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Saul, part 20

David Escapes into the Land of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 27

the conclusion of the previous chapter might lead us to expect that David's sorrows were now ended. Saul had asked him to return, and vowed he would do him no more harm. He had blessed him as his son, and seemed willing to recognise him as his heir. Yet the present chapter begins with the old plaint, as if no reconciliation had taken place: " I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." How soon the king had lost his good impressions and forgotten his solemn promise, and relapsed into his previous state of enmity, does not appear; but a considerable interval of time separates the events recorded in these two chapters. But, however short or long the interval may have been, the lesson which Saul's conduct teaches us is equally impressive. No time should have effaced the sense of obligation to David which Saul at the moment must have felt. The fact shows us that impressions may be powerful and yet superficial, and feelings intense and yet evanescent. The resolutions, therefore, that are formed under the influence of strong emotions, may be like the early dew that passes away; or like the seeds that "fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away." Convictions and sentiments that are not rooted in the good ground of an honest heart, seldom continue to live when the sun of our self-love is up. The shallow soil of natural feeling may give a rapid growth to the seeds of truth and virtue, but they as rapidly die away. Of this Saul was a singularly striking example.

Knowing that the evil spirit was again upon Saul, inviting him to the frenzied pursuit of his innocent victim, David said in his heart, "There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand." David had already on a former occasion sought an asylum in the land of the Philistines, and with Achish the king of Gath. He then found that he had fled from one danger to fall into another; now he was favourably received, and the city of Ziklag was given him; wherefore Ziklag pertains to the kings of Judah to this day. In his first flight to Philistia he was alone; now he had six hundred men, consisting chiefly of those who had joined him in the cave of Adullam, to which he had escaped when the servants of Achish aroused the suspicions of the monarch respecting him.

Philistia was the first and the last place of David's flight from Saul. We have seen that Philistia, like Egypt, is a stage in the journey of the faithful, in their progress through the chequered experience of the regenerate life. It is, however, one that belongs to a higher state or to a more advanced stage of the new life than Egypt, to the celestial and spiritual, but not to the natural. Abraham and Isaac, we have seen, sojourned in Philistia; but the children of Israel, when they went up out of Egypt, were not permitted to pass through the land of the Philistines, though it was near, lest, seeing war, they might turn back. Not to the natural but to the spiritual stage of the new life does the experience represented by Philistia belong. It is a trial not of science but of faith, not of knowledge but of conviction, not of the letter but of the spirit. It was for this reason a place of David's sojourn, for he eminently represented the spiritual man. Yet it was to him a place of trial as well as of retreat. It is to some of the circumstances connected with David's second sojourn here that we have now to direct our attention.

One important effect of David's flight to Gath was that Saul sought no more again for him. Saul's persecution of David was now ended, although there is no reason to believe that his persecuting spirit had died out. One of the purposes for which the regal office had been instituted was the deliverance of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines. Had Saul opposed the great enemy of his people with the constancy and activity he displayed in pursuing him whom he regarded as his rival for the throne, especially had he availed himself of the services of the conqueror of Goliath, he might have freed his people from the oppression under which they groaned. Instead of this he threw his best friend into the arms of his worst enemy; and he who might have been the conqueror of the Philistines was soon to be conquered by them. The Philistines had saved David, by making an inroad into the land, and drawing Saul away from pursuing him; and they were now to afford him protection from all further pursuit. In doing this the Philistines were unconsciously preserving and increasing a power which was to undermine and finally overturn their own. Such are the ways in which Providence works out its own beneficent ends. The power of the natural and even of the natural-rational man would never be overcome by the power of the spiritual, were it not that the wrath of man can be made to work to the praise of God, and the remainder of wrath can be restrained. We have remarked that the conflicting passions tend to restrain each other. But this effects no true reformation. There must be a higher power that can restrain and subdue them all, and bring them into submission and subordination to itself. The supremacy of this power is effected by numerous Divine means, not only various but diverse, by permissions as well as by provisions. The Lord bends prejudices when they cannot be broken, restrains men by fear when they cannot be led by love, and makes even their selWove instrumental in leading them to the love of God. In our first religious impulse there is more fear of hell than love of heaven. There is love within the fear; but the love without the fear would be unable to impel us to forsake the broad road which leads to destruction, and enter the narrow way which leads to life. In our first faith there is self-confidence, like that which led Peter to say," Though I should die with You, yet will I not deny You;" yet without this self-confidence our early faith would not have even the courage of intended martyrdom. In our first righteousness there is a feeling of merit, yet without this merit there would be no righteousness. There is thus a large ingredient of self in our early religion. And our Lord appeals to this element, as when He held out to those who followed Him, that they should sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The Lord condescends to lead us by a lower motive till a higher be developed. For if we have any sincere religion, a higher motive is within the lower, as the butterfly is within the caterpillar; so that when the lower dies the higher comes forth into life. Within our early fear there is love, within our self-confidence there is trust, within our merit there is disinterestedness. By trial and tribulation, as well as by patience and perseverance, the kingdom of God is gradually established within us, and we ourselves become kings and priests to God and the Father, which we are when the Lord's truth rules in our understandings and His love rules in our hearts.

