Last week we saw David at quite possibly one of his finest moments! King Saul was once again on the hunt for David, but one night, David snuck into his camp, and stole the spear and water jug that were by Saul’s head as he slept! And even as David stood above his sleeping nemesis, David refused to harm Saul – and instead chose to leave the fate of Saul in the hands of God.
As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, there have only a handful of times like this where David has displayed such boldness, such unwavering faith in God, such resolve to do what is right no matter the consequence….
It truly was an incredible mountain-top experience for David!
But of course, you know what Satan likes to do after those mountaintop experiences. After moments of great triumph and clearly seeing God at work, Satan loves to immediately come in a fill us with doubt and discouragement.
Take Elijah for example. Remember what happened after his mountaintop experience? Let me refresh your memory.
In the book of 1 Kings, we read about the time Elijah had the incredible experience of proving to Israel that the Lord alone was God – and that the false god Baal and all of his prophets were just a bunch a fakes! In fact, the Lord proved Himself by sending down fire from heaven – burning up Elijah’s offering in front of all the people. What an incredible experience! Elijah had faithfully stood on Mount Carmel as the lone representative of God as he faced off against 450 of the prophets of Baal – and God came through for him BIG time! That was certainly an incredible mountain top experience. But what happen to Elijah right after that? Do you remember?
Just a few verses after that story we read this:
3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
1 Kings 19:3-4
Man! What happened to Elijah? Where’s the boldness we saw just verses before? Where’s the unwavering faith? Talk about doubt and discouragement! But that’s exactly what Satan loves to do after those mountaintop experiences.
You’ve probably experienced that yourself, and that’s exactly what we see in today’s story with David.
Today we’re reading from 1 Samuel chapter 27, but first, let me back up and read the end of chapter 26, just to set the stage – remember again, that this is all happening just after David spared Saul’s life as he slept, taking only Saul’s spear and water jug that were by his head. David has just finished talking to Saul from a safe distance and they conclude their conversation by saying this in verse 22:
22 “Here is your spear, O king,” David replied. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.”
25 And Saul said to David, “Blessings on you, my son David. You will do many heroic deeds, and you will surely succeed.” Then David went away, and Saul returned home.
1 Samuel 26:22-25
So that concludes chapter 26, but look how chapter 27 begins.
But David kept thinking to himself, “Someday Saul is going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to the Philistines. Then Saul will stop hunting for me in Israelite territory, and I will finally be safe.”
1 Samuel 27:1
Now there are two ways that we might read this verse. The first way is from strictly a practical or logical point of view. From that point of view, we might think that David is being fairly wise in this decision.
After all, it kinda makes sense that David has doubts that Saul will actually leave him alone. Saul has already changed him mind previously, so why should David trust him any more this time? And if that’s the case, then perhaps David is wise to leave the country. Don’t forget, David has over 600 men and all of their families with him, so perhaps the best thing to keep them all safe is to move into Philistine territory. Saul’s certainly doesn’t want to stir up trouble with the Philistines, so if David goes over to that side of the border, Saul is likely to leave him alone and let him and his men live in peace. We can certainly see the logic in David’s thinking.
But the other way to read this verse is to see things from a spiritual perspective. From that point of view, there are some serious questions that come up.
For example, what happened to David’s faith in God? I mean, just three verses back, David had boldly declared:
The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal…24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.”
1 Samuel 26:23a-24
But now, we see David thinking to himself,
“Someday Saul is going to get me.” 1 Samuel 27:1a
Didn’t David believe what He just said? Did he not believe that God would protect him and keep him safe? Did David not believe that God would one day remove Saul from power and give David the throne of Isreal (just as God had promised many years ago)?
What happened to David’s faith in God?
Another question that comes up is, “Why on earth would David choose to find ‘safety’ in the land of his enemies, rather than in the hands of God?
Again, just a few verses ago, David lamented that Saul had driven him away from his land and away from his God. Remember that from last week? David said:
“For they have driven me from my home, so I can no longer live among the Lord’s people, and they have said, ‘Go, worship pagan gods.’ 20 Must I die on foreign soil, far from the presence of the Lord?” 1 Samuel 26:19b-20
David’s big beef with Saul is that Saul had driving him away from his home and away from his God…. Why then, as Saul goes home and leaves David alone, why is David willfully choosing now to leave the land of Israel and find safety among the Philistines? God has certainly kept David safe up until this point. And now there is no immediate threat to David now or impending danger. Why does David choose this moment to flee to safety among the Philistines? Something just doesn’t make sense.
The only thing I can figure out is that after his mountaintop experience, David must have become weary and discouraged. And of course, that happens to the best of us. We just read about Elijah – how after an incredible experience with God, he went off by himself and wanted to die! He even prayed to God “Take my life, Lord, I’ve had enough.”
