In order to understand the discipline to which David was subjected, it is needful to bear in mind the great One whom he typified, and whose character could only be expressed and foreshadowed by him, through divine teaching, and the mortification of his nature. He was$ as to his position, constantly a type of the Lord Jesus Christ; but, being a man of like passions as we are, the higher his calling, the more he required to be self-mortified in order that his condition of soul might correspond with his elevated position : and therefore we shall see that the great aim of all the discipline which he undergoes is to fit him for the place to which God in His grace appoints him.
And is it not thus with us all? Do we not need to be disciplined and prepared for any place which grace confers on us? The higher we are raised through the same grace into the apprehension of the grace itself, the more do we require to be purged : and how this is done, our own private histories, if faithfully recorded, would detail. In order, therefore, that we may learn to note and observe His discipline with ourselves carefully and accurately, our blessed God presents to us a recorded history of His ways with others who have gone before us; and that of David is a striking exemplification of that wondrous nurture and admonition by which He educates-subduing and mortifying us in order to suppress what runs counter to His grace and purpose.
The first notice we have of David is when Samuel is sent of God to anoint him king instead of Saul; i Sam. 16. Here, in the first circle of his life which is presented to us, we trace the elements of the character and position of one who is so largely to engage our attention afterwards. We find him, the youngest son of Jesse, absent from home, caring for his father's sheep in the wilderness ; and his countenance, that true index of the innermost being, announcing what manner of man he is-" ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." And when Samuel anointed him, " the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."
Typically, David as anointed represents our Lord after the baptism of John, when the Holy Ghost descended from heaven and abode upon Him. And as the Lord entered on His public ministry, consequent on this anointing of the Holy Ghost, so also does David, the type, enter on his. Our Lord, full of grace and truth, was thereby exposed the more to the evil around ; and now as soon as the Spirit of God comes upon David, " the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." David, doubtless, little knew, when the Spirit came upon him, that his first essay as God's man would be to assuage the violence, the spiritual violence, of the head of the kingdom. Saul had been advised to seek out a man who was a cunning player on the harp to chase the evil spirit from him; and the very man recommended to render this service is David, who is fitly described as one " cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him." " And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand : so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." What an apparently humble service for God's anointed king, one might be ready to say! But what moral preeminence! It seems but a small thing to play on a harp ; but small services done under the power of God's Spirit effect the most remarkable result.
The Lord, while on earth, filled this place with reference to the evil and violence of all the power that surrounded Him; but to David it was also discipline. Whether he understood what the anointing in its full bearing indicated we are not told ; but coupling this with the fact of the Spirit of God coming upon him, he must have felt that he had abilities for a higher office. But here the genuineness of true power and subjection to God are proved. It was God's appointment that he should fill the place : the king required his services, and he rendered them without gainsaying: nay, rather, with consummate ability. Faithfulness in the least proves competency for the greatest; and David is taught in his first public start to use the great abilities which God had given him to promote the greatest good required at the time. And what can be more noble or kingly!
Though David was greatly beloved by Saul, and became his armour-bearer, it appears that he was only occasionally with him, and that he had not surrendered the care of his father's sheep in the wilderness ; for when Saul gives battle to the Philistines in the valley of Elah (chap. 17) David is not with him, and we are expressly told that he had returned to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem, and that it was from thence that he by his father's instructions came to the scene of the battle-I suppose about forty days after the commencement of it. I note this, because it shows us the alternations so useful and necessary in divine discipline. David had been an inmate of the palace, the king's armour-bearer, greatly loved by him, and, moreover, had rendered him the most signal services ; but he passes from this to the humble place of caring for his father's sheep in the wilderness, and in obscurity serves with as much zeal and diligence as in the highest sphere; thus proving, by the facile way in which he passes from one to the other, the true metal of soul and the singleness of his purpose, as a faithful servant, in whatever is required of him.
A more signal and glorious service is, however, now in store for him; but it is brought about in a very humble way ; for he, by order of his father, emerges from the wilderness and the care of the flock on a very simple mission, viz., to take supplies to his brethren and to see how they fare. But while diligently executing this order, an opening for, and demand on him arises for testifying to the glory of God ; and for this demand the man of God is ever ready. David having first discharged the purposes of his mission, is arrested by hearing the Philistine defy the armies of the living God, and his spirit stirred within him, he immediately determines to encounter him. How prompt to act and self-possessing is the power of God! Though commissioned for a simple errand, he is ready at a moment's notice to enter on the most notable service with the utmost zeal and prowess, though at the same time with the greatest simplicity. Refusing Saul's armour, which he had " not proved," lie takes what is most natural to him-five smooth stones from the brook; thus indicating that he needs no greater means than those which came within the range of his calling. So with the simple equipment of a shepherd he is content and fearless, and can face the terrible foe with a staff, a shepherd's bag, a sling and five stones-smooth ones, too!
How fully must he have possessed divine power to be able to apply it with such quietness and composure. David meets Goliath as he might have met a child, and returns his challenge with all the dignity which invests one who knows that the power which he implicitly rests on will be his weapon. Dependence on God, whose deliverance he has proved in his own private wilderness conflicts with the lion and the bear, renders him fearless and calm in facing a more terrible adversary, before whom the whole host of Israel quailed. One stone sufficed, and the giant fell! David still equal to the moment, though he had rejected Saul's armour as a means of vanquishing, is now rightful possessor of that which he had vanquished ; so he took Goliath's sword, stood upon him, and " cut off his head therewith "-every action proving afresh the adroitness and wisdom of divine power.
Like the Lord Himself, he must find his greatest services unacknowledged, save by the little remnant attached to His Person, and who were like the poor woman (Luke 7) who felt that He was everything to her, while the Pharisee and the great ones were hollow and unresponsive to Him. The Lord surely valued the love of His disciples, and it cheered Him in His course here, while so slighted and unknown of men. David was allowed still more solace, in the wonderful and touching attachment and devotion of Jonathan, who ever remained faithful to him: but he had also to learn that this is all he must reckon on, let his service be ever so great. He must not depend on those whom he has served, but only on the one whose affections he has won. It must be heart-allegiance, not popular or royal favour-a blessed lesson for any servant, a fine and holy line for the soul to be led into.
But ingratitude soon gives place to enmity. Saul now envies David, and " eyed him from that day and forward." And it came to pass, when " the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house," he attempted David's life with the javelin in his hand. Saul, I apprehend, is a type of the world, assuming a religious garb, just as Christendom is sustained by the world: and the more faithful we are in it, the more do we provoke its enmity. But how useful is this enmity to the man of God I It eventually, if he continues faithful, drives him away from all association with it; for, however he may serve, he can never win. I do not say that David had no right to go to Saul's house ; he, typifying the Lord, was there as the Deliverer; but in the end he is compelled to abandon it, as every faithful servant will find ere long that he must either fall or abandon all association with the world.
Various are the methods which Saul resorts to for David's destruction. Such bitter and undeserved hatred may surprise us ; but it only discloses to us the malice of the worldly professor, which no amount of goodness or service will disarm ; while David presents to us the picture of one who likes to serve in the midst of his people-a noble desire, and one most fully exemplified in the true David, who was God's greatest Servant.
