Sermon preached on 1 Samuel 16:1-13 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 5/17/2015 in Novato, CA.
1 Samuel 18 17-30
“The King’s Son-In-Law ”
Being two-faced to someone is when you act like you are a friend when really you are there enemy. King Saul is two-faced here to David. Saul seems to have duplicity in every move he makes toward David in this passage. In contrast, we see the genuineness of David’s actions, and the commendableness of those actions. Saul has given the impression of showing kindness to David, but really Saul has set David as an enemy in his own mind. David on the other hand, seems to only deal kindly with Saul in every respect, and with all respect. And so today’s passage continues to show the heightening tension between Saul and David. Saul is that king rejected by God, and David is the choice of God for his king. Today’s passage continues to show how God worked in history to ultimately bring David to the throne. But as David is on the rise, we see Saul’s continued downward spiral morally in his two-faced actions here.
Let us begin then by considering Saul’s evil duplicity in this passage. Here, King Saul presents two opportunities for David to marry one of his daughters. The first is in verse 17 with Merab. Now what is interesting, is that presumably this should have already taken place. What I mean is that Saul had already made the promise to give his daughter in marriage to whomever defeated Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25). That has not yet happened by the time you get to today’s passage. And so it’s a bit strange that Saul then in verse 17 does finally offer David to marry his daughter Merab, but it seems conditioned on David’s further military service. And yet verse 17 reveals his duplicity; look there at the end. “For Saul thought, ‘Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.'” Saul’s condition for David to marry Merab is because secretly he is hoping that it will result in David’s being killed. Saul is willing to give his daughter in marriage to David, only if he’ll keep on fighting in the military, and thus hopefully get killed in battle.
Well, David didn’t end up marrying Merab. David replies with a rather humble response, and the next thing you know, Saul is giving Merab to someone else to marry. But then the same sort of thing ends up happening again. We learn in verse 20 that Michal, another daughter of Saul, has come to love David. There it says that when Saul hears that Michal loved David, that the thing pleased him. And yet sadly we see why it pleased him in the next verse. It wasn’t that Saul was happy that his daughter had fallen for such a godly man. Surely that would have been a good response by Saul. No, Saul is pleased with her love because of how he thinks he can use it for his evil ends. In verse 21 Saul hopes he can use Michael to be a snare to David. Saul then sees this as a similar, but new, opportunity to try again to get David killed by the hand of the Philistines. And so as we read on, Saul’s plan at this second marriage possibility is more elaborate. Saul again approaches David to offer his daughter in marriage. David again replies with humility, noting his poverty. And then this time Saul provides a way that David could give a suitable customary bride price despite his poverty. Saul says he can bring proof of destroying one hundred Philistines as his bride price, instead of some monetary gift. But this was all part of Saul’s duplicity. Because again, we read this in verse 25, “But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.”
And so Saul twice in similar ways treats David in a two-faced way. To David he gives the impression of favor and kindness to have him become his son-in-law. Saul sets ups these military requirements for David as a rather godly sounding thing to do. With Merab in verse 17, he says that this would be fighting the Lord’s battles. And with Michal in verse 25, Saul says that David would be helping him take vengeance on the king’s enemies. So, what Saul presents to David sounds like this loving gesture to make David his son-in-law, and David is given a very honorable way to secure this position through opportunity to serve God and king. To David, Saul acted so kind and loving toward him. But in Saul’s evil heart, he had a secret agenda. He was seeking through these arrangements for David to die without Saul having to do the physical dirty work himself. I wonder if Saul deceived himself here, thinking that that if David died this way, that he wouldn’t be guilty of David’s death? But, of course, he would have been.
