Lesson 22: “The Lord Looketh on the Heart”
The current lesson runs quickly through Saul’s choice as Israel’s king, episodes where Saul usurped religious authority, and the ordination of David as Saul’s replacement. The lesson tends toward the black and white (Saul is a good man, then inexplicably he does bad things, so the Lord punishes him). I like the fuller exploration of Saul’s kingship from a 1942 seminary text by Maude Beesley Jacob, The Message of the Old Testament, which gives a much more rounded view of Saul’s contributions to Israel, and casts the events leading to his downfall as an outgrowth of those achievements rather than the current manual’s starker “he just went bad” approach.
Other lessons from the same source carry forward the story of Saul and David (these chapters could have fit equally well with last week’s lesson), and present the Biblical figures in a sympathetic, three dimensional light.
Saul Chosen King of Israel – I Samuel 9, 10
Samuel was to find a king for Israel. The aged prophet had returned to Ramah, there in the simple sanctuary he had built for himself in the hills he awaited God’s guidance in the selection of Israel’s first king.
One day at sundown, Samuel saw two strangers following the road along the hillside that led to his abode. One of them was a tall, handsome young man, head and shoulders above his companion. He was Saul, the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Even as the young man came up to Samuel to speak to him God made it known to the aged prophet that this was the man who should rule over Israel.
As Saul was about to speak to Samuel to inquire concerning the cattle he was seeking he was surprised at the words he heard:
“I am Samuel, thou seekest. Fret not over thy father’s asses for they are already found. Go up before me to the sanctuary. All the desire of Israel is upon thee to make thee their king.”
Saul thought that the prophet was mocking him and he answered him saying:
“Wherefore should I be king? Is not my tribe the smallest of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of my tribe?”
Samuel led Saul to the sanctuary and a feast was prepared and many guests assembled. There Saul was seated and served with great honor. After the feast the prophet took the young man alone and spoke to him at great length concerning the past of Israel and of the things to come to pass in order that this people become a united nation. It seemed as though a great inspiration came to Saul for he said to the prophet:
“Hath God redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt for them to be slaves in the land of their inheritance? Surely some good thing must come.”
Alone in his chamber, Samuel pondered through the night over the young man who had been brought to him. The loyalty of Saul for his people pleased him greatly, as did his great strength and courage. But still the prophet wondered. Would this man accept his great responsibility as a service to God? Would he seek God’s aid in all he did for Israel? Would he think more of the glory of victory in battle than of the welfare of his people?
Early the next day, Samuel accompanied Saul to the gate of the city and as they came to part the prophet took a vial of oil and anointed Saul’s head saying:
“It is because the Lord hath appointed you to be the king over Israel. The spirit of the Lord will come upon thee. Thou shalt become a different man.”
When Saul reached his home he found that his father’s cattle had returned as Samuel had said. Even after this assurance of the truthfulness of the words of Samuel, Saul’s amazement at what had happened to him at Ramah continued. But he spoke to no one of his kingship.
After the direction which had been given to him in finding a king for Israel, Samuel sent messengers throughout the land calling the people to gather at Mizpah to choose a king. When the people had come together, Samuel spoke to them reminding them once more of all God’s blessings to them and admonishing them saying:
“Now you are asking for a king to rule over you instead of letting God rule over you. You are not honoring God when you ask for a king. But God will grant your command: he will choose a king for you today.”
Then Samuel told the tribes of Israel to choose the king by the casting of lots. The lot fell to the tribe of Benjamin. Then the lot fell to the family of Matri of the tribe of Benjamin; and of the family of Matri the lot fell to Saul the son of Kish. When Saul was brought to stand before the people of Israel Samuel said:
“Behold! this is the king the Lord hath chosen.”
Then the people shouted: “God save the king.”
Thereafter Saul returned to his home and followed his everyday tasks awaiting the call of Israel. One after another there came to Saul young men of all the tribes of Israel to show their loyalty to form his bodyguard and do his bidding.
But there were some who were not satisfied with Saul as their king. They did not want a king chosen by God, they wanted to choose their own king.