Saul now tries to entrap David by offering him his eldest daughter, on condition that he would fight the Lord's battles; for he is not yet so hardened in iniquity that he would publicly lay hands on him: but he said, " Let the hand of the Philistines be upon him." David never gets Merab, though he evidently would have regarded it as a most unexpected honour; but it was not to be realised. " It is the continual dropping which weareth the stone," and this was always the character of schooling necessary for David. How he must have winced under vacillation and deceit for which he was so little prepared when he entered the royal circle! The noble and strong can ill brook the meanness of envy; but David was taught thereby the deceitfulness of godless man. Saul, contrary to all probity and honour, bestows Merab on Adriel ; but still intent on David's destruction, he offers him Michal as a snare, on condition that he should obtain for dowry " an hundred foreskins of the Philistines." David readily acceded ; not abiding by the limit of the contract, he, according to the greatness of his nature (for he will be no man's debtor), exceeds the condition, and " slew two hundred men." But the more we are above the spirit of the world, the more it will hate us; and Saul now " became David's enemy continually." This faithful servant must now have learned that all his goodness and service in the court was for nought ; for increase of honour only brought more deadly and inveterate hatred. He must have experienced, in some small measure, the feelings of Him who said, " If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin. . . . They hated me without a cause."
There is no longer any cloak to this hatred ; for " Saul spoke to Jonathan and all his servants that they should kill David " ; and the latter is warned of this intention by Jonathan, who " delighted much in David." Touching and gracious are God's ways with His people! If He sees it needful to teach His servant by a bitter process the evil of association with this world, and that he must separate from it, He, at the same time, provides for him a devoted heart, in which he could entirely confide. David had one green spot, one fond enclosure-a resource which his Antitype knew but little of on earth. Jonathan warns him, mediates with his father, and Saul relents, and " he was in his presence, as in times past." All these alternations of discipline are necessary. When we are brought so low as to " hide in a secret place," the reality of our resource in God is not only proved, but ascertained for ourselves ; and when prosperity returns, we can contrast the quality of the rest known, when we are apparently resourceless, with that experienced when natural resources are abundant: for, however we may try, we can never find in the lower resource that rest which we have in the higher.
David, restored to favour, serves with diligence, but is soon assailed again, and only escaped by a stratagem of Michal-she whom Saul had provided as a snare for him. And now, convinced that he cannot abide in the royal house any longer, he flies, renouncing his position, and everything dear to him as a man, except his life. And whither does he flee? Where does the break with Saul naturally drive him? To Samuel at Ramah. Samuel, after undergoing another line of discipline, had also retired from association with Saul. And now the true king, after every effort to serve and to win, the existing power, being forced to retire also, he cannot fail, as he walks in the divine path, to meet the one who had already traversed it. David and Samuel, the servant and the prophet, are congenial-the one just entering, the other leaving the school of God ; for David was as yet a youthful, while Samuel was an aged and well-trained learner in that school; but being of kindred spirit and aim, they meet and dwell together. And this is the true, holy and divine way to attain association with the godly. If you have traversed the divine path, and I enter thereon, we must meet and walk together, for though man's ways are many, God's is but one.
But what had David learned in all this, now that he is obliged to flee for his life, and seek shelter and sympathy with the separated prophet? He had learned by experience what it was to endeavour to maintain his place in the world which professedly owned God ; and now convinced of the futility of the attempt, and still more of the wickedness which opposed him, he enters on a new line, even to learn what it is to walk under God's hand alone, and separated from all whom he was ready to serve; he had tasted of the world's acceptance, so dangerous and uncertain in its nature, and now he must be disciplined in the sorrows of rejection.
We must remember that David was God's own selection for the throne of Israel ; and not only so, but that in the very commencement of his course he had been anointed for this high post; but in order to occupy it according to God, he must be educated in the qualities which become God's king. It is always God's way to appoint first, and then to qualify. With man it is the reverse: he requires qualification before appointment ; but we may rest assured that God will fit us for whatever office He has destined us, after He appoints us thereto. This is the divine principle, as one has fitly expressed it : " First wears the laurel, then the fight begins." Thus God's first action towards David was to appoint him king, and from thence date all his experiences, exploits and difficulties; for I fully believe that it was after this that he killed the lion and the bear; but how long a process of probation did he require before he was fit to enter on the high place for which he was destined! At the stage which we are now considering he had passed through two courses of education: one at home, feeding his father's sheep in the wilderness, in which he had proved himself most valiant and successful; and the other in the highest position in the world, and withal the religious world-loved by some, the people's delight, but envied by the king; the object alternately of favour, deceit and enmity, and at length compelled to surrender his position and escape for his life. The first circle in our histories will always be found to embrace and disclose the chief qualities which will distinguish every subsequent circle; consequently, nothing is more important to a Christian than how and under what guidance he commences and describes his first circle. David's was of a fine order and contained all the elements of moral beauty which the succeeding circles so amply developed, as we shall see. He now entered on his third course, which extends unto the death of Saul, and may be designated the period of his rejection, when the ruler of Israel thirsted for his life, a time of peculiar suffering, but of ample, manifold and blessed experience of the goodness of God, and at the same time of the weakness of his own nature.
We have seen that David fled to Ramah and dwelt with the prophet who had retired in sorrowing faithfulness from the scene and associations from which David was now driven, and surely Ramah must have been a scene of mourning then, as in later times " a voice was heard at Ramah, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning." David and Samuel doubtless mourned together deeply and sorely over the misrule of Saul, who, relentless as Herod, pursues David even here. But when he attempts to intrude on their retreat, the Spirit of God subdues him, and David, apparently unprotected, is taught at the opening of this new and sorrowful path how distinctly God can shield him. But he is not yet prepared to relinquish his position without a struggle, and he leaves Naioth to seek Jonathan and ascertain from him whether it is irretrievable ; chap. 20. They meet, a signal is agreed upon, which confirming Saul's implacability, David's fate is sealed, and emerging from his retreat, and one with Jonathan, he gives vent to the agonising sorrow of a full heart. Still self-possessed and courteous on approaching Jonathan, he " fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded." What a scene was this! what a wrench! The last link which bound David to the useful and once glorious scene in which he had lately moved is broken. Bereft in a moment of all he valued and loved ; honour, position, service, recede from his view and even the companionship of the heart that still remained faithful to him. He must henceforth give up his public career, his relationship to the king, his valiant service to the people against their enemies, and the love and sympathy of Jonathan. He must retire to obscurity, and, as it seemed, to uselessness ; and we all know what it is to human nature to relinquish what it has expected or possessed-how dffficult to return with any contentment to its former condition. For what cause was all this? For none but the unjust and deadly hate of the rider of Israel ; and unless David could discern as we do, that God Himself was setting the springs to work in order to educate and qualify him for future greatness, he might have been overwhelmed ; for the conflict with the lion and the bear, with Goliath and the Philistines, were as nothing to this. Great must have been the desolation of that hour ; and when the blessed Jesus wept over Jerusalem, surely sorrows of the same order, though surpassingly deeper and holier, harrowed His tender heart. David and Jonathan part with an oath and undisturbed attachment between them; but their lines diverge. David, the rejected king, must suffer awhile, and find other companions for his suffering and rejection; while Jonathan must " return to the city," his father's house, the link with which he cannot break. This scene shows us in type the true David in His rejection, and the Jewish remnant, who neither suffer nor reign with Him.
