18:22.

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself . . . neither shall he multiply wives of himself, that his heart turn not away” (Deut. 17:15-17). Here was a definite and express law which the kings of Israel were required to obey, and thereby set before their subjects an example of sobriety and marital fidelity. And this was the commandment which David so flagrantly disobeyed, for no sooner was he anointed “king over the house of Judah” (2 Sam. 2:4), than he began to multiply “wives” unto himself (3:2-5). Not only so, but when Abner sought to make a league with him, David laid it down as a condition that his first wife, Michal, who had been given to another man (1 Sam. 25:44) must be restored to him (2 Sam. 3:13), which was an open violation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

A little later on we read, “And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron” (2 Sam. 5:13). Here, then, was David’s besetting sin, to which he yielded so freely—little wonder that his son Solomon followed in his footsteps! And a Holy God will not tolerate evil, least of all in those whom He has made leaders over His people. Though in the main David’s life was pleasing to God, and spiritual excellencies were found in him, yet there was this one sad weakness. His giving way to it brought down long and sever chastenings, and the record of it as a whole—the sowing and the consequent reaping — is for our learning and warning. Learn, then, dear reader, that even when restored from backsliding and brought back to fellowship with God, your only safety lies in earnestly crying to Him daily “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Ps. 119-117).

LNW Note: On this point regarding “the cause of David’s ongoing troubles” being related to having many wives as A.W. Pink is so adamant in maintaining, please read what God said to David through Nathan the prophet as the result of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his murdering of Uriah in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 most specifically God’s word through Nathan the prophet to David in 2 Samuel 12.9-15.

AW Pink (1886–1952) – The Life of David (P03 of 12)

The Life of David

Chapters 17-24 (P3 of 12)

By
AW Pink (1886–1952)
Copyright – Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

LNW: As a personal note to this book by A.W. Pink on King David, I found it very helpful in so many different ways.  Unlike many commentaries of today, A.W. Pink wrote with true insight from the Spirit and appropriate application of that insight to life’s daily encounters and challenges.  I think you will find this book a most revealing and helpful tool in your walk (wise decision making) and growing in Christ to lead a holy life before God and man.

Chapter Seventeen-His Affront From Nabal
1 Samuel 25

The incident which is now to engage our attention may seem, at first sight, to contain in it little of practical importance for our hearts. If so, we may be sure that our vision is dim. There is nothing trivial in Holy Writ. Everything which the Spirit has recorded therein has a voice for us, if only we will seek the hearing ear. Whenever we read a portion of God’s Word, and find therein little suited to our own case and need, we ought to be humbled: the fault is in us. This should at once be acknowledged unto God, and a spiritual quickening of soul sought from Him. There should be a definite asking Him to graciously anoint our eyes (Rev. 3:18), not only that we may be enabled to behold wondrous things in His Law, but also that He will make us of quick discernment to perceive how the passage before us applies to ourselves—what are the particular lessons we need to learn from it. The more we cultivate this habit, the more likely that God will be pleased to open His Word unto us.

It is the practical lessons to be learned from each section that all of us so much need, and this is uppermost in our mind in the composing of this present series. What, then, is there here for us to take to heart? David, in his continued wanderings, applies to a well-to-do farmer for some rations for his men. The appeal was suitably timed, courteously worded, and based upon a weighty consideration. The request was presented not to a heathen, but to an Israelite, to a member of his own tribe, to a descendant of Caleb; in short, to one from whom he might reasonably expect a favorable response. Instead, David met with a rude rebuff and a provoking insult. Obviously, there is a warning here for us in the despicable meanness of Nabal, which must be turned into prayer for divine grace to preserve us from being inhospitable and unkind to God’s servants.

But it is with David that we are chiefly concerned. In our last three chapters we have seen him conducting himself with becoming mildness and magnanimity, showing mercy unto the chief of his enemies. There we saw him resisting a sore temptation to take matters into his own hands, and make an end of his troubles by slaying the chief of his persecutors, when he was thoroughly in his power. But here our hero is seen in a different light. He meets with another trial, a trial of a much milder nature, yet instead of overcoming evil with good, he was in imminent danger of being overcome with evil. Instead of exercising grace, he is moved with a spirit of revenge; instead of conducting himself so that the praises of God are “shown forth” (1 Peter 2:9), only the works of the flesh are seen. Alas, how quickly had the fine gold become dim! How are we to account for this? And what are the lessons to be learned from it?

Is the reader surprised as he turns from the blessed picture presented in the second half of 1 Samuel 24 and ponders the almost sordid actions of David in the very next chapter? Is he puzzled to account for the marked lapse in the conduct of him who had acted so splendidly toward Saul? Is he at a loss to explain David’s spiteful attitude toward Nabal? If so, he must be woefully ignorant of his own heart, and has yet to learn a most important lesson: that no man stands a moment longer than divine grace upholds him. The strongest are weak as water immediately the power of the Spirit is withdrawn; the most mature and experienced Christian acts foolishly the moment he be left to himself; none of us has any reserve strength or wisdom in himself to draw from: our source of sufficiency is all treasured up for us in Christ, and as soon as communion with Him be broken, as soon as we cease looking alone to Him for help, we are helpless.

What has just been stated above is acknowledged as true by God’s people in general, yet many of their thoughts and conclusions are glaringly inconsistent therewith—or why be so surprised when they hear of some eminent saint experiencing a sad fall! The “eminent saint” is not the one who has learned to walk alone, but he who most feels his need of leaning harder upon the “everlasting arms.” The “eminent saint” is not the one who is no longer tempted by the lusts of the flesh and harassed by the assaults of Satan, but he who knows that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing, and that only from Christ can his “fruit” be found (Hosea 14:8). Looked at in themselves, the “fathers” in Christ are just as frail and feeble as the “babes” in Christ. Left to themselves, the wisest Christians have no better judgment than has the new convert. Whether God is pleased to leave us upon earth another year or another hundred years, all will constantly need to observe that word, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

And God has many ways of teaching us the “weakness” of the flesh. One of these receives striking illustration in the incident to be before us, and which has no doubt been painfully realized in the experience of each Christian reader: that in some great crisis we have been enabled to stand our ground, strong in faith, whereas before some petty trial we have broken down and acted as a man of the world would act. It is thus that God stains our pride, subdues our self-sufficiency, and brings us to the place of more real and constant dependence upon Himself. It is the “little foxes” (Song of Solomon 2:15) that spoil the vines, and it is our reaction unto the lesser irritations of everyday life which most reveal us to ourselves—humbling us through our failures, and fitting us to bear with more patience the infirmities of our brethren and sisters in Christ.

Who would have thought that he who had taken so meekly the attacks of the king upon his life, should have waxed so furious when a farmer refused a little food for his men! Rightly did Thomas Scott points out, “David had been on his guard against anger and revenge when most badly used by Saul, but he did not expect such reproachful language and insolent treatment from Nabal: he was therefore wholly put off his guard; and in great indignation he determined to avenge himself.” Lay this well to heart, dear reader: a small temptation is likely to prevail after a greater has been resisted. Why so? Because we are less conscious of our need of God’s delivering grace. Peter was bold before the soldiers in the Garden, but became fearful in the presence of a maid. But it is time for us to consider some of the details of our passage.

“And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah” (1 Sam. 25:1). How often will people sorrow outwardly for one when dead to whom they did not care to listen when living. There had been a time when Samuel was appreciated by Israel, particularly when they were feeling the pressure of the Philistine yoke; but more recently he has been despised (1 Sam. 8). They had preferred a king to the prophet, but now Saul was proving such a disappointment, and the breach between the king and David showed no signs of being healed, they lamented the removal of Samuel.

“And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran” (25:1). David too was despised by the greater part of the nation. Once he had been the hero of their songs, hut now he was homeless and outlawed. Few cared to own him. Learning of Samuel’s death, he probably thought that his danger was greater than ever, for the prophet was more than friendly disposed toward him. He no doubt concluded that Saul’s malice would be now more unrestrained than ever. Taking advantage of “all the Israelites” being gathered together, to mourn the death of Samuel, he left Engedi to sojourn for a while in other parts. But let us note well the ominous hint given in the words “and went down to the wilderness of Paran.”

We have next presented to our notice the one to whom David made his appeal (1 Sam. 25:2, 3). From the character given to him by the Holy Spirit, not much good might be expected from him. His name was “Nabal” which signifies “a fool,” and none is a greater fool than he who thinks only of number one. He was a descendant of Caleb, which is mentioned here as an aggravation of his wickedness: that he should be the degenerate plant of so noble a vine. We are told that this man was “very great”: not in piety, but in material possessions, for he had very large flocks of sheep and goats. His wife was of a beautiful countenance “and of good understanding,” but her father could not have been so, or he would not have sacrificed her to a man who had nothing better to recommend him than earthly wealth. Poor woman! She was tied to one who was “churlish and evil in his doings”: greedy and grasping, sour and cross-tempered.

“And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep. And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name” (vv. 4, 5). The season for shearing the sheep was a notable one, for wool was a leading commodity in Canaan. With such a very large flock, a considerable number of extra hands would have to be hired by Nabal, and a plentiful supply of provisions prepared. From 2 Samuel 13:23 it appears that it was the custom in those days to combine feasting and merriment with the shearing: compare also Genesis 38:13. It was a time when men were generally disposed to be hospitable and kind. As to how far David was justified in appealing to man, rather than spreading his need before God alone, we undertake not to decide—it is certainly not safe to draw any inference from the sequel.

“And thus shall ye say to him that liveth, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will show thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David” (vv. 6-8). The request to be presented before Nabal was one which the world would call respectful and tactful. The salutation of peace bespoke David’s friendly spirit. Reminder was given that, in the past, David had not only restrained his men from molesting Nabal’s flocks, but had also protected them from the depredations of invaders—compare verses 14-17. He might then have asked for a reward for his services, but instead he only supplicates a favor. Surely Nabal would not refuse his men a few victuals, for it was “a good day,” a time when there was plenty to hand. Finally David takes the place of a “son,” hoping to receive some fatherly kindness from him.

But as we examine this address more closely, we note the low ground which was taken: there was nothing spiritual in it! Moreover, we fully agree with Matthew Henry’s comments on the opening words of verse 6, “Thus shall ye say to him that liveth” . . . “as if those lived indeed that lived as Nabal did, with abundance of the wealth of this world about them; whereas, in truth, those that live in pleasure are dead while they live (1 Tim. 5:6). This was, methinks, too high a compliment to pass upon Nabal, to call him the man that liveth: David knew better things—that ‘in God’s favour is life,’ not in the world’s smiles; and, by the rough answer, he was well enough served for this too smooth address to such a muckworm.”

“And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David and ceased” (v. 9). This verse serves to illustrate another important principle: not only are God’s children more or less revealed by their reaction to and conduct under the varied experiences they encounter, but the presence of God’s servants tests the character of those with whom they come into contact. It was so here. A golden opportunity was afforded Nabal of showing kindness to the Lord’s “anointed,” but he seized it not. Alas, how many there are who know not the day of their visitation. Nabal had no heart for David, and clearly was this now made manifest. So too the selfishness and carnality of professors frequently becomes apparent by their failure to befriend the servants of God, when chances to do so are brought right to their door. It is a grand and holy privilege when the Lord sends one of His prophets into your neighborhood, yet it may issue in a fearfully solemn sequel.

“And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh, that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” (vv. 10, 11). What an insulting answer to return unto so mild a request! To justify a refusal he stooped to heaping insults on the head of David. It was not a total stranger who had applied to him, for Nabal’s calling him “the son of Jesse” showed he knew well who he was; but, absorbed with schemes of selfish acquisition he cared not for him. Let it be duly noted that in acting in such a heartless manner Nabal clearly disobeyed—Deuteronomy 15:7-11. Nabal’s repeated use of the word “my” in verse 11 reminds us of the other rich “fool” in Luke 12:18-20.

“So David’s young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings” (v. 12). Highly commendable was their conduct. “Young men” are often hot-blooded and hot-headed, and act impetuously and rashly; but they admirably restrained themselves. The language of Nabal had been highly offensive, but instead of returning railing for railing, they treated him with silent contempt and turned their backs upon him: such churls are not entitled to any reply. It is blessed to see they did not use force, and attempt to take what ought to have been freely given to them. Never are the children of God justified in so doing: we must ever seek grace to maintain a good conscience, “in all things willing to live honestly” (Heb. 13:18). Oft times the best way for overcoming a temptation to make a wrathful reply, is to quietly turn away from those who have angered us.

“And came and told him all those sayings.” Here we are shown how the servants of Christ are to act when abused. Instead of indulging the spirit of revenge, they are to go and spread their case before their Master (Luke 14:21). It was thus the perfect Servant acted: of Him it is written, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed His cause to Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Oft times God brings us into trying situations to reveal unto us whether we are “acknowledging Him in all our ways” (Prov. 3:6), or whether there is still a measure of self-sufficiency at work in our hearts—our response to the trial makes manifest which be the case.

And what was David’s response? How did he now react unto the disappointing tidings brought back by his men? Did he, as the servant of God, meekly bear Nabal’s taunts and cutting reproach? Did he cast his burden on the Lord, looking to Him for sustaining grace (Ps. 55:22)? Alas, he acted in the energy of the flesh. “And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword” (v. 13). David neither betook himself to prayer nor reflected upon the matter, but hurriedly prepared to avenge the insult he had received.

True, the ingratitude which Nabal had shown, and the provoking language he had used, were hard to endure —too hard for mere flesh and blood, for human nature ever wants to vindicate itself. His only recourse lay in God: to see His hand in the trial, and to seek grace to bear it. But momentarily David forgot that he had committed his cause unto the Lord, and took matters into his own hands. And why did God permit this breakdown? That no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Cor. 1:29). “This must be the reason why such-like episodes are found in the lives of all the Lord’s servants. They serve to demonstrate that these servants were not any better flesh than other men, and that it was not more richly endowed brains that gave them faith of devotedness, but simply the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit” (C. H. Bright).

Chapter Eighteen-His Check From Abigail
1 Samuel 25

In our last chapter we saw how that God submitted David unto a testing of quite another character and from a different quarter than those he had previously been tried by. Hitherto, the thorn in his side had been none other than the king of Israel, to which we may add the callous indifference toward him of the nation at large. But now he was unexpectedly rebuffed by an individual farmer, from whom he had sought some victuals for his men. “His churlish soul, adding insult to injury, dismissed the messenger of David with contumely and scorn. It is a hard thing to endure. David had endured, and was enduring much. He was suffering from the active enmity of Saul, and from the dull apathy of Israel. But both were great, and so to speak, dignified enemies. Saul was Israel’s king; and Israel were God’s people. It seemed comparatively honourable to be persecuted by them: but it was a far different thing to endure the reproach of one so despicable as Nabal. ‘Surely in vain,’ said David, ‘have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness’” (B. W. Newton).

What made the trial more poignant to David’s soul, was the fact that he himself had acted honorably and kindly toward Nabal. When, on a previous occasion, he had sojourned in those parts, he had not only restrained his own men from preying upon Nabal’s flocks, but had been a defense to them from the wandering bands of the Philistines. It was, then, the least that this wealthy sheep owner could do, to now show his appreciation and make present of a little food to David’s men. Instead, he mocked them. Ingratitude is always trying to flesh and blood, but more so when it is coupled with gross injustice. Yet often God is pleased to try His people in this way, calling upon them to receive treatment which they feel is quite “uncalled for,” yea, positively “unjust.” And why does God permit this? For various reasons: among others, to furnish us opportunities to act out what we profess!

The reaction of David unto this trial is recorded for our learning: for us to lay to heart, and turn into earnest prayer. “And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword” (1 Sam. 25:13). Well may we ask, had he been so long in the school of affliction and not yet learned patience? “He forgot that all suffering, all reproach, that is for God’s sake, is equally honourable, whether it come from a monarch, or from a churl. His proud spirit was roused, and he who had refused to lift up his hand against Saul, and had never unsheathed his sword against Israel: he who was called to fight, not for his own sake, against his own enemies, but for the Lord’s sake against the Lord’s enemies, he—David, forgot his calling, and swore that Nabal should expiate his offence in blood” (B. W. Newton).

And how are we to account for his lapse? Wherein, particularly, was it that David failed? In being unduly occupied with the second cause, the human instrument; his eyes were upon man, rather than upon God. When his men returned with their disappointing tidings he ought to have said with Job, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2: 10). Ah, it is easy for us to say what David ought to have said, but do we act any better when we are similarly tested? Alas, has not both writer and reader full reason to bow his head in shame! Far be it from us, who thoroughly deserve them ourselves, to throw stones at the beloved Psalmist. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit has faithfully recorded his failures, and the best way for us to profit from them is to trace them back to their source, and seek grace to avoid repeating them.

Above we asked the question, had David been so long in the school of affliction and not yet learned patience? This leads us to enquire, What is patience? Negatively, it is meekly receiving as from God whatever enters our lives, a saying from the heart, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). Positively, it is a persevering continuance in the path of duty, not being overcome by the difficulties of the way. Now to accept as from God whatever enters our lives requires us to cultivate the habit of seeing His hand in every thing: just so long as we are unduly occupied with secondary causes and subordinate agents, do we destroy our peace. There is only one real haven for the heart, and that is to “rest in the Lord,” to recognize and realize that “of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36): ever seeking to learn His lesson in each separate incident.

It is blessed to know that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,” and that “though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth his hand” (Ps. 37:23, 24). Yes, and oft times though we trip, He keeps us from falling. Where it is the genuine desire of the heart to please the Lord in all things, He will not let us go far wrong; where the will is sincerely bent Godwards, He will not suffer Satan to prevail. Thus it was here with David. To answer the fool [Nabal] according to his folly (Prov. 26:4) was just what the devil desired, and momentarily he had gained an advantage over him. But the eyes of the Lord were upon His tempted servant, and graciously did He now move one to deter him from accomplishing his vindictive purpose. Let us admire His providential workings.

First, we are told that, “But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: They were a wall unto us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him” (vv. 14-17). One of Nabal’s servants acquainted his mistress with what had transpired, confirming, be it noted, what was said, by David’s men in verse 7. He probably drew the logical inference that David would avenge his insult, and anxious for his own safety, as well as for the other members of the household, and yet not daring to voice his fears unto Nabal, he informed Abigail.

How wondrously God makes all things “work together” for the good of His own. How perfect are His ways: fulfilling His own secret and invincible designs, yet leaving quite free the instruments, who unconsciously, fulfill them. The providential machinery to restrain the impetuous David was now set in motion. A servant of Nabal’s, moved by nothing higher than the instinct of self-preservation (so far as his consciousness went), warns his mistress of their impending danger. Now mark, secondly, her response: she did not laugh at the servant, and tell him his fears were groundless; nor was she suddenly paralyzed by feminine fright at the alarming tidings. No, a hidden Hand calmed her heart and directed her mind. Accepting the warning, she acted promptly, setting out at once with an elaborate present to placate the angry David; a present that would meet the immediate needs of his hungry men: see verses 18, 19.

There are some who have criticized this action of Abigail’s, dwelling upon the last clause of verse 19: “But she told not her husband Nabal.” Such a criticism is a very superficial conclusion. What Abigail did was necessary for the protection of the family. Perceiving that Nabal’s stubbornness would ruin them all, the exigencies of the situation fully justified her conduct. It is true she owed allegiance to her husband, but her first and great duty was to take measures to protect their lives: inferior interests must always be sacrificed to secure the greater—our property to preserve our lives, our very lives to preserve our souls. As we shall see, verse 24, 28 make it clear that she acted from no disloyalty to Nabal. Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary case which is here before us, and so not to be used as an example.

And what of David at this time? Was he recovered from his outburst of anger? No, indeed, or there had been no need for Abigail’s mission of conciliation. The words of Nabal were still rankling within his heart. Hear him as he petulantly declares, “Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good” (v. 21). He repented of the kindness shown Nabal, feeling now that it had been wasted upon him, that he was devoid of gratitude and incapable of appreciating the good turn shown him. But God is “kind to the unthankful and to the evil,” and bids us “Be ye therefore merciful” (Luke 6:35, 36). Ah, to cultivate that attitude we must seek grace to mortify the spirit of pride which desires recognition, and that bitterness which rises when we are slighted.

