When we find we're headed in a bad place, we'll take a look at King Saul's failure to embrace God-given opportunities for redemption in his volatile relationship with David.
Alistair Begg is teaching a message he's titled, As a Man Thinketh. verse 17. Then Saul said to David, Here is my elder daughter Merab.
I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord's battles. For Saul thought, Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him. And David said to Saul, Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father's clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king? But at the time when Merab, Saul's daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the meholothite for a wife. Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David, and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
Saul thought, Let me give her to him, and that she may be a snare for him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Therefore Saul said to David a second time, You shall now be my son-in-law. And Saul commanded his servants, Speak to David in private and say, Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you.
Now then, become the king's son-in-law. And Saul's servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David says, Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation? And the servants of Saul told him, Thus and so did David speak. Then Saul said, Thus shall you say to David, The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king's enemies. Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son-in-law, before the time had expired. David arose and went along with his men and killed two hundred of the Philistines, and David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king's son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David's enemy continually.
Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out, David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed. Amen. My gracious God, we turn now to your Word and to your voice. We want to listen. Come by the Holy Spirit and open your Word to us and open our lives to your truth.
For Jesus' sake. Amen. Well, when Monday comes around and I turn again to the Bible for the prospect of the following Sunday, like you, presumably, at your work, I pick up the next part of the challenge and say, Okay, what do we do now? And as I read through the passage this week, I found that almost immediately a phrase from the Old Testament, which I remembered from a long time ago, came to my mind. And that phrase is, As a man thinketh, so is he.
As a man thinketh, so is he. Now, I wish I could tell you that I knew exactly where it came from. But I didn't, and so I had to spend time finding it, and I tracked it down to the twenty-third chapter of Proverbs. And we're not going to delay on that context, but it is there that you will find it, and the context in which that statement is made is one of the expression of hospitality.
So, a host is inviting people to eat at his table. And the exhortation of Solomon is, you ought to be very, very careful about being entertained by this individual, Eat not the bread of him who hath an evil eye. Now, if you recall from last time, the ninth verse of the eighteenth chapter tells us that from that point on, Saul set his eye on David. And the inference, of course, is that he was not looking at him with great affection and with benediction, but rather, as we saw, he was looking at him with envy and with hostility. And much of the same is included there in that section in Proverbs 23. And the point is simple. This man makes generous expressions of invitation, but in actual fact, he is pretending a generosity that he does not feel.
In essence, he doesn't mean what he says. Now, I think the reason that that was in mind is because that is exactly what we find here in the second half of this eighteenth chapter. There is an obvious discrepancy between what Saul says and what Saul thinks.
Now, let me just point it out to you in case in the process we miss this. Verse 17a, then Saul said to David. 17b, for Saul thought. Okay?
That's all I want you to notice. Saul said, Saul thought. And in going down the page, he then does it again in verse 20, or 21. Saul thought, let me give her to him, and then Saul said.
Okay? What he was thinking and what he was saying as a discrepancy, you get to verse 25. Then Saul said—say this to David—and 25b, now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. Have you wondered, at what point along the way did Saul start telling lies? He started to tell lies to himself, and inevitably he told lies to other people. With that in mind, I went back and reviewed all that we've gone through, and it would be tedious to go back through it.
You can do it on your own. But I can tell you where I began to wonder, back in the tenth chapter, in the context of the inquiry coming about, Where did you go? And he replies, We went to see the donkeys. And what did the man tell you?
the inquirer asks. And then at that point, he tells him one of the things that was said, but he doesn't tell him everything that is said. In other words, he tells the truth, but he doesn't tell the whole truth. When, in chapter 13, Jonathan has led the people in a great victory, the trumpet is sounded throughout the land, and then it is reported that Saul has won a great victory. Now, whether he was the one who wanted that message put out, or whether it simply was that he was so excited about it that he decided not to dissuade anybody of the fact, there is at least a gap there. And classically, when we got to chapter 15 and the command of God for the destruction of the malachites was clear and unequivocal, when Samuel eventually confronts Saul with that—you will perhaps remember, and you can find it down towards the end of 15—Saul says, Oh, but I have obeyed the LORD.
I have obeyed the LORD. And it wasn't me that did it. It was the people that did it. And by this point, I think he is beginning to skirt on the fringes of integrity. And you remember, when we looked at that, we reminded ourselves that partial obedience is still disobedience. And Saul had a real problem with consistency.
