|Series Theme: Meditations in 1 Samuel|
PART FIVE: David on the Run
Meditations in 1 Samuel 41. Spiritual Security
1 Sam 19:18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there.
Spiritual security comes in having a mentor, someone you can turn to for advice and help and counsel, someone to whom you can be accountable. It is interesting that when David fled from Saul he turned to Samuel. We have just seen how David escaped from Saul with the help of both Jonathan and Michal and having done that he makes his way to Ramah where Samuel lived: “ When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there.” (v.18) Naioth appears to be a suburb of Ramah where we will see a company of prophets lived, presumably under the tutelage of Samuel.
But this situation is not allowed to last long for, “Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; so he sent men to capture him.” (v.19,20a) Saul is not going to let up on his pursuit of David and indeed it will continue virtually until Saul's eventual death. From now on David is well and truly on the run. As we will see soon, he does still seek to bring peace and restoration to his situation but it will be to no avail. Saul is out to get him and that will keep on. However before this all happens, a strange thing happens here.
Saul's men come to arrest David, “But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied.” (v.20b) Now this sort of thing has happened before. When Saul has first met Samuel he had prophesied that this would happen: “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.” (1 Sam 10:5,6) and so it turned out (1 Sam 10:10,11). It would appear that the powerful presence of the Lord among the company of prophets was so strong that it then included anyone who joined themselves to them; in this case Saul. We have also seen Saul prophesying when David played his harp (1 Sam 18:10).
These are challenging verses to understand, and it gets worse: “Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied.” (v.21) These are soldiers, not prophets, but they all find themselves swept into the prophetic (probably) praise of God. Eventually Saul himself turns up and gets caught up in it: “Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, "Where are Samuel and David?" "Over in Naioth at Ramah," they said. So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?” (v.22-24) One commentary speaking of this prophesying that was going on speaks of it as ‘appearing to designate an enthusiastic praising of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have heard good hearted people in the past saying ‘the Holy Spirit is a gentleman' who will always be gentle and never make us do anything we don't want to do, but that fails to face the truth of what happened here and what happened on the Day of Pentecost. When the powerful presence of God turns up, as numerous revivals testify, that presence sweeps all before it and believer and unbeliever alike can get carried along in the move. (Of course the unbeliever soon isn't an unbeliever any longer!!!!) But there do seem to be times where the sovereign presence of God seems so real and so powerful that all fall before Him and end up praising Him. To be honest, this is somewhat rare but it has happened in the history of the church and in the records we are considering now.
The security that David has found with Samuel which means he is protected from Saul's hostile desires, is simply the powerful presence of the Lord. I wonder if sometimes in the psalms when David writes of God being his stronghold and fortress he has in mind such times as this when the very presence of God overcame all hostile intentions and provided this protection we find here. When we go on we will see that David fled from here leaving Saul in the presence of God, captured by that presence, if you like.
Although this is very different from the gift of prophecy we find in the New Testament, one cannot help adding the wry comment that those exercising the gift are not specially spiritual people, for these passages reveal He comes on those who are very far from perfect. Yes, He comes on Christians and He comes on those who are available and He desires to change and mature us as He uses us. As we have seen so clearly in these passages, when the powerful presence of God came, He changed each person. When Jesus expresses his gifts through people today, changes will take place, both in the person receiving the word and the person bringing the word. As that prophecy on the Day of Pentecost shows, it was to glorify God. In the gift that Paul speaks about, in the early verses of 1 Cor 14, it is to glorify God by building up the church by blessing, encouraging, comforting and strengthening people, but ultimately all of that is to glorify God. However it may come, that is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of Jesus – to glorify the Father. May it be so.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 42. Covenant Friendship (3)
1 Sam 20:1 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?"
The chapter that comes before us now is strange in many ways. It is ultimately about how Jonathan and David worked together to see if David was safe, found he wasn't, and part for the last time. It is the preliminary to David's final departure from the camp of Saul and from Israel under Saul. It starts with David going to Jonathan while his father is still prophesying with Samuel: “T hen David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?" (20:1)
Jonathan reassures David – “Never!" Jonathan replied. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" (v.2) but David is not convinced: “But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, `Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." (v.3) So Jonathan asks what he can do: “Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you." (v.4) David points out that there is a feast coming up which he will excuse himself from and Jonathan is to see what his father's reaction is, (v.5-7) and he concludes, “As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?" (v.8) He challenges Jonathan to honour their covenant which Jonathan declares he will do (v.9-13) but in return he asks something of David which David will remember in the distant years ahead: “But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family--not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth." (v.14,15)
Thus we find this is a time when the two reaffirm their commitment to each other: “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.” (v.16,17) They then concoct an elaborate scheme whereby in two days time Jonathan will go out to a certain point to practice his archery and depending what he tells his servant boy to do, David will know the outcome (v.18-23). So this they do: David doesn't appear at the feast table (24,25) and Saul gets suspicious and then upset (v.26,27) and when Jonathan makes excuses on David's behalf (v.28,29) Saul gets angry with Jonathan (v.30,31) and when Jonathan further defends David (v.32) Saul hurls his spear at Jonathan (v.33).
Jonathan leaves in anger (v.34) and they put the previously agreed plan into place (v.35-40) After Jonathan sends the boy home David and Jonathan meet, share and weep (v.41) and then part: “Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, `The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.” (v.42) The two will never meet again, but the outworkings of their covenant will be there in the back of David's mind for many years to come.
What, we might legitimately ask ourselves, can this strange piece of history teach us reminding ourselves what we said about all scripture recently? (2 Tim 3:16) Perhaps when we look at Saul we can remind ourselves how foolish we can be allowing our insecurities to stir up wrong emotions that push valuable people away from us, even when others close to us are trying to get us to look again and back off. David was a brilliant resource for Saul and he ended up losing him so that instead of having him alongside using his gifting to defeat the enemy, he made him an unnecessary distraction and almost certainly turned others against him for doing it.
When we look at Jonathan we can see how sad it can become when we align ourselves with the wrong side. Jonathan knew David was destined for greatness and he knew his father was in the wrong but family loyalty kept him alongside his father where he eventually died. Instead he could have gone with God's man and been his right hand support both then and in the future kingdom.
When we look at David we need to remind ourselves that God may have declared a great future for us but that may simply be a long-term end result and that in the meantime we may go through a process of sanctification which may involve us going through a host of difficulties. Instead of removing awkward people or trying circumstances from us, the Lord often uses them to teach us to rely more and more upon Him. His promises may yet be some distance off. These are all good and valid lessons to be learned.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 43. Putting Friends at Risk
1 Sam 21:1 David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, "Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?"
