Open up your Bibles, and let’s go deeper into this week’s chapters of 1 Samuel. Before we look at chapters 24-28, open up to Samuel chapter two, and let’s read Hannah’s prayer:
1 Samuel 2:1-10
And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Hannah really lays down a theme here in this poetic prayer that’s recorded in Samuel. She begins with exultation of God for salvation. This is obviously in the immediate sense of the provision of being able to give birth, but as we go on, we can see the deeper sense of what God will do in providing a savior.
If you remember back to the earlier studies, you will see that Samuel is really telling the story of a new season in the life of the Israelites. Prior to Samuel, the Israelites were ruled by judges, but this system and those judges all proved to be failures. The Israelites wanted a king, and even though this angered Samuel (Hannah’s first-born son and the prophet after whom the book is named), he cried out to God, and God replied to give the people what they want. However the kings were given this warning, the same warning the judges were given, that as long as the king obeyed and remained humble, God would show him favor and be with him, but if the king became proud, God would not remain with him. We see this here in Hannah’s poem.
Hannah warns people not to speak so proudly or let arrogance come from your mouth, for God is a God of knowledge and by Him, actions are weighed. Essentially, you may talk a big game, but the God of all knowledge will call you to account. Two other ways of saying this are, “Put your money where your mouth is,” or “Don’t let your mouth write checks your body can’t cash.” Hannah goes on to say so clearly why this is the case. God will exult the lowly, but He will bring down the proud. God does this because the lowly or humble are only truly humble if they are so because of their acknowledgment of God. Everything we have comes from Him. Hannah says, “He gives life and He kills.” God is sovereign; therefore, those who become proud have forgotten who they are in relation to who God is. This is where we find Saul in the chapters we have read this week. Beginning in chapter 24, as soon as Saul stops chasing the Philistines (remember last week this was the reason he stopped chasing David), he takes up his pursuit of David again. So Saul grabs a large army to go after David, and when they stop in the area that David was supposed to be in, Saul goes into a cave to relieve himself. Now this happened to be the cave where David and his men were hiding, and while Saul is relieving himself, David cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe to show him that Saul’s very life was in David’s hand, and yet David spared him. So David does not kill Saul, though he so easily could have; in fact, David goes an extra step and keeps his men from killing Saul. David then cries out to Saul and shows him how he could have killed him, but he does not want to harm him, for God had anointed Saul as king.
See the difference between these two men. Saul has become proud and disobeyed God, and God has left Saul. Now in his own strength, as prideful men so often do, Saul is trying to destroy any threat to his greatness, and David has become this threat. Now when David reveals what he has done and how he has spared Saul, even Saul acknowledges that David is a better man then he is. Verses 17-21 in chapter 24 show Saul’s response and then plea to David. One point here is that Saul acknowledges that God has left him and shown favor to David. At this point, you would think, “Well that’s the end; surely Saul understands rightly what’s going on and won’t attempt again to take David’s life.” Well here comes the ignorance of the proud. Even after acknowledging God’s favor upon David and having his very life spared by the man he was trying to kill, Saul only one chapter later decides he needs to kill David again and starts his pursuit. In between chapters 24 and 26 where Saul attempts to kill David but fails miserably, there is another story of a proud man, and the danger of his pride costs him his life. I hope by now you’re seeing this theme clearly. Prideful men have forgotten that all they have is from God. Remember in Hannah’s poem, she said the Lord makes poor and makes rich. The man in chapter 25 named Nabal was extremely wealthy, and even though he could have easily met the request of David and rightly owed David for the protection David and his men provided for Nabal’s servants, Nabal, in his pride says, “Who are you and why should I give you food.” Now the interesting part of this story is that Nabal had an attractive and smart wife who saved Nabal’s family (likely some of her own children, for David was planning on killing all the males of Nabal’s house) by intervening and pleading for David to stay his hand. So instead of David killing Nabal and the men of his house, God struck down Nabal, just like Hannah said in her poem. God judges the actions of men--not just their words. He breaks the bows of the mighty, He causes those with many children to be forlorn (abandoned or lonely), He kills, He brings down to Sheol, He makes poor, He brings low, He cuts the wicked off in darkness, He breaks His adversaries to pieces--against them God thunders in heaven. There are some staunch consequences for pride. The infinite God will not allow finite men to exult themselves, when He is the one who has given us life and everything we have.
So back to Saul. I’ve always been frustrated with this part of Samuel, and I’ve asked myself many times why does Saul repeat this action even after he verbally acknowledged what David had done and how he was wrong? James says something interesting about sin in James chapter one:
James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
You see sin is deceitful; it tempts you, and your desire for sin lures you into it. Your sin never tells you honestly that it will lead to death, but when desire conceives with temptation, it gives birth to sin, and fully-grown sin brings forth death. Sin’s aim is always death. Saul’s pride and his desire to be exulted would cause him to pursue David, even after David spared his life. Only sin would cause you to continue to strive against futility, even when that futile aim has clearly withheld its hand from killing you. Sin always aims to bring forth death. Just think about this in your own life: How many times has your own sin convinced you that what you thought had happened didn’t really happen, and you should still be angry? I imagine Saul thinking, “You know what, I bet David found that piece of robe lying in the cave and claimed that he spared my life, but what if he was just saying that?” Just honestly take a second to think about how many times you’ve had an internal dialog that has allowed you to sin or forget that you were shown grace. Many times, we are our own worst enemy, and that is because even after God saves us, we have a real battle to wage against our old self and the sinful desires that remain in us.
So we see in chapter 26 Saul pursues David again and again. God gives David so much favor that he could have killed Saul in his sleep. Verse 12 says that David was able to do this because the Lord had caused a deep sleep to come over Saul and his men. Afterward, David talks again to Saul, and Saul again sees his error and verbally says he will not do harm to David. Remember what Hannah said in her poem: Don’t speak arrogantly, for God will call you to action. Saul claims he will not hurt David, but his actions prove otherwise. So David flees, thinking “Of course that this won’t be the last of Saul.” In chapter 28, we see a glimpse of the coming death of Saul, but one thing you do not see is Saul repenting. We will see his final destruction next week, but I want to end on this point today: Do not let your pride keep you from repentance and turning to God, rightly acknowledging Him, and receiving His forgiveness. God has sent a king, the King of kings, to whom all of the kings in the book of Samuel point. In Him--in Christ--we can be humble and rightly acknowledge our utter dependence upon Him. In Christ, we can turn from pride and trying to achieve because He has already achieved all we need. In Christ, we can again and again come to throne of grace and fight to rightly live according to God’s word. Let us not sow fig leaves as Adam and Eve did in a feeble attempt to hide our sin in our pride; instead, let us run to the God of the garden of Eden-the God of all creation--to acknowledge our failure and turn from our sin!