Not only was David chafing under the ingratitude and taunts of Nabal, but he was still bent on revenge: as verse 23 shows, he had determined to slay every male in Nabal’s household. This was unjust and cruel in the extreme, and if God had suffered him to carry out such a design, would have greatly sullied his character and given his enemies an immense advantage against him. So determined was he, that he confirmed his intention with an oath, which was rash and savored of profanity. See here, dear reader, what even the child of God is capable of when grace is not active within him. The realization of this ought to make us walk softly, and work out our salvation with “fear and trembling.” It is for this reason that God so often withdraws from us the power of His Spirit: that we may know what is yet in our hearts (2 Chron. 32:3 1), and be humbled before Him.

How blessedly God times His mercies. Here was David premeditating evil, yea, on the point of carrying out his wicked purpose. But there was one, sent by the Lord, already on the way to deliver him from himself. Ah, dear reader, have not you and I often been the recipient of similar favors from Heaven? Were there not times, be they recalled to our deep shame, when we had determined upon a course dishonoring to our Lord; when, all praise unto Him, some one crossed our path, and we were delayed, hindered, deterred? That some one may not have spoken to us as definitely as Abigail did unto David: rather perhaps their errand was of quite another nature, which at the time we may have resented as a nuisance for interrupting us; but now, as we look back, do we not see the kind hand of God withholding us from carrying out an evil purpose!

Apparently David was already on his way to execute his evil intention when Abigail met him (v. 20). Blessed it is to see the place which she now took: “When Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face and bowed herself to the ground; and fell at his feet” (vv. 23, 24). This was not mere adulation, and it was something more than an oriental salutation: it was faith’s acknowledgment of the “anointed of the Lord.” Nabal had insulted him as a runaway slave, but his wife owns him as a superior, as her king in the purpose of God. Her address to him on this occasion (vv. 24-31) is deserving of close study, but we can only offer a few brief remarks upon it.

It is to be carefully noted that Abigail did not upbraid David for cherishing the spirit of revenge and tell him that it ill became his character and calling: that had not been seemly for her to do; rather did she leave it for his conscience to accuse him. She did not excuse her husband’s conduct, nor did the present case allow her to hide his infirmity, but she sought to turn his well-known character for rashness and insolence (v. 25) into an argument with David, why he should lay aside his resentment. ‘She intimated that Nabal (whose name means ‘folly’), intended no peculiar affront to him, but only spoke in his usual way of treating those who applied to him; and it was beneath a person of David’s reputation and eminence to notice the rudeness of such a man” (Thomas Scott).

Abigail’s piety comes out clearly in verse 26. Possibly she perceived a change in David’s countenance, or more probably she felt in her spirit that the object before her was now gained; but instead of attributing this unto her pleading, or the present she had brought, she ascribed it solely unto the restraining grace of God: “the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand.” Thus alone is God honored and given His proper place, when we freely impute unto His working all that is good in and from our fellow-creatures. Beautiful too is it to behold how she shields her churlish husband: “upon me, my lord, upon me, let this iniquity be” (v. 24), “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine hand maid” (v. 28). She took upon herself the blame for the ill-treatment of his men, and says, If thou wilt be angry, be angry against me, rather than with my poor husband.

Next, we behold her strong faith: “the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house” (v. 28). She makes reference unto the future to draw his heart from the present. As another has said, “To the heir of a kingdom, a few sheep could have but little attraction; and one who knew that he had the anointing oil of the Lord upon his head, might easily bear to be called a runaway servant.” Ah, it is ever the office of faith to look beyond present circumstances and difficulties, on to the time of deliverance; only thus do we begin to judge things from God’s viewpoint. Then she pointed out that David was fighting “the battles of the Lord” (v. 28), and therefore it was not for him to think of avenging an insult to himself.

Her closing words in verses 29-31 are very beautiful. First, she makes reference to the relentless persecution of Saul, but in becoming loyalty to the throne speaks of him as “a man” rather than “the king,” and assures David in most striking language that his life should be preserved (v. 29). Second, looking away from his abject condition, she confidently contemplated the time when the Lord would make him “ruler over Israel”: how heartening was this unto the tried servant of God! Thus too does God often send us a word of comfort when we are most sorely tried. Third, she pleaded with David that he would let his coming glory regulate his present actions, so that in that day, his conscience would not reproach him for previous follies. If we kept more before us the judgment-seat of Christ, surely our conduct would be more regulated thereby. Finally, she besought David to remember her, his “handmaid,” when he should ascend the throne.

‘As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear’ (Prov. 25:12). Abigail was a wise reprover of David’s passion, and he gave an obedient ear to the reproof according to his own principle: ‘Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness’ (Ps. 141:5): never was such an admonition either better given or better taken” (Matthew Henry). Herein are the children of God made manifest; they are tractable, open to conviction, willing to be shown their faults; but the children of the devil (“sons of Belial”) are like Nabal—churlish, stubborn, proud, unbending. Ah, my reader, lay this to heart: if we will listen to faithful counselors now, we shall be delivered from much folly and spared bitter regrets in the future.

God blessed this word of Abigail’s to David, so that he was now able to view the whole transaction and his own bitter spirit and purpose, in a true light. First, he praises God for sending him this check in a sinful course (v. 32): it is a true mark of spirituality when we discern and own the Lord’s hand in such deliverances. Second, he thanked Abigail for so kindly interposing between him and the sin he was about to commit (v. 33): ah, we must not only receive a reproof patiently, but thank the faithful giver of it. Note that instead of speaking lightly of the evil he premeditated, David emphasized its enormity. Third, he dismissed her with a message of peace, and accepted her offering. The whole shows us wise men are open to sound advice, even though it comes from their inferiors; and that oaths must not bind us to do that which is evil.

Finally, let us point out for the benefit of preachers, that we have in the above incident a blessed picture of an elect soul being drawn to Christ. 1. Abigail was yoked to Nabal: so by nature we are wedded to the law as a covenant of works, and it is “against us” (Col. 2: 14). 2. She was barren to Nabal (see Rom. 7:1-4). 3. It was tidings of impending doom which caused her to seek David (v. 17). 4. She took her place in the dust before him (v, 23). 5. She came to him confessing “iniquity” (v. 24). 6. She sought “forgiveness” (v. 28). 7. She was persuaded of David’s goodness (v. 28). 8. She owned his exaltation (v. 30). 9. She, like the dying thief, begs to be “remembered” (v. 31). David granted her request, accepted her person, and said, “Go in peace” (v. 35)!

Chapter Nineteen-His Marriage To Abigail
1 Samuel 25

“Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner” (Prov. 11:31). This is a most appropriate verse with which to introduce the passage that is to engage our attention, for each of its clauses receives striking illustration in what is now to be before us. The closing verses of 1 Samuel 25 supply both a blessed and a solemn sequel to what is found earlier in the chapter. There we saw the wicked triumphing, and the righteous being oppressed. There we saw the godly wife of the churl, Nabal, graciously and faithfully befriending the outcast David. Here we behold the hand of God’s judgment falling heavily upon the wicked, and the hand of His grace rewarding the righteous.

“Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.” Of all the hundreds of Solomon’s inspired proverbs this is the only one which is prefaced by the word “Behold.” This at once intimates that a subject of great importance is here in view, bidding us fix the eyes of our mind upon the same with close and admiring attention. That subject is the providential dealings of God in human affairs, a subject which has fallen sadly into disfavor during the last two or three generations, and one concerning which much ignorance and error now widely prevails. Three things are clearly signified by Proverbs 11:31: first, that God disposes the affairs of all His creatures; second, that He pleads the cause of the innocent and vindicates His oppressed people; third, that He plagues and overthrows evildoers.

Practically all professing Christians believe that there is a future day of retribution, when God shall reward the righteous and punish the wicked; but comparatively few believe God now does so. Yet the verse with which we have opened expressly declares that “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth. It is impossible to read the Scriptures with an unprejudiced mind and not see this truth exhibited in the history of individuals, families and nations. Cain murdered Abel: a mark was set upon him by God, and he cried, “my punishment is greater than I can bear.” Noah was a just man and walked with God: he and his family were preserved from the flood. Pharaoh persecuted the Hebrews, and was drowned at the Red Sea. Saul thirsted for David’s life, and was slain in battle. Of the Lord we must say, “Verily, He is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps. 58:11).

And now comes one with this objection: All that you have said above obtained during the Old Testament dispensation, but in this Christian era it is not so; we are shut up to faith. How ridiculous. Has God vacated His throne? Is He no longer shaping human affairs? Is His governmental justice no longer operative? Why, the most signal example in all history of God’s “recompensing” the wicked and the sinner in the earth, has transpired in this Christian dispensation! It was in A.D. 70 that God publicly executed judgment upon Jerusalem for the Jews’ rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah, and the condition of that people throughout the earth ever since, has been a perpetual exemplification of this solemn truth. The same principle has been repeatedly manifested in the establishment of Christianity upon the ruins of its oppressors. As to Christians being “shut up to faith,” so were the Old Testament saints just as much as we are: Habakkuk 2:1-4.

But let us notice a more formidable objection. Have there not been many righteous souls who were falsely accused, fiercely persecuted, and who were not vindicated on earth by God? Have there not been many of the wicked who have prospered temporally, and received no retribution in this life? First, let it be pointed out that God does not always respond immediately. The writer has lived long enough to see more than one or two who traded on the Sabbath, oppressed widows, and despised all religion, brought to want. Second, there is a happy medium between denying (on the one hand) that God is not now acting at all in the capacity of Judge, and insisting (on the other hand) that every man fully reaps in this life what he has sown.

Here, as everywhere, the truth lies between two extremes. If God were to visibly reward every righteous act and punish every evil-doer in this life, much of the work pertaining to the great Day of Judgment would be forestalled. But if God never honors in this world those who honor Him, or punishes those who openly defy Him, then we should be without any pre-intimations of that Great Assize, other than what is revealed in those Scriptures of Truth which very few so much as read. Therefore, in His providential government of the world, God wisely gives sufficiently clear manifestations of His love and righteousness and hatred of unrighteousness, as to leave all without excuse concerning what may be expected when we stand before Him to be fully and finally judged. While there are sufficient cases of godliness apparently passing unrewarded and examples of evil-doers prospering, as to leave full room for the exercise of faith that the righteousness of God shall yet be completely vindicated; nevertheless, there are also a sufficient number of clear demonstrations before our eyes of God’s vengeance upon the wicked to awe us that we sin not.

“And Abigail came to Nabal; and behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more until the morning light” (v. 36). Recall the circumstances. Only a little while previously Nabal had offered a gross insult to one who was in dire need, and who had several hundred men under his command. Measured by the standards of the world that insult called for retaliation, and so felt the one who had received it. David had sworn to revenge himself by slaying Nabal and every male member of his household, and verse 23 makes it plain that he was on his way to execute that purpose. But for the timely intervention of his wife, Nabal had been engaged in a hopeless fight to preserve his life; and here we see him feasting and drunken!

As Abigail furnishes a typical illustration of a needy sinner coming to Christ and being saved by Him (see close of last chapter), so Nabal affords us a solemn portrayal of one who despised Christ and perished in his sins. Let preachers develop the leading points which we here note down in passing. See the false security of sinners when in dire danger: Ecclesiastes 8:11. Observe how one who grudges to give to God for the relief of His poor, will lavishly spend money to satisfy his lusts or make a fair show in the flesh: Luke 16:19-21. O how many there are more concerned about having what they call “a good time,” than they are in making their peace with God: Isaiah 55:2. So sottish are some in the indulging of their appetites that they sink lower than the beasts of the field: Isaiah 1:3. It is adding insult to injury when the sinner not only breaks God’s laws but abuses His mercies: Luke 14:18-20. Remember people are intoxicated with other things besides “wine”—worldly fame, worldly riches, worldly pleasures.

Yes, the fool Nabal vividly portrays the case of multitudes all around us. The curse of God’s broken law hanging over them, yet “feasting” as though all is well with their souls for eternity. The sword of divine justice already drawn to smite them down, yet their hearts “merry” with “the pleasures of sin for a season.” The Water of Life neglected, but “drunken” with the intoxicating things of this perishing world. A grave awaiting them in a few days’ time, but flirting with death during the brief and precious interval. In such a benumbed and giddy state, that it would be the casting of pearls before swine for the godly to speak seriously unto them. O how securely the devil holds his victims! O the beguiling and paralyzing effects of sin! O the utterly hopeless condition of the unbelieving, unless a sovereign God intervenes, works a miracle of grace, and snatches him as a brand from the burning!

“But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone” (v. 37). The day of danger had been spent in reveling, the night in intoxicated stupefaction, and now he is called, as it were, to account. The sacred narrative records no reproaches that Abigail made: they were not necessary—the guilty conscience of Nabal would perform its own office. Instead, she merely told her husband of what had transpired. Her words at once dispelled his dreams, shattered his peace, and sank his spirits. Most probably, he was overcome with fright, that notwithstanding his wife’s kindly overtures, David would swiftly take vengeance upon him. Filled with bitter remorse, now it was too late to repent, giving way to abject despair, Nabal’s heart “became as stone.” See here a picture of the poor worldling when facing death, and the terrors of the Almighty overwhelming him. See here the deceitfulness of carnal pleasures: overnight his heart merry with wine, now paralyzed with horror and terror. Yes, the “end of that mirth is heaviness” (Prov. 14: 13); how different the joys which God gives!

“And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died” (v. 38). What a fearfully solemn termination to a wasted life! Nabal’s course was one of folly, his end was that of “the fool.” Here was a man “very great” (v. 2), who had boastfully spoken of “my bread, my flesh, my shearers” (v. 11); who had scorned David, and spent his time in excessive self-gratification now arrived at the close of his earthly journey, with nothing before him but “the blackness of darkness forever.” He seems to have lain in a senseless stupor for ten days, induced either by the effects of his intoxication, or from the horror and anguish of his mind, and this was completed by the immediate stroke of the power and wrath of God, cutting him off out of the land of the living. Such is, my reader, the doom of every one who despises and rejects Christ as Lord and Saviour.

“And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died.” Not only is the case of Nabal a solemn example of a careless, giddy, reckless sinner, suddenly cut off by God whilst giving himself up to the indulgence of the flesh, when the sword of divine judgment was suspended over his head; but we also see in his death an exhibition of the faithfulness of God, an illustration of Romans 12:19: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Not only is it sinful for the saint to avenge himself when unjustly insulted and ill treated, but it is quite unnecessary. In due time Another will do it far more effectually for him.

“And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the Lord, that has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil: for the Lord hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head” (v. 39). It is not that David was guilty of unholy glee over the wretched end of one who had wronged him, but that he rejoiced in the display of God’s glory, of the exercise of divine justice, and the triumphing of piety over iniquity. Therein lies the real key to a number of passages which many of our moderns suppose breathe only a vengeful spirit: as though God erected a lower standard of holiness in Old Testament times than is now given to us. Such was not the case: the law, equally with the Gospel, required love for the neighbor.

As this subject has been so sadly wrested by “Dispensationalists,” let us add a few words here. Take for example Psalm 58:10, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” Superficial people say, “But that is altogether contrary to the spirit of this dispensation!” But read on: “So that a man shall say. Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth” (v. 11). It was not the exercise of a spirit of malice, which took delight in seeing the destruction of their foes: no indeed: for in the Old Testament the divine command was, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth” (Prov. 24:17). Instead, it was the heart bowing in worship before the governmental dealings of God, adoring that Justice which gave unto the wicked their due. And where the heart is not completely under the dominion of maudlin sentimentality, there will be rejoicing today when some notoriously wicked character is manifestly cut down by the holy hand of God: so it will be at the end of this era: see Revelation 18:20; 19:1, 2.

Ere passing on to the next verses, let us take notice of David’s thankful acknowledgment of God’s restraining grace: “Blessed be the Lord, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil” (v. 39). If we carefully reviewed the details of each day, we should frequently find occasion to admire the sin-preventing providences of God. We may well adopt the language of the Psalmist at the close of a beautiful illustration of the divine mercies: “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Ps. 107:43). Let us never miss an opportunity of praising God when He graciously keeps us from committing any evil we had premeditated.

“And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife” (vv. 39, 40). The stroke of God’s judgment had freed Abigail from a painful situation, and now the workings of His providence rewarded her righteousness. God gave her favor in the eyes of His anointed. David was charmed not only with the beauty of her person and the prudence of her character, but also with her evident piety—the most valuable quality of all in a wife. Abigail being now a widow, and David’s own wife living in adultery, he sent messengers with a proposal of marriage to her. This line in the type is strikingly accurate: the Lord Jesus does not court His wife immediately, but employs the ministers of the Gospel, endued with the Holy Spirit, to woo and win sinners unto Himself.

“And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (v. 41). Very beautiful is it to see the great modesty and humility with which such a wealthy woman received the advances of David, deeming herself unworthy of such an honor, yea, having such respect for him that she would gladly be one of the meanest servants of his household. She accepted his proposal, and thereby added still another line to this typical picture of conversion: note how in the margin of 2 Chronicles 30:8 faith is represented as to “give the hand unto the Lord”!

“And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife” (v. 42). Most blessed is this. At the time, David was an homeless wanderer, outlawed; yet Abigail was willing not only to forsake her own house and comfortable position, but to share his trials and endure hardships for his sake. Nevertheless, she knew it would be only for a brief season: she married in faith, assured of the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 30) and confident that in due course she would “reign with him”! And this is what true conversion is: a turning of our back upon the old life, willing to suffer the loss of all things for Christ, with faith looking forward to the future.

“David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they were also both of them his wives. But (or “for”) Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim” (vv. 43, 44). Polygamy, though not in accord with either the law of nature or the law of God, was a custom which prevailed in those degenerate days, which some good men gave in to, though they are not to be commended for it. In taking Ahinoam of Jezreel to wife (and later several others: 2 Sam. 3), David followed the corruption of the times, but from the beginning it was not so, nor is it permissible now since Christ has ushered in “the times of reformation” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Chapter Twenty-His Chastening
1 Samuel 26

Some of our readers may wonder why we have given to the present chapter such a title, and what bearing it has upon the contents of 1 Samuel 26; if so, we would ask them to thoughtfully ponder the closing verses of the preceding chapter. Much is lost by many readers of the Bible through failing to observe the connection between the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another; even when incidents which are totally distinct and different follow each other, a spiritual eye may often discern an intimate moral relation between them, and therein many valuable lessons may be learned. Such is the case here. At first glance there appears to be no logical link uniting the further uncalled-for attack of Saul upon David, and his having taken unto himself a wife a little before; but the two things are related as is effect to cause, and here is to be found the key which opens to us the Divine significance of what is now to be before us.

“The way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15). No doubt the primary reference in these words is to the wicked, yet the principle of them unquestionably holds good in the case of the redeemed. In the keeping of God’s commandments there is “great reward” (Ps. 19:11), in this life (1 Tim. 4;8) as well as in that which is to come; but in the breaking of God’s commandments bitter chastening is sure to follow. Wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace (Prov. 3:17), but he who departs from Wisdom’s ways and follows a course of self-will, must expect to smart for it. So it was now in the experience of David. It is true that in case of marital infidelity the Mosaic law permitted the innocent one to obtain a divorce and marry again; but it made no provision for a plurality of wives, and that was what David was now guilty of; and for his sin he was sorely chastised.

Ah, my reader, let this truth sink deep into thine heart: God is exercising a moral government over the believer as well as the unbeliever, and He will no more wink at the sins of the one than He will of the other. David was saved by grace through faith apart from any good works as the meritorious cause, as truly as we are; but he was also called to be holy in all manner of conversation or behavior, as we are. Grace does not set aside the requirements of Divine holiness, instead, it reigns “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21). And when one who has been saved by grace fails to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2: 12), then the chastening rod of God falls upon him, that he may be a “partaker of His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). And this, be it noted, is not only a part of the Father’s dealings with His children, but it is also a part of his ways with His subjects as the Moral Ruler of this world.

