Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
~ Proverbs 13:12
I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
~ Isaiah 51:12
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
~ Matthew 14:31
For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
~ 2 Corinthians 7:5
The Danger of Doubting, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 1862.
And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.
~ 1 Samuel 27:1 a, b
To doubt the lovingkindness of God is thought by some to be a very small sin; in fact, some have even exalted the doubts and fears of God’s people into fruits and grace, and evidences of great advancement in experience. It is humiliating to observe that certain ministers have pampered and petted men in unbelief and distrust of God, being in this matter false to their Master, and to the souls of his people. Far be it from me to smite the feeble of the flock; but their sins I must and will smite, since it is my firm conviction, that to doubt the kindness, the faithfulness, and the love of God, is a very heinous offence. Unbelief is akin to Atheism. Atheism denies God’s existence— unbelief denies his goodness, and since goodness is essential to God, these doubts do, in reality, stab at his very being. That can be no light sin which makes God a liar; and yet unbelief does in effect, cast foul and slanderous suspicion upon the veracity of the Holy One of Israel. That can be no small offence which charges the Creator of heaven and earth with perjury; and yet, if I mistrust his oath, and will not believe his promise, sealed with the blood of his own Son, I count the oath of God to be unworthy of my trust; and so I do, in very deed, accuse the King of Heaven as false to his covenant and oath. Besides, as I shall have to show this morning, unbelief of God is the fountain of innumerable sins. As the black cloud is the mother of many rain-drops, so dark unbelief is the parent of many crimes. And what if I should say that unbelief concentrates the vice of ages into a moment, and gathers up the virus of all the offences of the race in one transgression? I should not be far from the mark, but I shall say no strong words in the preface, because methinks the incident in David’s history, to which I shall call your attention this morning, will be in itself enough to lead you to give your verdict with mine, that unbelief is a damnable sin, that it should be condemned by every believer, should be struggled against, should if possible be subdued, and certainly should be the object of our deep repentance and abhorrence.
Now let us listen to David, and may his sin and sorrow be as beacons to warn us from evil! “David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.” First, I shall remark that what he said in his heart was false; secondly, we shall ask the question, how he came to think so? and then we shall notice, in the third place, what mischief came of such a hard unbelieving thought.
I. First, the thought of David’s heart was false. He said, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.”
We might conclude it to be false upon the very face of it, because there certainly was no evidence to prove it. On no one occasion had the Lord deserted his servant; he had been placed in perilous positions very often, but not one single instance had occurred in which God’s strength was not sufficient for him. The trials to which he had been exposed had been varied; they had not assumed one form only, but many; yet in every case he who sent the trial had also graciously ordained a way of escape. David could not put his finger upon any entry in his diary, and say of it, “Here is evidence that God will forsake me.” In looking back through his whole life, from the time when he kept his father’s sheep, and slew the lion and the bear, onward to the day when he challenged the Philistine, and upward to this moment, when he had just escaped from his bloodthirsty pursuer, he could not find a solitary fact which should be proof that God had changed his mind, and would leave his anointed to fall into the hand of his cruel enemy.
Now, mark. When you and I doubt God’s Word there is this to be said of it, we mistrust it without a cause. I bear my willing testimony that I have no reason to doubt my Lord, nor even the shadow of a reason: and I think that you who were in Christ many a year before I knew him can say that since you have trusted in him you have never once had any reason to suspect his faithfulness, or to imagine that he would cast you away. Brethren, we condemn not a man without evidence. Shall we condemn our loving Lord without evidence? I challenge heaven, and earth, and hell this morning to bring any proof that God is untrue. From the depths of hell I call the fiends, and from this earth I call the tried and afflicted believers, and to heaven I appeal, and challenge the long experience of the blood-washed host, and there is not to be found in the three realms a single one who can bear evidence of a fact which should disprove the goodness of God, or weaken his claim to be trusted by his servants. Now let our unbelief be scouted; let our sense of justice expel it at once. Let us be just to God as well as to man; and if never yet hath he failed any one of his people, or broken a solitary promise, far be it from us to doubt or to be unbelieving.
