David and King Saul

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Sermon Notes of Rev.Dr.I.J.W.Oakley (17-10-1976 Standtown Baptist Church)


David and King Saul

1 Samuel 18:5-16; 24:1-20



The relationship between David and King Saul extends over several chapters. We are going to deal with it as a whole, and therefore some of the details will not be covered.

The trouble began with Saulís jealousy, and then hatred, forcing David to flee. But Godís hand of protection was on David, who acted very honourably. He refused to kill King Saul when he had the opportunity.


The jealousy of Saul

In 1 Samuel 18:5-16 we read how the trouble started because of every day feeling and passion of jealousy. Saul heard women celebrating the victory of the armies of Israel, singing, ďSaul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.Ē At once Saul saw that David was treated with more honour than he was. The next thing David would have would be the kingdom. Saul knew God had already planned to give it to one of his neighbours (1 Samuel 15:28), so who else but David?

From that time forward Saul eyed David with murderous intent, vainly thinking he could thwart Godís plans. Saulís first attempt at this was when he hurled his javelin at David. Then he tried to kill him indirectly by requiring David to kill 100 Philistines before he could marry Saulís daughter. After this, there was the long hunt for David by Saulís army, over the hills, in the valleys, throughout the villages of Israel, trying to find and kill David. This manhunt involved thousands of men.

All this began with feelings of jealousy. Once jealousy had seized Saulís heart, one thing led to another. Yet it was all a mistake. There was no need to treat David like that. David loved Saul, was utterly loyal to him, and feared God too much to do Saul any wrong. How jealousy distorts our judgement, and shows itself in cruel speech, bitterness and resentment. Jealousy is the rage of a man; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance (Proverbs 6:34).

Jealousy quickly spawns a series of other dreadful evils. It blinds us to good and lovely things in anotherís life. Jonathon, the common people, and Saulís servants, could all see the good qualities in David, but Saul was blind to them. David was loving, concerned for everyone, behaved himself wisely, very humble, and the Lord was obviously with him. If only Saul had not been jealous, but had befriended David, how his own life would have been enriched.

Later on this same jealousy led him to quarrel with his own son, Jonathon, and try to murder him, because he was friendly with David. Saul mistrusted everyone, was sorry for himself, and murdered 85 priests, including Ahimelech at Nob, for helping David, and then the life of every single person, including women, children and animals, out of sheer vindictive cruelty. What a sad story Saulís is. How it illustrates the power of sin once it seizes a man. There is no knowing where it will lead and what damage it will do. Saulís beginnings were humble and godly, but he became out of touch with God, and ends up a raving lunatic and vicious murderer.

No sin is an end in itself. Our transgressions are never lonely, they soon give birth to others. A destructive process is set in motion. The entire system is soon poisoned. Pride leads to envy, which leads to untruth, which leads to vindictiveness. Be warned that no backslider ever intended to get into the state he is in. We must put things right at once. Of supreme importance is our unbroken daily communion with God. Keep near to God.


The protection of God

Because of Saulís activities, David was in great need. Saul was obsessed with a desire to get rid of David at all costs. Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became Davidís enemy continually (1 Samuel 18:29). But David had hope because God protected him. This theme is reflected in so many of his psalms. He knew God was on his side. Godís purpose was for David to have a long and rewarding life, and God always ensured His purposes were carried out.

God raised up a number of friends to succour and help David in his trouble. There is but a step between me and death (1 Samuel 20:3), and yet Godís hand made him safe and sure. God raised up Jonathon to plead Davidís cause (1 Samuel 19). Jonathon emphasized Davidís loyalty, innocence, good service to Saul, and courage. All this helped to delay Saul carrying into effect his plans. Later on Jonathon risked his life to warn David to flee for safety (1 Samuel 20:12), and gave his friend great encouragement (1 Samuel 23:16).

God also used Davidís wife, Michael, to help protect David. While David was let down from the window, she pretended he was ill, placing an idol or image in the bed to give the appearance of a body in the bed. She obviously had small faith in God. But God does overrule and use any one for blessing and the protection of His people.

