The Holy Spirit in the Life of Saul and David

Fort Worth Star-Telegram – Saturday, March 7, 1936


Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris, Sunday Morning, March 8, 1936, First Baptist Church

(Stenographically Reported)

DR. NORRIS: My theme this morning, “The Holy Spirit in the life of Saul and David.” It is another one in the series on the Bible teaching of the Holy Spirit.

The Scripture is found in I Samuel, 16th chapter, 12th verse and following: “And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”

This text: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David… But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.”

Saul was the first king which God gave to Israel upon their demand for a king that they might be like the heathen nations round about them. There is not a finer type of manhood, a more splendid specimen of human character, in all history than the first king of Israel, and yet he met with the most tragic fate. He came to an awful ignominious death, and why?

David, his successor, was not as good a man, as far as his life is concerned, and measured by the same standard as Saul, and yet we read how that one was rejected and the other accepted, and why? Why did the Spirit of the Lord leave Saul? We read in the beginning of his kingly rule where the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, then near the close, near his death, we read where the Spirit of the Lord departed from him.

The first reason was because of deliberate disobedience, not a sin of impulse, but a deliberate act of disobedience was the first cause.

When Saul returned from the war with the Amalekites where God sent him to destroy utterly that nation, Saul only partly obeyed. He brought back the finest of the herds and flocks, and instead of destroying Agag, brought him back as a trophy, and Samuel met him, and he asked Saul, “Hast thou obeyed?” He answered, “Yes, I have obeyed the Lord.” Then said Samuel, “What meaneth then, this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the kine which I hear? – And why is this king here alive?”

Saul undertakes to explain and show how that he wanted to bring back the best of the flocks for a sacrifice, and Samuel answered and said: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

The first condition of grieving the Spirit of God is disobedience,and the first condition of receiving Him, having fellowship with Him, on the part of the believer, is obedience. That is why in that 5th chapter of Acts it says: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”

It will be a new day in the life of everyone of us when we realize God expects from His children absolute unconditional obedience to His commands.

The second reason why Saul lost the power and presence of the Spirit of God was because he rejected the Word of God. Listen to what Samuel said: “I will not return with thee:” – Why? – “for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee.”

If we obey and follow the Word of the Lord, the Lord of the Word will bless and walk with us. If we reject the Word of the Lord, the Lord of the Word will reject us. There are many ways in which we reject the Word of the Lord. I tremble when I read His plain commands – we will not lose our inheritance beyond this life, but if we are realy born again it means great sorrows and chastisements in this life. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a soweth, that shall he also reap,” is an inexorable law.

An evil spirit came and took possession of him. Because of some great overt act of public sin? No.

Samson met with the same fate. It is said, “And he wist” – knew – “not that the Lord was departed from him.”

That’s why the great preacher Paul says – What is it Paul? – “That after I have preached throughout the world, that in my old age I may be rejected too, that I may be a castaway” – That doesn’t mean his soul will be lost, but as the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, the first king of Israel, as it departed from Samson, so he may depart from me,”

How often have we had this experience – we witness it. it is a tragedy – you have known somebody, some layman, some good woman, that once had great power in Why?winning souls, and suddenly that power was gone. The Spirit of the Lord has departed. They are like clouds without water, or, are as only sounding brass.

Look at the other side. Contrast the Holy Spirit in the life of David.

First: He came on him when young, just like He did on Saul. Both started out the same way. Here is the difference now between these two men:

1. Absolute obedience, “And David inquired of the Lord.” Again and again we find that in his life, but not one single solitary time where Saul inquired the mind of the Lord; no. He had his own mind.

2. Again here is a great difference; here is why. The infinite chasm between the two is this: Saul never did made a confession and repentance for sin. If he did it was not after his heart. If he did it was only on the surface. If he did he was thinking more of what man was saying than what God would judge.

But David – What was the difference, “Have mercy,” That’s David’s prayer – “upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” – “I am no longer a king. I am a sinner. I am not concerned about the elders, what they shall say. I am concerned about what God shall do.” – As when he asked Joab to spare Absalom.His father’s love was so great for his wicked son that he turned aside from his crown, from his empire, and wept over the tragic death of his son who had become his enemy.

Unconfessed sin brings sorrow to the believer, and without it his life is like a desert, nothing pleasing, all is bitterness and woe. Do you know one thing Christian people have to watch is this, as we grow old with the bitterness, conflicts, disappointments, and even ill health, what happens? We become like a Sahara Desert. Therefore, David said, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” – Here is what it means, your sin is under the blood – “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

What else, David? “When I kept silence” – “When I covered up” – “When I did not confess to God” – What happened? – “my bones waxed old through my roaring all the daylong.” – What else? – “Twenty-four hours a day there was no peace,” – “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

Notice his prayer had three stages:

First stage: “Renew a right spirit within me” – It doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is right sometimes and wrong sometimes. It hasn’t anything to do with the character of the Holy Spirit. It means this: “After He renews me He will make me right before God.” It means, “Take this life that’s wrong, that’s broken, make it right, give me a right heart, a right spirit, a purging and purifying.”

That is exactly what happened to Isaiah when he caught the vision of the Lord on His throne, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple, and the earth was filled with His presence, and He said, “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me,” – Flying with what? having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:” – The altar of sacrifice. The altar of reconciliation. The altar of judgment. The altar where God and man met face to face – from that altar He brings a live coal – “And he laid it upon my mouth, and aid, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” The fire, representing the consuming presence of God, touches the lips of the young prophet.

