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Overcome Evil with Good

As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, reading the stories of Saul, David, & Jonathan, we’ve come across several defining moments for these characters – critical moments where they have to make a certain choice and that choice then becomes the foundation of their character for the rest of their lives – for good or for bad.

Well, today we are going to read about one of those key, defining moments in the life of David. In fact, I would argue that this defining moment is probably even more significant even than his famous battle with Goliath. David’s battle with Goliath defined him as a man of bravery, boldness, and trust in God, but it’s today’s story that really begins to define David as a man after God’s own heart.

Now if you haven’t been with us recently, let me just quickly give you the run down on where we are in our story today.

King Saul is the current king of Israel, but because of his disobedience to the Lord, the Lord has declared that He will take the kingdom away from him and give it to another – a man who will obey God and do all that God desires. Saul’s son-in-law, David, has been chosen by God to be that man. God has told David that he will one day be king. This has created an interesting dynamic between David and Saul. 

Of course, David has been completely loyal to Saul and has served him faithfully – commanding Saul’s armies and being very successful at that. But Saul has grown increasingly jealous of David and has repeatedly tried to kill him.

In fact, for the last several chapters of 1 Samuel, Saul has been chasing David around the countryside – trying to capture and kill him, but David so far, has escaped – sometimes just by the skin of his teeth.

Just last week we read how Saul was only moments away from capturing David, when an urgent message arrived – telling King Saul that the Philistines were attacking – so Saul left to fight the Philistines, and David escaped. Of course, this wasn’t by chance or by luck, but by the hand of God. Throughout these stories we’ve seen God at work, keeping David safely out of the grasp of King Saul.

But in today’s story, we’re going to see things flip around, and it’s not going to be David in the hands of Saul, but Saul in the hands of David.

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The Rock of Escape

For the past several weeks, it feels as if I’ve introduced my messages in the exact same way every Sunday. It seems that every week I tell you, ‘When we last left David, he was hiding out from Saul who was determined to kill him.”

That’s been the running theme for about the last six chapters as we’ve been reading through the book of 1 Samuel.The details of the story change from chapter to chapter, but the basic premise remains the same. “Good and faithful David is running for his life from jealous, selfish King Saul.”

 And this morning, nothing has changed. Today we are going to read through the second half of 1 Samuel chapter 23, and that’s the exact plot line again. “Good and faithful David is running for his life from jealous, selfish King Saul.”

And just before we get into today’s message, maybe that’s a question that we should ponder: Why does the author of 1 Samuel put so much emphasis on this time of David’s life? Why is it important that we see this same story play out time and time again? Is it showing us David’s faithful and loyal character? Is it reminding us of God’s goodness and protection? Is it warning us through the life of Saul of the consequences of turning away from God? Or on a grander scale, is this all somehow foreshadowing the life and person of Jesus Christ?

God’s chosen to include all these stories in his divinely inspired Word for a reason, so what do you suppose that reason is?

Well, I’m actually not going to answer that question for you today, but I’d challenge you to think about it and maybe even do a little research on your own. The point of these Sunday morning sermons isn’t just for me to dispense all the answers to you, but for me to challenge and encourage you to get into the Word of God yourself. At the end of the day, you’re the one who is responsible for your relationship with God, and so I’d encourage you to make it your habit to study the Word of God for yourself.

But on that note, we do want to take some time to look at God’s Word together this morning, so let’s jump right into our passage.

So as I mentioned before, “When we last left David, he was hiding out from Saul who was determined to kill him.” Or more specifically, according to verse 14…

14 David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.

15 One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. 

1 Samuel 23:14-15

And we’ll pause here just for a moment. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but it sure seems like David has a good communication network in place. David never seems to get caught by surprise, because he’s always hearing of Saul’s plans before Saul gets a chance to carry them out. That was the case earlier in this chapter when Saul was planning to come and capture David at Keilah. Somehow David got wind that Saul was coming for him, and God confirmed that, and so David took off before Saul had chance to besiege the city and capture him.

