Sermon preached on 1 Samuel 19 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 6/28/2015 in Novato, CA.
1 Samuel 19
“So David Fled and Escaped”
Who is your Christ? Who is your Lord? To whom do you swear allegiance? Is he the one true Christ, Jesus our Lord and Savior? Or is your allegiance to some false Christ? Or is your allegiance only to yourself? This is the question that we’ve seen raised recently in our study through 1 Samuel. Saul, though previously anointed king of the Lord, had been rejected by God. We don’t know to what degree David himself knows this yet. But we know it. And we also know that David has been anointed King as the replacement for Saul. David is to be what Saul never was – the anointed king of God’s choosing; a king after God’s own heart. And so we can’t help but see the typology here. Two anointed ones, but only of them is the real one. Saul, anointed previously by God, though now rejected, really is not the real Christ of the Lord. David, recently anointed by God, repeatedly has been showing that he is indeed the real Christ of the Lord. Yet, Saul, the failed and now false Christ, is increasingly persecuting the real Christ as we see in today’s passage. And he wants others to help him ultimately kill the Christ. And yet he does fail. And it’s in this typology of true Christ and false Christ that we look forward to the ultimate Christ, Jesus our Lord. So, again, I ask, who is your Christ? Who is your Lord? To whom do you swear allegiance? Saul, and Jonathan, and Michal and Saul’s servants had to ask such questions in this passage. And we too have that same question put to us. And we realize that the question often comes under the threat of persecution, even as David had to experience such in this passage.
So then, let’s begin in our first point to consider Saul’s persecution of David. Saul’s efforts to destroy David are increasing. Last chapter we saw Saul’s jealousy heat up. Saul came to realize that David was a threat to his throne. Surely, Saul has begun to realize that it’s David that Samuel had prophesied about as his replacement. And so last chapter, Saul’s jealousy led him to his two-faced, duplicitous, efforts to try to get David killed. And yet last chapter, Saul’s strategy was to have David killed indirectly. He tried to put David in harm’s way in terms of military combat with the Philistines. But the LORD was with David and so David repeatedly prevailed over the Philistines, and Saul’s strategy failed. So, now by the time we get to this chapter, we see Saul realize his failure. Saul realizes that his goal to indirectly kill David isn’t working. So, Saul steps up the persecution. Now, Saul will himself seek to directly kill David. We see this in verse 1. Saul is even so bold as to call together his servants and his son Jonathan and let them in on his plans.
And so we see Saul’s efforts here. Multiple failed attempts. He fails to get his son Jonathan to help him. He fails to kill David himself with the spear throwing. He plots with his messengers to stake out at David’s house and kill him in the morning, but this too fails as David escapes and flees to Samuel. Saul sends three groups of messengers there to where Samuel was, and again these efforts fail to bring David to his death. Finally, Saul himself goes to Ramah where Samuel and David were. There, Saul himself tries to kill David, and he again fails. And so Saul makes many attempts here to kill David, but he fails in them all.
I hope you see the downfall here. The text really highlights Saul’s downfall here. He’s become a paranoid madman of sorts, raging against David, without David doing anything to warrant such a response by Saul. Just think of how far Saul has come. The text really reminds us of this fact in the closing scene. It can be summed up in the last verse. It tells us the people ask, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Hopefully that question sounds familiar. It brings us back to the start of Saul’s career as a king. Back in chapter 10, when Samuel had anointed Saul as king, Samuel gave Saul some signs that it was indeed the will of God to have him serve as King. The greatest of these signs was that Saul would meet a group of prophets, and the Holy Spirit would then come upon Saul and he would prophesy with these prophets. Samuel was very clear to Saul that this would signal to Saul that God was with him. Saul was to be encouraged that the Spirit of the Lord would be with him to serve as king. Well, this happened back in chapter 10, and when it happened, it was a bit of a surprise to the people. And so listen to 1 Samuel 10:11. “And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, ‘What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?'”