Saul Serves the Men of Jabesh – 1 Samuel 11, 12
It was not long, however, before a challenge was to come to Israel and its new king. The fierce, plundering desert tribe of Ammonites laid siege to the city of jabesh. The men of the Jabesh knew that they were not strong enough to defeat the Ammonite king, Nahash, so they sent messengers asking for mercy. The answer came back:
“We will spare your lives, but in seven days the soldiers of Nahash will come and put out the right eyes of all your people.”
In great terror, the men of Jabesh sent word to Saul telling of their sad plight and asking for help. When Saul heard of the cruel threat to his people, his anger was very great. Taking the oxen he was driving he slew them and sent parts of them to all the tribes of Israel with the threat:
“Whosoever will not come forth with Saul and Samuel to fight the Ammonites, so shall it be done to his oxen.”
The Israelites who heard this strange call from their new king came out of fear to join his army. Sweeping down upon the Ammonites, Saul’s army was victorious, slaying many and driving the others out of the land.
The Israelites were pleased with their king for they saw that he was brave and fearless. Some would have killed the men who had opposed his choice to be their king, but Saul restrained them in thanksgiving because of the great victory that had been given to Israel.
Now Samuel said to the people: “Let us go to Gilgal and make Saul our king.”
At Gilgal, the first camping place of the Israelites in the land of Canaan, Saul was crowned king with great rejoicing.
Samuel ruled no longer as a judge over Israel, but as God’s prophet he spent his energies to help the new kingdom to grow strong in righteousness, never forgetting to urge Israel to be loyal to their earthly king, but to remember at all times their heavenly king.
Saul now took his place as the ruler of Israel. He lived apart from them in a royal house of many rooms and courts. He gathered together a large army of warriors to be ready at all times to fight. Every man was required to do his bidding. As time passed, Saul sought Samuel’s aid and counsel less and less for he was growing very wise in his own eyes. The time was not far distant when the King of Israel was to forget that he was leading Israel for God’s purposes: He became the ruler of Israel for his own purposes.
How Saul Failed – I Samuel 13, 14
The Philistines began to trouble the Israelites once more. They had built strong fortresses throughout the land and kept soldiers in all of them to keep the people I constant fear. Many times, even the people were driven from the small villages to live in caves in the hills. It was natural that now they had a king Israel looked for help in their troubles.
When the Philistines gathered six thousand horsemen and thirty thousand chariots near Gibeah where Saul lived, the king sent messengers to call the soldiers of every tribe together. When Samuel heard the message, he sent word to Saul saying:
“Wait until I come in seven days that I might offer sacrifice, that the armies of Israel might take courage and know that God is with them when they go forth to fight.”
Seven days Saul waited and yet Samuel did not come. Saul became impatient at the delay, fearing that his armies might leave him. As he waited, Saul grew angry and said to himself:
“Why should I, the King of Israel wait upon Samuel? is not a king mightier than all?”
Then Saul called to his servants saying: “Bring hither the burnt offering unto me. I will wait no longer.”
The sacrifice was made as Saul had seen the priests of Israel perform the ceremonies. The men of the armies looked upon a strange sight for they knew that by the law of Moses none might offer sacrifice save the holy priesthood. Instead of courage, dismay entered the hearts of all; for the words of Saul were without meaning for them.
Even while the sacrifice was still burning upon the altar of Gilgal, Samuel came. He asked, “What hast thou done?”
Saul replied, “Because thou camest not I was forced to offer sacrifice. I feared that my people were scattering to all parts of the land.”
Samuel’s heart was filled with sorrow to see the change that had come over Saul. He knew that Saul had not been forced to break the laws of God and he said:
“Thou hast acted foolishly, thou hast set thyself above the Lord thy God. Therefore thy kingdom shall be taken from thee and given to another who will obey God.”
Instead of going to battle against the Philistines at this time, Saul returned to his home at Gibath. Now his soldiers were afraid of the enemy, for now they had neither courage to fight nor confidence in their leader.
As the days passed and the Philistines continued to harry the people, Jonathan, the son of Saul, sought to help his father. Jonathan was a valiant young soldier whose heart was filled with faith in God. when he saw the fear that had overcome the warriors of Israel, he said to his armor bearer:
“Come, let us go to the camp of the Philistines at Geba. it may be that God will help us for He can save the people with two soldiers as well as with many.”
