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Devotional Hours with the Bible, Volume 2: Chapter 27 - Saul Tries to Kill David

By J.R. Miller

      1 Samuel 18

      At first Saul was strongly attracted to David. David's valor that day in the conflict with Goliath, which won the friendship of Jonathan, also won the king's admiration. The noble service he had rendered in his victory over the champion, aroused Saul's gratitude. But soon the evil nature in the man asserted itself.

      It seems to have been soon after David's anointing, that Saul fell under the influence of melancholy and became subject to fits of insanity. It was thought that music might be beneficial, and when one who could play well on a harp was sought for, the boy David was found, and he was brought to the king's court. When Saul saw David, he loved him and made him his armor-bearer. When Saul's distress came on, David would take his harp and play before him, and the music soothed the king and drove away the evil spirit.

      David did not remain continuously with Saul, for he was at home at the time of the war with the Philistines and had come up from his father's house on a visit to his brothers, when the incident of his duel with the giant occurred. After this David was again with Saul. "Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house."

      David had had no military training or experience--he had been a shepherd lad in the quiet fields about Bethlehem from his boyhood. His heroic deed in meeting the champion brought him from his obscurity into the public eye. It is interesting to follow the story of David's training from the time we first meet him. All his experiences were part of his preparation for the kingship. He was taken into Saul's household, then into the army and sent out over the country in military excursions. For years he was the object of the king's hatred and was hunted from place to place. All the while he was in God's school, however, and God was making of him the man who was to rule His people. God is always making men. He has a plan for everyone's life, and the events, circumstances and experiences of life make the school in which the man is trained.

      There was something in David which won hearts for him wherever he went. He was popular everywhere. Whatever he did "it was good in the sight of all the people." He was a favorite from the first. He had a winning personality. His victory over Goliath made his name known throughout the whole country. The people were pleased, therefore, when he was honored by the king.

      It is a great thing to have the power of making friends. It is the secret of many men's success. No doubt people naturally differ in the possession of this power. Winningness is in a measure, a natural gift. But it can also be acquired and cultivated. It is told of a well-known English writer of books that in her early youth she was the homeliest girl in the town where she lived. She was aware of this and resolved that lacking physical attractions, she would cultivate the qualities which give beauty to disposition and character. She became known at length as a very angel of kindness. She went everywhere on errands of love. She was the friend of the sick, the sorrowing, the poor, the troubled. Love grew to such sweetness in her disposition and spirit that people forgot her homeliness and saw only the beauty of her character. The only way to make friends--is to be friendly. David loved people--and the people loved him.

      Great honor was shown to David when he returned from his victory over the Philistine. It would have been in any country. Heroes are always applauded. "Saul has slain his thousands--and David his ten thousands." David had proved himself a true hero. Heroes are lauded everywhere. But the battlefield is not the only place where brave deeds are done. There are other heroes, and nobler ones, than those of war. Every man who loves truth and stands up manfully for right against wrong, is a hero. Everyone who follows Christ through opposition and persecution, standing firm and unmoved in his loyalty, is a hero. The missionaries who died in the Boxer rebellion were heroes, and no less heroes were they who went out to take the places of those who had fallen at their posts.

      There are many heroes in common life, too, whose brave deeds pass unrecognised and unpraised. It is always pleasant to have the approval of one's neighbors and friends. It cheers us and makes us braver and stronger, inspiring us to other worthy deeds, to hear the commendation of men. We wrong others when we withhold the words of appreciation which it is in our heart to speak--but which we do not speak. We ought to cheer each other on the way, for ofttimes the way is hard and the burdens are heavy.

      Popularity has its disadvantages. David would have been happier in the end if the people had not gone wild over his triumph. It always costs to be successful. "Saul was very angry" when he heard the women sing the praises of the boy David. While the people sang his own praises, Saul was well pleased. But as he listened he heard another name, the name of David. And as he listened still more closely he found that the refrain ran: "Saul has slain his thousands--and David his ten thousands."

      The first line was sweet to the king--but the second was bitter as wormwood to him. The people had ten times as much honor for David as for their king, and this made him very angry. All his former love for David changed to bitter hate.

      It takes a good deal of grace--to hear others receive praise which we have been accustomed to receive. Some people cannot bear to hear others commended at all, even when it takes no honor from themselves. But it is harder still to see another coming into the place in people's plaudits which they have held before. "The bright day brings out the adder." There are many people who feel just as Saul did--when others receive honor and appreciation, though they may hide their feelings better than he did.

      In contrast, however, recall how Samuel bore himself when he was set aside as ruler and Saul was made king, displacing him. He accepted the humiliation meekly and helped to find the king and to put him on his throne. Recall how sweetly John the Baptist decreased as Jesus increased. All of us some time in our life will have occasion to try, in a smaller or greater way, whether we can behave any better than Saul.

      "Base envy withers at another's joy--
      And hates the excellence it cannot reach."

