24. One Step Forward and Two Backward (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2)
“What’s a Man Like You Doing in a Place Like This?”
This past year, I found myself doing things I never dreamed I would be doing. The health of our neighbor of many years was rapidly declining. We would look out the window one moment and see her sitting in her chair at the kitchen table. The next moment, the chair was empty. We knew she was on the floor and that I would need to go next door to help. As time went on, our neighbor’s “home base” became a recliner, and then a hospital bed. I found myself at the grocery store, buying things of which I had hardly even heard.
One day, the hospice nurse came by for her regular visit. I saw her car and stepped outside to ask how things were going. She informed me that things were getting worse, and that we would now have to employ the “full transfer.” I gave her a puzzled look, not knowing exactly what she meant. Without hesitation she responded, “Here, I’ll show you.” Before I knew what was happening, I was standing there on my neighbor’s front porch with the nurse demonstrating a “full transfer.” She locked her legs outside of mine, and then locked her arms around my neck. I now knew what a “full transfer” was, which I would likely need to use to transfer the patient from one point to another. My problem was that I was standing on the front porch in a position which could have appeared very different from what it actually was. I could imagine every neighbor peering out their front window, then rushing for the binoculars or telephoto lens! How could I possibly explain? What was I doing in a situation like this?
When I read the account of David’s flight to Gath and his alliance with Achish, king of Gath, I must ask this same question. By the end of our text, we find David in the army, going out with his king ready to do battle. The problem is that David is in the Philistine army, and he is going out to do battle with the Israelites. We read that David assures this Philistine king that he is ready and willing to show what he and his men can do, against the people of God. What is a fellow like David doing in a spot like this?131 We hope to learn the answer to this question as we study this perplexing passage. Let us look to the Spirit of God to illuminate our hearts and minds, so that we may understand the lessons God has for us here.
David is anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel in chapter 16. In chapter 17, he stands up against Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, and kills him. By chapter 18, Saul begins to get nervous about David’s popularity with the people and sets out to bring about David’s death. At first, he wants to make it look like an accident, but eventually he gives orders for David to be put to death. Eventually David is forced to flee for his life, living as a fugitive from justice.
David’s flight from Saul begins with his unexpected appearance at Nob, where he gives Ahimelech the priest a phony story to explain that he has come without his men. At David’s request, the high priest gives David some of the sacred bread and the sword of Goliath. From Nob, David flees to king Achish at Gath. The king is willing to provide sanctuary for David, until some of his servants remind him that David’s reputation is not to be taken lightly. Knowing he is in danger, David pretends to be insane, going about the city scribbling on the gates and dribbling in his beard. Achish does not feel threatened by a mad man, but neither does he see the gain in providing him sanctuary, so he drives David out of Gath. From this point on, David begins to gather a following of mal-contents and is forced to hide out in the remote regions of Judah, especially since the exhortation of Gad (22:5).
In chapter 24, Saul and David happen to seek the solitude of the same cave. David’s men interpret this “divine encounter” as a sign that God wants them to kill Saul and end their troubles. David does not. Even cutting off a portion the king’s robe causes David pangs of conscience. David lets Saul leave the cave and then reveals his presence, gently rebuking the king for seeking his life without cause. David assures Saul he has no intention of doing him harm, and that he has left dealing with Saul to God. Saul seems to relent, and the two men part peacefully.
In chapter 25, David is insulted by Nabal, a foolish descendant of Caleb, who does not at all live up to his heritage. David sets out fully intending to take not only Nabal’s life, but the lives of every male in his household. Only because of the wise, self-sacrificing intervention of Abigail, Nabal’s wife, does David turn from hot-headed revenge. In this encounter, Abigail assures David he will become the next king, and that leaving vengeance to God is the best course of action. David agrees, and these two part peacefully.
