1 Samuel 31 has the end of Saul’s reign. The Philistines go into battle with the Israelites, and “the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain”. It was not going well. They overtook Saul and his sons, and struck down “Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul”. Everyone was fighting to try and deal with the Philistines, but they have the upper hand and have killed off the royalty. Now to get the king.
Scripture tells us “the archers found him” and Saul was badly wounded. He was shot with an arrow and is injured. He asks his armor-bearer to kill him with the sword as he didn’t want his enemies to come and capture him and use him for a bargaining chip or mistreat him. So he pleads for his servant to just kill him. But the armor-bearer refuses. He had failed to protect him from the enemy, and now he won’t follow orders and finish the job. Not a really good example of a loyal servant, even if the request is a bit challenging.
So Saul takes things into his own hands, and “took his own sword and fell upon it”. It was quite a day. “Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together”. Almost sounds like one of those cult kinds of mass suicide doesn’t it. But in this case – it was just the enemy being extremely effective. They killed the Israelites and the rest of the people “abandoned their cities and fled”. It was time to get out of town before they were all killed.
The Philistines move in and live in the cities of the Israelites and took their spoils. They cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armor. They carried the message throughout their land letting everyone know what had happened – Saul was dead. But a few of “the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul….came to Jabesh and burned them….took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree….fasted seven days”. These guys risked their lives to keep the enemy from mocking Saul’s body. They go and take it and burn it and bury the bones to make sure it is not carried throughout the countryside. God had obviously removed His hand from Saul and his army. It is time for a new king – David – to step up.
1 Samuel 30 has the making of a very bad day. David and his 600 men have been gone with the Philistine army, and now are sent home. When they arrive they discover that the Amalekites have raided their town and taken captive all the women and children and burned their city. It is not a good day for David as leader. In fact, “the people spoke of stoning him”. Talk about how fickle people can be. The man who has led them from victory to victory, cared for and been their leader and provider now is on the edge of being killed because of what their enemy has done.
It is an overwhelming situation. But we can learn much from how David responds. He doesn’t lash out at his men. He doesn’t respond angrily. He too is overcome with sadness. After all, his two wives were captured just like the rest. Here is his response: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”. He went to God in time of need. He didn’t run from God. He didn’t try to deal with the problem himself. He went to the Source that could truly help him. “David inquired of the Lord”. He spent time with the Father. And He asked God what to do. God’s instruction was to go get back his wives and those who have been captured, so off they go.
Along the way “they found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David”. They fed this man who had been left behind by his master as he became ill. David learns he was a servant to his enemy and asks him to help get him to the place the captives were held. “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band”. The band of men David took with him began at 600 but by the time they were ready to pursue the enemy, 200 had dropped out, and another 200 dropped out too tired to cross the brook. So his army was dwindled to 200 but they pursued. A random sick guy in the middle of the countryside that David happens to come upon. Who says God is not in control.
The Egyptian takes David to the place the Amalekites have all their captives. “David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled….David recovered all. David rescued his two wives….Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all”. A very bad day turns into a very good day as David follows God’s direction. He recovers all that has been taken, and nothing is lost.
On the way home, the 200 who were part of the recovery team get greedy. They decide the don’t want to share what God has given – not just their own wives and children, but the spoils of war as they were able to also bring back flocks and other things from their enemy. “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart”. David makes it clear that isn’t how it works. “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us….They shall share alike”. David does not allow greed to be the outcome. Each was restored with their own and shared in the spoils of the few. He created a statute and rule that day to drive home the point.
1 Samuel 29 is filled with rejection. The Philistine army is gathering their troops together to do battle with the Israelites. David has been living among them for some time, and king Achish asked David and his band to be his personal body guards. So they were falling in line at the rear with the king. But the commanders of the Philistines ask “What are these Hebrews doing here”? I have to imagine they have not been comfortable having David live amongst them for some time, but now they are going to war against his people, and they are drawing a line in the sand.
King Achish says David “has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day”. By now the king has become pretty fond of David. He has enjoyed safety and a good period of time since David arrived. In fact, he has come to trust in David to the point of entrusting him with his life. But the leaders say NO – “Send the man back”. Now the king is faced with a tough choice – listen to his leadership or do what he believes to be the right thing in his heart.
“Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign….I have found nothing wrong in you….Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you”. The king caves to his commanders and tells David he has to leave. David has done nothing wrong. Not one even small thing to cause the king to wonder. In fact, Achish calls David “blameless in my sight”. That is a pretty strong recommendation.
But he has to make a decision quickly, and the odds were definitely against David. So he tells David to “rise early in the morning with the servants of your lord….and depart as soon as you have light”. Not a lot of discussion – there wasn’t really any need. Achish knew David had to go and they were preparing for battle so it had to be immediate. He couldn’t afford to have his leadership distracted by this situation. So David heads out with his men and the Philistine army moves toward Jezreel to engage the Israelites.
