48. The Reality of the Pursuit

Meditations in 1 Samuel  48. The Reality of the Pursuit

1 Sam 23:19,20    The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king.”

We have commented on the communication links  that appeared to exist in Israel at this time, that took the gossip about David’s victories even across the borders into Philistine country, that  took the word to his family that he was hiding art Adullam, and that obviously let Jonathan know where David was. But that was a two-edged sword for now this new gathering and collecting meant that there were those who saw it in their interest to take that news about David to Saul.

Previously prior to Jonathan coming for the last time to see David, we had read, While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life.” (23:15) The desert of Ziph is south of Hebron and to the west of the Dead Sea. The ‘Ziphites’ were thus inhabitants of that area. Now we don’t know why they went up to Saul at Gibeah (north of Jerusalem) and told on him. Whether they thought David constituted a threat to them, his being in their area, or whether there was some other reason we are not told but they go to Saul and give him very detailed guidance as to how to find David. They do and say everything possible to show Saul they are on his side.

Saul, perhaps fortunately, doesn’t want to go straight away but wants them to go ahead and confirm exactly where David is: “Saul replied, “The LORD bless you for your concern for me. Go and make further preparation. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.” (23:21-23)

Now watch what happens: “So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.” (v.24,25) They go to do what Saul has said and Saul follows shortly afterwards and yet the ‘bush telegraph’ tells David that Saul is coming. Who or what passed on this information we don’t know but David responds and takes his men further south into the desert of Maon, followed shortly by Saul.

It gets close: “Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul.” (v.26) They simply have a mountain between them and Saul appears to be catching up. What hope of escape is there? But then, “As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” (v.26,27) Wow! What timing!  Coincidence? Probably not. “Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.” (v.28,29) Relief! Saul dashes off with his army to defend the land to the west from the plundering Philistines so David takes off and goes east and settles in the wilderness area of En Gedi which is about half way up the Dead Sea. For the moment at least David and his men have been spared from Saul.

We make the point in this study that the chase after David was very real and very threatening. In a nice sentimental story you would have David being anointed as the next king and everything being peaceful and quiet until the time comes for him to inherit the throne, but real life is not like that. We live in a Fallen World where sinful men disobey God, lay themselves open to demonic attack and become paranoid and do all they can to oppose the people of God. It was like it then and it is like it now. Nothing changes. The truth is that we live in a war environment where our enemy seeks to take every opportunity we give him to bring us down. The truth also is that God has equipped us with every thing we need to stand and hold our ground (see Eph 6)

Until Saul is taken off the battlefield he is going to be a threat to David and we will shortly see two occasions where he got too close for comfort. However, it may be that such times are opportunities for David’s heart to be revealed as we shall soon see. If you and I go through battle times, will we be revealed as the children of God that we are by the way we respond to our attackers, or will we appear just the same as they are? May it be the former case.

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