Chapter 26 seems to be a spiritual high point for David. Once again, Saul is in pursuit of David. David learns of Saul’s presence and sends out spies, who pinpoint the exact location of his camp. David and Abishai then enter the camp as the soldiers of Saul sleep the deep sleep of a divine sedative (26:12). David does not allow Abishai to kill Saul, as he clearly intends to do (26:8-9, 15). Instead, only Saul’s spear and water container are taken, as proof of how close they were to the king, yet unhindered by any of Saul’s men.
In this confrontation, David begins by rebuking Abner, and then the rest of the soldiers with Saul for allowing an assassin to approach their king. This is a crime worthy of death, David reminds them all, and then informs them it was he who saved the king’s life, not any of them. How can it be, David wonders, that the one who saves the king is hunted as though an assassin, while those worthy of death are the ones who seek his life?
David also has a word for his king, Saul. He once again affirms his loyalty to Saul and asks again why Saul is seeking his life. He indicates to the king that there must be those stirring him up against David, and wrongly so. He is no threat to the king. But in pursuing David, the king is driving him out of the land, and thus out of the place of worship and divine blessing. It is as though the king is telling David to worship other gods. David pleads with Saul not to force him to leave this land so that his blood would be shed on foreign soil (26:17-20). Saul confesses his guilt and acknowledges that David will “accomplish much and surely prevail” (26:25). He indirectly promises David he will cease pursuing him, and thus he invites him to “return” (26:21). I take it he is encouraging David to “return” to worship, without fear for his life.
Yet, in spite of all the confirmations that David is to be Israel’s next king, in spite of all of David’s own affirmations of faith, we find David leaving the land and returning to Gath. This is indeed most amazing.
Better in Gath than in the Grave
1 Then David said to himself, “Now I will perish one day132 by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines. Saul then will despair of searching for me anymore in all the territory of Israel, and I will escape from his hand.” 2 So David arose and crossed over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, each with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal's widow. 4 Now it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, so he no longer searched for him.
The “then” of verse 1 seems to suggest a fairly close proximity between the events of chapter 26 and those of chapter 27. No significant span of time is indicated, and neither are any crisis situations described which would explain David’s sudden change of heart.133 David, who was so confident that God would protect his life (24:15) and who has been assured of this by Abigail (25:29), now speaks of his death as a certainty if he does not flee to the land of the Philistines where he is assured of his safety (27:1). David, who in the previous chapter said it was Saul who would perish (26:10),134 now says it is he who will perish. And David, who pleads with Saul that he not be forced to leave the land, now feels compelled to leave even though Saul has given him some assurance of safety. This is most amazing.
The word David employs here (rendered “perish” by the NASB) is significant, especially since David should have known the Law of Moses. The word is employed some 18 times from Genesis to Judges – that is, until David employs it in 26:10 and 27:1. Three of those times it is used to refer to God’s judgment on Israel’s enemies. Eleven times it refers to God’s judgment on Israel as His enemy, for disobeying Him and disregarding His Law. Is it not interesting that David, who has just spoken of himself as innocent and of others as guilty, now uses this term to express his fear that Saul will destroy him? David has really lost it here. Dale Ralph Davis writes that, “. . . the thinking that led David to this move points to one of faith’s fainting fits (as H. L. Ellison calls them):
‘Then David said to his heart: ‘Now I am going to be swept away one day by the hand of Saul; I have no good (here), but I must escape to the land of the Philistines – Saul shall despair of me, of searching any more for me in all the territory of Israel; so I shall escape from his hand.’ [27:1]”135
It has not been that long ago since David sought sanctuary in Gath the first time. That was a miserable disaster for David. He did survive, but he was driven out as a scribbling, slobbering lunatic. One would have thought that as David left the gates of Gath, he would have muttered to himself, “I’ll never do that again!” And yet, here he is, but this time he is not alone. This time, David has his 600 followers, plus all their wives and families (27:2-3).136 David’s two wives are with him as well.137
David is right about one thing. When Saul hears that David has fled to Gath, he no longer searches for him. Does this mean Saul would have tried to hunt David down had he remained in Israelite territory? It isn’t really surprising that Saul would not seek to capture David in Philistine territory. After all, he was never really aggressive in fighting Philistines anyway. It was his son Jonathan who was aggressive in this matter. Being “right” about Saul giving up does not mean that David is right in fleeing to Philistine territory, however, as I think the author makes clear.
