The Signs of the Times


September 14, 1888

The Council at Gibeah


Saul was greatly disappointed and enraged when it was discovered that David had left his place of refuge in the cave of Adullam. The king had made all possible preparation to come upon him as a vulture would come upon its prey, when lo! the intelligence was received that the object of his search had escaped from under his hand. His well-laid plans had been in vain, and he had again failed to accomplish his purpose of capturing David. ST September 14, 1888, par. 1

The flight of David was a matter of mystery to the king. He could account for it only by the belief that there had been traitors in the camp, who had informed the son of Jesse of his proximity and design. But the all-seeing eye was upon Saul; God, who was acquainted with all his thoughts and purposes, sent his prophet to warn his servant to escape from the hold, and flee into the land of Judah. David had heeded the message, and had found refuge in the forest of Hareth before Saul could come upon him. The fact that David was preserved, and that he escaped from time to time from his hand, while his own plottings had never met with success at any time, was a mystery to the king. ST September 14, 1888, par. 2

The monarch determined to take some decided action that would insure the ruin of David, and a royal council was held under a favorite tree on a hill-side of Gibeah. Saul held his spear and scepter in hand, while around him were gathered his councilors, among whom was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul's herdsmen. With his mind filled with jealous suspicions, Saul addressed his officers of State, saying, “Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds; that all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that showeth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or showeth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” ST September 14, 1888, par. 3

Saul appealed to the selfish nature of his men. He presented before them the advantages to be gained by serving him, in contrast with the disadvantages of the service of the poverty-stricken David, who was obliged to find his home in the caves and dens of the mountains. Satan and his evil angels were in that assembly, prepared to act a prominent part, and the power of these evil influences was working upon the mind of the willful and disobedient king. He had so long yielded himself to the control of evil angels that he did not discern that he was following their leading when he eagerly took advantage of circumstances to hold up to contempt the condition of David and his servants. How much this appeal to the selfish desires of his men, savors of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. “And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” ST September 14, 1888, par. 4

Jesus repulsed the tempter with, “It is written;” but the evil one has better success when he approaches man with his bribes and inducements. The question that each one of us will have to answer in his individual life is, Shall right triumph over wrong, no matter what shall be the cost? Every soul will have to venture much, as Satan plies his specious temptations; but the voice of duty must be obeyed, if you would be an overcomer. Many other voices will urge a course in harmony with the selfish desires and inclinations of the carnal heart. To every soul will come the time of trial, and it will need divine wisdom to distinguish the voice of the adversary from the voice of God. It is impossible to tell how much may be lost by once neglecting to comply with the requirements of the word of God. It points out the path of obedience as the only safe path for man to walk in. Nothing will help us more in these strait places than to consider that we are standing in the presence of God, and that we do not want to do anything that will offend him. ST September 14, 1888, par. 5

The Benjamites and those in the council of Saul, when they heard the words of the king, accusing them of sympathizing with those whom he regarded as his enemies, only saw before them an exasperated, human monarch, who had it in his power to enrich and advance them or to punish and degrade them, as their course should be approved or disapproved before him. But could the veil have been swept aside, they would have beheld the Sovereign whose empire is the universe, and who holds in his hands the destinies of time and of eternity. If they had felt that they were the servants of God, that they were to be obedient to the King of kings, how different would have been the result and record of that day which was filled with deeds of darkness and atrocity. The presence of the Infinite One was not felt; but he who is not only an accuser of the brethren, but a liar and a murderer from the beginning, manifested his presence and power through his human agents, Saul the king of Israel, and Doeg the chief of his herdsmen. ST September 14, 1888, par. 6

Saul had received as truth every lying report concerning the motives and movements of David, and, in his disappointment at the escape of his supposed enemy, Saul began to suspect everyone around him of being a conspirator and traitor. He declared, “All of you have conspired against me, and there is none that showeth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse. “Then he appealed for their sympathy. “There is none of you that is sorry for me, or showeth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.” ST September 14, 1888, par. 7

