The Signs of the Times


October 12, 1888

David and Saul at En-gedi


“And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life; and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.” Satan was constantly at work to destroy the anointed of the Lord; but the Lord worked to disappoint the enemy, and to preserve David and his men. And now, when bright and cheering spots were few in the experience of the son of Jesse, he was surprised and rejoiced to receive a visit from Jonathan, who had learned the place of his refuge. How precious were the moments that these two friends passed in each other's society. They related their varied experiences, and Jonathan strengthened the heart and confidence of David, saying, “Fear not; for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.” As they talked of the wonderful dealings of God toward David, the oppressed and hunted fugitive was greatly encouraged. “And they two made a covenant before the Lord; and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.” ST October 12, 1888, par. 1

After the visit of Jonathan, David encouraged his soul with songs of praise, accompanying his voice with his harp as he sang, “In the Lord put I my trust; how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? for, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in Heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous; but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.” ST October 12, 1888, par. 2

The Ziphites, into whose wild regions David went from Keilah, sent word to Saul in Gibeah that they knew where David was hiding, and that they would guide the king to his retreat. “Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king's hand.” Saul, who had recently been uttering blasphemous curses, now said, “Blessed be ye of the Lord; for ye have compassion on me.” The king pronounced a blessing upon the wicked betrayers of David; but of what advantage were praise and flattery from such lips? ST October 12, 1888, par. 3

A new company was prepared and sent out to hunt for the Lord's anointed, and Saul gave a special charge to the wicked Ziphites: “Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there; for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly. See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you; and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.” ST October 12, 1888, par. 4

The citizens of Keilah, who should have repaid the interest and zeal of David in delivering them from the hands of the Philistines, would have given him up because of their fear of Saul rather than to have suffered a siege for his sake. But the men of Ziph would do worse; they would betray David into the hands of his enemy, not because of their loyalty to the king, but because of their hatred of David. Their interest for the king was only a pretense. They were of their own accord acting the part of hypocrites when they offered to assist in the capture of David. It was upon these false-hearted betrayers that Saul invoked the blessing of the Lord. He praised their Satanic spirit in betraying an innocent man, as the spirit and act of virtue in showing compassion to himself. Apparently David was in greater danger than he had ever been before. Upon learning the perils to which he was exposed, he changed his position, seeking refuge in the mountains between Maon and the Dead Sea. ST October 12, 1888, par. 5

Saul and his men had planned well, and they felt that success was already assured. But when the enemies of David flattered themselves that there could be no escape, there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, “Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines.” ST October 12, 1888, par. 6

The disappointed king was in a frenzy of anger to be thus cheated of his prey; but he feared the dissatisfaction of the nation; for, if the Philistines should ravage the country while he was destroying its defender, a reaction would be likely to take place, and he would become the object of the people's hate. So he relinquished his pursuit of David, and went against the Philistines, and this gave David an opportunity to escape to the stronghold of En-gedi. ST October 12, 1888, par. 7

As soon as the encounter with the Philistines was over, word was again sent to Saul, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi. Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.” David had only six hundred men in his company, while Saul advanced against him with an army of three thousand. In a secluded cave the son of Jesse and his men waited for the guidance of God as to what should be done. As Saul was pressing his way up the mountains, he turned aside, and lay down to rest in the entrance of the very cavern where David and his company were hidden. When his men saw this, they urged their leader to kill Saul as he slept. The fact that the king was now in their power, was interpreted by them as a certain evidence that God himself had delivered the enemy into their hand that they might destroy this relentless foe, who without cause was continually seeking the life of David. David was tempted to take this view of the matter; but the voice of conscience spoke to him, saying, “Touch not the anointed of the Lord,” and he could but yield obedience. His men were impatient that David hesitated to grant the permission they so much desired; but he firmly restrained them from doing any harm to Saul. ST October 12, 1888, par. 8

The course of David made it manifest that he had a Ruler whom he obeyed. He could not permit his natural passions to gain the victory over him; for he knew that he that ruleth his own spirit, is greater than he who taketh a city. If he had been led and controlled by human feelings, he would have reasoned that the Lord had brought his enemy under his power in order that he might slay him, and take the government of Israel upon himself. Saul's mind was in such a condition that his authority was not respected, and the people were becoming irreligious and demoralized. Yet the fact that Saul had been divinely chosen king of Israel kept him in safety, for David conscientiously served God, and he would not in any wise harm the anointed of the Lord. ST October 12, 1888, par. 9

David's men could scarcely consent to leave Saul in peace, and they said to their commander, “Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily.” But his tender conscience smote him afterward, because he had marred the garment of the king. ST October 12, 1888, par. 10

Saul rose up and went out of the cave to continue his search after David. But a voice fell upon his startled ears, saying, “My lord the king.” He turned to see who was addressing him, and lo! it was the son of Jesse, the man whom he had so long desired to have in his power that he might kill him. David bowed himself to the king, acknowledging him as his master. David addressed Saul in these words: “Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the Lord had delivered thee today into mine hand in the cave; and some bade me kill thee; but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the Lord's anointed. Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand; for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee; but mine hand shall not be upon thee.” ST October 12, 1888, par. 11

Saul was both astonished and humbled as he heard the statements of David, and admitted their truthfulness. His feelings were greatly stirred as he realized that he had been so fully in the power of the man whom he had injured. He saw David standing before him in conscious innocence, and yet he had charged him with plotting against his life, and had pursued him with relentless hate to destroy him. He was deeply agitated as David presented the skirt of his robe as unmistakable evidence to the king that his accusations had been without foundation. Here was proof that David was not seeking the life of the king. Then David presented the course of Saul in its true, undignified, and ungenerous light, and Saul exclaimed with trembling lip and softened spirit, “Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.” Then he declared to David. “Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.... For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.” And David made a covenant with Saul that when this should take place he would favorably regard the house of Saul, and not cut off his name. ST October 12, 1888, par. 12

David had no reason to put confidence in the assurances of Saul, or to deem that his penitent condition would be permanent: He knew that his feelings would change, and that the king would be more thoroughly intent than ever upon taking his life. So when Saul returned to his home, David remained in the strongholds of the mountains. ST October 12, 1888, par. 13

The enmity that is cherished toward the servants of God by those who have yielded to the power of Satan, changes at times to a feeling of favor and approbation; but this is not always an evidence that the change is a lasting one. The enemies of righteousness have been moved by a power from beneath to accuse and stigmatize those whom God has chosen to do his work. False impressions have been made through false statements; but after evil-minded men have engaged in doing and saying many wicked things, the conviction that they have been in the wrong takes deep hold upon their minds. The Spirit of the Lord strives with them, and they humble their hearts before God, and before those whose influence they have sought to destroy, and they change their course toward them. But as they again open the door to the suggestions of the evil one, the old doubts are revived. The old enmity is awakened, and they return to engage in the same work which they repented of, and for a time abandoned. Again they speak evil, accusing and condemning in the bitterest manner the very ones to whom they made most humble confession. Satan can use such souls with far greater power after such a course has been pursued than he could before, because they have sinned against greater light. ST October 12, 1888, par. 14

The history of Saul is a lesson to all who would walk in the counsel of God. They should take warning from his proud and rebellious spirit, and learn to walk with humility before Heaven, placing their whole dependence upon God. Many have apostatized who have once been zealous advocates of the truth, and whose faith and teaching have been published throughout the world, verifying the words of Paul when he declares, “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith.” ST October 12, 1888, par. 15