A Place of His Own
5 Then David said to Achish, “If now I have found favor in your sight, let them give me a place in one of the cities in the country, that I may live there; for why should your servant live in the royal city with you?” 6 So Achish gave him Ziklag that day; therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. 7 And the number of days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.
You can imagine that David, his 600 fighting men and all their families, must have made quite an impact on Gath. It is not out of consideration for Achish or Gath that David makes a request of the king, however. David approaches Achish with a request. He asks if he can be given a city where he and his followers and families can live that is not under foot. It seems a reasonable request, and so Achish gives David the city of Ziklag. This city is 25 miles or so to the south and east of Gath. It is somewhat out of the way, from a Philistine perspective, and not all that distant from Israelite cities. It gives David and his followers a “place of their own,” in an area where David’s activities will not be monitored by Achish. It is something like moving far enough away from your in-laws to have a life of your own. David dwelt in Philistia a year and four months, but the town of Ziklag becomes a permanent possession of the Israelite kings (verses 6-7).
Pulling the Wool Over Achish’s Eyes
8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites; for they were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times, as you come to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt. 9 And David attacked the land and did not leave a man or a woman alive, and he took away the sheep, the cattle, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothing. Then he returned and came to Achish. 10 Now Achish said, “Where have you made a raid today?” And David said, “Against the Negev of Judah and against the Negev of the Jerahmeelites and against the Negev of the Kenites.” 11 And David did not leave a man or a woman alive, to bring to Gath, saying, “Lest they should tell about us, saying, 'So has David done and so has been his practice all the time he has lived in the country of the Philistines.'“ 12 So Achish believed David, saying, “He has surely made himself odious among his people Israel; therefore he will become my servant forever.”
David and his men are given a place in which to live. They also need a means of livelihood. David’s solution to this problem is indeed ingenious. David uses Ziklag as his headquarters, his base of operations. From here, David and his men go about the area raiding the cities and camps of Israel’s enemies. We know some of these people, such as the Amalekites. But of others, like the Girzites, we know nothing. We do know in a generic sort of way that these are the peoples who inhabited the land from ancient times. It may be safe, therefore, to conclude that all of these peoples are “Canaanites,” who are under the ban (see Exodus 23:23; Numbers 21:3; Deuteronomy 7:1-5; Judges 1:17).
If this is the case (we may have a small element of doubt in the case of the Girzites, for example), then the wholesale slaughter of these “Canaanites” seems justified. I must point out, however, that although David kills all of the people whose villages he raids, including children, he does not kill all of the cattle. He “took away the sheep, the cattle, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothing” (verse 9). If David is attacking these peoples in order to obey God’s command, then he is no more obedient than Saul, who left only the king and the best of the cattle alive. It seems, therefore, that David attacks these peoples for more pragmatic reasons, such as providing food for their families. He kills all the people, leaving no survivors, not because this is God’s command, but because it is the only way he can continue his deception (see verse 11).
David may be doing the right thing (i.e., annihilating those God put under the ban), but for all the wrong reasons. God often accomplishes His will by means of self-serving men who only unwittingly do what God has purposed. This was true of Joseph’s brothers (see Genesis 50:20), and it seems so with David in Philistine territory.
David may not be wise in fleeing to the Philistines for safety, but he is certainly cunning and clever. King Achish may think himself to be shrewd, but I am inclined to think he is nave and gullible.138 David comes to this Philistine as a “defector,” whom Achish is inclined to view as a real prize, a real “feather in his cap.” David’s presence among the Philistines looks like a real asset to Achish. After all, from all appearances David is fighting for the Philistines against the Israelites (27:10). This must mean the Israelites would never take David back, and certainly not as their king (compare 21:11; 27:12). Rather than consuming the resources of Achish, David is a contributor. After every raid, David seems to come to Achish to report and give a portion of the spoils (27:9). Achish thinks he has David in the palm of his hand and that he can continue to “use” him to his own advantage.
