Meditations in 1 Samuel 52. Living with the Enemy
1 Sam 27:1 But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”
We had a glimpse of this earlier on in chapter 21 when David, out of desperation, went to Gath, a Philistine city, to seek refuge. At that time the leaders with Achish, the king of Gath, had been highly suspicious of David. It had been early days and probably the tales of David fleeing and only just escaping Saul had not yet spread and so David had had to feign madness and left the Philistines. Now it is different. There are more than one or two stories circulating no doubt about how David had managed to escape the clutches of Saul. So in our verses above we see David reasoning with himself that his only option is to escape to the lands of the Philistines and risk it there, because the signs are that Saul seems to be getting closer every time he comes after David.
For that reason we then read, “So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath. David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal.” (v.2,3) It can only be because they knew that David was a true outcast in his own country that they now tolerated both David and his six hundred plus followers. It is quite amazing when you think about it. As far as David is concerned, it works: “When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him.” (v.4)
So bizarrely the anointed future king of Israel is living in the land of their old enemy. David manoeuvres so that he is not going to be under the constant watch of the King of Gath for, as we shall see, it will be important that he can come and go without observation: “Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favour in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?” So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months.” (v.5-7)
To try to think more broadly about what is happening we should perhaps observe that although David is living in the land of the Philistines he never becomes a Philistine. In fact he will actually be operating against them – under cover. He is forced into these circumstances because the leader of Israel is hostile to him and seeks to kill him. If Saul had been wise he would still have had David under him as one of his generals fighting battles for him, but Saul, as we saw earlier suffers paranoia. David is in a place where I am sure he would prefer not to be. Although he refuses to raise a hand against Saul, he must have some desire to enter into the fulfilment of Samuel’s anointing of him, and yet he is frustrated in that but still has that greater sense that he is not to raise a hand against Saul.
I have known a situation where an individual in a church has had a vision for outreach, making and taking every opportunity to reach out with God’s love to the community, and yet the Pastor of the church was not for it. Instead of ploughing his own furrow the individual submitted it to the leader and accepted his attitudes about outreach (that people would just come by the sovereign acts of God). Although the individual in question could not work out their vision through the church, he became involved with the community through other means that made him better known throughout the community, and just rested in the belief that one day the Lord would release greater faith in the church leader. That is the nearest parallel that I can get to this situation which shows us that sometimes the world (and church!) does not work as we want it to and we find ourselves in circumstances we wish we weren’t in – but are! it doesn’t make you a bad Christian, it just means you are living in a fallen world and in fact, if you are like David seeking to honour ‘the Lord’s anointed’ you are actually being very righteous!
Whatever we find ourselves caught up in with our lives being pushed in directions different to that which we wish, we would do well to remember Jesus’ words about his followers: “I have sent them into the world.” (Jn 17:18) His desire is that we do not keep in little holy enclaves but interact with the world, and sometimes He uses that interaction to sanctify us. However his overall intentions are clear as he stated as, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (Jn 12:47) and he wants to use you and me to do it.
His ways of achieving that can sometimes appear convoluted. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is a classic example of that. From early in his life the Lord declared His intent – to make him a great leader but for that to happen the Lord had to allow and yet use the bad attitudes of his brothers, a slave master in Egypt, a seductive wife, a prison warder and a butcher and a baker before it could come about and Joseph was eventually able to say to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20) The world, Satan and sin may conspire in this fallen world to create circumstances we wish were not there, but the Lord promises that He will be there working in the midst of them, whatever! (Rom 8:28) Hallelujah!