Saul is tired of waiting for the Philistines to kill David. He decides to take his life instead. Saul will keep his hands clean by having he servants do it. He will also vacillate back and forth on the deed but in the end will be driven by a blood lust for David’s life.
We are not told how much time has passed since David had joined the ‘military’ for Saul. We know from our previous reading that whatever David put his hand to prospers so I’m imagining some time has passed since that assignment in order to prove out that result. I’m also assuming that some time has passed since he married Michal; Saul’s daughter. Nothing Saul has done so far has rid him of David. The exact opposite has happened instead; David has grown in favor with the people.
It is time for Saul to step things up. David has to go! If the Philistines are unable to do the job then it is time to take on this task himself. He won’t really get his hands dirty. He plans to kill David through orders to his servants, including Jonathan. This is going to backfire too because Jonathan loves David and protects him. Two of Saul’s own children will thwart his plans.
Today’s story brings to mind a different cartoon. Wile E Coyote and the Road Runner. No matter how hard Wile E Coyote tries, his plans NEVER work. Let’s see the plans of our ‘coyote’ and where the Holy Spirit will take us with these examples.
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Saul’s anger has become well known in the palace. It has been growing steadily and seems to be tied to David. At first it linked with David in that he could provide relief for Saul when he played his lyre. Now it increases as David’s popularity and success increase. Everyone is tip toeing around Saul. NO ONE wants to set him off!
Saul has called his senior staff together. Abner knows this meeting is going to be about David. Jonathan isn’t sure what his father intends to cover but he is VERY ill at ease as he joins this meeting.
“I want David DEAD!” Saul’s face shows no hint of hesitation or fear in his pronouncement. His fist bangs on the arm of his chair. “I want each of you to actively look for a way to kill him. I want his head on my wall by the end of the week!”
Abner knew this day was coming. The day Saul finally calls for David’s death. David has been gone from the palace several months but he keeps returning with news of yet another victory against the Philistines. Saul was trying to let David’s own ‘lust for battle’ do him in but the Philistines have failed to ‘help’ him.
Jonathan’s heart nearly breaks in two as he listens to his father rage against David. “What has David EVER done to displease father? He has not served father with all his heart?” Jonathan wants to shout these thoughts out so all can consider the truth of them but he holds his tongue. The king is not to be questioned in front of his officers. He WILL find a time to discuss this matter with his father though. In the meantime he needs to inform David of the danger he is in.
When Saul finally releases his captains it takes all of Jonathan strength to keep from flying from the room. He does not want to alert any of the others to his plans. He intends to locate David, warn him, and hide him away if necessary. Jonathan needs to keep David safe from both Saul and his men who are now acting under orders.
Jonathan knows David well and has little trouble locating him. After drilling with his men David went to his favorite stream. Jonathan knows this stream well and all he need do to find David was to follow the music. David was sitting under a tree singing sons of praise to the Lord. Jonathan listened quietly for a time.
David felt Jonathan’s presence but completed his song before addressing his friend. David knew if it had been urgent business Jonathan would have interrupted him. But Jonathan’s face speaks of great pain.
“What is it my brother? You countenance tells of a war raging within your heart.”
“How well you know me my brother. I have very distressing news. ‘Saul my father seeks to kill you’ (verse 2a).”
David is instantly alert. Why would Saul seek to kill him? He knows Saul has been tortured by an evil spirit but actively seeking to kill him is more than David can imagine. “How did you come upon this knowledge?”
“Saul called his senior commanders together not more than three hours ago and stated this himself. ‘Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you. And if I learn anything I will tell you’ (verses 2b-3).”
David readily agreed to this plan and they found a hiding place that was near the field Jonathan intended to speak to his father in. David would remain here all night. This would keep David out of the reach of Saul’s captains too.
In the morning Jonathan asked his father to walk with him in the gardens. This was not an unusual request as the two of them enjoyed time spent together in this manner. Both men were quiet for a while, locked in their own thoughts. Finally Jonathan turned to face his father and broke the silence of the morning.
“Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you” (verse 4).
Saul’s drew back from Jonathan at his words. “He doesn’t understand” thinks Saul.
Jonathan continued quickly least his father forbids him to speak.
“For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced! Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without a cause?” (verse 5, emphasis added by me).
Saul recognized the truth of Jonathan’s words. He regretted his earlier words.
“As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death” (verse 6b).
Saul and Jonathan completed their walk and Saul called Abner to his side. Saul would have Abner inform the captains of his promise to Jonathan regarding sparing David’s life.
