NOTE: As the two day biblical feast of Yom Teruah (Day of the Trumpet), otherwise known as Rosh Hashana, begins at sundown tonight (Sunday) and runs through Tuesday at sundown, I am posting this week’s lesson in advance as I will be off the computer during the feast.
Let me take this opportunity to also wish all of you the blessings of the Holy One of Israel as we enter a new Hebrew year, 5777.
I Samuel 26 & 27 – In these two chapters of I Samuel we encounter a difficult period in the life of David, but a period in which we may strangely find comfort and encouragement.
In chapter 26 Saul is again pursuing David to kill him. While Saul and his men are sleeping, David and Abishai creep into the camp and take Saul’s spear and his water jug, then slip away undetected. Perched on a hillside nearby the next morning, David calls to Saul and rebukes Saul’s general, Abner, for not protecting the king as he lifts up the spear and water jug to prove he had been in their camp. Saul is again remorseful for seeking to kill David; he apologizes and goes home.
While appearing to be yet another victory for the shepherd-king, scholars find his next course of action puzzling. “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul,” David says in verse 1 of chapter 27. So he and his men flee into the territory of the Philistines and approach Achish, the king of Gath, requesting asylum as refugees.
Wait a minute – what? After God has so clearly delivered David on previous occasions, why now would he say ‘One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul’? And why on earth would go to the land of the Philistines whose giant he had killed? Doesn’t it seem strange?
There are at least two things going on here. First of all, who cannot identify with David being wearied and discouraged by the prolonged efforts of Saul to kill him? David was tired, perhaps even depressed, at Saul’s relentless pursuit of him. Surely we can all relate. We all encounter people or situations that wear us out! We all experience discouragement at times; we all get tired of prolonged challenges that elude resolution.
But there’s something else. You have heard the adage associated with politics: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. King Achish considered Saul his greatest threat. Knowing David’s capabilities as a warrior, he saw a unique opportunity to use David to his own advantage under the guise of giving him asylum. As far as Achish was concerned, it was a win-win situation. So he gave David the town of Ziklag near the border of Judah and for the next sixteen months, David and his men lived there. But something even more strange happened during that time.
In vs. 11 we read that David “did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath for he thought ‘They might inform on us…'”. David went on a rampage through all the villages surrounding Ziklag. Had he become paranoid? Was he at a point of such exhaustion that he was driven by phantom fears? Whatever factors pushed him to the boiling point, what followed his move to Ziklag was a dark period in David’s life. During his sixteen months there, paradoxically, he fought everyone except Saul and the Philistines!
The scripture does not tell us God’s perspective on the matter but it is clear that it was not God who told him to kill all the villagers.
Have you ever been so upset with someone yet you take it out on someone else? This is exactly what David did. That’s why I said earlier that in a strange way, we can derive a certain ‘comfort’ of sorts, recognizing that the great King David was as human as we are, yet he enjoyed the most intimate relationship with his God, despite his failures.
You see, our failures must never define the quality of our relationship with God – our repentance does. Don’t endlessly mourn your failure or sin just because you spent a long time indulging it! True repentance in which you genuinely regret what you’ve done, turn to God in humility asking forgiveness is the path to renewed intimacy with the LORD after failure. Once you repent, turn your focus on Him and away from the past. It’s gone; it’s finished – if you genuinely repented. Now move on in seeking the LORD, seeking His presence, meditating on His word.