David’s Trials in Anxious Waiting
March 12th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Samuel 24
DAVID’S TRIALS IN ANXIOUS WAITING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 24
3-12-61 7:30 p.m.
Psalm 7, find it in your Bible, Psalm 7; the seventh Psalm has one of the strangest inscriptions in all the Word of God and has a profound reference after you study in the life of David. Psalm 7, let us read the first five verses, all of us together, Psalm 7:
O Lord my God, in Thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:
Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;
If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)
Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my
life upon the earth, and lay mine honor in the dust—
now, verse 14, to the end of the Psalm, Psalm 7:14—
Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
[Psalm 7:1-5, 14-17]
And that psalm has this strange and unusual inscription. And remember we were saying that as old as the psalms are, these inscriptions are, there has never been a time known to the memory of man when these inscriptions were not at the head of the psalms. And the psalm you have just read says “A psalm of David concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite” [Psalm 7:1]. How strange and how unusual, for nobody ever heard of Cush the Benjamite. Cush is the word for “black.” And evidently, it refers to some swarthy, dark-colored, dark-headed Benjamite, who belonged to the tribe, and the clan, and the family, and the circle of Saul. And what is this, this unusual psalm that we just read, “A song of David concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite”? Well, as you look carefully in the life of David and Saul, you’ll find why he lamented that song. Saul is like so many of us, only maybe accentuated, and Saul was so easily turned by those whom he counted in the circle of his friends.
Now, watch him; in the nineteenth chapter of 1 Samuel, Jonathan speaks to his father concerning David, and Saul listens to Jonathan. And Saul takes back into his heart this young soldier, David. Then immediately, immediately, Saul is on the warpath again. In the first seven verses, you have the sweet reconciliation of Saul to David because of the intercession of Jonathan [1 Samuel 19:1-7]. Then immediately, Saul is casting a javelin as David played on the harp. And in the tenth verse, “And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin: and he escaped that night out of Saul’s presence” [1 Samuel 19:10]. And the rest of that chapter is the story of how Saul sought to take David and to slay him in his own house in the nighttime [1 Samuel 19:11-24].
Now turn the page if you’re following. In the twenty-[sixth] chapter of the Book of 1 Samuel, you have David “hunted like a wild partridge on the mountains” [1 Samuel 26:20]; as he says. And he’s taken his men, and he’s hiding in the caves of En-gedi; in the second verse [chapter 24], “where the wild goats live in En-gedi” [1 Samuel 24:1-2]. That’s right down to the Dead Sea, on the western side; it’s where the Dead Sea scrolls were found in those limestone cliffs––great cavernous passages everywhere. And there David is hiding with his men, and to the amazement of those men, six hundred of them on the inside of that cave, lining the walls of that great cave [1 Samuel 23:13]—you know, when you go into a cave it is black as midnight, but after you are in for a while and look toward the entrance, you can easily delineate anything silhouetted against the light, as it pours into the mouth of the cave—and to the amazement of those men, into that cave walks Saul himself to rest himself from the journey [1 Samuel 24:3]. He’s seeking the life of David and his men. And into that cave, silhouetted against the light, six hundred men lying against the wall see Saul walk in. And six hundred eyes, six hundred pairs of eye, watch him as he lies down. And in the cool of the cave sheltered from the blistering, burning sun next to the Dead Sea, Saul is sound asleep.
What a providence! And the men say to David, in verse 4: “Look, look what the Lord hath delivered into your hands. Slay him!” [1 Samuel 24:4]. And it is no small tribute to the leadership of this captain, David, that he stays his men. And they watch Saul sleep until he’s rested and refreshed from the heat of the day; [David] cut off the skirt of his garment while he’s sound in slumber. And then when Saul arises and goes out of the cave in the late afternoon, David follows him. And just a distance behind him, David lifts up his voice, and he says to Saul, “Wherefore, wherefore hearest thou men’s words saying, ‘Behold, David seeketh thy hurt’” [1 Samuel 24:9].
