David and Saul
February 19th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Samuel 18:5
SAUL AND DAVID
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 18:5
2-19-61 7:30 p.m.
In our Bibles 1 Samuel, chapter 18, and let us read the first eleven verses; 1 Samuel, chapter 18. The title of the sermon is Saul and David, and we cannot encompass the whole story tonight, so we will take a part of it. No small part of the message tonight will be found in the Psalms, for the psalms of David reflect these tragic incidents by which Saul sought after his life to destroy him. First Samuel, chapter 18; reading the first eleven verses together. Now all of us:
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house.
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistines, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.
And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.
And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.
[1 Samuel 18:1-11]
This is the beginning of a furious and a raging flood, starting almost imperceptibly, like the trickling of water under the dike. But as it continued, it destroyed the barrier that held back the flood and finally overwhelmed the kingdom itself.
You know, it’s a strange thing about a man. I suppose had the soldiers of Israel started singing about David, I suppose it would have hardly have made any difference to Saul. But these women singing, that was more than the monarch could listen to without wrath and without fury. It’s a strange thing. And these women, as David came back from the slaughter of the Philistines, came out of all the cities of Israel singing and dancing to meet Saul [1 Samuel 18:6]. Isn’t that unusual? You would think those women, going out of all the cities of Israel to celebrate a great victory by Saul’s army, and a captain in that army happened to be David, had they gone out of the cities of Israel to meet David and sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” [1 Samuel 18:7], you would of thought that would have been maybe apropos. But they weren’t meeting David. He was a captain in the army that was victorious. It was Saul the king who was going forth, his armies having won these victories, that the women were meeting and singing. But they weren’t singing about the glory of Saul, they were singing about the glory of David.
If you want to make your husband furious, well, you just begin extolling in his presence how good-looking, how wavy his hair, how tall, dark and handsome, how he just overwhelms you, somebody else beside him, and he’ll just die on the inside of him. There might be ten hundred thousand men on the outside talk about that tall, dark, handsome hero, and he won’t even think anything about it at all. “How strong he is, how able he is, how everything he is,” he won’t even think about it. But you just let this woman say something, and it makes a repercussion way down on the inside of him, and he can’t help it. That’s just mortality, or depravity, or whatever it is that God did when He put that turn, that funny little angle in a man. The way to get along with your husband is don’t talk to him about some other man, but talk to him about him. And God forgives you for lying; remember that, when you’re talking to your husband; He doesn’t hold that against you. You tell him how wonderful he is, how broad his shoulders—and he may be as narrow between them as a razor, but that’s all right—how broad his shoulders, and his stature, and his height, and how smart he is, and how able he is, and how he succeeds, and on and on and on. I tell you, you can sure do anything with him if you do that. You sure can. You know, there are some catty remarks that are fluttering in my head, and I’m afraid they’re not to be uttered in the pulpit, but if you will see me private, I’ll tell them to you.
Now the Book says, when Saul heard these women singing that “Saul was wroth and the saying displeased him” [1 Samuel 18:8]. And he eyed David from that day forward [1 Samuel 18:9]. David apparently was a blonde, something very unusual among those swarthy, dark-faced, dark- headed people. At least, he was red-headed, he was blondish. He had golden hair; Saul never had noticed his golden hair, but he began to look at him then. He had golden hair, and he was beautiful of countenance [1 Samuel 16:12]. Saul never had noticed how handsome he was, but he began to look at him then.
And David was gracious in his manner. The Bible time and again will describe David as behaving himself discreetly, and prudently, and wisely, and generously. There was an air, there was a culture, there was a nobility, there was a born-exaltation and sublimity about David. The gesture of his hand, the look in his face, the smile, everything about him; Saul never had noticed that before, but he began to eye David from that day forward. And he was absolutely fearless, courageous, abounding in ingenuity, and God blessed him with every conceivable victory and triumph [1 Samuel 18:7]. And Saul eyed David from that day forward [1 Samuel 18:9]; that was the breach in the dike. And we’re going to follow it as it opens up and opens up and becomes a veritable fury and a flood. “It came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul” [1 Samuel 18:10].