David in Philistia is in this way preparing himself for ruling the kingdom of Israel, whose anointed king he already is. And in this he was the type of Him who was made perfect through suffering, and who, though the anointed, the holy thing, the Son of God, from His birth, or rather from His being conceived in the womb, bad nevertheless to pass through a life of suffering as well as of holiness, before He ascended to His throne, and became the Ruler of His kingdom in heaven and on earth. And so of the disciple who follows His Lord.

When David appeared before Achish, he desired that the king would give him a place elsewhere than in the regal city; and Achish gave him Ziklag; wherefore Ziklag belongs to the kings of Judah to this day. There is something interesting about the history of this town. It was one of the cities that fell to the lot of Judah (Josh 15:31); but as Judah's lot was too large for him, the children of Simeon received their inheritance within the inheritance of the children of Judah (Josh 19:1-9); and Ziklag passed over from Judah to Simeon (Josh 19:5). These two tribes were to each other as will and understanding; and the understanding of the celestial man is derived from and is within the will, as the inheritance of the children of Simeon was taken from and was within the inheritance of the children of Judah. The will of the spiritual man is formed in the understanding; the understanding of the celestial man is formed in the will. The spiritual man wills as he understands, the celestial man understands as he wills. The will and understanding of the celestial man are so completely united that they form, in a supereminent degree, one mind.

At the time to which the history relates Ziklag was subject to the Philistines, as the true to the false, but was assigned as a place of residence to David, when it passed into, and ever afterwards remained in, the hands of its true owners, the tribe and the kings of Judah.

From this "overflowing of a fountain," the emblem of living truth and beauty, David made two severe assaults upon some of the enemies of his people. He "and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as you go to Shur, even to the land of Egypt." It is not difficult to see the meaning of these nations, situated as they were on the borders of Philistia, and on the way to Shur and Egypt. The wilderness of Shur was the scene of the first temptation of the children of Israel, after leaving Egypt, when they thirsted for water (Exod 15:22), and Amalek was the first enemy that assailed them? when they were suffering from their second temptation in the wilderness of Sin (Exod 17:8). The Amalekites, we have seen, represented falsity grounded in interior evil; and the two nations here associated with them represent confirming reasonings and science. But it is of the circumstances connected with David's invasion of these nations that I desire chiefly to speak. It is said that he left neither man nor woman alive, and that his object in utterly destroying the people was to prevent tidings being brought to Gath, where his doings might have caused censure and excited alarm. And when David was asked by the king where he had made a road that day, he said, "Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites. And Achish believed David, saying, He has made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever." This double crime, as it must be regarded if judged by the standard of Christian morality, of exterminating to conceal and lying to deceive, does not seem to have been considered in those times and under that dispensation as any cause of reproach. Yet as David is a type of the spiritual man, and even as the Lord Himself as Divine truth, in what light are we to view these as representative acts? Had David been among his own people, his invasion of those nations would have been regarded as a meritorious act; and the greater the slaughter and the richer the spoil, the more would it have redounded to his honour. But David was now living among the enemies of his people, and he must appear to them to be his people's enemy. Yet this could be only an appearance. David, wherever he might be, as now driven by a cruel necessity to seek shelter in an enemy's territory, could not be unmindful of or unfaithful to the country over which he knew he was destined to rule. Besides, the land in which he now dwelt, by Divine decree belonged to the children of Israel, having been promised to Abraham and Isaac as part of the inheritance of their descendants (Gen 13:15, 26:3). It, however, remained unpossessed in the days of Joshua (Josh 13:3); and the Philistines were among the nations that were left to prove Israel, and to teach them war (Judges 3:1-3). The Israelites dwelt among the unconquered nations (Judges 3:5); so that David and his men were not altogether strangers in the land of the Philistines. There was this great difference between them and their brethren. The Israelites who dwelt among the nations took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods; which brought calamities upon them (Judges 3:6-9). David and his men were not guilty of these evils. They kept themselves separate from the Philistines among whom they dwelt; and instead of making league with their enemies and worshiping their gods, they made their presence in Philistia the opportunity and the means of executing the Divine judgement upon some of the proscribed nations, whom they could not otherwise have subdued. But the Philistines must not know that David employed the security which their hospitality afforded him in using against their neighbours the sword that might soon be turned against themselves; they must, on the contrary, believe that not their friends but their foes were the objects of his attack. There must be something in the nature of that faith which the Philistines represented which leads them to draw a corresponding conclusion from the doing and teaching of the Divine truth which David represented.

