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1 Samuel 29:1-5 -

The counteractions of Providence.

The facts are—

1 . The Philistines make preparations for battle, and David and his men form the rear.

2 . On the princes complaining of the presence of the Hebrews, Achish pleads the faithfulness of David.

3 . The princes insist on the dismissal of David and his men to a safe quarter, being suspicious that he might in battle turn against them. The conduct of David, as recorded in 1 Samuel 27:1-12 ; now began to be embarrassing both to himself and his Philistine protectors; and had events gone on as once appeared probable, David would have been put in inextricable difficulties. It was only the quarrel between Achish and the leaders of his forces that solved the ambiguity of his position.

I. THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS , regarded in isolated sections, OFTEN SEEMS TO RENDER THE REALISATION OF GOD 'S PURPOSE UNCERTAIN , IF NOT IMPOSSIBLE . The prophet Samuel had declared it to be God's purpose to bring David to the throne, as a man worthy of the confidence Of the nation. The arrangement that had been made on the accession of Saul to power had been modified in harmony with this fact. Yet in the ambiguous position in which David was now placed by his own erring conduct it seemed as though events were tending in a different direction. The very man on whom the hope of the pious was set was now allied with Israel's foe, and on the way to fight against his own people. Already dissimulation had injured his reputation, and should he now engage against his own countrymen, how could he ever be worthy of confidence as a loyal Hebrew? This is not an isolated instance. The readiness with which the descendants of Jacob seemed to settle in Egypt after his death gave no promise of the fulfilment of God's purpose concerning them. The scattering of the disciples by the first persecution appeared to run counter to Church consolidation, and therefore to power of Christian effort. There are ebbs in the individual Christian life which while in progress suggest the uncertainty of final salvation. Even the long course of evils subsequent to the creation of man, considered in their earthly development, may give rise to the doubt whether the benevolent purpose of a good Creator can ever be attained. It should not be forgotten, however, that we see only sections of life's course, and we must not draw a conclusion from partial knowledge. God allows freedom of action, and trains his creatures by the dearly purchased lessons of a painful experience, and, moreover, calmly awaits the issue of the whole.

II. THE ERRORS OF MEN OF SINCERE PIETY ARE VERY TENDERLY TREATED BY GOD . We cannot but be struck with the great difference between the conduct for which Saul was so heavily punished and that of David which did not issue in his rejection. Saul's sin was radical—it was "rebellion" ( 1 Samuel 15:23 ). It indicated that self-will ruled his conduct. David's sin in dissembling and in settling without Divine direction as an ally of Achish was the sin of backsliding and neglect. He was radically sincere in his piety, but in an hour of weakness lost his full faith in God, and so yielded to the influence of fear. Hence he was chastised by sorrow, by increasing fears, by self-humiliation, loss of reputation, and that secret sense of Divine displeasure which the erring soul of the devout knows too well. Though the sincere servant of God falls, he shall not be utterly cast down. God remembers that he is dust. In David's case the troubles created by his actions produce regret that he ever put himself in such a false position, and quicken the spirit of true repentance. Our Saviour's treatment of hardened, self-willed men and those whose spirits were struggling to do right and to be right was very different. It is a consolation to us all to know that he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and does not cast off those who, not being able to "watch one hour," fall into temptation.

III. GOD NEVER FAILS TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER THE SET OF EVENTS WHICH SEEM TO RUN COUNTER TO HIS PURPOSES , and when the fit time arrives HE BRINGS NEW ELEMENTS INTO OPERATION . David erred and sinned; but David was restrained and inwardly humbled. This dangerous alliance, though bringing him to the verge of a precipice, was limited, in the pressure of its obligations, by a new set of influences being brought into operation. So far as the bond between David and Achish was working, David's hand must soon be raised in battle against Israel; but the inscrutable Providence which ordained him to be future king, and allowed him, for hidden reasons, to come into perilous and damaging relationships, also held sway over the spirits of Philistine princes, and just when the sin of the man of God was about to bear its cruellest fruit, moved them to protest against his entering into the conflict. Thus tenderly does God deal with his erring servant, and, in a manner unknown and unexpected, counteract the course of events which recently had tended to the frustration of his own purposes. How often would God's servants ruin their own reputation and the very cause dear to their hearts did he not raise up means of checking the tendency of their conduct. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed.

IV. IN THUS COUNTERACTING THE EFFECTS OF OUR MISCONDUCT GOD CAUSES CHASTISEMENT TO COME ON THE ERRING . David was mercifully saved from the peril of smiting his own people, and the pressure of any obligation which human friendships and customs may have laid upon him was removed, and the prospects of his being welcomed as king in Israel were brightened; yet in his own heart he was made to feel all the pain and shame of being regarded as a man of treacherous character. He could not but smart under the contempt of heathen princes if, as is likely, he knew of their language concerning himself. "Make this fellow return," and for the reason "lest in the battle he be an adversary to us." To profess to be true and faithful, and yet to be scorned and treated as one whose word and profession are worthless, this was one means by which Providence caused the erring one to suffer from the fruit of his own deeds.

General lessons :

1 . Let us not be allured into questionable courses by a prospect of present ease, seeing that a perilous crisis may arise out of the very means we take for securing ease.

2 . Whatever troubles beset the Church by reason of the imperfect conduct of God's servants, let us still cherish faith in his wisdom and power to counteract the natural effects of their conduct.

3 . It is of great importance so to act as never to merit the scorn and distrust of irreligious men, for we thereby dishonour the name of God and destroy our proper influence in the world.

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