1 Samuel 28 is a bit of a weird chapter. Achish, the king of Gath, decides to make war with Israel and asks David to join him. This is quite a request. But not only go to war, but be the king’s bodyguard. This is an enemy king of Israel, so keep that in mind. Saul sees that the army of his enemy is assembled and camped and “when Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly”. Things were a little bleak from his perspective. So like any good leader, he decides to finally go ask God what is happening.
“When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him”. Saul comes to God for some answers, but there is silence. No response. God is not an answer on demand. He is not someone we can go to on our time and schedule and require an answer from Him. So Saul decides to take another approach – to find a medium that could inquire what would happen. But there is an issue as Saul had “cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land”. He didn’t like what they were doing so he got rid of them, and now he wants help.
Saul disguises himself and goes to a medium who was a woman. She is leery because of what Saul had done previously, even though she didn’t yet know it was him. Of course after he convinced her it was ok, then she found it who it was. Surprise eh? Not really – as a good medium would be able to make that discernment. Saul asked her to contact Samuel to get an answer about what was to come with the Philistine army. The result is not good.
After Samuel scolds Saul for disturbing him, he says “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy”? Samuel states what he has said before – that Saul is no longer the king in God’s eyes. And he goes on to say why that is: “Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day”. Obedience was his problem, as it is for most. Saul made some poor decisions and it cost him his kingdom. Never doubt that God expects obedience – 100% of the time – 100% His way. Anything less is a miss – which is why we need a Savior!
1 Samuel 27 has David accepting the fact that although he may have been anointed to be king, it wasn’t yet his time. David approaches his situation this way: “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines”. David decides that running is getting old, so he decides to move to the land of the Philistines because Saul won’t chase him there. David came with 600 men and asks Achish, king of Gath, if he can live in the land.
The king agrees and David moves there with his two wives and his men. And his hunch was right, Saul “no longer sought him”. David asks the king to give him a country town to be his own, rather than live in the “royal city with you”. David has an ulterior motive – to get away from the king of Gath so he could create a little wealth of his own.
David did that by making raids against the people in the surrounding territory. But there was some deceit in his method. He and his men would go out and kill all the men and women in an area and “take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back” with his plunder. He made it appear that he was attacking the people of Israel, but in fact he was attacking other people. The king would ask with each return whom David had raided that day, and David gave a false report.
So the king was pleased to have David in his land, because he thought David was making himself an enemy to the people of Israel by his raids. In fact, it was other people but since David killed them all there were no reports to let the king know truth. It is quite a plan and allowed David to live in peace in the land while he pulled the wool over the eyes of Achish the king of Gath.
1 Samuel 26 has a repeat of what happened a couple chapters ago. Saul listens to the Ziphites who came and told him that Saul was hiding and the king should go get him. So Saul takes 3000 of his men and heads out to capture David. “David sent out spies and learned that Saul had come”. It isn’t like you can hide 3000 troops moving. David discovers the plot and decides to sneak into their camp and leave another message. He asks a couple guys to go along and Abishai volunteers. “David and Abishai went to the army by night”.
They sneak into camp and are able to get right up to Saul. He is sound asleep as is everyone in the camp. “A deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them”. Abishai wants to kill Saul and end it, but David says no. “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish”. He is not going to take vengeance into his own hands. “David took the spear and the jar of water” and they leave the camp sleeping as it was when they arrived.
David goes to the top of a hill and calls out to Abner who was the leader of Saul’s army. And David embarrasses Abner and calls for him to die because he did not protect the king. He allowed David and his men to bet into camp, and David shows the spear as proof. Second time in a short period that David has spared Saul’s life. Brad Kowerchuk shared these thoughts about 1 Samuel 24, but they apply to what happens here again:
“David stopped short of killing Saul, and it is true that he respected authority; but there was much more involved in that, David commented on how he knew that Saul was God’s anointed. In effect, this shows not only respect, but the deep faith that David had in God. For even though David had already been anointed to be a future king, and even though many in his position would have questioned why God would allow Saul to persecute him, David showed a proper attitude by faithfully waiting on God’s time to fulfill the promise to make David king. We can learn a valuable lesson from this account… how often are we in a hurry, and expect God to answer our prayers right away? Yet the faithful example of David shows us that true faith involves patiently waiting until God is ready to act on our behalf.”
It appears that Saul understands once again how lucky he is to be alive. “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake”. You would think that after being obviously spared for a second time, Saul would begin to get it. But David is not so sure. “So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place”. David is not ready to let down his guard. He has seen this before.
1 Samuel 25 begins with Samuel’s death. There was great mourning as they buried him. David and his men were a bit hungry, so he reached out to Nabal, who was a wealthy sheep rancher but a knuckle dragger as well. He rebuffed David’s men and sent them away with nothing stating “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where”? That is not the way to win the favor of another.
