Why "Was With" Was So Wonderful (I Samuel 18:17-30)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 18:17–18:30
Crying for a King
I. Recap: I Samuel
Well, this morning we are coming back to our ongoing study of the book of I Samuel. And because it’s been almost two months since we looked at this incredible book, I thought it would be good for us this morning to review some of the highlights of the book thus far. This morning we are beginning right in the middle of chapter 18; so what exactly do we need to highlight from the first seventeen chapters of this book?
Well, the best way to think about those first seventeen chapters is to think about the leaders we’ve been introduced to so far. If you recall, the book begins during a time in Israel’s history called the period of the judges. And from the final verses of that book, the book of Judges, we know there was a serious leadership crisis among God’s people. The final verse of Judges sums it up this way: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
And the people are suffering. Even before they actually do so explicitly, we know the people are crying out for a king. They are hungry for leadership. And God knows exactly what they need. The opening chapters of this book are focused on the first leader God raised up, the leader after whom the book is named: Samuel. From his youth, Samuel was raised up to serve as priest, as a prophet, and as a judge over Israel.
But when the people demanded a king so they could be like all the other nations around them, God directed Samuel to anoint a man named Saul as the first king. But Saul was eventually rejected by God because, even though he looked the part, he lacked the heart. As a leader over God’s people, Saul was unwilling to first be led by God…which is a recipe for disaster.
Finally, in chapter 16, we saw how Samuel was directed to a young man named David and how God commanded him to anoint David as the new king. In the last chapter, when David fought the Philistine giant Goliath, we got an incredible glimpse of his faith and his passion for God’s honor.
And as we saw in the beginning of chapter 18, David’s success and David’s character helped create for him a pretty large fan base. The people loved David. Jonathan, the prince, loved David. Even Saul loved David. But Saul’s respect for David quickly turned to disdain when Saul’s jealousy was inflamed by David’s continuing success and the people’s praises.
Saul, after flying into a rage, even tried to pin David to a wall with a spear. Verse 15 sums it up pretty well: And when Saul saw that he [David] had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him.
II. The Passage: “…Saul…knew…the Lord was with David…” (18:17-30)
So this morning, look with me at verses 17-30 of chapter 18. Let’s continue to see how this relationship between Saul, the rejected, but still public king, and David, the new, but still hidden king, how this relationship develops.
A. Get Him Wed to Get Him Dead: Part 1 (18:17-19)
Look first at verses 17-19:
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.” 18 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?” 19 But at the time when Merab, Saul's daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.
Now notice what's happening here. Saul is adjusting his tactics. He still wants David dead, but he's realized that trying to put a spear through David is probably not the most subtle method. One of the things Saul is concerned about is how the people will react if David dies and if Saul is connected with his death.
So what Saul realized is that there is an unresolved issue in terms of David's victory over Goliath. This is what we were told in chapter 17, verse 25:
And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father's house free in Israel.”
Now when it comes to David, it doesn't appear that Saul has made good on any of these promised rewards. But Saul figures out that one of these rewards might just work to his advantage. If he gives his daughter in marriage to David, he can 1) look like he is showing David favor (the people will like that), and 2) he will be able to obligate David to fighting consistently on the front lines; which, of course, means David is more likely to be killed by a Philistine spear, rather than Saul's.
But notice David's response. “Who am I...who am I, that I should be the king's son-in-law?” Even though he was a anointed by Samuel sometime in the recent past, he doesn't feel like he is suited to be part of the royal household.
So while David is reluctant, Merab is eventually given to another suitor, probably as a strategic move to solidify some political alliance. So Saul new, more sophisticated plan to 'off' David has failed.
B. Get Him Wed to Get Him Dead: Part 2 (18:20-25)
But look at verse 20:
Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, 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.” 22 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.’” 23 And Saul's servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “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?” 24 And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” 25 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.