Well, Proverbs 14:8 says that “the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.” That proverb suggests that it’s the morally foolish people who practice deceitfulness, but in the end they’ve fooled themselves. That’s certainly the case here with Saul. Saul is completely unsuccessful here in his two-faced efforts to get rid of David. Saul shows such folly here. It’s the folly of lies, and it’s the folly of thinking you can thwart God’s will. After all his evil scheming, David is not only still alive, but he is now his son-in-law. If Saul was concerned that David might be a rival to the throne, Saul has just given David much greater legitimacy to one day take the throne. David is now part of the royal family by marriage. So when, all was said and done, we see Saul’s reaction in verse 29. He’s yet even more afraid of David and all the more hardened against him. And so Saul was repeatedly and increasingly setting himself as David’s enemy.
This is a lesson that should be obvious, and yet us humans seems to make this mistake so often. The foolishness of such duplicity and of such efforts to thwart God’s wills. Sometimes such things appear to succeed for a time. And yet lies and deception time and again do back fire on you. And no one will ultimately be able to stop God’s plans. And yet Saul still tried. Even though he knew Samuel had prophesied that God was bringing up a king to replace him. Even though Saul had begun to discern that this was David. Still, in folly of follies, Saul thought he could scheme his way to defeat God. That’s the irony here. By Saul being two-faced to David, he thinks he can trick David and defeat him. And yet that means that Saul is ultimately trying to defeat God. But if David was tricked by Saul’s duplicity, certainly God will not be. You can sometimes get away with being two-faced among humans. Sometimes you can pull off such duplicity. But even if the human you trick doesn’t know it, God always does. So you never really get away with it. God always knows. And God’s will always has the ultimate victory in it all. Saul was so foolish.
Yet Saul’s strategy, as foolish as it ultimately was, is so similar to Satan’s strategy that we see throughout the Bible. Satan is that crafty Father of Lies who masquerades as an angel of light when really he is prowling around like a roaring lion looking to devour us. Again, think about how see that here. When Saul tried to deceive David, Saul presents to him things that would naturally be good. In general, it would be good to serve your king, and to be brought into the king’s family. Saul especially makes his offers sound religious when he talks about fighting the Lord’s battle. But Saul was being two-faced. He had evil ulterior motives. And so we see such duplicity here at work in the church under the Old Testament, even at the highest levels of leadership. And the reason I bring up Satan then, is to realize that this same strategy continues today. People within the church today, even leaders, can put on a good front. They can become experts at making people think they are leading in good, godly, ways, while really they have hidden, evil, agendas. I mean, look even at those so-called Christian churches today that no longer teach the biblical gospel. They teach some other doctrine (i.e. prosperity gospel, or modernist churches, etc). But most of them still open up the Bible and read from it and quote it. Most of them still use Christian language and terminology. They don’t usually come out and say they don’t use the Bible or that they don’t teach the gospel. Rather, they often say things that are correct in and of themselves. Just like Saul told David that he’d be fighting the Lord’s battles. But we must be on guard and on the alert for truth.
Duplicity among leadership in the church can be extremely difficult to tell. It’s hard to tell, because we don’t know people’s hearts. We got a chance to see Saul’s heart here when we were told how pleased he was to take advantage of his daughter’s love for David. In other words, he was delighting in the evil he was secretly planning to do. But David didn’t know this at the time. And we can’t see people’s hearts. And we should certainly not assume people’s hearts. We shouldn’t impugn people’s motives or try to guess a hidden agenda based on your intuition. No, love believes our brothers. And yet, we should be discerning and watch for the fruit. For Jesus said, you’ll know such people by their fruit, Matthew 7:20.
Well, I’d like to turn next to notice David’s commendable actions through this all. We see his commendable conduct through how he conducts himself with the proposed marriages and in the exercising of some military might. First, notice the contrast with Saul. While Saul is two-faced, I guess you could call David single-faced. He speaks and acts in a consistent way, and there is no hint of hidden agendas. In the face of the two marriage proposals, he clearly shows great respect for Saul in his answer. His replies to both proposals are humble replies. He essentially asks the question of how could he be worthy to become the king’s son-in-law. Such a question is not only expressing humility, but it’s honoring the king. Saul is afraid of David trying to steal his throne, and yet David has repeatedly shown the exact opposite of such motivations. Instead of trying to subvert Saul’s leadership, he seems to be a faithful servant and respects and honors the king.
