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1 Samuel 16
Sixteen years had passed away since Saul and Samuel parted; when a message came from the Lord to the prophet, saying," How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill your horn with oil, and go, I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons." We have already pointed out the distinction between the representative character of Saul and David, one representing truth Divine, the other Divine Truth. Truth Divine, we have seen, is truth which is Divine in its origin, but finite in its recipient; but Divine Truth is Truth that is Divine both in its origin and in its recipient. We have further seen that the history of Saul is, in the inmost sense of the Word, descriptive of the process by which the Lord made His Humanity truth Divine, while the history of David describes the process by which the Lord made His Humanity Divine truth. Our attention is now to be drawn to the singular circumstance of there being at the same time two kings of Israel. Saul, though rejected as king, was still permitted to reign for a considerable period after David had been anointed in his place. This gives rise to some of the remarkable and touching incidents in that part of the history which now commences and continues till the death of Saul. Many of the particulars related respecting Saul and David are exceedingly interesting as presenting strikingly true and instructive views of human nature. But they are still more interesting and instructive as representative descriptions of the states and experience of those who are passing through a certain stage of the regenerate life, and of the Lord Himself in a corresponding stage of the glorification of His Humanity. While they both held the regal office, Saul was king actually, and David was king potentially. During most of the time that this continued, Saul was the enemy and persecutor of David, while David was the friend and preserver of Saul. And even when his enemy had fallen, the event which placed David actually upon the throne drew from him a lamentation overflowing with the tenderest affection and the noblest sentiments.
The reason of David's being chosen and anointed king during the reign of Saul, and of there being thus at the same time two kings of Israel, will be seen by considering the Divine economy of man's regeneration, especially in that stage of its progress to which the history of Saul in his connection with David relates. "During the process of man's regeneration, he is kept by the Lord in a kind of mediatory good, which serves for introducing genuine goods and truths, but after these goods and truths are introduced it is separated from them. Every one who has any knowledge of regeneration can comprehend that the new man is altogether other and different from the old; for he is in the affection of spiritual and celestial things, which constitute his delights and blessednesses; whereas the old man is in the affection of worldly and terrestrial things, which constitutes his delights and satisfactions. Thus the new man has respect to ends in heaven, but the old man to ends in the world. Hence it may be manifest that the new man is altogether other than and different from. the old. In order that man may be led from the state of the old man into the state of the new, the cravings of the world must be put off, and the affections of heaven must be put on. This is effected by numberless means, which are known to the Lord alone, and of which some are known also to the angels from the Lord, but few, if any, to men. Nevertheless all and each of these means are manifested in the internal sense of the Word. While, therefore, man from the old is being made into the new man, that is, while he is being regenerated, this is not, as some suppose, effected in a moment, but by a process of several years' continuance, nay, of a man's whole life, even to its latest period; for his cravings are to be extirpated and heavenly affections are to be insinuated, and he is to be gifted with a life he had not before, and of which he previously had hardly any notion. Since, therefore, the states of his life are to be so much changed, he must needs be kept for a considerable time in a kind of middle good, or in a good which partakes both of the affections of the world and of the affections of heaven, and unless he be kept in this middle good, he in no wise admits heavenly goods and truths. Man, however, is kept in this middle good no longer than until it has served the above use; and when this is ended, it is separated. That there is a middle good, and that when it has served its use it is separated, may be illustrated by the changes of state which every one undergoes from infancy to old age. It is known that the states of man in infancy, in boyhood, in youth, in manhood, and in old age are different and distinct from each other. It is also known that man puts off the state of infancy with its playthings when he passes into the state of boyhood, and that he puts off the state of boyhood when he passes into the state of youth, and this again when he passes into manhood, and lastly this when he passes into the state of old age. Now if he weighs the matter well, he may know that each age has its delights, and that by these delights he is successively introduced to the subsequent age, and that these delights are serviceable in bringing him thither, and at length to the delight of intelligence and wisdom in old age. Hence it is manifest that former things are always left when a new state is put on. This comparison, however, can only show that delights are means, and that these are left when man enters into a subsequent state, whereas during man's regeneration his state becomes altogether other than and different from the foregoing, and he is led into, not in a natural but a supernatural manner by the Lord; nor does any one arrive at that state except by the means of regeneration which are provided by the Lord, alone, thus by the middle good of which we have been speaking."
