David in the Forest
James Smith, 1856
"And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David in the forest, and strengthened his hand in God." 1 Samuel 23:16
The Word of God is full of important instruction and choice consolation. It meets every case, and suits us in every condition. Go where we will, there is something for the soul, something upon which we can feed. But it is profitable not only by what it directly states — but also by what it suggests. If the mind is spiritual, if we are lively in the Lord's ways — we shall often see Jesus, when others see him not; and enjoy spiritual blessings while reading literal Bible histories. The history of David is especially profitable to the Lord's people. We have often found Jesus, while reading of David; and traced out Christian experience, while following him through his trials and troubles. Let us look at one incident in his story.
He was hated by Saul, pursued by the enemy, and betrayed by the Keilites. His life was in imminent danger, and he went for safety into a forest. "And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David in the forest, and strengthened his hand in God." We will,
First, look at David and his situation.David was typical of Jesus, of honored saints, and of the faithful servants of God. We will now consider him not as representing his Lord — but as typifying the true believer. His very name indicates his greatest privilege — he was beloved of God. The eye, and the heart of God, rested upon him with satisfaction and delight. His name was registered in Heaven, and his interests were in the hands of Jesus.
Just so, every believer is beloved of his God. God loves
him distinctly — personally — infinitely! He loves him with . . .
an everlasting love,
a love, the beginning of which can never be traced out, and which has no end,
a love as vast as infinity, as tender as the heart of Jesus, and as durable as eternity,
a love, which prefers its objects to everything beside, and never did, never will, never can part with one of them!
Oh, the honor, the happiness, of being beloved of God! But every Christian, the weakest, the poorest, the most infirm, is as really, as much beloved of God as David was!
David was appointed to the kingdom, he was chosen to this honor by God himself; and we, beloved, are appointed unto a kingdom too. As Jesus said to his disciples, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed me." Not a carnal kingdom — but a spiritual one, not an earthly kingdom — but a Heavenly kingdom. We shall be kings and priests unto God. And when the days of our pilgrimage are ended, when our work is finished, and our testimony completed — then Jesus will say unto us, "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Then the crown of righteousness will be awarded us, the crown of life will be bestowed upon us, and the crown of glory will adorn us forever.
David was consecrated with holy oil. It was taken from the tabernacle by Samuel, conveyed to Bethlehem, and there poured upon the young shepherd's head. That oil represented the Holy Spirit, in his gifts, graces, and operations. We have received no natural oil, no literal anointing — but we "have an anointing from the Holy One." "The anointing which we have received of him abides in us." Jesus has given unto us his Holy Spirit, and we have experienced his softening, soothing, and solacing influences in our souls. That Spirit is the down-payment of the inheritance. It is the proof that we are appointed to the kingdom. Brought from the holy place by Jesus, the gift of God, it has been poured, not upon our heads — but into our hearts, and there it abides and works.
David was hated and persecuted by Saul. And those who are born after the flesh, still persecute those who are born after the Spirit. Satan hates and persecutes all God's anointed ones. He always follows the oil, and begins to vent his malice and his rage; and just in proportion to the consistency of our course, the clearness of our testimony, and the usefulness of our lives — will be the strength of his opposition. "If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus — he shall suffer persecution." Poor persecuted Christian, cheer up; though hunted like a partridge upon the mountains — the kingdom is sure, the crown will be glorious, and the mansion grand and magnificent.
David was the friend of Jonathan, the king's son. Just so, we are the friends of Jesus, the Son of God. He calls us his friends, and shows himself friendly to us. Blessed Jesus, I had rather be your friend, than the conqueror of the globe, or king of kings!
The situation of David was trying. Driven from the city, he was obliged to hide in the forest. A forest indicates loneliness, perplexity, and privation; and this very aptly represents our state at times, in reference to providence and grace.
How many of the Lord's Davids are in the forest now, as it respects their temporal affairs! They are lonely, for they cannot open their hearts to anyone. They are perplexed, for they do not know what to do. They are in privation, pinched, pierced, and troubled, by claims they cannot meet, circumstances they cannot control, and needs they cannot supply. There they are startled by the roaring winds, the howling wolves, and the rocking trees. They feel alone, they are perplexed and troubled.
