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Lesson 4: How Sin Snags Us (1 Samuel 27-30)

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I want to talk about one of the most important subjects for you to understand if you want to walk with God, namely, “How Sin Snags Us.” Although I have been walking with God for about 28 years, and I’ve been a pastor who has studied the Word of God many hours a week for the past 16 years, last year I became aware that my understanding of the power and deceptiveness of indwelling sin was woefully inadequate.

I came to this awareness by reading volume 6 of The Works of John Owen, “Temptation and Sin” (Banner of Truth). I then discovered that a modern, abridged edition was available, so I read it, too (Sin and Temptation, abridged and edited by James M. Houston [Multnomah Press]). I highly commend it to you. Owen makes the point that we have a constant enemy of the soul that, unlike Samson’s enemy, is not only upon us, but also is in us. You come away from reading Owen alarmed with the knowledge that the power of indwelling sin is far greater than you ever realized and, as he points out (p. 5, abridged edition), when this law of sin is least felt, it is most powerful! Sin always works by deception, which makes it all the more powerful. Thus we must be aware of how it works so that we can be on guard against it.

It should be of tremendous comfort to us that when God paints a portrait of a man after God’s heart, He paints it warts and all. I want to examine a time in David’s life when he got snagged by sin. It happened very subtly. It lasted a year and four months (1 Sam. 27:7), at the end of which we find David at one of the lowest points of his life (30:6). At that point, David took the path back to the Lord (we’ll study this next week). David’s experience teaches us that

Sin snags us by making life more enjoyable at first, but the consequences always catch up to us.

1. Sin snags us by making life more enjoyable at first.

Sin never comes to us and says, “Would you like to ruin your life and the lives of those you love? Then follow me!” Rather, it comes to us especially when we’re in a difficult situation and offers an attractive alternative. Eve yielded to temptation because she saw that the forbidden fruit “was good for food, ... a delight to the eyes, and ... desirable to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6). Sin always snags us by deceiving us into thinking that it will get us what we want.

In David’s case, he had been running from Saul for about eight years. Think about that: For eight years you have been pursued by a madman and his army, intent on killing you! Saul was relentless in pursuing David (19:11-12; 21:10; 22:1, 5; 23:12-14, 24-29; 24:1-2; 26:1-2). Finally we read (27:1), “Then David said to himself, ‘Now I will perish one day 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.’”

What’s wrong with David’s thinking here? It’s contrary to God’s Word! God had promised that David would succeed Saul on the throne of Israel (15:28-29; 16:12). David himself had recently affirmed his trust in God’s promise (26:10). But here there is no mention of God in David’s decision! He did not seek the Lord on this major change of direction in his life. In fact, there is no mention of the Lord in the narrative concerning David from 27:1 through 30:5, except on the lips of Achish, king of Gath (29:6, 9)! Rather, David got tired of the extended trial he was under, he thought of a human solution that would get him out of the pressure, he took it, and (take note!), it seemed to work: “Now it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, so he no longer searched for him” (27:4). Let’s observe several things:

A. The situation for sin is often a time of trial.

Saul had been seeking for David every day for about eight years now! David had just spared Saul’s life for the second time. He probably began to think, “What’s the use? I spared his life before and he still sought to kill me. It won’t be any different this time.” Also, remember that David had the pressure of providing for his own family plus 600 men and their families! It’s tough for a fugitive to make a living. Anyone who helped David and his men fell under the wrath of Saul. And so the extended pressures caused David to lose hope.

Satan always hits when you’re down! It’s in the context of trials that Peter writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith ...” (1 Pet. 5:8, 9a). The flesh is weak, so Satan preys on us during extended times of trial to get us to doubt the promises and love of God.

B. The sequence of sin is deceptively entangling.

Hebrews 3:12-13 warns us to take care, “Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Satan used deceit to entice Eve (1 Tim. 2:14). Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the fallen human heart is more deceitful than all else. Deceit, by its very nature, fakes you out. If you’ve ever been taken by a con man, he fooled you into thinking that he was trustworthy and he was long gone with your money before you realized what had happened. Before they are enlightened to the truth, deceived people will protest that they aren’t deceived. Since we are so prone to deception, we need to be constantly vigilant, lest we get taken in. Note the sequence of how David got entangled in the deceit of sin:

(1) Wrong thinking (1 Sam. 27:1). As I mentioned, David’s thinking was contrary to the word and promise of God! God had anointed David as the successor to Saul and had promised David that he would occupy the throne of Israel. Just previously David had affirmed that God would someday act on his behalf in removing Saul from the throne (26:10). David’s comment in 27:1 is contrary to faith.

