Saturday, November 17, 2018

King David Series: The End of Saul

For the second time, David sought refuge from Saul in Philistine Territory. The once great conqueror of Philistines now had permission to live under to protection of King Achish of Gath. Previously, David had acted insane in front of this king. Evidently, Achish had forgotten that incident or had overlooked it in light of David's current situation. Achish certainly would have known about the split between Saul and David and would have been glad to shelter this Israelite traitor. In return, Achish would have expected military support from David and his 600 warriors. David further strengthened his position with Achish by leading Achish to believe that we was conducting raids on Israel and by pretending loyalty to the Philistine ruler.

"When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him." -- 1 Samuel 27:4

Saul finally stopped pursuing David. His army was not strong enough to invade Philistine territory just to seek one man. Besides, the immediate threat to Saul's throne was gone while David was out of the country.

David goes to Achish and asks for a city, Ziklag, in which he and his man and their families can make a home.

"If he has found favor with the king, let a place be assigned. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?" -- 1 Samuel 27:5

While David stayed in Gath, he conducted numerous raids. David probably conducted thesis guerrilla-style raids because these tribes were known for their surprise attacks and cruel treatment of innocent people. These desert tribes were a anger not just to the Philistines, but especially to the Israelites, the people, David would one day lead.

So, here stands David, God's anointed, declaring himself to be the servant of a pagan, idolatrous king. by relying on his own wisdom and trusting his own review of his circumstances, David has enslaved himself to sometime far darker that his life on the run from Saul. Saul is no longer chasing him, but David compromises his integrity for an illusion of peace and safety.

At one point, Achish asked David to go into battle with him against Israel. David agreed, once again pretending loyalty to the Philistines. Whether he would have actually fought Saul's army we can't know., but we can be sure that his ultimate loyalty was to God and not to Achish or Saul.

Achish trusts David so implicitly, he makes David his personal bodyguard. He lives in the city of Ziklag for 16 months. It is a time of silence between David and God. There are no recorded psalms or prayers during this time. David seems to be relying on his own strength, making his own way to escape the unending wrath of Saul.

During this time, the Philistines, see the Saul's army is deteriorating and determine it's the right time to attack.

David fears he will be forced to fight against his own people. God intervenes. As Achish prepares to face the Israelites with the Philistine army, the other commanders grumble about  David's presence. They refuse to allow David and his men to participate in the battle. Despite his praise for David, Achish sends them away from the battle site David and his men probably breathed a sign of relief as they returned him to Ziklag.

When David and his men returned home, they found smoke billowing from Ziklag. The Amalekites, knowing David and his men would be away with the Philistine army, mounted a daring raid. They captured all the women and children of Ziklag, including David's two wives. David and his men are overcome with grief and sorrow. They weep until their tears run dry.

Filled with bitterness and despair, the men begin to turn on David and talk of stoning him,. David stands utterly alone.

"But David found strength in the Lord his God." -- 1 Samuel 30:6
David and his men successfully mount a rescue with the help of an Egyptian slave. They save all of the women and children. He divides the plunder among all the men, as as making a fight to the elders of Judah.

While David and his men are chasing the Amalekites that captured their families, an important battle is taking place between the Israelites and Philistines on Mount Gilboa. In one tragic day, Saul watches the Philistines kill three of his sons, including David's beloved Jonathan. Mortally wounded, and without the help of his armor-bearer, Saul finally falls on his own sword and dies.

Saul faced death the same way he face life. He took matters into his own hands without thinking of God or asking for His guidance. If our lives aren't the way we would like them to be now, we can't assume that change will come more easily later. When nearing death, we will respond to God the same way we have been responding all along. Coming face to face with death only shows us what we are really like. How do you want to face death? Start facing like the way right now.

On the third day, David hears of Saul's death from an Amalekite, claiming to have killed him. David and his men mourn the loss of their king, then David has the Amalekite struck down for killing the Lord's anointed.

At this time in David's life, he writes Psalm 18. He describes God as: Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, Sheld, Horn of my Salvation, Worthy of Praise, Savior

Psalm 18 is a song of relief, praise, victory, and the overwhelming awareness that God has made the difference in David's life.He remembers the number of times God's hand reached down and snatched him from destruction and death. He exalts the Lord for moving on his behalf, bringing him to a place of safety and rejoicing. David clearly understands the it is by God's strength, purpose and love that he now stands poised to take the throne. He exalts the Rock and Shield, who has blessed him and proceed him, and stands in wonder and praise before then heart of God.