David is now on the run. Perhaps when under pressure we don't always think straight. Two things David knows or should know: 1. Saul is out to get him; he is a fugitive. 2. Anyone who sees him is likely to report him to Saul. With that in mind David ought to be careful about who he sees or who he meets with because whoever that might be may well get tarred with the same brush and be considered an enemy of Saul, because that is what Saul is like! But as we said, when you are under pressure you don't always think straight. There are two phases to this little drama, first what happened when David went to the priest and then later how it was reported.
“ David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest.” (v.1a) We are given no reason for this at the present but it appears David needed both provisions and the Lord's guidance. “Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, "Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?" (v.1b) Ahimelech senses something is wrong that one of Saul main generals should turn up on his own. David spins a tale that Saul has sent him on a special mission (v.2) and that he needs provisions (v.3) The only bread the priest had was that offered to the Lord in the Tabernacle ceremonies which, although it is usually only eaten by the priests, may be used by them as long as his men are ceremonially clean (v.4,5) (the men who aren't obvious because David appears on his own.) So Ahimelech gives David the bread. (v.6) Unfortunately, “one of Saul's servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul's head shepherd,” (v.7) and that is going to have bad results. David also asks if the priest has a sword he could have and David ends up taking the sword taken from Goliath (v.8,9)
So ends the first phase. David leaves. Phase two occurs in chapter 22 when Saul rants at his people about David (22:6-8): “But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul's officials, said, "I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine." (v.9,10) Saul sends for the priest (v.11) and when the priest innocently recounts what had happened (v.11-18) Saul has them all killed. It is a bad time!
Now before we consider Saul's activity it might be worth considering what the New Testament has to say about David taking the bread from the Tabernacle. David has clearly not spoken the truth to the priest, possibly to give him what we call ‘plausible deniability'. However it is holy bread. Jesus actually uses this event to fend off the Pharisees' criticisms of him and his disciples: “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.” (Mt 12:1-4). Jesus uses this incident to illustrate the principle that the ceremonial law was not to be viewed in a legalistic manner. In similar vein he taught that it is always lawful to preserve or save life: “Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" (Lk 6:9) The strong implication is that David's life was under threat from Saul's unrighteous intentions and it was therefore legitimate for him to take the holy bread to preserve his life.
All round it is a messy situation and, as we have suggested at the beginning, David could perhaps have realised that he was putting the priest and his family at risk if anyone saw them consorting with David – and there was one of Saul's men there. We have noted that David has been described by the Lord as a man after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14) and this marks David out uniquely; no one else ever had that said about them. However, even though that can be said, we should not take it mean that he was perfect. As the story of David is revealed in 2 Samuel we will find that David does a number of thoughtless things which have bad consequences. Having a heart turned towards God and being in tune with God is wonderful but as human beings it is unlikely to mean that that is how we will be every second of our lives, and having wisdom, or lacking it, is something else. As I have often said in these studies, even ‘great men of God' have feet of clay. David is no exception.
When it comes to Saul we might suggest that we need to learn to be realistic about people. Saul is off the tracks, is clearly being disciplined by God, has expressed his paranoia in respect of David a least half a dozen times and therefore should be viewed not merely as a hostile witness but actually as a hostile combatant. Yes, we should be looking for the best from people but that is not to mean we become blind to their failings or shortcomings. That may mean we are careful what we say to some people, or careful what we trust them with. Misplaced trust is an absence of wisdom. Where the signs are there (as they clearly were in Saul) we need to be careful how we respond to such people or how we treat them. David didn't do this and as a result a man and his whole family died. It was a sad and avoidable situation.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 44. Hiding with the Enemy?
1 Sam 21:10,12,13 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath …. and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath . So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
We move into deep and strange waters. We are watching the developing account of the future king of Israel , a king whose name would become better known than any other king of Israel , a name that the messiah would associate himself with. If you didn't know this story but had just been told in outline something of David's greatness, you would never have been able guess in a million years the things that transpired after he left the household of Saul. Even our starting verse above is so alien as to leave us scratching our heads in wonder: “ That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath .” (v.10). How can this possibly be?
The cause of David's running is Saul. We have been watching his growing hostility against David to the point where all David can hope for in Israel is death; the ONLY answer is to leave, but where to go? Now stop and think about this for a moment. Saul had been doing a reasonable job, we noted in an earlier study, at beating off all the surrounding nations who from time to time attacked Israel – all that is except the Philistines who, we saw, had presented a real threat to Israel . Yes there had been the great victory when David had slain Goliath (ch.17) but nevertheless the Philistines had continued to do battle and it had only been David who had success in defeating them (18:30 & 19:8) Without doubt the Philistines were the major force opposing Israel and so where better to go for protection, where in fact was the only place to go where Saul could not come and take David back?
But of course there was a problem: “But the servants of Achish said to him, "Isn't this David, the king of the land? Isn't he the one they sing about in their dances: "`Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands'?" (v.11) David's fame was well known. With the intermingling that no doubt went on across the somewhat unclear borders between Israel and Philistia, the ordinary people would have talked and shared gossip and the greatest cause of that gossip was the fighting that went on and particularly how this young general, David, was doing. So yes, these Philistines had cause to be concerned. Moreover these words appear to have been spoken in front of David and that does not bode well for the future it seems: “David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath .” (v.12) In some ways this coming to Gath is absolutely crazy. Today we might use such phrases as ‘thinking out of the box' or talk of ‘lateral thinking' for in the minds of any sane person, David turning up before this Philistine ‘king' was absolutely crazy.
Ah, crazy! That is it. These Philistines think it is crazy and are therefore highly suspicious. No doubt Achish must also be wondering, especially as those around him are questioning what David is doing here, so let's play on that, let's pretend to be mad and see where that goes: “So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.” (v.13) Achish falls for it: “Achish said to his servants, "Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?" (v.14,15) When we move into the next chapter we will see where David goes next. For the moment he is spared and continues to be on the run. Achish rejects him, the Philistines let him go and so he continues as a fugitive seeking a safe haven. In the next meditation we will see where he goes next.
Are there spiritual lessons here? Well I think they remain ‘big picture' ones. The truth is that we live in a Fallen World and in it things go wrong, people are nasty, circumstances seem to turn bad for us sometimes. Those who preach peace and prosperity live in the sheltered temporary closet, probably of America , but even there it is changing. The reality is that even as a Christian it is sometimes a tough world. Read the life histories of even those we might consider great men and women of God and you will see it. Bad circumstances, it seems, are no respecters of good people. The truth is that very often God works within and through the bad circumstances; He is there for us in them, He is always working on our behalf in them, but still the circumstances are not good in themselves. We can thank the Lord in the midst of them that He is there for us and we have to grab hold of His grace in whatever form it comes.