This long extract, though it relates to a specifically different subject, sheds a clear light on that which is treated of in the internal sense of the present history. The contemporaneous existence in the mind of natural and spiritual affections and perceptions of truth, and the opposition of the lower to the higher, is represented, with a difference according to the subject, in various parts of the Word. Jt was represented by the two sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau, by the two wives of Jacob, Leah and Rachel, and by the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh; and is represented by the two kings of Israel, Saul and David. These two kings together in Israel represented, then, that condition of the regenerate man when the spiritual mind has been opened to the reception of Divine truth, but has not yet acquired dominion over the natural mind, and removed from it the apparent truths and their delights which belong to the natural mind. Saul's conduct towards David describes that of the natural towards the spiritual man. Saul first regarded David with favour, when he overcame Saul's foe, but when he knew that he had been anointed king he became his enemy. The natural agrees with the spiritual while they are in concurrent action; but the natural conflicts with the spiritual whenever its dominion is threatened. Saul's hatred and persecution of David represents the repugnance and resistance of the natural man to the rule of the spiritual; for all the hatred of Saul to David, and his schemes to destroy him, arose from the knowledge that he had been anointed and was designed to be king. The anointing of David forms the first and principal subject of the present chapter.
Samuel is commanded to go to Jesse the Bethlehemite, and anoint one of his sons, whom the Lord had provided to be king in the place of Saul. Samuel, who had mourned for the disobedient king, now expresses his fear that Saul, if he hear it, will kill him, on which he is desired to take a heifer with him, and say he is come to offer a sacrifice. Although, in the literal sense, this sacrifice seems as if it were intended to disarm suspicion, yet, in the spiritual sense, that which the heifer and the sacrifice represented are necessary for the preservation of the principle of which Samuel was the type. The heifer signifies the good of innocence and charity in the natural mind; and its sacrifice represented conjunction by that good with the Lord, and hence the preservation of internal truth. It was also a means of preparing for conjunction with the Lord the spiritual good and the truths proceeding from it, which were represented by Jesse and his sons, who were sanctified and called to the sacrifice. When the sons of Jesse were introduced one by one to Samuel, beginning at the eldest, all were rejected, till they came to the youngest, the first being last and the last first. When Samuel beheld the eldest, pleased with his person, the prophet was eager to anoint him; but he was checked by the Divine words, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, literally the eyes, but the Lord looks on the heart." The next two sons were made to pass before him, then the others to seven, but Samuel was able to say that the Lord had not chosen them. Inquiring if these were all his children, Jesse told him there was yet the youngest, who was keeping the sheep. "And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come here. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he." The seven sons of Jesse that were made to pass before Samuel were refused, because, although they represented holy truths, they did not represent the Divine truth itself in all fullness and holiness in the person of the Messiah, which the second king of Israel was to typify. The ground of their rejection is expressed in the Lord's words to Samuel when he would have anointed Eliab, the eldest, because he was high of stature: "Man looks on the eyes "—men judge by the intellect; "but the Lord looks on the heart"—the Lord judges by the will. This was the ground of the Divine choice in the case of David. He was ruddy, for ruddiness or red is emblematical of love; he was intellectual, which is expressed by his being fair of eyes, called beautiful of countenance; and these were combined in outward goodness, which is meant by his being goodly or good to look to. We mean that these were outward qualities in him that represented inward qualities in the Lord, whom he represented. He was not indeed destitute of these qualities himself, although, like many of the dispensation to which he belonged, he held them lightly. His representative character is further expressed in his name, which means beloved. Truth is the beloved of goodness, but only when goodness is in it as its life and essence. This was the truth which David represented; and this is the Truth which the Lord was. He was the Word; in Him was Life. He was the infinite and eternal Truth, in whom was the infinite and eternal Love. Such was the Word