Chapter 21. David was cast in complete reliance on God, and his first act after the wrench which we have been considering is to go to the high priest ; for the one who takes the place of dependence, ever turns, though it may be without distinct consciousness as to its motive, to God's recognised testimony on earth. I believe that whenever we take the place of exile in the world for the Lord's sake, however unintelligently, we instinctively seek the church as God's established witness on earth. Thus David in principle does the same, though we may justly censure his untruthfulness to Abimelech; but seldom does the new man act that the old in its effort to co-operate does not betray weakness and moral degradation. He receives from Abimelech both bread and a sword (the very sword of Goliath, a remembrance of his first public victory), and he at the moment typified the place the Lord occupied in Israel, when His disciples were driven to appease their hunger by rubbing the ears of the standing corn as they passed through it. But how the mere human type breaks down when the strain is too great, and thus) displays in fuller distinctness the perfection of the divine yet human Antitype. He supplies the broken or lost link, and at the same time disciplines the mere human vessel into association and sympathy with His own path.
And now David fails still further. So great is his fear of Saul, though with the trophy of his victory over the giant in his hand, that he deserts the land, abandons the first place of privilege, and flees to Achish, king of Gath! But fed and armed from God's sanctuary, he yields to unbelief and leaves the Lord's inheritance. But unbelief always leads us into the sorrow which we seek to avoid, and from which we learn eventually that faith would have preserved us. The servants of King Achish soon recognise him, and David's next expedient is to feign himself mad! How humiliating! But now it is that his soul becomes solely occupied with God, and all the previous discipline bears fruit. It is necessary for him not only to see all he prized in the world fade away before him, but he must also feel that he himself is personally humiliated, and then it is that the full nature and value of the resources in God are appropriated. It is at this moment that the Spirit of God passes through David's soul the sweet, confiding notes recorded in Psalm 34, " I will bless the Lord at all times." He exclaims, " I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Through bitter trials he had reached this blessed utterance, and in the same spot, so to speak, does the Spirit of God still utter it for every one who will pass that way. Driven out of the world, humiliated in himself before men and in his own eyes, denouncing his own " guile," he can now say, " The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants : and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate."
Chapter 22. David leaves Achish chanting Psalm 34, and escapes to Adullam. He is once more in the land, though it be but a cave ; and there not only his own house, but all that were in distress, or in debt, etc., congregate to him. Having learned the place of dependence for himself, he can become a centre and guide for the poor of the flock, whose hearts did not own the rule of Saul; and they can follow his faith, considering the end of his conversation. Why David placed his parents with the king of Moab I cannot say, unless he desired to escape from their influence and fears. (We know how our Lord had to rise above His parents' counsels.) While in this cave he utters three Psalms-142, 57 and 52-the latter, I think, after he was joined by the prophet and priest. He expresses full confidence in God " until these calamities be overpast," though at the same time sensible of the dangers with which he is surrounded. His " heart is prepared," therefore he will " sing and give praise." We naturally shrink from trials and sorrows, but when we find ourselves, like David, enjoying the resources that are in God, which our trials have caused us to have recourse to, we remember no more the path of affliction which led us thereto.
Psalm 52 is David's utterance when he hears of Doeg's conduct. He sees God's discipline in all his sorrow: " I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it." How the Spirit of God was converting every trial into an occasion for engaging his soul with the deep chords of spiritual song and the day of glory. If Paul in Arabia was caught up to heaven, surely in the cave and the wilderness the outcast David was hearing in his soul the sublime strains of God's victory over every foe. He not only heard the harpers harping with their harps, but his own heart was attuned of God ; and the divine music cheered the spirit of the rejected king.
Keilah is the next page in this interesting history; chap. 23. Whatever be the pressure or trial of our own position, if we are in the spirit and condition of soul answering to Psalm 57, we could not hear of the distress of any of God's people, which we could alleviate, without being ready to aid them. Consequently, when it was told David, " Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing floors," he inquired of the Lord, saying, " Shall I go and smite these Philistines? " And the Lord says, " Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah." The man of real might and experience in God's succour appeals to God before he embarks in anything. David's men try to discourage him from it, and, after he has mastered his own heart and its sorrows, he must learn to be superior to the unbelief of his associates. He inquires yet again; and a further assurance being given him from the Lord, he goes down to Keilah with his men, and is completely successful ; he saves the inhabitants. But this was only to bring about another order of trial and exercise of heart for him. Once more his services are unrequited. Saul goes down to besiege Keilah, and David inquires of the Lord as to whether the men whom he had just delivered from the Philistines will deliver him up; and the divine answer is that they will.
And here let us mark the difference in David's mode of inquiry in this and in the first instance (vv. 1-4). It does not appear that he made use of the priest when seeking counsel as to relieving Keilah ; but here, when " he knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him," and he wanted to know what should be his own line of action with reference to it, he says to the priest, " bring hither the ephod " ; and thus he makes the inquiry. This difference is interesting. In the first instance it was a simple question as to whether he should or should not serve others ; and, without questioning his motives, he has only to turn to the Lord for direction; but when our own interests are concerned we are much more likely to be led by our own will, and to lack singleness of heart and purpose; and thus we need the more to realise our full acceptance and to sift our motives ; and here the priesthood comes in. But in either case the answer is prompt and distinct ; and it is most instructive to note the manner of the intercourse between David and the Lord ; what confidence and simplicity there was between them. David asks his plain simple questions, and the Lord answers as plainly and distinctly. He had no resource but in God; and this he was learning more and more in each stage of his life. Any soul in the Lord's presence, and truly reliant on Him, would experience the same. The simpler such a soul is, the more it is qualified for great and exalted service. The one great with God is he who can devote all his energies according to God's counsel to aid and serve others, but whose dependence is entirely on God, proving that his resources place him above recompense from those whom he serves. It is plain that we are not told all the services which David rendered, or the experiences which he passed through. I suppose a specimen of each particular line is recorded for us. That of Keilah I should designate, as how the rejected king serves this people without requital ; and this is necessary discipline for him, nay, for any one who will walk with the true David through this evil world.
David now goes " whithersoever he could go 13), and eventually remains in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. Here Jonathan comes to him, and " strengthens his hand in God," fulfilling that vision of faith which he had expressed in Psalm 142, " The righteous shall compass me about." How graciously the Lord cheers us by human sympathy when we have entered the wilderness only depending on Him! How sweet to the soul to realise these instances of His compassion for us! But the cheer and encouragement of Jonathan's visit is soon chequered by the uncalled-for hostility of the Ziphites, who, in order to please Saul, inform him of David's retreat.
Whether it was on this occasion, when the treachery of the Ziphites was first known to him, that he uttered Psalm 54, or subsequently, it is immaterial to inquire ; what is interesting for us to know, is the state of his mind at the time, and this the psalm discloses. Strangers had risen up against him " ; but he can add, Behold, God is mine helper." Fully was this realised. Just as Saul and his men had succeeded in compassing him about to take him, a messenger comes, saying, " Haste thee, and come ; for the Philistines have invaded the land." David is delivered, and the spot is commemorated by the name of "the rock of divisions."
Thus it is that the power of man is rendered ineffectual. Man can never contend with two distinct enemies and he is obliged to let one escape in order to encounter the other. David has been taught in this strait, when all hope was well-nigh gone, how easily and simply the Lord can deliver him ; and very important it is for a servant to learn experimentally these various proofs of God's care of him, so that, " strong in the power of his might," he may be able to say, " I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." This is another distinct lesson for David during the period of his rejection. At Adullam, and in the wood he finds companions and sympathy; at Keilah he is permitted signally to serve, and baffles Saul by not depending on the recipients of his service ; in the wilderness of Maon, when almost in the hand of the enemy, he escapes through the Lord's interposition. Thus variously and wonderfully was he learning the ways of God in an evil and hostile world; and, according as he learned them, he was the better qualified to lead and rule God's people in such a scene.