While Saul is giving instructions to Abner, Jonathan goes near the hiding place of David.
“All is well my brother. It is safe to come out.”
David leaves the hiding place, being careful not to be observed in case they have need of it again. Jonathan quickly tells David of his father’s decision and his current actions.
David’s heart leaps within him. He loves Saul and wishes to serve him but he has been warry of entering Saul’s presence. Jonathan wraps his arm around David’s shoulder.
“Let’s go see my father. I have it on good authority that he is in need of your soothing music.”
David smiles. He is in need of his music too. The two of them stop by David’s home to retrieve his lyre. Jonathan had deposited it there after hiding David for the night. Soon after they are standing at the entrance to Saul’s throne room.
Jonathan steps into the room with David at his side. They wait to be acknowledged by the king before proceeding any further.
Saul looks up and sees them. He also notices David’s lyre resting at his side. He closes his eyes and inhales deeply.
“Thank you Jonathan for bringing David and his lyre. I have need of his services. Please David”, Saul gestures with his hand toward David’s customary seat. “Take your place.”
David bows and resumes his seat as if he had never left it. His heart soars with the music and the knowledge that he is once again able to help his king.
David’s duties as commander of a thousand have been passed onto his second while he spends his days ministering to Saul. The Philistines had been quiet for the winter allowing David the freedom to render aid to Saul. But this quiet does not last forever.
When spring arrived David was called back into service. The hand of the Lord was with David in battle and he came away victorious, again. And again, songs were sung of his deeds. These songs followed him to Gibeah and into the ears of the king where they too tormented his mind. These same songs were dismissed by David because of his humble heart.
After David returned and settled his troops he took up his place again in the presence of the king with his lyre. At first Saul appeared to be soothed by David’s ministrations but tension crept back into the throne room. David felt it building and began to be on guard. He knew his wariness impacted his ability to enter fully into his music but he could not afford to be unprepared if Saul was again seized and struck out at him.
Five days after his return the moment came. David was doing his best to dispel the unrest in both his and Saul’s souls. He had closed his eyes for a moment in order to quiet his spirit. He heard a voice from within command him to open his eyes immediately. As he did he saw Saul’s arm draw back with his spear. David leapt to the side and just missed being impaled by Saul’s throw. David ran from the throne room and out into the night.
Saul raged as David fled. He called for his messengers. “Go! Watch over David’s house tonight. I want him brought to me as soon as the sun rises.” Even though Saul did not directly say it, the messengers knew Saul’s intent. He would have David dead.
Word reached David’s wife, Michal, through one of her loyal servants. She walked the floors in worry. She didn’t know where her husband was. She prayed he would make it to safety. When David quietly entered their home she ran to him.
“How did you come? Were you observed?” she asked.
“I was careful. I came while the guards were distracted.”
“You can’t stay here! ‘If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed’ (verse 11b).
“This I believe for I have seen those watching. I had to reach you and be certain you were safe before I could leave.”
“I am safe my husband. I will stall my father as long as possible. You must be away.”
“But what if he becomes angry with you for helping me? I cannot risk your life for my own.”
“I can handle my father. Know that no matter what you hear though; I love you with all my soul.”
After a quick embrace David and Michal decided how to get him past the guards.
“There are no men watching behind the house. They watch the door only. If I can get to the ground from this window they will not be aware of my departure and I will have time to move beyond the city by morning.”
“I will lower you myself.”
David looked deeply into his wife’s eyes. He had no idea how long it would be before he gazed into them again. He loved the color of her eyes and how they sparkled when she laughed. After a moment more they separated and began the process of sending David to safety.
Michal tied several bed linens together and wound them from one arm, around her back and then around the other arm. She braced her feet against the base of the wall below the window. David threw the remainder of the linens out the window. He quickly descended to the ground using them like a rope. Once he was down Michal drew them back inside the home, untied them and put all but the usual one away in its place. Michael had one more ruse she wanted to employ to further stall in the morning. She needed to make it appear as if David were in bed sleeping.
Michal took a carving her father had given her and laid it in David’s place in their bed. She covered it with their blankets and put a goat hair pillow in the place where David’s head should rest. Then she stood back to look at her work. It wouldn’t fool a close inspection but it would do the job for someone looking in from the doorway.
While Michal was creating her diversion David was on his way to Samuel. Samuel was the only one Saul truly feared. Samuel was the one who anointed David and there was none closer to the Lord than Samuel. Surely he would know what to do. David had feared he would be trapped in the city but the guards had been called away from their post to deal with a fight and he was able to slip passed them unnoticed.
