1Sa_17:29. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
IT is impossible for any man so to conduct himself in this world, as to avoid censure: but it is desirable so to act, as not to deserve censure. The rule prescribed for us, in Scripture, is this: “Be ye blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world [Note: Php_2:15.].” Like our blessed Lord, we must expect to have our words and actions misconstrued by wicked men: but we should labour to be able to say, with him, “Which of you convinceth me of sin [Note: Joh_8:46.]?” The appeal which David makes to his indignant brother, in my text, is precisely that, which, when blamed by any one for an action that has offended him, we should be prepared to make: “What have I now done” that was deserving of blame? or what have I done, which was not called for by the circumstances in which I was placed?
Unfold to you David’s vindication of himself—Mark,
The blame imputed to him—
[He had been sent, by his father, to inquire after the welfare of his brethren; and he had executed his office with all practicable expedition [Note: ver. 20, 22.]. But, whilst David was conversing with his brethren, Goliath came in front of the Israelitish army, as he had done both morning and evening for forty successive days, to challenge any individual to single combat. David heard his impious defiance, not of Israel only, but of Israel’s God, and was filled with indignation against him: and, having heard what honours Saul had engaged to confer on any one who should encounter this giant, he expressed his willingness to undertake the task, and to risk his own life in defence of his king and country. Not that he conceived himself able to cope with this mighty man: but he knew that God was all-sufficient for those who should trust in him; and he doubted not, but that God would give him the victory over this insulting foe.
For this his brother Eliab severely reproved him, imputing his professed zeal to pride and vanity, and a desire to see the battle, which was at that very instant about to commence. He reflected on him, too, as having deserted his proper post, and as neglecting his proper duty; though he knew the end for which he had come thither, and by whom he had been sent.]
His vindication of himself—
[Lovely was the spirit of David on this occasion. He did not “render evil for evil, and railing for railing;” but, with meekness and modesty, and yet with a firmness expressive of conscious innocence, he appealed to all around him: “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” Have I manifested a grief of heart that my nation should be so insulted, and an indignation of mind that Jehovah himself should be thus defied? Have I expressed a willingness to expose my life in the service of my king, my country, and my God; and is evil to be imputed to me for this? Is there any thing in this deserving of blame? Besides, “Is there not a cause” for what I have said and done? Does not the insolence of this haughty champion call for it? Does not the dispirited state of my own countrymen require it? Does not, also, the honour of my God demand it? And is there any time to be lost? In the space of another hour this gigantic foe may be out of reach; or the battle may have begun; and the time for honouring my God, and benefiting my country, may be for ever lost? Why, then, am I to have all manner of evil imputed to me, for that which is in itself most commendable, and which the occasion so imperatively demands?]
David being undoubtedly an example to us in this matter, I shall,
Take occasion from it to vindicate those who stand forth as champions in the Christian cause—
They, in their place, must expect to incur censure from an ungodly world—
[Their conduct will be condemned, as unbecoming in persons of their age and station: it will be traced also to pride, and conceit, and vanity, as its real source: and it will be represented as an occasion and a plea for neglecting their proper business in life. The Christian that will serve his Lord and Master with fidelity, shall be sure to meet with some measure of the treatment to which the Saviour himself was subjected: “If they call the Master of the house Beelzebub,” let not those of his household hope that they shall be suffered to escape reproach. Even the friends and relatives of a Christian, and especially if he be young, will be among the first to vent their indignation against him: Why should he be singular, and venture to adopt a conduct not sanctioned by his superiors? Why should he, by his indiscreet forwardness, cast a reflection upon all his brethren as wanting in zeal? Why does he not content himself with discharging his own proper duties, without interfering in matters that are too high for him? What can actuate him in all this, but a vain desire of distinction, or an hypocritical pretension to qualities which he does not possess? In this way shall not his actions only, but his motives also, be judged by those who have not the courage or the piety to follow his example.]
But the faithful Christian may adopt the very appeal which David made to those who censured him—
[“What have I now done,” that calls for this reproof? to be condemned for manifesting a love to God, and a desire to wipe away the reproach that is cast on Israel? When I see the great adversary of God and man exulting in his might, and putting to flight all the armies of Israel, is it wrong in me to enter the lists against him, and to enroll myself as a soldier of Jesus Christ, to maintain his cause? What, if I be weak and incompetent to the task, is it any evil to confide in God, and to believe that he will “perfect his strength in my weakness?” Methinks, in an undertaking like this, I should meet with encouragement rather than reproof: for in all that I do, in fighting the Lord’s battles, I do only what is the duty of every living man, whether he be old or young, and whether he be rich or poor.
I ask too, “Is there not a cause” for all that I have done? Does not the great enemy of God and man carry, as it were, all before him? Is there not a want of bold and intrepid soldiers to face him? Do not even the armies of God’s Israel need to be encouraged by some bright example? Does not the king of Israel, by “exceeding great and precious promises,” call us to the conflict? and will not the honour that he will award to us be a rich recompence for our utmost exertions? As for David, he might have been preserved, though all his brethren had perished: but who shall live, if he forbear to fight the good fight of faith? Surely, if God’s honour be impugned; if his enemies triumph; if we, in our very baptism, engaged ourselves to be soldiers of Jesus Christ, and to fight under his banners; if there be no safety for us but in fighting; and if eternal happiness depend on our maintaining the conflict till we have gained the victory; then “is there a cause” for our most strenuous efforts; and all blame must attach, not to us, who fight, but to those who decline, and discountenance, the combat.]
Let none be discouraged from engaging in the service of Christ—
[You must expect to “endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” and that your greatest foes will be those of your own household. You know that a martial spirit is infused with care into the minds of those who enlist into the armies of an earthly prince: and shall not the same pervade those who have undertaken to fight the Lord’s battles? I say then to all of you, Offer yourselves as volunteers in His service: fear no danger to which you may be exposed: and rely altogether upon Him who has called you to this warfare. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might:” and fear not but that you shall be “more than conquerors, through Him who loved you.”]
In maintaining your steadfastness, look well to your own spirit—
[Persons do harm when they vindicate themselves in an unbecoming temper and spirit. We are to “instruct in meekness them that oppose themselves.” “A soft answer turneth away wrath [Note: Pro_15:1.]:” and “he who ruleth well his own spirit, is greater than he who taketh a city [Note: Pro_25:28.].” It is impossible not to admire the spirit of David on this occasion: let it be transfused into your minds; and, “instead of being overcome of evil, learn, under the most trying circumstances, to overcome evil with good.”]