“ Thus far we prove that promise good
Which Jesus ratified with blood;
Still he is gracious, wise, and just,
And still in him let Israel trust.”
But, again, what David said in his heart was not only without evidence, but it was contrary to evidence. What reason had he to believe that God would leave him? Bather, how many evidences had he to conclude that the Lord neither could nor would leave him? “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them.” That was good reasoning. Why not reason like that now, David? Why not say, “Thy servant slew the Philistine, thy servant escaped from the javelin of Saul, when the mad monarch would have pinned him to the wall; thy servant escaped from all the devices of Doeg; thy servant escaped when Saul pursued him in the tracks of the wild goats and in the caves of En-gedi; thy servant escaped out of the power of Achish, the Philistine; and, lo, this Saul, who seeks my head, out of his hand shall I escape also?” That would have been a rational conclusion, a proper way of dealing with evidence; but to say, after such love and kindness past, “He will let me sink at last,” was to draw a lying conclusion, and to bring in a verdict directly contrary to the evidence.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, your case is similar— at least mine is. O Lord God! thou hast not left us at any time. We have had dark nights, but the star of love has shone forth amid the blackness; we have had our cloudy days, but our sun has never set until we have had glimpses of sunlight from heaven; we have gone through many trials, but never to our detriment, always to our advantage; and the conclusion from our past experience— at least, I can speak of my own positively— is, that he who hath been with us in six troubles, will not forsake us in the seventh. He hath said, “I will never, never leave thee, and will never, never, never forsake thee.” Do not think I repeat these “nevers” too often; I repeat the text just as I find it in the Greek. What we have known of our faithful God, goes to show that he will keep us to the end, and even to the last he will be our helper. Go not, then, contrary to evidence. What should we say of a jury who, after having heard a case in which the verdict should evidently have been “Not Guilty,” should, nevertheless, say “Guilty?” Let the earth ring with the cry of indignation. A man has been condemned not only unjustly, but in the very teeth of evidence which proved his innocence. O heaven and earth! ring ye with the universal indignation of honest men, that we should think God untrue, when all the evidence of our past lives goes to prove that he is true and faithful to his Word.
“ Our Saviour’s word abideth sure,
His record is on high,
He who has made our souls secure,
Was never known to lie.
Munitions of stupendous rock
Our dwelling place shall be;
There shall our souls without a shock
The wreck of nature see.”
Thirdly, this exclamation of David was contrary to God’s promises. Samuel had poured the anointing oil on David’s head— God’s earnest and promise that David should be king. Let David die by the hand of Saul, how can the promise be fulfilled? Many times had God assured his servant David that he had chosen the son of Jesse to be the leader of his people; let him die, and how can that be true? It was, therefore, clean contrary to the promise of God that David should fall by his enemy’s hand. Christian! it is contrary to every promise of this precious book that thou shouldst become the victim of the lion of hell. How, then, could He be true who has said, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.” What were the value of that promise— “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee?” Where were the truth of Christ’s words — “I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand?” Where were the doctrines of grace? They would be proved to be a lie , if one child of God perish. Where were the veracity of God, his honour, his power, his grace, his covenant, his oath, if any of those for whom Christ has died, and who have put their trust in him, should nevertheless be cast away? Oh! by this precious Book which thou believest to be true, unless thou art prepared to cast it away as a vile thing of falsehood, distrust not thy Lord, but rather say,
“ The gospel bears my spirit up;
A faithful and unchanging God,
Lays the foundation for my hope,
In oaths, and promises, and blood.”