Then God raised up and used Samuel, now an old man, to succour and encourage David as his counsellor and spiritual father (1 Samuel 19:18). And when an attempt was made to arrest Samuel and David, the messengers of Saul and Saul himself fell into a trance in which they gave way to ecstatic utterances, giving Samuel and David the opportunity to escape. The Holy Spirit confounded those messengers.

Next God raised up a priest at Nob (1 Samuel 21:1-9). The priest Ahimelech, and others (though later they paid dearly at Saulís hands) fed David and even gave him Goliathís sword. Then being rested and fed and equipped, David carried on his escape.

What fools men are as they try to thwart Godís plans. David was appointed by God as Saulís successor, and Saulís plans to eliminate David were doomed from the start. David may have been only a step away from death, but that step was never taken. He was absolutely safe with Godís protection. God raised up friends, and interposed miraculously on His servantís behalf.

ďWe are immortal until our work is done.Ē God has a perfect plan for every life. As long as we are still on earth, we can assume God has a purpose for us. He is able to raise up various ones to give us help, succour and guidance in accomplishing His purposes and to bring us through adversity. Our lives and circumstances are absolutely in Godís hands. Our eyes need to be opened to see that behind all the circumstances of everyday life is Godís directing and controlling. Look beyond the postmanís hand to the writer of the letter. When we cultivate this habit, we soon recognise the hand of God in our lives and it leads us to a greater spirit of thankfulness. So often we remain ďpractical atheistsĒ.

Psalm 34 was probably written during this period of Davidís life. He writes, I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fearsÖ The angel of the Lord encampeth round them that fear him, and delivereth them (Psalm 34:3,7).


The behaviour of David

While David was escaping the clutches of Saul, he gathered a group of men around him who were also in distress and discontent (1 Samuel 22:2) and they hid in the cave of Adullam. Eventually Saul, with the aid of spies and traitors, caught up with David. There were 3000 of Saulís men against 600 of Davidís men. All seemed to have come to an end for David. But suddenly the tables were turned, and on two occasions it was in Davidís power to kill Saul, but David did not take advantage of the opportunity.

What do we learn from David in such dire trouble? Where did the man get his strength and peace from when in the midst of trouble?

Firstly, David sought Godís will. Twice during the crisis ďhe enquired of the LordĒ (1 Samuel 23:2, 9-11). He was anxious to discover Godís will for every step of his life. The steps of good men are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way (Psalm 37:23). A passionate longing for Godís will is of tremendous importance for all in trouble. The way to blessing is not to escape from adversity, but to know Godís mind in adversity.

Secondly, David trusted in Godís intervention at the right time. All seemed to be against David, and it looked like only a matter of time till he was captured. Suddenly a messenger arrived and told Saul his territories were being attacked by the Philistines. Saul had to abandon his pursuit. God had intervened just at the right time. In every kind of adversity, God is sovereign and He will not forsake us. He is able to alter circumstances often unexpectedly in our favour. He controls the weather, the movements of men and even our enemies, and the nations, for His own purposes and for His peopleís good. We sometimes think our problems are insuperable, but God is able to meet us in our extremity and give us all the help we need. In temptations, God provides as way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Thirdly, David acted honourably. By a strange turning of the tables, Saul was in Davidís hands Ė once in the cave of Engedi, and another time when he was asleep in the wilderness (1 Samuel 24 & 26). David refused, in spite of pressure, to kill the Lordís anointed. Saul may have been evil, wicked and murderous, but he was still the Lordís anointed, to be held in respect and awe. So David acted perfectly honourably, and left it to God to put to shame those who trample on men (Psalm 57:2,3). C.f. Avenge not yourselves: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the LordÖ. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19f).

We must avoid bitterness and act honourably in our relationships. To have descended to Saulís level would have robbed David of strength and serenity. We are not to take the law into our own hands, but be prepared to leave God to carry out His own purpose, patiently waiting for Godís time to come.



David gives us a wonderful picture of generosity, mercy, respect, patience and loyalty. He foreshadowed his Lord who, when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously (1 Peter 2:23). Through all his dealings with King Saul, David teaches us to do that which is right, and leave affairs with God. We can have confidence that no weapon formed against us can prosper. This confidence gives us poise and rest of soul as we wait patiently for the Lord. He will take care of our interests if we take care of His.

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