Achish is not very perceptive. David is not really killing off Israelites at all, but the enemies of Israel, and all from his sanctuary in Ziklag. While we are not told so in this text, it will not be long before we are told that David shares some of the spoils of war with the very people he is supposed to be killing – his kinsmen:
26 Now when David came to Ziklag, he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah, to his friends, saying, “Behold, a gift for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD: 27 to those who were in Bethel, and to those who were in Ramoth of the Negev, and to those who were in Jattir, 28 and to those who were in Aroer, and to those who were in Siphmoth, and to those who were in Eshtemoa, 29 and to those who were in Racal, and to those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to those who were in the cities of the Kenites, 30 and to those who were in Hormah, and to those who were in Bor-ashan, and to those who were in Athach, 31 and to those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to go” (1 Samuel 30:26-31).
Do you see the dramatic contrast between the way David represents his activities to king Achish and the way David is actually conducting himself? He tells Achish he is fighting with fellow-Israelites, leading the Philistine king to conclude he is “making himself odious among his people Israel” (27:12). The truth is he is killing the enemies of the Israelites, and then sharing some of the spoils with them, making frequent visits to their cities (30:26-31). David is ingratiating himself with the Israelites, while living under the protection of the Philistines. We might say David is “playing both ends against the middle.”
About this time, David must be mentally patting himself on the back: “It can’t get any better than this.” David does not have to hide out in the desolate “God forsaken” wilderness areas of Israel; he can freely go anywhere he wants, with respect. He can even drop in on the king. He does not have to “beg” for a handout for his men, but rather can live high on the spoils of his raids. He does not have to fear that the Israelites will betray him; he frequents Israelite villages and towns, bringing their leaders presents from the spoils of war. And if Saul will not deal with the enemies of Israel who surround this nation, David will. David seems to have the best of both (Israelite and Philistine) worlds. And so it appears, but not for long. The chickens, as we say, are about to come home to roost.
1 Now it came about in those days that the Philistines gathered their armed camps for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Know assuredly that you will go out with me in the camp, you and your men.” 2 And David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” So Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”
In the last several months, several families have chosen to have their children sit with them in the 11:00 a.m. teaching hour, where this message is delivered. One of my young friends contributed the title for the message a couple of lessons back. He also presented me with a cartoon version of the lesson for that Sunday. When I was delivering this message and reached this point in the text, a very young member of the family blurted out, “Oh, oh!” She was right. It was not a good time for David. And so I have entitled these first two verses in chapter 28, “Oops.”
The Philistines are continually at war with Israel, as we have seen throughout 1 Samuel. It seems the Philistine commanders conclude that it is time for yet another military campaign against Israel. Achish informs David of the plan, and “honors” him by informing him he has decided it is time to take David and his men as a part of his division. I don’t know how much of a surprise this is to David, but his response to the king certainly comes as a surprise to the reader: “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.”
This sounds like male macho talk. “Hey, Dude, I’m taking you to the war with me.” “Right on, man, you haven’t seen anything yet.” Does David mean what he says? Does David know for sure whether he means it? I wonder. David may be so taken by surprise he hardly knows what to say. He certainly tells king Achish what he wants to hear, because the king then responds to David’s braggadocio by telling him he intends to make him his bodyguard for life. How amazing! David, who once served as Saul’s armor bearer (16:21), now has been appointed the bodyguard of a Philistine king, and he is about to go to war with the Philistines against Israel. Surely the reader is compelled to ask the question, “What in the world is a guy like you doing in a place like this?”