And David, as was his wont, played with his harp and sang a psalm to soothe this evil spirited man [1 Samuel 16:23], green-eyed with jealousy and torn apart with hatred [1 Samuel 18:29]. But this time, no psalm assuages that fevered spirit. And taking his javelin, he cast it at David once and it quivered in the wall. Then as David continued to play, he took his javelin, and he cast it at David again, and it entered into the board of the wall [1 Samuel 18:10]. And David avoided out of his presence twice [1 Samuel 18:11]. And then it says, “And Saul was afraid of David, because God was with him” [1 Samuel 18:12], and then hereafter are these ruses to destroy him.
First, he made David a captain over a thousand [1 Samuel 18:13]. Now, you would say, “Well, that’s an odd thing to try to destroy him!” What he thought: he could turn his head. After he had sought to take his life, and then he exalted him—marvelous opportunity for treason—but the Book says, “David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him” [1 Samuel 18:14]. And Saul was still yet more afraid of him [1 Samuel 18:15]. And then Saul decided upon this ruse to destroy him: he said, “Of my eldest daughter Merab, my eldest daughter Merab; you take your forces and go out and slay the Philistines, and I will give her to you for wife, and you can be the king’s son-in-law, married to his eldest daughter.” So David goes out, and when he comes back victorious, then Saul describes another ruse. He took his daughter away and gave her to another man; Adriel the Meholathite [1 Samuel 18:17-19]. Don’t know who he was? Anything to create a tempest of resentment in David, and maybe he’d do something rash for revenge! David never made a ripple in his soul or his heart.
Then when it says, “Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David.” She told Saul about it. It pleased Saul. So he calls and he says to his servants, “You tell David the king delights in him, and you tell David that if he’ll come back with the evidence of the death of a hundred Philistines, I’ll give him Michal my daughter who loves him” [1 Samuel 18:20]. And David, being told that, goes down into Philistia, and he comes back with the evidences of two hundred Philistines slain, not a hundred as Saul demanded, two hundred! Isn’t this a remarkable man? Two hundred of the enemies slain, by himself; this is a feat of David alone. Two hundred slain, and David brought back the evidence. And then Saul was helpless before it, and he gave him Michal his daughter to wife; and Saul became David’s enemy continually [1 Samuel 18:20-29].
Then you have this lament in the meeting between David and Jonathan, and Jonathan’s great influence over his father brings David back temporarily into the grace of his father [1 Samuel 19:1-7]. And then the thing wars again in Saul’s soul; David is victorious; wherever he goes, he’s victorious [1 Samuel 19:8-9]. God is with him. And when he came back from a great victory over the Philistines, then the evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, and as David played in his presence again, there is that deadly javelin cast again [1 Samuel 19:9-10]. Saul sought to smite him to the wall, and David escaped that night to the house of his young wife [1 Samuel 19:12].
And while he was there, in the nighttime, Saul called in his servants and said, “You surround the house. And don’t let him escape, and slay him.” So, the servants of Saul surround the house of David in order to slay him [1 Samuel 19:11], and that is the occasion of the fifty-ninth Psalm [Psalm 59:1-17]. Surrounded by the dogs of Saul to take his life and to destroy him, David, that night wrote this Psalm 59.
Now you will find at the heading of many of these psalms, you will find in small letters, small printing, you will find these little words of introduction. Now those words go back clear to the beginning. No man knows when those little introductions were written. Now they’re not like those little conclusions you will find in the epistles of Paul in the New Testament. Those things are mostly wrong. But these little introductions to these psalms you will find are mostly correct. When the Septuagint translated the Hebrew Scriptures in 300 BC, three hundred years before Christ, these little designations were translated into the Septuagint, into the Greek translation. They go back to the very beginning. Whoever, in the beginning gathered these psalms together, whoever that was, wrote these little introductions to them.
So, David, in the house with his young wife, fleeing away from Saul, is surrounded on the outside by these dogs that Saul has sent to destroy him [1 Samuel 19:11]. And it was then that he writes the fifty-ninth Psalm: “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me. Deliver me from the work of iniquity, and save me from bloody men. For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul…” [Psalm 59:1-3]. Then he likens them. We haven’t time to do all of this.