Then the two soldiers left the camp of Israel an made their way to the fortress of the enemy across the narrow valley. Climbing on their hands and knees over the rocks of the outer wall, they came to the guard and fell upon him and killed him. Twenty others were killed also. The warriors within the fortress seeing the fate of the guards thought the army of Israel was upon them, and great confusion and panic took hold of them. Many of the Israelites who had been forced to fight in the enemies ranks seeing the courage of Jonathan came to his aid and soon a battle was in progress.
Saul’s watchmen seeing the confusion in the camp of the Philistines, ordered his armies to battle. When the men knew that Jonathan and his armor bearer were fighting the Philistines they did not hesitate. Rushing upon the confused and panic stricken Philistines, they slaughtered many and drove the others out of that part of the land.
Once the courage of Israel was aroused they continued to fight until many of the fortresses of their enemy had been destroyed. once more the brave men of Israel rallied to the banner of their king to fight for their inheritance, the Promised Land.
The growing strength of Israel in the land of Canaan caused the Amalekites grave concern. Bands of cruel Amalekite warriors began to harass the people who lived in the south. these desert warriors had created trouble and suffering for centuries, since the time Moses was leading the wanderers in the wilderness. the prophet, Samuel, was instructed, that now the time had come to destroy this great evil from the land. So Samuel went to Saul with the inspiration he had received and said to him:
“The Lord remembers the treachery of the Amalekites and the evil that they have wrought in the land. Go forth and destroy them utterly. Spare nothing, neither man nor beast; neither shalt thou take any spoil of them.”
Saul gathered all his armies and prepared for a great battle. Then he warned the Kenites who lived in the land of the Amalekites to leave their homes because they were the descendants of Abraham.
When the great struggle began, Saul’s armies swept through the land of Amalek even to the borders of Egypt. The Amalekites were destroyed as Saul had been commanded. But Saul spared the life of the great robber king, Aga, that he might bring him to Israel to show him to the people adorned in his golden armor. The soldiers of the army were allowed to save many of the choice cattle and sheep of the Amalekites for themselves.
It was a strange caravan that came towards Canaan. This victorious army and its spoils led by two kings, Saul the victor, and Agag in chains. When they came to Gilgal, Samuel was awaiting them and Saul spoke in full of pride saying:
“Blessed be thou servant of the Lord, I have obeyed the Lord’s command.”
But Samuel knew of Saul’s disobedience and he said to Saul:
“If thou hast performed the commandment of the Lord, what is the meaning of the noise of bleating sheep and lowing cattle that I hear?”
“The soldiers spared the best of the flocks and herds to offer them as sacrifice to the Lord,” the King answered.
When Samuel looked into the eyes of Israel’s king, Saul knew that his wickedness was known to God’s servant. Then Samuel spake:
“Who made thee king over Israel? Why hast thou disobeyed the commands of the Lord?”
Again Saul tried to cover his disobedience and he answered:
“I destroyed the Amalekites. I feared the people and obeyed them when they demanded to keep the best of the sheep and cattle to make a sacrifice to the Lord.”
The stern voice of the prophet of God made answer:
“To obey the Lord is better than sacrifice and to hearken is better than the fat of rams. Because thou hast rejected the Lord, He also hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.”
Saul cried out in great distress and pled with Samuel to pardon his great sin. In his great sorrow he fell on his knees and caught at the cloak of the prophet to keep him from leaving him alone. A piece of the garment tore away and as the King clutched it Samuel cried,
“See the Lord God hath torn the kingdom of Israel from thee. He will give it to another that is better than thee.”
Then Samuel called for the King of the Amalekites to be brought before him. With his own hand he killed the robber king before all the people. In great sadness Samuel turned away and returned to Ramah grieving for the failure of the king he had anointed for Israel. After that time Samuel came no more to Saul to serve him as God’s prophet.
David is Chosen King of Israel – 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Samuel’s sorrow at the unworthiness of Israel’s first king was very great. Now a great anxiety for his people laid heavy upon his heart. He knew that Israel would follow Saul. He feared, also, that the Philistines might not be subdued and Israel might perish.
After a time God spake again to Samuel and said:
“How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing that I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Take a horn of oil and go to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have chosen a king for Israel from among his sons.”