His antitype, the blessed Lord Jesus, needed no such instruction. He knew what was in man, and He alone is truly Lord and King. But David is a fine specimen of the human vessel, with large capacities and ready mind to receive the divine mind and ways. His circumstances vary very much, but whenever he is true to his lesson of dependence on God, he is in the right path.
After a short respite in the strongholds of Engedi, David is again sought after by Saul, who now goes out against him with three thousand of the chosen men of Israel. No longer content to pursue after him singly, he, with an organised force and deadly purpose, persists in his design. David must endure this pressure, but in the end he shall know that the greater the violence urged against him, the simpler and more effectual are the means used of God to deliver him. Saul was defeated at Keilah by its being abandoned by David; he was foiled at the Rock of Division by the invasion of the Philistines; and most ingloriously is he defeated at Engedi by the moderation and loyalty of David, to whom he owes his life. Little did he know, in the malice of his heart, how by entering the cave he thrust himself into the grasp of his desired victim; or how deeply he was to be humbled, morally, by the contrast between them, which this scene displays. The generous elevation of one in his superiority to evil and enmity shines forth in such vivid colors as to draw forth the acknowledgment of it from the lips of the persecutor, who is made so conscious of his own comparative abasement that he for the moment sues favour from and acknowledges the title of the fugitive, whom, with all his power and chosen army, he had come forth to destroy. As for David, by acting in grace instead of vengeance he maintained God's principle of action toward the world, which now lies under the sin of having rejected its rightful King.
Chapter 25 presents us with another line of experience. And here we shall find that David for a moment forgets the lesson of the power of grace which he had just so remarkably acted on ; a warning to us of the treachery of our nature and how it may betray us into a very contrary line of action to that which we have only a moment before displayed. And still further, it teaches us that we are more likely to fail in grace toward one whose friendship and gratitude we have a title to reckon on than to an open enemy. David is so irritated by Nabal's ruthless conduct that he prepares to take summary vengeance on him, but is diverted from this avengeful course by the most interesting event and association which is ever known to God's servants in this Christ-rejecting world. Abigail is in type the church; and if we regard David as a type of the Lord she is his compensation in the day of his rejection for all he had lost in the kingdom. She is with him where even Jonathan cannot follow him, and after becoming his companion in suffering she shares his throne and glory. But we have also to consider David as the faithful servant, not perfect like the Lord, but under God's discipline and training ; and in this aspect the influence of Abigail on him typifies that of the church, whose position and sentiments when made known suppress all notions of vengeance. Nabal is spared for Abigail's sake, who had provoked and confirmed in David's soul the blessed and dignified path of grace which became him in his rejection, and who also gladly shares with him his toil and sorrow. Thus the wilderness of Maon was an eventful scene for David; just as it is a great day in our lives as Christians when the church as to her calling and nature is first made known to us. For many a servant of God who feels the usurpation of professing religion as David did in the person of Saul, has not found the Abigail-has not so learned what the church is in the mind of Christ, as to find therein interest, sympathy and companionship; as well as support in the path of grace in passing through this world. As Abigail was a green spot in the wilderness to David, so the church is the only green spot for the heart of Christ or His servants now on earth, the centre and object of His interest.
It is very necessary while studying the lines of instruction in which God educates His servant, to keep in mind that they are always in relation to the post for which the servant is destined. David is now only preparing for his great sphere of service ; and previous to entering on it it is necessary that he should know the grace of the Lord in all its various ways.
We have just seen how the Lord helped and cheered him in the wilderness in a manner most unexpected to him, the whole circumstances unfolding in a remarkable way His tender and abounding love. If Adam required the company and help of Eve in the garden of Eden, how much more did David an Abigail in the desert? But " the greater the need, the greater the boon " ; and this David's soul must have acknowledged. But after this bright moment the waters of persecution again encompass him; chap. 26. Saul, instigated by the Ziphites, again pursues him into the wilderness, which plainly intimated to David that the desperate issue was at hand. To the spiritual man oppressed by the world there is always given a very clear perception of the state and condition of the power brought against him. This grace is now given to David. He reconnoitres Saul and his army, understands what his own course should be, and having sought a companion forthwith entered on it. And for what object? Simply to show that though his enemy were in his power he would not injure him. " Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster," etc., when David and Abishai approach. The latter would have killed the sleeping king, but David interposed, alleging very distinctly and solemnly his confidence that God would be his avenger.- The only trophies which he takes are the spear and the cruse of water, which indicate the true nature of the exploit. The spear (the implement of war) was returned, but we do not hear that the cruse was. Saul a second time acknowledges David's victory of grace, and in reply to his expostulation says, " 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." What evidence had been accorded to David in this instance of the mighty power of God! Thus he proved what he uttered after his final deliverance: " He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters."
But, alas! when our greatest deliverances take place we are often least sensible of the mercy vouchsafed. The very ingratitude of our enemies provokes a reaction in us unless we are so humbled and broken as to be occupied in magnifying the Lord instead of dwelling on ourselves. Having been in the Lord's hand, unless we abide there, subject to Him in praise, we are the more sensible of our own powerlessness. Now powerlessness with faith binds us the more to God as the sure rock of our strength and the fountain of supply; but powerlessness without faith always drives us to seek human succour: and after great deliverances we often make a false step, partly because we have got out of the energy of that faith which the pressure required, and partly because our nature would escape from the restraint which faith entails-it wishes to get into circumstances where faith will not be required. Thus David, after this great moral victory over Saul, becomes a prey to his own feelings and fears (chap. 27), and says 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," etc. This idea was in positive contradiction to the language he had so lately uttered to Saul. But how soon one forgets the convictions of faith when one confers with nature! just before he had said, " So let my life be much set by in the eyes of the Lord, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation." But now he is so desponding that he expatriates himself from the Lord's inheritance. " 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." We have seen that once before he had sought refuge with Achish, and was glad to retire from it in humiliation. Why does he go there again? He now practically exemplifies the most peculiar and necessary discipline that any one can be subjected to. Whatever be the first cause of our failure at our start, even though surmounted at the time, it is sure to beset us again, and if we be not effectually delivered from it, in a more bitter and desperate form. This is necessary; for if that particular offspring of my nature still flourishes, surely divine discipline must be directed to the subdual xxx of it; for if it be not summarily expelled, it is sure to betray itself again and again, and therefore when an exposure recurs (because it has not been thoroughly mortified), it is always met by a severer chastening. David ingratiates himself with Achish and obtains Ziklag from him. It is wonderful how the Lord allows His servants to work out their own devisings ; but after they have been corrected and have seen the end of them, He advances them to greater and higher service, provided they have been in principle true to Him.