      The Bible tells us that man was made but a little lower than God. Yet man is capable also of descending until he is but little higher than demons! Whatever Godlikeness there was originally in Saul, seems now to have been changed into flendishness. The record says: "Saul eyed David from that day and forward." That is, he set his heart on destroying David. Saul had a splendid chance to show a noble spirit when he heard David's heroism praised above his own. If he had joined in the honoring of the young man who had saved the day for the army and the country, if he had rejoiced in David's success--he would have proved himself a truly manly man. But he lost his chance. The only secret of keeping bitterness out of one's heart in such a case as this--is to keep love in the heart. If we love on, no matter what comes, our hearts will never grow bitter.

      But Saul did what so many other men do--he let the evil spirit of jealousy and envy into his heart, and that drove out love. Evil spirits and bad passions are always watching, ready to enter into a man when they see a chance to make mischief. There is no other time when one is so open to these malignant messengers as when some bad temper or passion has possession of us. When envy or jealousy is cherished in a heart and allowed to abide--no one can tell what the result will be. The worst crimes start in just such dark passions. We know how it was with Cain. Abel had never done him any harm. The only thing Cain could ever say against Abel--was that he was good and that his life pleased God. Yet that was enough to change love into hate in Cain--and lead him to the dark crime of murder. Saul saw David honored and heard him praised. David had done nothing against him. Yet Saul let the envy get into his heart and possess it--and drive him into deeds worthy of a madman.

      It is a pitiful story, this of Saul's bitter envy, as we follow it in its various phases. "Saul made him his captain over a thousand." This promotion was not made to honor David--but almost certainly was prompted by the hope that David would fall in battle and thus be taken out of Saul's way. Nothing would have pleased Saul better, than to have David killed! This shows the depth of wickedness in his heart. If he suspected at all that David was the "neighbor" who the Lord said should be king in his place, then Saul's effort to destroy David was not merely to get a rival out of the way--but was also an attempt to defeat the Divine purpose.

      Usually bitterness kindles bitterness--but Saul's cruel persecution did not stir the least measure of vindictiveness or resentment in David's heart, "David behaved himself wisely in all ways; and the Lord was with him." The true thing to do when one has enemies and persecutors, is to move right on in the path of duty, day by day, leaving to God the ordering of His steps, His protection from harm and the outcome of the whole matter. That is what David did. He did not meet plot with counterplot. He did not try to match stratagem with stratagem. He simply attended to his own business with courage and fidelity, and gave himself no concern whatever about the king's wicked charges. The result was that Saul became afraid of David, and the people loved him.

      David's self-control in all this matter was wonderful. He never lost his self-mastery. He had learned how to rule his own spirit, and this meant more to him than any of the achievements of his courage of which the people praised. He who has learned to be master of himself, is the truest hero and the princeliest man. Everything in David that was beautiful, made Saul's jealousy the more bitter. The secret of this feeling was his overweening self-love. He saw things only in their relation to himself. If he could have used David to advance his interests and to bring new laurels to his brow, he would have been quite content. But when he saw that David's advancement was drawing away the people's eyes and hurrahs from himself, he determined to get him out of the way. We all need to be on our guard against this pitiful perversion of life. We must learn to overcome evil with good. Thus did Christ Himself meet the hate of enemies. His heart kept its sweetness amid all the wrong and cruelty that He met.

      Set side by side with Saul's spirit--was that of Jonathan, magnanimous, self-forgetful and large-hearted.

      We never can know what evil may come to self-adoration. It may be noticed here also that nothing came out of all Saul's scheming and plotting. He did not pull David down. He did not defeat the Lord's purpose for the kingdom. He only made himself wretched and brought shame and ruin upon his own soul. It is always so. Wrong done to others--rebounds and hurts him who does it.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Giving of Manna
   Chapter 2 - The Ten Commandments
   Chapter 3 - Worshiping the Golden Calf
   Chapter 4 - The Tabernacle
   Chapter 5 - Nadab and Abihu
   Chapter 6 - Journeying Towards Canaan
   Chapter 7 - Report of the Spies
   Chapter 8 - The Brazen Serpent
   Chapter 9 - Moses' Death and Burial
   Chapter 10 - Joshua Encouraged
   Chapter 11 - Crossing the Jordan
   Chapter 12 - The Fall of Jericho
   Chapter 13 - Joshua and Caleb
   Chapter 14 - Cities of Refuge
   Chapter 15 - Joshua's Parting Advice
   Chapter 16 - The Curse of Meroz
   Chapter 17 - Gideon and the Three Hundred
   Chapter 18 - Ruth and Naomi
   Chapter 19 - Samuel the Judge
   Chapter 20 - Israel Asking for a King
   Chapter 21 - Saul Chosen King
   Chapter 22 - Samuel's Farewell Address
   Chapter 23 - Saul Rejected as King
   Chapter 24 - Samuel Anoints David
   Chapter 25 - David and Goliath
   Chapter 26 - David and Jonathan
   Chapter 27 - Saul Tries to Kill David
   Chapter 28 - David Spares Saul
   Chapter 29 - Death of Saul and Jonathan
   Chapter 30 - David Becomes King
   Chapter 31 - David Brings up the Ark
   Chapter 32 - God's Covenant with David
   Chapter 33 - David and Absalom


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