Meditations in 1 Samuel 44. Hiding with the Enemy?
1 Sam 21:10,12,13 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath…. and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
We move into deep and strange waters. We are watching the developing account of the future king of Israel, a king whose name would become better known than any other king of Israel, a name that the messiah would associate himself with. If you didn’t know this story but had just been told in outline something of David’s greatness, you would never have been able guess in a million years the things that transpired after he left the household of Saul. Even our starting verse above is so alien as to leave us scratching our heads in wonder: “That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.” (v.10). How can this possibly be?
The cause of David’s running is Saul. We have been watching his growing hostility against David to the point where all David can hope for in Israel is death; the ONLY answer is to leave, but where to go? Now stop and think about this for a moment. Saul had been doing a reasonable job, we noted in an earlier study, at beating off all the surrounding nations who from time to time attacked Israel – all that is except the Philistines who, we saw, had presented a real threat to Israel. Yes there had been the great victory when David had slain Goliath (ch.17) but nevertheless the Philistines had continued to do battle and it had only been David who had success in defeating them (18:30 & 19:8) Without doubt the Philistines were the major force opposing Israel and so where better to go for protection, where in fact was the only place to go where Saul could not come and take David back?
But of course there was a problem: “But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “`Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” (v.11) David’s fame was well known. With the intermingling that no doubt went on across the somewhat unclear borders between Israel and Philistia, the ordinary people would have talked and shared gossip and the greatest cause of that gossip was the fighting that went on and particularly how this young general, David, was doing. So yes, these Philistines had cause to be concerned. Moreover these words appear to have been spoken in front of David and that does not bode well for the future it seems: “David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.” (v.12) In some ways this coming to Gath is absolutely crazy. Today we might use such phrases as ‘thinking out of the box’ or talk of ‘lateral thinking’ for in the minds of any sane person, David turning up before this Philistine ‘king’ was absolutely crazy.
Ah, crazy! That is it. These Philistines think it is crazy and are therefore highly suspicious. No doubt Achish must also be wondering, especially as those around him are questioning what David is doing here, so let’s play on that, let’s pretend to be mad and see where that goes: “So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.” (v.13) Achish falls for it: “Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (v.14,15) When we move into the next chapter we will see where David goes next. For the moment he is spared and continues to be on the run. Achish rejects him, the Philistines let him go and so he continues as a fugitive seeking a safe haven. In the next meditation we will see where he goes next.
Are there spiritual lessons here? Well I think they remain ‘big picture’ ones. The truth is that we live in a Fallen World and in it things go wrong, people are nasty, circumstances seem to turn bad for us sometimes. Those who preach peace and prosperity live in the sheltered temporary closet, probably of America, but even there it is changing. The reality is that even as a Christian it is sometimes a tough world. Read the life histories of even those we might consider great men and women of God and you will see it. Bad circumstances, it seems, are no respecters of good people. The truth is that very often God works within and through the bad circumstances; He is there for us in them, He is always working on our behalf in them, but still the circumstances are not good in themselves. We can thank the Lord in the midst of them that He is there for us and we have to grab hold of His grace in whatever form it comes.
Now from our perspective today, we have to say that these ‘bad circumstances’ also can include ‘church’. Why? Because the church is made up of people and people get it wrong and we have an enemy on the sidelines trying to mix it up. Now here is the incredible thing: I have known of leaders who have suffered at the hands of the church and fled to the world where their lives have been re-established, only for the presence and ministry of the Lord to emerge again in them in a more purified state in later years.
This is God’s world and He is open to using all aspect of it for the sanctification of His children. David is going to return to the shelter of the Philistines in the days ahead but for the moment he has turned to the world for help but has been rejected. He is going to have to move on and in the next phase we are going to see something very intriguing taking place, which would have never happened if he had stayed back with Saul or even with the Philistines. We’re going to start seeing something of the making of this warrior king. However strange the circumstances you find yourself in, know that the Lord is with you and always desires more and better for you – but it may take a while and some more strange circumstances to bring you through.
Remember the Lord has anointed David as His next king. David may be going through troubling times but that has not changed and God WILL bring about the reality of that anointing at the hands of Samuel. It may jut take some time and some tough days before he gets to it.