But further, this wicked exclamation of David was contrary to what he himself had often said. Here I convict myself, I remember on one occasion, to my shame, being sad and doubtful of heart, and a kind friend took out a paper and read to me a short extract from a discourse upon faith. I very soon detected the author of the extract; my friend was reading to me from one of my own sermons. Without saying a word he just left it to my own conscience, for he had convicted me of committing the very fault against which I had so earnestly declaimed. Often might you, brethren, be found out in the same inconsistency. “Oh!” you have said, “I could trust him though the fig-tree did not blossom, and though there were no flocks in the field , and no herd in the stall.” Ah! ye have condemned the unbelief of other people, but when it touched you, you have trembled, and when you have come to run with the horsemen they have wearied you, and in the swellings of Jordan you have been troubled. So was it with David. What strong words he had often said when he addressed others! He said of Saul, “His time shall come to die; I will not stretch out my hand and touch the Lord’s anointed.” He felt sure that Saul’s doom was signed and sealed; and yet in the hour of his unbelief he says, “I shall yet one day fall.” What a strange contradiction was that! What a mercy it is that God changeth not, for we are changing two or three times a day! But our own utterances, our own convictions aforetime, are clean contrary to the idea that he can ever leave us or forsake us. I appeal, as did that ancient worthy who appealed from Philip drunk to Philip sober, I appeal from Philip unbelieving to Philip in a proper state of mind. I bring up before you your own thoughts, your own emotions, your own joyous shouts of song, your own psalms of victory, and I ask vou to make these consistent with your present doubts. “Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should arise against me, in this will I be confident.” That is David. “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.” That is David too. “I will love thee, O Lord my strength! The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” That is David. “I shall one day fall by the hand of Saul.” That is David again. Do not fetch up any other evidence; let the man convict himself. His unbelief is absurd from his own showing. So with you and with me, brethren; we are great fools when we doubt God, and that is saying the best of it; what the worst of it is, God only knows. O Lord, from this great sin do thou deliver us!
Yet once more, this exclamation of David was contrary to the facts. I mean not merely contrary to the facts that were in evidence, but contrary to the facts that were transpiring at that very moment. Where was Saul? Saul was seeking to a miserable witch of Endor, to raise Samuel from the dead. The spears of the Philistines were being sharpened for the battle, and the arrows were being made ready upon the string that should reach the heart of the king of Israel; and yet here is David, just within a short period of attaining to the kingdom and of seeing Saul slain, saying “I shall one day fall by the hand of Saul.” Oh! if he could have read the mysteries, if he could have understood what the right hand of God was doing, and what the Eternal One designed for him, he would never have whined thus his unbelief. So with you and with me. “Ah!” but you say, “it is not so with me this morning; I am brought very low.” Yes, and God is getting ready to bring you up very high. “Ah! but my trouble is a very dreadful one.” Yes, and his bare arm is a very potent one, and he knows how to deliver his children. “Yes, but I do not see.” No, and you do not need to see. But still it is being done. God’s purposes are ripening. Now, do not misjudge them; do not antedate the time of your deliverance, but patiently wait and quietly hope. I know that some of us, when we have escaped from our trials, have said, “Well, if I had known it had been so, I would not have been so troubled about it.” Just so, and now, I pray you, though you do not know it, yet still believe it, and do not run contrary to the fact in doubting God. You are very poor, are you? But still you take care of your children. What would you say to your child if he were sitting down at the table crying. “What dost thou cry for, child?” “Because there is no food for me.” “Why, silly child,” say you, “I was just cutting a slice from the loaf; do not cry till you are sure there is no food.’’ The Lord says to us often, “What dost thou cry for, silly child? This is what I was doing behind the mysteries of my Providence, getting ready some sweet and precious mercy for thee.”
“ The clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercies and shall break
With blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning Providence
He hides a smiling face.”
II. But I must now, while my strength shall hold out, proceed to the second part of the discourse, namely, how was it that David came to think thus of his God?
The first answer I give is, because he was a man. The best of men are men at the best; and man at the best, is such a creature that well might David himself say, “Lord, what is man?” If we always performed feats of faith, on-lookers might imagine that we were demi-gods, for in truth, I say that the feats which a man of faith can do, are only surpassed by the doings of the Almighty One himself. Next to omnipotence is faith; nay, not next to it in some respects, for faith can do all that omnipotence can, when God maketh it strong. What were the hosts of the Philistines to Samson? “Heaps upon heaps with the jawbone of an ass, have I slain a thousand men.” And what were the pillars of the temple to him? He bowed himself with all his strength, and pulled down the goodly palace of the Philistines upon the princes and upon the assembled multitudes. Faith can do everything; but if faith never gave place to unbelief, we might be tempted to lift up the believer into a demi-god, and think him something more than mortal. That we might see that a man full of faith is still a man, that we might glory in infirmities, since by them the power of God is the more clearly proved, therefore, God was pleased to let the feebleness of man grievously show itself. Ah, it was not David who achieved these former victories, but God’s grace in David; and now, when that is removed for a moment, see what Israel’s champion becomes!