which was made flesh, the Messiah, the Anointed. We have already, in speaking of Saul, mentioned the difference between him and David, in Saul being in search of his father's asses when he was led to Samuel, who anointed him king, and David being brought from the sheepfold to receive the sacred unction. There are other differences. Saul was born in Gibeah, and anointed in a nameless city; while David was born and anointed in Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Lord Himself, and where the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel, the father of the Benjamites, was born. When Saul was anointed it was with a vial of oil; when David was anointed it was with a horn of oil; because the horn, besides being a vessel full of oil, and thus representing truth filled with love, was also an emblem of power; and all power is in truth derived from goodness. Saul was anointed alone; David was anointed in the midst of his brethren. Brethren signify the good charity, and in the midst is in the inmost. When the Lord, in answer to His disciples' question, who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, set a little child in the midst of them, and said, He that is converted and becomes as this little child, the same shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He intended to instruct us that the central quality of greatness is innocence. The Lord condescended to call those same disciples brethren, but He was careful to instruct them that only those who did the will of His Father in heaven were His mother, and sister, and brother.
When Samuel had poured upon the head of David the holy oil, the sacred symbol of love to God, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that day forward. The Spirit of the Lord which was given to men under the law, and the Holy Spirit under the Gospel, was not necessarily a regenerating spirit. It did not always produce graces in the heart, but was a supernatural influence adjoined to those who were invested with a sacred office. But although the Spirit that came upon kings and priests, and which they received on their formal appointment to their high office, was not a regenerating spirit, it represented the spirit of regeneration, when inwardly received by those who are made to our God kings and priests, and who shall reign with Him for ever and ever.
But when the Spirit of the Lord entered into David, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. So far as Saul represents one who has departed from the Lord, we have in this simple statement a description of the spiritual condition into which he comes. The spirit of good leaves those who forsake the paths of righteousness; and when the "spirit of good leaves them, the spirit of evil enters into them. The evil spirit that entered into Saul is said to have come from the Lord. This is according to the appearance that God is the Author of all things good and evil. In a certain sense it is true. Nothing exists but what has its first origin in God. But God did not create evil as evil, but as good. Every evil that exists is some good perverted. Evil spirits were created good; they have made themselves evil. But the evil spirit that troubled Saul is said to have been from God. This an apparent truth, and yet in a certain sense it is really true. The Lord has the keys of hell, and it is under His control. He does not send evil spirits, but He permits them to come, so far as their coming is necessary for the exercise of human freedom, and they can be made conducive to a useful purpose. In their present state men could not exist without connection with evil spirits, nor can they be regenerated without their agency. Evil cannot be removed unless it is seen and felt, and it cannot be seen and felt unless it be excited, and it cannot be excited without the agency of evil spirits. This is the use of their presence with the good. The evil do not thus profit by their presence. But as the evil draw evil spirits into connection with themselves, the Lord's providence is exerted to prevent, as much as is consistent with the freedom of the human will, the overruling power of attendant evil spirits. The law of Divine permission is also a law of love and wisdom, and the law is this, that the Lord permits a lesser evil to prevent a greater, and therefore permits evil spirits of a less malignant character, to prevent the presence of others who would of themselves take entire possession of men, and enslave them beyond redemption.
While the Lord permits evil spirits to be present with men, He provides good spirits and angels to be attendant on them, to moderate the influence and counteract the effects of the evil angels, and, as far as possible, to turn their evil into good, by inspiring a hatred of evil and a love of goodness. These good spirits and angels are like David with his harp; they awaken and strengthen the good affections and repress and weaken the evil affections, and, so far as this is done, drive away the evil spirits who excite and inflame them.