Deep as was David's failure here, I believe this was the case with him. We never hear that he worshipped false gods, or forgot that Israel was God's people. He deceived Achish and thus morally degraded himself, but he was true in principle to God, and when his nature was subdued, he was delivered from his humiliating position into open and active service. Ziklag was the last touch of the master hand that was preparing him for the throne, and must therefore be especially interesting to us. He goes there in unbelief, tarries for more than a year, ingratiates himself with Achish by false representations, and even essays to join him in battle against Israel, which act we must from his former course consider that the lords of the Philistines rightly interpreted ; for however he could deceive, he never would have taken the sword against his own people, except with the intention to aid them eventually. This they foresee, and Achish is reluctantly obliged to decline his services and send him away. And now being delivered from this false and painful position by the Lord's indirect interpositions, discipline follows. While this duplicity has been going on judgment falls on Ziklag, and David and his company returned to find it burned with fire, and their wives, sons and daughters taken captive! We now know what David did not know at this distressing moment, that the same God who was then so sorely chastening him was preparing the kingdom for him; for the very same hour Saul was being slain on mount Gilboa, but David was not fit for the throne or for any such tidings, until he was chastened and brought into real dependence on God. The first and last step to the throne is dependence, and the only title for it which God owns; consequently, at Ziklag, David is more humbled and deserted than at any other period of his life; for not only was his own sorrow poignant on account of his great loss, but (as in the case of all such sorrows) the failure of his past course must have intensified his misery ; and in addition to this, the greatest blow of all his old and attached followers speak of stoning him. Such a moment he had never known before, and never knew again. His enemies (the Amalekites) had baffled him, and were beyond his reach ; and what is more fretting to the man of might than to be circumvented without opportunity of avenging oneself? Truly he was under the arrows of the Almighty, and made to feel the chastening rod for having committed himself to so false a position as that outside the land or place of privilege. Human help or support there was none ; on the contrary, danger and conspiracy surrounded him ; God chastening him, his friends incensed against him, the enemy unreachable. But what was the result? " David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." It is deeply interesting now and again to turn to the Psalms and listen to the breathings of his heart in the varied circumstances, the narrative of which is given in the history of his life. We find that Psalm 56 was uttered in the distress of his soul, entailed by his wrong and humiliating sojourn in Gath; and whether or not it was at the period we are considering, it is an utterance fully expressive of what he must have passed through. Bereft of all human trust, he turns to God, though in the full consciousness of his own failures. " In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Thy vows are upon me, 0 God: I will render praises unto thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling? " It is a blessed thing to have received at any time a right knowledge of God; for if we have, when our failure is paramount, we shall then best know that God is our only resource, although His chastening be very sore, and we be forsaken and helpless. There is no fear for David now; he has "awakened," and he shall "have light." (See Eph. 5 : 14.) Bring hither the ephod," he says to Abiathar, the priest for when the soul re-enters the path of faith, it is specially conscious of the necessity of acceptance ; and now he has got into his old line of confidence, and doubtless with renewed energy. As at Keilah, he inquires of the Lord, " Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? " And He answered him with peculiar assurance and encouragement, " Pursue : for thou shalt surely overtake, and without fail recover all." Thus in a moment has the earnest soul recovered itself with God. " So David went, and the six hundred men that were with him " ; but two hundred remained behind at the brook Besor from faintness. The path of faith always tests our strength, and every embarrassment only presents an opportunity for some greater display of the grace which is sustaining us. This contretemps gives rise to a " statute for Israel unto this day," and one fully characteristic of the grace which at the moment was blessing the pursuers.
David fails not; wise and gracious as well as strong (as the man walking according to God's counsel ever is), he can turn every incident to account. The almost famished Egyptian commands his attention; in any case he ought not to have neglected him, as we in our haste are too ready to do; and had he done so, he would have lost the proper clue to the desired relief. The recruited Egyptian guides David to the camp of his enemies, and he smote the whole troop, recovered all they had carried away, rescued his two wives and all ; there was nothing lacking, David recovered all. And now, returning to the brook Besor, he exemplifies how a soul in the enjoyment of grace will know how to testify of that grace to others. He overrules the selfishness of the natural mind, and proclaims that divine principle: "As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff : they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day." What a monument! What a commemoration of the last hours of David's rejection! and what a herald of the reign about to open! This ordinance of the victorious but uncrowned David (the position which our Lord now holds towards His people here) has a very momentous meaning, and embodies the principle now true of the church, even that each member in the body is dependent on the others for loss or for gain. It is new and wonderful, but worthy of the hour in which it was enacted. It is the Holy Ghost who unites in one body the members of the absent Lord, and makes them dependent on and inseparable one from the other. May we apply our hearts unto wisdom, that we may understand the deep things of God.
We have now reached the completion of the third course or circle of David's eventful life, and the close of that wonderful process of preparation which was necessary to qualify him for that high and glorious position for which he was so early destined and anointed; and we enter on another chapter in his history. The period of his rejection is over, and the new and glorious position which he is to occupy is being prepared for him. That course of education which belonged to him as a fugitive and a sufferer, though rightful heir to the throne, closed at Ziklag, the scene to him of bitter sorrow and retribution, but of wondrous deliverance and restoration; and it is there, after having returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and having sent presents of the spoil of the " enemies of the Lord " to all places where he and his men were wont to resort, that the momentous tidings of the death of him whose throne he was to fill reaches him 1 What a remarkable coincidence 1 The charred ruins of Ziklag testified of the chastening which he had so deeply tasted and needed, while the presents which he was sending hither and thither, proclaimed the compensation and victory which had been vouchsafed to him. The contrast between the two testimonies is striking, the one notifying his own failure, the other still more generally and positively the goodness and favour of the Lord.
Right royally he was acting before he knew that he was actually king, or that the one who had barred his. way to the throne had fallen on Mount Gilboa. It is in keeping with God's ways that we should be in the spirit of our position when the time arrives for us to be owned in it, for the condition indicates the position ; nay, the condition is ever unsatisfied until it reaches the position which suits it. The preparation of his heart is from the Lord, and we may rest assured that unless we are acting in the spirit of any desired position, we are not fit for it, and if we were set in it, we should be found unsuited to it. It is true we do not, and need not know how to act in the promised position until we are actually set therein, for faith's activities are for the present; but we may and should act in the spirit of the better position, and if our tastes for it are not gratified, the divine life is not satisfied ; for it seeks its own region, and the tastes are the evidences of its vitality.
David was two days at Ziklag after his return from conquest before he heard of the death of Saul ; for it was on the " third day " that the event and the manner of it is related to him by an Amalekite, who says, " 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." But how does David receive these tidings and trophies? He " took hold on his clothes, and rent them ... and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even " ; and as for the bearer of them, he ordered his immediate execution. When judgment from God falls on His people, however deserved by them and predicted by the faithful, yet to the godly it is always solemn and affecting; and at such a moment no true David could remember the benefit that might accrue to himself from the event. The soul enters rather into the cause of the divine interposition; and the sense that God is acting silences self. How many and great were the revolutions which had exercised David's spirit those three days! He had not only known the Lord's peculiar mercy to himself, but now he is made cognisant of this singular judgment, which occupies him so much in its connection with Israel, that for the moment he overlooks its importance to himself. Moreover, he could not suffer the Amalekite, who had reported the news, to live ; for he was proving his title to the throne in his unflinching war with the Amalekites, in contrast to Saul, who had lost the kingdom by sparing Amalek (i Sam. 15), and who now, by God's unerring retribution, is slain, and stripped of his kingly ornaments by an Amalekite 1 It was consistent, therefore, with God's way and will that David should establish his title by relentless vengeance on Amalek, and doubtless the Lord in His mercy exasperated him thus ere he reached the throne against the enemy of Israel by allowing the Amalekites to wound him where he was most sensitive. Blessed God! this is often Thy gracious way!
To the godly soul there is a fresh demand for counsel from God as each difficulty or opposition disappears, because he requires to ascertain how he may use the advantage aright, and there is often much lost for want of judgment. David now " enquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron," 2 Sam. 2: 1. What simple, happy and interesting dependence 1 In what a different spirit he leaves Ziklag to that in which he entered it! What blessed fruition of God's discipline does he now enjoy going up into Hebron, led and sustained by the plain word of God! What power and simplicity characterise the walk of the man upheld thereby! David goes to Hebron, and " his men that were with him ... every man writh his household." When faith in God is unhindered by nature, it embraces all that concerns me. I learn that God's interest in me must embrace my interests, or it would not be perfect consideration for me.