Is Saul also among the prophets? They said that at the start of his career as king because of the way the Holy Spirit came upon him. It was a sign that God was with him to serve as king. And so now at the end of Saul’s reign, a similar sign happens. Yet, clearly, there is a different message that God is conveying. This repeat event becomes a sort of parody to Saul. Yes, the situation is somewhat similar. Here, Saul goes and runs into a group of prophets. Again, the Spirit somehow overwhelms him and he begins to prophesy. And yet unlike before when Samuel said that when this happens you can do what pleases you, since God is with you, quite the opposite is the case here. Now, the fact that the Spirit of God comes upon Saul means that Saul cannot do as he pleases. He had come here in this chapter to Ramah to kill David, the Lord’s Anointed One. And so the Spirit of God, in coming upon Saul, stops him from doing this. Instead, Saul is caused by the Spirit to cast off his clothes in shame and be effectively incapacitated in prophecy for the rest of the day and night. Saul is left undone by the Spirit this time. Unlike the first time where the Spirit-induced prophesying confirmed Saul’s service as king, here it confirms that his service as king is over. Here it confirms God’s protection of David, to establish David as his king to replace Saul.
What a way God chose to remind Saul from where he fell. Early in his life, he had lived so humbly. God sent that first Spirit-induced prophecy to encourage Saul, that God would be with him. God called Saul to faithfully lead his people in the way of God’s covenant. The words which became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets,” originally confirmed this. But then Saul grew arrogant and full of pride. He rejected the word of the Lord. He broke the covenant that God had called him to lead the people in obeying. Saul did what was right in his own eyes, instead of God. Saul’s still doing that here when he tries to kill an innocent man, even a national hero whose been nothing but loyal to him. That too is Saul breaking God’s covenant, in perverting divine justice. And so God has rejected Saul as his king. Instead, he established a new better King in David. Yes, David had not yet taken the throne. But in God’s eyes his kingdom had been inaugurated at his anointing. But Saul in his pride would not acknowledge God’s will in this matter. And so he made every effort to persecute David. But the very Spirit who first enabled Saul to be King, is now the very agent to stop him as well.
Let me offer some passing application before we head into our second point. God is in control. As Christians, we know that those who are opposed to Jesus Christ will do what they can to oppose him. That means they will find ways to persecute us too who bear his name. Yet we take heart that if here in the Old Testament the Spirit worked God’s better plan to oppose his and our enemies, then surely now, post-Pentecost, the Spirit is at work in mighty ways to preserve and defend us. This doesn’t mean that we won’t have to flee from persecution at times. Even the Apostle Paul himself had times where, for example, he had to be let down through a window to escape to safety. Yet, no matter what happens to us in the flesh by the opposition, we trust the Spirit’s mighty work behind the scenes. Not a hair from our head will fall apart from God’s will. The Spirit will see to it. And if it be God’s will for us to share in the sufferings in Christ, we trust that God will uphold our faith by this very same Spirit. That Spirit of prophecy brings shame and judgment upon people like Saul who oppose his will. But that Spirit of prophecy brings endurance unto glory to those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith.
So then, let’s turn now to our second point. We’ve seen Saul’s persecution of David. We’ve recognized how he continues to break covenant with God, even in the great evil of trying to kill David, the Lord’s Anointed, and an innocent loyal man. Our second point is to observe a contrast. I want us to observe the covenant loyalty that Saul’s kids show David here. Prince Jonathan and Princess Michal both show covenant loyalty to David, instead of giving allegiance to their earthly father. Let’s start with Jonathan. Recall that last chapter started out with Jonathan expressing his great love for David via a covenant. We’re not told exactly the terms of this covenant, but verses 3 and 4 of last chapter show it was inspired by Jonathan’s love for David, and involved him even giving his royal clothes and his sword to David. The symbolism in that act alone suggests Jonathan recognized that David was to be the next king, not himself. Jonathan there covenants his support and allegiance to David.
And so we are reminded of this covenant love and loyalty in verse 1. When Saul tells of his desire to kill David, we are immediately reminded that Jonathan, who is Saul’s son, delighted much in David. Jonathan immediately turns around and does two things. One, he informs David about Saul’s desire to kill him. David can then be on his guard. Maybe this is what allowed David to escape the spear being thrown at him. And secondly, Jonathan intercedes on behalf of David to Saul. Jonathan’s words to his father are recorded in verses 4-5 and are so well said. These are important words, so let me summarize them again for us. He says:
1. You would be sinning to kill David.
2. David’s not done anything against you. Rather, he’s done good for you.
3. As an example, remember Goliath, how David risked his life to face him.
4. God’s been at work through David.
5. You were happy about all this.
6. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?