Next in the King David Series: David's Ascent to the Throne

Monday, June 25, 2018

King David Series: David Spares Saul's Life Again

The Ziphites feared David and betrayed him by urging Saul to pursue him in their territories. However, when David learned on Saul's arrival of an army of three thousand men, he discovered the location of the camp.

Abishai joined David in spying out the camp at night. They discovered Saul asleep with the army commander, Abner, resting nearby.

Although Abishai thought that this would be an opportune time to kill Saul, David rebuked him, pointing out the Saul was the Lord's anointed. David tells Abishai that this is not the time or the means by which he will come to the throne. He tells him that Saul's life is in God's hands. God will work in His own way and in His own time to fulfill His promises in David's life. David will not be the instrument of Saul's destruction. He knows that God brought Saul to the throne, and only God can remove him from that position.

"But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?" -- 1 Samuel 26:9

So, once again, David spares the life of the Lord's anointed. Instead, David took a spear the was stuck in the ground at the king's head along with the king's water jug. He left without detection because the Lord had caused Saul and all his men to fall into a deep sleep.

David could have killed Saul and Abner, but he would have disobeyed God and sent into motion possible cycles of vengeance and assassination. Instead, he took a spear and water jug, showing that he could have killed the king but had not done it. And, he made the point that he had great respect for both God and God's anointed king. When you need to make a point, look for creative, God-honoring ways to do so. It will have a more significant impact.

David crossed to a distant hill and called out to awaken Abner. He challenged him to consider his lapse in protecting the king, Saul. When Saul realized that David had taken the spear and jug, he regretted unjustly pursuing David.

Saul heard David's voice and recognizing that David spared his life again, calls him "son." David pours out his anguish before Saul. He proclaims his innocence, proven and cemented by David's mercy towards Saul's life. He told Saul the he'd been driven away from the inheritance the Lord gave his tribe and family, and in being forced from the Promised land, he'd been excluded from worshipping God. Because of Saul seeking David, he'd cut him off from the very promise which God had brought His people out of Egypt. David begs to be allowed back into the land of God's people.

"Saul recognized David's voice and said, "Is that your voice, David my son?" David replied, "Yes it is, my lord the king." And he added, "Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I Done, and what wrong am I guilty of?" -- 1 Samuel 26:17-18
David questioned all the possible causes of Saul's enmity toward him. Could it have been David's own fault? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? David asked. (v. 18) Could other people have been the instigators? If so, May they be cursed before the Lord (v. 19) Could it somehow have been God's doing? If so, May he accept an offering, said David (v. 19) The one option David did not identify proved to the the real cause: Saul's sin. (v. 21)

Aware of David's righteousness in the face of his own sin, Saul admits his foolishness and asks David to come home. Saul's heart seemed to turn, even to the point of indicating David will triumph in the end. However, David held no hope the he would escape Saul's wrath.

He believed that because David had spared the Lord's anointed that the Lord in turn would deliver David. Saul confessed a second time that David would triumph.

Some scholars hold that this account is a retelling of how David spared Saul's life at En Gedi. While there are a number of similarities, David's different responses show that the two stories are distinct incidents.

As a result of En Gedi and the encounter with Nabal, who foolishly refused to respond kindly to David for protecting his flock, David realized that God would care for him.

David left Judah for a life among the Philistines in order to avoid further contact with Saul.

Next in the King David Series: The End of Saul.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

King David Series: David Spares Saul

David has been on the run from Ramah to Nob to Gath, Adullam, Mizpah and more. Saul's pursuit is relentless. Finally, David escapes to the Desert of En Gedi. David's running can be reflected in Psalms.

Psalm 13, 17, and 22 fit well with the time when David was fleeing from Saul.

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me?How long must I wrestle with my thoughtsand every day have sorrow in my heart?How long will my enemy triumph over me?"-- Psalm 13:1-2
"Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea;
listen to my cry.

Give art to my prayer --it does not rise from deceitful lips.May my vindication come from you;may your eyes see what is  right."-- Psalm 17:1-2
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Why are you so far from saving me,so far from the words of my groaning?O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,by night and am not silent."-- Psalm 22:1-2

EnGedi means "fountain of the kid." It is an oasis with a perennial spring that lies on  the western shore of the Dead Sea. The area rises about 650 feet into the mountains forming a perfect strategic place for David to hide.