So we read here that Saul finds out another one of his daughters, Michal, thinks David is the best thing since sliced unleavened bread. So he's got another chance to try this “Get him wed to get him dead” scheme. This time he wants to help David get past his hesitation, so he sends some of this servants to butter him up. “Oh David, Saul really thinks you're great. Everyone in the royal palace just loves you, man. You've got to become the king's son-in-law. There's no reason not to, David. Come on!”
But David gives the same kind of response in verse 23 that he gave before in verse 18. But this time he mentions his financial status: “I am a poor man”. Now the servants pick up on this and they go back to Saul with David's response. And Saul realizes that it may be that David's reluctance to accept Saul's offer may have a lot to do with David's inability to pay any kind of bride price.
But this plays beautifully into Saul's scheme. Instead of asking for money, Saul requires David, if David wants to marry Michal, he requires him to go on a suicide mission, and all in the name of national pride and royal vengance.
“Oh David, the only payment I expect is the mutilated flesh of 100 dead Philistines.” And as we see from verse 26, David actually thinks this is a good deal. Maybe, just maybe, Saul will get his wish.
C. Get Them Dead to Get Him Wed (18:26b, 27)
But look at what we read, starting in the final part of verse 26:
Before the time had expired, 27 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.
Do you what the scoreboard says? David: 200, Saul: 0.
Saul is the loser here. Not only is David not dead, but he has just strengthened his reputation as a national hero, AND he is now part of Saul's family. What is Saul going to have to do to get rid of this guy?
D. Philistines Dead, David Wed, and Saul in Dread (18:28-30)
Look at how the final three verses of this chapter sum it all up. Verse 28:
But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him, 29 Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David's enemy continually. 30 Then the princes 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.
So Saul has no change of heart about David. Even though his plans have failed, he will continue to look for a way to get rid of David. And as we see here in verse 30, David's star was continuing to rise.
III. Perspective: Present and Powerful to Act
Now this is an interesting story, isn't it? It's kind of like a Hebrew soap opera. Love. Fighting. Royal scheming.
But what are we to take away from this story? How does it, how should affect our lives? Maybe the moral of the story is if you are getting engaged, you should really get to know you're future father-in-law...ya know, just to play it safe.
But, of course, that's not why God chose to include this story in His precious word to us. No, the point of this story is summed up in verse 28: “But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David...”. That's it right there. That's the key to the whole thing. How do I know that? Well one reason is because this is the third time in this chapter the writer has told us that the Lord “was with” David. Look at verse 12. Look at verse 14.
Ever since we met David in chapter 16, everything we discover has been included to confirm this one point: God “was with” David!
And if we had time to search the whole Bible this morning, we would see that God being “with” people is emphasized time and time again in Scripture:
And God was with [Ishmael], (Genesis 21:20) So the Lord was with Joshua (Joshua 6:27). And the Lord was with Judah (Judges 1:19). The Lord was with the house of Joseph. (Judges 1:22) “Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge” (Judges 2:18). The Lord was with Samuel. (I Samuel 3:19) The Lord his God was with Solomon. (II Chronicles 1:1) The Lord his God was with King Asa. (II Chronicles 15:9) And the Lord was with Hezekiah. (II Kings 18:7) The Lord was with Jehoshaphat. (II Chronicles 17:3) The Lord was with John the Baptist. (Luke 1:66) The Lord was with the early Christians (Acts 11:21)
But what does this mean, and why is this phrase so important? If we believe what the Bible says about the omnipresence of God, that is, the fact that God is everywhere present at all times; that His presence fills the whole universe, then isn't God “with” all of us?
As we think about David here, why was “was with” so wonderful?
Let me give a fuller description of what these two words means in light of what the Bible teaches. “Was with” means that regardless of the setting or the circumstances, God is always present and powerful to act for our good. (2x)
One of the best places in the Bible to see this clearly is the story of Joseph in Genesis 39. Look at what read in this one chapter:
The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master… His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands… But [even though he was thrown in prison]the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. (Genesis 39: 2, 3, 21, 23)
Do you see how God's powerful presence is at work here for Joseph's good?
