One Small Step for a Man

(1 Samuel 20:3) And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.

This chapter gives us the stirring account of a friendship and love so deep, so committed and so covenanted that the son of a king would jeopardize his future crown and even his own life for the sake of his friend. Jonathan was David's inside man, and answered to a higher king than Saul, even the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Evil Spirits from God

1 Samuel 19:8-10
(8) And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him.
(9) And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.
(10) And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

Our text today raises an interesting doctrinal question. We have here the mention of an "...evil spirit from the LORD..." (v.9), which we saw earlier (1SAM 16:14-23).

Charity Envieth Not

1 Samuel 18:1-9
(1) And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
(2) And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.
(3) Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
(4) And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
(5) And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants.

The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

1 Samuel 17:38-51
(38) And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
(39) And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
(40) And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
(41) And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.

When Firsts are Lasts and Lasts are Firsts

(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.

In this chapter we see a marvelous thing: God cashiers Saul's services and so "...the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul..." (1SAM 16:14) to alight upon David so that "...the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul" (1SAM 18:12). Saul, for all of his might and stature (1SAM 9:1-2) was, like Samson when the Spirit left him (JDG 16:20-21), without power for the task. Israel's first king (a man after the peoples' own hearts) here is cast off for one after God's own heart (1SAM 13:14 c/w ACT 13:22) and so forms part of the list of "firsts" that are "lasts" with God: The first Adam gives way to the Last Adam, Cain to Abel, Ishmael to Isaac, Esau to Jacob, natural Israel to spiritual Israel, the Jerusalem of earth to the Jerusalem above, Levi's priesthood to Melchizedek's, an earthly tabernacle to a heavenly, the present heaven and earth to the new heaven and earth, the old man to the new man, the image of the earthy to the image of the heavenly. King Saul sprang from Benjamin (1SAM 9:1-2) as did Tarsus Saul (PHIL 3:5). Jacob had prophesied that "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf..." (GEN 49:27) and both Sauls did so: King Saul doing so to David after the spirit left him, and Tarsus Saul doing so to David's son (MAT 22:42 c/w ACT 9:4-5) ere the spirit of God arrested him so that the wolf might dwell and feed together with the Lamb (c/w ISA 11:6 c/w ISA 65:25). Jacob had also once prophesied that "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah..." (GEN 49:10), intimating the royal family of God's pleasure would not be Benjamin and so the noble Berean (c/w ACT 17:10-11) of Samuel's day might have suspected that the royal house of Saul would not endure. Per our text, Israel's true king must be from Bethlehem of Juda (MIC 5:2 c/w MAT 2:1-6). Curious and mysterious are the ways of our God and let us be in awe: "Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him" (ISA 40:13)?

Spare Not

1 Samuel 15:1-3
(1) Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.
(2) Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
(3) Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

This chapter marks the formal dismissal of Saul as king in Israel, when "...the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel" (1SAM 15:35). Having received a commandment to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions (1SAM 15:2-3), Saul proceeded to spare "...Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly" (1SAM 15:9). He then crowed, "...I have performed the commandment of the LORD" (1SAM 15:13), "...I have obeyed the voice of the LORD" (1SAM 15:20). But he had done no such thing. Regardless of how imaginatively men might try to get around the obvious, the commandments of the Lord are only kept when they are kept as given: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, THAT ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you" (DEU 4:2). By his alteration and tradition, Saul had made the word of God of none effect (MAR 7:13), he had "...rejected the word of the LORD" (1SAM 15:23) and no amount of substituting ritual for righteousness justified his disobedience (1SAM 15:21-23). Saul's rejection of the word of the LORD was countered by "...[the LORD] hath also rejected thee from being king" (1SAM 15:23). Such things are written for our admonition (1CO 10:11 c/w ROM 15:4). Saul spared when God said "Spare not." Parents should thus consider the gravity of "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying" (PRO 19:24), and "He that spareth his rod hateth his son..." (PRO 13:23). The man of God must consider the gravity of "Cry aloud, spare not..." (ISA 58:1) so he may say that he has "...kept back nothing that was profitable..." (ACT 20:20), he has "not shunned to declare....all the counsel of God" (ACT 20:27). Churches must consider the gravity of "neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you" (JOS 6:12) and "...Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1CO 5:13), and so not spare to withdraw from the disorderly (2TH 3:6). A curse attends such sparing: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood" (JER 48:10). We may bless the God of heaven that He did not spare when it may have pleased Him to do so for that is our salvation: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things" (ROM 8:32)?

Bloody Errors

1 Samuel 14:31-35
(31) And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.
(32) And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.
(33) Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the LORD, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day.
(34) And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the LORD in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there.

No Smith (or Wesson) in Israel

1 Samuel 13:19-22
(19) Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:
(20) But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
(21) Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.
(22) So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.

The Changing of the Guard

1 Samuel 12:20-25
(20) And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;
(21) And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
(22) For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.
(23) Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
(24) Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

A Merciful King

1 Samuel 11:11-13
(11) And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.
(12) And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.
(13) And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.

It seems that Nahash the Ammonite king (1CH 19:1) had been a worry to Israel for some time and had been an underlying reason for Israel's clamor for a king (1SAM 12:12 c/w 1SAM 8:19-20).