So the persecution of Christ begins to be fully drawn in chapter 19 of 1 Samuel. The typology of Christ’s reproach is fully realized in these few chapters as we come to understand David’s character and in turn understand why our LORD had evaded the enemy and the crowd so often (Matthew 12:14-16, 14:13; John 6:15) – because the time is not yet right for David to be crowned as king, while Saul was still king. It is not until the opportune moment that Christ is crowned with thorns as the true king of Israel that Satan’s head is simultaneously bruised; so here we see the raving Satan attacking Christ just as the Jews and the Gentiles had done: “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the LORD worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?” (v.4-5). What beautiful words of an advocate, of a preacher, of a witness! So often we are the ones who crucified the Christ while we were still sinners (Romans 5:10), and these are the words of accusation against us. We are the ones who deserve to be crucified!
So Saul carelessly swore – “As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death” – and the irony of the truth in those words; to put David to death is to put the typological LORD to death – and thus, Saul’s words ring true. If the LORD has died, so also David; but because the LORD is living, that is why Saul’s plans to evict David from his presence ever more backfires as Saul is slowly evicting himself from the LORD’s presence. The consistency of David’s service to the LORD which benefits Saul leads to the return of the harmful spirit. David had killed the Philistine, and Saul had once rejoiced in this salvific victory won on behalf of Israel and Saul had not eyed David with jealousy. Yet, the seed of sin is planted in Saul’s heart; and though Michal had aided David in his escape, the imagery of her bedding the idol is to mark her lack of love for the One in whom David’s faith lies. It is hinted in her false words – would David threaten her with death (v.17 c.f. 2 Samuel 6:16)?
Thus in the midst of David’s escape, he does not find refuge in his father (though Saul had restrained him from doing so throughout David’s service – 1 Samuel 18:2) – rather, he finds his refuge in the prophet knowing that Samuel is the one who anointed David as true king of Israel. It is here that three times the messengers of Saul were sent; three times they prophesied. Even Saul was counted among those who were raptured by the rushing of the Spirit – acknowledging that they were persecuting the Son of God (1 Peter 3:18-20). This is a direct contrast to Saul’s self-reliance, whereas David looked to the greater intercessor Samuel, the first type of Christ introduced in this book. The Spirit had created a buffer, just as He did when He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites but the waters of punishment came crashing down over the pursuers; so here, we see the history re-enacted, the evil and jealous messengers and Saul pursuing the church of Christ, with Samuel as the Messenger of God.
Yet, this is the picture of our Saviour in this world; and so also, a picture of what we are to be until new creation. (Matthew 5:5 – always on the run, but only because He was!) And so the final picture is that of the truth revealed to Saul as he lies prostrate, naked, and his embarrassment entirely revealed. Similarly, heavens shall reveal the iniquity of this world, entirely resurrecting all and proclaiming to all the victory of Christ (c.f. book of Revelations; Job 20:27; Psalm 98:2; Isaiah 40:5; Hosea 7:1; 1 Corinthians 14:22; 2 Peter 1:21; Revelation 19:10), though not all still stand under the banner of Christ accepting Him as His Mediator. Their nakedness is revealed and this is the great question for the nation Israel: Is Saul also among the prophets? Such is the question we ask of physical Israel, though we know that the true king is David. Israel was never replaced; she was always called to be the elect of God (Isaiah 41), and yet being ‘elected’ is not the same as living according to that calling. Such Spirit-led nakedness is recorded throughout Scripture (Genesis 2:25; Exodus 28:41; Job 26:5-6; Isaiah 47:3; Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 3:18, 16:15), both a nakedness which is shameful for unbelievers and a nakedness which leads to unity in the tearing of the tabernacle curtain (John 17). In the words of Matthew Henry, “he is rejected of God, actuated by an evil spirit, and yet among the prophets”. Is this not the same story of Israel, the physical nation rejected and the spiritual Israel elected and that Saul, possessed by an evil spirit, is still under the grace of the Spirit and himself here represents the contradiction of the rejected and elected nation?