King to be and Mentor Separate for the Last Time
They say that “all good things must come to an end.” I don’t really believe that. It only applies in certain circumstances. Unfortunately this watering hole for the future king of Israel was about to dry up. Nothing at all to do with Samuel or David. Everything to do with demonised king Saul.
“And it was told Saul, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.” The king’s network of informers finally got the news to him. Just down the road from Gibeah to Rama was the young man he wanted dead. David had not left in cowardice. He had gone with full knowledge that this difference between him and the king could conceivably split the nation.
Saul’s fear and trepidation re Samuel overwhelmed him, and prevented him from going himself to see Samuel. Saul was surely becoming aware, now that David – his character and calling, had been out in the public domain for several years, that David was a prime candidate as his successor. However, I am not sure it is possible that he knew that Samuel had anointed David to be king to succeed him. Whatever Saul’s state of intelligence on the matter, he had thoughts of murder no matter what. David had to die.
“Saul sent messengers to take David.” I believe Saul was just downright afraid to go himself. Any visible sighting or eye contact with Samuel might entice the prophet to damn him further. Saul would undoubtedly have, for the rest of his life, the sound of Samuel’s voice echoing in his sub conscious that, “The Lord has torn the kingdom from you and given it to somebody better.” Oh the regrets and the torturous thoughts of, “If only I had not done that!”, or “If only I had done it another way!”
Saul’s anxiety was such that he sent others to get hold of David and bring him back to Gibeah. However, something quite remarkable was taking place in Naioth. It was Samuel’s main centre for the schools of the prophets that he had instituted. One cannot help but get the impression that the inspired music, dancing and resulting nabism (the manifestation of prophets and prophecy) were long term items of activity at Naioth, as was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of prospective prophets also, commonly manifesting in and upon anybody who happened to be passing. It is as if the Spirit of God filled the very air around Naioth as the worshipped and danced, and anybody who breathed the atmosphere (perhaps I should say “spiritual stratosphere”)around Samuel and his music were mugged by the very blessing and power of the “Spirit of prophecy,” and thus they prophesied animatedly. It was a phenomena.
We are not told of the contents of the prophetic utterances delivered in and around Samuel’s schools of the prophets, but we can be sure that it was full of deliberations and declarations concerning God’s heart and mind concerning the nation of Israel, it’s kings, both present and future, and the mind of God about it all.
The messengers of the king, probably soldiers, drew near to Naioth, and before speaking to either Samuel or David, they caught a glimpse of a group of young men, with Samuel sat over them as the head of the “school,” overseeing the apprentices in their prophetic dancing, music, singing and prophetic declarations. “When they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul and they also prophesied”. It was as if God Himself was preventing Saul’s messengers from getting their hands on David. Perhaps they prophesied themselves about who was to be the future king of Israel, or the fact that Saul’s kingdom was torn from him. It was a remarkable occurrence. We are not told whether or not Saul’s messengers caught a glimpse of David.
How long it took these messengers to “recover” from what happened we are not told. Perhaps they finally “sobered” up and returned to Saul, without David. If they did return to the king, I am sure Saul would have remembered when a similar thing had happened to himself the same day Samuel had anointed him. Would his experience of being like a drunkard under the power and influence of God’s Spirit have caused him to excuse the messengers for their unsuccessful visit and their otherwise, “unlikely,” story of why they neither spoke to David or Samuel, nor returned with the son of Jesse. I am convinced that they did not even return to the king at all. My thoughts are, that having been overcome by the Spirit of God, they would have heard each other (if not themselves) prophesying certain relevant things about the issues that were enveloping Israel at this time. Saul’s kingship for one, the rise of David as another. Having “tasted the power of the world to come” in such a glorious manner, my opinion is, they asked Samuel if they could stay and become part of the prophetic guild.
Whatever the truth of the matter was, we have one of those strange repetitive items that arises in several biblical accounts. “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”. “When it was told Saul”, suggests clearly that it was not the messengers that told him. Saul’s response to the situation strikes the reader that he did not know what had happened to his first group. Otherwise, why send a second group? And then there was the same situation with the second group. What was the logic of sending a third group of messengers? Unless, of course, they had not returned. He had heard that they had prophesied. He wanted to retrieve his servants. He must have been annoyed and frustrated that, as king, even his simplest and plainest orders were not being obeyed. It must have been intensely annoying that the man who had declared that his kingdom was torn from him, was now, by the same Holy Spirit that had torn the kingdom, tearing away his own servants while attempting to obey his monarchical commands. Perhaps he did not see it as God tearing his crown from him. Perhaps he simply thought it was Samuel having a pique of temper.
Perhaps he thought the story he was told was a deception. After all, Saul was beginning to descend into fits of psychosis and neurosis. Three sets of trusty servants, to manhandle, arrest and return with David. Three failures. Could allhis servants be trying to deceive their master?
Whatever Saul was thinking, we are told nothing excepting that finally, “Saul himself went to Ramah”. The king decides to expedite the whole thing himself. Nothing will stop him. He had decided to overcome his fear of Samuel and to just ride in to Naioth and snatch David from Samuel’s influence. He undoubtedly took a group of soldiers with him. Between Gibeah and Ramah he “came to a great well that is in Secu.” This is a completely unknown location. The well, at Secu must have been well populated at whatever time of day it was that Saul arrived. And so,“He asked, Where are Samuel and David? And he was told, “They are at Naioth in Ramah.” So he went on to Naioth in Ramah, and the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went on, he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.” He had further evidence that David was definitely at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came upon him, as He had done to his own messengers.This meant that his mind and heart was otherwise too occupied by the glorious breath of the Spirit of God, to bother about David. For the last time in scripture, we hear that king Saul submitted to the hand of God upon him.