Some of you have a boss like this. You never know where you are with a character—you know, whether it's his good day or it's his bad day—and here in this or hers. And in this case, we saw in the opening of the chapter that in verse 2, David is invited into Saul's home. In verse 13, he's thrown out of Saul's home. In verse 10, he's playing the harp. In verse 11, he's dodging the spears.
The volatility of this individual and the inconsistency of his life is almost inevitably, then, borne out in his conduct. And that's why verse 9 is so crucial. And Saul eyed David evilly from that day on. He kept a jealous watch on him.
Because he didn't share the admiration and affection that was swelling the whole community. Everybody loved David, and Saul knew why they loved him. It wasn't just because he was handsome.
It wasn't just because he was good at battle. No, because the Lord was with him. And that said, of course, in juxtaposition, Saul's own condition. Because, remember, the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul. And so, from that point, fear, if you like, becomes the hallmark of Saul's existence. In David's case, victory and popularity. In Saul's case, an ever-diminishing picture of a man, once the big, tall character who held such prospect for the people as he comes forward to fulfill the role of king.
And now, look at him, reduced to a shadow of himself and resolving to duplicity at the most basic level. Now, it is with all of that in mind that you then come almost sort of out of the blue to the seventeenth verse. Then Saul said to David, Here is my elder daughter Merab.
I will give her to you for a wife. Now, of course, we need to read this in light of what we learned back in chapter 17. And remember, we referred to it as the word on the street, or the word on the battlefront. When David arrives there, the people are saying to one another, You know, if anybody actually takes this Goliath on and defeats him, the benefits are marvelous.
You get to marry the king's daughter, you get a big sum of money, you get a cash payout, and your family has a sort of tax-free existence for the rest of their lives. That was the thing that was being said. Whether they were reporting the actual promise of Saul, we can't say. But that was the inference, and that was what was going on. If Saul had actually made that promise, then now here we come to verse 17, and he decides that he's going to fulfill it.
But you will notice that it is presented now not as a fulfillment of a promise but as a means to an end. Here is Merab. I wonder how he presented her. Did he walk her in, you know, like down the staircase? Here is Merab. Or did he have a hold of her hand, and she was hidden somewhere behind a curtain, and he was pulling her out? He's saying, Here is Merab.
Because we have no indication of Merab's inclination, do we? This is an arranged marriage of striking heights. But she's going to come, if she comes, with strings attached. I will give her to you for a wife, except I just have one thing. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord's battles. Now, on one hand, this makes sense, doesn't it?
I'm not going to give my daughter just to any Tom, Dick, or Harry, and I want you to show yourself for what you really are. It's hard to imagine that, though, given chapter 17. Why would he have to do anything other than that?
He had taken down the great archenemy of the armies of Israel. No, you know what I think this is? I think this is something that some of us are adept at too.
And here's what it is. When we start to tell lies, one of the ways that we try and gild the lily is by including sort of biblical and divine language. We say things like—this is gossip now, sir—but we call it prayer. Now, I'm very concerned that you will be prayerful about these things.
And then something that may not necessarily be true, certainly isn't kind, and definitely not necessary, is passed into the filtration system of the community under the disguise of a concern for the kingdom. Now, notice what he says here. He says, I want you to show yourself strong. Fight. Fight the Lord's battles.
Remember the law? You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. For the Lord will not hold them guiltless who take his name in vain. What he's suggesting here, inferentially, is that his mind and his heart are actually set on the defense and the advance of the kingdom of God. And so, under the disguise of piety, he seeks to advance his own evil agenda, wrap the dirty business up in a concern that is ostensibly for the vastness and the greatness of God. This is beyond crafty.
This is actually cruel. Because he is prepared to use his daughter— actually, his daughters, as we'll see—to fulfill his own selfish ends. You say, Well, how do you get that? Well, you get it from reading your Bible.
This is what he said. Here's my daughter. I'll give her to you as a wife. You advance the kingdom of God, and we'll take it from there. But"—or, for is the conjunction in the ESV—"for Saul thought, Let not my hand be against him"—against David—"but let the hand of the Philistines be against him. Saul now, in his twisted mind, is prepared to use the enemies of God in order to bring about the destruction of the anointed of God. But the plot fails. The plot fails.