In concluding our study of this text, the first thing we should say is that it’s not over yet. The author skillfully leaves us scratching our heads, taking us to yet an even more perplexing story (Saul consulting the witch of Endor in 28:3-25). The story that starts here in chapter 27 is concluded in chapters 29-31. But we are not given quick, easy answers; we are left with troubling questions, which we are expected to ponder. The author will not tell us a “happily ever after” fairy tale; he tells us a true story, one that boggles our minds. Do we want the Bible to tell us everything, so that we don’t have to agonize or think for ourselves? We won’t get that, even if it is what we prefer. The Bible often tells us troubling things, and then leaves us to ponder them. The Bible does not do all of our thinking for us; it seeks to stimulate our thinking. We are not to think independently of God’s Word, but to think in terms of God’s Word. What does the rest of the Bible teach us to make of this story here?
We can also learn from our text (and many others) that the Bible does not seek to make us into hero worshippers. In Christian and non-Christian circles alike, people are inclined to have their heroes. This is what Hollywood provides for many of our youth. We adults like to think we are more sophisticated. Televangelists are often the heroes of many who watch them and faithfully send their gifts to support them. When one of our Christian heroes fails, we are devastated. We are inclined to throw in the towel, totally devastated by the realization that our heroes are not all they are chalked up to be. If our leaders can’t live up to our standards, we say to ourselves, how can anyone expect us to live up to them? The failure of some public Christian leader often has a domino effect on the Christian community.
The Bible does not give us such heroes, men or women who have the Midas touch, successful in all they do, who never seem to fail. The Bible gives us men and women with all their flaws, men and women just like us, or as James calls them, men “with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Abraham, the man who was willing to offer us his son, Isaac, was also willing to “offer up” his wife Sarah by passing her off as his sister (and more than once, see Genesis 12:13; 20:10-13). Jacob was a man who would not meet the requirements of salesman for a mob-owned used car lot, even if his “uncle” was the mob boss.139 We are beginning to see David’s weaknesses, and we certainly know about men like Gideon, Jonah, and Peter. In the Bible, there are no perfect husbands, no perfect fathers, and no perfect wives.140 God does not want us to “worship” men or to make them our idols. He wants us to worship Him. When we idolize men , we are not only foolish, we set ourselves, and the one we idolize, up for trouble.
Now we come to the bottom line. What does the author intend this passage to teach the readers of his day, and what does this text say to us? Let’s begin with the message for the author’s day.141 We don’t know exactly when this book of 1 Samuel was written, but we do know it was written some time after the events it describes. This is why, for example, we have to be told that one who was called a “seer” in the early days of 1 Samuel would be called a “prophet” in the reader’s day (1 Samuel 9:9). We are also told that Ziklag, the city given to David in 1 Samuel 27, is a city that remained a possession of Israel’s kings to the day of the reader (1 Samuel 27:6). It would seem that the events of our text would be highly instructive to the “kings” alive in the days when 1 and 2 Samuel were written and first read. Did they see the danger of foreign alliances? They should have, for this was a constant danger in Israel’s history. The lessons David learned as Israel’s “king-to-be” were lessons for every king and “king-to-be.”
There are also lessons for the common people at the time of its writing, and these lessons apply to us today as well. Surely as we come to the first two verses of chapter 28, we must ask, “How in the world did David get himself into a predicament like this?” Where did David go wrong? Where did he fail? Let us ponder these questions carefully and prayerfully, for my contention is that Christians fail today in the same way they failed centuries ago. The problems and the solutions of those days are the same today. Let me suggest some of the ways David failed.
First of all, David fell into the “solitary syndrome” (sin-drome). David is the benefactor of ministry to him by others. There was Samuel, who not only anointed him as Israel’s next king, but to whom David could flee when Saul was pursuing him (1 Samuel 19:18-24). There was also Abiathar, the only surviving heir of Ahimelech, who joined David, along with the ephod (1 Samuel 22:20-23; 23:6). Then there was Jonathan, who constantly stood behind him, assuring David he would be the next king (1 Samuel 20:12-17, 41-42; 23:15-18). And there was also Abigail, who greatly encouraged David to do right as Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 25:26-31).