As we suggested in the seventh chapter of this hook, it was David’s being united in marriage to the unbelieving Michal which accounts for the painful experiences he passed through while a member of Saul’s household. Trials do not come upon us haphazardly; no, they come from the hand of God. Nor does He act capriciously, but according to the righteous principles of His government. In an earlier chapter we saw how that God graciously protected David when the devil-driven king sought his life, and how that He moved him to return home. Why, then, should His restraining hand be removed, and Saul allowed to go forth again on a blood-thirsty mission? Why should the brief respite David had enjoyed now be so rudely broken? The answer is that God was again using his enemy to chasten David for his recent sin, that he might, by painful experience, learn anew that the way of transgressors is hard.

“O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:18). What a difference it makes whether the ways of a Christian please or displease the Ruler of this world: it is the difference of having God for, or having Him against us—not in the absolute sense, not in the eternal sense, but in His governmental dealings with us. When the heart be right with God, then He shows Himself strong on our behalf (2 Chron. 16:9). When our ways please Him, then He makes even our enemies to be at peace with us (Prov. 16:7). Then how diligently should we guard our hearts and ponder the path of our feet (Prov. 4:23, 26). Carelessness invites disaster; disobedience ensures chastening; sinning will withhold good things from us (Jer. 5:25).

It is very important to see that while the penal and eternal consequences of the Christian’s sins have been remitted by God, because atoned for by Christ, yet the disciplinary and temporal effects thereof are not cancelled—otherwise the saints would never be sick or die. It is not God in His absolute character, acting according to His ineffably holy nature, but God in His official character, acting according to the principles of His righteous government, which deals with the present conduct of His people, rewarding them for their obedience and chastening for disobedience. Hence, when God makes use of the devil and his agents to scourge His people, it is not unto their ultimate destruction, but unto their present plaguing and disciplining. And this is exactly what we see in our present lesson: Saul was allowed to disturb David’s rest, but not to take his life. In like manner, the devil is often permitted to whip us, but never to devour us.

“And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hills of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?” (1 Sam. 26:1). The reader may remember that the Ziphites had shown themselves unfriendly towards David on a former occasion. Was it not then a hazardous thing for him to return unto those parts! How are we to account for his acting so injudiciously, and thus courting danger? Ah, let us recall what was pointed out under 21: 1 in Chapter 8 of this book. When the soul is out of touch with God, when fellowship with Him has been broken by giving way to the lusts of the flesh, the judgment is dulled, and imprudent conduct is sure to be the effect. It is not without reason that godliness is so often designated “wisdom” (i.e. Ps. 90:12), and that a course of evil doing is termed “folly.”

David had acted imprudently in marrying Abigail; he had committed a grave sin in taking unto wife Ahinoam. We say he had acted “imprudently” in marrying Abigail. The time was not propitious for that. He was then a homeless wanderer, and in no condition to give unto a wife the care and devotion to which she is entitled. Holy Scripture declares, “to everything there is a season” (Eccl. 3:1). While on this point, let it be said that, in the judgment of the writer, young men who are out of work and have no good prospects of soon obtaining any, are acting imprudently, yea, rashly, in getting married. Let them possess their souls in patience (Luke 21:19) and wait a more favorable season, and not tempt God.

“And the Ziphites came unto Saul of Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hills of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?” If we venture upon the enemy’s territory we must expect to be harassed by him. It is probable these Ziphites were fearful that should David succeed Saul on the throne, then he would avenge himself upon them for their previous perfidy: if so, they were now the more anxious that he should be captured and slain. Afraid to tackle him themselves, they sent word to the king of David’s present whereabouts. Their message presented a temptation for Saul to return again unto that evil course which he had abandoned, temporarily at least: thus does one evil-doer encourage another in wickedness.

“Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph” (v. 2). Poor Saul, his goodness was as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it vanished away. “How soon do unsanctified hearts lose the good impressions which their convictions have made upon them, and return with the dog to their vomit” (Matthew Henry). O what need has even the Christian to pray earnestly unto God, that since he still has so much of the tinder of corruption left within, the sparks of temptation may be kept far from him, lest when they come together they are “set on fire of hell” (James 3:6). The providential restraint of God in causing Saul to leave off pursuing David because the Philistines were invading his territory, had wrought no change within him: his evil disposition towards God’s anointed was the same as ever; and now that the favorable opportunity to seize David presented itself, he gladly made the most of it.

The action of Saul here provides a solemn illustration of a well known principle: if sin be not dethroned and mortified, it will soon recover its strength, and when a suitable temptation is presented, break out again with renewed force. How often do the servants of God witness souls under deep conviction, followed by a marked reformation, which leads them to believe that a genuine work of grace has taken place within them; only to see them, a little later, return to their sins and become worse than ever. So here: upon receiving word from the Ziphites, Saul’s enmity and malice revived, and, like Pharaoh of old, he again hardened his heart, and determined to make another effort to remove his rival. And thus it is with many a one who has been sobered and awed by the Word: after a brief season, Satan and his agents suggest such thoughts as tend to rekindle the smothered flame, and then the lusts of the flesh are again allowed free play. O my reader, beg God to deepen your convictions and write His law on your heart.

“And Saul pitched in the hill Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon, by the way. But David abode in the wilderness, and he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness. David therefore sent out spies, and understood that Saul was come in very deed” (vv. 3,4). “David neither fled, nor went out to meet Saul, when he was fully certified that he was actually come forth to destroy him! Had a much greater army of uncircumcised Philistines marched against him, he would doubtless have forced them with his small company, and trusted in God for the event; but he would not fight against the ‘Lord’s anointed’” (Thomas Scott).

“David therefore sent out spies, and understood that Saul was come in very deed.” From the previous verse it would seem David had perceived that some large force was advancing into that part of the country where he and his men were now quartered. Though not certain as to who was at the head of the approaching army, he probably suspected that it was none other than Saul, and therefore did he now send out spies to make sure. He would not fully believe that the king had again dealt so basely with him, till he had the clearest proof of it: thereby does he set us an example not to believe the worst of our enemies till we are really forced to do so by incontestable evidence.

“And David arose, and came to the place where Saul had pitched; and David beheld the place where Saul lay, and Abner the son of Ner, the captain of his hosts; and Saul lay in the trench, and the people pitched round about him” (v. 5). Most likely it was in the dusk of the evening that David now went forward to reconnoiter, surveying from close range the order of Saul’s camp and the strength of its entrenchments. Though he knew the Lord was his Protector, yet he deemed it necessary to be upon his guard and make use of means for his safety. Well for us when we act as wisely as serpents, but as harmless as doves. It is to be noted that David did not entrust this critical task unto any of his underlings, but performed it in person. The leader ought always to take the lead in the most difficult and dangerous tasks.

“Then answered David and said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, brother to Joab, saying, Who will go down with me to Saul to the camp? And Abishai said, I will go down with thee” (v. 6). David now addressed himself unto two of those who were, most likely, his closest attendants, asking who was bold enough to volunteer in accompanying him on an exceedingly dangerous enterprise—that of two men entering a camp of three thousand soldiers. There is little room for doubt that David was prompted by the Spirit to act thus, from whom he probably received assurance of divine protection: thereby he would be afforded another opportunity of demonstrating to Saul and Israel his innocency. Ahimelech was probably a proselyted Hittite, and not having that faith in the God of Israel which such a severe testing called for, held back, but Abishai, who was David’s own nephew (1 Chron. 2: 15, 16), readily agreed to accompany David.

“So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay around about him” (v. 7). What an extraordinary situation now presented itself before the eyes of David and his lone companion? Where was the guard? Had the watchmen failed at their point of duty? There was none to sound an alarm: the entire camp was wrapped in slumber so profound that, though the two uninvited visitors walked and talked in their midst, none was aroused. Ah, how easily can God render impotent an entire host of enemies! All the forces of nature are under His immediate control: He can awaken from the sleep of death, and He can put the living into such a heavy sleep that none can awaken them. There was Saul and all his forces as helpless as though they were in fetters of iron.

“Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time” (v. 8). In view of what had transpired in the cave (24:4-6), no doubt Abishai thought that though David scrupled to kill Saul with his own hand, yet he would allow one of his officers to slay him: thus would an end be put to the difficulties and dangers unto himself and his adherents, by cutting off at one blow their inveterate persecutor; the more so, since Providence had again placed Saul in their power, apparently for this very purpose. This illustrates the fact that often it requires as much godly resolution to restrain the excesses of zealous but unspiritual friends, as it does to stand firm against the rage of incensed enemies.

A powerful temptation was here set before David. Had their positions been reversed, would Saul hesitate to slay him? Why, then, should David allow sentiment to prevail? Moreover, did it not look as though God had arranged things to this very end? The previous opportunity was not nearly so strongly marked as this one: Saul had, as it were, accidentally wandered into the cave, but here was something extraordinary—the entire camp was wrapped in a supernatural slumber. Furthermore, his attendant urges upon him that it was the will of God to now take things into his own hand. But David was not to be moved from his loyalty to the throne. First, he told Abishai that it would be sinful to lay violent hands upon one whose person was sacred (v. 10), for Saul had been appointed by God and anointed for his office. Second, he declared it was unnecessary: God would, sooner or later, cut him off (vv. 10, 11). Remembering how the Lord had just before smitten Nabal, he left it to Him to avenge his cause.

“So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked; for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them” (v. 12). Here we see David as a type of Christ in His wonderful forbearance toward His enemies, and in His faith in God: 1 Peter 2:23. David’s procedure was an effective method of convincing Saul that he could have slain him. And what a proof to the king that the Lord had departed from him, and was protecting David! “Thus do we lose our strength and comfort when we are careless and secure, and off our watch” (Matthew Henry), gives the practical lesson for us in Saul’s losing his spear and cruse of water.

Chapter Twenty-one-His Final Words With Saul
1 Samuel 26

“There are few periods in the life of David in which his patient endurance was displayed more conspicuously than in his last interview with Saul. Saul had once more fallen into his power; but David again refused to avail himself of the advantage. He would not deliver himself by means that God did not sanction, nor stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Recognition of the excellency of David, and confession of his own sin, was extorted, even from the lips of Saul” (B. W. Newton).

In the preceding chapter we followed David and his lone attendant as they entered the camp of Saul, and secured the king’s spear and the cruse of water which lay at his head. Having accomplished his purpose, David now retired from his sleeping enemies. Carrying with him clear evidence that he had been in their very midst, he determined to let them know what had transpired, for he was far from being ashamed of his conduct—when our actions are innocent, we care not who knows of them. David now stations himself within hailing distance, yet sufficiently removed that they could not come at him quickly or easily. “Then David went over to the other side and stood on the top of an hill afar off; a great space being between them” (1 Sam. 26:13). This was evidently on some high point facing the “hill of Hachilah” (v. 3), a wide valley lying between.

“And David cried to the people, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, Answerest thou not, Abner?” (v. 14) David now hailed the sleeping camp with a loud voice, addressing himself particularly unto Abner, who was the general of the army. Apparently he had to call more than once before Abner was fully aroused. “Then Abner answered and said, Who art thou that criest to the king?” Probably those were words both of anger and contempt: annoyance at being so rudely disturbed from his rest, and scorn as he recognized the voice of the speaker. Abner had so lightly esteemed David and his men, that he had not considered it necessary to keep awake personally, nor even to appoint sentinels to watch the camp. The force of his question was, Whom do you think you are, that you should address the monarch of Israel! Let not the servants of God deem it a strange thing that those occupying high offices in the world consider them quite beneath their notice.

“And David said to Abner, art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord” (v. 15). David was not to be brow-beaten. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). Where the fear of God rules the heart, man cannot intimidate. Paul before Agrippa, Luther before the Diet of Worms, John Knox before the bloody Queen Mary, are cases in point. My reader, if you tremble before worms of the dust, it is because you do not tremble before God. David boldly charged Abner with his criminal neglect. First, he reminded him that he was a valiant “man,” i.e. a man in office, and therefore duty bound to guard the person of the king. Second, he bantered him in view of the high position he held. Third, he informed him of how the king’s life had been in danger that night as the result of his culpable carelessness. It was tantamount to telling him he was disgraced forever.

“This thing is not good that thou hast done. As the Lord liveth ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the Lord’s anointed” (v. 16). By martial law Abner and his officers had forfeited their lives. It should be duly noted that David was not here speaking as a private person to Saul’s general, but as the servant and mouthpiece of God, as is evident from “as the Lord liveth.” “And now, see where the kings spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster.” David continued to banter him: the force of his word was, Who is really the king’s friend—you who neglected him and left him exposed, or I that spared him when he was at my mercy! You are stirring up Saul against me, and pursuing me as one who is unfit to live; but who, now, is worthy to die? it was plainly a case of the biter being bit.

“And Saul knew David’s voice, and said, Is this thy voice, my son David?” (v. 17) The king at once recognized the voice of him that was denouncing Abner, and addressed him in terms of cordial friendship. See here another illustration of the instability and fickleness of poor fallen man: one day thirsting after David’s blood, and the next day speaking to him in terms of affection! What reliance can be placed in such a creature? How it should make us the more revere and adore the One who declares, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6). “And David said, it is my voice, my lord, O king” (v. 17). Very beautiful is this. Though David could not admire the variableness and treachery of Saul’s character, yet he respected his office, and is here shown paying due deference to the throne: he not only owned Saul’s crown, but acknowledged that he was his sovereign. Tacitly, it was a plain denial that David was the rebellious insurrectionist Saul had supposed.

“And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?” (v. 18). Once more (cf. 1 Sam. 24:11, etc.) David calmly remonstrated with the king: what ground was there for his being engaged in such a blood-thirsty mission? First, David was not an enemy, but ready to act as his “servant’ and further the court’s interests; thus he suggested it was against Saul’s own good to persecute one who was ready to do his bidding and advance his kingdom. Equally unreasonable and foolish have been other rulers who hounded the servants of God: none are more loyal to the powers that be, none do as much to really strengthen their hands, as the true ministers of Christ; and therefore, they who oppose them are but forsaking their own mercies.

Second, by pursuing David, Saul was driving him from his master and lawful business, and compelling to flee the one who wished to follow him with respect. Oh, the exceeding sinfulness of sin: it is not only unreasonable and unjust (and therefore denominated “iniquity”), but cruel, both in its nature and in its effects. Third, he asked, “What have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?” Questions which a clear conscience (and that only) is never afraid of asking. It was the height of wickedness for Saul to persecute him as a criminal, when he was unable to charge him with any crime. But let us observe how that by these honest questions David was a type of Him who challenged His enemies with “which of you convicteth Me of sin?” (John 8:46), and again, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me?” (John 18:23).

“Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let Him accept an offering” (v. 19). It is likely that David had paused and waited for Saul to make reply to his searching queries. Receiving no answer, he continued his address. David himself now suggested two possible explanations for the king’s heartless course, First, it might be that the Lord Himself was using him thus to righteously chastise His servant for some fault. It was the divine side of things which first engaged David’s mind: “If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me.” This is a likelihood which should always exercise the conscience of a saint, for the Lord “does not afflict willingly” (Lam. 3:33), but usually because we give Him occasion to use the rod upon us. Much of this would be spared, if we kept shorter accounts with God and more unsparingly judged ourselves (1 Cor. 11:31). It is always a timely thing to say with Job, “Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me” (10:2).

Should the Lord convict him of any offense, then “let him accept an offering”: David would then make his peace with God and present the required sin offering. For the Christian, this means that, having humbled himself before God, penitently confessed his sins, he now pleads afresh the merits of Christ’s blood, for the remission of their governmental consequences. But secondly, if God was not using Saul to chastise David (as indeed He was), then if evil men had incited Saul to use such violent measures, the divine vengeance would assuredly overtake them—they were accursed before God. It is blessed to note the mildness of David on this occasion: so far from reviling the king, and attributing his wickedness unto the evil of his own heart, every possible excuse was made for his conduct.

“But if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods” (v. 19). This was what pained David the most: not the being deprived of an honorable position as servant to Saul, not the being driven from home, but being exiled from Canaan and cut off from the public means of grace. No longer could he worship in the tabernacle, but forced out into the deserts and mountains, he would soon be obliged to leave the Holy Land. By their actions, his enemies were saying in effect, “Go, serve other gods”: driving him into a foreign country, where he would be surrounded by temptations. It is blessed to see that it was the having to live among idolaters, and not merely among strangers, which worried him the more.

Ah, nought but the sufficiency of divine grace working in David’s heart could, under such circumstances, have kept him from becoming utterly disgusted with the religion which Saul, Abner, and his fellows professed. But for that, David had said, “If these be ‘Israelites,’ then let me become and die a Philistine!” Yes, and probably more than one or two readers of this chapter have, like the writer, passed through a similar situation. We expect unkind, unjust, treacherous, merciless, treatment at the hands of the world; but when they came from those whom we have regarded as true brethren and sisters in Christ, we were shaken to the very foundation, and but for the mighty power of the Spirit working within, would have said, “If that is Christianity, I will have no more to do with it!” But, blessed be His name, God’s grace is sufficient.

“Now therefore let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains” (v. 20). In these words David completed his address to Saul. First, he gave solemn warning that if he shed his blood, it would fall before the face of the Lord, and He would not hold him guiltless. Second, he argued that it was far beneath the dignity of the monarch of Israel to be chasing the son of Jesse, whom he here likens unto “a flea”—an insignificant and worthless thing. Third, he appeals again to the king’s conscience by resembling his case to men hunting a “partridge”—an innocent and harmless bird, which when attacked by men offers no resistance, but flies away; such had been David’s attitude. Now we are to see what effect all this had upon the king.

“Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day; behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly” (v. 21). This is more than the wretched king had acknowledged on a former occasion, and yet it is greatly to be feared that he had no true sense of his wickedness or genuine repentance for it. Rather was it very similar to the remorseful cry of Judas, when he said, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matthew 27: 4). These words of Saul’s were the bitter lament of one who, too late, realized he had made shipwreck of his life. He owned that he had sinned—broken God’s law—by so relentlessly persecuting David. He besought his son to return, assuring him that he would do him no more injury; but he must have realized that his promises could not be relied upon. He intimated that David’s magnanimity had thoroughly melted his heart, which shows that even the worst characters are capable of recognizing the good deeds of God’s people.

“Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.” O what a fool he had been: in opposing the man after God’s own heart, in alienating his own son, in so sorely troubling Israel, and in bringing madness and sorrow upon himself! And how exceedingly had he “erred”: by driving away from his court the one who would have been his best friend, by refusing to learn his lesson on the former occasion (1 Sam. 24), by vainly attempting to fight against the Most High! Unbelieving reader, suffer us to point out that these words, “I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly,” are the wail of the lost in Hell. Now it is too late they realize what fools they were in despising the day of their opportunity, in neglecting their souls’ eternal interests, in living and dying in sin. They realize they “erred exceedingly” in ignoring the claims of God, desecrating His holy Sabbaths, shunning His Word, and despising His Son. Will this yet be your cry?

“And David answered and said, Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it” (v. 22). This at once shows the estimate which David placed on the words of the king: he did not dare to trust him and return the spear in person, still less accompany him home. Good impressions quickly pass from such characters. No good words or fair professions entitle those to our confidence who have long sinned against the light. Such people resemble those spoken of in James 1:23, 24, who hear the word and do it not, and are like unto a man “beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” Thus it was with Saul; he now said that he had sinned, played the fool and erred exceedingly, yet this deterred him not from seeking unto the witch of Endor!

“The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the Lord delivered thee into my hand today, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed” (v. 23). This was very solemn, David now appealed to God to be the Judge of the controversy between himself and Saul, as One who was inflexibly just to render unto every man according to his works. David’s conscience is quite clear in the matter, so he need not hesitate to ask the righteous One to decide the issue: good for us is it when we too are able to do likewise. In its final analysis, this verse was really a prayer: David asked for divine protection on the ground of the mercy which he had shown to Saul.

“And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation” (v. 24). It is to be noted that David made no direct reply to what Saul had said, but his language shows plainly that he placed no reliance on the king’s promises. He does not say, “As thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in thine eyes,” but rather, “in the eyes of the Lord.” His confidence was in God alone, and though further trials awaited him, he counted upon His power and goodness to bring him safely through them.