So Samuel went to Bethlehem and found Jesse who was a grandson of Ruth of Moab. The prophet bade Jesse to bring his sons before him and Jesse brought seven of his sons to Samuel, leaving David, the youngest, who had not yet grown to manhood, watching the sheep in the fields outside the city.
When Eliab, the first born of Jesse, came to Samuel, the prophet was pleased with the bearing of the sturdy young man and thought that this must be the son chosen to be the new king.
But the Lord said unto Samuel: “Look not on his countenance or upon his stature, for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, man looketh upon the outward appearance but the Lord seeth the heart of man.”
One after another of the seven sons of Jesse came before Samuel and not any one of them was the choice of God. Then the prophet requested that David be brought from the field.
David, the youngest son of Jesse, was a sturdy youth, happy in the simple life of keeping his father’s sheep. Each day as he searched for the choicest pastures on the green hillside or by the cool refreshing streams his heart was gay and thankful. The glory of the sunrise and the sunset, the mystery of the stars, and the wonders of the living things seemed to put a song in his heart. To the simple notes of his beloved harp, his songs became living things.
When the shepherd boy, David, saw the messenger hurrying towards him, he wondered what had happened that he should be needed. Had the Philistines attacked the little city of Bethlehem? His seven brothers had gone on a strange mission that morning to meet the prophet Samuel, had something happened to them?
As David hastened along with the messenger he could not help but wonder why Samuel had sent for him. When he came to the prophet, David knelt to pay homage to the servant of the Lord for so Jesse had taught his sons to do reverence. Then the words of Jehovah came to Samuel:
“Anoint this lad, or he is the one I have chosen.”
There with his father and wondering brothers around him, David was anointed to lead Israel and David knew that some great thing had come to him. it was the new spirit God had given to him. Thereafter as David tended his flocks it seemed that God was very near to him helping him to understand the things that had puzzled his youthful mind and comforting his heart with a knowledge of the goodness of things.
There on the hillside of Bethlehem, David came to know that God watched over the world as a shepherd guards his flock. There were great things ahead of David, trials and disappointments, victories and gladness. but the simple song he sang in the days of his youth was always in his heart bringing him assurance of God’s protecting care:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters:
He restoreth my soul!
The Evil that Troubled Saul – I Samuel 16-19
Saul continued to rule Israel as its king. But all was not well with Saul. The great punishment that was come to him through his own disobedience weighed heavily on his mind. Day after day he sat alone in his tent brooding. The knowledge that his kingdom was to be taken away from him, that his son Jonathan would not be king after him, haunted him. At times a great rage seemed to take possession of him, at other times a spirit of deep despair, so that his servants believed that an evil spirit had taken possession of their king. Seeking to help their leader in his sore despair, they spake unto him saying:
“Behold an evil spirit troubleth thee. Let thy servants seek out a skillful player upon the harp that his music might comfort thee that the evil spirit will leave thee and thou wilt be well.”
One of the servants of Saul had heard the sweet singing and playing of David, the shepherd lad, and he suggested that the king send for him.
So Saul sent messengers to Jesse in Bethlehem asking that David be sent to him in his palace at Gibeah. And David came to the King as he had been commanded. Day after day he went before the brooding king and sang his songs, sometimes he sang the songs of the shepherds of the hills, sometimes he sang the songs telling of the history of Israel, sometimes he sang the songs of worship and thanksgiving beloved by those who remembered Jehovah, and sometimes he sang the songs of his own making of the beauty of the earth and of God’s loving kindness.
In time Saul roused himself and began to think of the welfare of his people. Making David his armor bearer, he kept the youth near to him that he might have his sweet music to cheer him. And Saul grew to love the young singer very much and the king’s son Jonathan grew to love him also.
Once more the Philistines began to trouble Israel in different parts of the land. David learned a great deal of the ways of battle from his service to King Saul, but it was from his association with Jonathan that his faith in God’s help was strengthened because Saul’s son was a valiant and true soldier of Israel. After a time Saul made David the captain of a thousand men and he was sent to do battle with the Philistines.
It was not long before David’s warriors grew to love their captain, his faith and courage inspired them to fight bravely and unselfishly for Israel. Many times they were successful in small encounters with the enemy.