(2) Wrong feelings. Unchecked wrong thinking leads to wrong feelings. David began to feel sorry for himself. Note the preponderance of “I” and “me” in 27:1. He was self-focused rather than focused on God and His word. Maybe you’re thinking, “But I’ve heard that feelings aren’t right or wrong; feelings just are.” But the Bible teaches that many feelings are wrong and need to be confronted and changed.

In a time of trial, you must guard against self-pity and thoughts which are contrary to the Word of God. If you slip into wrong feelings, you need to check yourself and work your way out. Satan always hits you first in your thinking. Wrong thinking leads to wrong feelings. This led to ...

(3) Wrong actions (27:2). David did not seek the Lord’s mind on this decision. God is no where in the picture: “David said to himself ... (27:1). So David arose and crossed over ...” (27:2). On numerous occasions God had forbidden His people to form alliances with the pagan nations around them, because He knew that they would eventually be influenced by their immorality and embrace their false gods. And yet David here goes to live with Achish, king of Gath, without consulting the Lord.

But David was not alone (27:2-3). He had fled to Achish on a previous occasion when he was alone (21:10-15). On that occasion David was recognized and had to feign insanity in order to escape. But this time there was David, his wives, his 600 men and their households. He wasn’t planning to hide!

Wrong actions never occur in a vacuum. They always have an effect on others. David’s sin, as we shall see in a moment, had some severe effects on these men and their families. Always remember: You never sin privately! Your sin will have consequences for your family members and for others. David’s wrong actions led him into ...

(4) Wrong company (27:2-3). Do you know what nationality Achish was? He was a Philistine, a committed enemy of Israel! And do you know what city Gath was? It was the home town of Goliath! David had killed the hometown hero! Yet here he is moving to Gath! Incredible!

When believers take the path away from the Lord, sooner or later they will fall in with the wrong crowd. And Satan will use the wrong crowd to steer you further from the Lord, as we’ll see in a moment. The Apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 15:33), “Do not be deceived! ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” If you want to be a man or woman after God’s heart, then you cannot foster close friendships with those who are opposed to God and to God’s people.

David undoubtedly shared his tale of woe with Achish and assured Achish that the two of them had a common enemy: Saul. Eventually, after David had established some rapport with Achish, he asked a favor, for a city to live in. So Achish gave David Ziklag (27:5-6). David is getting more deeply entrenched. That led to ...

(5) More wrong actions (27:8-12). David had a lot of mouths to feed, and there weren’t a lot of job openings in Ziklag. So they began making guerrilla raids on the pagan villages. There were times in Israel’s history when God had ordered them to wipe out certain pagan groups as judgment for their sin. But God didn’t command David to do that here. David was acting on his own. These villagers were apparently allies with Achish. David didn’t want them talking. So he slaughtered everyone and then lied to Achish so that he thought David was attacking Jewish villages. He’s playing a dangerous con game.

When wrong thinking leads you into wrong actions and wrong company, then you feel constrained to engage in more wrong actions to cover your tracks and to maintain your lifestyle. Whenever a person gets snared by sin, there is always deception, both the sinner’s deceiving others and his deceiving himself by rationalizing his sin: “I didn’t have any other choice! Besides, the end result is good.” But you are just digging yourself in deeper! As Sir Walter Scott wrote (Marmion, Canto 6, Stz. 17.):

“O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

Thus the situation for sin is often a time of trial; the sequence of sin is deceptively entangling.

C. The snare of sin is that initially it makes life more enjoyable.

Please notice something very important: To this point, David’s wrong thinking, wrong feelings, wrong action, wrong company, and further wrong actions had resulted in what seemed to David to be very good consequences. Note four initially good results of David’s wrongs to this point:

(1) Relief from pressure. This felt good! For the first time in years David was out from under the daily pressure of Saul’s pursuing him (27:4). That’s often how you’ll feel when you decide to solve your problems apart from the Lord. Perhaps you’re enduring the pressure of a difficult marriage and you finally decide, “I’m bailing out!” You’ll feel relief at first to be free from the pressure.

Or maybe you’re single and longing for a Christian mate. You’ve waited on the Lord for years, but you’re still spending every weekend alone. Then you say to yourself, “I’m going to die lonely and single. There is nothing better for me than to start dating non-Christians.” You will initially feel relief from your loneliness.

(2) Acceptance from the world (27:5-6). In spite of the kind things he had done for Saul, David had been rejected by Saul for years. But now, here was a leader who accepted David and sympathized with his problems. The minute you turn from the Lord to the world, the world will welcome you with open arms. “Finally, you’ve seen the light! Those Fundamentalists you used to hang around with were abusive! But we love you! Welcome to our camp!”