But again: you must consider that David had been exposed to a very long trial; not for one week, but for month after month, he had been hunted like a partridge upon the mountains. Now, a man could bear one trial, but a perpetuity of tribulation is very hard to bear. To lay one’s head down upon the block seems to me to be comparatively easy, but to be strapped, as were some of the martyrs, to a stake, and be roasted at a slow fire, hour after hour, while the limbs wither in the heat, must have been awful. The martyrdom of an hour is sudden glory, but the martyrdom of a life— there needs something more than human to endure this. To be crucified, to have the hands and feet fast, but the vital parts intact, to have all the pangs of death, with all the strength of life! Now, such was David’s trial— always safe but always harassed; always secure through God, but always hunted about by his foe. No place could give him any ease. If he went unto Keilah, then the citizens would deliver him up; if he went into the wood of Ziph, then the Ziphtes betrayed him; if he went even to the priest of God, there was that dog of a Doeg to go to Saul, and accuse the priest; even in En-gedi or in Adullam he was not secure; secure, I grant you, in God, but always persecuted by his foe. Now, this was enough to make the wise man mad, and to make the faithful man doubt. Do not judge too hardly of David; at least judge just as hardly of yourselves. I think that if we also were tempted, we should fall as he did.
Then again, you must remember, David had passed through some strong excitements of mind. Just a day or so before he had gone forth with Abishai in the moonlight to the field where Saul and his host lay sleeping. They passed the outer circle where the common soldiers lay, and quietly and stealthily the two heroes passed without awaking any. They came at last to the spot where the captains of the hundreds slept, and they trod over their slumbering bodies without arousing them. They reached the spot where Saul lay, with his spear stuck in the earth at his bolster, and his cruse of water standing, that he might refresh himself if he awoke in the night. And Abishai said, “The Lord hath delivered him into thy hand; let me smite him; I will smite him but this once.” David holds back Abishai’s hand; he will not permit it, but he says, “As the Lord liveth; the Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall descend into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed.” So he escaped from this temptation, as he had aforetime, when he only cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe, instead of smiting him as he might have done in the caves of En-gedi. Now, brethren a man may do these great things helped by God, but do any of you know that it is a sort of natural law with us, that after a strong excitement there is a reaction? I will give you a picture. There is Elijah yonder. He has builded an altar unto the Lord his God; the priests of Baal have built another. Elijah appeals to God. “He that answereth by fire, let him be God.” The priests of Baal supplicate their God. He answers not. They cut themselves with lancets and with knives. Their dumb idol could not affirm his own deity. Elijah mocks them. “Cry aloud,” said he, “for he is a god; peradventure he sleepeth, and needeth to be awakened.” So in grim sarcasm he stirs up the wrath of the priests of Baal. No answer comes. Now it is Elijah’s turn. He bows the knee, and lifts up his hands to heaven. The flame descends. Be astonished, ye unbelievers! It licks up even the water in the trenches, and the twelve consecrated stones are themselves consumed and are carried in smoke to heaven even as the flame of the burnt-offering. “Take the prophets of Baal, let not one escape,’ cries the stern Elias. He grasps one of them, and drags him down the hill, and the willing people follow, dragging by the hair of their heads the false priests down to the brook; and then, stripping to his sleeves he dyes himself with the gore-blood of these, the haters of God and the betrayers of his people, till the brook runs red with the smoking blood of Baal’s priests. Now what will happen after that? When Elijah gets away from all this heroic daring, because he is a man, there will be a re-action, and lo, he is afraid of Jezebel, who hunted for his life, he cries, “Let me die; I am no better than my fathers;” and he hides himself, till God says, “What dost thou here, Elijah?” Now if Elijah, the most iron saint of ancient times, felt the result of human weakness, much more might we expect it of David. So that again I say, we are not to judge him too severely, unless we feel prepared with the same measure that we mete to him to mete out to ourselves also.