If a hair of my head cannot fall to the ground without Him, it is plain to faith that everything which concerns me is now within the circle of His hand. David, therefore, acting in this mind, brought up all his men, and every man his household. Nothing less would suit that faith in the word of God which had said to him, " Go up unto Hebron." When we begin in faith and dependence, every circumstance will establish not only the faith but the wisdom of our course; hence we find, in verse 4. that the " men of Judah came and anointed David king over the house of Judah." But though now set up in royal dignity, it was a position very far short of that for which he was destined and anointed by Samuel. Seven years and six months must still elapse before the whole nation acknowledge him as king (v. i i). And there was still to be " long war between the house of Saul and the house of David " though the latter should wax stronger and stronger. By what slow and measured steps the Lord leads His servants to their appointed place ; it is, doubtless, never fully attained in this world, for though Paul can say, " This one thing I do," yet he must own that he has not attained that distinct place which he will occupy in glory; though the more he presses thereto, the more he fulfils his calling and service. How often is God's servant, like David, set in Hebron for a season ; that is, only in partial possession of his appointed service, and how necessary this is in order to develop in him the suitable qualities. We may shrink from antagonism, but if there were none we should never feel the virtues of the grace supplied to us by the Holy Ghost. Many opportunities are now afforded to David for proving his qualifications for the office he desired, which he never would have had, or probably would never have availed himself of, if he had been at once enthroned king of all Israel.
His first act is to send a message of approval and encouragement to the men of Jabesh-Gilead, who had owned Saul. This was great grace, and the true dignity of a man of might, capacitated to lead and rule. The throne is established by righteousness, and the one who cannot render impartial justice cannot divinely rule. A Christian walks in righteousness and charity, rendering its due to every claim fairly and fully; and supplying to the impotent and suffering what they require. Even to an enemy David is able to render deserved praise, and this established his moral weight; and though he has also his disappointments and mistakes, he waxes stronger and stronger, and is all the while learning his true course before God.
Abner, in anger, deserts the house of Saul (chap. 3: 9, etc.), and espouses David, who consents to make a league with him on condition that he should deliver to him his wife, Michal, Saul's daughter. It is difficult to understand his motive for this demand. It may have been regard for Michal, for he owed his life to her, or it may have been mixed with policy, as evidencing his alliance with Saul; but whatever it was, the act was not attended with honour to either of them. If the surrender of Michal was gratifying to David's nature, the base assassination of Abner by Joab must have been a bitter reverse. just as he might have reckoned on this man of valour as the appointed instrument to bring about the desired consummation he is cut down. Deep discipline was there in this sad occurrence. No wonder he should mourn for Abner. In the mourning he realised his own dependent state, and must have felt what a terrible blot it was on his government that the sword of his own captain should thus gainsay his righteous rule. But he must learn not to build his hopes on any; and even this, the Lord in the end turned to his advantage ; for the people took note of his great grief, and it pleased them. What man would pronounce a great misfortune God can convert into the opposite for His servant. David might justly say, " I am this day weak, though anointed king." But this humbling is only preparatory to exaltation. We must feel and know our need of God before He can openly help us.
This event, which seemed to human vision so great a misfortune, eventually weakened the house of Saul in a remarkable way (chap. 4: 1), for Ishbosheth is slain by two of his captains, and David's rival removed without any reflection on David, which he could not have escaped had it been brought about by the sword of Abner. Oh! if we would but trust the Lord, we should find that what we, in our feeble judgment, regard as against us, He has ordered as entirely for us. David humbled before God, and, waiting on Him, deals with this treachery as became him; righteously visiting with death the perpetrators of the murder, and accepting the results as from the Lord, for the last obstacle to his acknowledgment as king of Israel was now gone; for we read (chap. 5: 1), " Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron ... and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel." In i Chronicles 12 : 38 it is detailed to us the character and quality of the multitude of Israel, who gathered to Hebron to acknowledge him as king: " All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king."
Thus, after an interval of about twenty-one years, has this much-disciplined servant attained his appointed place. Slow had been the steps by which he had reached it ; varied and deep the education which had prepared him for it, not the least part of which was the last seven years and a half, during which he was only in partial possession; and now, having attained it, we have to trace how he fills it, always remembering that the instruction still goes on, though in different circumstances.
The first recorded act of David after his elevation to the throne is his attempt to bring back the ark of God ; a true and godly desire-for to render unto the Lord the first-fruits of our increase is the natural action of the soul which is consciously receiving from Him ; but how often we mar in execution our best intentions, on account of the influence of our associations ; and our associations are always in keeping with our practical state. David, in his spirit, desires to see the ark of God restored, " for it had not been inquired at in the days of Saul." But he, doubtless, much engrossed at this time with the heads of the army, as the means by which he had reached the throne, consults with them about bringing back the ark, instead of with the Lord ; the consequence of which is, as is ever the case, a human devised plan is decided on; a cart drawn by kine is appointed to carry it, instead of the Levites, which was the divine way. What could result from such an arrangement but chastening in the display of God's holiness? Uzzah is slain; a great check to David, and reminding him that the Lord was near, and that if he would do the works of God he must do them in the mind of God. But he does not seem to have apprehended this at once. We read he was displeased and was afraid of the Lord, and said, " How shall the ark of the Lord come to me? " And, moreover, he left it in the house of Obededom, the Gittite, for three months.
Now, in i Chronicles 13-16, we read of two conflicts with the Philistines by David, between his first essay as to bringing up the ark and the final accomplishment of it. Whether they actually took place at that period, or as related in Samuel, may be a question; but the Spirit of God always gives us the moral order of events in Chronicles, and I fully believe that it is thus related in the latter, with the intent to show us that the lesson which David needed to be taught then, and in need of which he failed the first time, was that so far from borrowing any of the devices of the Philistines, he was to have nothing to do with them, except to overcome them. If he had truly and deeply apprehended the nature and extent of the power of God, as at Baal-perazim, where God " broke in upon his enemies like the breaking forth of waters," in answer to the simple and blessed dependence with which he inquired of Him, and waited on Him, step by step, he would have been saved from the sorrow and humiliation of Perez-uzzah. Even after obtaining signal victories over the world how often, alas! do we introduce some worldly element into our worship, which will neutralise our truest purposes. If I do not realise the entire setting aside of the world and of any association with it, I am sure to retain some idea borrowed from it, which contravenes the truth and grace of God. In the first of these conflicts David is taught what personal victory the Lord vouchsafes to His servant when he trusts Him; for there he had inquired of the Lord in as full dependence as when he was a refugee in the wilderness of Maon ; and dependence yields all the more savour when our position is such as might seem, humanly speaking, to place us above it. God had promised that He would deliver the Philistines into his hand ; and so great was their defeat that David said, " God hath broken in upon mine enemies by mine hand like the breaking forth of waters : therefore he called the name of the place Baal-perazim."
Now it is one thing for me to feel and know that I am personally victorious over the world (I can have no rest until I do), and quite another thing to know that it is God that setteth me on my high places; that is, that He is subduing my enemies for me ; and still further, that it is when the sound of God is heard that I bestir myself and go forth to conflict (i Chron. 14: 15) ; for then I know that He has " gone forth before me to smite the host of the Philistines."