Now from our perspective today, we have to say that these ‘bad circumstances' also can include ‘church'. Why? Because the church is made up of people and people get it wrong and we have an enemy on the sidelines trying to mix it up. Now here is the incredible thing: I have known of leaders who have suffered at the hands of the church and fled to the world where their lives have been re-established, only for the presence and ministry of the Lord to emerge again in them in a more purified state in later years.
This is God's world and He is open to using all aspect of it for the sanctification of His children. David is going to return to the shelter of the Philistines in the days ahead but for the moment he has turned to the world for help but has been rejected. He is going to have to move on and in the next phase we are going to see something very intriguing taking place, which would have never happened if he had stayed back with Saul or even with the Philistines. We're going to start seeing something of the making of this warrior king. However strange the circumstances you find yourself in, know that the Lord is with you and always desires more and better for you – but it may take a while and some more strange circumstances to bring you through.
Remember the Lord has anointed David as His next king. David may be going through troubling times but that has not changed and God WILL bring about the reality of that anointing at the hands of Samuel. It may jut take some time and some tough days before he gets to it.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 45. Gathering an Army
1 Sam 22:1,2 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam . When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
The reality of being a fugitive has set in and David has run from Saul to the Philistines, has not been welcomed there, somewhat understandably, and so flees into the desert. Whether he is alone or has a friend or two with him at this point is unclear. Adullam is thought to be some ten miles or so slightly north east of Gath , about half way between Gath and Bethlehem . Near the town was a fortified hill also known for its caves and it is to one of these that David now makes his way. Having been born in Bethlehem he would know the area well, especially being a shepherd. Thus he takes refuge in this cave.
Now one of the things we probably don't understand too well is how communications went on in this land. We've previously noted how Hebrews of Judah must have gossiped with the Philistines and again and again through these chapters we find people ‘hearing' of things going on. Sometimes it was messengers bringing news (e.g. 4:12-, 6:21, 11:3,4, 16:9 etc.) or sometimes it was just obviously gossip or maybe even spies or lookouts (e.g. 7:7, 13:3,4, 14:22, 22:1 etc.) However it occurred we now find, “ When his brothers and his father's household heard about it , they went down to him there.” They were the first to join with him, possibly because they were simply loyal to him and possibly because they feared that if Saul was against David, he might also act against David's family.
But then we find an intriguing list of others who joined him: “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him.” With a bad attitude we might call these ‘problem people' or ‘people with problems'. This bunch of people were not, we might think, the best foundation for an army yet nevertheless, they “gathered around him, and he became their leader.” As we will see as the story develops they clearly became a powerful fighting force, if not always of one heart. There were, we are told, “about four hundred men …with him.”
As we think of David gathering this motley bunch, we cannot help remembering another description and incident found in the New Testament: “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?" (Mt 9:10,11) Again, they came to him.
One thing this says about both Jesus and David is that people with problems (as society would see them) felt comfortable with them. Whether these ‘discontents' were in such a plight in Israel that they felt they had nothing to lose with David, or whether his reputation was one of humility and acceptance, the truth is they came. Those who came to Jesus may similarly have feel disenfranchised by society but the fact that Tax Collector Matthew had opened his house to Jesus said here was a man who was different from the religious and civil authorities, a man who understood and accepted them.
Now note that in both cases, these people flocking to one place did so not because of any advertising campaign but simply because the word got out that this was a safe place to be, and here was a safe man to be with. Now let's ask the embarrassing question: is this how people view the church. Now I say embarrassing because mostly we know the answer, that with a relatively few exceptions, this is not how generally people view the church. We have, by and large, not done terribly well in emulating Jesus.
Possibly with David it was slightly different in that we are talking about the need for a physical army to oppose a physical enemy. Today, apart from the obvious enemy, Satan, the enemies we have to combat are pride, injustice, complacency, indifference, rejection, isolation, insecurity, helplessness and hopelessness, among others. We counter all of those by love, care, compassion and acceptance, the things Jesus obviously had in abundance and the things which the Holy Spirit obviously desires to equip us with as we look to God.
The truth is that of this people who came to David - those who were in distress or in debt or discontented – they came because they had got themselves in a mess. The tax collectors and sinners who gathered to Jesus were people who largely chose to be like they were, although there no doubt always are pressures of a fallen society that encourage that. But whether it was David or Jesus, they did not reject them but received them. It was Jesus' love and acceptance that transformed people, as the story of Zacchaeus (Lk 19) clearly shows. Jesus didn't lecture him on the need to change his attitude and his behaviour, he just loved him and that love brought instant change. David took people in but clearly on the basis that they would join him, be trained by him and become part of an army with him. In both cases it was a case of ‘joining to a man'.
We might ask ourselves, as the body of Christ, can we become one to whom the world could come to find comfort, assurance, security, love, and acceptance, (and then transformation) or will they find harsh loveless demands to repent?
Meditations in 1 Samuel 46. Divine Guidance
1 Sam 23:1,2 When David was told, "Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors," he inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" The LORD answered him, "Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah."
When we look at the overall picture of David, we may start by desiring to be known in the way he ways known, as one after God's own heart. That's a good starting place, and as we go through his story there will be things that add content to that. There will be some thing we certainly should not want to copy but they just go to prove he was still very human. However in the verses we now have before us there is a simplicity of attitude and behaviour that we should indeed seek to emulate. Sometimes the Scriptures state things so simply that it leaves us both breathless and asking questions. This is one such time.
Look at this: “ he inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" The LORD answered him, "Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah." (v.2) How simple, David asks and the Lord answers! You can't get more simple than that and it is so simple I would guess most of us read it and pass on without a further thought, but how did this interchange take place?
Some commentators pick up the ‘aside' that the recording scribe inserts into the narrative , “(Now Abiathar son of Ahimelech had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)” (v.6) The ephod was a richly embroidered outer garment worn by the priests, which had a pocket in which were two dice-like pieces, the Urim and the Thummim, which appear to have been used to provide yes and no answers. We first see it in Exodus: “Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.” (Ex 28:30) I suspect that the priest prayed with a yes and no type of question and then dipped his hand into the pocket and pulled out an answer according to which one he pulled out.
No, without doubt that does appear to be at least part of the answer and clearly was used more than a few times in the history of the Old Testament. My only query, that this was all that was involved, is that the answers seem more complex here and in what follows. The answer is not merely “Go, attack the Philistines,” but it also added “and save Keilah.” Now admittedly the earlier verse mentions Keilah and so it may just be a natural extension of the question and answer, but I wonder if either in the priest or in David there is a prophetic or revelatory element as well. (I may be over-complicating it but see what follows.)
