This is our David who is being pursued by Israel, the man after man’s heart – Saul – what is he but a “dead dog”, and a “flea”? (v.14). Yet once again it is David’s humility which drives people’s repentance. Like his self-election in the defeat of Goliath (1 Samuel 17) whereby he was rejected by men, here it is by his rejection and purity that Saul’s heart is turned over just like the days when David played the soulful harp as mediation between Saul and the Father in heaven (1 Samuel 16:23). Indeed, just as ‘out of the wicked comes wickedness’ (v.13), is this implication not applied to Saul’s life, that he is practicing wickedness by pursuing David our Christ who is freed from all wickedness in Whom is the Spring and Tree of Life (Psalm 1 and 2)?
There is no denial of David’s righteousness representing that of the persecuted Second Person of the Trinity. “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil” (v.17). Is that not the focus of the gospel, that He died for men whilst we were sinners (Romans 5:8)? That we are the very people taunting Him as He hung on the cross yet He repaid our insults with intercession for forgiveness (Luke 23:34)? Saul is subject of David’s work of salvation for Israel on numerous accounts; his battles result in victory, yet Saul’s wars are endless (1 Samuel 14:52).
Furthermore, Saul has been in persistent denial of David’s status as the new and truly elected king of Israel. Though his son had long recognized this truth and recommitted himself to covenanting with this Son of Man (1 Samuel 20:17), Saul is the hard-hearted and hard-necked Israel, more like his enemy the Philistines than the spiritual Israelite. And like Jonathan, Saul finally recognizes the humble Bethlehemite in Jesus Christ – “Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house”. What forgiveness, completely contrasted to the death of Ahimelech and his father’s house! Yet, both shall rejoice in heaven, both Saul and Ahimelech, for it is by David’s victory that salvation is achieved; and though Stephen had died at Saul’s hands (Acts 7), the love of God in Jesus Christ’s cruciform work is not removed from Paul either (Romans 8:38). It is by the tearing of the robe of Samuel that we foresee the tearing of the kingdom from Saul’s grips (1 Samuel 15) so we see David cutting the corner of Saul’s robe (v.5-7) in the darkness and shadows of the Old Testament, and upon seeing light we see that the kingdom was never in Saul’s hands. David’s action is a symbol of the removal of the kingdom of heaven from physical Israel – yet David is also an Israelite, but of mixed heritage. The kingdom was and has always been in the global international church, filled with the children of Abraham who is not from the seed of Jacob.
And just as we return home, David continues to go up to the stronghold (v.22) interceding for us, always the persistent watchman on the wall (Ezekiel 3:7; Hebrews 7:25). It is by his watching that we are safely in the arms of the Trinitarian communion; it is by his prayers that we have entered into the intra-Trinitarian love (John 17); and it is by his victory that the light of God has shone brightly on the cross, and even brighter in new creation. This is the beauty of the restoration of Israel, that Saul shall turn back from his envious rampage; that is the reason why Jacob was elected instead of Esau (Romans 9-10), because it is in Israel that all are saved, for Israel is the first chosen nation of Christ as the new creation is about establishing the forever-Christocratic nation of God around Whom we surround (Revelation 22:14). Israel was never entirely rejected – in David’s words, “I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed”. Indeed, even by the whisperings of the rejected around him to execute the first king of Israel (v.3-4), Israel was never meant to be rejected (Ezekiel 39:25; Amos 9:14; Zechariah 8). Israel was meant to have her glory restored, but only upon the receiving of the wonders of Christ’s mediatory work; there are Israelites who have been saved for Christ prior to Saul’s final acceptance, as shown by those who plundered the Philistine city after Goliath’s defeat; not to mention Jonathan’s covenant with Christ as a foreboding of the inclusion of the house of Jonathan and his descendants into the book of life (Exodus 32:32), ultimately inclusive of Saul who is the shadow-head of Israel. May David be glorified, that all who stand in Israel are saved! That the Rahabs, the Naamans, the Egyptians, the Japheths, the Queens of Sheba are also given true glory in the true David of Bethlehem.