Likewise, I kinda expect that David had had enough. I can’t imagine the continual stress and pressure that David carried with him – as he lead 600 men and their families through the wilderness, trying his best to keep one step ahead of Saul and his elite military. No wonder David had become weary! That would have been utterly exhausting!
And of course, that created the prime conditions for Satan to make his attack. We’ve talked before about how Satan loves to attack us at our weakest – when we are weary, when we are wounded, and when we are alone.
And actually, being alone seems to be another factor in David’s decision here. Not that David was physically alone necessarily – but no where in this entire story do we see David consulting about this decision with anyone else.
And maybe I’m reading in between the lines too much here, but no where do we see David talking this over with his extremely wise wife, Abigail who had proved her wisdom in chapter 25. No where do we see David consulting with the priest Abiathar like he did back in chapter 23. No where do we see David send a message to his best friend Jonathan who had always given him wise advice. In fact, we don’t even see any evidence that David even talked this over with God. The only person that David is talking to is himself.
But David kept thinking to himself, “Someday Saul is going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to the Philistines. Then Saul will stop hunting for me in Israelite territory, and I will finally be safe.” 1 Samuel 27:1
You know, if you’re about to make a major life decision, and the only person you’re talking to about it is yourself, that’s probably not a good sign. Proverbs 15:22 says…
22 Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
many advisers bring success.
Or as another proverbs puts it…
14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls;
there is safety in having many advisers.
Often our perspective is too narrow to be able to make a good, informed decision. We need to broaden our understanding of the situation by gleaning the perspectives and wisdom of others. I mean, God has give each of us a whole group of people who care about us and can offer us a lot of wisdom when we need to make decisions – people like your parents or grandparents, maybe a sibling, maybe your friends here at church, maybe your pastor or some other spiritual leader in your life. And we would be foolish not to take advantage of their wisdom and perspectives – even if we don’t always agree with them.
And of course, the greatest source of wisdom is from God Himself. I mean, why wouldn’t you go to the one who knows all things – the past, present, and future? Why wouldn’t you go to the one who create you for a purpose and is working out all things for your good? Why wouldn’t you go to the one who loves you so much that he died on a cross in your place so that you could be with Him forever?
God should be our first and most important advisor in every decision we make!
And that’s why it’s so surprising in these verses that David doesn’t seem to consult the Lord at all. In other situations, we’ve clearly seen him do nothing until he has a clear Word from the Lord. I think the time he rescue of the town of Keilah is a prime example of this. Let me quickly read through that story – and I just want you to notice how David is constantly going to the Lord for direction. This is 1 Samuel chapter 23….
One day news came to David that the Philistines were at Keilah stealing grain from the threshing floors. 2 David asked the Lord, “Should I go and attack them?”
“Yes, go and save Keilah,” the Lord told him.
3 But David’s men said, “We’re afraid even here in Judah. We certainly don’t want to go to Keilah to fight the whole Philistine army!”
4 So David asked the Lord again, and again the Lord replied, “Go down to Keilah, for I will help you conquer the Philistines.”
5 So David and his men went to Keilah. They slaughtered the Philistines and took all their livestock and rescued the people of Keilah. 6 Now when Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he brought the ephod with him.
7 Saul soon learned that David was at Keilah. “Good!” he exclaimed. “We’ve got him now! God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!” 8 So Saul mobilized his entire army to march to Keilah and besiege David and his men.
9 But David learned of Saul’s plan and told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and ask the Lord what he should do. 10 Then David prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, I have heard that Saul is planning to come and destroy Keilah because I am here. 11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him? And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord, God of Israel, please tell me.”
And the Lord said, “He will come.”
12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?”
And the Lord replied, “Yes, they will betray you.”
1 Samuel 23:1-12
Did you see how frequently David asked the Lord what he should do? At least four separate times in these few verses.
But now, in chapter 27, how many times did David ask the Lord what he should do?
We don’t read of a single time.
All we know is that David kept thinking to himself…. Not praying to God – just thinking to himself. For whatever reason, something seems to have changed in David’s relationship with God.
And maybe this is a good time to reflect on our relationship with the Lord…
Do we live like the David in chapter 23 – constantly talking with the Lord – looking for his divine guidance every step of the way?
Or are we more like the David in chapter 27, who seems to be making all his plans without ever even considering what God wants him to do?
I’m reminded of Jeremiah 29:11 – and this is God speaking to Israel, but the principle here is true for our lives as well.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
God know the plans He has for us – and they are good plans! Plans to give us a future and a hope! Why wouldn’t we constantly be in conversation with Lord so that we can follow those good plans? If we truly believe that God loves us like crazy and has good plans for us, we’d be fools not to maintain that continuing conversation with Him.
