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Out of the Frying Pan – Into the Fire

We have been hanging in suspense for three weeks now – waiting to see if there is any way that David will get out of the mess that He has created for himself.

If you’re just joining us for the first time this morning, we’ve been working our way through the book of 1 Samuel – examining the lives of Samuel, King Saul, and of course, David.

And at this point in the story, David has fled from King Saul – who has been tying to kill David for the last several chapters – and David has found refuge in a most unexpected place – in the land of his enemies, the Philistines.

King Achish of the Philistines had accepted him as a defector from Israel and had even given David his own Philistine city to live in – the city of Ziklag – where David and his 600 men (along with all their families) had lived for nearly a year and a half.

Now the tricky part in all this is that David had not actually defected from Israel. He was still loyal to his home country, but had been lying to King Achish about… well, just about everything. In fact, during those 16 months that David lived in Ziklag, David had told Achish that he had been raiding the cities of Israel, but in reality, David had been attacking the enemies of Israel – and leaving no survivors to tell Achish what had really happened.

And so Achish was convinced that David had turned against his homeland and would be a loyal Philistine subject for the rest of his life. In fact, Achish trusted David so completely that he made David his own personal bodyguard and insisted that David and his men accompany him into battle against Israel. It says in 1 Samuel 28:1

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.”

1 Samuel 28:1

And certainly creates quite a pickle for David. On one hand, David has been anointed as the future King of Israel – and he has no intentions of fighting against his own people. It would be unthinkable for David to fight against the armies of Israel – against King Saul and against his best friend Jonathan! But on the other hand, if he refused to join the Philistines in battle, the jig would be up! 

Achish would realize that David was still loyal to Israel, and David would effectively be caught in his lies and and he, his men, and all of their families would be at the mercy of the Philistines!

So really, David has no choice but to agree to go to war alongside the Philistines to fight the armies of Israel. And so he responds to King Achish in verse 2.

2 “Very well!” David agreed. “Now you will see for yourself what we can do.”

1 Samuel 28:2

I mean, what else could he say? David was forced to continue his charade – but he was probably desperately trying to figure out, how in the world, he was going to get out of this pickle!

And what makes this all the more interesting, is that the author of 1 Samuel never tells us what David is thinking. He never reveals David’s true motivations or why he does what he does. The author simply states what David says or does, but then he leaves it to our imaginations to try to figure what what’s going on in David’s heart and mind….

So we don’t know what kind of scenarios David had been running through his mind as to how he was going to get out of this situation… But I imagine there was one option that perhaps David considered. Maybe David had planned to turn against King Achish in the heat of the battle. He could flip sides and join the Israelites and hopefully bring about a great victory for Israel. 

But that was risky too – because if David turned against the Philistines and Israel still lost, you can be sure that the Philistines would seek their revenge on David by destroying David’s family and the all of the families of his 600 men who were left behind in the Philistine city of Ziklag.

So if David was going to turn on the Philistines, he’d better make sure he wins!

But of course, that’s going to be a problem too, because unbeknownst to David, God had already decreed that Israel was going to lose this battle. We saw last week, as Saul tried to talk to the dead prophet Samuel through a medium, that God’s judgement was about fall upon Saul for his disobedience. God had decreed that both Saul and his sons would be killed in battle the very next day, and the Israelite army would be defeated at the hands of the Philistines.

Now of course, David doesn’t know that – but we, the reader of this story know that – and so we’re really left scratching our heads – HOW in the world is this all going to play out? What kind of miracle is God going to have to do to rescue David from the web of deceit that David has woven for himself?

Well, this morning, we will finally find out!

We pick up the story this morning in 1 Samuel chapter 29 – starting at verse one. And just before we read, I just want to point out that the author of 1 Samuel is not writing this story in strict chronological order. We’re actually jumping back in time a few days before the events of chapter 28 where Saul visits the medium and talks with Samuel. And this kind of jumping around the timeline happens in several places in Old Testament historical writings – and it’s because the authors aren’t JUST communicating history – they’re trying to draw your attention to an important point. And in this case, the author here is contrasting the character of Saul with the character of David. We’ll see that a little more clearly a bit later on, but for now, just realize that what we’re about to read today, all happens a few days before what we read about last week. Does that make sense? Ok, so let’s read 1 Samuel chapter 29, verse 1.

The entire Philistine army now mobilized at Aphek, and the Israelites camped at the spring in Jezreel. 2 As the Philistine rulers were leading out their troops in groups of hundreds and thousands, David and his men marched at the rear with King Achish. 3 But the Philistine commanders demanded, “What are these Hebrews doing here?”

1 Samuel 29:1-3a

Of course, their question is quite understandable! Why on earth would King Achish bring along this rather large group of Hebrew warriors into battle with them against the Israelites? The risk of David and his men turning on them in battle was not lost on these Philistines commanders. They had been burned by turn-coat Isrealites before. You might remember back way back in chapter 14, when Jonathan and his armour bearer single-handedly brought the battle to the Philistines, it says in that chapter…

21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites.

