TEXT: 1 Samuel 27:1-12; 29:1-11
David spared Saul’s life in the wilderness of Ziph in the preceding chapter in consonance with the scriptural principle of non-retaliation. It could be recalled that Saul had been relentless in hunting him. Rather than seize the opportunity to revenge by killing Saul, he decided to flee to the land of the Philistines, Israel’s archenemy. He knew it was wrong and sinful to kill the king in order to ascend the throne, especially considering the fact that God chose him when he least expected it. So, he had to wait to be enthroned at the right time. By refraining from taking vengeance, he proved that he did not harbor hatred for Saul. Assassinating other people’s character or life to gain promotion or privilege or remain relevant is sinful. David could only become a king over Israel if he outlived the incumbent. Any wonder then that the king would live no stone unturned to get rid of him. As the chase continued in the text, David’s faith began to ebb, giving way to fear, hasty decision and deception that believers should not emulate.
DAVID’S FEAR AND FLIGHT (1 Samuel 27:1-7; Numbers 11:14,15; 14:1-4; 1 Kings 19:1-4; Psalm 146:3; Proverbs 29:25; Isaiah 30:1,2)
David was facing a great threat to his life from Saul. Overwhelmed with self-pity and discouragement, he could not keep hope alive through prayer for divine assistance. “And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me anymore in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand” (1 Samuel 27:1).
Being killed by Saul would have been impossible according to God’s word, for the Lord anointed him to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13; 24:4). Once a believer forgets God’s promise of His abiding presence and protection, he will look for refuge in a wrong place. David might have forgotten the program of God for his life as the fear of premature death infiltrated his mind. His temporary loss of hope and confidence in God further led to a hasty decision to relocate and settle with Achish, the king of Gath. Similarly, the fear of uncertainty and hasty decision, borne out of prayerlessness, made Elimelech and Naomi to head downhill to Moab. Many present-day believers have suffered similar fate because decisions taken under pressure and
fear do not generally glorify God (Numbers 11:14,15; 1Kings 19:4). The best thing to do when in distress is to pray and trust God for His intervention. He frustrated all previous efforts of Saul to eliminate David and would have preserved him in the present situation. In times of hardship, need or problem, believers should pray in faith for divine intervention rather than jump into conclusion and take decisions that contradict Scripture. Any believer who puts his trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-7) will have definite testimony and “…boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).
“And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife” (verses 2,3). This self-imposed exile and asylum in the Philistine territory brought reprieve as Saul “sought no more again for him”. On arrival, David requested a dwelling place outside the city of Gath to avoid any close monitoring and “Achish gave him Ziklag that day” (1 Samuel 27:2-7). Achish was magnanimous in giving him the city during his sixteen months sojourn. Christ teaches that believers’ righteousness must surpass those of unbelievers to be able to enter heaven. The Scripture commands that we should entertain strangers, shelter the distressed and homeless, albeit with wisdom.
DECEPTION BY DAVID (1 Samuel 27:8-12; 21:10-15; 2 Samuel 15:10-12,31; Proverbs 24:21; Jeremiah 2:36,37; Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 13:9)
During his stay in Gath, “David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites… smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish” (verses 8,9). The annihilation of all people in those territories was to avoid any eyewitness reportage that might lead to a short-lived asylum. To Achish’s enquiry on where they went, David lied by saying, “Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites” (verse 10). He was, here, being economical with the truth by avoiding specific mention of those cities but presented it in a way that made Achish infer that he had invaded the territories of Israel. Deluded, “Achish believed David saying, he hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore, he shall be my servant forever” (1 Samuel 27:12). Achish continued to live in a fool’s paradise without investigating the truth. And this was not the first time David would deceive him (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Deception or lying, whether it is done to escape danger, get gain, employment, admission (with false credentials), get married or whatever, can take one to hell if not repented of (Revelation 21:8,27).
Apart from David, some other people like Jeroboam’s wife, the Gibeonites, Ananias and Sapphira were trapped in this evil act of deception (1 Kings 14:1-6; Joshua 9:3-6; Acts 5:1-10). And they all suffered its consequences. The Scripture says that many deceivers are in the world today and believers should take heed lest they are deceived too. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirit whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (2 John 7,8). A Christian leader should be diligent to know the state of his flocks and try every spirit to avoid laying hands suddenly on anyone to be in the work-force (Proverbs 27:23; 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 5:22; Proverbs 29:18).
DISCERNMENT BY PRINCES OF THE PHILISTINES AND REJECTION OF DAVID (1 Samuel 29:1-11; 1 Kings 14:1-10; 2 Samuel 14:12-19)
The Philistines and Israelites were sworn enemies. Another war was looming between the two as “the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek: and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel” (1 Samuel 29:1). The princes of the Philistines discovered during routine check of the army that David and his men were Hebrews. They were not gullible and deceived as Achish. To their question, “What do these Hebrews here?”, he defended by describing David as faultless. “And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us…” (1 Samuel 29:4). The discernment and vigilance of the princes of the Philistines is commendable. They were able to identify the presence of a personality that posed a threat to their nation and gave convincing reasons David must leave their army. In these days of global insecurity, vigilance should be our watch-word. Christian leaders should have eagle eyes to detect sinners and backsliders like Ananias and Sapphira in the workforce, people who are sabotaging soul-winning efforts like the damsel with the spirit of divination that Paul the apostle cast out, and hypocrites and compromisers like Simon, the sorcerer. This is possible through possession of gifts of the Spirit. However, caution should be taken not to confuse the Spirit of discernment with suspicion, accusation and counter accusation that is rampant in many Christian assemblies today.
King Achish humbly conceded to the reasoning of his subordinates and dispatched David and his men. “Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the
lords favour thee not. Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines… I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, He shall not go up with us to the battle. Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master’s servants that are come with thee: and as soon as ye be up early in the morning, and have light, depart” (1 Samuel 29:6,7,9,10). Believers should display graceful attitude during rejection like Stephen and Jesus Christ. When marriage or business proposal is turned down by the other party, it is not a time to think as a believer that your world has collapsed. Staying away from fellowship or even contemplating suicide is no solution either. So, be careful how you react or respond at such a time lest Satan takes advantage of you (2 Corinthians 2:11).