And then there’s a long colloquy here between David and Saul [1 Samuel 24:10-15]. And Saul says, “Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice and wept” [1 Samuel 24:16]. Then follows in that chapter the most beautiful and sweet reconciliation between Saul and David. Just like you had it after Jonathan made intercession, a beautiful and sweet reconciliation [1 Samuel 19:1-7], and this is a beautiful and sweet reconciliation. And Saul leaves, having blessed the young captain, David [1 Samuel 24:17-22].
Then turn the page, and he’s on the warpath again! Next time that story is picked up in chapter 26, Saul has his army, and he’s trying to surround David and to slay him [1 Samuel 26:1-20]. What’s the matter with Saul? What’s the matter with Saul? “Oh,” you say, “the evil spirit from the Lord has troubled him [1 Samuel 16:14], and that violent jealousy that drives him stark mad induces him and encourages him to seek after the life of the young captain.” Well, that’s true, that’s true. But there is another reason for it. There was a man in the court of Saul, and they called him Cush, “Blackie,” and as long as Saul was in the presence of Jonathan or of David, he reflected the beauty and the character of those godly young men. Saul was sweet, and he was light, and he was happiness, and he was gladness, and he was at peace in his heart, and he was well, as long as he was in the presence of David or of Jonathan, and they were reconciled in the Lord.
But when Saul returned to his court and he sat down in the palace, there was somebody there that they called “Cush the Benjamite.” And when he got the ear of Saul, he said words that destroyed the life of the king of Israel, and he filled him with poison. And he poured into his head and into his heart, things that destroyed and that hurt. And that’s why David says here, “And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, that whisper in thine ear, ‘Behold, David, seeketh thy hurt’?” [1 Samuel 24:9]. Why do you listen, Saul, why? And that’s why Psalm 7, this lament concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite:
O Lord my God . . . save me from them that persecute me . . .
Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces . . .
O Lord my God, if I have done these things they say I have done, if there be iniquity in my hands;
If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I delivered him that hated me without a cause.)
Let that enemy persecute my soul, and take it; let him turn down my life upon this earth, if I have done those things that he hath said.
O Lord, O Lord, he hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He has made a pit for my soul . . . His mischief shall come upon his own head, shall bring him down to the pit.
[Psalms 7:1-5, 14-16]
Did you ever see anybody like that? I see it everywhere. Under the influence of good people, they are so fine and noble, but under the influence of other people, they just change their character and their life like a chameleon. How many times have I heard fathers and mothers lament, “Oh, my son, my boy was a good boy, my boy was a sweet boy, but he got in the wrong crowd. And they influenced him, and now he faces the judgment of a court because of the companions that surrounded him.” Why, I’ve heard that over and over again.
And there are men that under the influence of some people are sweet and godly and Christian, and then when they’re in the hands of other people, they turn, and they’re hard, and they depart from the Lord and the Lord’s anointed, and you hardly recognize them. Oh, all of us are prone to reflect these who are around us. And when you’re out there with friends and in circles of people who are not Christian, they hurt your heart, and they hurt your life, and they hurt your soul, and they dig a pit for you. How much better to seek the companionship of a David, or a Jonathan, or the people of God? Don’t make your friends out there; make them here in the circle of God’s family, with godly people. If you will, you’ll reflect the glory of the Lord. But if you’re with evil people, they hurt your soul, and they destroy your life. That’s why this Psalm 7 concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite, who poisoned the mind of Saul and brought into his life that evil and troublous spirit [1 Samuel 24:9].
Now, I just try my best to take these passages and to go through them with you, every one of them is a sermon in itself. And I just bog down in it, trying to expatiate upon it. There is so much of the unfathomable and the illimitable in the Word of God. So hastily now, let us take one other thing here and then the final word I have in my heart; [1 Samuel] chapter 25.