When morning broke Michal heard pounding on her front door. She delayed coming for a short time to give the impression she had been woken from sleep. When she opened the door the guards who had been watching her home that night stood before her.
“The king wishes to see your husband David immediately.”
“’He is sick’ (verse 14b) and cannot rise.”
Both men looked at one another then back at Michal. They weren’t sure how to proceed.
“See for yourself” she pointed. “But don’t go too far. You do not want what he has.”
One of the guards stepped beyond the door and looked towards David’s bed. There he saw what he believed was David resting under his blanket. He turned to Michal and addressed her.
“I will return shortly. I must speak with the king. My comrade will wait at the gate to be certain your husband does not have a miraculous recovery and decide to leave.”
“He will not.”
The guard hurries off to Saul’s throne room to ask how to proceed from here.
“Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him” (verse 15b) roars Saul when told David was too ill to come.
The guard returns to the home of David and Michal and tells his comrade of their new command. They beat upon the door again and Michal quickly opens to them.
“We are to bring him in his bed if necessary. The king would see him NOW.”
Michal steps aside and allows them entry. It takes only a moment for them to realize they have been tricked. Seizing Michal’s arm the first guard questions her.
“Where is he? Are you hiding him?”
“He is not here. You may search if you like but he fled in the night.”
“Then we will take you to see the king instead.”
“I will go with you. But I warn you not to lay hands on the king’s daughter” she says as she snatches her arm from the guard’s grip.
Within minutes Michal is standing before her father, the king. The guard tells him what he found in David’s bed and that he was informed by Michal that David had fled in the night.
Saul turns his eyes on his daughter. They are filled with anger.
“Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” (verse 17a).
Before entering Saul’s throne room Michal had assumed an attitude of fear. She did so for just this moment in time. She had to convince her father that she acted against her will or he may become angry with her too.
“He said to me, ‘Let me go. Why should I kill you?’” (verse 17b). Michal made sure to add a few tears to her performance.
While Michal was being questioned by Saul, David was sharing his narrative of the events of the day with Samuel in Ramah. He had traveled through the night and reached Samuel with the morning sun. Samuel was grieved to hear of Saul’s behavior towards David.
“I have a place in Naioth where you may stay with me. You will be safe there. We can figure out what to do after that.”
David gladly followed Samuel to his home. It didn’t even occur to David that Samuel had been waiting in Ramah when he arrived instead of having to seek him out. Could it be that the Lord had sent Samuel to meet David while David rushed to meet Samuel?
David could feel the presence of the Lord upon entering Samuel’s home. Samuel’s home was more of a school or training ground for those seeking the Lord and to learn of His ways. Many of the ‘students’ who occupied Samuel’s home were engaged in learning to hear the voice of the Lord to be His voice in prophecy.
Days passed in bliss for David as he soaked up the very thing his soul had been thirsting for; the Lord’s presence. He found his voice in song, both comforting and lament. His soul was knew its salvation in the arms of the Lord and David sang freely of it.
Word reached Saul four days later that David had been seen in the company of Samuel. Saul immediately called for two of his messengers.
“’Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah’ (verse 19). Go and bring him here to me at once.”
The messengers set out in haste. Their king’s words were urgent and his temper was short. As soon as they drew near the home of Samuel they were overcome by the Spirit of the Lord and they began to prophesy. Samuel and those from his home were gathered together prophesying when the messengers had arrived. They had now become one of Samuel’s numbers, regardless of their original intentions.
Word traveled back to Saul about the fate of his two messengers. Saul was angry and blamed the men who had gone. He promised that they would pay for their deficiencies when they returned. He summoned four new messengers.
“The messengers I sent before have joined with David and Samuel. They will be dealt with when they return. As for you, bring David here to me at once! Do NOT fail me.”
The second group of messengers set out in haste too. They would not delay one moment and cause their king even more grief. They were mildly apprehensive as they journeyed as they did not understand what could have befallen their comrades. Those originally sent were loyal to the king. They would not make that same mistake, whatever it was.
As soon as the messengers approached Samuel’s home they too saw the group of prophets prophesying. They also saw their comrades among them. No sooner had they registered all this than they joined in the number, including stripping their robes from their bodies and shedding all vestments of war as those before them had done.
Word once again reaches Saul of the state of his men. He is furious! Were ALL his men incompetent fools who were easily bewitched by Samuel? Surely not. There must be someone loyal to him who could stand up against Samuel. Saul called for his most trusted messengers. He would send eight this time.