1 Samuel 14:21

It appears that the Philistines had already experienced a bunch of Israelites claiming to be loyal to the Philistine army who had turned on them in the heat of the battle – and so these commanders where not too keen to re-live that moment again anytime soon.

But of course, King Achish had absolute confidence in David’s loyalty. He replies in verse 3…

And Achish told them, “This is David, the servant of King Saul of Israel. He’s been with me for years, and I’ve never found a single fault in him from the day he arrived until today.”

1 Samuel 29:3b

I don’t know if Achish was just that gullible, or if David was that good of a liar – but there was no doubt in Achish’s mind that David was with him 100%. After all those stories of how David raided all those Isrealite towns, Achish knew that David could never go back! But of course, those stories were just that… stories! They were lies. David had been deceiving Achish all along, and Achish believed every word – hook, line, and sinker!

However, the other Philistine commanders were not so easily convinced.  It says in verse 4…

4 But the Philistine commanders were angry. “Send him back to the town you’ve given him!” they demanded. “He can’t go into the battle with us. What if he turns against us in battle and becomes our adversary? Is there any better way for him to reconcile himself with his master than by handing our heads over to him? 5 Isn’t this the same David about whom the women of Israel sing in their dances,

‘Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”

1 Samuel 29:4-5

It’s seems that David’s little jingle had reached even across the Philistine border! Everyone knew about David the giant killer! Maybe Achish was willing to entrust his life in the hands of David, but there was no way these other Philistine commanders were going to do that! They refused to go into battle alongside David – and so they demanded that Achish send David back to his city of Ziklag. So finally, after seeing there was no changing their minds, Achish gave into the demands of the other four Philistine commanders. Verse 6.

6 So Achish finally summoned David and said to him, “I swear by the Lord that you have been a trustworthy ally. I think you should go with me into battle, for I’ve never found a single flaw in you from the day you arrived until today. But the other Philistine rulers won’t hear of it. 7 Please don’t upset them, but go back quietly.”

1 Samuel 29:6-7

Well, this was exactly the miracle that David needed to escape the impossible situation that he found himself in. With the Philistine rulers demanding that David go home, David wouldn’t be forced to fight against his fellow Isrealites in battle, and at the same time, he could maintain his cover story of being loyal to King Achish.

And what’s more, David didn’t have to do a thing – God provided this miraculously means of escape without David having to lift a finger at all!

That’s such a good reminder for us – that so many times, God brings about our rescue without us having to do a thing. We just need to trust and wait on Him.

It’s like when the Israelites were trapped between the Red Sea and the armies of Pharaoh who were in hot pursuit. Pharaoh had changed his mind about letting the Israelite slaves go free, and was chasing after them – just about to catch them, and this is what we read in Exodus 14:13….

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13-14 NIV

Isn’t that good? The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Let me give you another example. When King Jehoshaphat was about to be attacked by a great army of Ammonites and Moabites, the king ordered that all the people pray and fast to seek the Lord’s help. And this is how the Lord answered in 2 Chronicles 20:15…

15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. 

2 Chronicles 20:15-17a

What a great reminder for us: “The battle is not yours, but God’s. Take your positions, then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory!”

Now certainly, there are times when we need to take action and to faithfully carry out the tasks that God has given us. But we also need to remember, that ultimately, the battle is the Lord’s and there are times when we just need to be still and let God be God. Let Him do the things that only He can do.

Perhaps that was the lesson that God was trying to teach David in all this. After David got himself into a position where there really was nothing possible for him to do to get out of this mess, God stepped in and rescued David – and David didn’t have to do a thing.

And I love how God uses the Philistines rulers themselves to rescue David. God uses David’s enemies as his means of escape! Isn’t that just like the Lord?

And so now, knowing that the Philistine rulers would never allow him to go into battle with them, David continues to play the part of being a traitor to Israel. He says in verse 8…

8 “What have I done to deserve this treatment?” David demanded. “What have you ever found in your servant, that I can’t go and fight the enemies of my lord the king?”

1 Samuel 29:8

David is just hamming it up – making it look like he’s all upset at this terrible injustice. What an insult! What an outrage that David is not allowed to fight the enemies of the king!

Yet, I imagine on the inside, David is breathing a sign of relief and saying a prayer of thanks to God for this miraculous door of escape!

And of course, as David goes on and on about how unfair this all is – Achish tries to smooth things over with David… It says in verse 9:

9 But Achish insisted, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re as perfect as an angel of God. But the Philistine commanders are afraid to have you with them in the battle. 10 Now get up early in the morning, and leave with your men as soon as it gets light.”

11 So David and his men headed back into the land of the Philistines, while the Philistine army went on to Jezreel.

1 Samuel 29:9-11

What a comedic irony that King Achish of the Philistines – the one whom David has been lying to for the last 16 months, sees David as ‘perfect as an angel of God’! Can you imagine how he’s going to feel when he eventually learns the truth about David? I imagine he’ll be singing a different tune when he learns how David has played him like a fiddle! What a fool he’s been!