“Then Saul said to David, Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail” (v. 25). Such were the final words of Saul unto David: patient faith had so far prevailed as to extort a blessing even from its adversary. Saul owned there was a glorious future before David, for he who humbleth himself shall be exalted. There was a clear conviction in the king’s mind that David was favored by God, yet that conviction in nowise checked him in his own downward course: convictions which lead to no amendment only increase condemnation. “So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place” (v. 25). Thus they parted, to meet no more in this world. Saul went forward to his awful doom; David waited God’s time to ascend the throne.

Chapter Twenty-Two-His Unbelief
1 Samuel 27

After Saul’s departure (1 Sam. 26:25), David took stock of his situation, but unfortunately he left God out of his calculations. During tedious and trying delays, and especially when outward things seem to be all going against us, there is grave danger of giving way to unbelief. Then it is we are very apt to forget former mercies, and fear the worst. And when faith staggers, obedience wavers, and self-expedients are frequently employed, which later, involve us in great difficulties. So it was now with the one whose varied life we are seeking to trace. As David considered the situation he was still in, remembered the inconstancy and treachery of Saul, things appeared very gloomy to him. Knowing full well the king’s jealousy, and perhaps reasoning that he would now regard him with a still more evil eye, since God so favored him, David feared the worst.

“The moment in which faith attains any triumph, is often one of peculiar danger. Self-confidence may be engendered by success, and pride may spring out of honour that humility has won; or else, if faithfulness, after having achieved its victory, still finds itself left in the midst of danger and sorrow, the hour of triumph may be succeeded by one of undue depression and sorrowful disappointment. And thus it was with David. He had obtained this great moral victory; but his circumstances were still unchanged. Saul yet continued to be king of Israel: himself remained a persecuted outcast. As the period, when he had before spared the life of Saul, had been followed by days of lengthened sorrow, so he probably anticipated an indefinite prolongation of similar sufferings, and his heart quailed at the prospect” (B. W. Newton).

Solemn is it to mark the contrast between what is found at the close of 1 Samuel 26 and that which is recorded in the opening verses of the next chapter. To question the faithfulness and goodness of God is fearful wickedness, though there are some who regard it as a very trivial offense; in fact, there are those who well-nigh exalt the doubts and fears of Christians into fruits and graces, and evidences of great advancement in spiritual experience. It is sad indeed to find a certain class of men petting and pampering people in unbelief and distrust of God, and being in this matter unfaithful both to their Master and to the souls of His saints. Not that we are an advocate for smiting the feeble of the flock, but their sins we must denounce. Any teaching which causes Christians to pity themselves for their failings and falls, is evil, and to deny that doubting the loving kindness of God is a very heinous offense, is highly reprehensible.

“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 27:1). “And yet the hour of Saul’s fall and of his own deliverance was close at hand. The Lord was about to interfere, and to extricate His faithful servant from his long and sore afflictions. Almost the very last hour of his trial under Saul had come, yet at that last moment he failed: so hard is it for ‘patience to have her perfect work.’ David had just said, ‘Let the Lord deliver me out of all tribulation.’ It was a strong, and no doubt a sincere expression of confidence in God; but the feeling of the heart, as well as the expression of the lips, may often exceed the reality of our spiritual strength, and therefore, not unfrequently, when strong expressions have been used, they who have used them are tested by some peculiar trial; that so, if there be weakness, it may be detected, and no flesh glory in the presence of God” (B. W. Newton).

“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.” Such a conclusion was positively erroneous. There was no evidence in proof thereof: he had been placed in perilous positions before, but God had never deserted him. His trials had been many and varied, but God had always made for him “a way to escape” (1 Cor. 10:13). It was therefore contrary to the evidence. Once he had said, “thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them” (1 Sam. 17:36). Why not reason like that now? and say “Thy servant slew Goliath, was delivered from the javelin of a madman, escaped the evil devices of Doeg, and so he shall continue to escape out of the hand of Saul!” Moreover, David’s rash conclusion was contrary to promise: Samuel had poured upon his head the anointing oil as God’s earnest that he should be king—how then could he be slain by Saul?

How is David’s unbelief to be accounted for? “First, because he was a man. The best of men are men at the best, and man at his best is such a creature that well might David himself say, ‘Lord, what is man?’ . . . If faith never gave place to unbelief, we might be tempted to lift up the believer into a demigod, and think him something more than mortal. That we might see that a man full of faith is still a man, that we might glory in infirmities, since by them the power of God is the more clearly proved, therefore God was pleased to let the feebleness of man grievously show itself. Ah, it was not David who achieved those former victories, but God’s grace in David; and now, when that is removed for a moment, see what Israel’s champion becomes!

“Second, David had been exposed to a very long trial; not for one week, but for month after month, he had been hunted like a partridge, upon the mountains. Now a man could bear one trial, but a perpetuity of tribulations is very hard to bear. Such was David’s trial: always safe, but always harassed; always secure through God, but always hunted about by his foe. No place could give him any ease. If he went unto Keilah, then the citizens would deliver him up; if he went into the woods of Ziph, then the Ziphites betrayed him; if he went even to the priest of God, there was that dog of a Doeg to go to Saul, and accuse the priest; even in Engedi or in Adullam he was not secure; secure, I grant you, in God, but always persecuted by his foe. Now, this was enough to make the wise man mad, and to make the faithful man doubt. Do not judge too harshly of David; at least judge just as hardly of yourselves.

“Third, David had passed through some strong excitements of mind. Just a day or so before he had gone forth with Abishai in the moonlight to the field where Saul and his hosts lay sleeping. They passed the outer circle where the common soldiers lay, and quietly and stealthily the two heroes passed without awakening any. They came at last to the spot where the captains of the hundreds slept, and they trod over their slumbering bodies without arousing them. They reached the spot where Saul lay, and David had to hold back Abishai’s hand from slaying him; so he escaped from this temptation, as he had aforetime. Now, brethren, a man may do these great things helped by God, but do you know it is a sort of natural law with us, that after a strong excitement there is a reaction! It was thus with Elijah after his victory over the prophets of Baal: later, he ran from Jezebel, and cried ‘Let me die.’

“But there was another reason, for we are not to exculpate David. He sinned, and that not merely through infirmity, but through evil of heart. It seems to us that David had restrained prayer. In every other action of David you find some hint that he asked counsel of the Lord . . . But this time what did he talk with? Why, with the most deceitful thing that he could have found—with his own heart . . . Having restrained prayer, he did the fool’s act: he forgot his God, he looked only at his enemy, and it was no wonder that when he saw the strength of the cruel monarch, and the pertinacity of his persecution, he said ‘I shall one day fall before him.’ Brothers and sisters, would you wish to hatch the egg of unbelief till it turns into a scorpion? Restrain prayer! Would you see evils magnified and mercies diminish? Would you find your tribulations increased sevenfold and your faith diminished in proportion? Restrain prayer!” (Condensed from C. H. Spurgeon).

“I shall now perish one day.” Ah, has not this been the cry of many a Satan-harassed saint! He looks within and sees what God has done for him: that he has desires and aspirations which he never had before conversion, so that the things he once hated he now loves. He realizes there has been a radical change, such as mere nature could not possibly affect, and his spirit rejoices in the hope set before him. But he also sees so very much corruption within him, and finds so much weakness that aids and abets that corruption; he sees temptations and sore trials awaiting him, and cold despondency falls upon his heart, and doubts and questions vex his mind. He is tripped up and has a bad fall, and then Satan roars in his ear, “Now God has forsaken thee,” and he is almost ready to sink into despair.

“And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch king of Gath” (v. 2). Under the pressure of trials, relief is what the flesh most desires, and unless the mind be stayed upon God, there is grave danger of seeking to take things into our own hands. Such was the case with David: having leaned unto his own understanding, being occupied entirely with the things of sight and sense, he now sought relief in his own way, and followed a course which was the very opposite to that which the Lord had enjoined him (1 Sam. 22:5). There God had told him to depart from the land of Moab and go into the land of Judah, and there He had marvelously preserved him. How this shows us what poor weak creatures the best of us are, and how low our graces sink when the Spirit does not renew them!

In what is here before us (v. 2), we are shown the ill effects of David’s unbelief. “First, it made him do a foolish thing; the same foolish thing which he had rued once before. Now we say a burnt child always dreads the flame; but David had been burnt, and yet, in his unbelief, he puts his hand into the same fire again. He went once to Achish, king of Gath, and the Philistines identified him, and being greatly afraid, David feigned himself mad in their hands, and they drove him away. Now he goes to the same Achish again! Yes, and mark it, my brethren, although you and I know the bitterness of sin, yet if we are left to our own unbelief, we shall fall into the same sin again. I know we have said, ‘No; never, never; I know so much by experience what an awful thing this is.’ Your experience is not worth a rush to you apart from the continual restraints of grace. If your faith fail, everything else goes down with it; and you hoary-headed professor, will be as a big fool as a very boy, if God lets you alone.

“Second, he went over to the Lord’s enemies. Would you have believed it: he that killed Goliath, sought a refuge in Goliath’s land; he who smote the Philistines trusts in the Philistines; nay, more, he who was Israel’s champion, becomes the chamberlain to Achish, for Achish said, ‘Therefore will I make thee keeper of my head forever,’ and David became thus the captain of the body-guard of the king of Philistia, and helped preserve the life of one who was the enemy of God’s Israel. Ah, if we doubt God, we shall soon be numbered among God’s foes.

Inconsistency will win us over into the ranks of His enemies, and they will be saying, ‘What do these Hebrews here?’ ‘The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him’—the two sentences are put together as if the failure of our faith would surely lead to a turning back to sin.

“Third, he was on the verge of still worse sin—of overt acts of warfare against the Lord’s people. David’s having become the friend of Achish, when Achish went to battle against Israel, he said to him, ‘Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go with me to battle, thou and thy men’; and David professed his willingness to go. We believe it was only a feigned willingness; but then, you see, we convict him again of falsehood. It is true that God interposed and prevented him fighting against Israel, but this was no credit to David, for you know, brethren, we are guilty of a sin, even if we do not commit it, if we are willing to commit it. The last effect of David’s sin was this: it brought him into great trial” (C. H. Spurgeon).

O my readers, what a solemn warning is all of this for our hearts! How it shows us the wickedness of unbelief and the fearful fruits which that evil root produces. It is true that David had no reason to trust Saul, but he had every reason to continue trusting God. But alas, unbelief is the sin of all others which doth so easily beset us. It is inherent in our very nature, and it is more impossible to root it out by any exertions of ours, than it is to change the features of our countenances. What need is there for us to cry daily, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Let me see in David myself, my very nothingness. O to fully realize that in our best moments, we can never trust ourselves too little, nor God too much.

“And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath” (v. 2). Here we see David not only forsaking the path of duty, but joining interests with the enemies of God: this we must never do; no, not even for self-preservation, or out of care for our family. As another has said, “It is in one sense, a very easy matter to get out of the place of trial; but then we get out of the place of blessing also.” Such is generally, if not always the case, with the children of God. No matter how sore the trial, how pressing our circumstances, or how acute our need, to “rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7), is not only the course which most honors Him, but which, in the long run, spares us much great confusion and trouble which results when we seek to extricate ourselves.

“And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household” (v. 3). David’s circumstances upon entering into Gath this time were decidedly different from what they had been on a previous occasion (1 Sam. 21:10-15): then he entered secretly, now openly; then as a person unknown, now as the recognized enemy of Israel’s king; then alone, now with six hundred men; then he was driven hence, now he probably had been invited thither. Apparently he met with a kindly reception—probably because the king of Gath now hoped to use him in his own service: either that he could employ David against Israel, or secure an advantageous alliance with him, if ever he came to the throne. Thus the plan of David appeared to meet with success: at least he found a quiet dwelling-place. Providence seemed to be smiling upon him, and none but an anointed eye could have discerned otherwise.

“And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives: Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife” (v. 3). Ah, has not the Holy Spirit supplied the key (in the second half of this verse) which explains to us David’s sad lapse? It was his “two wives” which had displeased the Lord! We entitled the last chapter but one David’s “chastening” and sought to point out the connection between what is found at the end of 1 Samuel 25 and that which is recorded in 1 Samuel 26, namely, the renewed attack of Saul upon him. That divine “chastening” was now continued, and may be discerned by the spiritual eye in a variety of details.

In this chapter we have sought to show the awfulness of unbelief, and the evil character of the fruits that issue from it; and how that the graces of the strongest Christian soon became feeble unless they are renewed by the Spirit. But let it be now pointed out that God does not act capriciously in this: if our graces be not renewed, the fault lies in ourselves. It is by working backward from effect to cause, that we may here learn the most important lesson of all. (1) David sinned grievously in seeking refuge among the enemies of the Lord. (2) He went to them without having sought divine guidance. (3) He leaned unto his own understanding, and reasoned that it was best for him to go to Gath. (4) He acted thus because he had given way to unbelief. (5) He gave way to unbelief because his faith was not divinely renewed and prayer in him had been choked. (6) His faith was not renewed because the Holy Spirit was grieved over his sin! Re-read these six points in their inverse order.

After Saul’s departure (1 Sam. 26:25), David took stock of his situation, but unfortunately he left God out of his calculations. During tedious and trying delays, and especially when outward things seem to be all going against us, there is grave danger of giving way to unbelief. Then it is we are very apt to forget former mercies, and fear the worst. And when faith staggers, obedience wavers, and self-expedients are frequently employed, which later, involve us in great difficulties. So it was now with the one whose varied life we are seeking to trace. As David considered the situation he was still in, remembered the inconstancy and treachery of Saul, things appeared very gloomy to him. Knowing full well the king’s jealousy, and perhaps reasoning that he would now regard him with a still more evil eye, since God so favored him, David feared the worst.

“The moment in which faith attains any triumph, is often one of peculiar danger. Self-confidence may be engendered by success, and pride may spring out of honour that humility has won; or else, if faithfulness, after having achieved its victory, still finds itself left in the midst of danger and sorrow, the hour of triumph may be succeeded by one of undue depression and sorrowful disappointment. And thus it was with David. He had obtained this great moral victory; but his circumstances were still unchanged. Saul yet continued to be king of Israel: himself remained a persecuted outcast. As the period, when he had before spared the life of Saul, had been followed by days of lengthened sorrow, so he probably anticipated an indefinite prolongation of similar sufferings, and his heart quailed at the prospect” (B. W. Newton).

Solemn is it to mark the contrast between what is found at the close of 1 Samuel 26 and that which is recorded in the opening verses of the next chapter. To question the faithfulness and goodness of God is fearful wickedness, though there are some who regard it as a very trivial offense; in fact, there are those who well-nigh exalt the doubts and fears of Christians into fruits and graces, and evidences of great advancement in spiritual experience. It is sad indeed to find a certain class of men petting and pampering people in unbelief and distrust of God, and being in this matter unfaithful both to their Master and to the souls of His saints. Not that we are an advocate for smiting the feeble of the flock, but their sins we must denounce. Any teaching which causes Christians to pity themselves for their failings and falls, is evil, and to deny that doubting the loving kindness of God is a very heinous offense, is highly reprehensible.

“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 27:1). “And yet the hour of Saul’s fall and of his own deliverance was close at hand. The Lord was about to interfere, and to extricate His faithful servant from his long and sore afflictions. Almost the very last hour of his trial under Saul had come, yet at that last moment he failed: so hard is it for ‘patience to have her perfect work.’ David had just said, ‘Let the Lord deliver me out of all tribulation.’ It was a strong, and no doubt a sincere expression of confidence in God; but the feeling of the heart, as well as the expression of the lips, may often exceed the reality of our spiritual strength, and therefore, not unfrequently, when strong expressions have been used, they who have used them are tested by some peculiar trial; that so, if there be weakness, it may be detected, and no flesh glory in the presence of God” (B. W. Newton).

“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.” Such a conclusion was positively erroneous. There was no evidence in proof thereof: he had been placed in perilous positions before, but God had never deserted him. His trials had been many and varied, but God had always made for him “a way to escape” (1 Cor. 10:13). It was therefore contrary to the evidence. Once he had said, “thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them” (1 Sam. 17:36). Why not reason like that now? and say “Thy servant slew Goliath, was delivered from the javelin of a madman, escaped the evil devices of Doeg, and so he shall continue to escape out of the hand of Saul!” Moreover, David’s rash conclusion was contrary to promise: Samuel had poured upon his head the anointing oil as God’s earnest that he should be king—how then could he be slain by Saul?

How is David’s unbelief to be accounted for? “First, because he was a man. The best of men are men at the best, and man at his best is such a creature that well might David himself say, ‘Lord, what is man?’ . . . If faith never gave place to unbelief, we might be tempted to lift up the believer into a demigod, and think him something more than mortal. That we might see that a man full of faith is still a man, that we might glory in infirmities, since by them the power of God is the more clearly proved, therefore God was pleased to let the feebleness of man grievously show itself. Ah, it was not David who achieved those former victories, but God’s grace in David; and now, when that is removed for a moment, see what Israel’s champion becomes!

“Second, David had been exposed to a very long trial; not for one week, but for month after month, he had been hunted like a partridge, upon the mountains. Now a man could bear one trial, but a perpetuity of tribulations is very hard to bear. Such was David’s trial: always safe, but always harassed; always secure through God, but always hunted about by his foe. No place could give him any ease. If he went unto Keilah, then the citizens would deliver him up; if he went into the woods of Ziph, then the Ziphites betrayed him; if he went even to the priest of God, there was that dog of a Doeg to go to Saul, and accuse the priest; even in Engedi or in Adullam he was not secure; secure, I grant you, in God, but always persecuted by his foe. Now, this was enough to make the wise man mad, and to make the faithful man doubt. Do not judge too harshly of David; at least judge just as hardly of yourselves.

“Third, David had passed through some strong excitements of mind. Just a day or so before he had gone forth with Abishai in the moonlight to the field where Saul and his hosts lay sleeping. They passed the outer circle where the common soldiers lay, and quietly and stealthily the two heroes passed without awakening any. They came at last to the spot where the captains of the hundreds slept, and they trod over their slumbering bodies without arousing them. They reached the spot where Saul lay, and David had to hold back Abishai’s hand from slaying him; so he escaped from this temptation, as he had aforetime. Now, brethren, a man may do these great things helped by God, but do you know it is a sort of natural law with us, that after a strong excitement there is a reaction! It was thus with Elijah after his victory over the prophets of Baal: later, he ran from Jezebel, and cried ‘Let me die.’

“But there was another reason, for we are not to exculpate David. He sinned, and that not merely through infirmity, but through evil of heart. It seems to us that David had restrained prayer. In every other action of David you find some hint that he asked counsel of the Lord . . . But this time what did he talk with? Why, with the most deceitful thing that he could have found—with his own heart . . . Having restrained prayer, he did the fool’s act: he forgot his God, he looked only at his enemy, and it was no wonder that when he saw the strength of the cruel monarch, and the pertinacity of his persecution, he said ‘I shall one day fall before him.’ Brothers and sisters, would you wish to hatch the egg of unbelief till it turns into a scorpion? Restrain prayer! Would you see evils magnified and mercies diminish? Would you find your tribulations increased sevenfold and your faith diminished in proportion? Restrain prayer!” (Condensed from C. H. Spurgeon).

“I shall now perish one day.” Ah, has not this been the cry of many a Satan-harassed saint! He looks within and sees what God has done for him: that he has desires and aspirations which he never had before conversion, so that the things he once hated he now loves. He realizes there has been a radical change, such as mere nature could not possibly affect, and his spirit rejoices in the hope set before him. But he also sees so very much corruption within him, and finds so much weakness that aids and abets that corruption; he sees temptations and sore trials awaiting him, and cold despondency falls upon his heart, and doubts and questions vex his mind. He is tripped up and has a bad fall, and then Satan roars in his ear, “Now God has forsaken thee,” and he is almost ready to sink into despair.

“And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch king of Gath” (v. 2). Under the pressure of trials, relief is what the flesh most desires, and unless the mind be stayed upon God, there is grave danger of seeking to take things into our own hands. Such was the case with David: having leaned unto his own understanding, being occupied entirely with the things of sight and sense, he now sought relief in his own way, and followed a course which was the very opposite to that which the Lord had enjoined him (1 Sam. 22:5). There God had told him to depart from the land of Moab and go into the land of Judah, and there He had marvelously preserved him. How this shows us what poor weak creatures the best of us are, and how low our graces sink when the Spirit does not renew them!