Even though David was accompanied by many, he seems somehow to have withdrawn into himself. His conversation in 27:1 is with himself (literally, the text informs us he “said to his heart”). David suffers from what I call the “Lone Ranger syndrome.” It is that false sense of “being alone” in your spiritual struggle, pain, or suffering. Even the prophet Elijah was struck with this malady:
9 Then he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:9-10, emphasis mine).
13 And it came about when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:13-14, emphasis mine).
Whenever we think we are alone in our spiritual struggles, we are self-deceived and ripe for a spiritual fall. David seems to be in that “Lone Ranger” frame of mind. He is certainly not seeking wise counsel or the will of God here, means available to him if he but wished to avail himself of them.
Second, David seems to have forgotten things he should have remembered. This is a very serious malady indeed. The nation Israel constantly forgot how the Lord had faithfully led them and provided for them in their past, even their very recent past. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses is constantly urging the Israelites to “remember” all that God had done for them, and warning them not to “forget” these things. David has forgotten far too much in choosing to flee from the land of Israel and seek protection and safety in the land of the Philistines. David has forgotten the words the Lord spoke to him through Samuel and others. He has forgotten how the Lord saved him time and time again from Saul. He has forgotten the instruction of the prophet Gad to leave the stronghold (apparently outside the land) and return to Judah (1 Samuel 22:5). He has forgotten his own words, spoken not that long ago, about the blessedness of being in the land, and the curse of being forced to leave it (chapter 26). David even appears to have forgotten the disaster it was for him to flee to king Achish in Gath (21:10-15). Forgetfulness (of God’s commands, promises, and faithfulness) is often the starting point for serious failure.
Third, David seems to have closed his eyes to the implications and consequences of his actions, while minimizing the seriousness of his error. David does not purpose to fail. He does not intend to end up in the Philistine army, headed for battle with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelite soldiers. All he intends to do is to leave Israel for a short time, just long enough for Saul to lose heart and give up his pursuit. But one sin has a way of opening the door to another, and then another. This is the way it is with David. The situation just keeps going from bad to worse, and David gets in so deep it doesn’t look like there is any way out. It all starts with what appears to be a minor lapse in faith, but it ends in a most serious situation in which David finds himself ready to take Goliath’s place against king Saul and Israel.
Fourth, David’s decision is based upon “sight” rather than on “faith.” David is not viewing his circumstances through the eyes of faith, but through human sight. His assessment of the situation is merely human. It ignores God’s previous provisions, His promises, or His prophetic declarations. David is looking through human eyes, and all he can see is certain death, if he stays in Israel. His only “hope” is in the benevolence, power and provisions of a pagan king. It is not faith, but fear, which triumphs here.
Fifth, David’s failure does not come as his response to a crushing defeat, an irresistible temptation, or a major crisis. I think we would all be much more comfortable if David’s decisions in this chapter were made in panic, in the face of monumental troubles, opposition, or temptation. The simple fact is that our text indicates nothing of the kind. In fact, David’s failure in chapter 27 follows immediately on the heels of his “successes” in chapter 26. This is not unlike Elijah, who virtually caves in (pardon the pun) after a great victory on Mount Carmel.
What then explains David’s failure here in chapter 27? I think I know. It is one of the greatest enemies the Christian ever faces – weariness. Listen to these exhortations about weariness:
And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9).
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary (Revelation 2:1-3).
I think David simply grows weary of well doing. Think of it. David has now been on the run for some time. Saul has a price on David’s head. Now even those from his own tribe, the tribe of Judah (i.e. the Ziphites) are betraying him to Saul. David is indirectly responsible for the deaths of the priests and their families. He has alienated Saul from his son Jonathan and his daughter Michal. David has endangered his own family, so that he feels he has to place them in the care of the king of Moab. David has now accumulated a following of 600 men, and they all have wives and families to worry about. This kind of burden tends to wear one down. David does not “blow out” here, so to speak; he “burns out.” David simply gives up.
