From 1 Samuel 18-20
In today’s passage Saul sends several teams of men to capture David. But each time they encounter a group of prophets. They end up joining them in prophesying. What the prophets are preaching overcomes everyone Saul sends. Saul’s messengers may not even have come back. The more he sends, the more get caught up in prophesy.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Following the LORD’s rejection of Saul, Samuel is told to go and anoint David as the next king. Saul is still in power, so we can expect increasing hostility between the two. Yet despite this initially David enters into Saul’s service (1 Sam 16.1-23).
Israel continues to be plagued by the Philistines. During one such confrontation David wins a significant battle against Goliath the giant (1 Sam 17.1-58). Jonathan, another who the LORD has used to win battles against the Philistines, and David become loyal friends (1 Sam 18.1-5).
In an attempt to get rid of David, Saul offers to give him his daughter Michal as wife in return for one hundred Philistine foreskins. The Philistines are not likely to submit willingly to this so David is likely to get into a fight and probably die. But Saul’s plan backfires and they get married when David happily obliges Saul killing many of Israels enemies (1 Sam 18.17-30).
Our passage picks up with increasing hostility between Saul and David. Saul wants to kill David because he is jealous, David cannot kill Saul because Saul is the LORD’s anointed king.
8 And there was war again. And David went out and fought with the Philistines and struck them with a great blow, so that they fled before him. 9 Then a harmful spirit from the LORD came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre. 10 And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night. (1 Sam 19:8–10)
David has taken up the role of protecting Israel from the Philistines. These early battles give him valuable experience for a life of war. They also give him increasing amounts of credibility among the people of Israel. Unfortunately the more David serves, the more Saul gets jealous. With the increasing tension between Saul and David its apparent David will not be able to continue in Saul’s service.
11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. 13 Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. 14 And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” 15 Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” 16 And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go. Why should I kill you?’ ” (1 Sam 19:11-17)
The scene is almost comic. Michal sets up a dummy in David’s bed, but as soon as they come in the gag is revealed.
18 Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. 19 And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.” 20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. (1 Sam 19:18-20)
David rejoins Samuel. Eventually Saul finds out where David is and he sends people to bring David back. But they meet a company of prophets. What do these prophets preach? Prophecy normally concerns the prediction of future events and the word of the LORD. The text does not tell us much about what they say, but it shouldn’t be to too much of a stretch to assume they speak about what the LORD is doing in David, the kingdom and calling the people to remain faithful to the LORD. The Spirit is working in these prophets and the messengers are overcome. They too get caught up in prophesy.
21 When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. (1 Sam 19:21)
Notice a pattern here. Whatever the prophets are preaching overcomes everyone Saul sends. Saul’s messengers may not even have come back. The more he sends, the more get caught up in prophesy.
22 Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” 23 And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24 And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam 19:22–24)
Until finally, Saul himself is overcome. Powerful words, powerful Spirit.
This is not an isolated incident regarding the Spirits ability to get people to speak. The prophet Jeremiah once confessed what it was like to have the word of the LORD in him.
8 For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
9 If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot. (Jer 20:8–9)
In his situation, he was pronouncing judgment on unfaithful Israel. Not easy words to share, but the Spirit burned within him. Forcing him to speak.
Story of Jesus
The same thing happens following Jesus death and resurrection. The apostles cannot but speak about Jesus.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:8-12,18–20)
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