And so we see that in David’s actions. When the king asks him to fight against the Philistines, then that’s exactly what David does. He knows that the Philistines are the enemies of both God and King Saul. And so before today’s passage David was out there doing battle with the Philistines. Not only with Goliath, but the first half of this chapter showed David serving as military captain, successfully leading the people in victory. And our chapter ends with a reference in verse 30 to the great and repeated military success that David was having against the princes of the Philistines. And of course you have to love that when David was asked to take out 100 Philistines for the bride price for Michal, he comes back with 200 instead. So, David shows great military might, and goes above and beyond the duty. Of course, we know why he can have such success. Verse 28, because the Lord was with him.
And so we can also see David’s commendable conduct in how he values the idea of being married to one of Saul’s daughters. Look at verse 26. When David learns of Saul’s proposal for the bride price for Michal, it says this: “It pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law.” The language there is in direct contrast with what we saw of Saul in verse 20. Faced with Michal’s love for David, Saul was pleased because he could use it for his duplicitous ends. But David faced with the prospect of marrying Michal, was pleased because he could become the king’s son-in-law. In other words, David honors his king, in seeing the great value of being the king’s son-in-law.
And so even though Saul has this evil agenda in all this, David shows love and kindness and honor to Saul. Saul has secretly set himself as an enemy to David. But David has not set himself as an enemy to Saul. Rather, quite the opposite; he shows great loyalty and honor to King Saul. And so there is a lot of interesting tension in this story. On the one hand David, as a type of Christ, destroys many enemies of God’s people. And yet David, also as a type of Christ, shows kindness to this person who would be his enemy. The irony is found in Saul’s own words, when in verse 25 Saul asks David to take vengeance on his enemies, in order to become his son-in-law. Yet, Saul has made David his enemy! And so David takes vengeance on those enemies of Saul, only to effectively himself become a greater enemy to Saul. Yet, David has sought to show genuine love to King Saul.
Why does David show such kindness to Saul despite all his duplicity? If Saul has made him his enemy, why does he still show such kindness? We know that David is quick to destroy these other enemies — the Philistines? But instead with Saul he shows great love. Why does David treat one enemy one way, and another enemy, another way? Well, a couple things could be noted. First, at this point, David probably didn’t know of Saul’s duplicity. In other words, David probably didn’t see through Saul’s two-faced words. And so David is probably just innocently believing the words of Saul, not realizing their duplicity. And second, even later when Saul’s intentions do become abundantly clear to David, still David won’t use his might to try to kill Saul. David believes it would be wrong to do that to such a person who has been previously anointed as king by the Lord. Instead, we’ll see how David will try to continue to show kindness to Saul. Twice he’ll spare Saul’s life. And David will then use that kindness to try to appeal to Saul. He’ll try to appeal to Saul that he shouldn’t be trying to kill him. In other words David will show love to Saul as his enemy, and try to use that kindness to cause Saul to repent from his evil attempts to kill David.
Well, we’ll see as we keep studying this book, that David’s attempts to bring Saul to such repentance will have only minimal effect on him. And yet through it all, David is receiving great success overall. Because at the end of this chapter his rise in prominence in the nation is all the more advanced. The chapter ends with him now being the king’s son-in-law, having the love of Princess Michael and Prince Jonathan, and having high esteem among the people of Israel. Saul’s efforts through duplicity to kill David have continued to fail. David’s rise to the throne as the Lord’s Anointed One continues.