Now in response to this initial guidance we find, “But David's men said to him, "Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (v.3) and so we then find, “Once again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him, "Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand." (v.4) Sorry for harping on about it but it seems a lot more than a simple yes or no answer. Maybe the ‘yes' answer inspired the priest to expand prophetically the answer.
So they go to Keilah, and fought the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (v.5), all in accordance with the guidance of God. A problem then occurs: Saul hears that David is there and gathers his men to go after him (v.7,8) Somehow the word gets back to David that Saul is doing this so again David calls for Abiathar the priest, and says "Bring the ephod." (v.9)
Now David asks of the Lord simple yes and no questions (v.10,11): David said, "O LORD, God of Israel , your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant." And gets a simple reply, “He will.”
But then David ponders on and wants clarity and reassurance and so asks again and gets a simple answer: “Again David asked, "Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?" And the LORD said, "They will." (v.12) with the result: “So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.” (v.13) We also see David enquiring of the Lord again in 2 Sam 5 and when you look at that you will see an answer that is far more than a mere ‘yes'.
So what do we learn here? First of all there is the reminder that God is a communicating God who delights in hearing from His children and responding to them. Now I am sure more of my readers would be happy with the thought that it is good to pray and ask things of God, but experience suggests to me that far fewer will expect to hear direct answer responses! Let's suppose you take James' teaching to heart and you ask God for wisdom about a certain issue (see Jas 1). How many of us, I wonder, listen to our thoughts for an answer. All I can tell you is that the many times I pray this prayer I suddenly find a whole flow of thoughts (ideas) pertinent to the question which opens up a way for blessing – God answers, I am not afraid to attribute it to Him because it happens so many times and provides the answers I am looking for that I would not have seen otherwise!
Are we a people of faith? Well faith, the Bile says, comes from, hearing! Hearing means we hear God. Yes, it is that simple. Like David, when we enquire of the Lord and He gives an answer, faith is stepping out on that answer. Beautifully simple – and true! Go for it!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 47. Covenant Friendship (4)
1 Sam 23:15,16 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph , he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.
This is now the fourth and final time that we find reference to this covenant friendship between Jonathan and David and it might be helpful to remind ourselves of those contacts. The first time was when this covenant came into being: “ Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself…..Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” (1 Sam 18:1,3) A little later, the second time, we found, “Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him,” (19:1,2) but Jonathan managed to persuade his father otherwise, at that time at least: “Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: "As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death” (v.6) Then came the third time when Saul was chasing David and “Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan.” (20:1) when they entered into the elaborate pact whereby Jonathan would note Saul's reaction to David's absence at the feast and then convey it to him. Now we come to this fourth and final time where Davis is on the run with his men in the desert and we find, “Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (23:16) Tragically, the only other time Jonathan in mentioned in 1 Samuel is to record his death in battle (31:2).
Now before we take note of how Jonathan encouraged and strengthened David, it is interesting to note that although Saul with all his intelligence gathering did not manage to catch David, Jonathan appears to have had no trouble in going to him. We have noted before the gossip that seemed to spread around the region, even between different peoples and perhaps, although the ordinary folk might not have spoken to Saul or his other generals, the fact that Jonathan was clearly loved by the ordinary people possibly meant that there was a conduit of communication whereby he was able to get news of David, even though it did not get to Saul's court.
So now Jonathan comes to David to encourage him one further time: “Don't be afraid," he said. "My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel , and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (23:17) Jonathan had shown something of this awareness previously when he asked of David, “do not ever cut off your kindness from my family--not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth.” (20:15) There was an implication within that of David's future success and by inference, Saul's demise. Saul himself had declared in anger to Jonathan, “As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” (20:31) He clearly saw David as a threat to his own family carrying on the kingship.
We don't know of course, because it is never mentioned after the original event, if Saul, Jonathan and others had come to hear about Samuel anointing David to be the next king. The very fact that the recorder is able to include it, suggests that it was well known: “The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel ? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem . I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (16:1) Samuel hadn't used the word king, but had simply spoken of consecrating the sons but had then clearly picked out David to be the anointed one. Of course it doesn't require too much to put two and two together to make four when you remember that Samuel had earlier declared to Saul, “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command.” (13:13,14) When Samuel anoints David and David starts having great success, the cat is out of the bag, we might say.
Intriguingly, even the enemy seemed to know about this because when David first turned up at Gather find, “the servants of Achish said to him, "Isn't this David, the king of the land ? Isn't he the one they sing about in their dances.” (21:11) Wow! A little later Saul, chiding his officials, asks, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me?” (22:7,8) Who could have that authority but a future king. Saul knows! Jonathan's last pronouncement declares what everyone knows but few are speaking out loud because of Saul's wrath: “You will be king over Israel , and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (23:17)
There it is! The word is out: Saul knows about this, Jonathan knows about this, the whole world knows about it! Saul reiterates this a while later after David has spared his life: “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.” (24:20) The die is well and truly set and everyone knows it. All we have to do is watch and wait for it. With this in mind, “The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.” (23:18) It was the last time the two ever spoke together.
Jonathan is a good example for us of a friend. What is sad is that, knowing what the end outcome was going to be, he did not stay with his friend but allowed loyalty to his God-opposed father to condemn him to death alongside his father in the days to come.
For David we have a picture of how the Lord encourages him again and again to believe the end plan for his life. Encouragement from the Lord comes to us in many different forms but the one thing we can be sure of, is that He WILL encourage again and again and again until His purposes have been fulfilled in us. Hallelujah!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 48. The Reality of the Pursuit
1 Sam 23:19,20 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king."
We have commented on the communication links that appeared to exist in Israel at this time, that took the gossip about David's victories even across the borders into Philistine country, that took the word to his family that he was hiding art Adullam, and that obviously let Jonathan know where David was. But that was a two-edged sword for now this new gathering and collecting meant that there were those who saw it in their interest to take that news about David to Saul.
Previously prior to Jonathan coming for the last time to see David, we had read, “ While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph , he learned that Saul had come out to take his life.” (23:15) The desert of Ziph is south of Hebron and to the west of the Dead Sea . The ‘Ziphites' were thus inhabitants of that area. Now we don't know why they went up to Saul at Gibeah (north of Jerusalem ) and told on him. Whether they thought David constituted a threat to them, his being in their area, or whether there was some other reason we are not told but they go to Saul and give him very detailed guidance as to how to find David. They do and say everything possible to show Saul they are on his side.