Saul represented David as one who was his deadly enemy, and accused Jonathan, his dutiful, and God-fearing son, of urging on the rebellion, because he would not join in the pursuit of his friend. This was an entirely false accusation. It was not David and Jonathan only who were accused, but the king's own tribe, and the people of his realm were all included in his suspicions as traitors and conspirators. He declared that they were all blind to their own best interests, and were destitute of compassion for him, the king of Israel. He had been informed by spies of the interview between David and Jonathan, of how they had entered into a covenant of eternal friendship; and, as Saul knew nothing of the particulars, he was filled with evil surmising as to their loyalty, and deemed that they were plotting against himself and his kingdom. At one time when Saul had furiously condemned David to death, and Jonathan had asked, “Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?” the king, in a moment of intense anger, had hurled a javelin at his own son, as he had previously thrown one at David. Jonathan had lost all confidence in his father. He was afraid of him, and could not be free and confidential with him; for he saw with sorrow that God had departed from him, and that another spirit had taken possession of him. ST September 14, 1888, par. 8

That a conspiracy had been formed against him, Saul affirmed to his councilors as a settled fact, and he had arrived at the conclusion that it must be one that was thoroughly organized, or the chief conspirator would not have been so successful in eluding his search. From this he argued that the people must be involved in it, or its success would not be so evident. He put darkness for light, and light for darkness. His reasoning and its conclusions were all erroneous. The plotting was all on the side of Saul himself. Because he had changed his position from time to time, and had thought to have secured his prey long before, and had been defeated time and again, he could understand his failure only by attributing evil motives and actions to his people. Those who had been in communication with him, and had known of his plans, must, he thought, have informed David of his movements. ST September 14, 1888, par. 9

Saul had become so blinded through the deceitfulness of sin, that he could not discern spiritual things. He did not recognize the fact that God was present at all his councils, and that he was in communication with his servant David. God did not intend that the murderous designs of Saul should prove successful to accomplish their ends. The evil of the king's heart was to be manifested before Israel, that they might see to what terrible lengths a soul would go, after breaking away from the restraining influence of the Spirit of God. The king had had sufficient evidence to prove to him, beyond a doubt, that David had no evil intention toward him. He had had opportunity to take the life of his enemy, if he had desired to do so, but the son of Jesse would not lift up his hand against the Lord's anointed. But all this went for nothing, for it was in the heart of Saul to accredit evil purposes to David, and he did according to all that was in his heart. ST September 14, 1888, par. 10

There was a Watcher who was marking the motives, the words, and the actions of King Saul. The Lord was an unseen witness to every secret design, every open plan, and every murderous movement. When Nebuchadnezzar took his proud survey of the works of his hands, and boasted of his power and glory, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty”? the Watcher's voice came to the king, saying, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee.” When Belshazzar lifted himself up against the God of Heaven, and made a great feast, and, in his intoxication and pleasure, deemed nothing too sacred for his use, making merriment against the living and the true God, a bloodless hand traced upon the wall in living characters, “Thou are weighed in the balances and art found wanting.” At the sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar, there was a Watcher whom he had not invited, and whose presence he had not discerned or welcomed. The doom of his kingdom was written in an unchangeable decree, “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.” ST September 14, 1888, par. 11

The eye of the Lord is upon every scene. His eye beholds every transaction in business. He hears every word that is spoken. He is a silent witness to every slanderous statement, and every falsehood is faithfully recorded in the books of Heaven. We have an attendant in public and private life. We have a companion in our private chamber. To every word and action of our lives, the holy, sin-hating God stands as a witness. We cannot escape our accountability to him, for God is everywhere. Why should we not live in such a manner that we may render up our account with joy, and not with grief. God has given us our appointed work, and we are to do it under his direction. If we place our powers under the control of Satan, we are rebels against God, and there will be found in our life-records, as there was found in Belshazzar's, a fatal deficiency when the accounts are balanced. ST September 14, 1888, par. 12