Chapter 25 is one of the most unusual chapters in the Word of God, chapter 25. David with his six hundred men is down in the South country beyond the hills of Judah, in the wilderness of Paran [1 Samuel 25:1]. And there is a great sheepherder down there, a great master; and his name is Nabal, and he’s married to a beautiful and wise woman named Abigail [1 Samuel 25:2-3]. Now, in a place like that, a man’s herds were subject to the incursion of Philistines, and Amalekites, and the border of brigands, and thieves, and bandits. And the army of David protected this man’s flocks and all that he had. And according to an unwritten law, the man was to respond to David’s overtures of graciousness and kindness and protection; in kind, he was to give something in order that David’s army might be sustained, and their families. So upon a time, this man Nabal is shearing his sheep and at the time in affluence and in abundance, David sent ten of his young men that he might receive something from him [1 Samuel 25:4-9]. And Nabal answered David like a dog and cursed him, and they brought back the report to David, and it made David furious [1 Samuel 25:10-12]. He said every man gird on his sword! And the Bible says, “And David girded on his sword” [1 Samuel 25:13]. And he says, “We will go and we will destroy everything that man has, everything that he has. Such an ungodly wretch, such an ungrateful son of Belial!”
Well, the beautiful Abigail heard what had happened [1 Samuel 25:14-17], and never in all literature will you read as sweet and beautiful a story, as when Abigail took all of these things and met David on the way, with fire in his eyes and a sword in his hand. And she bowed before him, and made this beautiful speech [1 Samuel 25:23-31]. You read it; I haven’t time here, in 1 Samuel 25, that’s one of the most beautiful addresses in this language and literature.
And it closes with the appeal, “My lord, when God shall make you king over Israel, it would be a grief to thee, an offense of heart unto my lord that thou has taken thy sword to shed innocent blood. The Lord will deal with Nabal, and when He does, remember me” [1 Samuel 25:30-31]. Well, David says, “I never heard anything like this in my life. I never saw anything like this in my life. Blessed be thou for thy advice” [1 Samuel 25:32-35]. And Nabal is drunk, and he dies in his debauchery [1 Samuel 25:36-38]. “And David sent and communed with Abigail, and he took her to be his wife” [1 Samuel 25:39-42]. What a beautiful idyll. What a beautiful turn.
Did you ever see an “Abigail” married to a “Nabal”––a fool—ever see one? Man, I’ve got them here in this church! Isn’t that a sight? Isn’t that unbelievable, how many Abigails get married to fools, to Nabals? His name Nabal, means “fool.” Isn’t it an amazing thing? You just see it all around, all around, a wonderful girl married to a dumbbell, a nitwit, a screwball, a crazy idiot; just all around. One of these finest women that had prayed for her husband for years and years finally got him to church! And a friend saw him there, and in the invitation went up to him and invited him to the Lord. And the man said, “Why, no, I’m not going to the Lord.” And the fellow said, “Why?” And he said, “I don’t like your preacher.” This is in another church, they all like me, except those that don’t. “I don’t like your preacher!”
Well, this man loved the pastor and said, “Well, what’s the matter with our preacher?”
“Well,” said that man, “I don’t like the way he baptizes.”
“Well,” he said, “What is the matter with the way he baptizes?”
“Well, I don’t like what he says.”
“Well, what does he say in his baptism that you don’t like?”
“Well, he says I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
And the man in amazement and the woman say, “Well, what’s the matter with that?”
“Well,” he says, “that’s not right; he ought to say I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!”
Well, this fellow talking to him wasn’t a good Christian, and when he heard the guy say that, he said a bad word.
Oh, I tell you, you got them everywhere, you got them everywhere. And they all don’t turn out beautiful like this though. Some of them get married to them all the rest of the days of their lives and die, tied up with them. Oh, boy! As I go around and minister to the people, I wish I could get, I wish I could rearrange them. I wish I could. Here’s a godly woman married to a fool; and here’s a godly, godly man married to a shrew! I wish I could rearrange it and put the godly ones together, and the glorious ones together, and the happy ones together. And we all live happily ever after. Well, we wouldn’t want to go to heaven if I did that, so maybe the Lord does this to make us want to see Jesus by and by. Oh my, such things! Now, bear with me, for I study and prepare these things. And I want you to listen to them.