But anyway, having been dismissed from the Philistine army, David heads back to his city of Ziklag and the Philistines march on to Jezreel to face the Israelites without David and his men.

And I can just imagine how jovial David and his men were as they travelled home. I’m sure there was laughter and great hilarity as they happily made their way back home – being spared from going to war against their fellow countryman – and having successfully fooled King Achish once again!

But as they approach their home town of Ziklag, their laughter came to an abrupt stop. Verse 1 of chapter 30 says…

Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. 2 They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

3 When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, 4 they wept until they could weep no more. 5 David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. 6 David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him.

1 Samuel 30:1-6a

Wow! Talk about out of the frying pan into the fire! David went from one bad situation right into the next!

Although God had safely removed him from the battle between the Philistines and the Israelites, David was now in danger of being killed by his own men. With their town destroyed, their wives and children taken captive, and everything they owned stolen from them, David’s men were ready to stone him because he had led them into this mess.

As for David, I believe this truly was his lowest moment in life up to this point. He had lost everything and everyone was against him. Saul wanted him dead – the Philistines didn’t trust him. His wives and family had been taken captive. Even his own loyal men were grumbling against him – talking about stoning him to death. His only supporter was a Philistine king whom David had done nothing but lie to for the last 16 months.

David doesn’t have a friend in the world! What on earth will David do now?

Well, this is where we find one of the best little verses in the Bible. This is one of those verses that helps us understand why David became such a hero of the faith. It’s this verse that I believe was the pivot point in David’s life. It’s verse 6 and it says this:

But David found strength in the Lord his God.

1 Samuel 30:6b

What a great verse! When all was lost…. When everything seemed hopeless… When David was at the lowest point in his life…. David found strength in the Lord his God!

You’ll remember how I said the author of 1 Samuel wrote these stories slightly out of chronological order to show the contrast between Saul and David?

Well, this is what I was talking about.

In chapter 28 & chapter 30, we see both David and Saul at the lowest points in their life. Both of them felt like all was lost. Both of them felt that everything was hopeless.

But what a difference we see in where they found their strength!

Do you remember that little verse at the end of chapter 28 where the medium at Endor offers to feed Saul some food so that he can ‘regain his strength’? Let me read those verses for you:

21 When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, “Look, your servant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. 22 Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.”

1 Samuel 28:21-22 NIV

When you read those verses simply as part of the story of Saul and the medium, you kinda wonder why that author included those kind of details. Why does it matter that the medium offered Saul some food to regain his strength? It doesn’t really seem like an important details.

But now, when we get to this part about David – how David had lost everything and everyone was against him – We see an incredible contrast between Saul and David.

Saul’s only source of strength is a meal from medium (or from a ‘witch’ as some translations put it)….  Whereas David found strength in the Lord his God.

And that’s been the contrast between Saul and David all along! Throughout their lives, we’ve seen this play out time and time again. Saul continually determines to do things in his own strength – and grows weaker and weaker – whereas David finds his strength in Lord – and grows stronger and stronger.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story for next week, but let me just read two more verses for you today and then we’ll wrap up….

But David found strength in the Lord his God.

7 Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. 8 Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

1 Samuel 30:6b-8

Even though David was at his lowest and everything seemed lost – David found strength in the Lord his God, seeking God’s guidance and help, and God not only strengthened him, but confirmed for him that things were going to turn around.

This morning, I imagine that there are many of us who could use that same kind of encouragement and strength. For some of us, it’s been a hard week – a hard month – a hard year…. Maybe it’s gotten so bad that you feel that all is lost – it’s hopeless. There’s no way to fix this situation.

Perhaps like David, you feel like you don’t have a friend in the world. You’re alone. Everyone and everything seems to be against you.

Can I just remind you this morning that you can find strength in the Lord your God. Psalm 46 verse 1 says…

1 God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.

2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.

3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 

11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. 

Psalm 46:1-3, 11

Whether we need to be rescued from an impossible situation or whether we just need to find enough strength to make it though the day – The Lord is our refuge and strength. He is always ready to help in times of trouble.

There is a song by Rend Collective that came to my mind as I wrote this message this week – the song is called “Rescuer.” or the Alternate title is “Good News”. And its all about how Jesus Christ came to be our rescuer. And not just from the Philistines or from the various difficulties that we face each day – but more than that, Jesus came to rescue us from our deepest hurts. He came to rescue us from shame and guilt and hopelessness. He came to rescue us from sin and death itself!

This morning we want to celebrate communion together. We want to remember how Jesus allowed his blood to be spilled and his body to be broken in order to rescue us from an eternity apart from Him.

And so this morning, to lead us into that time of communion, I want us listen to that Red Collective song. Feel free to sing along if you know it, but if not, I’d just encourage you to reflect on the words and praise the Lord for his goodness to you – and to thank Him for being your rescuer.

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