Faith alone, when adopted in principle and followed in practice, not only blunts the mind's perception, but perverts all its views, of the teaching and operation of Divine truth. It calls evil good, and good evil; it puts darkness for light, and light for darkness; it puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter (Isa 5:20). According to this principle, Divine truth does not war against evil but against good. This seems a hard saying. But the principle involves it, and if carried out to its legitimate consequences takes that outward shape. It does so in this way.

Those who hold the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, do so on the ground that works are meritorious, and therefore can contribute nothing to salvation; and when it is believed that good works do not justify, it is not difficult to believe that evil works do not condemn. Few, indeed, in the present day openly avow this as their belief; but the doctrine includes it, and its tendency is to produce it. Many who believe that faith alone saves are yet exemplary in the fulfillment of the law. Such do not come under the denomination of spiritual Philistines. The spiritual Philistine is one who believes, and who acts on the belief, that good does not justify and that evil does not condemn. We see this tendency in its effects on the intellectual efforts of the theological writers who maintain it. In reading the Scriptures they eagerly seize on everything that is said in favour of faith, and seem as if they were unable to see what is said in favour of charity and good works; and if any adverse passage demands attention, they feel themselves constrained to evade the force of its teaching. The statement of Paul, that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom 3:28), is taken as the sum of Christian doctrine on the subject; while James, in declaring that "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24), is accused of Judaizing; and it is well known that Luther pronounced the excellent apostolic letter in which the declaration appears to be an epistle of straw. The two assertions, the one of Paul and the other of James, are in perfect harmony when the subject and object of the two writers are understood. But this way of reading the Scriptures is an exemplification of the faith of Achish, that the road which David made was not against the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites, but against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites. Achish, indeed, believed this because David told him. David deceived Achish. But can the Lord, or His Word, deceive men? The Scriptures say so. Jeremiah says, "O Lord, You have deceived me, and I was deceived" (Jer 20:7); the Lord says by Ezekiel, "If the prophet be deceived when he has spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet" (Ez 14:9); and the Lord employed a lying spirit to deceive Ahab (1 Kings 22:20-23). These are apparent truths. The Lord does not deceive men by the teaching of His Word, but men deceive themselves by giving His Word a false interpretation; saying to the prophets, "Prophesy not to us right things, speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits "(Isa 30:10). The disposition to be deceived is the ground of all religious deception. The Word of the Lord is truth (John 17:17); but men change the truth of God into a lie (Rom 1:25). What David told Achish was, according to both its natural and its spiritual meaning, the opposite of what he did; the places and peoples have also an opposite signification. Amalek is falsity grounded in interior evil, and the south of Judah is truth grounded in interior goodness. The Gezrites are falsity from reasonings, and the Jerahmeelites are truth from intelligence; and the Geshurites are falsity from science, and the south of the Kenites is truth grounded in natural goodness. Thus the three have reference to celestial, spiritual, and natural truth and their opposites. The destruction of every man and woman, terrible as it must be regarded as an historical fact, was the carrying out of the Divine judgement pronounced against the nations, and was the type of the extinction of every thought and affection opposed to the supremacy of Divine truth and goodness, which constitute the kingdom of God.

" Achish believed David, saying, He has made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever." David's people Israel are those who acknowledge the Lord's Divine truth as their master, the Philistines are those who desire to make it their servant. All truth leads to goodness, and all religion has relation to life; and only when we follow its teaching are we its subjects and servants. But if we believe that truth leads us to trust in another's goodness, and that all religion has relation to faith, we subvert the right order of things, and make truth subject and servant to us, because subservient to our own views and aims.

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