But there was another reason, for we are not to exculpate David. He sinned, and that not merely through infirmity, but through evil of heart. It seems to us that David had restrained prayer. In every other action of David you find some hint that he asked counsel of the Lord. He says to Abiathar, “Bring hither the ephod;” and he enters upon no enterprise without first asking of the Urim and Thummin what was God’s mind. But this time what did he talk with? Why, with the most deceitful thing that he could have found — with his own heart, for “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” I do not find that he mentioned it to God’s priest; he did not make it a matter of prayer; he could not venture to pray when he undertook it himself. No, he acted on his own head, and a man will soon find that head is full of addled brains that can judge without appealing to God. Having restrained prayer he did the foolish act; he forgot his God, he looked only at his enemy, and it was no wonder that when he saw the force and strength of the cruel monarch, and the pertinacity of his persecution— he said, “I shall one day fall before him.” Brothers and sisters, would you wish to hatch the egg of unbelief till it turns into a serpent? Restrain prayer! Would you see evils magnified and mercies diminished? Would you find your tribulations increased sevenfold, and your faith diminished in proportion? Restrain prayer! I say unto thee this day, if thou wilt neglect thy closet, all the troubles thou hast ever had shall be as nothing compared with what will yet come upon thee. The little finger of thy future doubts shall be thicker than the loins of thy present mental anguish. Thou shalt know what man can do when he leaves his God, and thou shalt find out in the bitterness of thy soul what an evil thing it is to leave the living fountain and hew out to thyself a broken cistern which can hold no water.
I have thus, I think, as well as may be, opened up the causes of David’s unbelief. Some of them will hit your case, my brother. My sister, you may find some portion here. Well, if you find out the cause, remember that the remedy lies somewhere near it. If a forgotten-closet will make thee weep, a frequented-closet will make thee smile. If the excitement of delight has been followed by depression, that excitement itself, if thou seekest it again, will be the best cure, till thy mind, made strong to endure these blessed excitements, shall be sweetly strengthened for the bliss of heaven, and on earth thou shalt be capable of enjoying the heaven which some of the saints have known before they crossed the stream of death.
III. But I must hasten on, for my failing voice tells me I must soon conclude; but not until we have discharged, briefly, the third point: what were the ill-effects of David’s unbelief?
It strikes me that this was one of the sins to which David referred, when he asked God to forgive the sins of his youth, and his former transgressions. We have looked so often at his sin with Bathsheba, that we have been apt to think he had no other faults. Whereas, one must say it, the life of David for some few months after this exclamation, was sad, and one might wish it could be blotted out; it was sad, sad indeed. But we will talk of these matters in detail, though briefly.
What did his unbelief make him do first? It made him do a foolish thing, the same foolish thing which he had rued once before. Now, we say a burnt child always dreads the fire; but David had been burnt, and yet, in his unbelief, he puts his hand into the same fire again. He went once to Achish, king of Gath, and the Philistines said, “ This is that David of whom they said, ‘ Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands;’” and David was greatly afraid, and “feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard,” (which to the Eastern was the surest sign of his being mad if he despised his beard), and they drove him away, for Achish said, “Wherefore, then, have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?” Now, he goes to the same Achish again! Yes, and mark ye, my brethren, although you and I know the bitterness of sin, yet if we are left to our own unbelief, we shall fall into the same sin again. I know we have said, “No; never, never; I know so much by experience what an awful thing this is.” Your experience is not worth a rush to you apart from the continual restraints of grace. If your faith fail, everything else goes down with it; and you, you hoary-headed professor, will be as big a fool as a very boy, if God lets you alone. In fact, I must say it, reverencing as I do the hoary head, that of all fools in the world, old fools are the worst. I have seen more falls among aged Christians, than among any other sort, till one has been apt to pray, “Lord, save those who are in the slippery paths of old age.” I have often said, there is no Scriptural example of a young man falling into any gross, great sin. All the Scriptural examples are quite the other way, and I think I might say, as the pastor of this Church, that the most sorrowful cases of excommunication we have ever had have been about men who had some grey hair on their heads, or were fathers of families far oftener than about the young; the reason being, I think, this, — that often the old saint begins to rely on his past experience, and if he does so it is all over with him; for we are just as much fools after seventy years’ spiritual education, as we were when we first entered into the school, if the Lord leave us to ourselves. We do grow; we do learn, the Lord being with us; but if we are left, we are no stronger after we have been established in the faith, than we were before. I say again, if we were left at any moment, no matter who we may be, sin would soon be our pursuit, and iniquity our companion. We must offer the same prayer, “Hold thou me up and I shall be safe,” to the very end of the chapter, and we must finish our lives just as David finished the 119th Psalm with that confession, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.”