Now again, while David is near Horesh, David heard the news that Saul was on his way to search for him and kill him. Now I don’t know if maybe there is someone among Saul’s men that is tipping off David – sending out secret messages to warn David of Saul’s plans. The Bible doesn’t say so specifically, but that certainly wouldn’t be impossible. Jonathan, for example, had previously warned David though a secret code that Saul was determined to kill him. We read about that back in chapter 20. So its quite possible that Jonathan or some other person close with Saul was sneaking out information to David.

 Or it could be that David just had lots of loyal supporters throughout the country. Remember, the people of Israel, generally speaking, loved David. He was a national hero! The women sang “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands!”  So perhaps it was the people of Israel who kept David informed of Saul’s movements.

But however David got his information, we can be sure that God had a hand in it somehow. We see from verse 14 that although Saul hunted for David day after day, God did not allow Saul to find him. God was at work, watching over David, protecting him, and keeping him safely out of the hands of Saul.

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David Rescues Keilah

Today we continue on in our journey through the book of 1 Samuel. For the past several weeks, we’ve been following David as he attempts to escape the grasp of King Saul. Even though David has been nothing but loyal to Saul, Saul has become insane with jealousy towards David and is convinced that David is trying to conspire against him. Saul has become so fearful of David that it seems there is nothing he won’t do to try to capture and kill David.

In fact, Saul has just executed 85 priests and their families because the priest Ahimelech had earlier given David some supplies for his journey! Of course, Ahimelech didn’t even know that David was fleeing from Saul, but Saul accused him of conspiring with David and ordered that he be put to death. Ahimelech and all of his relatives were then murdered by Saul’s henchman, Doeg. Only one member of Ahimelech’s family escaped – his son Abithar who fled for his life and found refuge with David.

Of course, Abithar wasn’t the only person who found refuge with David. You’ll remember that when David was hiding from Saul at the cave of Adullam, a whole group of people came to David and joined him there. These men were described as being in trouble or in debt or bitter of soul. But they all found compassion and refuge with David until David was the captain of about 400 men.

About that time, the prophet Gad told David that the Lord wanted him to return to Judah. And so, being obedient to the Lord, David and his men left the safety of their stronghold in the cave of Adullam and returned to Judah. And that’s about where we left David last time.

Saul is still on the hunt for David and David is now hiding out with his 400 men in the forrest of Hereth. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but as soon as I read about David hiding out with his men in the forest of Hereth, I immediate thought about the story of Robin Hood. I mean, just change a few names and the plot is strangely similar. Instead of Robin Hood and his band of merry men hiding out in the Sherwood Forest – you have David and his ragtag group of 400 men hiding out in the forest of Hereth. And instead of Prince John and the sheriff of Nottingham trying to hunt down Robin Hood, you have King Saul and his evil herdsman, Doeg trying to hunt down David. You could even find similarities between Robin Hood’s loyal friend, little John, and David’s loyal friend Jonathan.

The only thing we haven’t seen yet is David stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Then again, in today’s passage, we’re going to see David coming to the rescue of those in need – even while being on the run himself – so maybe there are some more similarities after all.

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David’s Compassion – Saul’s Paranoia

Last week, as we continued our study of 1 Samuel, we read about some of David’s darkest days. He had just fled from King Saul – leaving behind his friends and family – and was heading out to try to make sense of this new life as a fugitive.

His first stop was to visit Ahimelech the priest at the tabernacle – not to make sacrifices or offerings this time – but to gather supplies for the long journey ahead into exile. Ahimelech, of course had no idea that David was fleeing from Saul – and David made certain not to tell him. In fact, David outright lied about why he was even there – making up some story about being on a secret mission from the king. 

But Ahimelech helped David in every way that he could, giving him the Bread of the Presence from the tabernacle (that was really only supposed to be eaten by the priest) as well as giving him the sword of Goliath that David had brought there some years earlier.