You see, it's one thing to say “I was at the mailbox and the mailman “was with” me.” Big deal, right? But those two words mean so much more when when you say, “As I sat by my grandmother's hospital bed, my husband “was with” me. OR it's not that meaningful when I say, “I was sitting on the couch and my wallet “was with” me. Who cares. But when I say, “I was walking down the back alley at night and my Rottweiler “was with” me” OR “I was climbing through the cave and my flashlight “was with” me”, those two words become critical.
God, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, “was with” David. For David's absolute good, God was always present and powerful to act, regardless of the setting or the circumstances.
Regardless of Saul's schemes, regardless of the Philistine forces, God was with David. And David knew it. He knew it. That's why he was willing to face the giant. That's why he battle the Philistines. That's why he paid the bride-price with Philistine foreskins. He knew God was with him. He says so in the most famous of all the Psalms:
God's people knew how precious this promise of God's special presence really was. They understood the greatness of what God said to His people through the prophet Isaiah:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
The writer's goal here is to confirm for his readers that David really is God's anointed. The evidence of God's special presence with him is absolutely clear. No matter what Saul does, he will not, he cannot change God's plan for David, because God is with him.
IV. Practice: Who or What is “With” You?
While none of us here this morning are being threatened by a royal scheme (at least none that I know of), we are threatened by sin that “so easily entangles” us, by the world that wants to press us into its mold, and by the Devil, who wants to drive us away from God. We are faced with fears, we are pressured by pain, we are shackled by shame, we are running from regret, we are coping with loss, we are enticed, we are overwhelmed, we are...tired.
In the face of such dangers, in the face of such burdens, who or what is “with” you?
For some it’s a ‘what’: money in the bank, a lucrative career, reputation, self-esteem, a sense of optimism that may or may not be connected to reality. These are just some of the things people hold onto in the face of life’s difficulties. For other people, it’s a ‘who’: a husband, a wife, a child, a parent, a friend, a therapist, a leader, someone they idolize.
But the problem with all of these things, with all of these people, is that it cannot be said with any degree of certainty or assurance that regardless of the setting or the circumstances, they will always be present and powerful to act for our good. Money is lost, careers come to an end, reputations become stained; people get sick, people make mistakes, people will fail us.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t rely on others, but it does mean they should not and cannot be our ultimate foundation. We need God “with” us; God who is unchanging, who is immovable, who is always good, who is perfectly loving, who is…in…control. Don’t you want God to be “with” you?
Our greatest problem is that, deep down, we don’t want God “with” us. We are crying out for a king, but we are always pushing the true King away because of our desire to stay on the throne. We want to be in charge. And like Saul we push and grab and scheme against and manipulate and wrong others as a demonstration that we’re in charge.
This morning, God wants to remind us, not why “was with” WAS so wonderful, but why “was with” IS so wonderful.
Most people will look at a person like David and say, “well, David was special…David was God’s anointed.” And that’s true. But if trace that word “anointed” through the rest of the Bible we will find that it comes to a place of amazing fullness. “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. He wasn’t from the Christ family, from the Christs of Nazareth. No, Christ is simply the Greek word for ‘messiah’, and messiah is how you say “anointed one” in Hebrew. Jesus Christ is Jesus the Anointed One.
But Jesus was not simply another king from David’s royal lineage. Remember what we saw last month, what we were reminded of before Jesus was even born: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
That was said about him at the beginning of his time on earth. This is what he said at the end of his time on earth:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20)
What must we do to have God “with us” through Jesus Christ? What can we do? All we can do is believe. All we can do is trust that we are sick and He alone has the cure. That we are blind, and He alone can open our eyes. That we are spiritually dead, and He alone can give us life.
And when that gift of faith is ours, and when we walk in faith, we can…we should draw great comfort from the undeniable fact that regardless of the setting or the circumstances, God is always present and powerful to act for our good.
Amen? Let’s pray that God will help us to obtain the promise of “God with us” if we have not done so already, and help us to live in light of this comforting, encouraging, empowering truth that because of Christ, God is truly “with us”. Let’s pray.