(3) The comforts of life (27:6, 9). After years of living in caves and hiding out in the wilderness, David finally had a place to call home. He could unpack his duffel bag and his wives could set up housekeeping. It was a great feeling! And, he was in the money. David’s raids were netting him a lot of spoil. Finally David and his men didn’t have to worry about where the next meal was coming from. Often when a Christian turns from the Lord to the world, Satan throws in a few material benefits as a welcome package.

(4) Growing popularity (1 Chron. 12:1-22). Men of valor were defecting to David at Ziklag from Saul’s army, until eventually there was a great army. It all felt so good. How could it be wrong when it felt so right? Often when you begin running with the world, you receive the popularity you never had when you were walking with God.

David’s experience was not uncommon. When you take the path away from the Lord, at first everything seems great. “By-path Meadow” looks like a nice place to be, until you get caught by the Giant Despair. Getting snagged by sin is like living on credit cards. At first, you can have a grand time. You can travel, stay in the best hotels, eat at the best restaurants, and have the time of your life. But the bills are going to come due! Sin snags us by making life more enjoyable at first.

2. Sin’s consequences always catch up to us.

Note how the bills came due for David:

A. A compromising situation (28:1-2; 29:1-2).

David, the man who slew the giant from Gath who taunted the armies of the living God, the man who could not lift his own hand against Saul, the Lord’s anointed, now finds himself in league with the king of Gath going out to fight the armies of Israel, which included his dear friend, Jonathan! Incredible! David has been playing a con game, and now he’s trapped. He must have been having some serious hesitations, but he couldn’t refuse Achish or he would have jeopardized his and his men’s lives.

At this point, God graciously intervened through the Philistine warlords who asked a very pertinent question (29:3): “What are these Hebrews doing here?” Good question! What were they doing there? When a Christian runs with the world, those in the world often are aware of the inconsistency of the situation. They will often ask, “If you are a Christian, then what are you doing here?” The question is from God to bring us to repentance. Because these Philistine commanders didn’t trust David and his men, Achish was forced to send David home from the battle. This is where the bills really come due.

B. Awful consequences (30:1-6).

David and his men had left Ziklag to the sounds of children playing in the streets and women chatting as they went about their chores. There was the smell of bread baking in the ovens of their homes. But they came back to silence, except for the whistling of the desert wind. The only smell was the ashes of their homes. The place was deserted and destroyed.

And they don’t know about 30:2 or the rest of the story yet. For all they know, these raiders have hauled off all the women and children to enslave them or torture them to death. And so David’s men even talk about stoning David (30:6). Wow! David had never been so low in his life! At this point, as far as David was concerned, God and His promise to put David on the throne of Israel probably seemed a million miles away.

God’s grace does not mean that He protects us from the consequences of our sin. It is in the book written to defend the gospel of grace that Paul writes, “Do not be deceived [there’s that word again!], God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7-8).

Please note how short-lived and easily lost are this world’s pleasures. When David moved into Ziklag, he probably thought, “This is great! Our own town, a place to call home. What more could I want?” But like all the world has to offer, it can be taken from you in a minute. Only with the Lord are there “solid joys and lasting pleasure,” as the hymn puts it. If David could have looked forward a few years to see what God had in store for him in Jerusalem, he would have been appalled at Ziklag!

In His grace God allows us to reap the consequences of our sin, so that we learn not to sin. His grace also strips us of the things of this world to prepare us for better things ahead: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). So while the consequences of sin are painful, even in the pain we can know the tender mercies of our God.


Some who read this are walking uprightly with the Lord, dealing with sin and seeking to obey His Word. For you this message is saying, “Be vigilant!” “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Some may have just started on the path away from the Lord. Maybe it’s just wrong thinking. Perhaps the wrong thinking has led to wrong feelings or wrong actions. The Lord allows U-turns. Come back to Him, confess your sin, and do what you need to do to please Him.

Others may be reaping awful consequences from past sins. Though it hurts, you need to know that God’s grace and love for you are there, even in the pain. Draw near to Him and submit to His hand of discipline which is for your good.

Still others may never have turned from sin to trust in Christ as the One who took your penalty on Himself on the cross. He offers to deliver you from the ultimate consequence of sin, which is eternal punishment in hell. Will you come to Him?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why didn’t God make sin repugnant to us? How can we develop a hatred of sin?
  2. Does God’s grace mitigate the harvest of sowing to the flesh (Gal. 6:7)?
  3. Will a knowledge of God’s grace cause us to sin more or less? Why? Support with Scripture.
  4. What things can we do to avoid being deceived by sin?

Copyright 1993, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character Study, Hamartiology (Sin), Spiritual Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution, Temptation

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