“Once again, the messengers whom I sent have failed to bring David to stand before me. They have been bewitched by Samuel and are reported to be prophesying in his presence. Watch that you do not fall prey to this spell. Mind one another and bring my enemy to me.”
The third group of messengers hurry on their way. They are committed to their king and following his commands but his words have struck fear into their hearts. Committed as they may be they don’t know what they should be watching for or how to avoid the trap that has ensnared two contingents before them. They decide to break into two groups. One who approaches and one who watches. If the first group is taken by Samuel it is hoped that the second group can rescue them from his hands.
Samuel sees the latest contingent arriving. He smiles for he knows what is about to happen. “More mouths to be used for the word of the Lord” he thinks to himself. And just as he predicted, the advance group strips their garments of war and join the prophets filling the grounds around Samuel’s home. The group who had remained back watched with awe as their comrades melded into Samuel’s group as if they belonged there all along. But instead of pulling their brothers from the ‘trap’ they had fallen into, they rushed to join them. There remained none of Saul’s messengers to escort David to his king.
David had stood with Samuel each of these times Saul’s messengers had come for him. He was in awe of how the Lord had stopped each contingent. But he also knew that Saul was not likely to give up. He cared for Samuel and did not want to bring harm to him or the prophets who studied under his tutelage. He did not know how long Samuel could keep him safe.
Samuel seemed to know David’s thoughts without him voicing them. David was certain this too was from the Lord for when he considered leaving Samuel bid him stay on a little longer as the Lord was not yet done here. David would wait.
While David waited on the Lord, Saul received word that his last contingent had also joined David and Samuel. Saul was consumed with rage. He tore his throne room apart, casting about anything he could lay his hands on.
“Is there NONE competent in ALL my guard?! So be it! I will see to this myself.” Saul turns to Abner, “Assemble the men. I ride within the hour!”
Abner hurries and gathers a hundred of his best men. They will guard the king with their lives.
Saul and his army reach Ramah. He approaches a man at the great well in Secu to inquire as to Samuel’s whereabouts.
“Where are Samuel and David” (verse 22b) demands Saul.
The man readily answers, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah” (verse 22c).
Saul has his group move out. As they near Naioth Saul becomes afraid. He does not want to anger Samuel any further by bringing an armed contingent into his home. He will make this last part of the journey on his own. There should be no trouble taking David as Saul believes David will still obey his commands when delivered to him.
“Abner, you and the men are to remain here. See to it that no one escapes past you. I will go on alone. It is not wise to anger Samuel and therefore the Lord. Wait for my return.”
Abner is not pleased with his king’s decision but he will obey him without question.
Saul leaves the company behind and enters Samuel’s compound. As soon as his eyes behold the group of prophets, led by Samuel, prophesying he is overcome by the Spirit of the Lord also. He rips his armor from his body, followed by his royal robes. He falls to the ground and lays bare before the Lord, both in soul and body. Here he stays all day and all night.
David is beside himself. It is not right that his king should be thus exposed. Samuel promises to watch over him and prevent others from gazing upon him in this state. This time in the Lord’s presence may yet have a good effect on Saul. As for David, it is time for him to go. This was the final part that the Lord wanted him to see. Even the king himself could not stand against the Lord’s designs.
(to be continued)
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Father God, NOTHING can stop Your work. Man can lie, cheat, steal, and even try and kill one another but they cannot stop what You have ordained. You also use the wickedness of man to contrast the glory You have decreed. You often use it to bring about Your plans too. The slavery in Egypt brought Israel to the point of crying out to You. The plagues of Egypt tore open Pharaoh’s fists and pried Israel from his grasp. This is just a SMALL sample of how You use the things of this world for Your work.
You also demonstrate Your love by sharing portions of Your plan with us. You told David he would be king. You DIDN’T tell him what he would have to go through to get there. But he KNEW he could trust in Your promises and that is what saw him through the hardest times. Thank You for giving him little victories along the way though to keep is heart strong.
You give me little victories too. None so grand as the one You gave David in our story but just as reassuring. I KNOW You have EVERYTHING in Your hands. I KNOW it won’t be a ‘stress free’ walk. But I KNOW You will be with me every step of the way. And that You will give me the encouragements I need at just the right time to keep me strong.
Father God, for my grandchildren who are still blind to the truth, I PRAY You open their eyes. Send them someone who can reach them where I can’t. I place them and their parents (again) in Your hands. I pray they have an experience where they are overcome by Your Spirit.