From there, David went to seek refuge in the Philistine city of Gath – the hometown of Goliath! Certainly the last place anyone would expect David to go! And at first, it seemed that the Philistine King Achish might welcome David as a defector, but the other Philistine officials did not think that was such a wise idea. After all, David was pretty much enemy #1 for the Philistines. Why should they trust him?

Well, once David got wind of what the Philistine officials were saying, he feared for his life and decided to pretend he was crazy – scratching on the doorways and drooling down his beard! When King Achish saw David’s bizarre behaviour, he sent him away (saying that he had more than enough madmen already!)

At that point, David fled to the cave of Adullum – where, according to Psalm 34, David cried out in desperation to the Lord for help.

Of course, God heard his prayers and answered him. Through it all, God protected and was with David, and was working out all things for good.

But of course, in the moment, David had a hard time seeing that. As he fled from Saul, and as he fled from Gath, and as he hid out in the cave of Adullam, he felt alone, forgotten, friendless, and helpless. They were some of David’s darkest days.

But as we begin chapter 22 today, we’ll see that David’s dark days will begin to get a little brighter.

Chapter 22 opens with David escaping from Gath and hiding out in the cave of Adullam. He arrives alone, as we’ve mentioned before, but it’s not long before he gets some company. So let’s read what happens. It says in verse 1 of 1 Samuel chapter 22:

So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men. 

Later David went to Mizpeh in Moab, where he asked the king, “Please allow my father and mother to live here with you until I know what God is going to do for me.” So David’s parents stayed in Moab with the king during the entire time David was living in his stronghold.1 Samuel 22:1-4

So not long after David arrives at this cave of Adullam, soon a wide variety of people begin showing up.

First of all, we see that all of David’s brothers and relatives come to join him. And that’s almost a little surprising because David hasn’t always had a great relationship with the rest of his family. You’ll remember that when David was a kid, he was overlooked and forgotten about entirely as when Samuel invited their family to join him for a sacrifice. Everybody went but David was left with the sheep! Later on when he was a teenager and he showed up to visit his brothers at the battlefield, he was blasted by his older brother for being proud, deceitful, and selfish. So in the few glimpses we’ve seen of David’s family dynamics, we haven’t seem much evidence of support for David from his family.

But those glimpses did happen several years ago. Things may have changed over time as David grew to become a highly respected and successful commander in Saul’s army. Family relationships do tend to mature over time. So it could be that they’ve come to offer David their loyal support as his family. 

The other possibility for why they’ve decided to come to David now is that Saul’s quest to capture David has threatened their lives as well! 

If Saul is willing to kill his own family to get to David, he most certainly would be willing to kill David’s family! And so it could be that all of David’s family have come to him at this cave now because they too are fleeing for their lives!

Verse 3 & 4 seem to support that as David asks the King of Moab to keep and protect his parents while David tries to figure out what God is doing in all this! David must assume that their lives are in danger as long as Saul is hunting him, and so he makes a plan to keep them safely out of Saul’s reach in Moab.

But whether David’s brothers are just offering their loyal support as family or whether they too are fleeing for their lives, either way, it certainly makes sense that all of David’s relatives come to join him at the cave of Adullam.

But what about all these other people? Verse 2 tells us that “others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men.”

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David’s Darkest Days

If you haven’t been with us for awhile, we are currently working our way through the book of 1 Samuel – specifically looking now at the life of David. For the past several weeks, we’ve been watching as the tension between King Saul and David has simmered, stewed, and has finally come to a boil! Ever since David became a war hero after slaying the Philistine giant, Goliath, Saul has grown increasingly jealous of David and has determined to kill him!

At first, Saul tried to keep it subtle – secretly plotting and scheming to have David killed in battle. But after that failed, Saul ramped up his efforts and is now actively and openly pursuing David – looking to capture him and put him to death.