But if we don’t look to the Lord for guidance, we often end up taking the path that God never wanted us to take. Of course, God can always bring us back – His wisdom and ability isn’t limited by our stupidity…. God can always work out all things together for good. But when we chose our own path apart from God, we will surely find ourselves in place that looks a lot more like disaster than a future and a hope.
And that’s exactly what’s about to happen to David. We won’t get to the most disastrous part of the story today – that’s later in chapter 30 when David’s town is burned to the ground, the wives and children of his men are all taken captive, and David’s men are ready to stone him to death! David probably didn’t anticipate all that when he choose to move in with the Philistines, but yet that’s where he ended up.
Thankfully for David, he does end up seeking the Lord at that time, and God works out all things for good, but there are a lot of hard things that David has to go through to get to that point.
But again, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. We’ve only read just verse 1 of this chapter, so let’s read on and see how this all plays out.
The story continues in verse 2.
2 So David took his 600 men and went over and joined Achish son of Maoch, the king of Gath. 3 David and his men and their families settled there with Achish at Gath. David brought his two wives along with him—Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, Nabal’s widow from Carmel. 4 Word soon reached Saul that David had fled to Gath, so he stopped hunting for him.
5 One day David said to Achish, “If it is all right with you, we would rather live in one of the country towns instead of here in the royal city.”
6 So Achish gave him the town of Ziklag (which still belongs to the kings of Judah to this day), 7 and they lived there among the Philistines for a year and four months.
1 Samuel 27:2-7
So just really quick, let me point out a couple things. This is now the second time that David has gone to King Achish of Gath to find refuge from King Saul. The first time, David had to pretend to be insane because the other Philistine leaders didn’t trust him. After all, David was the guy who had killed their champion, Goliath – who was born and raised in Gath. So in order to escape, you’ll remember that David went around drooling down his beard and scratching on doors so that they wouldn’t consider him to be a threat.
This time, David has to do something else to prove to the Philistines that he had really flipped sides. And so we read in verse 8…
8 David and his men spent their time raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—people who had lived near Shur, toward the land of Egypt, since ancient times. 9 David did not leave one person alive in the villages he attacked. He took the sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothing before returning home to see King Achish.
10 “Where did you make your raid today?” Achish would ask.
And David would reply, “Against the south of Judah, the Jerahmeelites, and the Kenites.”
11 No one was left alive to come to Gath and tell where he had really been. This happened again and again while he was living among the Philistines. 12 Achish believed David and thought to himself, “By now the people of Israel must hate him bitterly. Now he will have to stay here and serve me forever!”
1 Samuel 27:8-12
Now if you’re not familiar with the names of all these places and people, basically what is happening, is that David is attacking the enemies of Israel – but he’s telling Achish that he’s been attacking Israel itself. He’s making it look like he’s turned against his own people, but in reality, he’s been helping them!
And of course, he’s been very careful to killed every man, woman, and child in the places he attacks so that no one can tell King Achish what really happened.
And so far, David’s plan is working beautifully. King Achish is convinced that David has turned against his people and that the people of Israel must hate him bitterly! In fact, Achish is so convinced of David’s loyalty that he makes David his personal bodyguard – look at the first two verses of chapter 28.
About that time the Philistines mustered their armies for another war with Israel. King Achish told David, “You and your men will be expected to join me in battle.”
2 “Very well!” David agreed. “Now you will see for yourself what we can do.”
Then Achish told David, “I will make you my personal bodyguard for life.”
1 Samuel 28:1-2
David’s plan has worked so well, that King Achish trusts David more than than anyone else in his entire army. However, that’s where things begin to get really complicated for David.
It’s one thing to secretly go on raids and lie to King Achish about where he had been and what he had done. But now, King Achish wants David to go with him into battle against King Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the armies of Israel!
All of David’s deception is beginning to catch up with him. What’s he going to do now? How’s he going to get out of this pickle?
If he refuses, he’s going to be in major trouble because his cover will be blown and he and his men and all of their families are going to be grave danger! But on the other hand, how can David, the future king of Israel, march into battle alongside his arch enemies, the Philistines, to fight against his fellow Isrealites?
It seems that David’s plan to escape from Saul has put him in more trouble than he’s ever been.
So how is David going to get out of this one? Or perhaps more importantly, how will God work all things out together for good?
Well, unfortunately, we won’t find out for a couple of weeks, because verse 3 flips the spotlight back to King Saul and we follow his story for a while before we come back to David.
So if you want to know how the story ends, you’ll just have to keep coming back for the next few weeks. (Or you can read it for yourself from the pages of your own Bible!)