Saul, perhaps fortunately, doesn't want to go straight away but wants them to go ahead and confirm exactly where David is: “Saul replied, "The LORD bless you for your concern for me. Go and make further preparation. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah .” (23:21-23)
Now watch what happens: “So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon , in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon . When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.” (v.24,25) They go to do what Saul has said and Saul follows shortly afterwards and yet the ‘bush telegraph' tells David that Saul is coming. Who or what passed on this information we don't know but David responds and takes his men further south into the desert of Maon , followed shortly by Saul.
It gets close: “Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul.” (v.26) They simply have a mountain between them and Saul appears to be catching up. What hope of escape is there? But then, “ As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, "Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land." (v.26,27) Wow! What timing! Coincidence? Probably not. “Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.” (v.28,29) Relief! Saul dashes off with his army to defend the land to the west from the plundering Philistines so David takes off and goes east and settles in the wilderness area of En Gedi which is about half way up the Dead Sea . For the moment at least David and his men have been spared from Saul.
We make the point in this study that the chase after David was very real and very threatening. In a nice sentimental story you would have David being anointed as the next king and everything being peaceful and quiet until the time comes for him to inherit the throne, but real life is not like that. We live in a Fallen World where sinful men disobey God, lay themselves open to demonic attack and become paranoid and do all they can to oppose the people of God. It was like it then and it is like it now. Nothing changes. The truth is that we live in a war environment where our enemy seeks to take every opportunity we give him to bring us down. The truth also is that God has equipped us with every thing we need to stand and hold our ground (see Eph 6)
Until Saul is taken off the battlefield he is going to be a threat to David and we will shortly see two occasions where he got too close for comfort. However, it may be that such times are opportunities for David's heart to be revealed as we shall soon see. If you and I go through battle times, will we be revealed as the children of God that we are by the way we respond to our attackers, or will we appear just the same as they are? May it be the former case.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 49. The Lord's Anointed (1)
1 Sam 24:6,7 He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.
We come to the first of two similar events in which David displays a remarkable attitude towards authority and conveys, I believe, a very significant lesson to us. To see and understand this we have to note the circumstances: “ After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, "David is in the Desert of En Gedi ." So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.” (v.1,2) This simply follows on from the passage we have previously considered where David was only saved from being caught by Sauk by news brought to Saul that the Philistines were attacking the land and he needed to go and deal with them.
We then come to a very human account: “He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. “ (v.3) There is obviously a very large cave where David and his men take shelter when Saul turns up with his army, quite unaware that they are there. In what follows this would appear to take a little time and it may be that Saul has hung his robe over a rock and then gone a little further into one of the niches in the cave to do what he needs to do. David's men see this as an opportunity to kill Saul and do away with their problems: “The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, `I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.' " (v.4a) Now David won't go this far but, perhaps provoked by his men, he sneaks up quietly and cuts a portion off the bottom of Saul's robe and creeps back into the inner recesses of the cave again: “Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.” (v.4b)
But then we find a remarkable response in David to what he has just done: “Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe.” (v.5) and he explains what he feels to his men: “He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." (v.6) Now in this, this man after God's own heart states a principle which he will expand upon later when a similar thing happens. He sees Saul as the Lord's anointed and as such he will not do anything at all against him, either to harm him or demean him. We might say, well God has rejected Saul but as far as David is concerned the Lord anointed Saul to be king and until the Lord changes that, that is how it is; he will not lift a hand against him.
I believe this can be translated into a principle by which the man or woman of God has to abide by: where God has raised up an authority, it is for God to remove it, not us. This should not be taken to extremes to say we should not vote a politician out of office, but that we should respect the office, even if the man or woman gives us cause to question them. When it comes to spiritual leadership although I am sure that not all that purports to be spiritual leadership in the church actually is, where it is clear that God has raised up a spiritual leader, we should heed David's lesson. We may have questions over a man's ministry or his lifestyle but that allows us no leeway to gossip about him or her behind their back, or even start a campaign to bring them down. Our call is to respect them and pray for them and we rob ourselves of the Lord's blessing if we harbour wrong attitudes towards our leaders. I have known instances of those who had problems with their fathers as children and who have therefore grown up with wrong attitudes towards men and towards authority generally. If we recognise that has been our experience, unless we receive counsel and help, we remain in a very vulnerable position where the enemy can cause immense upset in us and in the church generally.
So we find, “With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. “ (v.7) But David doesn't leave it there, he lets Saul know what has happened: “Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, "My lord the king!" When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, `David is bent on harming you'? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, `I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.'” (v.8-10) There he reiterates this principle yet again – I will not lift my hand against the Lord's anointed.
He continues, “ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, `From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you.” Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand." (v.11-15) He explains his stance more fully and receives a positive response from Saul (v.16-21)
His words and his attitude have convicted Saul. If we come with gentleness and humility to express our concerns to those who worry us in spiritual authority, then we can leave it in the Lord's hands to convict them and bring change. If they will not change, then we leave them to Him to deal with them. He will hold them accountable. Rest in that. Failure to rest in that reveals things in you that need to change.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 50. The Folly of Nabal
1 Sam 25:2,3 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel , was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel . His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.
History moves on: “ Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah.” (25:1a). He had played a significant part in David's life and now he was gone so we find, “Then David moved down into the Desert of Maon .” (v.1b possibly otherwise Paran, both south of the wilderness of Ziph) David retreats to the desert where he feels most secure. Now Carmel was about seven miles south of Hebron in this same area and it was there that Saul had been held to account for his disobedience (see 1 Sam 15:12-) and it is where the next incident in David's life occurs.
The starting point is a very wealthy man named Nabal who has a wife named Abigail. Now you really need to read the whole chapter together to see all that goes on. We'll just pick up the main points. Nabal, apparently was well known for being mean and miserable. Now in his wanderings around the desert David and his men had more than a few times run across Nabal's shepherds looking after their large flocks and had always treated them well, never taking any sheep and in fact acting as protection for them (see 25:15,16). Now David has a need and requests Nabal for help in the form of provisions (25:5-8). The greeting he sent was gracious and as it was the time of one of the feasts, it might be expected that a very wealthy man might provide for others in need, especially those who had in fact helped him over the past year.
However we described Nabal as miserable although the text calls him surly. Nabal rudely rejects the request (v.10,11) and so the servants return to David who is so annoyed at this man's lack of generosity that he determines to go and sort him out (v.12,13). Fortunately for Nabal one of his servants tells Abigail what has transpired and tells her this could bring down David's wrath on them (v.14-17). She take immediate action and gathers together a large quantity of provisions and gets her servants to go ahead of her to meet David (v.18,19) David meantime was making his way towards Carmel working himself up to take vengeance on Nabal (v.20-22).