Just so in reference to grace — how many of the Lord's people are in the forest! They imagine that their experience is singular — no heart was ever so foul, no corruptions ever so black, no blasphemies ever so dreadful — as what work or sound in their souls. They feel so hard, so stupid, so prayerless — that they are sure no Christian is like them. They are in the forest! They do as Jeremiah said, "He sits alone and keeps silence, he puts his mouth in the dust." They are filled with perplexity, they dare not go back, they cannot go forward — but, like a person lost in a forest, they wander about — weary, forlorn, and wretched, coming back again to the old spot. They startle at every sound, and misinterpret every voice. There are no bright views, no cheering rays, no sweet flowers. They feel bewildered, like David in the forest. They suffer many privations, for they cannot enjoy the ordinances, they have no sweet fellowship with God, they can hold no satisfactory communion with the Saints; pinched with hunger, parched with thirst, and drenched with night dews, they sigh, groan, and grieve — but see no path, no way of deliverance, no friend; they are in the forest. We will now,
Secondly, notice Jonathan and his kindness. "And Jonathan, Saul's son arose, and went to David in the forest, and strengthened his hand in God." Jonathan, like Jesus, was the king's son, and David's best friend. Hidden from him, his heart still glowed with love to him, and he arose to go to him. He sought him, he found him, he strengthened him — his heart, his hand, in God's power, providence, promise, and protection. He strengthened him by reminding him of past achievements, by referring him to future prospects, by assuring him of safety, and by bringing forward the Lord's marvelous dealing with him.
Just so, Jesus, when his people are in the forest — comes to them. By his blessed Spirit, by some friend, or by his own sent ministers — he finds them out, and strengthens them. The heart is strengthened, and so the hand, which now lays hold afresh on God's gracious character, precious word, and covenant relations.
Outward circumstances may remain the same — a forest; but inward emotions and sensations are all changed. The soul can now rest upon divine power engaged for it, upon a special providence working on its behalf, upon the precious promises assuring it of deliverance and supplies, and upon God's faithful care, as its protection from all real evils. Faith becomes strong, hope lifts up its head, and confidence finds a center in God's glorious perfections.
One hour, one moment, with our spiritual Jonathan in the forest — turns the wilderness to Eden, and the forest itself into a delightful residence. O Jesus, whenever brought into a forest by your providence, or by your dealings with us in grace — come, come and visit us, and strengthen our hands in God!
When Jonathan comes, we are reminded of the past — we remember how we were delivered out of the jaws of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, how Goliath fell before our sling and stone — and we come to the happy conclusion, "He who has delivered, does deliver, and in him we trust, that he will yet deliver us."
We are referred to our future prospects, and beyond the forest we see the fields of waving corn, the silver brooks, the sunny plains, and goodly mountains, and the everlasting hills. We see the end of our doubts, fears, misgivings, sorrows, conflicts, privations, and sins. We have before us the rest that remains, the hope laid up for us in Heaven, the city that has foundations, and the house not made with hands. This mightily strengthens both hand and heart in God.
We are assured of safety, for God's promise is pledged, his host encamp around us, and his potent arm is raised us up to defend us. He will never leave us; but in forest or city, mountain or plain, in conflict or at peace, he will be with us to defend and secure us. We now remember the days of old, the years of ancient times. We call to remembrance our song in the night. We remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. These things soon dry up the cold damp dew, chase away our fears, silence the winds — and we see our way out of the forest clearly. We perceive that no temptation has taken us — but such as is common to man, and that God is faithful, who will with the temptation make a way for our escape, that we may be able to bear it. Blessed, forever blessed, be our condescending Savior, for coming to us in the forest, and strengthening our hands in God!
Now, beloved fellow-traveler, let us observe, first, that the way to the throne is through trial and dangers. David found it so. The apostles and martyrs found it so. All, more or less, have found it so; and so must we. It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God.
Secondly, the useful and honored will be sure to be hated and opposed. Every Christian has his foe; but the most useful, the most honored, will have a Saul — the King over all the children of pride. The chief foe will be his foe; and the bitterest malice of the prince of darkness will be vented at him.
Thirdly, God will be sure to raise up a friend in the hour of need. As sure as we are driven into the forest by Saul, so sure will Jonathan arise and come unto us, to strengthen our hand in God. When the three Hebrews were in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace — the Son of God was with them. When Daniel was cast into the den of lions — the Lord sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths. So, poor, tried, troubled, dejected, and perplexed believer — the Lord will raise up and send some faithful friend to you. He will deliver you in six troubles, and in seven shall no evil touch you.
Fourthly, whatever forest we may be in, Jonathan will find us out, come to us, and comfort us. He may send his servant — but he will come himself. He has said, "I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him, I will set him on high," on the throne, "because he has known my name."
Finally, through the forest of difficulty, danger, and perplexity — we pass to the kingdom. It seems a strange way to flesh and blood, and often, very often, we conclude that it is not the right. We imagine that we have missed the road. What! a road so lonely, covered with briers and thorns, where there are fiery flying serpents and scorpions, traps, snares, and pitfalls in every direction — is this the way to the kingdom? Yes, this is the way — walk in it.
But if you would walk in peace, in comfort, and with courage — you must "walk by faith, not by sight." You must travel by your map, for if you trust your eyes — your heart will faint, your courage will droop, and your enemy will gain an advantage over you.
Go on, my Christian brother, however lonely your road, however perplexing your path, however many your privations; remember you are in the forest now — but soon you will reach your kingdom, your crown, your palace; and then you will subscribe right heartily to the fact, that he led you forth by the right way, that you might go to a city of habitations!