As unfortunate Saul opposes God’s purposes, David’s fortunes rise because God is with him.
1 Samuel 18:17-30
17 Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!”
18 But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 19 So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.
20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”
22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’”
23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.”
24 When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, 25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.
26 When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed,27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.
28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.
30 The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known.
In this part of the story, Saul makes two attempts to bring down David. But David escapes
because the Lord is with him (v 28).
First of all, Saul tells David that he can marry his daughter Merab IF he fights in Saul’s army. David has actually earned his right to a royal marriage already—in 17:25, we learned that Saul promised to give his daughter in marriage to whomever killed Goliath. But now Saul places a new condition on the marriage; his plan is to get David killed in battle with the Philistines.
David deflects the offer. So Saul tries again, this time with his daughter Michal. Apparently he doesn’t jump at the the chance to marry her either, because Saul gets his servants to go and talk to him. It sounds like he needed convincing. David protests that he is poor and little known.
Saul uses this to create a second opportunity to get rid of David. Instead of a traditional bride-price for Michal, he ‘just’ wants 100 Philistine foreskins. It’s like saying, “all I need you to bring me is a dragon’s head.” David is supposed to die doing this.
But he doesn’t, because God is with him. He and his men complete the mission twice over—Saul’s plan has backfired. David is in the royal family, and Saul is left holding a bag of foreskins.
With God in his corner, David becomes the most successful officer in Saul’s army. He goes from being little known (v 23) to well known (v 30). As Saul becomes increasingly jealous and bitter, and begins to fall out of favour with even his own family, David’s popularity and prestige are on the rise.
Throughout his lifetime, David’s fortunes will rise and fall. He’ll have more challenging circumstances to overcome before he takes hold of the throne that God has prepared for him. And when he does become king, he’ll have great moments and terrible moments—later in life, he’ll fall as low as adultery and murder. But he’ll still be remembered as the greatest king in Israel’s history, not because of his own greatness, but because God chose to make him so, and God remains with him through it all. In David, God painted a picture of what it would look like for God’s people to live with God’s great king on the throne. David’s success was due to God’s favour, and his failures were covered by God’s merciful love.
David did many good things, but he was far from a perfect king, or a perfect man. Jesus is both a perfect king and a perfect human. As people who belong to him, we’re called to follow and worship him as king, and imitate him as people.
Just before he went to the cross, Jesus promised his disciples that God would always be with them—through the Holy Spirit, who would live in them. ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.’ (John 14:16-20)
Like David, we’re not perfect—and our fortunes will rise and fall too. But if we belong to Jesus, he lives in us by his Spirit. We have God’s promise that he will be with us through it all.
God has promised to be with his people always—even when it doesn’t feel like it. When we find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances, what reasons do we have to be confident that God is with us? (These passages might help: Psalm 139, John 1:14,18, Matthew 18:19-20, Romans 8:18-39, Hebrews 10:19-23, Revelation 21:3-4)
In this story, Saul is fearful and jealous, grasping for control with his own increasingly desperate plans. David is wary of Saul, but careful and calculated, and ultimately confident in the moves he makes, knowing that God is with him. Who do you see yourself in more—David, or Saul? Is there anything you need to repent of here?
What are some things you can do regularly to remain close to God, and remind yourself that he is with you?
Our Lord, God the Father – if we belong to Jesus, we know that you are with us. And so we know that we are ultimately assured of good fortune, in the shape of victory over sin and death, and safety from your judgement. In life, when our circumstances rise and fall, help us to cling to your promise that you will be with us through it all. Remind us of David, who enjoyed good fortune in accordance with your plans, who looked to you for help when his enemies were after him, and cried out to you for mercy when he had sinned and fallen to his lowest. Rescue us as you rescued him, and as you rescued Jesus from the cross to enthrone him as our eternal king. Please be with us, by your Spirit, until we are with you in eternity. Amen.
A song to listen to: May the Mind