When the two meet Abigail bows before David and pleads for forgiveness, taking the blame for what had happened (v.23-25). She pleads with David not to act hastily and do something unrighteous (v.26-31). David recognizes that she has saved him from such a wrong action and gratefully receives her gifts and sends her back home with a blessing (v.32-35) and so she goes. When she gets home she finds Nabal is getting drunk and so waits until next morning before telling him what she has done. (v.36,37) and we are told in response, “his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.” (v.37,38) What that initial description means we don't know. Perhaps it meant that he had a stroke Whatever it was, ten days later he dies and the recorder attributes it to the Lord, clearly a judgment on him.
The story does not end there. When David hears of it (v.39a) he sees it as the Lord backing him and keeping him from wrong actions and then he “sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife ,” (v.39b) although the words of the servants appear a little stronger than asking (v.40). However she acquiesces and they are married (v.41.42). We are reminded that David already had two wives although one of them, Michal, had been taken back by Saul and given to another. Polygamy was not expressly banned although the early chapters of Genesis suggest or imply that one wife is God's best plan for man. In this David was following a common if unwise practice.
So what can we learn from this strange passage? Well Nabal stands out as an example not to follow and challenges us to be hospitable and gracious and generous. All things to be thought more on. David doesn't come over very well as his initial hasty anger is going to lead him to commit unrighteous acts and he is only saved by Abigail's graciousness and wisdom. She clearly is the heroine who stands out exhibiting wisdom and grace and is eventually rewarded by becoming wife of the future king of Israel . By the judgment of God she is delivered from what was probably not a happy marriage even though they were prosperous. As we said, a strange passage.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 51. The Lord's Anointed (2)
1 Sam 26:2,3 The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?" So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search there for David .
There is a sense of déjà vu about these verses because in chapter 23 we found almost exactly the same thing, these self-serving, treacherous Ziphites running to Saul to tell him where David was hiding in their territory. On the previous occasion David had only escaped Saul because Saul was called away to fend off the Philistines, but now here he comes again.
It may be worth while just pausing to note the number of times Saul came after David to get a clearer picture of the thorn in the side that Saul was to David. He had prepared to chase David in Keilah (23:7,8), had searched for him in the desert of Ziph (23:14), was told by the Ziphites where David was (23:19,20), only failed to catch David because of the Philistine distraction (23:27,28), came back and followed David across to En Gedi (24:1,2) where we saw the incident in the cave (24:3-) and now again the Ziphites go to Saul to tell on David. We should also remember that the last time he gave up pursuing David because David had spared his life in the cave.
But now, presumably time has passed, the Ziphites come again and tell Saul where David is and so Saul starts after him once more. But David is now a canny desert warrior: “ Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.” (v.3,4) Having established where Saul was, “David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.” (v.5). Presumably in the moonlight, perhaps looking down on them from a high crag, David recognizes Saul sleeping in the camp.
It is at this point that we see the mischievous warrior side of David as he puts a challenge to those who have come scouting with him: “David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, "Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?" (v.6) Now at this point one can only think this is David responding to his natural urges as a desert fighter to sneak down and overcome his enemy as they slept. Note I used the word ‘natural' because we are going to see something that is not natural.
Abishai takes up the challenge and so “David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.” (v.7) There is the ideal opportunity to finally get rid of this thorn in the side and Abishai makes that suggestion: “Abishai said to David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won't strike him twice." (v.8) Yes, that seems the obvious thing to do but Abishai has forgotten David's previous response when Saul's life was in his hands. And thus suddenly it strikes David again what they are about to do: “But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives," he said, "the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let's go." (v.9-11)
There it is again, a recognition that Saul was still the Lord's anointed and now David adds to it, if anyone is to remove Saul it must be the Lord. Others may kill Saul but David won't for he recognizes the spiritual reality here – the Lord put Saul there and the Lord must remove him. He may die of old age or in battle but David will not contribute to Saul's death. It is a remarkable declaration of faith. Oh, that we would see it more in the church today. Those the Lord has put into spiritual leadership, only He can remove. Now He may remove by death or He may send one of His anointed ministries to do it. I have known a prophet come into a situation where a leader was committing adultery, which no one else knew about, and stood him down. The adulterer was wise enough to know not to reject the word of the prophet and is still alive and has restored his life elsewhere.
The Lord may do it by a sovereign act or by an anointed word of authority, but not by gossip and innuendo. Again, if we have question marks over the spiritual authority, pray for it and seek its correction and restoration by God. Unless you are called to be a ministry by God with His authority, take no other action. Leave it to the Lord. The one exception I would put to this rule is that of child abuse. If there is a vulnerable child or children at risk, and you are absolutely sure about it, then that is a ground for going public, but I would suggest only after confronting the person with their sin, and their refusal to repent. Then is the time to act. Perhaps one final word. If your church leader is part of a hierarchy and you are worried about something you see him doing you feel is quite wrong, then pray and if you still feel it is right, make an appointment with whoever it is above him and go and speak to them. Rest in their decision.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 52. Living with the Enemy
1 Sam 27:1 But David thought to himself, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel , and I will slip out of his hand."
We had a glimpse of this earlier on in chapter 21 when David, out of desperation, went to Gath , a Philistine city, to seek refuge. At that time the leaders with Achish, the king of Gath , had been highly suspicious of David. It had been early days and probably the tales of David fleeing and only just escaping Saul had not yet spread and so David had had to feign madness and left the Philistines. Now it is different. There are more than one or two stories circulating no doubt about how David had managed to escape the clutches of Saul. So in our verses above we see David reasoning with himself that his only option is to escape to the lands of the Philistines and risk it there, because the signs are that Saul seems to be getting closer every time he comes after David.
For that reason we then read, “ So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath . David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel , the widow of Nabal.” (v.2,3) It can only be because they knew that David was a true outcast in his own country that they now tolerated both David and his six hundred plus followers. It is quite amazing when you think about it. As far as David is concerned, it works: “When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath , he no longer searched for him.” (v.4)
So bizarrely the anointed future king of Israel is living in the land of their old enemy. David manoeuvres so that he is not going to be under the constant watch of the King of Gath for, as we shall see, it will be important that he can come and go without observation : “Then David said to Achish, "If I have found favour in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?" So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months.” (v.5-7)
To try to think more broadly about what is happening we should perhaps observe that although David is living in the land of the Philistines he never becomes a Philistine. In fact he will actually be operating against them – under cover. He is forced into these circumstances because the leader of Israel is hostile to him and seeks to kill him. If Saul had been wise he would still have had David under him as one of his generals fighting battles for him, but Saul, as we saw earlier suffers paranoia. David is in a place where I am sure he would prefer not to be. Although he refuses to raise a hand against Saul, he must have some desire to enter into the fulfilment of Samuel's anointing of him, and yet he is frustrated in that but still has that greater sense that he is not to raise a hand against Saul.