Brothers and sisters, sadly, I’m sure that we’ve all known something of the duplicity and two-facedness of Saul in this passage. I used the example of church leadership before, but that’s just one of many examples. Surely, we’ve all exercised such duplicity ourselves and have been the recipient of such from others. We know the destruction of it in our own lives. But it is especially evil when it comes like it comes here. Here this duplicity was turned to try to try to destroy the Lord’s Anointed One. Saul would not accept that God had rejected him as king. Saul saw that God was with David, and he would not accept David as the Lord’s Anointed One. So in this chapter his tactic to try to stop David turns to the art of deception and scheming.
Well, as David is a type of Jesus Christ to come, we recall that this is the same strategy that was also tried against Jesus. For example, you might remember how the religious leaders would sometimes come to Jesus and ask him some religious question in order to trap him. For example, in Luke 20 they asked him about paying taxes. But Jesus was not fooled. In fact, it notes there that Jesus saw through their duplicity. Or when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, remember how he did it with a kiss? And yet there too, Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas would betray him. David was likely fooled by Saul’s duplicity, yet God preserved David. And yet Jesus was in no way fooled by their duplicity, and thus willing allowed himself to fall into their final trap of the cross. Isn’t that awesome! God in his amazing plan, whose folly is greater than man’s wisdom, even used such foolish efforts by man at duplicity to exalt his Christ as king! God even ordained that these leaders would be able to successfully destroy Jesus on the cross, but that too backfired on them, and it resulted in victory for Jesus. That victory was seen in the resurrection! And we know it was Satan’s scheming behind all this effort against Jesus, and this just shows the folly of all this. You can’t stop God’s plans. In Christ’s death and resurrection he then secures a people for himself, to reign over them in an everlasting kingdom. We too are a part of that number as those who have repented of their sins and turned and put their faith in Jesus.
Yes, even with all our own personal struggles with sin, even with all our own desires of duplicity and actions of duplicity: we find forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ. Turn from this duplicity to the Lord of Truth. Believe in Jesus. Trust in him. Find forgiveness and grace from all your sins in him. And know that in Christ you are a new creation, created in him to now live in genuineness; to be “singled-faced”.
The reason why this is so important is because of what we see David do so mightily here with the Philistines. He destroys them in service to God. That’s a picture of what the Messiah will ultimately do to all God’s enemies. And yet, Saul is an enemy that David instead shows kindness too. The tension here reminds us of what Jesus has called us to do for our enemies. Right now Jesus calls us to love our enemies. In all their two-faced treatment of us. In whatever they do to us. We are called to love them in the name of Jesus Christ. God might in fact use that kindness done in the name of Christ in order to spark them to repentance, that they might be saved. And yet there is coming a day when Christ will come in the might of a warrior; he’ll come and bring swift destruction to all those then who continue to oppose God and his people.
I leave us with one final application for today. As Christian, though we are called to not be two-faced, I think it important to note an internal contradiction that we have, that might look something like being two-faced. As someone who is born again, you are a new creation. Christ is being formed now within you. Yet, there is still also present that old man within us. It’s a war of sorts. That old man presents itself in evil ways. The new man is being trained to love truth and live “single-faced” as a Christian. And so in our new man, even when we don’t desire to live as two-faced, there is a sort of internal contradiction that might look like to others as something that is two-faced. Our new man might say and think the right thing; but then that old man within us still presses us to live out the wrong agenda in our lives. Since the struggle is real in us, it can and surely will at times make you two-faced at times. But I want to encourage us to keep fighting the good fight in this regard. Our ultimate deliverance from this internal war is certain. Until then we are called to use the means God’s given us to combat the sinful nature within us. Let us not lose heart. Our old man will try all kinds of things to try to bring us down with him. But Christ saw through the deceptions of others. And Christ within you can grant you eyes to see even the ways your sinful nature can try to cause some self-deception within you. Let us then unto the glory of God seek to resist not only those external enemies of Satan and the world. But let us also for the glory of God seek to overcome that old man within us. Let us seek by the grace of God to daily put him off, and daily put on Christ. And let us keep doing this more and more until that great day when Christ returns and is seated and fully established as King of Kings and Lord of Lords over all. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.