1 Samuel 13:14  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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This testimony concerning David has proved a hard saying to many. The taunts of unbelievers trouble them because of his sins. Yet it should be borne in mind that he did not spare himself by any attempt to extenuate them (Psa. 51), and as he used no argument, and brought forward no plea in his own defense, we are not called to do so for him. It is clear that the Lord never made light of his fall. The thing that David had done displeased Him, and he had to reap, before all Israel and before the sun, what he had sown in secret. Blow after blow fell upon him, the chastening of love; for before he suffered a single stroke, he is assured that his sin, as before God, is put away. The range of his experiences was for extent and depth without a parallel among men; yet, what he learned of the heart of God in the worst of them broke his own; and this, the only acceptable offering he could bring, he brought in all humility. “Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Was he not even then a man after God's own heart? When in the hour of his deepest trouble, broken in heart and crushed in spirit with the weight of his guilt, he cast himself unreservedly on the loving-kindness and tender mercy of God, against Whom he had so grievously sinned, was he not on a higher level than any self-righteous moralist ever reached? He was nearer God; and what is there higher than that?
Bold then as the language of scripture concerning David confessedly is, the most exhaustive examination of his history will only prove its truthfulness. That he was an instrument in the hand of the Lord, to render the most important service to His people, will hardly be questioned. Saul had brought them to the, verge of ruin. Through his self will and wickedness their existence as a nation was at stake; but David left them a great, united, and settled kingdom, to enjoy, at least for a time, the blessings of prosperity and peace under Solomon. It is not, however, in these results, great as they were, that we discover the man after God's own heart. The record of the experiences of his soul must be studied for this—how in spite of failure upon failure he never let go the link of grace between God and His people.
He himself lifts the veil of obscurity, so far as it is lifted, that covers his early life. Left alone with his father's sheep, while his brothers enjoyed the comforts of home society, he was content to fulfill the lowly duties of a shepherd lad. It was his first school, and he learned in it his first lessons of self-devotion in the path of duty, and of confidence in the Lord for the hour of peril. His modest account of himself at this time affords us an exquisite picture of both. “Thy servant,” he said to Saul, “kept his father's sheep; and there came a lion and a bear and took a lamb out of the flock; and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by the beard, and smote him and slew him.” (1 Sam. 17) What tender sympathy for the sufferings of even a lamb, and what courage to be friend it! Where had he learned this self-sacrificing devotedness in the cause of the oppressed? Was it natural to him? Was it found in the least degree in his family? Let the total unconcern of his father and brothers answer for them. Did they know that lions and bears prowled in that wilderness? Why leave such a lad there, and wholly unprotected? Even when Samuel came to sacrifice and his sons were called to the feast, they came but not he. Not a thought apparently was bestowed on him by those on whom, as the youngest of the family, he had special claims. Is he then cast down because of their neglect, or indifferent even to a lamb entrusted to his care? Alas! for it if he were, for there was not another to defend it. And he himself was as helpless, yet omnipotence was on his side. Psa. 23, whenever written, is surely his, and full of reference to his experiences of shepherd life. Even in those early days what changes he went through, from the sheep-folds to the court of Saul, then back to the flock and away again to the camp! Yet a survey of life, whatever its vicissitudes, awakened no anxiety (whatever its dangers), produced no fear. “Jehovah is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The attack of the lion and the bear, however sudden, found him prepared. “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” When all Israel were in terror because of Goliath, he was unmoved. “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” “Let no man's heart fail because of him.” Thus he endeavored to comfort others by the comfort wherewith he himself was comforted of God. And is not this after the Lord's own heart, so ready at all times to encourage the faint-hearted?
We can but remark too what self-renunciation characterized David when enabled thus to minister to the relief of suffering and to rescue the oppressed. When he had refreshed Saul by his skill in playing, and the evil spirit had departed from him, he carried his harp back to the plains of Bethlehem, happy to enjoy in solitude communion with the Lord in a way which he scarcely could have done amidst the distractions of the court. And after the overthrow of Goliath and the Philistines, he sought none of the honors of which he heard so much before, and made no complaint of the failure of royal promises, but with quiet simplicity again resumed the care of his father's sheep. Can we question that such childlike submission and gentleness was after God's own heart? Was it not fulfilling His will? (Acts 13:2222And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. (Acts 13:22).)
Again, the scornful conduct of his brother Eliab, when he publicly charged him with pride and naughtiness of heart as his motives for coming to the camp, awakened no resentment. He simply said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” and turned away. Such calmness of spirit, when wantonly insulted, was far from natural to him. He was a man subject to like passions as we are. We see this when Nabal provoked him. His fiery temperament showed itself at once. He blazed forth in anger and would have taken terrible vengeance, had he not been restrained by the timely remonstrance of Abigail (ch. 25.). We may gather from Psa. 19:1313Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. (Psalm 19:13), that he was conscious of this infirmity. “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins (lit. of pride); let them not have dominion over me.” He knew how soon they get the mastery. We shall see too in Psa. 131 That it was with real exercise of soul his passions were subdued. It was like the process of weaning, painful but necessary, yet carried through by grace till his soul was as a weaned child. “Lord, my heart is not haughty nor mine eyes lofty.” This is after God's own heart; “a meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price.” Lovely as are these traits of divine life, they afford no ground for boasting. Few realized more than he the deep and constant need of delivering grace, and none has had richer experiences of it. “The Lord was with him,” is the key to his whole history.
If we turn to consider him now as the consciously anointed king of Israel, Saul being alive, we shall see how all must he of grace to bring him to the throne. The wisdom and prudence he needed, and that continually, were beyond nature. Then his unwearied devotion to their interests as the people of God is in marked contrast with the unbelief and self-seeking of Saul who counted them as Hebrews merely (ch. xiii. 3.). The outlook, when for the first time he was brought face to face with their actual condition, was dark enough. One man had for forty days struck terror in all their hearts. Saul drew out their armies in battle array, but they were dismayed whenever this man defied them. How could he count on one of them? Yet jealous for the name of the Lord of hosts, and feeling intensely for the humiliation of the people, David at once undertook, stripling as he was, to go forth in that Name and overthrow this foe, with the supreme desire that all the earth might know THERE WAS A GOD IN ISRAEL, and that they should be victorious, not he alone. As he said to Goliath.” The Lord will give you into our hands.” It was the first dawn of hope since the glory had departed, and it was the birth-time in David's soul of a zeal that never died. Though he was “often baffled, sore baffled, down as into entire wreck, yet he began anew.”
No one pleads for personal perfection in David. This is seen alone in Jesus, David's Son and David's Lord, and with what all-surpassing glory and beauty in Him! But gleams of this beauteous light s. line out in His people by His Spirit, and thus we speak of David. His fervent desire to find a place for Jehovah in the midst of His chosen people was one of these bright rays. Psa. 132 discloses to us the all-absorbing desire of his heart, which, as it neared accomplishment, glowed the more fervently. The ark, the symbol of divine presence had been entirely disregarded by Saul. Not a thought of its restoration appeared to cross his mind. David could not rest until it was brought to Zion, and the happiest moment in his life was when the Levites bore it into the tent which he had prepared for it. Was he not then a man after God's own heart? Here, however, we reach the threshold of his teal life. Shall we be permitted to go farther? The will of the Lord be done. It is a history of profoundest interest, anticipating, as it does in many of its incidents and exercises, the deeper experiences of the Lord Jesus when rejected of Israel as their Messiah.