Bear with me now, as we follow the life of David, as he departed from the Lord and as he came back. You see, in the twenty-seventh chapter of 1 Samuel, David is in the Slough of Despond; he’s in despair—the giant of despair has seized him—and he’s in doubting castle [1 Samuel 27:1-3]. And the Psalms: Psalm 10, Psalm 13, Psalm 17, Psalm 22, Psalm 25, Psalm 40, Psalm 42, Psalm 69, all of these psalms are written in this period in his life. And they have an increasing note of sadness and of despair, I want to show it to you. Take time to listen to me just for a moment, I want to show you how those psalms read.
Take the first verse of Psalm 10: “Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest Thyself in times of trouble?” [Psalm 10:1].
Take Psalm 13: “How long will Thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” [Psalm 13:1-3].
In 22: “Why, My God, My God, hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Psalm 22:1].
Psalm 69: “Save me, O God; for the waters have come into my soul. I sink in deep mire, for there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty” [Psalm 69:1-4].
Why, just to look at some of those psalms, you can feel the heartbeat of the sadness of his life. And finally, in chapter 27: “David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” [1 Samuel 27:1]. You see, he has a, he has a growing family; all six hundred of those men are married, and all six hundred of those men have wives and children [1 Samuel 27:2-3]. And how do you hide from a marauding, bitter, persecuting enemy like Saul and his great army? How do you hide six hundred men and their wives and their families? And how do you forever feed them and take care of them? And finally it was too much. And David said, “I don’t think we’ll outlive it. I don’t think we will.” And he fell into despair, and into despondency, and into discouragement. Did you ever do that? Did you ever do that? Fall into discouragement and into despondency? And David did that.
Now, he did a wrong thing, he did a wrong thing: instead of taking to God those six hundred brave men who marched by his side and their families and their children, and saying, “Lord, Thy promise shall never fall to the ground, take care of us and see us through,” instead of that, David took the whole group down to Philistia, down to Philistia [1 Samuel 27:7]. And there king Achish gave him a city, Ziklag [1 Samuel 27:1-6]. And there he lives in Philistia, and there are no psalms in this period of his life, not a one. He lost his song in Philistia. And he lost his nearness to God in Philistia. He lived a life of deception in Philistia. He was out in the wrong crowd, in the wrong company, with the wrong people in Philistia. God never said Philistia.
So, when the kings and the princes and the lords and the dukes of Philistia saw the armies of Israel disintegrating, they gathered together, not to go up into the hill country to fight, but they made that journey of fifty or sixty miles to Esdraelon to strike the very heart of Israel and to destroy her. And of course, David with his army is expected to go along and to fight with the Philistines against Jonathan and the children of God [1 Samuel 28:1-2].
Can you imagine that journey? I tell you, I would say that every step that David took with those six hundred men, going up to Esdraelon to fight Jonathan and the armies of Israel, every step was like blood. It was like death. And God delivered him from it. And had it not been for the deliverance of God, you would have found David and his men fighting against Jonathan and his men! But the way God delivered them was, in the twenty-ninth chapter here, when the lords of the Philistines saw those Hebrews with Achish, they said, “What do these Israelites, these Hebrews?” And Achish says, “They are my men, they are my soldiers.” And the princes of Philistia said, “Send them back, send them back!” And David feigned great hurt in what they said, but in his heart, oh! And so Achish the king, said to David, “Early in the morning rise up, take your men, and go back home” [1 Samuel 29:1-11].
And you know, I can just imagine, in the gray mist of the morning, David there on the plain of Esdraelon, and there on the heights of Gilboa is Jonathan. And the people of God and the Philistines are there like the sands of the sea! And I can just imagine as David arose early in the morning with his men [1 Samuel 29:11], I can just imagine his looking back on the hills of Gilboa with the armies of God, and how David wished he could be there by the side of Jonathan to fight the battles of the Lord!