These were the blessed experiences through which the Lord was leading His servant, enough surely to *direct him from stooping to adopt the modes and plans of the Philistines, without consulting the Lord and His word I
At the end of three months, however, David having been warned, chastened, and most graciously instructed, and hearing of the blessing vouchsafed to the house of Obededom from the presence of Him whose holiness had so lately broken forth in judgment to wither up the presumption of nature, prepares to bring up the ark of God to the city of David with gladness, and he now makes an announcement which virtually is a confession of his own mistake, even that " None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites : for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever." The details of this interesting event are given to us in i Chronicles 15 and 16, and we shall do well to note the spirit of David on the occasion. He acts as both priest and king, and orders and appoints everything, and is, moreover, himself clothed with an ephod and robe of fine linen, and dances before the Lord with all his might. In fact his whole course and way is a practical expression of Psalm 132, which was the utterance of his heart at the moment. How different from his first attempt to bring up the ark was this, in power, testimony, and joy of heart I How imposingly expressive is the gladness of the heart when engaged with the Lord, and how indifferent to all carnal judgment! This must have been the happiest moment in David's life, as also the most honoured one, when he said, " Arise, 0 Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.'' And then it was that he " first delivered a psalm to thank the Lord," etc. (chap. 16: 7-36).
What a bright and blessed moment, after all his sorrows and discipline! What fulness of joy does his occupation with the Lord give him, and with what divine skill does he direct all the details of the levitical service! There is no jar in the scene, save that of the daughter of Saul, whose spirit out of tune with the whole scene can have no sympathy with him, nor can she understand it, for she despises David in her heart. Thus in this bright hour he suffers from unsuited association. And how often is this the case! Many a one who passes acceptably in the muddy light of profession soon betrays himself, if placed in the bright light of God's presence. But if this were a cloud in the fair sky which now overshadowed David, it bore a blessing and deliverance for him too ; for this unequal association was to fetter him no more. The line of separation is from henceforth drawn between them for ever. In the wilderness God had given him an Abigail, a kindred spirit to share his rejection ; and now, as he conducts the ark of God to its rest in Mount Zion, in the boundless joy of a soul rejoicing in the Lord's exaltation, he breaks the last link of his alliance with the world ; his holy joy alienates the heart of her whose innate worldliness of spirit is hereby disclosed.
It seems likely that it was when David returned to bless his house (i Chron. 16: 43) that he uttered Psalm 30. He could then say, " Thou hast turned from me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness." He had now risen to the height of prosperity and could say, " I shall never be moved." His soul was simply enjoying all at the hands of the Lord ; and here he exclaims, " I will extol thee, 0 Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me."
In this spirit it was that David sat in his house (i Chron. 17) and said to Nathan the prophet, " Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains." This *as a very natural and godly feeling, while enjoying a vivid sense of the Lord's lovingkindness, and as such Nathan commends it. Nevertheless, it was not the Lord's mind, and we are thus taught that the truest and most apparently spiritual desire and intention is not to be trusted or acted on without seeking direct counsel of the Lord.
That same night the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in," etc. ; and he goes on to say how the Lord will build him a house! When our cup is filled, we are liable, in the elation which the sense of God's favour has secured for us, to propose services with an honest purpose for which we may be unqualified. The word of God will always define our proper place to us, as it here does to David, while it is accompanied by an enlarged and wonderful unfolding of the Lord's interest in him personally. It is well to have great zeal for His glory, but the word which corrects us in our inopportune designs is sure to unfold to us the measureless nature of His own interest in us. This David learns here, and he can now go and sit before the Lord in full communion with His mind, and in that self-abasement which His presence alone can produce. However we may praise Him for His gifts and receive them from Him, yet while we sit in the " house of cedars," we may mistake our due calling and place; but when we " sit before the Lord," listening to the unfoldings of His mind and interest for us, all things fall into their right place, and we exclaim, "Who am I that thou hast brought me hitherto?"
After this (chap. 18) David subdues the Philistines, smites Moab, and the king of Zobah unto Hamath, as he went to establish his dominion by the river Euphrates. The Lord preserves him wherever he goes : he puts garrisons into Edom and the Edomites become his servants : the Syrians flee before Israel, neither would they help the children of Ammon any more. In short, the Lord vouchsafes to David in an unexampled way the full tide of prosperity. How does he bear it? It was a double prosperity that he had been blessed with-spiritual and temporal ; spiritual when he was led into communion with the mind and purposes of God, when, entering into God's infinite interest in himself, his imperfect ideas were lost in the boundlessness of God's promises and purpose ; and temporal, in the magnitude of God's ways and gifts to him. Is he able to stand all this? Adversity tests the character, being a demand on the resources in ourselves. Prosperity tests the nature and our power of self-control. In adversity we ply all our strength and prove it too, in order to emerge from the difficulty. In prosperity there is opportunity for the indulgence of our natural propensities.
God had shown David in a remarkable way how full and unsparingly He could open His hand to bless him; his prosperity was boundless ; and in it an opportunity is offered to his nature, and he falls! (2 Sam. ii).
How eagerly the poor heart runs after prosperity and mercies, never remembering that, to such as we are, there is no new mercy without a new order of trial to our flesh ; and the more we are at ease in natural things, the greater the opportunity for our nature to expose itself The Lord knows that the spring of evil is there ; and though we are so much more humbled when the evil is exposed, yet the exposure being needed, in order to lay bare the spring to ourselves, we are really no worse in God's judgment, because He already knew what we were capable of.
David, truly convicted of his sin, is now, as we learn from Psalm 51, bowed into a " humble and contrite spirit," in the sense of his own corruption. He had before shown the humble and contrite spirit, resulting from the exposure of the weakness of his nature: now he feels it in the depth of degradation, through the wickedness of his nature ; and in this utterance he gives expression to the heart of Israel in the latter day, when they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and be humbled before Him in the sense of their " blood-guiltiness." Painful as is the moment both to David and to Israel, yet it is that in which God's salvation is most fully revealed to both. For the lower I am sunk, the better I can appreciate what it is to be delivered.
David, through God's wondrous grace, enters from this on a deeper knowledge of salvation. He learns what God is for the sinner, while also learning that sin against our neighbour must meet with temporal judgment. God is just, ruling among men; and the man who sins against others must be judged openly. Many sin only against God, and then their flesh is judged, as between themselves and God; but when the sin affects other men, then the judgment must be public.
David's child dies; 2 Sam. 12: 18. But soon the blessed fruits of discipline reappear in his soul; he is again the dependent and subject one. While the child lived, he besought the Lord for it; and so far from despising the chastening of the Lord, he evidently felt it most intensely ; but when it is dead, he accepts God's win in perfect submission. " He arose from the earth, and washed and anointed himself." It had been a moment of thickest darkness to him for there had been no communication from the Lord to alleviate the sorrow of his heart. And I believe this is generally the case when we are suffering judicially. It is necessary that we should feel the righteous government of God; and while passing under it for our sin, we are not conscious of either light or converse ; but, nevertheless, we may emerge from it with renewed strength and power, as did David; for we next find him warring against Rabbah (V. 29) in the full tide of victory. He resumes the right path, and honour and blessing are again vouchsafed to him; and God shows him that, however inflexible He be in righteousness, His love and interest in him are unchanged.
But, nevertheless, the word of the Lord spoken by Nathan (chap. 12: 10, 11) had passed: "The sword shall never depart from thy house." And though David's soul had been so far chastened in the proximate fruit of his sin, because he had not judged himself, and was also so far restored, still he must further suffer judicially from God's righteous government to humble him among men.