In what is here before us (v. 2), we are shown the ill effects of David’s unbelief. “First, it made him do a foolish thing; the same foolish thing which he had rued once before. Now we say a burnt child always dreads the flame; but David had been burnt, and yet, in his unbelief, he puts his hand into the same fire again. He went once to Achish, king of Gath, and the Philistines identified him, and being greatly afraid, David feigned himself mad in their hands, and they drove him away. Now he goes to the same Achish again! Yes, and mark it, my brethren, although you and I know the bitterness of sin, yet if we are left to our own unbelief, we shall fall into the same sin again. I know we have said, ‘No; never, never; I know so much by experience what an awful thing this is.’ Your experience is not worth a rush to you apart from the continual restraints of grace. If your faith fail, everything else goes down with it; and you hoary-headed professor, will be as a big fool as a very boy, if God lets you alone.

“Second, he went over to the Lord’s enemies. Would you have believed it: he that killed Goliath, sought a refuge in Goliath’s land; he who smote the Philistines trusts in the Philistines; nay, more, he who was Israel’s champion, becomes the chamberlain to Achish, for Achish said, ‘Therefore will I make thee keeper of my head forever,’ and David became thus the captain of the body-guard of the king of Philistia, and helped preserve the life of one who was the enemy of God’s Israel. Ah, if we doubt God, we shall soon be numbered among God’s foes. Inconsistency will win us over into the ranks of His enemies, and they will be saying, ‘What do these Hebrews here?’ ‘The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him’—the two sentences are put together as if the failure of our faith would surely lead to a turning back to sin.

“Third, he was on the verge of still worse sin—of overt acts of warfare against the Lord’s people. David’s having become the friend of Achish, when Achish went to battle against Israel, he said to him, ‘Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go with me to battle, thou and thy men’; and David professed his willingness to go. We believe it was only a feigned willingness; but then, you see, we convict him again of falsehood. It is true that God interposed and prevented him fighting against Israel, but this was no credit to David, for you know, brethren, we are guilty of a sin, even if we do not commit it, if we are willing to commit it. The last effect of David’s sin was this: it brought him into great trial” (C. H. Spurgeon).

O my readers, what a solemn warning is all of this for our hearts! How it shows us the wickedness of unbelief and the fearful fruits which that evil root produces. It is true that David had no reason to trust Saul, but he had every reason to continue trusting God. But alas, unbelief is the sin of all others which doth so easily beset us. It is inherent in our very nature, and it is more impossible to root it out by any exertions of ours, than it is to change the features of our countenances. What need is there for us to cry daily, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Let me see in David myself, my very nothingness. O to fully realize that in our best moments, we can never trust ourselves too little, nor God too much.

“And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath” (v. 2). Here we see David not only forsaking the path of duty, but joining interests with the enemies of God: this we must never do; no, not even for self-preservation, or out of care for our family. As another has said, “It is in one sense, a very easy matter to get out of the place of trial; but then we get out of the place of blessing also.” Such is generally, if not always the case, with the children of God. No matter how sore the trial, how pressing our circumstances, or how acute our need, to “rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7), is not only the course which most honors Him, but which, in the long run, spares us much great confusion and trouble which results when we seek to extricate ourselves.

“And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household” (v. 3). David’s circumstances upon entering into Gath this time were decidedly different from what they had been on a previous occasion (1 Sam. 21:10-15): then he entered secretly, now openly; then as a person unknown, now as the recognized enemy of Israel’s king; then alone, now with six hundred men; then he was driven hence, now he probably had been invited thither. Apparently he met with a kindly reception—probably because the king of Gath now hoped to use him in his own service: either that he could employ David against Israel, or secure an advantageous alliance with him, if ever he came to the throne. Thus the plan of David appeared to meet with success: at least he found a quiet dwelling-place. Providence seemed to be smiling upon him, and none but an anointed eye could have discerned otherwise.

“And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives: Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife” (v. 3). Ah, has not the Holy Spirit supplied the key (in the second half of this verse) which explains to us David’s sad lapse? It was his “two wives” which had displeased the Lord! We entitled the last chapter but one David’s “chastening” and sought to point out the connection between what is found at the end of 1 Samuel 25 and that which is recorded in 1 Samuel 26, namely, the renewed attack of Saul upon him. That divine “chastening” was now continued, and may be discerned by the spiritual eye in a variety of details.

In this chapter we have sought to show the awfulness of unbelief, and the evil character of the fruits that issue from it; and how that the graces of the strongest Christian soon became feeble unless they are renewed by the Spirit. But let it be now pointed out that God does not act capriciously in this: if our graces be not renewed, the fault lies in ourselves. It is by working backward from effect to cause, that we may here learn the most important lesson of all. (1) David sinned grievously in seeking refuge among the enemies of the Lord. (2) He went to them without having sought divine guidance. (3) He leaned unto his own understanding, and reasoned that it was best for him to go to Gath. (4) He acted thus because he had given way to unbelief. (5) He gave way to unbelief because his faith was not divinely renewed and prayer in him had been choked. (6) His faith was not renewed because the Holy Spirit was grieved over his sin! Re-read these six points in their inverse order.

Chapter Twenty-Three-His Stay At Ziklag
1 Samuel 27

One of the chief differences between the Holy Spirit’s description of Biblical characters and the delineations in human biographies is, that the former has faithfully presented their failures and falls, showing us that they were indeed men of “like passions with us”; whereas the latter (with very rare exceptions) record little else than the fair and favorable side of their subjects, leaving the impression they were more angelic than human. Biographies need to be read sparingly, especially modern ones, and then with due caution (remembering that there is much “between the lines” not related), lest a false estimate of the life of a Christian be formed, and the honest reader be driven to despair. But God has painted the features of Biblical characters in the colors of reality and truth, and thus we find that “as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Prov. 27:19).

The practical importance (and it is that which should ever be our first and chief quest as we read and ponder the Scriptures) of what has just been pointed out should preserve both preacher and hearer from a one-sided idea of Christian experience. A saint on earth is not a sinless being; nor, on the other hand, does sin have complete dominion over him. In consequence of both the “flesh” and the “spirit” still indwelling him, in “many things” he offends (James 3:2), and in many things he pleases God. The “old man” is not only still alive (though the Christian is to “reckon” it as being judicially dead before God: Rom. 6:11), but is constantly active; and though divine grace restrain it from breaking forth into much outward evil, yet it defiles all our inner being, and pollutes our best endeavors both Godward and manward (Rom. 7:14-25). Nevertheless, the “new man” is also active, producing that which is glorifying to God.

It is because of this dual experience of the Christian that we are ever in danger of concentrating too much on the one aspect, to the ignoring of the other. Those with a pessimistic turn of mind, need to watch against dwelling too much on the gloomy side of the Christian life, and spending too much time in Job and the Lamentations, to the neglect of the later Psalms and the epistle to the Philippians. In the past, a certain class of writers occupied themselves almost exclusively with the contemplation of human depravity and its fearful workings in the saint, conveying the idea that a constant mourning over indwelling sin and groaning over its activities was the only mark of high spiritual experience. Such people are only happy when they are miserable. We counsel those who have been strongly influenced by such teaching, to turn frequently to John’s Gospel, chapters 14 to 17, and turn each verse into prayer and praise.

On the other side, those with a buoyant temperament and optimistic turn of mind need to watch against the tendency to appropriate and meditate upon the promises to the almost total ignoring of the precepts of Scripture; to strive against lightness and superficiality, and to be careful they do not mistake exuberance of natural spirits for the steadier and deeper flow of spiritual joy. To be all the time dwelling upon the Christian’s standing, his privileges and blessings, to the neglect of his state, obligations and failures, will beget pride and self-righteousness. Such people need to prayerfully ponder Romans 7, the first half of Hebrews 12, and much in 1 Peter. Sinful self and all its wretched failures should be sufficiently noticed so as to keep us in the dust before God. Christ and His great salvation should be contemplated so as to lift us above self and fill the soul with thanksgiving.

The above meditations have been suggested by that portion of David’s life which is now to engage our attention. The more it be carefully pondered, the more should we be delivered from entertaining an erroneous conception of the experience and history of a saint. Not that we are to seize upon these sad blemishes in David to excuse our own faults—no indeed, that would be wickedness of the worst kind; but we are to be humbled by the realization that the same evil nature indwells us, and produces works in you and me equally vile. Those who are surprised that the Psalmist should act as he here did, must be woefully ignorant of the “plague” of their own hearts, and blind unto sins in their own lives which are just as abominable in the sight of the Holy One as were those of David’s.

In our last chapter we saw that unbelief and fear so gained the upper hand over David, that he exclaimed, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 27:1). And yet, probably only a short while before, this same David had declared, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident” (Ps. 27:3). Yes, and has not the reader, when in close communion with the Lord, and when the sails of faith were fully spread and filled with the breeze of the Spirit, said or felt the same? And, alas that it should be so, has not this confidence waned, and then disappeared before some fresh trial! How these sad lapses should show us ourselves, and produce real humility and self-abasement. How often expressions from our own lips in the past condemn us in the present!

Then we pointed out that, “under the pressure of trial, relief is what the flesh most desires.” Perhaps the reader may ask, “but is not that natural?” Yes indeed, but is it spiritual? Our first desire in trial, as in everything else, should be that God may be honored, and for this, we should earnestly seek grace to so conduct ourselves that we may “glorify the Lord in the fires” (Isa. 24:15). Our next concern should be that our soul may profit from the painful experience, and for this we should beg the Lord to graciously sanctify it unto our lasting good. But alas, when unbelief dominates us, God is forgotten, and deliverance, our own case, obsess the mind; and hence it is that—unless divine grace interpose—we seek relief in the wrong quarter and by unspiritual means. Thus it was here with David: he and his men passed over unto Achish, the king of Gath.

“And David dwelt with Achish, he and his men, every man with his household” (v. 3). From these words it seems that Achish, the Philistine, made no demur against David and his men entering his territory; rather does it look as though he met with a friendly and kindly reception. Thus, from present appearances—the obtaining, at last, a quiet dwelling-place—it seemed that the fleshly plan of David was meeting with real success, that Providence was smiling upon him. Yes, it is often this way at first when a Christian takes things into his own hands: to carnal reason the sequel shows he did the right thing. Ah, but later on, he discovers otherwise. One false step is followed by another, just as the telling of a lie is usually succeeded by other lies to cover it. So it was now with David: he went from bad to worse.

“And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him” (v. 4). This too would seem to confirm the thought that David had acted wisely, and that God was blessing his worldly scheme, for his family and people now rested safely from the approaches of their dreaded foe. But when everything is going smoothly with the Christian, and the enemy ceases to harass him, then is the time, generally speaking, when he needs to suspect that something is wrong with his testimony, and beg God to show him what it is. Nor was Saul’s cessation of hostility due to any improvement of character, but because he dared not to come where David now was. “Thus many seem to leave their sins, but really their sins leave them; they would persist in them if they could” (Matthew Henry).

“And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?” (v. 5). David knew from experience how jealous were kings and their favorites, so to prevent the envy of Achish’s courtiers he deemed it well not to remain too near and receive too many favors at his hands. Probably the idolatry and corruption which abounded in the royal city made David desirous of getting his family and people removed therefrom. But in the light of the sequel, it seems that the principle motive which prompted him to make this request was, that he might have a better opportunity to fall upon some of the enemies of Israel without the king of Gath being aware of it. The practical lesson for us is, that when we forsake the path of God’s appointment a spirit of restlessness and discontent is sure to possess us.

David presented his request to Achish very modestly: “give me a place in some town in the country that I may dwell there, where they could enjoy greater privacy and more freedom from the idolatry of the land. Six hundred men and their families would crowd the royal city, and might prove quite a burden; while there was always the danger of the subjects of Achish regarding David as a rival in state and dignity. But to what a low level had God’s anointed descended when he speaks of himself as the “servant” of Achish! How far from communion with the Lord was he, when one of the uncircumcised is to choose his dwelling-place for him! A child of God is “the Lord’s free man” (1 Cor. 7:22): yes, but to maintain this in a practical way, he must walk in faith and obedience to Him; otherwise he will be brought in bondage to the creature, as David was.

“Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day:” (v. 6). Originally this city had been given to the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:31), then to Simeon (John 19:5), though it seems that neither of them possessed it, but that it came into the hands of the Philistines. “Wherefore Ziklag pertained unto the kings of Judah unto this day.” Being given unto David, who shortly after became king, this section was annexed to the crown-lands, and ever after it was part of the portion of the kings of Judah: so that it was given to David not as a temporary possession, but, under God, as a permanent one for his descendants. Truly, the ways of the Lord are past finding out.

“And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months” (v. 7). “But rest reached by self-will or disobedience is anything rather than peace to the heart that fears God, and loves His service. David could not forget that Israel, whom he had forsaken, were God’s people; nor that the Philistines, whom he had joined, were God’s enemies. He could not but remember his own peculiar relation to God and to His people—for Samuel had anointed him, and even Saul had blessed him as the destined king of Israel. His conscience therefore, must have been ill at ease; and the stillness and rest of Ziklag would only cause him to be more sensible of its disquietude” (B. W. Newton).

“And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land” (v. 8). “When the consciences of God’s servants tells them that their position is wrong, one of their devices not unfrequently is, to give themselves, with fresh energy, to the attainment of some right end; as if rightly directed, or successful energy, could atone for committed evil, and satisfy the misgivings of a disquieted heart. Accordingly, David, still retaining the self-gained rest of Ziklag, resolved that it should not be the rest of inactivity, but that he would thence put forth fresh energies against the enemies of God and of His people. The Amalekites were nigh. The Amalekites were they of whom the Lord had sworn that He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation. David therefore went up against them, and triumphed” (B. W. Newton).

Those which David and his men invaded were some of the original tribes which inhabited Canaan, and were such as had escaped the sword of Saul, and had fled to more distant parts. His attack upon them was not an act of cruelty, for those people had long before been divinely sentenced to destruction. Yet though they were the enemies of the Lord and His people, David’s attack upon them was ill timed, and more likely than not the chief motive which prompted him was the obtaining of food and plunder for his forces. “Nothing could be more complete than his success: ‘He smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive; and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel.’ Ziklag was enriched with spoil, and that the spoil of the enemies of the Lord. What prosperity then could be greater—what apparently more immediately from God?” (B. W. Newton)

A solemn warning, which we do well to take to heart, is pointed for us in verses 8, 9, namely, not to measure the right or wrong of a course of conduct by the success which appears to attend it. This principle is now being flagrantly disregarded, the scripturalness or unscripturalness of an action concerns few professing Christians today: so long as it seems to produce good results, this is all that matters. Worldly devices are brought into the “church,” fleshly and high-pressure methods are adopted by “evangelists,” and so long as crowds are drawn, the young people “held,” and “converts” made, it is argued that the end justifies the means. If “souls are being saved,” the great majority are prepared to wink at almost anything today, supposing that the “blessing of God” (?) is a sure proof that nothing serious is wrong. So the children of Israel might have reasoned when the waters flowed from the rock which Moses disobediently smote in his anger. So David might have concluded when such success attended his attack upon the Amalekites! To judge by visible results is walking by sight; to measure everything by Holy Writ and reject all that is out of harmony therewith, is walking by faith.

“And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish” (v. 9). Mark well the closing words of this verse: one had thought that Achish was the last man whom David would wish to see at this time. It had been far more prudent had he returned quietly to Ziklag, but as we pointed out in a previous chapter, when a saint is out of communion with God, and controlled by unbelief, he no longer acts according to the dictates of common sense. A striking and solemn illustration of that fact is here before us. O that writer and reader may lay this well to heart: faith and wisdom are inseparably linked together. Nothing but folly can issue from an unbelieving heart, that is, from a heart which has not been won by divine grace.

“And Achish said, Whither have ye made a road today?” (v. 10). No doubt the king of Gath was surprised, as he had reason to be, when he saw David and his men so heavily laden with their booty, and therefore does he inquire where they had been. Sad indeed is it to hear the reply given: “And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites.” Though not a downright lie, yet it was an equivocation, made with the design of deceiving, and therefore cannot be defended, nor is to be imitated by us. David was not willing that Achish should know the truth. He did not now play the part of a madman, as he had on a former occasion, but fearful of losing his self-chosen place of protection, he dissembled unto the king. The Amalekites were fellow-Canaanites with the Philistines, and if not in league with them, Achish and his people would probably be apprehensive of danger by harboring such a powerful foe in their midst, and would want to expel them. To avoid this, David resorted to deception. O what need has writer and reader to pray daily, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Chapter Twenty-Four-His Sore Dilemma
1 Samuel 28

Following his local incursion upon and victory over the Amalekites, David, instead of quietly making for Ziklag, most imprudently “came to Achish” (1 Sam. 27:9). Seeing him so heavily laden with the spoils which had been taken, the king inquired where he had been. David feared to tell Achish that he had been destroying Israel’s enemies and the Philistines’ friends, and therefore returned a misleading answer. David had taken precaution to cover his tracks, for we are told that he “saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines” (27: 11). Forgetful of God and the many tokens he had already received of His protecting care, David dissembled. Achish was thoroughly deceived, for we read, “Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant forever” (27: 12).

Probably it was his persuading Jonathan to tell his father that he had gone about his business, telling Ahimelech an untruth, his prevarications before Achish, and some other instances, which caused David, when later he penitently reflected upon them, to pray “Remove from me the way of lying” (Ps. 119:29). This seems to have been David’s “besetting sin,” or the particular inclination of his corrupt nature. Now when we are foiled by any sin, we should take careful pains lest we settle into a “way” or course of sinning; for as a brand which has once been in the flame is now more susceptible to fire, so the committing of any sin renders us more liable to form a habit of that evil.

Humiliating as may be the acknowledgment of it, the fact remains that every one of us needs to cry fervently unto God “Remove from me the way of lying.” Because we are descended from parents who, at the beginning, preferred the devil’s lie to God’s truth, we are strongly inclined unto lying; yea, it is so much a part of our fallen nature that none but God can remove it from us. How many indulge in exaggeration, which is a form of lying. How many deceive by gestures and actions, which is another form of it. How many make promises (in their letters, for example, vowing they will soon write again) which they never fulfill. Worse still, how many lie unto God by false appearances: going through the form of prayer, feigning to be very pious outwardly, when their hearts and minds are upon the things of the world. Of old God said, “Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit” (Hosea 11:12): God sees through all vain shows, and will not be mocked.

The consequences of David’s lie soon became apparent. “And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men” (1 Sam. 28:1). Probably this was about the last thing he expected. Poor David! He was indeed in a tight place now, so tight that it seemed impossible for him to turn either way. On the one hand, to refuse the king’s request would not only be to run the danger of angering him, with what that would most likely entail, but would appear the height of ingratitude in return for the kindness and protection which had been given to him and his people. On the other hand, to accept Achish’s proposal meant being a traitor to Israel.

This sore dilemma in which David found himself, is recorded for our learning. It is a solemn warning of what we may expect if we forsake the path of God’s precepts. If we enter upon a wrong position, then, trying and unpleasant situations are sure to arise—situations which our consciences will sharply condemn, but from which we can see no way of escape. When we deviate from the path of duty, in the slightest degree, each circumstance that follows will tend to draw us farther aside. Once a rock starts downhill, it gains momentum with every bound that it takes. Then how watchful we need to be against the first false step; yea, how earnestly should we pray, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Ps. 119:117)! Satan rests not satisfied for the Christian to yield one “little” point, and knows full well our doing so greatly lessens our resistance to his next temptations.

For the sake of younger readers, let us enlarge a little more upon this point. To go anywhere we ought not, will bring us into temptations that it will be almost impossible to resist. To seek the society of non-Christians is to play with fire, and to accept favors from them will almost certainly result in our getting burned. To compromise one point, will be followed by letting down the bars at others. For a young lady to accept the attentions of an undesirable young man, makes it far harder to reject his later advances. Once you accept a favor—even if it be but a “joy-ride” in an auto—you place yourself under an obligation, and though you be asked to pay a high price in return, yet if you demur, “ingratitude” is what you are likely to be charged with. Then go slow, we beg you, in accepting favors from any, especially from those who are likely to take an unfair advantage of you.

