1 SAMUEL 23
11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Yahweh Elohim of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And Yahweh said, He will come down.
12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And Yahweh said, They will deliver thee up.
According to some popular conceptions on the subject, the answer "He (Saul) will come down," was the inflexible fiat of destiny which nothing in heaven or earth could interfere with. People in general would treat it as an absolute statement-that the coming down of Saul was a matter of fixed futurity-whereas it is evident that like many statements we hear, it contained an unexpressed condition, taken for granted as a matter of course. "He will come down"-if you stay here. "The men of Keilah will deliver you up"-if they have the chance.
There is more than one illustration of this in the scriptures.
"Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed;"
Jonah was made to say: but the Ninevites humbled themselves, and Nineveh was not destroyed at the end of forty days, though Jonah patiently waited out the time to see the event. An unexpressed condition was bound up in the proclamation:
"Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed"-if they repent not.
So in Paul's shipwreck (Acts 27), though angelically assured of the safety of every man in the ship (22-24), Paul told the centurion that if the sailors deserted the ship, the lives of the rest could not be saved (31); from which it follows that Paul understood the divine intimation that he had to be subject to the employment of the right means:
"God hath given thee all them that sail with thee"-if proper measures be adopted.
This association of implied condition with apparently positive statement is expressly enunciated in Jeremiah 18:7:
"At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."
Ways of Providence.
22 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.
David s life certainly justified this report. He was distinguished by a ready resort to shift and ingenuity and stratagem, for the accomplishment of his ends. The lesson of this lies here David's reliance on God did not, in David's estimation, release David from the use of what means and measures were at his disposal for the bringing about of what he might desire. And David, be it ever remembered, was
" a man after God's own heart.'
Furthermore, David's contribution to the achievement of results by the exercise of personal vigilance and wisdom did not, in David s estimation, in the least interfere with his indebtedness to God for those results whence there arises an obvious teaching of wisdom. First, if a man is indolent and supine because he trusts God, he is not making an enlightened use of his trust, because he is neglecting a part of the plan of wisdom, and he may have to learn his folly in the sharp thrusts of adversity.
God is one in all His ways, and while He asks us to lean on Him, He desires us to employ to the full the means placed in our hands for the accomplishment of what is needful.
'...It may be thought that David's resort to " subtlety ' detracts somewhat from the dignity that always attaches to simplicity and directness of procedure. This impression will be dissipated on a consideration of the means employed in the light of the objects aimed at. These may be discerned at a glance in Christ's exhortation to his disciples, to be
"wise as serpents, harmless as doves."
This was the character of all David's movements.
He was a merciful and just man. He did not scheme for other people's destruction as Saul did; he schemed only for his own extrication from evil, and in this he employed " subtlety," or serpentness. Both Jesus and Paul have exemplified the same thing. When the Scribes and Pharisees sought to entangle Jesus in an avowal which would have given them a ground of action against him, he created a pretext for refusal to answer them by an adroit question about John s baptism (Luke xx. i, 8) , and in another case, by a question about a penny which left the principle in quest on untouched -(Luke xx. 24, 26 ). So Paul, when he perceived that his enemies could be divided by a party cry, proclaimed himself a Pharisee.
Guileless artifice in fending off the assaults of evil is not inconsistent with the state of mind which God esteems righteous. Honour and truth are not sacrificed by measures designed only to catch a fish or scare a beast of prey. It is the wolf in sheep's clothing that is to be execrated. A sheep may don the wolf skin occasionally without the same subversion of principle. The Lamb of God as the Lion of the tribe of Judah will be the true benefactor of mankind, though the world at first will tremble at his roars.
Ways of Providence Ch 15.