The Signs of the Times


August 17, 1888

The Character and Effects of Envy


After the slaying of Goliath David was brought before King Saul, and the king inquired concerning his parentage and life. “And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Saul kept David with him, and would not permit him to return to his father's house. Jonathan and David made a covenant to be united as brethren, and the king's son “stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” David was intrusted with important responsibilities, yet he preserved his modesty, and everyone loved him. But there was no one so dear to him as Jonathan, because he possessed a pure and noble spirit. ST August 17, 1888, par. 1

“David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war.” But when Saul and David were returning from the slaughter of the Philistines, “the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.” One company sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands,” while another company took up the strain and responded, “And David his ten thousands.” The demon of jealousy entered the heart of the king. He was angry because David was exalted above himself in the song of the women of Israel. In place of controlling these envious feelings, and manifesting a noble spirit, he displayed the great weakness of his character, and exclaimed, “They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands; and what can he have more but the kingdom?” ST August 17, 1888, par. 2

The one great defect in the character of Saul was his love of approbation. This trait had had such a controlling influence over his actions and thoughts that everything was marked by his desire for praise and self-exaltation. He permitted this evil desire to develop unchecked, and it became an instrument in his ruin. His standard of right and wrong was the low standard of popular applause. No man is safe who lives that he may please men, and does not seek first for the approbation of God. It was the ambition of Saul to be first in the estimation of men; and when this song of praise was sung, a settled conviction entered the heart of the king that David would obtain the hearts of the people, and reign in his stead. ST August 17, 1888, par. 3

Notwithstanding the lessons which Saul had had from the prophet Samuel, instructing him that God would accomplish whatsoever he chose, and that no one could hinder it; yet the king made it evident that he had no true knowledge of the plans or power of God. He showed that he had no true repentance for his course of rebellion and disobedience. He opened his heart to the spirit of envy and jealousy by which his soul was poisoned. He loved to hear David play upon his harp, and the evil spirit seemed to be charmed away for the time being; but one day when the youth was ministering before him, and bringing sweet music from his instrument, accompanying his voice as he sang the praises of God, Saul suddenly threw the spear which he held in his hand at the musician, for the purpose of putting an end to his life. David was preserved by the interposition of God, and he fled without injury from the rage of the maddened king. ST August 17, 1888, par. 4

The people were not slow to see that David was a competent person, and that the affairs intrusted to his hands were managed with wisdom and skill. Thus he was promoted from one position of trust to another. The counsels of the young man seemed to be always of a wise and discreet character, and proved to be safe to follow, while the advice of Saul was at times unreliable, and his decisions and judgments were ill-advised. As Saul's hatred of David increased, he became more and more watchful to find an opportunity to take his life, and rid himself of one so obnoxious to him. But none of his plans against the anointed of the Lord were successful. He had taken Satan as his counselor; but David trusted himself in the hand of Him who is mighty in counsel, and strong to deliver. Saul gave himself up to the control of the wicked spirit that ruled over him, while David followed the Lord, and obtained the confidence of the people. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and David's prayer was continually directed to God. His trust was in God, and he walked before him in a perfect way. ST August 17, 1888, par. 5

Although the king was his enemy, the servant of the Lord grew in favor with the people; and Saul, though ever on the alert, seeking an opportunity to take his life, feared David, for he was convinced that the Lord was with him. It was envy that made Saul miserable, and put the humble subject of his throne into jeopardy. Envy is one of the most despicable traits of Satanic character. It is constantly seeking the lifting up of self, by casting slurs upon others. A man who is envious will belittle his neighbor, thinking to exalt himself. The sound of praise is grateful to him who has approbativeness highly developed, and he hates to hear the praises of another. Oh, what untold mischief has this evil trait of character worked in our world! The same enmity existed in the heart of Saul that stirred the heart of Cain against his brother Abel, because Abel's works were righteous, and God honored him, and his own works were evil, and the Lord could not bless him. ST August 17, 1888, par. 6

Envy is the offspring of pride, and, if it is entertained in the heart, it will lead to cruel deeds, to hatred, revenge, and murder. The great controversy between Christ and the prince of darkness, is carried on in everyday, practical life. David had now become the object of the king's hatred. How little did the darkened soul of Saul understand of the providences and purposes of God! If he had any comprehension of the character of the great “I AM,” he would have known that he could not thwart the purposes of the Almighty. ST August 17, 1888, par. 7

Saul made David feel that there was no place of security for him. He finally removed him from his position of responsibility as leader of the army of Israel, and placed him in charge of only a thousand men. David made no complaint, but bore all with patience. The love of the people was with him, but Saul was determined that he should not live. He kept a strict watch upon David, longing and hoping to find some occasion of indiscretion or rashness which might serve as an excuse to bring him into disgrace before the people. He felt that he could not be satisfied until he could take the young man's life, and still be justified before the nation for his evil act. ST August 17, 1888, par. 8

Saul laid a snare for the feet of David, promising to give him Michal, his daughter, to wife, if he would slay one hundred Philistines. David killed two hundred, and returned in safety to the court of the king. Saul was still more assured that this was the man whom the Lord had said was better than he, and who should reign on the throne of Israel in his place. He began to discover that the Lord was with David. He began to discern that the young man was walking circumspectly before God, and that his character was worthy of respect, being truly noble and elevated. Saul became more determined in his purpose. He threw off all disguise. He would not be disappointed. David must die. He issued a command to Jonathan and to his servants to take the life of the one he hated; for he had determined that he should not live. ST August 17, 1888, par. 9

Jonathan revealed his father's intention to David, and bade him conceal himself, while he would go and plead with his father to spare the life of the deliverer of Israel. Jonathan succeeded in turning away the wrath of his father for the time. He presented before the king what David had done to preserve the honor and the very life of the nation, and what terrible guilt would come upon his soul who should slay the one whom God had used to scatter their enemies. He urged that his crime would not be excused should he take the life of an innocent man. The conscience of the king was touched, and his heart was softened. “And Saul sware, As the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain.” And David was brought to Saul, and he ministered in his presence, as he had in the past. ST August 17, 1888, par. 10