But next: for the beginning of sin is like the letting out of water, and we go from bad to worse, he went over to the Lord’s enemies. Would you have believed it – he that killed Goliath sought a refuge in Goliath’s land; he who smote the Philistines trusts in the Philistines; nay, more, he who was Israel’s champion, becomes the chamberlain to Achish, for Achish said, “Therefore will I make thee keeper of my head for ever,” and David became thus the captain of the body-guard of the King of Philistia, and helped to preserve the life of one who was the enemy of God’s Israel. Inconsistency will win us over into the ranks of his enemies, and they will be saying, “What do these Hebrews here?” and the question will be passed round from man to man, “Is no this David of whom they said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands?’ What does David here?” Brother, if “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” I may, without wresting Scripture, say, “Unbelief goeth before destruction, and a doubting spirit before a fall,” for so it is. “The joy of the Lord is your strength;” “The just shall live by faith, but if any man turn back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,”— the two sentences put together as if the failure of our faith would surely lead to a turning back to sin.
Have patience with me while I notice once again, that not only thus did David become numbered with God’s enemies, but that he actually went into open sin. You will read this chapter, and the next, and the next, at your leisure— and you will perhaps have leisure this afternoon; it will keep you from talking about ministers, and about a great many other things that are just as well let alone on Sunday afternoons, for that is the general gossip of Sunday afternoon— “Did you ever hear Mr. So-and-so, and Mr. So-and-so? ”— ministers being thought a subject useful for Sundays— that is to say, the pulling of them to pieces. However, if instead of that you will read those chapters, you will be profited. David did two very evil things. He acted the part of a liar and deceiver. Hard words, you will say, to use of David; but they are not too harsh. He went out and slew the Geshurites, and sundry other tribes, and this he did often. When he came back, Achish asked him where he had been, and he said he had been to the south of Judah— that is to say, he made Achish believe that his incursions were made against his own people, instead of being made against the allies of Philistia. This he kept up for a long time; and then, as one sin never goes without a companion, for the devil’s hounds always hunt in couples, he was guilty of bloodshed, for into whatsoever town he went, he put all the inhabitants to death; he spared neither man, nor woman, nor child, lest they should tell the king of Philistia where he had been. So that one sin led him on to another And this is a very sorrowful part of David’s life. He that believes God, and acts in faith, acts with dignity, and other men will stoop before him and pay him reverence; but he who disbelieves his God, and begins to act in his own carnal wisdom, will soon be this, and that, and the other, and the enemy will say, “Aha, aha, so would we have it,” while the godly will say, “How are the mighty fallen! how hath the strong man been given up unto his adversary!” O that God the Holy Spirit may preserve our faith in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, that so we may be preserved without spot until the day of his appearing!