Of course, David has been nothing but loyal to Saul the entire time. Throughout all of Saul’s subtle attempts to kill David, David has constantly given Saul the benefit of the doubt and has never raised a hand or even his voice against the king.

But it’s come to the point now that David has no choice but to flee from Saul. So last week we watched David say goodbye to his best friend Jonathan, and David heads off to begin his new life as a fugitive.

Jonathan returns to town and David… well, I’m not sure he knew where he was going to go. He couldn’t return home to his wife Michal  Saul had already accused his daughter of helping David escape once — so I’m sure Saul had men stationed to carefully watch his daughter’s house, so David couldn’t go there. He couldn’t return to his father’s family – I’m sure that’s the 2nd place Saul would look. So where does David go?

Well, let’s find out! 1 Samuel chapter 21, verse 1 tells us that….

“David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest.”

1 Samuel 1:1a

As David tries to figure out where he should go to escape the grasp of Saul, he decides to make his first stop in the town of Nob. Nob was just outside of Jerusalem and was known as the city of the priests – likely because it was the current home of the tabernacle. Over the years, as a mobile tent, the tabernacle had moved from one town to another within Israel, but at this point in history, the tabernacle was located in Nob. And since the tabernacle was there, that’s also where the priest Ahimelech lived – and that’s who David wanted to see. Let’s read on…

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David & Jonathan Affirming the Covenant

This morning we’re going to tackle a rather lengthly passage as we continue working our way through the book of 1 Samuel. There are 42 verses in 1 Samuel chapter 20, so I want to jump right into it, but first, let me help you get your bearings as to where we are in this story.

There are three main characters in this story today. First, there is King Saul – who is of course, the king of Israel. He has been repeatedly disobedient to God and so God has determined to give Saul’s kingdom to another man – a man who will do all that God wants him to do. And that man is David.

As it happens, David is Saul’s son-in-law and a commander in Saul’s army. He is still quite young, but has repeatedly proven himself to be not only a great warrior, but also a man of tremendous character and faith. As the Lord gives him success after success, all of Israel grows to love David! But as Israel grows to love David, Saul become increasingly jealousy and fearful of David. In fact, things have gotten so bad, that Saul has determined to kill David.

To date, Saul has attempted to pin David to the wall with his spear three times, he has plotted to have David killed by the Philistines at least twice, and he has recently called on his men (including his son Jonathan) to assassinate David!

But Jonathan (who is the third character in this story) is best friends with David! Even before David married Jonathan’s sister, Jonathan had sworn an oath and made a covenant with David – pledging his loyalty and friendship for the rest of his life! What’s more amazing is that, even though Jonathan is the oldest son of King Saul and is next in line to be king, Jonathan has acknowledged and fully supports that David will be the next king instead of him.

So all of this makes for some incredibly complicated relationships!  

David is married to the king’s daughter, but the king wants him dead. The king’s son (David’s brother-in-law) has orders to kill David, but he has pledged an oath of loyalty to him. In the meantime, David has no idea why Saul is so determined to kill him and has remained by Saul’s side, faithfully serving him, despite repeated attempts by his father-in-law to run him through with a spear.

And you thought things were messed up in your family!

But all of this comes to a head in today’s chapter. The lines finally get drawn in the sand and everything comes out into the open. No more secret plots. No more charades. Everyone can finally see things for how they really are.

We are reading this morning in 1 Samuel chapter 20, starting at verse 1.

David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

1 Samuel 20:1

Understandably, David is bewildered as to why Saul is so determined to kill him. He has been nothing but loyal to Saul and has served him faithfully and successfully ever since they first met when David was just a lad. What’s more, Saul had been the one to encourage David to marry his daughters and become his son-in-law. So it seems really bizarre to David that Saul is now so desperate to kill him!

And so he asks Jonathan – what terrible thing have I done to your father that he is so determined to kill me!? verse 2…

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