You know, I feel that way. I don’t care if there were five hundred trillion out there against us, I’d rather be there with a little handful of God’s people battling for the Lord, than to be with all of the hosts on the other side! And I think David was that way. As he marched away, oh, how he said in his heart, how he said in his heart, “How I’d like to be with my people; working for my God, battling for my Christ, standing by the side of Jonathan, who even then was preparing for the battle of the day.” But you see, he was in the wrong place; he was with the wrong crowd. He was marching with the wrong army. So he walks away and leaves the armies of God with Jonathan.
And then, God did something else to him. The Lord’s also doing these things. And there is a reason in them, God did something else. When David and his young army, those six hundred men, here in chapter 30, when they came back, when they came back to Ziklag, their home, behold the Amalekites had come, and they had burned it with fire, and they had taken away the families of all of the men, and there was nothing there but smoldering, smoking, burned out ruins. And David and the men that were with him lifted up their voices and wept until they had no more power to cry. And David was greatly distressed, and the people wailed, and cried, and were grieved; every man for his sons and for his daughters [1 Samuel 30:1-5].
And then is a marvelous thing, look at it. “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” [1 Samuel 30:6]. And he said to Abiathar the high priest, “I pray thee, bring me the ephod.” We haven’t heard of that for months and years. Why, David’s been down there in Philistia, and he hadn’t prayed, he hasn’t cried to the Lord. Why, you haven’t heard of that in years. And as he stood with the smoldering ashes of all that he held dear in the world, surrounded by six hundred crying and lamenting men, David turned to God, and he said to Abiathar, the preacher, “Abiathar, bring I pray thee, the ephod” [1 Samuel 30:7]. And there amid those smoldering and smoking ruins, David came back to God. And the Lord answered from heaven and blessed him, then he recovered all that he’d lost [1 Samuel 30:7-19]. And then you have one of the sweetest things in all this Bible. He was as sweet as he was brave. He was as generous and kind as he was strong. David said, these––and I haven’t time to put it all together––David says these who have stood by the stuff shall share with them who have gone to the war. And he took of the spoil, and he sent it to all of the elders of Israel [1 Samuel 30:20-31]. And the next thing you hear of David he’s going back to the hill country of Judah, going back to the people of the Lord. And they acclaim him, and they receive him, and they crown him king. And he’s where God wants him, has chosen for him. He’s with the people of the Lord [2 Samuel 2:1-4].
That’s where we belong, not out there somewhere. We belong here, not in Philistia, we belong in Judah. Not with the world, but with God. Not with the people of this dying race, but with the children of Christ. This is our place, this is our home, these are our friends, these are our folks; here are our people. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the door to heaven, and this is where we belong. And David began to sing again, and his harp was played again, and the songs of the Psalms came back to his soul again. And David was God’s man again.
Now while we sing this appeal, while we sing this song, somebody you to come to the Lord, would you make it tonight? Make it now, make it tonight. Come to the Lord and to us, to us, God’s people; with all of our faults, and blunders, and failures, and shortcomings, we are the Lord’s people. Trusting in Him [Acts 16:30-31], washed in His blood [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], saved by His grace [Romans 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:5-9], come and be with us.
If you’ve never joined the pilgrimage of God’s people to glory, come and march with us. Give your heart to God and be with us. If you’ve already taken Jesus as Savior and you’ve been baptized, put your life with us; some of you by statement, some of you by promise of letter. How ever God shall say the word and extend the invitation to your heart, would you make it tonight? If you’re in the balcony, and there’s a host of you in the balcony, come down one of those stairways. There is time and aplenty for you to come. If you’re on this lower floor, into the aisle down here to the front, “Here I am, preacher, here I come.” While we sing this song of appeal, make it tonight, trusting Jesus as Savior or putting your life with us in the church. Tonight, “Here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.
DAVID’S TRIALS IN ANXIOUS WAITING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 24
I. Cush the Benjamite
1. Psalm 7, Cush means black
2. David spares his enemy, Saul’s life
3. Cush influences Saul against David
II. Abigail the intercessory
III. David returns to God after Ziklag