This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 16:14-23; 17.
David in Saul’s Service
Before we listen to David telling his life story, let us listen to what his biographer wrote about the next episode in his life:
1Sa 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.
WHAT CAUSED THIS VERY UNFORTUNATE DEPARTURE?
Just a little reminder. We are not saved by obeying the law of God. You cannot earn salvation. It is a gift of grace.
But if we disobey God’s law wilfully, we are lost. And this what happened to Saul. God told him to punish Amalek after trying to save cruel Amalek for more than 400 years.
Sa 15:10 Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,
1Sa 15:11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.
1Sa 15:12 So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.”
1Sa 15:13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”
1Sa 15:14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
1Sa 15:15 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
1Sa 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.”
1Sa 15:17 So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?
1Sa 15:18 Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’
1Sa 15:19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?”
1Sa 15:20 And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
1Sa 15:21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”
1Sa 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
1Sa 15:24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.
1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.”
1Sa 15:26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.”
1Sa 15:35 And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
How does God treat sinners who rejected Him? How did He treat Israel in the desert after they rejected Him? He still supplied the manna and water and the diseases of the desert. This is the character of God. And this is how He treated the disobedient king Saul.
Saul was advised to seek relief through musical therapy. The sound of David’s lyre and his chanting of lofty hymns afforded Saul temporary release from the evil spirit that haunted him. As Saul listened to David’s music his wicked feelings of self-pity and jealousy left him for a time, only to return with double power as time went on.
1Sa 16:15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.
1Sa 16:16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
David’s reputation as a musician and a man of bravery, sound judgment, and tact was already established before his appearance at court and his victory over Goliath. David was probably a youth on the verge of manhood, for a little later, at the time of his encounter with Goliath, he is described both as a “boy,” Heb. na‘ar (“young man,” ch. 17:58), and as a “young man,” Heb. ‘elem (“stripling,” v. 56).
1Sa 16:17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”
1Sa 16:18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.”
Lord is with him. Though it was not generally known that David had been anointed king, nothing could hide the fact that the Holy Spirit, who had taken control of his life in a special way at the time of his anointing (see on v. 13), was successfully preparing him for the important tasks that lay ahead.
1Sa 16:19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.”
1Sa 16:20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
Jesse’s gift was intended to express good will with respect to the king’s desire for the services of David at court. Failure to send a gift would no doubt be interpreted as an expression of ill will, and would therefore prejudice David’s success at court.
1Sa 16:21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers.
6:21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer.
Loved him greatly. Even Saul came to honour and respect the naturally attractive personality of David, and to esteem in him those qualities implanted there by the Holy Spirit. Saul recognized the obvious superiority of this promising young man, tacitly admitting the wisdom of God’s choice of a successor to the throne.
1Sa 16:22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.”
In the providence of God, David was thus brought into a situation where he would have contact with the leading men of the nation—who might thus learn to appreciate his talents—and with the affairs of government. Saul was probably permitted to remain on the throne until the seeds of evil in his life should produce their certain harvest, and until David’s preliminary training was complete.
1Sa 16:23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
Saul would become refreshed. Literally, “Saul breathed.” The word ruach means “to breathe,” “to blow,” especially with the nostrils. The use of this verb implies a strong, forced exhalation of breath such as often accompanies relaxation after a period of tension, followed by normal breathing. The fits of demon possession Saul suffered were apparently accompanied by physical and nervous tenseness.
Thank you for coming back to me. I trust that today’s story will strengthen your faith in what God can do for you when you have obeyed His calling. His calling may also be one of obedience; a calling to lay off some sin that destroys your peace.
I will be telling you about king Saul who was still ruling when God called me to ascent the throne when he steps down one day.
When King Saul realized that he had been rejected by God, and when he felt the force of the words of denunciation that had been addressed to him by the prophet, he was filled with bitter rebellion and despair.
It was not true repentance that had bowed the proud head of the king. He had no clear perception of the offensive character of his sin and did not arouse to the work of reforming his life, but brooded over what he thought was the injustice of God in depriving him of the throne of Israel and in taking the succession away from his posterity.
He was ever occupied in anticipating the ruin that had been brought upon his house. He felt that the valour which he had displayed in encountering his enemies should offset his sin of disobedience. He did not accept with meekness the chastisement of God. His haughty spirit became desperate, until he was on the verge of losing his reason.
His counsellors advised him to seek for the services of a skilful musician, in the hope that the soothing notes of a sweet instrument might calm his troubled spirit.
In the providence of God, I David, as a skilful performer upon the harp, was brought before the king. my lofty and heaven-inspired strains had the desired effect. The brooding melancholy that had settled like a dark cloud over the mind of Saul was charmed away.
This marvellous change in Saul’s behaviour brought great joy and satisfaction to my heart. This is one of the greatest pleasures in life that I discovered over the years.
When my services were not required at the court of Saul, I returned to my flocks among the hills and continued to maintain his simplicity of spirit and outward behaviour. Whenever it was necessary, I was recalled ministering before the king, to soothe the mind of the troubled monarch till the evil spirit should depart from him.
But although Saul expressed delight in me and my music, I went from the king’s house to the fields and hills of my pasture with a sense of relief and gladness.
In all humility I must share the following social experience. I was growing in favour with God and man. I had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and I now set my heart more fully to do the will of God than ever before.
I had new themes for thought. I had been in the court of the king and had seen the responsibilities of royalty. I had discovered some of the temptations that beset the soul of Saul and had penetrated some of the mysteries in the character and dealings of Israel’s first king.
I had seen the glory of royalty shadowed with a dark cloud of sorrow, and I knew that the household of Saul, in their private life, were far from happy. All these things served to bring troubled thoughts to me who had been anointed to be king over Israel.
But while I was absorbed in deep meditation, and harassed by thoughts of anxiety, I turned to my harp, and produced melodies that elevated my mind to the Author of every good, and the dark clouds that seemed to shadow the horizon of the future, were dispelled.
God was teaching me, little David, lessons of trust. As Moses was trained for his work, so the Lord was fitting me to become the guide of His chosen people. In my watch care for my flocks, I was gaining an appreciation of the care that the Great Shepherd has for the sheep of His pasture.
The lonely hills and the wild ravines where I wandered with my flocks were the lurking place of beasts of prey. Not infrequently the lion from the thickets by the Jordan, or the bear from his lair among the hills, came, fierce with hunger, to attack the flocks.
According to the custom of this time, I was armed only with his sling and shepherd’s staff. Yet I early gave proof of my strength and courage in protecting my charge and my flock. My biographer wrote quoted me saying:
“When there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” 1 Samuel 17:34, 35, R.V.
My experience in these matters proved the dedication of my heart and developed in me courage and fortitude and faith.
Even before I was summoned to the court of Saul, I had distinguished myself by deeds of valour. The officer who brought me to the notice of the king declared me to be “a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters,” and he said, “The Lord is with him.”
War between Israel and the Philistines.