The scripture is graphic. Saul enters Naioth declaring the plan and purposes of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit to prophesy, possibly words that were to his own detriment. The king approaches the home of the old prophet, “uncontrollably” making statements before that must have been heard by all at Ramah and within the Naioth. He could not have actually seen Samuel, or David. The day that Samuel told Saul that the kingdom was torn from him, the scripture states that Samuel did not see Saul again until the day Saul died. And that meeting was in no way a natural meeting, it was after Samuel’s death. Saul came for David, yet saw neither Samuel nor David. What kind of anointing was it that clothed Samuel, that induced such responses from people? Saul then, “took off his royal robes and continued to prophesy before Samuel. He lay down stripped thus all that day and night.”
There must have been, from the anointing of the Spirit that rested on Samuel, what I can only explain as a contagious influence built up and developed through years of faithful preaching, praying and prophesying. Samuel had worked and exercised the muscles of his anointing for a lifetime. The commission on the life of Samuel the prophet was to set forth the Divine Oracles; to speak to the people of Israel the word which proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord, and to lead them out of the darkness of the days of the Judges, into a bright new future. In the case of the prophetic utterances of Samuel, this word was derived from immediate intelligent inspiration from heaven, received by what seemed like man to man conversations with God. So wonderful! So sublime!
Both the messengers of Saul, and Saul himself, were constrained by a strange and irresistible impulse of the Holy Spirit to prophesy as they fell before the anointing of Samuel that seemed to pervade the air at the Naioth. In this seizure and ecstasy of mind, Saul, previously bent on the prosecution of a hostile purpose, stopped and indulged God himself in receiving words from heaven that needed to be heard by all that were around in the Naioth. There was, no doubt, something miraculous, something that must not be confounded with the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit taking place. The picture is almost surreal. It is not only wonderful to read about in the scripture, it was wonderful for the recipients of the phenomena. Men said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” The basic character of spirituality, sadly now, sat strangely and unwontedly upon this furious and worldly prince. So marvellous in men’s eyes was the transformation in this kind of visitation, that “Saul among the prophets” passed into a proverb of awe. The man who had come with murder at the top of his agenda, was lying naked and prostrate a whole day and night declaring words from God. Don’t be confused by it. Just stand in amazement at God’s grace.
In the case of the messengers, we are distinctly informed that it was not until they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as appointed over them, that they also prophesied. What sight is so infectious, if we may be allowed to use the term, as that of a congregation of persons joyfully musically assembled for Divine worship, and joining, as with one heart and one tongue, in the sacred exercises of praise? When we see the company of the prophets prophesying, and our “Samuel” standing as appointed over us, the Spirit of God is upon us, and we also prophesy. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. The Master Himself said that, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” The parallels and the lesson is unmissable.
It must have been an incredible sight. The king of Israel stripping off his royal robes, lying on the floor and prophesying for such a prolonged period of time. Samuel must have been laughing all the way through the episode. Perhaps the prophet watched from a slit in the window of his home. I wonder what David was doing? Secretly watching the scene with Samuel? The other prophets in the school had ceased in their supernatural declarations and gone to bed – perhaps. Yet the king of Israel was lying alone all night prophesying of things beyond his own natural knowledge. I cannot help but wonder what he spoke of.
David must have wondered what Saul would do to Samuel if and when he “recovered” from his Divine spiritual invasion. Under normal situations it might have been understandable to reckon that this visitation of grace on King Saul would soften his attitude towards David. Whether Samuel or David entertained the same thought we are simply not told. We know nothing of any dialogue between Samuel and David while this strange occurrence took place. We understand that Saul initially fell in the courts of, or the community square in the Naioth as he prophesied. We are not told that Saul’s messengers, or Saul himself, even caught a glimpse of David at the Naioth, we know for sure that he did not see Samuel.
I believe that both David’s and Samuel’s opinion was that Saul was not going to change his attitude, even though he had seemingly been immersed into the blessing of the Spirit of God along with the whole school of the prophets.
For Samuel’s sake, and for everybody else’s sake that lived at Ramah, because of the unstable character of Saul, and to keep people safe from his anger and murderous spirit, David took the kingly decision. He knew he had to simply disappear. He must not allow Saul to see him. He must say,”Farewell,” to father Samuel. Oh the pain! Oh the chagrin! Perhaps they embraced. Perhaps there were tears. Perhaps nothing was said. Two kingly spirits such as Samuel and David would have known it was the right thing to do.
David packed whatever was the equivalent of a rucksack 1,000 years BC, and fled Ramah, just as he had fled his marital home.
1 Samuel 20:1 simply tells us, “David left Ramah.” David left in the dark of the night, aptly symbolic of the dark years that were to follow him. Samuel was left in the brightness of his home, possibly peeking through his window at a lost king prophesying into the darkness. Perhaps it is possible that David left without a word, leaving Samuel not even knowing that for his very life’s sake, the son of Jesse had left.
Whichever picture you choose, that picture of Samuel is the very last image we have of him alive in the scripture.
Samuel continued on with his school of the prophets till the day he died. He probably sent Gad to accompany David before he passed away.
It was truly the last few days of Samuel’s life. David would emerge out of the darkness and death of persecution into the glorious resurrection of kingship. But that was years away in the future.
David and Samuel never met again in their lifetime.