David had done wrong in seeking protection from Saul in the land of the Philistines, and now the king of Gath required service from him in return. War being determined against Israel, Achish asks the assistance of David and his men. Yes, when the Christian turns unto the world for help, he must expect to be asked to pay the world’s price for the same. Needless intimacies with the avowed enemies of godliness, and the receiving of favors from them, quickly causes us to be unfaithful to God or ungrateful to our benefactors. To what a strait had the false position of David reduced him: if he promised to fight against Israel, and then broke his word, he would be guilty of treachery; if he fought against Israel, he would alienate the affections of his own people, and expose himself to the reproach of having slain Saul. It seemed impossible that he should extricate himself from this dilemma with a good conscience and clear reputation.

“And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do” (28:2). Probably David was quite undecided how to act, and cherished a secret hope that the Lord would help him out of his great difficulty; yet this by no means excused him for returning an insincere and evasive answer. “And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head forever.” The king of Gath understood his reply as a promise of effectual assistance, and so determined to make him the captain of his bodyguard. At the time David was too much swayed by the fear of man to refuse attendance upon flesh.

“Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city” (v. 3). This seems to be brought in for the purpose of intimating why the Philistines should make an attack upon Israel at this time: the knowledge of the prophet’s death had probably emboldened them. When death has removed ministers of God, or persecution has banished them (as it had David), a land is deprived of its best defense. “And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land” (v. 3). This is mentioned as an introduction to what follows unto the end of the chapter: it serves to emphasize the inconstancy of Saul: it illustrates the worthlessness of the temporary reformation of professors, who ultimately return to their wallowing in the mire.

“And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled” (vv. 4, 5), Had he been in communion with God, there would be no need for such a fear, but he had provoked the Holy One to forsake him. Saul’s excessive terror arose chiefly from a guilty conscience: his contempt of Samuel, his murdering the priests and their families, his malicious persecution of David. Probably he had a premonition that this attack of the Philistines foreboded his approaching doom.

“And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not” (v. 6). Unspeakably solemn is this: the case of one abandoned by God. It was under urgent terror, and not as a preparation for repentance, that Saul now sought unto the Lord. He did not “inquire” of Him till his doom was sealed, till it was too late, for God will not be mocked. O unbelieving reader, heed that call, “seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6); otherwise, God may yet say of thee, as of those of old, “These men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?” (Ezek. 14:3).

“And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not” (v. 6). Some see a contradiction between this statement and what is said in 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14, “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking of a familiar spirit, to enquire; and enquired not of the Lord.” The “literalists” of the day, those who are incapable of seeing beneath the bare letter of the Word, may well be tripped up by a comparison of the two passages; but he who is taught the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures perceives no difficulty. There is much that passes for “prayer” among men (when they are in great physical distress) which unto God is no more than the “howling” of beasts: see Hosea 7: 14. Saul “enquired” in a hypocritical manner, which the Lord would not regard at all. The ear of the Lord is open unto none save those of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

“Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor” (v. 7). Here we behold the fearful wickedness of one who was righteously abandoned by God. Fearful presumption was it for Saul to deliberately and definitely resort unto one who practiced diabolical arts. Only a little before, he had banished from the land those who had “familiar spirits” (v. 3), known today as “mediums.” It illustrates the fact that apostates frequently commit those very sins which they once were most earnest in opposing. We shall not follow Saul through the remainder of this chapter, but pass on to the twenty-ninth, where the Holy Spirit continues the narrative about the Philistines and David.

“Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek; and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands; but David and his men passed on in the rearward with Achish” (29: 1, 2). “If David had told the truth, Achish would never have dreamed of enrolling him amongst the hosts of the Philistines. It was his own contrivance that had brought him there. He, who so well knew how to discriminate between the Philistines and the armies of the living God; and who, on the ground of that distinction, had so often sought and obtained the assistance of the God of Israel, now found himself leagued with the enemies of God for the destruction of God’s people. He who had so distinctly refused to stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, was now enrolled with those very hosts who were about to shed the blood of Saul, and of Jonathan too, upon the mountains of Gilboa. Such were the terrible circumstances in which David suddenly found himself. He seems to have looked upon them as hopeless, nor do we read of his attempting any remedy.

“But David had not ceased to be the subject of care to the great Shepherd of Israel. He had wandered, and was to be brought back. The secret providence of God again interfered, and separated him from the camp of the Philistines” (B. W. Newton). Yes, man’s extremities are (so to speak) God’s opportunities, and from the dilemma out of which David could see no way of escape, He graciously extricated him; without his having to move a finger, a door was opened for his deliverance. The means which the Lord employed upon this occasion should cause us to bow in adoration before the High Sovereign over all, and deepen our trust in Him.

“Then said the princes of the Philistines, What do these Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?” (v. 3) God has various ways of delivering His people from their difficulties. While the ungodly pursue their own purposes and follow out their own plans, God secretly influences them to such determinations as subserve the good of His saints.

The esteem and affection of the wicked often becomes snares mediate court of Achish, but lords of other principalities, who were confederates with him. These now opposed the design of Achish to use David and his men in the forthcoming battle.

“And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him: and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?” (29:4, 5). “Though God might justly have left David in his difficulty, to chasten him for his folly, yet because his heart was upright with Him. He would not suffer him to be tempted above what he was able, but with the temptation made a way for his escape (1 Cor. 10:13). A door was opened for his deliverance out of this strait. God inclined the hearts of the Philistine princes to oppose his being employed in this battle, and to insist upon him being dishonoured; and thus their enmity befriended him, when no friend he had was capable of doing him such a kindness” (Matthew Henry).

The esteem and affection of the wicked often become snares to us; but reproaches, contempt, injurious suspicions, prove beneficial, and the ill-usage of the ungodly by which we are driven from them, is much better for us than their friendship which knits us to them. “When worldly people have no evil to say to us, but will bear testimony to our uprightness, we need no more from them; and this we should aim to acquire by prudence, meekness, and a blameless life. But their flattering commendations are almost always purchased by improper compliances, or some measure of deception, and commonly cover us with confusion. It is seldom prudent to place great confidence in one who has changed sides, except as the fear of God influences a real convert to conscientious fidelity” (Thomas Scott). It is striking to note the particular thing which God made use of to influence those Philistine lords against David: it was the song which the women of Israel had sung in David’s honor, and which now for the third time brought him into dishonor—so little are the flatteries of people worth! They stir up jealousy and hatred in others; yet in the hand of God it became the instrument of David’s deliverance.

Achish now summoned David into his presence and said, Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines” (v. 7). No doubt David secretly rejoiced at this deliverance from his sore dilemma, yet he was unwilling that the king of Gath should know it; he prevaricated again, making an appearance of concern for being so summarily dismissed. “And David said unto Achish, But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king” (v. 8). Sad it is to see the anointed of God dissembling and speaking in such a manner of His people. But Achish was not to be moved, and said, “Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master’s servants that are come with thee; and as soon as ye be up early in the morning and have light, depart” (v. 10). Marvelous deliverance was this from his ensnaring service, yet without the slightest credit to David: it was nought but the sovereign grace of God which freed him from the snare of the fowler.

LNW – Thomas Manton & Andrew Bonar Comparison

Thomas Manton & Andrew Bonar Comparison

BY

LateNightWatch

External links are for reader convenience only. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

As you compare Thomas Manton’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2, and Andrew Bonar’s commentary on Development of Antichrist, you will notice a vast difference between each view as to the Pope and the Roman Catholic church as they relate each to Apostasy, the Apostate church, and the Antichrist.

Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was writing shortly after the Reformation brought about by Martin Luther in the late 1500’s when the Pope and Roman Catholic church were greatly seen in an Antichrist light; whereas Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) wrote approximately 300 years after the Reformation period with a keen insight as to the role democracy was to play in the latter days (thanks to the recent (1776) formation of the United States of America – the only then current experiment in true democracy (iron and clay) at that time).

Thomas Manton provides a very good view of Popery and Papal practices and the current methodology of Roman Catholicism which seems to have changed little over the centuries; but also has a tendency to spiritualize key scriptures in order to meet his view of the Pope being the Antichrist – something that was blatant up through the 1700’s, Matthew Henry has this bias at times in his commentaries as well.

This is not to say that such commentators as Thomas Manton from that period in history are faulty in their overall theology.  Quite to the contrary, they are quite sound in their theology; it is their eschatology that errs as they try to force a point of view that the scriptures do not support as Andrew Bonar points out so well.

Using the tools of hermeneutics and systematic theology, Andrew Bonar takes a less “spiritualized” and more genuine “complete” prophetic analysis view of the scriptures to arrive at his assessment coupled with keen spiritual insights.

Andrew Bonar frequently mentions the necessity of paying attention to prophecy as a light shining in a dark place. We too need to keep this in mind as these last days unfold upon us. Truly, I believe that we are “that” generation which shall not pass away until “all these things” are accomplished. Remember that our Lord told us to watch and pray. Read the Word carefully and thoughtfully (meditating) and ask the Holy Spirit to help your understanding as you read.

A few key things both men seem to miss bringing into focus are, 1) the False Prophet (Revelation 13.11) who arises apparently after the rise of 2) the Antichrist (Revelation 13.1), and 3) the whore (Revelation 17.3, 4; 18.12, 16) on the scarlet beast.

Hermeneutics is required to better understand the differing viewpoints of Thomas Manton & Andrew Bonar, as well current events surrounding these last days and more specifically the ecumenical movement towards Apostasy as seen through the Roman Catholic church.

Hermeneutics as presented by Walter Martin will greatly assist your understanding the Scriptures in general.

Free downloads of Walter Martin’s Hermeneutics series are available at the following web site: http://www.blueletterbible.org/audio_video/comm_topic.cfm?AuthorID=35&commInfo=62&GroupID=0

Walter Martin was the original Bible AnswerMan of the 1970’s & 1980’s.  Walter Martin went to be with the Lord in 1989.  His Daughter has many of his tapes digitized and for sale at a modest price on a web site at http://users.datarealm.com/rini/cart/perlshop.cgi. You can listen on-line free at http://www.waltermartin.com/realaudio.html. You will need Realplayer installed to listen to on-line content. A link for Realplayer is provided on the web site.

Some additional commentaries from Dr. Walter Martin that might assist you are listed below. These can be purchased from the above web site:

Spiritual Warfare

Faulty Theology

The Tribulation and the Church

Cult of Liberalism

Cult of Liberal Theology

Inspiration of Scripture

Neutering the Bible

Catholicism – Justification by Faith, Purgatory

Catholicism – Mary, Penance

Catholicism – Peter the Rock, Church Tradition

AW Pink (1886-1952) – The Sovereignty of God (Chapter 9)

The Sovereignty of God

by

AW Pink (1886-1952)

Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

Chapter Nine

God’s Sovereignty and Prayer

If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14).

Throughout this book it has been our chief aim to exalt the Creator and abase the creature. The well-nigh universal tendency now, is to magnify man and dishonour and degrade God. On every hand it will be found that, when spiritual things are under discussion, the human side and element is pressed and stressed, and the Divine side, if not altogether ignored, is relegated to the background. This holds true of very much of the modern teaching about prayer. In the great majority of the books written and in the sermons preached upon prayer the human element fills the scene almost entirely: it is the conditions which we must meet, the promises we must “claim,” the things we must do in order to get our requests granted; and God’s claims, God’s rights, God’s glory are disregarded.

As a fair example of what is being given out today we subjoin a brief editorial which appeared recently in one of the leading religious weeklies entitled “Prayer, or Fate?”

“God in His Sovereignty has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man. This is at the heart of the truth that prayer changes things, meaning that God changes things when men pray. Someone has strikingly expressed it this way: ‘There are certain things that will happen in a man’s life whether he prays or not. There are other things that will happen if he prays; and will not happen if he does not pray.’ A Christian worker was impressed by these sentences as he entered a business office and he prayed that the Lord would open the way to speak to some one about Christ, reflecting that things would be changed because he prayed. Then his mind turned to other things and the prayer was forgotten. The opportunity came to speak to the business man upon whom he was calling, but he did not grasp it, and was on his way out when he remembered his prayer of a half hour before, and God’s answer. He promptly returned and had a talk with the business man, who, though a church-member, had never in his life been asked whether he was saved. Let us give ourselves to prayer, and open the way for God to change things. Let us beware lest we become virtual fatalists by failing to exercise our God-given wills in praying.”

The above illustrates what is being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is rank infidelity-that is the only proper term for it. Should any one challenge this classification, we would ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is absolutely untrue. “Human destiny” is settled not by the will of man, but by the will of God. That which determines human destiny is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And as to whose will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by John 1:13-“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD.” To say that “human destiny” may be changed by the will of man is to make the creature’s will supreme, and that is, virtually, to dethrone God. But what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:6-8).

Turning back to the Editorial here under review, we are next told, “This is at the heart of the truth that prayer changes things, meaning that God changes things when men pray.” Almost everywhere we go today one comes across a motto-card bearing the inscription “Prayer Changes Things.” As to what these words are designed to signify is evident from the current literature on prayer-we are to persuade God to change His purpose. Concerning this we shall have more to say below.

Again, the Editor tells us, “Some one has strikingly expressed it this way: ‘There are certain things that will happen in a man’s life whether he prays or not. There are other things that will happen if he prays, and will not happen if he does not pray.'” That things happen whether a man prays or not is exemplified daily in the lives of the unregenerate, most of whom never pray at all. That ‘other things will happen if he prays’ is in need of qualification. If a believer prays in faith and asks for those things which are according to God’s will he will most certainly obtain that for which he has asked. Again, that other things will happen if he prays is also true in respect to the subjective benefits derived from prayer: God will become more real to him and His promises more precious. That other things ‘will not happen if he does not pray’ is true so far as his own life is concerned-a prayerless life means a life lived out of communion with God and all that is involved by this. But to affirm that God will not and cannot bring to pass His eternal purpose unless we pray is utterly erroneous, for the same God who has decreed the end has also decreed that His end shall be reached through His appointed means, and One of these is prayer. The God who has determined to grant a blessing also gives a spirit of supplication which first seeks the blessing.

The example cited in the above Editorial of the Christian worker and the business man is a very unhappy one to say the least, for according to the terms of the illustration the Christian worker’s prayer was not answered by God at all, inasmuch as, apparently, the way was not opened to speak to the business man about his soul. But on leaving the office and recalling his prayer the Christian worker (perhaps in the energy of the flesh) determined to answer the prayer for himself, and instead of leaving the Lord to “open the way” for him, took matters into his own hand.

We quote next from one of the latest books issued on Prayer. In it the author says, “The possibilities and necessity of prayer, its power and results, are manifested in arresting and changing the purposes of God and in relieving the stroke of His power.” Such an assertion as this is a horrible reflection upon the character of the Most High God, who “doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” (Dan. 4: 35). There is no need whatever for God to change His designs or alter His purpose for the all-sufficient reason that these were framed under the influence of perfect goodness and unerring wisdom. Men may have occasion to alter their purposes, for in their short-sightedness they are frequently unable to anticipate what may arise after their plans are formed. But not so with God, for He knows the end from the beginning. To affirm God changes His purpose is either to impugn His goodness or to deny His eternal wisdom.

In the same book we are told, “The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in Heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth. The great throes and mighty convulsions on earth are the results of these prayers. Earth is changed, revolutionised, angels move on more powerful, more rapid wing, and God’s policy is shaped as the prayers are more numerous, more efficient.” If possible, this is even worse, and we have no hesitation in denominating it as blasphemy. In the first place, it flatly denies Ephesians 3:11 which speaks of God’s having an “eternal purpose.” If God’s purpose is an eternal one then His “policy” is not being “shaped” today. In the second place, it contradicts Ephesians 1:11 which expressly declares that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,” therefore it follows that, “God’s policy” is not being “shaped” by man’s prayers. In the third place, such a statement as the above makes the will of the creature supreme, for if our prayers shape God’s policy then is the Most High subordinate to worms of the earth. Well might the Holy Spirit ask through the Apostle, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor?” (Rom. 11:34).

Such thoughts on prayer as we have been citing are due to low and inadequate conceptions of God Himself. It ought to be apparent that there could be little or no comfort in praying to a God that was like the chameleon, which changes its colour every day. What encouragement is there to lift up our hearts to One who is in one mind yesterday and another today? What would be the use of petitioning an earthly monarch if we knew he was so mutable as to grant a petition one day and deny it another? Is it not the very unchangeableness of God which is our greatest encouragement to pray? It is because He is “without variableness or shadow of turning” we are assured that if we ask anything according to His will we are most certain of being heard. Well did Luther remark, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”

And this leads us to offer a few remarks concerning the design of prayer. Why has God appointed that we should pray? The vast majority of people would reply, In order that we may obtain from God the things which we need. While this is one of the purposes of prayer it is by no means the chief one. Moreover, it considers prayer only from the human side, and prayer sadly needs to be viewed from the Divine side. Let us look, then, at some of the reasons why God has bidden us to pray.

First and foremost, prayer has been appointed that the Lord God Himself should be honoured. God requires we should recognise that He is, indeed, “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:15). God requires that we shall own His universal dominion: in petitioning God for rain Elijah did but confess His control over the elements; in praying to God to deliver a poor sinner from the wrath to come we acknowledge that “salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9); in supplicating His blessing on the Gospel unto the uttermost parts of the earth we declare His rulership over the whole world.

Again; God requires that we shall worship Him, and prayer, real prayer, is an act of worship. Prayer is an act of worship inasmuch as it is the prostrating of the soul before Him; inasmuch as it is a calling upon His great and holy name; inasmuch as it is the owning of His goodness, His power, His immutability, His grace, and inasmuch as it is the recognition of His Sovereignty, owned by a submission to His will. It is highly significant to notice in this connection that the Temple wasn’t termed by Christ the House of Sacrifice, but instead, the House of Prayer.

Again; prayer redounds to God’s glory, for in prayer we do but acknowledge dependency upon Him. When we humbly supplicate the Divine Being we cast ourselves upon His power and mercy. In seeking blessings from God we own that He is the Author and Fountain of every good and perfect gift. That prayer brings glory to God is further seen from the fact that prayer calls faith into exercise, and nothing from us is so honouring and pleasing to Him as the confidence of our hearts.

In the second place, prayer is appointed by God for our spiritual blessing, as a means for our growth in grace. When seeking to learn the design of prayer, this should ever occupy us before we regard prayer as a means for obtaining the supply of our need. Prayer is designed by God for our humbling. Prayer, real prayer, is a coming into the Presence of God, and a sense of His awful majesty produces a realisation of our nothingness and unworthiness. Again; prayer is designed by God for the exercise of our faith. Faith is begotten in the Word (Rom. 10:8), but it is exercised in prayer; hence, we read of “the prayer of faith.” Again; prayer calls love into action. Concerning the hypocrite the question is asked, “Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?” (Job 27:10). But they that love the Lord cannot be long away from Him, for they delight in unburdening themselves to Him. Not only does prayer call love into action but through the direct answers vouchsafed to our prayers our love to God is increased-“I love the LORD, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications” (Psa. 116:1). Again; prayer is designed by God to teach us the value of the blessings we have sought from Him, and it causes us to rejoice the more when He has bestowed upon us that for which we supplicate Him.

Third, prayer is appointed by God for our seeking from Him the things which we are in need of. But here a difficulty may present itself to those who have read carefully the previous chapters of this book. If God has foreordained, before the foundation of the world, everything which happens in time, what is the use of prayer? If it is true that “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:30), then why pray? Ere replying directly to these queries it should be pointed out how that there is just as much reason to ask, What is the use of me coming to God and telling Him what He already knows? Wherein is the use of me spreading before Him my need, seeing He is already acquainted with it? as there is to object, What is the use of praying for anything when everything has been ordained beforehand by God? Prayer is not for the purpose of informing God, as if He were ignorant (the Saviour expressly declared “for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him”-Matt. 6:8), but it is to acknowledge He does know what we are in need of. Prayer is not appointed for the furnishing of God with the knowledge of what we need, but is designed as a confession to Him of our sense of need. In this, as in everything, God’s thoughts are not as ours. God requires that His gifts should be sought for. He designs to be honoured by our asking, just as He is to be thanked by us after He has bestowed His blessing.