Then it happened that Saul called all his armies together for a great battle, and David fought side by side with the king. As they came home from the battle the people came out of the cities along the way to welcome the victorious warriors. They came singing and dancing with great joy and some of them sang: “Saul has slain his thousands!”
While others of them sang: “David has slain his tens of thousands!”
When Saul heard the people singing praises to David greater than to himself, he was overcome with a great jealousy. Over and over again the words of Samuel came back to haunt him. “Thy kingdom shall be taken away and given to a better man.” Soon the mind and heart of Saul were clouded with evil, the evil of hatred.
The next day at the palace at Gibeah, Saul called David to play on his harp and to sing for him. This time the music did not soothe the unhappy ruler, rather did it make his hatred turn into madness. For he picked up a spear and threw it at David. But David saw the spear in time and stepped aside. Again the player returned to his harp and again Saul attempted to kill him and failed. As David left the presence of the angry king unharmed he knew that the Lord had protected him, and Saul knew, now, without a doubt, that God was with David.
It was not very long, however, before the king called the valiant young captain to him. Saul knew that David loved his daughter, Michal, so he said to him:
“Go forth once more against the Philistines. If it be that thou shalt defeat them, I will give Michal unto thee.”
David went to do the king’s bidding, for he was eager to serve his people. Also, he had grown to love Michal but he had never felt himself worthy to become the son-in-law of the King. Later when David returned unarmed and victorious, Saul was disappointed for he had hoped that the young captain might be killed. But the king kept his promise and Michal became the wife of David.
After this the King hated David more than ever. Each time he came back from the wars, it seemed that the people grew to love the young captain more and honored him openly. And Saul became more determined that David should die. Jonathan, knowing the wickedness in his father’s heart, warned David to stay away from the palace.
David fled to his home and his wife Michal guarded the house day and night. It was not long, however, before the soldiers of Saul came to spy upon the house. When Michal saw them, she helped David to escape. After David had gone, Michal took a large stone statue and placed in David’s bed covering it with a cloth of goat’s hair. The next morning when the soldiers came to take her husband, she showed them David’s bed saying: “David is sick; h cannot be taken.”
But Saul demanded that David be brought before him on his bed when he heard the story of his servants.
Later when Saul learned how Michal had tricked his servants, he sent for her and gave her to another man for his wife.
Meanwhile David had found his way in safety to the prophet, Samuel, at Ramah. Samuel was glad to welcome the young man that was to be Israel’s king, so he took him away to Naioth where he kept the school he had started to teach the youth of Israel in the ways of God. Here David remained for many days learning many things from the aged prophet preparing him for the leadership of Israel.
It was not long, however, before Saul learned of David’s hiding place and he went to capture him. But when Saul came outside the simple dwelling, he heard voices raised in prayer and in worship of Jehovah and Saul’s strength left him and he was unable to enter. Once more Saul remembered the Lord God of Israel and humbling himself he knelt down on the earth and prayed.
When Saul returned to gibeah it seemed for a time that his anger against David was forgotten. Hearing this David returned and sought his friend Jonathan for advice as to whether he should return to the palace. But Jonathan knew that David’s life was in danger and warned him to never let Saul find him. this time David went away an outlaw, to find a new home for himself for no longer could he fight for his people in the armies of the King.
SAUL FORCES DAVID TO BECOME A WANDERER – I Samuel 21, 22
In his wandering David and the few faithful men who had joined him came to the city of Nob where the Ark of the Covenant was kept by the high-priest Ahimelech. The men were faint from hunger and David begged the priest to give him bread. The only bread in the Tabernacle was the shew bread that had been blessed for the service of the Holy Place. Now it was the law of Moses that only the priests could partake of the sacred bread but Ahimelech seeing the great need of David gave him the bread.
Then David asked the high-priest if he might find a sword for him because he had no weapons with which to protect himself. And the keeper of the Tabernacle brought to David the sword of Goliath, the Philistine. David took the sword of the enemy he had killed with the pebbles from his sling many years before, and girt it about himself.
it was indeed a strange happening that brought Doeg, a servant of Saul, to the abode of Ahimelech as David and his men were there. Now the outlaw knew he must flee once more for safety. this time he went to the city of Gath in the land of the Philistines.