He was suggesting a wedding while hoping for a funeral. And we discover here that David did not claim the prize. Verses 18 and 19 are quite difficult, in this respect, that it's hard to tell just what it was that allowed Saul to go ahead and give Merib to Adriel. Was David sufficiently able to, in his honesty and in his humility, convince Saul, and whoever else was involved in the process, that he surely did not deserve to be put in that place?
Makes you wonder again about the word on the street back in chapter 17, doesn't it? Was it simply his reluctance that shut the thing down? Or was it that Saul reneged for some other reason? Or was it that Merib had a say in the matter? Maybe Merib had already hopes of life with Adriel. Huh? And so her father says, "'All right, you're gonna marry David.'"
And she said, "'No, I'm not.'" That's dangerous, but possible. We don't know exactly. All we know is this—that his dirty little plan failed, thus providing Saul with an amazing opportunity. The opportunity to repent of his cruelty, to turn his back on his jealous heart, to acknowledge that he needs the very presence of God that marks David. In other words, his life is like the journey to Florida down that road that takes you through the Carolinas. Now he is hurtling down the way.
I'll get rid of him, get rid of him, get rid of him, and his brakes go out. And there is one of those ramps that go up the side of the road in the Carolinas, with the opportunity to scoot your big truck right up there, and in that moment of failure, to find safety and the opportunity to begin again. You see, many of us regard things that have come into our lives as failures, as some, you know, condemnation or something to be avoided. Don't miss the hand of God when your plots, good or bad, come to an end.
Don't miss it in your marital relationships, when in days of difficulty and sadness and disappointment and failure emerge, you miss the chance to see that God is at work in the dark shadows as well as in the light. It made me think this morning, and I was back in my mind again, the book by Walt Wangren, the Lutheran—you know it, because I've quoted to you in the past—The Rag Man and Other Cries of Faith. That's the title of the book.
But he has a number of short stories in there. And one of his stories is of the husband and wife who regularly argue with one another. They live in an apartment, and the routine of the man is, when he gets annoyed with his wife, and when an argument ensues, he simply goes out of the apartment, slams the door, and goes and walks around the community for a while until he's reduced the level of his annoyance, and then he returns. And as the story unfolds, one of these arguments happens, and the man grabs his coat, because he's looked out the window, it's bucketing rain. And he grabs his coat, and he goes out the door, and he slams the door. And as he goes to leave, he realizes he slammed his coat in the door.
And so now he's got a real problem. Either he leaves his coat lying in the hallway and goes out and gets a thorough soaking, or he has to ring the bell. But if he rings the bell, then she's gonna be opening the door. He rings the bell. She opens the door.
She's doubled over laughing. And he says in the book, he says, And in that moment there was the opportunity for repentance, for forgiveness, for reconciliation. But like a fool, I grabbed my coat and slammed the door and walked out into the rain. Saul here, in his first dirty little plan, has the opportunity to switch, but he doubles down. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. We'll hear more from Alistair in 1 Samuel 18 tomorrow. If you've been following along with us in this series in 1 Samuel, you've probably heard me mention the book we're recommending to you, titled Assurance, Resting in God's Salvation. Just like King Saul, many of us wrestle with pride or jealousy or any number of sins from the past or the present that may cause us to question if we're truly saved. This book is a month-long devotional that applies clear, encouraging biblical truth to quell the most common doubts about salvation.
It brings a great deal of comfort. It's an excellent book for a pastor or Christian counselor to have to share with those who might struggle to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Again, the title of the book is Assurance, Resting in God's Salvation. You can request a copy when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. Visit our website at truthforlife.org slash donate, or click the image you see in the mobile app. You can also give us a call. Our number is 888-588-7884. And if you'd like to send a donation through the mail, along with a note perhaps, here's the address. Truth for Life, Post Office Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. By the way, if you'd like to request a copy of the book, Assurance, Resting in God's Salvation, along with your donation, and you're interested in purchasing extras for your church, or to share with family or friends, they're available on our website in the online store. You could purchase them at our cost of just $4 while supplies last. Visit truthforlife.org slash store.
I'm Bob Lapine. We're glad you joined us today. Tomorrow we'll hear the conclusion of today's message. We'll find out how God can even use the evil intentions of an enemy to set forth his purposes in his plan. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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