When Saul returned from his pursuit of the Philistines, he was told where David was hiding. He took three thousand of his men to look for David near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

Taking a moment to relieve himself, Saul went inside one of the many caves. What he didn't know was that David and his men were hiding in those very caves.

David's men urged him to kill the king, but David chose to trust God's providence. However, he quietly cut off the hem of Saul's garment. David later regretted doing hit, however, because the hem was symbolic of Saul's position as the Lord's anointed.

God uses this moment in the cave to reinforce in David's heart the need to wait on His timing, to secure David in the promises of God that surround him, and perhaps, one more time to try ago reach the stone heart of Saul.

Revealing the tenderness of his heart toward God, David is conscience-stricken for even approaching the king. He understand in a very profound, personal way the significance of being chosen by God. He sees clearly that his own life is in God's hand. Saul's can be no different.

Once Saul left the cave, David called out to him and showed the hem as evidence of his innocent intentions toward the king.

Saul openly admitted his sin against David and confessed with his own mouth that the Lord had chosen David to be king.

"You are more righteous than I," he said. "You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surgely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will gee established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe our my name from my father's family." -- 1 Samuel 24:17-21
David gives his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Even though Saul admitted to personal guilt and publicly proclaimed the inevitability of David's kingship, David still could not trust him. There is no record here of reconciliation. David knew he needed to keep a safe distance from the unstable Saul.

"Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God Most High,to God, who vindicates me.He sends from heaven and saves me,rebuking those who hotly pursue me --God sends forth his love and his faithfulness."-- Psalm 57:1-3
Hiding in a cave, David finds the words of Psalm 57 going up to God. Saul is hotly pursuing him, but David determines to find refuge in the shadow of the Lord. He hides himself in God, allowing the Lord to be his shield and protector. He waits and rests in  the peace and safety of God's love until the disaster passes.

David shows us our first, best move when sorrow, danger, crisis or struggles come upon us. We must hide in the shadow of God's wings and find our refuge in His grace. Enfolded close to His heart, we will be safe and find the peace we need to face the moment.

David is confident of the work of God in his life. He cries out to God who fulfills His purpose for him. David believes God's promises, opening his life up to God's work in him. David trusts that the Lord will use all the circumstances in which he finds himself to bring about His will in David's life.

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6
God is working in you to fulfill His purpose for you. He wants to transform you into the image of Christ Jesus, and He will use all your circumstances, all your surrender, and all your obedience to fulfill His purpose in your life.

Each day, God shapes your life to look a little bit more like Jesus. You can be confident that He who began this good work in you will bring to to completion. Spend your days hiding yourself in the shadow of His wings; praising His love, glory and faithfulness; and crying out to the One who fulfills His purpose in you.

David relies on God with each step he takes to evade Saul in the wilderness.

Next in the King David Series: David Spares Saul's Life Again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

King David Series: David on the Run

For approximately the next ten years, David flees for his life from the mad man, Saul, who is hellbent on killing David.

David heads for Nob, where he meets a priest, Ahimelech. The priest provides food for a starving David, and also presents him with Goliath's sword.

The priest asks why David is alone and David answers:

"The king sent me on a mission and said to me, 'No one is to know anything about the  mission I am sending you on.' As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find." -- 1 Samuel 21:2-3

Did David deceive Ahimelech? Consider this: (1) David's like was on the line, and he may have felt justified in resorting to deception to save his life. (2) David may have been trying to protect Ahimelech from any accusation of involvement in David's escape from Saul. David's desire to preserve human life (that of another, not his own) took precedence over telling the truth.

Unfortunately, one of Saul's servants, Doeg, observe the actions of David. David's lie displays the shaken core of his faith. He does not even trust the representatives of God Himself to protect him from the enemy. Perhaps he is trying to protect the priests from Saul's wrath. Whatever the reason, his distrust and deception deny God the opportunity to revive David and comfort his spirit.

Ahimelech senses something is wrong with David and gives him the opportunity to be open, however, David chooses to protect himself instead. This deception will carry a heavy price.

David is lonely and afraid. It clouds his judgement and limits his perceived choices.

David fears for his life as Saul pursues him. He can no longer see God for all the venom spewing from Saul.

David faces another choice. He can run straight to God for comfort and peace, but instead, he chooses to run to the Philistines for help. The citizens of Gath, however, recognize David. He's carrying Goliath's sword! David must escape once again, this time, from Achish, the king of Gath. David had thought that Gath would be the last place Saul would look for him.