It is wrong, but this is the way many of God’s people have failed throughout the centuries. But it need not be this way. Those of us who are weary simply need to come to God for strength. We need to understand that it is through our weaknesses that God demonstrates His strength:
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 29 He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:28-31).
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
7 And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
I know of many young people who have committed themselves to Jesus Christ and purposed to live their lives in a way that pleases God. Young men and women like this have said no to pornography, no to premarital sex, no to compromising relationships, no to drugs. And then one day, they become weary, and in a moment of time, they cast aside their restraint and their commitment to follow God. It may not be an instant collapse, but rather a compromise, a concession, which leads to disaster.
I know of numerous marriages at this very moment on the brink of disaster. Husbands or wives have become frustrated with their mates and with their marriages. Like David, they have affirmed their commitment to biblical principles and reaffirmed their marriages are forever. They have recognized and accepted the fact that their marriages are an earthly picture of Christ and His church. And then, they grow weary of the struggle, and simply give up, casting aside their commitments to each other, and even their commitments before God and His church. Many of the Christian marriages I have watched dissolve have crumbled as the result of weariness, on the part of one or both partners.
The same thing happens to Christians in business. These believers know they march to the beat of a different drum than their competitors. They seek not only to obey the laws of the land, but to live within the principles of the Word of God. When they bid a job, they give accurate numbers, knowing that their competition will hedge, only to gouge the customer later on. And then that Christian in business becomes weary of losing contracts, or losing profits, and starts to reason and to conduct their business on human terms, rather than by faith and obedience.
My friend, let us learn from David that even those with a sincere heart for God are never far from the possibility of failure. The good news is that even when our faith fails, God remains faithful:
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
Let us cast ourselves on Him who is faithful, and who gives strength to the weary. Let us acknowledge our weakness, and rely on His strength.
131 The question is not new or novel. We could certainly ask Abraham what he was doing in Egypt, passing his wife off as a mere sister (Genesis 12). It is what God asked Elijah, as He found him sulking at Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:9). We would want to ask the same question of Peter, as he sat warming himself by the fire along with those who were about to crucify our Lord (Mark 14:66ff.).
134 Dale Ralph Davis makes a point of the repetition of the word, “perish:” “It is the verb sapah, which David uses in 26:10 when he tells Abishai that Yahweh would surely dispose of Saul in his time; for example, Saul might go down into battle ‘and be swept away.’ Now, however, David is convinced that he himself will be ‘swept away’ by Saul if he does not exit Israel. It is a revealing reverse. Contrary to Yahweh’s record of protection, contrary to Yahweh’s promise via Jonathan and Abigail, David is certain he will now be swept away.” Dale Ralph Davis, Looking on the Heart: Expositions of the Book of 1 Samuel (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), vol. 2, p. 140.
136 Did these dependents play a significant part in the decision to seek sanctuary in Gath, even as David sought sanctuary for his parents in Moab (22:3-4)? I doubt that this whole group was in the cave in chapter 24. The families of David’s men may have been in danger from Saul (remember Ahimelech, chapter 22). The longer David and his men had to hide out (especially after David refused to take Saul’s life when he had the chance), the more eager these men must be to be reunited with their families.
137 One has to wonder what Abigail thought of David’s plan to flee to Achish. One also wonders if he asked her opinion or considered her counsel. Abigail may not have been as bold here as she was earlier, and perhaps for good reason.
138 In David’s first flight to Achish in chapter 21, it was the servants of this king who pointed out the danger of keeping an Israelite among them who was renowned for killing Philistines (21:11-12). In chapter 29, it is the other Philistine commanders who refuse to let David come to war with them against Israel (29:1-5). Achish is all too easily taken in by David.
139 Okay, I confess. I am exaggerating, but only a little. It’s hard to tell who is the more crooked of the two, Jacob or his uncle Laban. In the New Testament, I don’t hear any Jews bragging about Jacob being in their family tree.