The second stage: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” He knew He had been taken away from Saul. David saw the evil spirit come on his predecessor. David saw his end. David saw him rejected of God. He said, “Don’t let me come to that fate. Don’t let the tragedy that happened to Saul happen to me.” Oh, He is pleading now. He is not concerned about what the elders think. “I don’t want to lose His presence. I want to walk in His way. I want to hear His still small voice in the storm. I want to feel His warming presence, in a cold heart. I want to know His purging power in my life of sin. I want the Paraclete who walks around us and by our side, to be mine. I want to feel the undergirding of His everlasting arms.”

The third stage: “Uphold me with thy free spirit.” Here I think is the meaning of that Scripture. He says, “I am coming back. I have been away from God. I have had great sorrow. I have been discouraged.” Here is how gracious the Holy Spirit is, how God deals so tenderly with His own, here is where the Father sees the Prodigal’s return. Here is where the Father says, “You confess, that’s all that is necessary, and here is the robe, here is the ring, here is the feast.” But the Prodigal says, “Wait, let me tell you about my past.” But the Father says, “Let the past be gone.” Here is where the Spirit of God gives courage. Here is a marred vessel, discouragement comes, the devil comes and says, You are a nice looking somebody to go out and win souls.” But David says, “Lord, give me that boldness, that freedom because of Thy presence.”


Often some great sorrow comes, more than we can bear and we are discouraged – I had a great blessing this morning,a little woman came in – I baptized her a few years ago – she has a great sorrow. It is not death, something greater than death. It is a living sorrow, greater than the grave. She has a living sorrow. She is a wonderful character. I have known her for years. She has been out of the city. She said, “I have won the victory; God has been good to me.” I looked into her soul, knowing the sorrow that is hers, how she suffers as only a mother heart can suffer. I thought that is what David is talking about “Uphold me with thy free spirit.” “Help me stand, and having done all continue to stand.”

The next thing we hear is this: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” – It means once I had it, but I have lost it.” It doesn’t say “Restore unto me thy salvation.” “I have lost the joy of it, the dew of it, the sweetness of it, the glory of it, the power of it, the music of it. I have lost it! I have lost it! I call but He doesn’t answer. I have lost it!”

That’s why old Peter wrote and said, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith,” and he mentions seven graces, “add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge. And to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.” Then he said, “If you have these graces you won’t be unfruitful; you won’t be barren, you will have knowledge of the Lord.” And further he says, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” – That’s why lots of people are in doubt.


What was the great result? “O,” David says, “now I am ready to go out and win souls. I have been purged, restored, renewed, filled with joy.” “Now,” he says, “then will I teach” – Make disciples – “teach transgressors thy ways.” – The purpose of the giving of His Spirit is what? To witness – Then I will teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” “I know how to win them,” he says, “because I have been one.”

That’s why Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”


It doesn’t mean salvation as when one is born again. David said, “I want to be made over.” Saul never did say he wanted to be made over. His attitude was “I don’t need it, I am king. I have done no wrong.” But David said, “Lord I am not a king, I am a sinner. Take me, break me, make me, use me, then I will be a witness.”

That’s what he says. That’s what God is looking for. That’s how to have the Spirit filled life!

Now we can understand why Paul said, Acts 13:22, “And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.”

What? Say that of David and not of Saul? Yes. David could say, “These people have done no wrong. I am the one, let thy wrath strike me, stay thy hand,” when seventy thousand fell dead because of his pride, the sin of David.

Saul never said that. Saul blamed everything and everybody but himself. David blamed nobody but himself. That is what God is looking for. No wonder he could say, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise!”

God is looking for it today. He can’t use any other. We are in a heart broken world, and He wants a heart broken life that He can use.

You know we don’t understand things that happen, but when they are over we do never shall I forget to the end of the life of a single one of His children. This was written to the Galatian Christians, not be unbelievers.

Here are some plain commands:

(1) “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”

We can’t disobey that command, reject that Word, and not have sorrow.

(2) Here is the plain simple Word of God, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” – Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” – That we shall give Him first place in our earnings, and take Him into partnership with us, in our possession, money, whether it be little or much, or else we are under the curse.

(3) Again, there is the plain simple commandment to follow the Lord in the ordinance of Baptism. When we receive Him, if we disobey Him it grieves Him and drives Him from us. We lose His fellowship.

The third way Saul lost the presence of the Spirit of God was his failure to confess and acknowledge his sin, and here is how we read it – He thought more of the honor of man, what man would think than what God thought, for even after he realized his great sin of disobedience, how pitiful that then he said: “I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God.” He thought more of what the elders thought, what the people thought than what God thought, and the only reason why that he would even think of worshipping God was because of his great extremity.

How we often seek to justify a course of conduct which before God we know is wrong, and yet we work overtime to do what? Not to have the approval of God, but the approval of man. There is no confession, there is no repentance, as long as we are wondering what man is thinking or saying. That expresses the whole of the tragic life of Saul. He thought more of what the elders would say than he did what God would say; in other words, here are his thoughts: “If I can get by with it, with the elders, with the people, it matters not what there be in my life, my course, what I have done” No fear of God!

The fourth reason why Saul lost the presence of the Spirit of God was because He grieved the Lord – “The Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?” – “Quit grieving for him any longer.” It is a great tragedy when those close to the Lord have ceased to pray and to mourn for us. That’s why Paul writes, Eph. 4:30-32, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”