Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 22, 1951

Tell It Not In Gath

Robert H. Farish, Tarrant City, Alabama

"Tell it not in Gath, Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph." (2 Sam. 1:20) This sentiment finds expression in the lament that David uttered and gave instructions that it be taught to the children of Judah. This lamentation was provoked by the news of the death of king Saul. Such must sound strange to some today—indeed some must find it impossible to reconcile the facts in this case with the sentiment uttered here by David. The facts are that Saul was the bitter enemy of David and sought every chance to do him harm. Why then should David lament at his death? Why should he, in his lament, call for the news not to be told or published in certain quarters? Why should he even lament at all? No human astuteness would suggest lamentation in these circumstances, neither would worldly standards of honor require the suppression of the news of the death of Saul. In fact, earthly, sensual, devilish wisdom would point to a contrary course.

The facts which form the background for this strange lament present a picture of repeated efforts on the part of Saul to destroy David. It would seem that, by the death of Saul, David had gained everything—the crown, glory and comfort—and had lost an enemy. The death of Saul made it possible for him to mount the throne as king and cease to flee as an exile. Why not rejoice at his brightened prospects which are so much more promising with Saul out of the way? The answer to these queries lies in David's love for Israel. The interest of Israel came first with David. He was big enough to put the interest of Israel above personal ambitions or animosities. How can a preacher, or any Christian for that matter, rejoice over any trouble in God's Israel as an occasion for venting spite or getting even, if that one is putting the church first?

The weaknesses in Israel were good news to the Philistines. Certainly the Philistines would rejoice over the news of the death of mighty Saul and be emboldened to redouble their efforts against Israel. The death of Saul was the occasion of David's being ushered into more glorious circumstances yet he exclaims, "Tell it not in Gath, Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon..." Why? "Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice." It seems that few today are interested in suppressing news that will occasion rejoicing in the daughters of the Philistines.

Regarding Timothy, Paul wrote, "For I have no man like minded, who will care truly for your state. For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 2:20, 21) How many could be found today who care truly for the state of the church? From Paul's comment it is evident that those who put the emphasis on seeking "their own" things rather than "the things of Jesus Christ" show by their actions that they do not in their heart care truly for the church. Too many are vainly ambitious to be "greatest in the kingdom." Such try to detour the divine route to true greatness. Christ defined the course to be followed by those who "would be first." He said, "If any man would be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mk. 9:36) Humble service is the only route that leads to true greatness—being great by the divine standard. No jealousies will be excited or entertained by those who are intent on following our Lord's directions in this matter. But when we reason and act as the world reasons and acts, jealousies take possession of us and are stirred up in others by our actions. Notice our Lord's comment, "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant." The worldly idea as exemplified in the Gentile is that greatness is "lording" and "exercising authority." This attitude is not to prevail among Christians—("not so shall it be among you").

Nothing that hurts the church or hinders the truth can occasion rejoicing to those who, like Timothy, care truly for the church. There will be the desire to withhold the news from the daughters of the Philistines. There will be lamentation instead of rejoicing and glee.