But there was no safety for Davie in the city of Gath for as soon as they saw the sword of their hero, Goliath, they planned to make David a prisoner. It was only by acting as if he had lost his reason and become a witless fool that David made his escape from the city.
David now returned to the land of Israel alone and took refuge in the cave of Adullam near to the home of his parents. Many days in hiding, David was hungry and desolate. Many times he wondered about the strange things that had happened to him: Why was he forced to live as an outlaw? Why did Saul seek his life? Then he remembered the words of Samuel when he anointed his head with oil, and once more David’s heart took courage and to his lips came the words:
O God, in Thee do I put my trust!
Thou wilt show me the way of life!
When the word came to the men of Bethlehem of David’s hiding place they came to his aid. In all there came about four hundred men and they made David their captain. The first thing that David did before he led his new army was to take his mother and father to safety in the land of Moab lest Saul vent his anger upon them.
In the meantime Doeg, the servant of Saul, had reported to his master that Ahimelech had aided David to escape. Straightway, Saul sent his soldiers to the sanctuary at Nob and they killed Ahimelech and all who dwelled there. Only Abiathar the son of Ahimelech escaped. When David heard of the terrible thing that had come to God’s servants because of the help they had given to him, he was greatly distressed. After this David protected Abiathar and kept him as long as he lived.
Now it happened that the Philistines came and plundered the grainfields of the people of Keilah. The people came to David and asked for aid as Saul had forgotten to protect his people any more. Before he went to the call of the people David asked Jehovah whether he should go to fight the Philistines. And the answer came to David to go and save the men of Keilah. So David took his army and attacked the raiders, slaughtering many and driving the others away.
Then David and his men went to live in the city thinking that the people would protect him because of his service to them. As soon as Saul heard what had happened at Keilah he sent an army to demand the surrender of David. But God warned David through Abiathar, the priest, that the men of the city he had helped would deliver him tot he King out of their great fear. So once more David and his loyal men were forced to flee for their lives.
This time David found refuge in the mountains of the wilderness that was near to the Dead Sea. And Saul went from one place to another seeking David. Many times through his servant, God delivered David from the soldiers or the spies of the King. The days were hard and the suffering was severe for those who followed the young captain of Israel but as time passed more and more came to join him. Somehow it seemed that David was able to inspire them with his own courage for he never ceased to believe in God’s goodness. perhaps it was at this time the words of the beautiful psalm came to his lips to comfort them:
The Lord is my light and my salvation!
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life!
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Though an host should encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear!”
DAVID SPARES THE LIFE OF SAUL – I Samuel 23-27
While David and his men were hiding in the wilderness they dwelt in a great cave called Engedi. One day they were surprised to see Sault and his soldiers on the mountain side. As they watched they saw the King leave his men and come towards the cave. Not knowing that anyone was in the cave Saul lay down and went to sleep. In the darkness, David came and stood by Saul’s side and softly cut off a large piece of his cloak. Then he went aside to await the awakening of the King.
The followers of David pled with him to let them kill Saul, but David restrained them because he knew that Saul had been chosen of God and anointed the King to rule Israel as the people had requested. When Saul awoke and left the cave, David followed him and bowed low before him and said:
“My Lord, my King! Behold, this day the lord delivereth thee unto my hand. I cut off a piece of thy robe but I killed thee not, for thou art the Lord’s anointed. Now wherefore doest thou seek me to kill me?”
Saul was so moved at David’s reverence that he wept. Then he said to the young captain he had once loved so dearly:
“Thou art more righteous than I, my son David. God reward thee for what thou hast done this day. Now I know that thou shalt surely be king of Israel. Swear to me to deal as mercifully with my family as thou hast dealt with me.”