Instead of finding a place of solace and safety, David's heart is overwhelmed with even greater fear. He acts like a madman, with saliva running down his face, humiliated and run out of town. David doesn't realize that no matter how discouraged we are, no matter how black the night, no matter how the enemy hounds us, we will not find refuge in the world.

At this time, David writes Psalm 34. He learns once again to depend on God, only after everything he once held dear, and everyone he once turned to is gone. With nothing and no one; no where to turn, David turns to God.

In Psalm 34, there are promises of answers, radiance, safety, delivery, blessings, safety, protection and redemption.

"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith -- of greater worth than fold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." -- 1 Peter 1:6-7

What good can come from the trials we suffer? So that we can discover our own weaknesses and God's infinite strength. This was David's revelation.

While David suffers at the hands of Saul, God uses this time to transform David from a shepherd of sheep into a shepherd of men.

David gathers a rather unusual growing force.

"All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around his, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him." -- 1 Samuel 22:2

While fleeing King Saul, David became an outlaw. Others in similar straights were naturally attracted to him. He and his cause became a rallying point for others who felt oppressed. Most were probably men embittered against the system and opposed to the current leadership.

David's next choice of refuge become the caves of Adullam and Mizpah. The cave was named for the city of Adullam (meaning 'retreat' or 'refuge.') Adullam was a frontier town between Israel and Philistine, about 12 miles southwest of Bethlehem. The region is one of steep ravines and numerous averse. David's headquarters were likely in one large cave while the surrounding caves provided abundant shelter for hundreds of men.

David feared for his parents life while on the run from Saul. He went to Mizpah to speak to the king of Moab.

"Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me? So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold." -- 1 Samuel 22: 3-4

Saul retaliated against Ahimelech and the priests of Nob when he heard from his servant Doeg, the Edomite who was there when David sought respite. To kill the priests of the Lord went beyond dealing with David; it constituted a declaration of war against God himself. Even Saul's officials - by no means highly sensitive men - understood the danger and the depravity of such action. God's anointed priests were not to be touched. Saul's slaughter was horrifying.

"He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep." -- 1 Samuel 22:19

David naturally felt responsible for the massacre, but it was the deed of Saul and Doeg. When Ahimelech failed to inform Saul of David's activities, Saul perceived him as a co-conspirator in rebellion. The slaughter of the priests at Nob is  fulfillment of the curse on the house of Eli. (1 Samuel 2:27-36)

While on the run from Saul, David learned to trust the Lord. If trials produce trust, then those trials serve a higher purpose. David's words in Psalm 18:2 testify to his trust:

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge."

David's trust was not misplaced, for Saul was forced to call off his search for David to attend to matters of national security. (1 Samuel 23:27-28)

Next in the King David Series: David Spares Saul's Life.

Monday, January 29, 2018

King David Series: Saul's Attempts to Kill David

Without God's anointing, Saul became a bitter, angry, paranoid and desperate man. A man with much to lose; not knowing he'd already lost what was most precious - his daughter, Michal, his beloved son, Jonathan, and God's protection.

All to David.

Saul made David his enemy. Saul even told his son, Jonathan, and all his attendants to kill David.
"When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul become still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days." -- 1 Samuel 18:28-29

Even though Saul threw a spear at David twice before and missed, he wasn't beyond attempting to kill him again. Jonathan warned David that his father, Saul, was looking for a chance to kill David. Jonathan even tried intervening with his father on David's behalf.
"Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, 'Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he as done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?'" -- 1 Samuel 19:4-5
Saul swore to his son that David would not be put to death, but an evil spirit came over him in the form of depression and gloom. Saul felt hopeless, sending him into fits of rage. Saul tried to kill David because he was jealous of David's popularity, yet David continued to protect and comfort Saul.

While Saul's popularity made him proud and arrogant, David remained humble, even when the entire nation praised him. Although David succeeded in almost everything he tried and became famous throughout the land, he refused to use his popular support to his advantage against Saul.

Saul sent men to David's house to kill him. However, Michal, David's wife and Saul's daughter, warned him to run for his life, else he be killed. Michal even went as far as putting an idol with a goat's head in their bed in an attempt to fool the men; giving David more time to flee.

David fled to Ramah to Samuel; telling him everything Saul attempted. Word got back to Saul of David's whereabouts. Saul sent more men after David, and even went himself, but each time, the the evil spirit came over him, causing him to rave and babble; thus unable to kill David.