This brings us to that period in his history when he was afflicted and humbled by the evil of his own children. In what sorer way could a man be made to feel the evil of his nature and publicly humbled? David, as king, ought to have been the example of righteousness, for by righteousness was the throne to have been established; and if the head fail, the leaven must spread, and increase throughout the system. Defects in a parent's self-government will be extravagantly betrayed in his children ; and from their infancy he is taught in a painful way what needs repression and crucifixion in his own nature, though he may never have committed sins actually similar to those of his children ; but children are his continuation on earth, and portray his nature.
According to the law, I judge that Amnon ought to have suffered death for his sin ; chap. 13 : 4. David fails to be " just, ruling in the fear of God." And judgment overtakes Amnon by the hand of his brother Absalom; who, thus guilty of murder, flies from the kingdom ; but David, yielding to the stratagem of Joab, is weak enough, not only to allow him to return, but after a time to reinstate him in favour; chap. 14. This weakness and injustice before very long bears the bitterest fruits ; for, when we unrighteously spare another in order to indulge our own feelings, we always expose ourselves to the evil of the nature which we should have controlled and condemned. The very next verse to the one which tells us of Absalom's reception by his father, announces to us his parricidal rebellion; chap. 15: 1.
David must now flee. Sad and humiliating is it to see him, after being raised to such honours and high estate, descending from the throne and retreating from Jerusalem before the wave of tumult and rebellion, evoked and fomented by his own son. He had passed through another moment similar, yet different from this. The suffering of Ziklag was retributive also, but it was more from man on every side. Here it is the loss of Jerusalem, the Mount Zion that he loved, his position and everything, and by the hand, not of the Amalekite, but of his own son.
But he surrenders it all, leaving it to the issue, " If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation," etc. " And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot." How the discipline of that hour entered into his soul Psalm 3 tells us: " Many there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God." But what then? " I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill." The true value of sorrow and trial is to lead the soul into simple reliance on God. David had failed in this ; and as he had neglected his appointed work, and thus exposed himself to temptation and sin (chap. ii : i), so now he is subjected to a war with his own son. When we shrink from the services we are called to, not only does trouble befall us, but like Jonah, we show that we need to be subjected to deeper exercise of soul in order to render us fit for our calling. But in this unnatural and bitter war the suffering servant renews his confidence in God; and from the moment when he " laid him down and slept " (which I am induced to place where it is said, " And the king [David], and all the people that were with him, came weary, and refreshed themselves there," 2 Sam. 16: 14), all things went favourably. He says, " I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about." There is no fear of man, however great he be, or however near us, when we are able to sleep because of reliance on God. Ahithophel's counsel is despised, and David returns to Jerusalem. But Absalom must fall!
David has other sorrows; his history pre-eminently teaches us how continually the exercise of his soul must be kept up. When delivered from Sheba (chap. 20) there is a famine in the land for three successive years (chap. 2 1) which again leads him to the Lord in inquiry, and He tells him that it is for Saul and his bloody house, the last of whom is thus extirpated. After this (v. 15) David had one more war with the Philistines. In the end of his course, even as at the beginning, he encounters a giant-not the same giant: for what we once really conquer we have no need to reconquer. But other giants arise, which test our strength, and we are made to feel that what is easy to faith is critical to one walking without its exercise ; and that if our dependence on God be less, our ability is less, whatever may be the extent of our experience and attainment. David here " waxed faint " ; and when the giant " thought to have slain him," Abishai succoured him and smote the Philistine. " Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel."
But another and peculiar discipline is necessary for this already much-disciplined servant, and that at the close of his life. Years before he had desired to build a house for the Lord-a desire good in itself, but which he was unprepared to carry out; therefore the Lord, while at the same time greatly blessing David in his own soul by the revelation of His personal interest in him, refused to sanction the execution of it. But it is only at the end of his life that he is shown how ill-prepared he was to build it, for he did not even know where it was to be built: and this he must learn as the fruit of God's discipline for his own failure. The site of the temple is revealed to him in its moral value and suitability; so that, his own soul having learned the nature of that grace which was the basis of it, his last hours might be spent in preparing for its erection.
When David had rest from all his enemies, and naturally felt his exalted position, Satan takes advantage of him and tempts him to number the people in order to exult in the greatness of his resources; chap. 24. It was God who had raised him to his present position, but the heart of man win count up God's gifts in order to be independent of the Giver. He owed everything that he had to God in so distinct and wonderful a way that it betrayed the working of nature in a very open and shameless manner, that he should at the end of his course so publicly show his desire to be accounted great because of the number of the people, rather than because of the help of God who had so supported him. For this the Lord visits him, but permits him to choose one of three afflictions. When we err, there is need of discipline to correct the flesh ; but if our error be a private one, then the chastening is private, but none the less painful ; but if public, the chastening must be public, for God shows His justice to all His creatures. David is restored in soul, for he chooses the affliction which is most immediately from the hand of the Lord, thereby showing that his dependence was revived.
And now a new and wondrous field of blessing opens to him. The most touching evidence of how God's grace flows from His love is that when restoration is complete there is always a fuller revelation of the fulness of our acceptance with Him. When the sword of the Lord was stretched over Jerusalem, and David was cast on God with a true sense of his evil, God declares His mercy; and the prophet Gad is directed to tell David to go up and set up an altar in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. " And the Lord answered David there, and the plague was stayed." But still more. Having found at this altar acceptance with God, while afraid to go to the altar of burnt-offering in the high place of Gibeon, which belonged to the first tabernacle under the law, he learns for the first time the site of the temple. Long before he had essayed to erect this temple-this type of the Lord Jesus Christ ; but never till now was he humbled enough to be taught of God the right place for it; nor did he, like many of us, know those exercises of soul, and lessons of grace which he should submit to, ere he knew the most preliminary part of the work which he had conceived himself equal for. It is good to desire high and great services, but we must be prepared to reach them in God's way. If James and John desire to sit, the one on the right hand and the other on the left, in Christ's kingdom, are they prepared to drink of the cup He drank of, and be baptised with the baptism with which He was baptised? David has now acquired a sense of God's grace unknown to him before, and which qualified him for determining the site of that building which would set forth Christ as the One who in Himself declared that mercy rejoiceth over judgment ; and therefore David said, " This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt-offering for Israel and there the temple was erected.
It now only remains for us to notice the close of David's life. It appears that after the discipline and instruction of Mount Moriah, he applied himself assiduously to prepare the materials for the temple; I Chron. 22. And more than this (chap. 23), having made Solomon his son king over Israel, he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and Levites, and divided them into their courses; chaps. 23-33. Beautiful and blessed conclusion to his eventful and remarkable life, which his address to all the chiefs of Israel properly terminates as to testimony! Here is the end of his public course; but what were his private musings? In his " last words " (2 Sam. 23) he gives utterance to them. There we learn his personal feelings and judgment about everything-God's grace to him-his own imperfect condition-the hope of his soul and the object it rested on; and, finally, his estimate of the world, in its antagonism to God, expressed by the "men of Belial."
With the remembrance of these deeply interesting and experimental " last words " on our souls, and amid the circle of faithful and valiant ones who had accompanied him, and who are not to be forgotten (v. 8, etc.), we may close the history of this " man after God's own heart," while we sing aloud, " Great and wonderful are thy works, 0 Lord, and that my soul knoweth right well."