However, the question still returns on us, If God be the Predestinator of everything that comes to pass, and the Regulator of all events, then is not prayer a profitless exercise? A sufficient answer to these questions is that God bids us to pray, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). And again, “men ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). And further: Scripture declares that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick,” and “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:15, 16); while the Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect Example in all things, was pre-eminently a Man of Prayer. Thus, it is evident, that prayer is neither meaningless nor valueless. But still this does not remove the difficulty nor answer the question with which we started out. What then is the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer?

First of all, we would say with emphasis, that prayer is not intended to change God’s purpose, nor is it to move Him to form fresh purposes. God has decreed that certain events shall come to pass through the means He has appointed for their accomplishment. God has elected certain ones to be saved, but He has also decreed that these shall be saved through the preaching the Gospel. The Gospel, then, is one of the appointed means for the working out of the eternal counsel of the Lord; and prayer is another. God has decreed the means as well as the end, and among the means is prayer. Even the prayers of His people are included in His eternal decrees. Therefore, instead of prayers being in vain they are among the means through which God exercises His decrees. “If indeed all things happen by a blind chance, or a fatal necessity prayers in that case could be of no moral efficacy, and of no use; but since they are regulated by the direction of Divine wisdom, prayers have a place in the order of events” (Haldane).

That prayers for the execution of the very things decreed by God are not meaningless is clearly taught in the Scriptures. Elijah knew that God was about to give rain, but that did not prevent him from at once betaking himself to prayer (James 5:17, 18). Daniel “understood” by the writings of the prophets that the captivity was to last but seventy years, yet when these seventy years were almost ended we are told that he set his face “unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Dan. 9:2, 3). God told the prophet Jeremiah “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”; but instead of adding, there is, therefore, no need for you to supplicate Me for these things, He said, “Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you” (Jer. 29:11, 12).

Here then is the design of prayer: not that God’s will may be altered, but that it may be accomplished in His own good time and way. It is because God has promised certain things that we can ask for them with the full assurance of faith. It is God’s purpose that His will shall be brought about by His own appointed means, and that He may do His people good upon His own terms, and that is, by the ‘means’ and ‘terms’ of entreaty and supplication. Did not the Son of God know for certain that after His death and resurrection He would be exalted by the Father. Assuredly He did. Yet we find Him asking for this very thing: “O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5)! Did not He know that none of His people could perish? yet He besought the Father to “keep” them (John 17:11)!

Finally, it should be said that God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our cryings. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayer of those who have the greatest interest in Him: “Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.

Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonouring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit actuating it is “not my will, but Thine be done.” “When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own Sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, This is the way and means God has appointed for the communication of the blessing of His goodness to His people. For though He has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, to give them, and it is a duty and privilege to ask. When they are blessed with a spirit of prayer it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked, which should be asked always with submission to the will of God, saying, Not my will but Thine be done” (John Gill).

The distinction just noted above is of great practical importance for our peace of heart. Perhaps the one thing that exercises Christians as much as anything else is that of unanswered prayers. They have asked God for something: so far as they are able to judge they have asked in faith believing they would receive that for which they had supplicated the Lord: and they have asked earnestly and repeatedly, but the answer has not come. The result is that, in many cases, faith in the efficacy of prayer becomes weakened, until hope gives way to despair and the closet is altogether neglected. Is it not so?

Now will it surprise our readers when we say that every real prayer of faith that has ever been offered to God has been answered? Yet we unhesitatingly affirm it. But in saying this we must refer back to our definition of prayer. Let us repeat it. Prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need (or the need of others), committing my way unto the Lord, and then leaving Him to deal with the case as seemeth Him best. This leaves God to answer the prayer in whatever way He sees fit, and often, His answer may be the very opposite of what would be most acceptable to the flesh; yet, if we have really LEFT our need in His hands it will be His answer, nevertheless. Let us look at two examples.

In John 11 we read of the sickness of Lazarus. The Lord “loved” him, but He was absent from Bethany. The sisters sent a messenger unto the Lord acquainting Him of their brother’s condition. And note particularly how their appeal was worded-“Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” That was all. They did not ask Him to heal Lazarus. They did not request Him to hasten at once to Bethany. They simply spread their need before Him, committed the case into His hands, and left Him to act as He deemed best! And what was our Lord’s reply? Did He respond to their appeal and answer their mute request? Certainly He did, though not, perhaps, in the way they had hoped. He answered by abiding “two days still in the same place where He was” (John 11:6), and allowing Lazarus to die! But in this instance that was not all. Later, He journeyed to Bethany and raised Lazarus from the dead. Our purpose in referring here to this case is to illustrate the proper attitude for the believer to take before God in the hour of need. The next example will emphasise rather, God’s method of responding to His needy child.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul had been accorded an unheard-of privilege. He had been transported into Paradise. His ears had listened to and his eyes had gazed upon that which no other mortal had heard or seen this side of death. The wondrous revelation was more than the Apostle could endure. He was in danger of becoming “puffed up” by his extraordinary experience. Therefore, a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, was sent to buffet him lest he be exalted above measure. And the Apostle spreads his need before the Lord; he thrice beseeches Him that this thorn in the flesh should be removed. Was his prayer answered? Assuredly, though not in the manner he had desired. The “thorn” was not removed but grace was given to bear it. The burden was not lifted but strength was vouchsafed to carry it.

Does someone object that it is our privilege to do more than spread our need before God? Are we reminded that God has, as it were, given us a blank check and invited us to fill it in? Is it said that the promises of God are all-inclusive, and that we may ask God for what we will? If so, we must call attention to the fact that it is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture if we are to learn the full mind of God on any subject, and that as this is done we discover God has qualified the promises given to praying souls by saying “If ye ask anything according to His will He heareth us” (1 John 5:14). Real prayer is communion with God so that there will be common thoughts between His mind and ours. What is needed is for Him to fill our hearts with His thoughts and then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him. Here then is the meeting-place between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer: If we ask anything according to His will He heareth us, and if we do not so ask He does not hear us; as saith the Apostle James, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” or desires (4:3).

But did not the Lord Jesus tell His disciples, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you” (John 16:23)? He did; but this promise does not give praying souls carte blanche. These words of our Lord are in perfect accord with those of the Apostle John: “If ye ask anything according to His will He heareth us.” What is it to ask “in the name of Christ”? Surely it is very much more than a prayer formula, the mere concluding of our supplications with the words “in the name of Christ.” To apply to God for anything in the name of Christ, it must needs be in keeping with what Christ is! To ask God in the name of Christ is as though Christ Himself were the suppliant. We can only ask God for what Christ would ask. To ask in the name of Christ is therefore to set aside our own wills, accepting God’s!

Let us now amplify our definition of prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude-an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God. Prayer is a confession of creature weakness, yea, of helplessness. Prayer is the acknowledgement of our need and the spreading of it before God. We do not say that this is all there is in prayer, it is not: but it is the essential, the primary element in prayer. We freely admit that we are quite unable to give a complete definition of prayer within the compass of a brief sentence, or in any number of words. Prayer is both an attitude and an act, an human act, and yet there is the Divine element in it too, and it is this which makes an exhaustive analysis impossible as well as impious to attempt. But admitting this, we do insist again that prayer is fundamentally an attitude of dependency upon God. Therefore, prayer is the very opposite of dictating to God. Because prayer is an attitude of dependency, the one who really prays is submissive, submissive to the Divine will; and submission to the Divine will means that we are content for the Lord to supply our need according to the dictates of His own Sovereign pleasure. And hence it is that we say every prayer that is offered to God in this spirit is sure of meeting with an answer or response from Him.

Here then is the reply to our opening question, and the scriptural solution to the seeming difficulty. Prayer is not the requesting of God to alter His purpose or for Him to form a new one. Prayer is the taking of an attitude of dependency upon God, the spreading of our need before Him, the asking for those things which are in accordance with His will, and therefore there is nothing whatever inconsistent between Divine Sovereignty and Christian prayer.

In closing this chapter we would utter a word of caution to safeguard the reader against drawing a false conclusion from what has been said. We have not here sought to epitomize the whole teaching of Scripture on the subject of prayer, nor have we even attempted to discuss in general the problem of prayer; instead, we have confined ourselves, more or less, to a consideration of the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer. What we have written is intended chiefly as a protest against much of the modern teaching, which so stresses the human element in prayer that the Divine side is almost entirely lost sight of.

In Jeremiah 10:23 we are told “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (cf. Prov. 16:9); and yet in many of his prayers man impulse presumes to direct the Lord as to His way, and as to what He ought to do: even implying that if only he had the direction of the affairs of the world and of the church he would soon have things very different from what they are. This cannot be denied: for anyone with any spiritual discernment at all could not fail to detect this spirit in many of our modern prayer-meetings where the flesh holds sway. How slow we all are to learn the lesson that the haughty creature needs to be brought down to his knees and humbled into the dust. And this is where the very act of prayer is intended to put us. But man (in his usual perversity) turns the footstool into a throne from whence he would fain direct the Almighty as to what He ought to do! giving the onlooker the impression that if God had half the compassion that those who pray (?) have, all would quickly be right! Such is the arrogance of the old nature even in a child of God.

Our main purpose in this chapter has been to emphasise the need for submitting, in prayer, our wills to God’s. But it must also be added that prayer is much more than a pious exercise, and far otherwise than a mechanical performance. Prayer is, indeed, a Divinely appointed means whereby we may obtain from God the things we ask, providing we ask for those things which are in accord with His will. These pages will have been penned in vain unless they lead both writer and reader to cry with a deeper earnestness than heretofore, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

JC Ryle (1816-1900) – Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on Prophetical Subjects (1867)

Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on

Prophetical Subjects (1867)

by

JC Ryle (1816-1900)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Sermon 4: Idolatry to be Destroyed at Christ’s Coming

“The idols He shall utterly abolish.” Isaiah 2:18

The time here spoken of will be plain to all who take the prophecy of Isaiah in its literal meaning. It is the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ the day when “He arises to shake terribly the earth.” The event is part of that mighty purification which will then take place in His professing Church the abolishing of all idols; and the principal subject which claims your consideration in the text is idolatry.

Without further preface, I desire to ask your attention to the four following points:

1. The definition of idolatry. WHAT IS IT?

2. The cause of idolatry. WHENCE COMES IT?

3. The form idolatry assumes in the visible Church of Christ. WHERE IS IT?

4. The ultimate abolition of idolatry. WHAT WILL END IT?

I feel that the subject is encompassed with many difficulties. Our lot is cast in an age when truth is constantly in danger of being sacrificed to toleration, charity, and peace falsely so called. Nevertheless, I cannot forget that I am a minister of a Church which has given no uncertain sound on the subject of idolatry; and, unless I am greatly mistaken, truth about idolatry is, in the highest sense, truth for the times.

Let me, then, first of all set before you the definition of idolatry. Let me show you WHAT IT IS.

It is of the utmost importance that you should understand this. Unless I make this clear, I can do nothing with the text. Vagueness and indistinctness prevail upon this point, as upon almost every other in religion. The Christian that would not be continually running aground in his spiritual voyage must have his channel well buoyed, his mind well stored with clear definitions.

I say then, that “idolatry is a worship, in which the honor due to God in Trinity, and to Him only, is given to some of His creatures, or some invention of His creatures.” It may vary exceedingly. It may assume exceedingly different forms, according to the ignorance or the knowledge the civilization or the barbarism, of those who offer it. It may be grossly absurd and ludicrous, or it may closely border on truth and admit of being most speciously defended. But whether in the adoration of the idol of Juggernaut or in the adoration of the host in St. Peter’s at Rome, the idolatrous principle is in reality the same. In either case the honor due to God is turned aside from Him and bestowed on that which is not God. And whenever this is done, whether in heathen temples or in professedly Christian Churches, there is an act of idolatry.

You must bear in mind that it is not necessary for a man formally to deny God and Christ in order to be an idolater. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible and actual idolatry are perfectly compatible. They have often gone side-by-side, and they still do so. The children of Israel never thought of renouncing God when they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. “These be thy gods (thy Elohim),” they said, “which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” And the feast in honor of the calf was kept as a “feast unto the Lord (Jehovah)” (Ex. 32:4,5). Jeroboam, again, never pretended to ask the ten tribes to cast off their allegiance to the God of David and Solomon. When he set up the calves of Gold in Dan and Bethel, he only said, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold thy Gods (thy Elohim), O Israel , which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). In both instances, you will observe the idol was not set up as a rival to God but under the pretense of being a help a stepping stone to His service. But in both instances, you know well, a great sin was committed. The honor due to God was given to a visible representation of Him. The majesty of Jehovah was offended. The second commandment was broken. There was, in the eyes of God, a flagrant act of idolatry.

I ask you to mark this, my brethren. I ask you to dismiss from your minds those loose ideas about idolatry which are common in this day. Think not, as many do, that there are only two sorts of idolatry the spiritual idolatry of the man who loves his wife or child or money more than God, and the open, gross idolatry of the man who bows down to an image of wood or metal or stone because he knows no better. Depend upon it, idolatry is a sin that occupies a far, far wider field than this. It is not merely a thing in Hindostan that you may hear of and pity at missionary meetings. Nor yet is it a thing confined to your own heart, that you may confess before the mercy seat upon your knees. It is a pestilence that walks in the Church of Christ to a much greater extent than many of you suppose. It is an evil that, like the Man sin, “sits in the very temple of God” (2 Thess. 2:4). It is a sin that we all need to watch and pray against continually. It creeps into our religious worship insensibly and is upon us before we are aware. Those are tremendous words which Isaiah spoke to the formal Jew not to the worshipper of Baal, remember, but to the man who actually came to the temple (Isa. 66:3): “He who kills an ox is as if he slew a man; he who sacrifices a lamb as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he who offers an oblation as if he offered swine’s blood; he who burns incense as if he blessed an idol.”

This is that sin, remember, which God has especially denounced in His Word. One commandment out of ten is devoted to the prohibition of it. None of all the ten contain such a solemn declaration of His character and of His judgments against the disobedient: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me” (Ex. 20:5). None, perhaps, of all the ten is so emphatically repeated and amplified, and especially in the fourth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy.

This is the sin of all others which has brought down the heaviest judgments on the visible Church. It brought on Israel the armies of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. It scattered the ten tribes, burned up Jerusalem, and carried Judah and Benjamin into captivity. It brought on the Eastern Churches, in later days, the overwhelming flood of the Saracenic invasion, and turned many a spiritual garden into a wilderness. The desolation which reigns where Cyprian and Augustine once preached the living death in which the Churches of Asia Minor and Syria are buried are all attributable to this sin. All testify to the same great truth which the Lord proclaims in Isaiah, “My glory will I not give to another” (Isa.

42:8).

Gather up these things in your mind, beloved brethren. Be very sure that idolatry is a subject, which in every Church of Christ that would keep herself pure, should be thoroughly examined, understood, and known.

Let me show you, in the second place, the cause to which idolatry may be traced. WHENCE COMES IT?

To the man who takes an extravagant and exalted view of human intellect and reason, idolatry may seem absurd. He fancies it too irrational for any but weak minds to be endangered by it.

To a mere superficial thinker about Christianity, the peril of idolatry may seem very small. Whatever commandments are broken, such a man will tell us, professing Christians are not very likely to transgress the second.

Now, both these persons betray a woeful ignorance of human nature. They do not see that there are secret roots of idolatry within us all. The prevalence of idolatry in all ages among the heathen must necessarily puzzle the one, and the warnings of Protestant ministers against idolatry in the Church must necessarily appear uncalled for to the other, since both are alike blind to its cause.

The cause of all idolatry is the natural corruption of man’s heart. That great family disease, with which all the children of Adam are born, shows itself in this as it does in a thousand other ways. Out of the same fountain from which “proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit,” and the like (Mark 7:21,22),out of that same fountain arise false views of God and false views of the worship due to Him; and, therefore, when the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians (Gal. 5:20) what are the “works of the flesh,” he places prominently among them “idolatry.”

Man will have a religion of some kind. God has not left Himself without a witness in us all, fallen as we are. Like old inscriptions hidden under mounds of rubbish, like the almost obliterated underwriting of Palimpsest manuscripts, even so there is a dim something engraven at the bottom of man’s heart, however faint and half erased a something which makes him feel he must have a religion and a worship of some kind. The proof of this is to be found in the history of voyages and travels in every part of the globe. The exceptions to the rule are so few, if indeed there are any, that they only confirm its truth. Man’s worship in some dark corner of the earth may rise no higher than a vague fear of an evil spirit and a desire to propitiate him, but a worship of some kind man will have.

But then comes in the effect of the fall. Ignorance of God, carnal and low conceptions of His nature and attributes, earthly and sensual notions of the service which is acceptable to Him, all characterize the religion of the natural man. There is a craving in his mind after something he can see and feel and touch in his Divinity. He would fain bring His God down to his own crawling level. He would make his religion a thing of sense and sight. He has no idea of faith and spirit. In short, just as he is willing to live on God’s earth, but until renewed by grace, a fallen and degraded life, so he has no objection to worship after a fashion; but, until renewed by the Holy Ghost, it is always with a fallen worship. In one word, idolatry is a natural product of man’s heart. It is a weed, which like the earth uncultivated, the heart is always ready to bring forth.

And now does it surprise you when you read of the constantly recurring idolatries of the Old Testament Church of Peor, and Baal, and Moloch, and Chemosh, and Ashtoreth, of high places and hill altars, and groves and images and this in the full light of the Mosaic ceremonial? Cease to be surprised. It can be accounted for. There is a cause.

Does it surprise you when you read in history how idolatry crept in by degrees into the Church of Christ, how little-by-little it thrust out Gospel truth until, in Canterbury, men offered more at the shrine of Thomas á Becket than they did at that of the Virgin Mary, and more at that of the Virgin Mary than at that of Christ? Cease to be surprised. It is all intelligible. There is a cause.

Does it surprise you when you hear of men going over from Protestant Churches to the Church of Rome in the present day? Do you think it unaccountable and feel as if you yourself could never forsake a pure form of worship for one like that of the Pope? Cease to be surprised. There is a solution for the problem. There is a cause.

That cause is nothing else but the deep corruption of man’s heart. There is a natural proneness and tendency in us all to give God a sensual, carnal worship and not that which is commanded in His Word. We are ever ready to frame for our sloth and unbelief visible helps and steppingstones in our approaches to Him, and ultimately to give these inventions of our own the honor due to Him. In fact, idolatry is all natural, downhill easy, like the broad way. Spiritual worship is all of grace, all uphill and all against the grain. Any worship whatsoever is more pleasing to the natural heart than worshipping God in the way our Lord Christ describes” in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

I for one am not surprised at the quantity of idolatry existing both in the world and in the visible Church. I believe it perfectly possible that we may live to see more of it yet than some have ever dreamed of. It would never surprise me if some mighty personal Antichrist were to arise before the end mighty in intellect, mighty in talents for government, yes, and mighty perhaps in miraculous gifts too. It would never surprise me to see such a one as him setting up himself in opposition to Christ and making an Infidel combination against the Gospel. I believe that many would rejoice to do him honor, who now glory in saying, “We will not have this Christ to reign over us.” I believe that many would make a god of him and reverence him as an incarnation of truth, and concentrate their idea of hero-worship on his person. I advance it as a possibility and no more. But of this at least I am certain, that no man is less safe from danger of idolatry than the man who now sneers at every form of religion, and that from Infidelity to credulity, from Atheism to the grossest idolatry, there is but a single step. Think not, at all events, beloved brethren, that idolatry is an old fashioned sin into which you are never likely to fall. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Look into your own hearts. The seeds of idolatry are all there.

Let me show you, in the third place, the forms which idolatry has assumed and does assume in the visible Church. WHERE IS IT?

I believe there never was a more baseless fabric than the theory which obtains favor with many, that the promises of perpetuity and preservation from apostasy belong to the visible Church of Christ. It is a theory supported neither by Scripture nor by facts. The Church against which the gates of hell shall never prevail is not the visible Church but the whole body of the elect the company of true believers out of every nation and people. The greater part of the visible Church has frequently maintained gross heresies. The particular branches of it are never secure against deadly error, both of faith and practice. A departure from the faith a falling away a leaving of first love in any branch of the visible Church need never surprise a careful reader of the New Testament.