David went to Jonathan and asked him how he had wronged Saul and why Saul was trying to kill him. Jonathan assured David, that Saul did nothing without informing him, so he would know if and when Saul sought to kill David. Jonathan swore an oath to David.
"Then Jonathan said to David, 'I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you world and let you know? But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord's kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family -- not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth.'" -- 1 Samuel 20:12-15
To Jonathan, truth always guided loyalty. Jonathan realized that the source of truth was God, who demanded his ultimate loyalty. It was his relationship with God that gave Jonathan the ability to deal effectively with the complicated situations in his life. He was loyal to Saul because Saul was his father and the king. He was loyal to David because David was his friend. His loyalty to God guided him through the conflicting demands of those relationships.

When David learned from Jonathan of Saul's plans to kill him he escaped to Nob, where he received food and a sword from the priest. He then fled to Gather in Philistine territory. When the Philistines became nervous about David's presence noting that David had slain thousands of their people, David acted insane to protect himself. and escaped to the cave of Adullam, where 400 men joined him. This group eventually became the core of David's military leadership.

Saul suspected a conspiracy among Johnathan, David, and the priests. His suspicion came from a report seeing David talking to the high priest and receiving food and a weapon. Saul destroyed everything in Nob; killing 85 priests and their families.

Why did God allow so many innocents to die? Their deaths served to dramatize to the nation how a king could become an evil tyrant. Where were Saul's advisers? Where were the elders of Israel? Sometimes God allows evil to develop to teach us not to let evil systems flourish. Serving God is not a ticket to wealth, success or health. God does not proves to protect good people from evil in this world, but he does promise that ultimately all evil will be abolished. Those who have remained faithful through their trials will experience great rewards in the age come.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." -- Matthew 5:11-12
This begins the years of Saul's pursuit of David, and David's years in exile.

Next in the King David Series: David on the Run.

Monday, January 22, 2018

King David Series: Saul Fears David

After David defeated Goliath, Saul's curiosity of David and his lineage grew. He sent Abner, the captain of Israel's army to investigate. This was not a routine request, as David was already in Saul's service. Scholars give an explanation that since, Saul planned on giving his daughter to David in marriage, it was appropriate to investigate David's background.

Saul did not expect David to become so popular with the people of his kingdom. Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did so successfully. -- 1 Samuel 18:5

Saul reward David handsomely by giving him a high rank in the army, which not only pleased the people but also the officers.

However, this popularity ate away at Saul's anger. Whenever the men returned from battle, the women would come out into the streets to meet King Saul with singing and dancing. (1 Samuel 18:6-8) The women sang this song:

"Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands."

Jealousy raged within Saul. How could the people credit David with more kills than him? King Saul feared David was after his kingdom. 

Saul's fear of David caused him to slip into a deep depression. "The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear." -- 1 Samuel 16:14

On one hand, Saul orders David to take his place in Saul's kingdom, King Saul descends into a dark pit of jealously, anger and despair. He actually tried to kill David twice by throwing a spear at him. 

Saul understands that God has left him and blessed David. This strikes fear in King Saul's heart. Saul suspects David is after his kingdom which further sends him into a spiral of fear, paranoia and hatred. Saul rebels and attempts to destroy David. Without the Spirit of God within Saul, he's completely taken over by the influence of evil.

Saul slips into a decline. Once God's anointed, he becomes filled with jealousy, hate, anger, malice and fear. Although, still wealthy and powerful, Saul is miserable, empty, and unhappy.

Saul and David's relationship hangs in a delicate balance. Drawn to David, Saul knows he's blessed by God, and that strikes fear in Saul's heart.

Fearing that David is after his throne, Saul rebels. He sets out to David. He tries many things, including personally throwing spears at David, Sending him into battles hoping he'd die, and providing his daughter as a bride to snare David.

No longer seeking God, Saul seeks to destroy David, God's anointed, and defy God's will.

"Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days." -- 1 Samuel 18:29

Like a parasite, the fruit of God's Spirit is overtaken by evil by gradually allowing self-absorption and pride to overshadow the bereft Spirit in his life.

David exemplifies a Spirit-filled life. As God's anointed, he has great military victories, is adored by the people, and supported by member's of Saul's household. David humbly submits to Saul's authority.

Saul's choices provide us with a valuable lesson. we must closely guard our hearts. Spiritual growth takes effort. We must spend time alone with God, tuning our hearts to echo His, seeking to honor His will in our lives.

Next in the King David Series: Saul's Attempts to Kill David.