Saul, David, and Jonathan.

1 Samuel.

This deeply interesting book gives us an eventful period in the history of Israel. The sad page recorded in the book of Judges had led to a change in the ways of God towards them. After the successive relapses which always followed the deliverances of the judges, God was pleased to raise up Samuel, who commenced the line of prophets by whom God addressed Himself to the conscience of the people, with a view to recall their hearts to Him; and the prophet henceforward superseded the priest as the medium of divine communication, in consequence of the utter failure of the priesthood in the person and family of Eli. Another change, too, takes place ere long in the mode of government of the people; namely, the anointing of a king. Hitherto God had kept the immediate government in His own hands; but the people, restless and dissatisfied - always ready to complain at the ways of divine goodness - ask for a king, that they may be like the nations round. Alas! they had lost the sense of what Jehovah was to them and of their own peculiar calling, or they never would have coveted to be like the surrounding nations. But the Lord, who always answers faith, is pleased at times to answer unbelief as well, as in the case of the quails; and so here He gives them their desire, and sets over them Saul, the son of Kish, the man of their desire, and who was so soon to represent the actual state of their hearts. Raised by God to a position of dignity and honour, Saul sits upon the throne of Israel, the head and representative of the people. But what is his conduct in this place? Object of divine favour, he disobeys the word of the Lord who had thus blessed him, and by disobedience forfeits all. 1 Samuel 15 records his fall; and Samuel, who had been the instrument of his anointing, is now sent to express God's judgment. "And Samuel said unto Saul … Thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel." But no sooner have we this rejection and judgment of the disobedient man, than we read (1 Samuel 16:1): "And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go; I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons." This shows us that God has counsels, and provisions by which to accomplish them, entirely outside and independent of the fallen and disobedient man. There is one of whom it is written, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, who shall fulfil all my will;" and a little lower down in chapter 16 we have the anointing of this chosen one, his setting apart for the great mission of fulfilling God's will.

In 1 Samuel 17 the scene is changed. Israel, with its fallen king, stand face to face with the Philistines and their champion, Goliath of Gath; and all the host, from Saul the king to the meanest soldier, are full of fear and trembling, and none dare meet the foe; for God is not with them, and they have no confidence toward Him, as the apostle John speaks, "If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." No; their heart did condemn them, and moreover God was against them in judgment. The Philistines were His scourge for Israel's unfaithfulness; otherwise none of the inhabitants of the land could have stood before Israel. Who now can be for them, when God, their only Refuge, is against them? Now comes the occasion for unfolding and accomplishing the purposes of His grace. From the solitude of the sheepfold David is called by God to fulfil the great object for which he was anointed; and, as the obedient one, at his father's bidding, he carries the message to the camp. There he discovers the terrible strait of the people, and, impelled by holy zeal and fearless faith, he voluntarily offers to meet single-handed the dreaded foe. With a fixed heart and a firm step he descends the valley alone to grapple with the power of the enemy, and returns victorious, carrying back the giant's head - witness of his triumph. It is worthy of notice here, that whilst it is God's judgment that lay on the people for their sin and disobedience, it is God alone who can raise up and send the one who could meet that judgment, and deliver the people from under it. Nothing is now left but for Israel to pursue and gather up the spoil.

In all this solemn and touching incident we have given us in picture the great elements of the truth of the gospel. If I look at Saul in his first estate I see man raised up and blessed by God as at the beginning; then follows disobedience and the fall, man rejecting the word of the Lord, and the Lord rejecting him, as it is said of Saul, "I have rejected him;" and as the blessed Lord Himself said, when speaking of the cross, "Now is the judgment of this world;" and the apostle Paul, in 2 Cor. 5, "If one died for all, then were all dead." We have thus in the cross of Christ not only the condemnation of what the sinner has done, but the judgment of what he is; and thus I learn how entirely God has rejected the first man, and closed his history in the death of His Son, who was then bearing all the responsibility of the sinner, both as to guilt and nature. Mark the solemn words, "I have rejected him," or as the New Testament scripture puts it, "Our old man is crucified with Him;" so that my standing and place, and everything, as a man in the flesh, are gone, and if I have any place, as well as any life and nature, it must be in another; and I ask, In whom is it? The precious blood of Christ perfectly meets every question of my guilt, and enables God to be both just and my justifier; the death of Christ, too, is the condemnation of my state and status as a sinner, and is the end before God of all that I was. And now that God has raised Christ up from among the dead, and given Him, as man, the full answer of divine righteousness for all He had accomplished, it follows, in blessed sequence, that those for whom the mighty work was wrought should share in all that God thus gives him, just as Israel after the victory had been accomplished for them by the hand of David. In perfect love Christ entered into our place of condemnation as sinners, and now, by virtue of His work wrought for us, He brings us into His place of light and glory as man, setting us down before God and the Father in holiness and unblameableness in love, even in Himself, the Beloved, giving us His place there as truly as He once, in infinite grace, took ours here. Hence Scripture uniformly thus presents the Christian's present portion by the well-known words, "In Christ." It is vain to say that he is only "in Christ" for nature and life, and not for his position and acceptance; for if such limitation were true, surely Scripture would have so stated it; but the Spirit's words are very plain, written for simple souls who are taught to believe that God means just what He says, when He tells us, again and again, that the believer is in Christ for righteousness, for sanctification, for all. His former position and state have been rejected by God, and in the death of Christ closed for ever. In His sight it has ceased to be; and now, as risen with Christ, the believer has an entirely new and heavenly position according to the value and efficacy of His perfect work, and he too has the Spirit of Christ given to dwell in him for power to walk worthily of the heavenly position in which he has been placed.

One word more as to the type. When David returned from the conquest all Israel celebrated his praise, and then hastened for the spoil; but in chapter 18 we have something as instructive as it is beautiful. Another heart and eye had watched with deepest interest the stripling David go forth alone to the conflict. Tremblingly he had marked each step; and when David returns with the witness of his victory, what characterizes Jonathan is not so much elation at the victory as that his heart is arrested by the person of the one who has achieved it; and as he meditates on him, his affections are drawn out towards David. The thought of one who, unknown and unasked, could step into that terrible breach and face all the power of the enemy for him, so deeply affected him that, it is said, "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David; and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." This draws him near to David to seek his acquaintance, and the nearer he draws the more his heart is attached, for he finds his love responded to, reciprocated, by his benefactor, and so they make a covenant together. Jonathan feels he would like to unite his interests with those of David; he wished to have nothing separate from him; and if he had anything, as the king's son, which distinguished him in the eyes of others, he stripped it from him to adorn David, "even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." David evidently had not only won a victory over Jonathan's enemy, but also over Jonathan's heart, whose object now is to exalt his benefactor in the eyes of others. If we turn to the Philippians we find a man in a very similar state, for Paul had been so captivated by the glory of the Person of his Saviour, that he drops everything that once distinguished him in the eyes of others (chap. 3), and declares (chap. 1) that his earnest expectation and hope are that Christ may be magnified in his body whether by life or by death.

May the Holy Spirit, whose mission it is to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, so present Him to our hearts that we may be like Jonathan in this first attachment to David, but unlike him when he left his despised and rejected friend and saviour, and preferred the ease and comfort of his palace home, but only to perish with his disobedient father on mount Gilboa. H. C. Anstey.

In a day of assumption both of knowledge and of place, it is well to remember that our blessed Lord characterised Himself as the One who was meek and lowly in heart.

Increasing humility is a sure sign of growing conformity to the likeness of Christ.