That idolatry would arise seems to have been the expectation of the Apostles, even before the canon of the New Testament was closed. It is remarkable to observe how St. Paul dwells on this subject in his Epistle to the Corinthians. If any Corinthian who was called a brother was an idolater, with such a one the members of the Church were not to eat (1 Cor. 5:11). “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of our fathers” (1 Cor. 10:7). He says again, “My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). When he writes to the Colossians, he warns them against “worshipping of angels” (Col. 2:18). And St. John closes his first Epistle with the solemn injunction, “little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). It is impossible not to feel that all these passages imply an expectation that idolatry would arise among professing Christians, and that soon.

The famous prophecy in the fourth chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy contains a passage which is even more directly to the point: “The Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). I will not detain you with any lengthy discussion of that remarkable expression “doctrines of devils.” It may be sufficient to say that our excellent translators are considered for once to have missed the full meaning of the Apostle in their rendering of the word translated as “devils” in our version, and that the true meaning of the expression is “doctrines about departed spirits.” And in this view, which I may as well say is maintained by all those who have the best right to be heard on such a question, the passage becomes a direct prediction of the rise of that most specious form of idolatry, the worship of dead saints.

The last passage I will call your attention to is the conclusion of the ninth chapter of Revelation. We there read, at the twentieth verse, “The rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils” (mark, this is the same word as that in the Epistle to Timothy, just quoted), “and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.” Now, I am not going to offer any comment on the chapter in which this verse occurs. I know well there is a difference of opinion as to the true interpretation of the plagues predicted in it. One thing I venture to assert that it is the highest probability these plagues are to fall upon the visible Church of Christ, and the highest improbability that St. John was here prophesying about the heathen who never heard the Gospel. And this once conceded, the fact that idolatry is a predicted sin of the visible Church does seem most conclusively and forever established.

And now, if we turn from the Bible to facts, what do we see? I reply unhesitatingly, that there is unmistakable proof that Scripture warnings and predictions were not spoken without cause, and that idolatry has actually arisen in the visible Church of Christ, and does still exist.

The rise and progress of the evil in former days you will find well summed up in the admirable Homily of our own Church on Peril of Idolatry. To that Homily I beg to refer you, reminding you once for all that in the judgment of your own Thirty-nine Articles, the Book of Homilies “contains a godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times.” There you will read how, even in the fourth century, Jerome complains “that the errors of images have come in and passed to the Christians from the Gentiles.” And Eusebius says, “We do see now that images of Peter and Paul, and of our Saviour himself be made, and tables be painted, which I think to have been derived and kept indifferently by a heathenish custom.” There you will read how “Pontius Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in the fifth century, caused the walls of the temples to be painted with stories taken out of the Old Testament; that the people beholding and considering these pictures might the better abstain from too much surfeiting and riot. But from learning by painted stories, it came by little and little to idolatry.” There you will read how Gregory the First, Bishop of Rome, in the beginning of the seventh century did allow the free having of images in churches. There you will read how Irene, mother of Constantine the Sixth, in the eighth century assembled a council at Nicea and procured a decree that “images should be put up in all the churches of Greece, and that honor and worship should be given to the said images.” And there you will read the conclusion with which the Homily winds up its historical summary” that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sorts, and degrees of men, women, and children of whole Christendom, have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry, of all other vices most detested of God and most damnable to man, and that by the space of 800 years and more.”

This is a mournful account, beloved brethren, but it is only too true. There can be little doubt the evil began even before the time just mentioned by the Homily writers. No man, I think, need wonder at the vice of idolatry in the primitive Church who considers calmly the excessive reverence which it paid, from the very first, to the visible parts of religion. I believe that no impartial man can read the language used by nearly all the Fathers about the Church, the bishops, the ministry, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the martyrs, the dead saints generally no man can read it without being struck with the wide difference between their language and the language of Scripture on such subjects. You seem at once to be in a new atmosphere. You feel that you are no longer treading on holy ground. You find things which in the Bible are evidently of second-rate importance and here made of first-rate importance. You find the things of sense and sight exalted to a position in which Paul, Peter, James, and John, speaking by the Holy Ghost, never for a moment placed them. It is not merely the weakness of uninspired writings that you have to complain of; it is something worse it is a new system. And what is the explanation of all this? It is, in one word, that you have gotten into a region where the malaria of idolatry has begun to arise. You perceive the first workings of the mystery of iniquity. You detect the buds of that huge system of idolatry which, as the Homily describes, was afterwards formally acknowledged and ultimately blossomed so luxuriantly in every part of Christendom.

But let us now turn from the past to the present. Let us examine the question which most concerns ourselves. Let us consider in what form idolatry presents itself to us as a sin of the visible Church of Christ in our own time.

I find no difficulty in answering this question. I feel no hesitation in affirming that idolatry never yet assumed a more glaring form than it does in the Church of Rome at this very day.

And here I come to a subject on which it is hard to speak because of the times we live in. But the whole truth ought to be spoken by ministers of Christ without respect of times and prejudices. And I should not lie down in peace, after preaching on idolatry, if I did not declare my solemn conviction that idolatry is one of the crying sins of which the Church of Rome is guilty. I say this in all sadness. I say it acknowledging fully that we have our faults in our own Church, and practically, perhaps, in some quarters not a little idolatry. But formal, recognized, systematic idolatry I believe we are free from at all events. While, as for the Church of Rome, if there is not in her worship an enormous quantity of systematic, organized idolatry, I frankly confess I do not know what idolatry is.

To my mind, it is idolatry to have images and pictures of saints in churches and to give them a reverence for which there is no warrant or precedent in Scripture. And if this be so, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints in glory and to address them in language never addressed in Scripture except to the Holy Trinity. And if this be so, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to bow down to mere material things and attribute to them a power and sanctity far exceeding that attached to the ark or altar of the Old Testament dispensation, and a power and sanctity too for which there is not a tittle of foundation in the Word of God. And if this be so, with the holy coat of Treves and the wonderfully multiplied wood of the true cross and a thousand other so called relics in my mind’s eye, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to worship that which man’s hands have made to call it God and adore it when lifted up before our eyes. And if this be so, with the doctrine of transubstantiation and the elevation of the host in my recollection, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to make ordained men mediators between ourselves and God, robbing, as it were, our Lord Christ of His office and giving them an honor which even Apostles and angels in Scripture flatly repudiate. And if this be so, with the honor paid to Popes and priests before my eyes, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

I know well that language like this jars the minds of many. Men love to shut their eyes against evils which it is disagreeable to allow. They will not see things which involve unpleasant consequences. That the Church of Rome is an erring Church they will acknowledge. That she is idolatrous they will deny.

They tell us that the reverence which the Romish Church gives to saints and images does not amount to idolatry. They inform us that there are distinctions between “latria” and “dulia,” between a mediation of redemption and a mediation of intercession, which clear her of the charge. My answer is, that the Bible knows nothing of such distinctions; and that, in the actual practice of the great bulk of Roman Catholics, they have no existence at all.

They tell us that it is a mistake to suppose that Roman Catholics really worship the images and pictures before which they perform acts of adoration; that they only use them as helps to devotion and in reality look far beyond them. My answer is, that many a heathen could say just as much for his idolatry; that it is notorious, in former days, they did say so; and that in Hindostan many idol worshippers do say so at the present day. But the apology [excuse/justification] does not avail. The terms of the second commandment are too stringent. It prohibits bowing down as well as worshipping. And the very anxiety which the Church of Rome has often displayed to exclude that second commandment from her catechisms is of itself a great fact which speaks volumes to a candid observer.

They tell us that we have no evidence for the assertions we make on this subject; that we found [establish] our charges on the abuses which prevail among the ignorant members of the Romish communion; and that it is absurd to say that a Church containing so many wise and learned men is guilty of idolatry. My answer is, that the devotional books in common use among Roman Catholics supply us with unmistakable evidence. Let anyone examine that notorious book “The Garden of the Soul,” if he doubts my assertion, and read the language there addressed to the Virgin Mary. Let him remember that this language is addressed to a woman who, though highly favored and the mother of our Lord, was yet one of our fellow sinners to a woman who actually confessed her need of a Savior for herself. She says, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). Let him examine this language in the light of the New Testament and then let him tell us fairly whether the charge of idolatry is not fully made out. But I answer, besides this, that we want no better evidence than that which is supplied in the city of Rome itself. What do men and women do under the light of the Pope’s own countenance? What is the religion that prevails around St. Peter’s and under the walls of the Vatican? What is Romanism at Rome, unfettered, unshackled, and free to develop itself in full perfection? Let a man honestly answer these questions, and I ask no more. Let him read such a book as Seymour’s “Pilgrimage to Rome” or Alford’s Letter and ask any visitor to Rome if the picture is too highly colored. Let him do this, I say, and I believe he cannot avoid this conclusion that Romanism in perfection is a gigantic system of Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, and priest-worship; that it is, in one word, a huge organized idolatry.

Brethren, I know not how these things sound to your ears. To me it is no pleasure to dwell on the shortcomings of any who profess and call themselves Christians. I can say truly that I have said what I have said with pain and sorrow.

I draw a wide distinction between the Church of Rome and the private opinions of many of her members. I believe and hope that many a Roman Catholic is in heart inconsistent with his profession and is better than the Church to which he belongs. I cannot forget the Jansenists, and Quesnel, and Martin Boos. I believe that many a poor Italian at this day is worshipping with an idolatrous worship simply because he knows no better. He has no Bible to instruct him. He has no faithful minister to teach him. He has the fear of the priest before his eyes if he dares to think for himself. He has no money to enable him to get away from the bondage he lives under, even if he feels a desire. I remember all this, and I say that the Italian eminently deserves our sympathy and compassion. But all this must not prevent my saying that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church.

I should not be faithful if I said less. The Church of which I am a minister has spoken out most strongly on the subject. The Homily on Peril of Idolatry, and the solemn protest following the Rubrics at the end of our Communion Service, which denounces the adoration of the sacramental bread and wine as “idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians,” are plain evidence that I have told you no more than the mind of my own Church. And in a day like this, when some are disposed to secede to the Church of Rome and many are shutting their eyes to her real character and wanting us to be reunited to her–in a day like this, my own conscience would rebuke me if I did not warn men plainly that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church, and that if they will join her they are “joining themselves to idols.”

But I may not dwell longer on this part of my subject. The main point I wish to impress on your minds is this that idolatry has decidedly manifested itself in the visible Church of Christ, and nowhere so decidedly as in the Church of Rome.

And now let me show you, in the last place, the ultimate abolition of all idolatry. WHAT WILL END IT?

I consider that man’s soul must be in an unhealthy state if he does not long for the time when idolatry shall be no more. That heart can hardly be right with God which can think of the millions who are sunk in heathenism, or honor the false prophet Mahomet, or daily invoke the Virgin Mary and not cry “O my God, what shall be the end of these things? How long, O Lord! How long?”

Here, as in other subjects, the sure word of prophecy comes to our aid. The end of all idolatry shall one day come. Its doom is fixed. Its overthrow is certain. Whether in heathen temples or in so called Christian Churches, idolatry shall be destroyed at the second coming of our Lord Christ.

Then shall be fulfilled the prophecy of our text, “The idols He shall utterly abolish.” So also the prophecy of Micah (5:13): “Their graven images also will I cut off, and their standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.” So also the prophecy of Zephaniah (2:11): “The Lord will be terrible unto them, for He will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship Him, everyone from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.” So also the prophecy of Zechariah (13:2): “It shall come to pass at that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered.” In a word, the 97th Psalm shall then receive its full accomplishment: “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are found about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings enlighten the world; the earth saw and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory. Confounded be all they who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols. Worship Him, all ye gods.”

Brethren, the coming and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is that blessed hope which should ever comfort the children of God under the present dispensation. It is the polestar by which we must journey. It is the one point on which all our expectations should be concentrated. “Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Our David shall no longer dwell in Adullam, followed by a despised few and rejected by the many. He shall take to Himself His great power and reign, and cause every knee to bow before Him.

Till then our redemption is not perfectly enjoyed. As Paul tells the Ephesians, “We are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Our salvation is not completed. As Peter says, “We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). Our knowledge is still defective. As Paul tells the Corinthians, “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face-to-face. Now I know in part; then shall I know even also as I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12). In short, our best things are yet to come.

But in the day of our Lord’s return, every desire shall receive its full accomplishment. We shall no more be pressed down and worn out with the sense of constant failure, feebleness, and disappointment. In His presence we shall find there is a fullness of joy, if nowhere else; and when we awaken after [according to] His likeness, we shall be satisfied, if we never were before.

There are many abominations now in the visible Church over which we can only sign and cry, like the faithful in Ezekiel’s day (Ezek. 9:4). We cannot remove them. But a day comes when Jesus shall once more purify His temple and cast forth everything that defiles. He shall do that work of which the doings of Hezekiah and Josiah were a faint type long ago. He shall cast forth the images and purge out idolatry in every shape.

Who is there among you that longs for the conversion of the heathen world? You will not see it in its fullness until the Lord’s appearing. Then, and not till then, will that often misapplied text be fulfilled: “A man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats” (Isa. 2:20).

Who is there among you that longs for the redemption of Israel? You will never see it in its perfection till the Redeemer comes to Zion. Idolatry in the professing Church of Christ has been one of the mightiest stumbling blocks in the Jew’s way. When it begins to fall, the veil over the heart of Israel shall begin to be taken away (Ps. 102:16).

Who is there among you that longs for the fall of Antichrist and the purification of the Church of Rome? I believe that will never be until the winding up of this dispensation. That vast system of idolatry may be consumed and wasted by the spirit of the Lord’s mouth, but it shall never be destroyed except by the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).

Who is there among you that longs for a perfect Church a Church in which there shall not be the slightest taint of idolatry? You must wait for the Lord’s return. Then, and not till then, shall we see a perfect Church a Church having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing (Eph. 5:27), a Church of which all the members shall be regenerate and everyone a child of God.

Brethren, if these things be so, you will not wonder that we urge on you the study of prophecy, and that we charge you above all to grasp firmly the glorious doctrine of Christ’s second appearing and kingdom. This is the light shining in a dark place to which you will do well to take heed. Let others indulge their imagination, if they will, with an imaginary “Church of the future.” Let the children of this world dream of some “coming man” who is to understand everything and set everything right. They are only sowing to themselves bitter disappointment. They will awake to find their visions baseless and empty as a dream. It is to such as these that the Prophet’s words may be well applied: “Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks. Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isa. 1:11).

But let your eyes look right onward to the day of Christ’s second advent. That is the only day when every abuse shall be rectified and every corruption and source of sorrow completely purged away. Waiting for that day, let us each work on and serve our generation, not in idleness as if nothing could be done to check evil yet not disheartened because we see not yet all things put under our Lord. After all, the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us wait, I say, on the Lord.

And surely, if these things be so, you will not wonder that we warn you to beware of all leanings towards the Church of Rome. Surely, when the mind of God about idolatry is so plainly revealed to us in His Word, it seems the height of infatuation in anyone to join a Church so steeped in idolatries as the Church of Rome. To enter into communion with her when God is saying “Come out of her, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4), to seek her when the Lord is warning us to leave her, to become her subjects when the Lord’s voice is crying “Escape for thy life, flee from the wrath to come,” all this is mental blindness indeed; a blindness like that of him who, though forewarned, embarks in a sinking ship; a blindness that would be almost incredible if our own eyes did not see examples of it continually.

We must all be on our guard. We must take nothing for granted. We must not hastily suppose that we are too wise to be ensnared, and say, like Hazael, “Is Thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?”

We who preach must cry aloud and spare not, and allow no false tenderness to make us hold our peace about the heresies of the day. You who hear must have your loins girt about with truth and your minds stored with clear prophetical views of the end to which all idol worshippers must come. Let us all try to realize that the latter ends of the world are upon us and that the abolition of all idolatry is hastening on. Is this a time for a man to draw nearer to Rome? Is it not rather a time to draw further back and stand clear, lest we be involved in her downfall? Is this a time to extenuate and palliate Rome’s manifold corruptions and refuse to see the reality of her sins? Surely we ought rather to be doubly jealous of everything of a Romish tendency in religion doubly careful that we do not connive at any treason against our Lord Christ and doubly ready to protest against unscriptural worship of every description. Once more, then, I say, remember that the destruction of all idolatry is certain; and remembering that, beware of the Church of Rome.

And now it only remains for me to conclude what I have been saying by mentioning some safeguards for your own souls. You live in a time when the Church of Rome is walking amongst us with renewed strength, and loudly boasting that she will soon win back the ground that she has lost. False doctrines of every kind are continually set before you in the most subtle and specious forms. It cannot be thought unseasonable if I offer you some practical safeguards against idolatry. What it is, whence it comes, where it is, what will end it all this you have heard. Let me point out how you may be safe from it, and I will say no more.

1. Arm yourselves, then, for one thing, with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. Read it more diligently than ever. Become familiar with every part of it. Let it dwell in you richly. Beware of anything which would make you give less time and less heart to the perusal of its sacred pages. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit; let it never be laid aside. The Bible is the true lantern for a dark and cloudy time; beware of traveling without its light. I strongly suspect, if we did but know the secret history of those secessions from our Church to that of Rome, which we deplore, that in almost every case one of the most important steps in the downward road would be found to have been a neglected Bible more attention to forms, sacraments, daily services, primitive Christianity, and so forth, and diminished attention to the written Word of God. The Bible is the King’s highway. Once leave that for any bypath, however beautiful and old and frequented it may seem, and never be surprised if you end with worshipping images and relics.

2. Arm yourselves, in the second place, with a godly jealousy about the least portion of the Gospel. Beware of sanctioning the slightest attempt to keep back any jot or tittle of it, or to throw any part of it into the shade by exalting subordinate matters in religion. It seemed a small thing that Peter did when he withdrew himself from eating with the Gentiles, but Paul tells the Galatians, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). Count nothing little that concerns your soul. Be very particular whom you hear, where you go, and what you do in all the matters of your own particular worship. Care nothing for the imputation of squeamishness and excessive scrupulosity. You live in days when great principles are involved in little acts, and things in religion which fifty years ago were utterly indifferent are now by circumstances rendered indifferent no longer. Beware of tampering with anything of a Romanizing tendency. It is foolishness to play with fire. I believe that many of our seceders began with thinking there could be no mighty harm in attaching a little more importance to certain outward things than they once did. But once launched on the downward course, they went on from one thing to another. They provoked God, and He left them to themselves. They tempted the devil, and he came to them. They started with trifles, as many foolishly call them. They have ended with downright idolatry.

3. Arm yourselves, last of all and above all, with clear sound views of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the salvation that is in Him. He is the image of the invisible God the express image of His person and the true preservative against all idolatry when truly known. Build yourselves deep down on the strong foundation of His finished work upon the cross. Settle it firmly in your mind that Christ Jesus has done everything needful in order to present you without spot before the throne of God, and that simple childlike faith on your part is the only thing required to give you an entire interest in the work of Christ. Settle it firmly in your mind that having this faith, you are completely justified in the sight of God will never be more justified if you live to the age of Methuselah and do the works of the Apostle Paul and can add nothing to that complete justification by any acts, deeds, works, performances, fastings, prayers, alms deeds, attendance on ordinances, or anything else of your own.

And keep up, keep up, I beseech you, continual communion with the person of the Lord Jesus. Abide in Him daily, feed on Him daily, look to Him daily, lean on Him daily, live upon Him daily, draw from His fullness daily. Realize this, and the idea of other mediators, other comforters, other intercessors will seem utterly absurd. “What need is there?” you will reply; “I have Christ, and in Him I have all.”

Brethren, let the Lord Christ have His rightful place in your heart, and all other things in your religion will soon fall into their right places also Church, ministers, sacraments, ordinances all will go down and take the second place.

Except Christ sits as Priest and King upon the throne of your heart, that little kingdom within will be in perpetual confusion. But only let Him be all in all there, and I have no fear for you. Before Him every idol, every Dagon shall fall down.

This lecture was one of a course delivered during Lent, 1851, at St. George’s, Bloomsbury.