It was to his musical gift, and the cunning of his right hand which gave it expression on the harp, that David owed his first introduction to Saul. Saul's servants entreated their lord to let them seek out a cunning player on the harp, that he might play with his hand when the evil spirit was upon him, and make him well. Saul consented; and one of his servants having commended a son of Jesse, as a cunning player, and a mighty valiant man, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, whom the Lord was with, "Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, Send me David your son, which is with the sheep." When Jesse sent his son with gifts to the king, "David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armour-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray you, stand before me; for he has found favour in my sight. And it came to pass when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and the evil spirit departed from him." There is something of the romance of history in David's first connection with Saul. But that seemingly fortuitous concourse of circumstances by which interesting but otherwise unlikely events are brought about, is but a faint image of the combinations by which Divine Providence works out its eternal ends, making all agencies and all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose. The servants of Saul are the mediatory truths and goods which, by their connection with both the spiritual and the natural in man, bring them together, that the higher may correct the disorders of the lower; while the bread and the wine and the kid, that David brought from Jesse as a present to Saul, are the good and truth and innocence by which the spiritual man seeks to propitiate the natural. The favour of Saul was obtained. David stood before him, and he greatly loved him; and he became his armour-bearer. Thus is described the state of the natural man when the spiritual is an object of right thought and warm affection, and becomes invested with the doctrinal truths, which are the weapons of warfare the natural man is to use against his enemies, but which, in his evil moods, he may, like Saul, use against his friends. But the chief occupation of David, in which he performed at this time the greatest service to Saul, was that which enabled him to exorcise the evil spirit. What this evil spirit was, that could be overcome and driven away by the influence of music, has been a subject of speculation. The nature of the Israelitish dispensation explains this. All effects were then produced by correspondence. There is no reason to doubt that Saul's case was of the same nature as those recorded in the New Testament, where we read of evil spirits possessing and ruling over men, both as to mind and body; and that David exorcised the evil spirit of Saul, as the Lord cast the evil spirits out of those who were possessed. The means by which David quieted the spirit of Saul had this power, as we shall see, from correspondence. Saul's case differed from that of the possessed when our Lord was in the world in this respect, that he had a succession of attacks and deliverances. Yet our Lord instructs us that the evil spirit, when he has gone out of a man, may return with seven other spirits more wicked than himself. If we may judge 'from Saul's acts, the evil spirit acquired more and more influence over him as time went on. These alternations of possession and deliverance, like the alternations of sinning and repenting, harden the heart, and render the conscience more and more callous, till it is seared as with a red-hot iron. The evil that alternates with good is of a more malignant character than that which exists where good has never been. It draws men down into greater depths of iniquity and intenser suffering, until they end, like Saul, in defeat and self-destruction.
But to consider this part of the history as representing, not the actual commission of evil, but only the temptation to commit it, the Spirit of the Lord recedes into the inner man, and the evil spirit enters into and excites the cravings of the outer man, or natural mind. The acts into which Saul was seduced by the demon that possessed him, are fit representatives of the evils to which the natural man is inclined, and through which the Christian disciple is tempted by evil spirits. But in the function of David, in ministering to the diseased mind of Saul, we see the means by which such temptations can be overcome and such sins avoided. When our minds are troubled with thoughts of evil and not of good, and our spirits are oppressed with care and sorrow, arising, it may be, partly from natural and partly from spiritual causes, the music that descends from the spiritual affections, through which Heaven pours its melody of celestial love and peace, dissipates the gloom, calms the troubled spirit, and restores the mind to tranquillity and gladness. The natural mind, prone to the earth, and acted upon by its ends and influences, is subject to the changes of state which are imaged by those of the outer world. The natural mind, like the natural world, has its day and night, cold and heat, summer and winter; its lights and shadows, its storms and calms. In its dark and troubled states it becomes the sport of evil spirits, who find in these states their congenial element. Whenever we are under the influence of evil, whether it agitates our own minds only or threatens to burst forth in acts of hostility to others, the remedy is to be found in letting the sweet influence of the angels, who are ever present in our inner man, ready to descend into the outer man, and sweep the cords of our better thoughts and affections, and bring forth from them the subduing, soothing, and inspiriting strains, whose origin is in the soul itself that has been attuned, to the harmony arising from the union of love and faith, as they breathe in the atmosphere of the heaven of angels, and of that heaven which exists in the inmost of every regenerate mind. Besides these ministering spirits whom the Lord provides, He gives us of His own Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, is poured out upon all flesh. It is like the sunshine and the rain of heaven; it descends upon the evil and the good, the just and the unjust. All that is required of us is to open our hearts and minds to receive its light and influence. We may refuse it, we may close our hearts against it, and yield ourselves up to the undisputed rule of the evil spirit. God does not force us, because force is inconsistent with the freedom with which He has endowed us. But He desires and entreats us to receive His free Spirit, that it may cast out the evil spirit, which is the spirit of bondage, because it is the spirit of doubt, of discontent, of pride, of hatred, of malice, of whatever is of the devil, and enable us to sit down in a sound mind, and with a believing and loving heart.