Look in the sixth verse and the seventh verse: “They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city. Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips” [Psalm 59:6-7]. Look at the fourteenth verse. “And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city. Let them wander up and down for offal, for meat, for refuse, and grudge it that they are not satisfied” [Psalm 59:14-15]. He likens them to the dogs of those Eastern cities that fight in the uproar at night. He hears them outside, as they curse David. He hears them outside as they plot to take his life and to drown him in his own blood. That’s Psalm 59. Then he prays to God to deliver him. And then a ruse that Michal used, a quick-witted girl, she let David down from a window, and he escaped. And so David fled and came to Samuel in Ramah [1 Samuel 19:18].
Then you have the story in the rest of the nineteenth chapter of the three messengers—the three corps—the three corps of soldiers that Saul sent to Ramah to take him. But the afflatus of the Holy Spirit came upon them. And then Saul came himself, and the same thing happened. And God delivers David in the power of the Holy Spirit from the bloody hand of Saul [1 Samuel 19:19-24]. Then in the twentieth chapter, you have that meeting with David and Jonathan [1 Samuel 20:1-23, 35-42]. Now, the twenty-first chapter: David fleeing from Saul, fleeing from Saul, comes to Nob, to Ahimelech [1 Samuel 21:1]. There are eighty-five priests there—eighty-six, for one of them escaped—Ahimelech is the high priest [1 Samuel 22:18]. And there in the city of Nob, with their wives and their families, they live a secluded, quiet, pastoral, shepherd kind of a life. And David says that he’s hungry and his men that are with him. And he doesn’t tell Ahimelech that he’s fleeing from Saul. And Ahimelech gives him bread to eat and the sword of Goliath, behind the ephod [1 Samuel 21:3-9]. And he goes on his way, but Doeg, Doeg, almost like dog, Doeg the Edomite, the head shepherd of Saul, was there and saw it.
So he [David] flees [1 Samuel 21:10], and at about ten miles beyond Nob is the princely, kingly city of Gath, the home of Goliath and his brothers. And he arose and he comes to Achish, the king of Gath, verse 10 and chapter 21 [1 Samuel 21:10]. Now, I don’t understand that, and the best that I can find about it is one of two things. David thought: one, he would not be recognized. He was a youth when he fought against Goliath, and now he’s a man in his prime, a young man, but he’s grown. And David might have thought that the Philistines would not recognize him. Or the second thing: David was so successful against Philistia that he might have thought that if he defected to the Philistines and offered himself, as he did later, as a general or a captain on their side, they would receive him and protect him.
In any event, he went to Gath and was immediately recognized. For example, he had Goliath’s sword by his side. And when those Gathites, those Philistines, saw him with that sword at his side, they said, “That man!” And then others said, “That’s the one that we heard the women of Israel sing about. Saul had slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands” [1 Samuel 21:11]. And when these things came to David, they frightened him [1 Samuel 21:12]. And there he wrote Psalm 56; turn to Psalm 56, Psalm 56. Every syllable of that beautiful Psalm:
Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.
Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O Thou Most High.
But what time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.
In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts against me are for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.
Shall they escape by iniquity? In thine anger cast down those people, O God…
In God will I praise His word: in the Lord will I praise His word.
In God will I put my trust…
Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?
[Psalm 56:1-7, 10-11, 13]
And in a ruse that David himself played, he escaped out of the hands of Achish [1 Samuel 21:13-15].
There is the fifty-sixth Psalm. Then in escaping from Achish, from the city of Gath—the vale of Elah, the Valley of Elah opens upon Gath—and he fled up the Valley of Elah. And just a few miles up that valley, the whole terrain becomes tangled, and tangled, and precipitous, valley and cliff, and stone wall, solid high, rocks honeycombed with caves, it’s the district of Adullam, the name of an old Canaanitish city. And David departed thence.
And in a great central cave there and in all the caves around, there his brethren and his father’s house went down to him, afraid of the fierce vengeance of Saul. And everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone discontented, gathered themselves unto him. And he became a captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred brave men [1 Samuel 22:1-2]. And there in Adullam he wrote Psalm 34, one of the most magnificent psalms of all of the Book. With those hated, and hounded, and distressed people, fleeing from the wrath and the face of Saul, he writes Psalm 34; in the cave of Adullam.
I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto Him, and were radiant: and their faces were not ashamed.
“This poor man cried—
can’t you just see him pick out one of these men that had fled to him, oppressed and in debt?—
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all of his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.