I have known a situation where an individual in a church has had a vision for outreach, making and taking every opportunity to reach out with God's love to the community, and yet the Pastor of the church was not for it. Instead of ploughing his own furrow the individual submitted it to the leader and accepted his attitudes about outreach (that people would just come by the sovereign acts of God). Although the individual in question could not work out their vision through the church, he became involved with the community through other means that made him better known throughout the community, and just rested in the belief that one day the Lord would release greater faith in the church leader. That is the nearest parallel that I can get to this situation which shows us that sometimes the world (and church!) does not work as we want it to and we find ourselves in circumstances we wish we weren't in – but are! it doesn't make you a bad Christian, it just means you are living in a fallen world and in fact, if you are like David seeking to honour ‘the Lord's anointed' you are actually being very righteous!
Whatever we find ourselves caught up in with our lives being pushed in directions different to that which we wish, we would do well to remember Jesus' words about his followers: “ I have sent them into the world.” (Jn 17:18) His desire is that we do not keep in little holy enclaves but interact with the world, and sometimes He uses that interaction to sanctify us. However his overall intentions are clear as he stated as, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (Jn 12:47) and he wants to use you and me to do it.
His ways of achieving that can sometimes appear convoluted. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is a classic example of that. From early in his life the Lord declared His intent – to make him a great leader but for that to happen the Lord had to allow and yet use the bad attitudes of his brothers, a slave master in Egypt, a seductive wife, a prison warder and a butcher and a baker before it could come about and Joseph was eventually able to say to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20) The world, Satan and sin may conspire in this fallen world to create circumstances we wish were not there, but the Lord promises that He will be there working in the midst of them, whatever! (Rom 8:28) Hallelujah!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 53. Trials & Tribulations
1 Sam 27:8,9 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt .) Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.
Remember in all that follows, David is simply trying to survive. He is on the run from the king of Israel who is determined to hunt him down and kill him and so he has fled to neighbouring Philistia where Saul will not come because the Philistines were a strong adversary. He has managed to get Achish to allow him to live in Ziklag, a little distance away, and so we now see David using his men as raiding parties against people who were not Philistines but who were those against Israel . The Geshurites lived south of Philistia and were a people not conquered by Israel at the time of the taking of the Land. The Girzites aren't mentioned anywhere else in the Bible but we must assume they were a similar people. The Amalekites had long been enemies of Israel and Saul had been instructed to wipe them out but had failed to do that completely.
David is living on a knife-edge. He has to be careful to stay on Achish's good side and so when Achish enquires where David went raiding he told him areas of Judah and Israel : “ When Achish asked, "Where did you go raiding today?" David would say, "Against the Negev of Judah " or "Against the Negev of Jerahmeel" or "Against the Negev of the Kenites." (v.10) To maintain this lie David had to completely eradicate any group he went against: “He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath , for he thought, "They might inform on us and say, `This is what David did.' " And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory.” (v.11) It was literally the only way he could survive and as a result, “Achish trusted David and said to himself, "He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever." (v.12)
However it got even more dangerous: “In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel . Achish said to David, "You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army." David said, "Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do." Achish replied, "Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life." (28:1,2) it gets even worse as the Philistines prepare to attack Israel and as much as David is on the run from Saul we know he did not want to raise a hand against him and so as we move on we find, “The Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, and Israel camped by the spring in Jezreel. As the Philistine rulers marched with their units of hundreds and thousands, David and his men were marching at the rear with Achish. The commanders of the Philistines asked, "What about these Hebrews?” (29:1,2) The good news, as we shall see, is that the commanders of the Philistines were naturally unhappy about having David behind them as they go to fight Israel .
Achish argues on David's behalf (29:3b-5) but has to give way to his commanders and so somewhat apologetically explains it to David (v.6,7) and David pleads innocence (v.8) and Achish has to press him further to leave which he does (v.9-11). When David gets back to Ziklag (30:1) he finds that Amalakites have plundered the town and taken all their women and children (v.2-4). To cut a long story short David and his men pursue them, overcome them and bring back their families but we should perhaps note David is still seeking the advice and direction of the Lord: “ Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." (v.7,8)
What is also interesting is how when they return David uses the plunder they capture from the Philistines: “When David arrived in Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah , who were his friends, saying, "Here is a present for you from the plunder of the LORD's enemies." (v.26)
I have headed this study ‘Trials and Tribulations' because this is a time in David's life which I am sure he would not have wished for that was trying and difficult. The difficulty was that he was still a warrior and Israel were still his people but he was living with the enemy. However there were other enemies and so he seems to have used his time to deal with them in such a way that it remained a secret and it still appeared to his hosts that he was fighting against Israel . This life of almost two lives nearly brought him to the place where he might have had to fight against Israel but was fortunately saved from that by suspicious Philistine leaders. He then finds that one of his other enemies have come and plundered his home town and has to go and complete the job of dealing with them, Finally he uses the plunder to bless his friends back at home in Israel.
It is a highly convoluted and unnerving experience. What can we learn about David from all this? Well he never went against his own people and so remained loyal to Israel during this time. In fact he went further and continued to deal with some of their old enemies who had continued to be a thorn in their side. Amazingly therefore, he continues to act as a commander of an Israelite fighting force even while living under the feet of one of Israel's primary enemies. In it all we see he is still loyal to the Lord and seeks His wisdom. He is also loyal to his friends in Israel .
There are good things in the midst of this confusing time of his life. Let's just accept it, life is sometimes confusing and not because of wrong things we have done. David is not on the run because he has done wrong things, quite to the contrary in fact. It is, as we've noted previously, a fallen world where people ad circumstances seem to pile up against us. Remember in it, the Lord is there with you and calls you to remain loyal to him, however confusing things may appear to be. Hang in there! Confusing circumstances do not mean He no longer loves you; they just mean the enemy is having a little rant for the moment. As we said, hang in there! You might be a king - a ruler over the circumstances - tomorrow!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 54. Saul's folly
1 Sam 28:5-7 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her." "There is one in Endor," they said.
Before we come to Saul's final closing act we have to consider something that happened that had a variety of strange elements to it. It is the going of Saul to the witch of Endor. First of all let's observe the circumstances that apparently drove Saul to take this foolish action. The Philistines turned up in force but as the Lord is no longer with him Saul is filled with fear. Yes, in his desperation he does enquire of the Lord but the Lord does not answer. The Lord is waiting for repentance and in its absence He says nothing. Now Saul has this urge to get some encouragement – from somewhere!