Then Saul took his soldiers and returned to his home at Gibeah. For a time David was free to go where he desired. So he took his followers and went to the land of Paran to the south of Canaan, where there were many shepherds and their sheep. And David and his men were helpful to the shepherds driving the desert robbers away from their flocks.
it was not long, however, before the word came to David that the spies of the king were seeking him once more. In the stillness of the desert night David sat alone and tried to understand the things that had happened since Samuel called him from his father’s flocks in the fields of Bethlehem, and what course must he follow now that Saul was seeking him once more. Then there was the longing for the peace of his boyhood, for his wife Michal, and his beloved friend Jonathan. There were his loyal followers also to be thought of and always there was Israel in desperate need of a righteous leader. Always there came to David the assurance that the Lord God of his fathers would direct the way. now David gathered his men and left the wilderness of Paran and wandered from place to place. At last they came to the land of the Ziphites and took refuge in the hills. It was not long, however, before David’s men warned him that Saul’s army had gathered in the valley nearby. More than anything else David wanted Saul to know that he was his friend and wanted to help him to serve Israel.
So when night came he took his servant Abishai and went to seek the tent of Saul. They found the king fast asleep with his spear b his side with his captain Abner asleep nearby. When Abishai saw the sleeping king, he begged his master to let him kill Saul with the spear. But David answered:
“Nay, I cannot take the guilt of striking the Lord’s anointed. Let Jehovah deal with him, for is day shall come to die. Take thou his spear and let us begone.
Saul arose by the familiar voice cried out: “Is that thy voice, my son David?”
“It is my voice, my lord,” answered David.
“O King why wilt thou pursue me? What ill have I done thee? Who has set this strife between us; that I am a wanderer from my heritage in Israel and that the great King of Israel is come out to seek my life as one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains?”
When Saul saw that David had spared his life once more, he acknowledged his sin and begged David to return with him to Gibeah. But David was inspired not to trust the king, because in his heart Saul had no desire to control his own feelings and impulses. So once more David became an outlaw, this time in the land that lay near to the home of his own tribe of Judah. And Saul and David met no more.
“HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN!” – I Samuel 28-31
The closing scenes of the life of Saul, King of Israel were fast approaching. The Philistines now held the people more completely in their power than ever before. Now they plundered and robbed at will. They feared Saul no longer so they planned a great battle thinking to defeat Israel completely and make them as slaves. One after another the Philistine warriors and their great chariots passed over the roads towards the beautiful valley of Esdraelon. All of Israel called upon their king to come forth and save them.
Saul called all the soldiers of each tribe to gather near the foot of Mount Gilboa. But when he saw the great strength of his enemy, his courage failed him. There was no one to help him, Samuel was dead, the priests of the Tabernacle had been slain at his command, and he knew not where David was. In his great despair he called upon the Lord to know what to do but he received no answer.
Now it was the custom of the pagan Canaanites to call upon witches or enchanters who pretended to be able to speak to the dead to obtain information and counsel about the things that were to come. The priests of Israel had been commanded to destroy all such evil doers from the land, but many still remained. The desperate king now turned in his terror to one of them, the witch of Endor, for help. Dressed in the clothes of a poor man, Saul went with two of his guards to the cave of the witch by night and demanded that she bring Samuel to him that he might speak with him.
A voice came out of the darkness and Saul knew that it was the prophet who spoke to him, and Saul called out saying:
“I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me; God has forsake me and answers me no more. I have called thee to seek thy counsel.”
There was no comfort or counsel in the words Samuel spoke to Saul, only the assurance of the tragedy that would come on the morrow. When the voice ceased Saul fell helpless to the ground in his great suffering.
All the next day the great battle waged. The Philistines drove the Israelites before them with great slaughter. At eventide the weary king stood on the hillside sorely wounded. Jonathan and two other brothers lay mortally wounded by his side and the enemy bowmen were closing in upon him. Fearing to be taken alive, Saul said to his armor bearer:
“Draw thy sword and kill me lest the enemy slay me and make mockery of me.”
But the armor bearer was afraid to kill the King of Israel. Then Saul took the sword and fell upon it and died.
After three days the evil tidings reached David and his sorrow was very great because of the great love he bore to Saul and to Jonathan. In the days that followed David remembered the great things that Saul had done, his victories and his great love for his people. But when he thought of the weakness of Saul, his pride and his arrogance, his brooding suspicions, and his love of power, David’s heart was very sad because he knew that Saul had forgotten that he was called to lead Israel for the God of Israel and was not self appointed for his own glory.
Then David made the words of his heart into a song of lament:
Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places!
How are the mighty fallen!
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
And in their death they were not divided:’
They were swifter than eagles.
They were stronger than lions.
Yet they have fallen!