But the evil spirit is not entirely dispossessed at once. After he has departed, he will return again and again. Of our Lord Himself it is recorded, that when, in the wilderness, the devil had ended all his temptations, he departed from Him for a season. In this respect the disciple is not above his Master. And what must we do when the evil spirit returns? We may learn from what David did. "It came to pass when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and the evil spirit departed." In every time of trouble, or rather terror, which means temptation, we must turn to the Lord, who will speak peace to the soul. "He is the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." And whoever looks to Him in times of darkness and distress, will find Him as the day-star arise in his heart. And those angelic spirits, who are all ministers of grace, will inspire the heart with that tranquillizing love, of which they are the recipients, and the mediums of conveying to their yet labouring brethren upon earth. They sympathize with us in all our states, both of sorrow and joy. There is joy in heaven over every sinner that repents; and at the new birth of every human soul the morning stars sing together and the sons of God shout for joy.
Every particular trouble that afflicts the mind has its ground in some particular principle of evil or error, and the remedy must be adapted to it by the law of opposites. The temptation represented by the terror of Saul is one that arises from the "evil spirit" of the affection of what is false; and the means by which this spirit is exorcised is the affection of truth. Of this affection David's harp is the symbol. Of the various musical instruments mentioned in the Word, wind instruments signify affections of goodness, and stringed instruments affections of truth. The harp is the most common Scripture symbol of this affection, and is represented as being used in heaven as well as upon earth. When the Lord is worshiped by the angels of the spiritual heaven, or from the spiritual affection of truth, that worship is representatively exhibited in the spiritual world as praising Him upon the harp. As such worship brings us into closet-connection with the Lord and heaven, it draws us away from evil spirits and out of the sphere of the kingdom of darkness. Eminently the Word itself is the harp, and its truths are the harp-strings from which the Divine hand brings forth the sounds that charm away the evil spirit that exerts its hateful power over the mind. And they do this whenever they find a responsive feeling in the affections of the human mind. The truths of the Word have power only when they are objects of mental perception and affection; and can only, therefore, support us in temptation and deliver us from evil when they are sincerely believed and loved.
In every one who is passing through the regenerate life there are, in a certain stage of his progress, a Saul and a David, one troubled with an evil spirit, and the other able, by the harmony of united truth and goodness, to dislodge the evil spirit. The outer man is corrupt and too ready to yield to evil influences. But when the inner man is in such a state as that Divine and heavenly influences can descend through the affections into the mind below, the evil can be successfully opposed and finally cast out. In the progress of the Christian life this will be our experience. The evil spirit will come upon us. When we feel its influence, let us turn to Him who alone can deliver us; He who has tuned the whole universe to harmony, is able to remove the discord which sin has introduced into the human mind, and restore it to the harmony which, in common with other parts of creation, it originally enjoyed.9 previous - next - BM Home - Full Page