Furthermore, not only was David guilty of all this, but he was on the verge of being guilty of still worse sin— of overt acts of warfare against the Lord’s people; for David having become the friend of Achish, when Achish went to battle against Israel, he said to him, “Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men;” and David professed his willingness to go. We believe it was only a feigned willingness; but then, you see, we convict him again of falsehood. The day comes when a decisive battle is to be fought, and the lords of the Philistines go on before Achish. “Where is David?” “Oh! David is with king Achish in the rear-guard,” for the king had made him captain of his lifeguard. He was thus raised to a very high position, the companion of Achish, at his right hand, the commander of the men who were to protect the king in case of danger. Now, there is David, and he is going up against his own people, to fight against his own king, to do mischief against God’s own chosen land. It is true that God interposed and prevented it; but this was no credit to David, for you know, brethren, we are guilty of a sin, even if we do not commit it, if we are willing to commit it. And so was it in this case; nay, we are sorry to have to say it, even when the lords of the Philistines interposed, and said, “Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us. And David said unto Achish, But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” still professing a kind of unwillingness to depart, while God knows he was glad enough to get off so evil an errand. What a mercy it is we have some enemies, for God makes our enemies often our best friends. I forget who it is, but I think it is old Bishop Hall, in his meditations, who says, “When the Lord’s people have a deadly cancer, there are many of their friends who are too dainty to let the lancet in, but their foes will do it out of spite, and then they get cured thereby; for often doth the Lord let our enemies pierce us in some sore which would have gathered and destroyed us, if it had not been that their cruel wound becomes life to us from the dead.” So these lords of the Philistines were David’s best friends.
To conclude. The last effect of David’s sin — and here it blessedly came to close, — was this: it brought him into great trial. Let me tell the story briefly, and I have done. While David was away with king Achish, the Amalekites invaded the south, and attacked Ziklag, which was David’s town. For some reason or other they did not put to death any of the inhabitants, but they took away the whole of the men, the few who were left, the women and children, all their household goods, and stuff, and treasures; they took away all; and when David came back to Ziklag, there were the bare walls and empty houses, and Ahinoam and Abigail, his two wives, were gone, and all the mighty men who were with him had lost their wives and little ones; and as soon as they saw it, they lifted up their voice and wept. It was not that they had lost their gold and silver, but they had lost everything. That exiled band had lost their own flesh and blood, the partners of their lives. Then they mutinied against their captain, and they said, “Let us stone David.” And here is David, a penniless beggar, a leader deserted by his own men, suspected by them probably of having traitorously given up the town to the foe. And then it is written — and O how blessed is that line! — “And David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Ah! now David is right; now he has come back to his proper anchorage. Blessed afflictions, that drive him back to where he ought to have been all the time! Sin and smart go together; the child of God cannot sin with impunity. Other men may. Ye that fear not God may go and sin as ye like, and often meet with very little trouble in this world as the consequence of it; but a child of God cannot do that. “You only have I known of all the nations of the earth, therefore will I punish you for your iniquities.” And so David had the rod more sharply than he had ever had it before, because he had doubted his God. Ah! and what are we? Many of us believe in Christ; but what are we, if God should leave us? Let us heartily join in the prayer, “Lord, increase our faith; hold thou us up, and we shall be safe!”
As for you who have no faith in Christ, this last word. If temporary unbelief is so dreadful, what must habitual unbelief be? “He that believeth not shall be damned.” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not.” God help thee, unbeliever, to trust Jesus. It is life to thee. It will be life to thee in this world and in the world to come. Trust him with thy soul, and he will never forsake thee, but to the end he will keep thee, and in the end he will bless thee, and without end he will glorify thee to be with himself for ever. May the Lord bless the words we have uttered, and make us faithful, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.
” ‘Tis Jesus speaks, the sinner’s friend,
Dejected saint, to-day;
Lift up thy head, nor downward bend,
But sing thy fears away.
‘Why dost thou, like the turtle, grieve?
Cast all thy cares on me;
My grace sufficient is, believe,
In ev’ry state for thee.
To guard thee from ten thousand ills,
And make thy standing sure,
Sufficient are my shalls and wills,
That must and shall endure.
At ev’ry time, in ev’ry place,
In safeguard thou shalt be,
And find my everlasting grace
Sufficient still for thee.’
Jesus, assist us to believe,
For slow of heart are we,
Grace from thy fulness to receive
And thus to honour thee.”