O fear the Lord, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him—
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.
The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such that are of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones . . .
[Psalm 34:1-9, 15-20]
Can’t you see those people living up on the faces of those cliffs, in those caves and all? Why, you would think half of them would die by falling down from those places. They’re not cliff dwellers, these people living up there.
The Lord is nigh. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. He keepeth all of his bones—
Not a one of them is broken—
Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate.
Can’t you see David as he is captain over all of those people? [1 Samuel 22:1-2]. You know, that’s a picture of our Lord. That’s a picture of our Lord. Where are the poor? Where are the oppressed? Where are the distressed? Where are the sick? Where are the blind? Where are the lame? Where are the halt? Where are the crippled? Where are the sinful? Where are the needy? Where are those that look to God for help?
And the Lord gathers them up, and they are His people and the sheep of His pasture. That’s David. There in the cave of Adullam, all of those gathering to him—oppressed and sick in heart, and sick in body, and sick in soul—and David is their captain [1 Samuel 22:1-2]. Why I can just see him as he goes around and he pats the head of this little child, and he comforts this dear, poor old saint, and he lends a helping hand to that old man who is staggering on the brink of the grave. And he’s encouraged these who are bereaved, and he’s giving hope to those who are distressed, and he gathers them together; that’s David, and that’s that incomparable thirty-fourth Psalm. And Brother Carter, any Sunday morning you want to read Psalm 34, amen, amen. It came out of the distress of life, and they looked unto him and were radiant [Psalm 34:5]. Now, his father and his mother were too old to stay in the cave, so he went over to Moab and asked the king of Moab to take care of his parents until it would appear what God should do with him [1 Samuel 22:3-4].
And so this—I’ll stop here—and so Saul asked, “Where is David, that I may slay this son of Jesse?” Nobody said anything to him, for all Israel and Judah loved David. And Saul says, “You Benjamites who belong to my tribe and my family, you yourselves are made a league with him, for there is not a man among you that will tell me where this son of Jesse can be found.” Then answered Doeg the Edomite, cursing, then answered Doeg the Edomite, who was set over the servants of Saul, “I saw him, I saw him!” says Doeg, “I saw the son of Jesse! I saw him at Nob, and Ahimelech, the high priest, the son of Ahitub, ministered to him” [1 Samuel 22:8-9].
You see, Doeg never mentioned the fact that Ahimelech had no idea David was fleeing. Doeg, this dog from Edom, didn’t bother to mention that Ahimelech was perfectly innocent in what he did. “I saw him, and Ahimelech gave him bread and the sword of Goliath and sent him on his way” [1 Samuel 22:10]. And Saul says, “Is that so? Bring Ahimelech to me. And not only Ahimelech, but the whole tribe of the priests, bring them to me.” So, all eighty-six of the priests of Nob, all of them are brought in the presence of Saul at Gibeah-benjamin. And Saul says, “Ahimelech, did you give David bread to eat, and did you send him on his way?” [1 Samuel 22:11-13]. And Ahimelech answered the king, and said:
Who is so faithful among all of thy servants as David, which is the king’s son-in-law, and goeth before and out in thine house? I did not inquire the Lord for him. Be it far from me, let not the king impute anything to his servant nor to the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all of this, less or more.
[1 Samuel 22:14-15]
“I had no idea. I thought he was on a mission for you.” “And the king said, Ahimelech, thou shalt die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house” [1 Samuel 22:16]. And the king turned to his soldiers and said, “You see all eighty-six of these priests, slay them every one.” And the soldiers refused to do it. They just stood there with their weapons of war at their sides and refused to move. And then Saul said to Doeg, the dog from Edom, “Doeg, turn thou and fall upon these defenseless priests.” Doeg turned, and with his sword he slew those priests, one at a time, eighty-five of them—and only Abiathar escaped—eighty-five [1 Samuel 22:17-18]!
And then, Saul sent down to Nob, the city of the priests, and he slew the men there and the women there, and the children there, and the sucklings there, and he burned the town with the edge of his sword. And one of the sons of Ahimelech, named Abiathar, escaped with the ephod and came to David, and showed David the bloodstained ephod, and told about Saul’s destruction of every priest in the family of God, and only he, Abiathar escaped.