Amazingly, Jonathan’s word seem to have a good effect on Saul. Saul’s immediate response is to agree with Jonathan and agree to not kill David. And notice in verse 6, what Saul even does. He takes an oath in the name of the LORD to not kill David. Though in fact Saul doesn’t ever kill David, he shortly after this will make every effort to in fact kill him. In other words, Saul yet again breaks covenant with God. He makes a solemn oath in the name of the LORD and will proceed to lie not only to God, but even to his own son, Jonathan.
And so God uses Jonathan to bring a measure of salvation for David. Jonathan acts in covenant loyalty and love to the Lord’s Anointed and it is a good and right thing. He stands as a foil to his father. And so then we also see something similar with Saul’s daughter Michal. Remember, that now Michal is married to David. So she too is now entered into covenant with David, through marriage. She has left her father and mother and been united to her husband in the covenant of marriage. Her allegiances has changed too. We know from last chapter that this was also all sparked by her love for David. Well, now we see evidence of her covenant faithfulness and loyalty to David.
For when Saul breaks his word to Jonathan and decides to try again to kill David, we see her efforts in verses 11-17. When Saul sends messengers to wait at David’s house to kill him in the morning, somehow Michal learns of this. She doesn’t hide this from David, in support of her father. No, quite the opposite. She warns David and helps him to escape through the window at night. She then goes a step further and sets up some decoy in David’s bed to make it look like David is sick and staying in bed. In the process she lies twice, first to protect David, and then to protect herself. By the way, this doesn’t advocate lying, but her lying nonetheless was an expression of her support for David.
But what especially comes out here is that Michal has put her loyalty and allegiance with David, and not her father. Verse 11 helps us to see this by how she is named. No longer is she named Michal, Saul’s daughter. No, now she is named Michal, David’s wife. And when Saul confronts her, Saul rightly acknowledges that she had deceived him. The implication by Saul is that your daughter shouldn’t deceive her father. But in this case, Michal was indeed right to give her allegiance to David. She shows forth covenant loyalty to her husband, who is the Lord’s Anointed.
I think here of Jesus’ own words which said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword, and that one’s enemies will be of his own household. Here, the one who is a type of Jesus Christ brings division between father and son and father and daughter. But it was right for Jonathan and Michal to support David. It was wrong of Saul to not and in turn is the reason for the division in their family. Again, here’s the application that comes to them and us: we must follow in love and loyalty the true Messiah of the Lord. For them that was initially David. But ultimately that comes to be the Lord Jesus Christ.
So then, let’s come to our third point then for today. I want us to see how David is a type of Christ here. Remember, when we think of someone being a type of Christ, that means there are ways that they look like Jesus Christ to come. But there are also ways that they show that they are not like Jesus Christ to come; in other words there are ways that they fall short of living up fully to what the Christ to come would be. We see that here with David.
First off, we are reminded of those positive traits of David. In verse 8, we see that might God gave David to fight against enemies like the Philistines. In verses 4-5 we reminded through Jonathan of David’s righteous living, and of his commendable service, and of all his loyalty to God and king. David lived in such a way that Jonathan could speak of his innocent blood. Of course, David is not without sin, that’s not Jonathan’s point. But David did live commendably and above reproach. These are all good traits for the King of God’s choosing. They all looked forward to the righteousness and the might that Jesus Christ would possess in a full and perfect measure.
And yet, mighty and righteous David would have to flee for his life here. He did manage to dodge the spear as it flew toward him from Saul. But he also relied on others’ help to save him. We’ve noted Jonathan and Michal’s role. We’ve also mentioned that David fled to Samuel for refuge. Of course, by fleeing to Samuel the prophet, we can think about how this is surely David’s remembering that Samuel is the one God had anoint him as king. It’s a sort of appeal for help from David to God. Lord, didn’t you anoint me as king? Why am I fleeing for my life? Psalm 59 is helpful here. That psalm is said to describe David’s heart as Saul’s men waited and watched the house waiting to kill him. Listen to what David says in that psalm, “For look, they lie in wait for my life; The mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD.” David goes on to continue to call for help against such enemies. And then listen to how the psalm ends: “But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense And refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy.” And so David needed to call to God for help. That psalm said he took refuge in God. And that’s what we see in today’s passage. That’s why he went to Samuel. He went there to find refuge in God, through the prophet. And that’s exactly what happened. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God preserved David’s life so that one day David could be installed as king. God enabled David to repeatedly flee and escape death until one day he could come to the throne.