The prophet Isaiah was later to address this sort of situation and declared, “ When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isa 8:19,20) Don't consult deceiving mediums but instead turn to the Law of God and the testimony that we have of the Lord's dealings with His people that teaches us all we need to know. Inquire of God! That sums up God's will in respect of consulting fortune tellers etc.
Saul asks his men for a medium and they send him to Endor. “So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. "Consult a spirit for me," he said, "and bring up for me the one I name." (28:8) Although disguised he is quite open about his wishes. She is more guarded: “But the woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?" (28:9) That must have been because of the influence of Samuel. But Saul reassures her, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this." (v.10) and then comes the crunch: “Then the woman asked, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" "Bring up Samuel," he said.” (v.11)
Now when you think about this, what is Saul expecting? A few words of comfort? That Samuel will speak differently to him, that Samuel will be easy going on him, that Samuel will forget God's instruction to get rid of mediums and so put up with Saul's further disobedience? Well here is where it really starts getting freaky; the woman goes in to her act but then it all goes wrong, it really does appear to be Samuel: “When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!" (v.12)
The fact that she responds like this means that she wasn't really expecting this to happen and it scares her. Saul cries to her to be clearer: “The king said to her, "Don't be afraid. What do you see?" The woman said, "I see a spirit coming up out of the ground." "What does he look like?" he asked. "An old man wearing a robe is coming up," she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.” (v.13,14) The only other time in the Bible when someone appears to come back from the dead is on the Mount of Transfiguration where Moses & Elijah appear (see Mt 17) – and of course when Jesus rose from the dead – and so this is not something you can expect to happen, and the medium certainly didn't, but God in His grace (?) allowed Samuel to speak to Saul one more time: “Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors--to David. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines." (v.16-19)
You can't get any clearer than that for a rebuke. You've lost the kingdom to David and you are going to die tomorrow. That basically is the end of it. You can read yourself the further few details before Saul goes back home. But that's it.
Today mediums and those in the occult foolishly try to use this passage to support what they do but they always forget that first, behind this passage was the Law of Moses which forbade such things, which Samuel had complied with, and then the actions of this so-called medium indicate that what happened – the reality of it being Samuel – was completely unexpected; this was a unique incident in the Bible. Normally it never happened!
If you are not sure about the verses about mediums, here are some:
Meditations in 1 Samuel 55. The End of Saul
1 Sam 31:1-3 Now the Philistines fought against Israel ; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa . The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.
And so we arrive at the end of 1 Samuel and the almost inevitable conclusion, the death of Saul and Jonathan. Initially Saul is hit by an arrow and he is seriously wounded. He fears he will be overcome by the enemy who make take him alive and taunt and torture him before they kill him and so , “ Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” (v.4a) He would rather end it quickly but his armour bearer is hesitant: “But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it” (v.4b) It might be said he committed suicide if he hadn't already been wounded ‘critically'. As far as the overall battle went, we read, “When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.” (v.7)
So that is it, the end. There are more bits to come before the chapter is finished and you can read them yourself. It is not a glorious passage of Scripture. It doesn't surprise us because deep down we knew it had to come. He had rejected the Lord and so the Lord rejected him and this outcome was likely. We might ponder that sometimes the will of God takes time to be worked out; the Lord is patient, not only hoping for people to repent and turns to Him (and that had always been an option for Saul right up to the end) but also in bringing an end to their futile circumstances.
Now I have just overplayed it, and for a point. We might look at Saul and think how futile his reign had been and what a waste he was and so on but before we finish this set of studies I want to stretch into 2 Samuel and see David's response to all that had happened. In chapter 1 we find a young man turns up at David's camp who purports to have come from the Israelite camp and bring news of the death of both Saul and Jonathan. David cross examines him and he turns out to be an Amalekite and he claims to have found Saul in the battle field, mortally wounded, and that Saul had asked him to put him out of his misery and kill him, which he had done (see v.2-13). David then has him executed for having killed ‘the Lord's anointed'. (v.14-16)
But it is what follows that I want us to observe: “David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar): "Your glory, O Israel , lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!” (v.17-19) David mourns for both Saul and Jonathan and sings of their greatness. Listen: “Saul and Jonathan-- in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. "O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold. "How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. "How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!” (v.23-27)
Now the cynic will say he doesn't mean this, it's just a public show, and anyway some of the things he says are not true – “in life they were loved ad gracious”, what was all that about? That was David remembering back to good times that he had known in the earlier days with Saul. His words about Jonathan are natural and reflect the sort of relationship these two young warriors had had, but when he comes to Saul he seeks to respect the good things of the man, the role he played in vanquishing so many enemies of Israel and for leading them so well.
Whenever I have led a funeral service in the past, and where the recent years of the deceased had possibly been difficult with illness or infirmity, I have always suggested to the congregation that they pause and think back to earlier years, the joyful years and the good years in their memory and give thanks. Sadly because it is a fallen world, the latter years of a life are often not as glorious as the former and it is easy to forget those former years. David will not let that happen, they need to be remembered. Yes, Saul did mess up, yes he was disobedient and yes, the Lord did leave him, all these things (and more) are true but we do not glory in the downfall of another, whoever they may be. We may be grateful that the reign of a tyrant is ended but the sorrow is that this person utterly failed in their life (as big and as might as they may have appeared to the world) and utterly failed to express their ‘image of God' side in a good way. How many times I am reminded of Ezekiel 18 where the Lord says He does not rejoice over the death of a sinner but would much rather they repented and came to the good.
In David we have a man after God's own heart and here in these tragic chapters we see the downfall and death of a man who had such potential and who had received so much help from God. Remember what we said in meditation no.20, “In SEVEN ways the Lord was there for Saul to equip him and enable him to be the king the people want.” God had done everything He could from His side but despite all that Saul got it wrong and we have just observed the tragic end outcome. It is a tragedy of a story as far as Saul is concerned and for the person after God's own heart, it is grievous. The way is now open for David to become king. It has taken a long time but the time has come, although the path ahead is not going to be easy.
What do we take away? A warning not to be like Saul. Ponder on how much the Lord has done for you in your life. Are you allowing Him to lead you to your full potential in Him? An encouragement to remember David and remember that the will of God requires us, so often, to be persistent and to persevere while we wait for His promises to be worked out. A reminder also that He calls us to hold on to right attitudes while we are waiting for it to be worked out and in the process to be open to let Him bring the changes in us He wants to bring. These are all big issue lessons. May we hold on to them.