[1 Samuel 22:19-23]
And it was then that David wrote Psalm 52. Would you like to read a burning Psalm? Psalm 52, Psalm 52: talking about Doeg, the dog from Edom, who slew God’s priests and who lied in doing it:
Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, thou mighty man? The goodness of God endureth continually.
Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness.
Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.
God shall destroy thee forever, He shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living.
The righteous shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him.
Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; and trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.
But I, Lord, like a tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
I will praise Thee for ever, because Thou hast done it: and I will wait on Thy name; for it is good before Thy saints.
That was David’s reaction when Doeg destroyed the priests at Nob.
Well, we have to quit. We’ll pick it up there next Sunday night; and follow through the life of David, until he comes to the throne of his inheritance that God promised him in the prophet Samuel [1 Samuel 16:12-13]. Well, a man could take these words in the life of David, and oh—a flood of things come into your heart. For one thing, God said, “I shall seek Me a man after My own heart, and I shall make him king over My people Israel” [1 Samuel 13:14]. And he took David from the flock and made him a shepherd over the house of Jacob [1 Samuel 16:12-13].
And Saul said, “And I will intervene, and I will interdict. And the purposes and plan of God, spoken by the prophet Samuel, shall not come to pass! I shall seize and destroy his life” [1 Samuel 19:11]. Saul is not the first man or the only man that ever entered into the arena to gladiate against God. How foolish! How foolish! When God says a thing, that thing shall come to pass. And when God makes a promise, that promise shall stand. And for a man to fight and to war against God is of all things most foolish and inexplicable. If you would ask me what prayer is, I’d say prayer is mostly standing in the presence of the great King and asking, “What is the will of heaven’s court?” And obediently, wonderfully, humbly, giving yourself into the will of God.
If God says David shall be king [1 Samuel 13:14, 16:12-13], all of the devils in hell and all of the furious plots against him shall never obtain, if God wills it! What we are to do in our lives is to stand in the presence of the great court of heaven and say, “And what is God’s word for me and my life?” When you know it, there is no interdicting it in heaven, in earth, or in hell. Your own life, for example, is invincible, and invulnerable, and impregnable until that task is done. You don’t need to be afraid, you don’t need to be afraid; in the will of God these things come to pass by decree, by heavenly election. If the Book says anything at all, it says that.
Now, may I turn the other side of it? How disastrous it is for a man to war against God, and most of us find ourselves God-fighters most of the time, warring against the decrees of heaven. And we break ourselves against it; that’s exactly what Jesus said when he met Paul on the way, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” [Acts 9:5], the sharp goad by which the herdsmen push the cattle along—like I’ve seen out there in West Texas and those chutes, those cowboys with those sharp poles pushing those cattle into the chute and into the car, and fill another car—the goad. Jesus said to Saul, “Saul, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks,” as the King James says, “To kick against the goad,” to fight against the sharp, pointed prodding of God. Why isn’t it better, Saul, to give in?” And Saul fell at His feet that day and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:5-6]. No longer fighting against God, “Lord, what would Thou have me to do?” And the great apostle rose to do the will of God, and the favor of heaven was upon him [Acts 9:6-18].
All of our lives are like that. What is it God wills for you? Then finding it, give yourself to it. It’s disastrous to war against it. God bless us as we answer His call and as we give ourselves to His great elected purpose for us. God calls us all to trust in Him. Will you trust in Him tonight? God calls us all to a Christian discipleship. Will you follow Him tonight? God calls us all to the rivers of the Jordan. Will you follow Him to the waters tonight? God calls us all to church, devotion, and love, and membership. Will you place your life with us tonight? As the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door and make the appeal, would you come tonight? In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, on this lower floor, into an aisle and down to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God; here I am and here I come.” Would you make it now, tonight? While we stand and while we sing.
DAVID AND SAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 18:5
David, Jonathan, Saul
David and Jonathan friends
David given command of army
Saul jealous of David’s fame
Saul tries to kill David while David is trying to calm Saul
Saul’s tricks to get rid of David
Saul’s attempts to kill David
David flees from Saul
Saul murders those who innocently helped David
David betrayed by an Edomite
In spite of all of man’s bad decisions, God’s plan is always fulfilled