As we look forward to Jesus Christ, we are reminded of how people tried to kill him, and the help God provided for him. We can remember early on, King Herod, like King Saul, saw Jesus as a threat. And so, Herod tried to kill Jesus. But like Jonathan and Michal, God used Joseph and Mary to take baby Jesus to safety in Egypt. Like David, he too had to flee, to escape death, and God provided help in others. And before the cross, remember those repeated times when the religious leaders tried to arrest Jesus or kill him, he was able to repeatedly escape them. But unlike David, before Jesus took the throne in glory, he would finally allow himself to be put to death. He would actually turn down help from others who would want to protect him. Remember how when they came to arrest Jesus, Peter tried to take up the sword and fight for Jesus? That Jesus could flee and escape with the disciples? The disciples all got away that night in the garden, why didn’t Jesus seem to want to even try? Well, we know the answer. And we see him explain this to Pilate during his trial. John 18:36, “Jesus answered [to Pilate], ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.'” So do you see the point? As the Messiah, he was able to escape death by the power and provision of God. Yet, unlike David, there came a point where Jesus no longer fled. That because his kingship was not of this world, and his kingdom was different than the kingdoms of this world, he allowed himself to be put to death in the flesh. This is a key difference between himself and David. This is where Jesus shines as the ultimate Messiah of the LORD.
God protected David from Saul shedding his innocent blood. Yet, Jesus was all the more innocent. David’s was only an imperfect and relative righteousness. Jesus was a perfect and complete righteousness. He was fully innocent in the best sense of the term. It was a complete injustice for the Jews and Romans to put him to death. But Jesus did not flee or escape, even though he surely could have. He could have called down angels from heaven if he wanted. He could have employed the Spirit of God to incapacitate all these enemies. But of course he didn’t. Innocent Jesus didn’t so that he could take on all our sins. Innocent Jesus took on our guilt on the cross. That we could be seen as innocent in God’s sight.
But the story didn’t end there for the ultimate Messiah. Jesus not only died on the cross. He rose again on the third day, and ascended up into heaven, and even now is seated at the right hand of God. Now he reigns on high from heaven. And now he has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us even now. And so we await his return, where he will be established in glory as our king in the age to come. And so to quote another psalm, Psalm 2 ends with the statement that we are blessed if we take refuge in the Messiah. Well, David here had to himself take refuge in God to preserve his life. Jesus, on the other hand, willingly gave up his life, so we could take refuge in him. That his innocence, his righteousness, would be ours. And now by his Spirit being inside us, it does not incapacitate us, nor does it leave us in shame. No, we are encouraged that we have found that perfect refuge. That the power which even rose Jesus from the dead, is what is at work within us.
So then, brothers and sisters, who is your Christ? Who is your Lord? To whom do you swear allegiance? There are many false Christ’s that would seek your allegiance. The spirit of the antichrist continues to work to turn us against Jesus the one true Christ. Yet, we take refuge in the Spirit of truth. Yes, there may be times in this world, like with the Apostle Paul and King David that we have to flee out the window in the middle of the night. But we do so trusting that God is control; that nothing happens to us apart from his will. We have a peace and confidence even when we escape through windows. Because we know the power of the Spirit lives within us. It confirms that we are a child of God, anointed of the Lord, in Jesus Christ.
May we then live in loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus Christ, our King! Even if it means we have to disobey the government. Or our parents. Or if it brings division among your family or your neighbors. If you’ve been baptized into Christ, you are in covenant with him. Live in faithfulness to that covenant because you are in that covenant. Love the Lord because he has loved you and shed his blood so this covenant could be enacted. The enemies of Christ will not prevail. But we look forward to Christ’s return to glory where his vindication is especially revealed. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.