So David gets irritated and decides to wipe out Nabal and all his family and servants. He gathers 400 men and prepares to head out to wipe them out. Abigail, who was Nabal’s wife, hears of the situation and decides to take action. “Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys”. She doesn’t mess around, but rather gathers all sorts of food to bring to David and his men. How she had that much on hand is a bit of a mystery, but she did and she loaded it up to take to David.
She sees David and comes toward him. David tells her “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness”. Why was I so nice to Nabal and his men asks David. Certainly the treatment Nabal has given did not match up with David’s protection of his flocks and people. But Abigail intercedes. “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt”. She goes on and on about her worthless husband and steps between David and his men, and her sons and servants. She takes the place of those David wants to kill in his anger through her intercession. This is a great picture of what it means to intercede.
David is impressed. “Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt”. David is grateful that Abigail has stopped him from killing all those people. He turns her free and says “I have granted your petition”. David is not going continue his journey to wipe out Nabal. About “ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died” after finding out what Abigail had done. And once he died, David “sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife”. Her passion to intercede had captured David’s eye, and he wants her as his wife. The power of intercession is so strong.
1 Samuel 23 has Saul pursuing David. David is living in hiding, and hears that the Philistines have been fighting against Keilah and robbing their threshing floors. So “David inquired of the Lord” to see what he should do. Great lesson here – ask God for direction – don’t just take off and do the first thing that you feel. God tells him to go, and he goes to his men, but they were afraid and didn’t want to join him. So “David inquired of the Lord again” to make sure he had the right instruction. And God gave him the same answer – he was to go which he did and “David saved the inhabitants of Keilah” that day. He dealt a blow to the Philistines and stopped the robbing of their grain.
Of course news like that spread quickly and Saul hears where David is. So he decides to go capture the city and kill the people there for harboring David. The threat comes back to David who again seeks God because he knew that “Saul was plotting harm against him” but David didn’t want to cause harm to the people of the city. God tells him what will happen, so David immediately flees with his 600 men and caused Saul to call off the pursuit.
But Saul is determined to capture David. In fact, “Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand”. It was a game of cat and mouse, with Saul getting information and David moving to a new place to confound him. Jonathan finds out where David is and comes to be with him. In fact, Saul’s son “strengthened his hand in God”. Jonathan came to encourage David to keep on and remain strong because he would soon be king. This is the son of the king who is trying to kill David. It seems like a strange relationship, but shows the power of friendship. And they take it even further when “the two of them made a covenant before the Lord”. We often hear that blood is thicker than water. Not so in this case – their friendship supersedes all else.
Saul keeps chasing David. They find out he is in the wilderness of Maon and go to capture him. But while they are on the hunt, a message came that said “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land“. Saul has to turn back to protect his kingdom from the enemy. David has escaped to live another day. God continues to bless him and protect him as he prepares him to be king. We must never forget that God will find a way even when there seems to be no way. He is able, and He is in control!
1 Samuel 22 is a chapter of retaliation. David is on the run and has “escaped to a cave” in a different part of the land. Not exactly a kingly place to sleep, but it was a safe area. But he can’t stay under cover – even in those days the word gets out. His family shows up first, and then “everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him”. He is like a magnet for misfits. They all come flocking. That certainly makes it hard to stay hidden. There are about 400 men who gather and are with him.
David knows he can’t stay put, so he goes to the king of Moab and asks that his parents may stay there in safety. David doesn’t want to endanger the life of his folks, and knows he can’t drag them along as he tries to escape from Saul. So they are given a place to stay. Gad, a prophet in that time, tells David it is time to move. “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah”. So David heads out with his clan of misfits and of course Saul gets the news. He knows that David is alive and that people have been assisting him.
One of the kings thugs, Doeg, had been in Nob when David first fled and saw that Ahimelech, the priest there, had given David some bread and the sword of Goliath. Doeg tattles on the priest and gets Saul all worked up. So Saul calls Ahimelech to come and give account. He accuses the priest of helping his enemy and conspiracy and all sorts of crazy accusations. Of course Ahimelech innocently answers that he had no idea Saul was chasing David and didn’t do anything wrong. Then he says this, which puts Saul over the edge. “And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house”?
Saul is told that David is the good guy over and over. His life is filled with people comparing himself with David, and David always comes out on top. That just doesn’t sit well with the king. He is self centered and obsessed with that comparison. So he asks his servants to kill Ahimelech and all those in his house for not letting him know that David was fleeing. His servants refuse – they don’t want any part of killing priests. So Saul goes to the thug Doeg and gives the order. He has no issue with it and kills Ahimelech – “eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod” were killed by him that day. He then went and killed the people of Nob, which was a city of priests, he wiped it out. Only one escaped – Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, who ran to David and stayed with him. Saul is going off the deep end in his pursuit of David.
1 Samuel 21 has a future king on the run. David is getting out of town so he can stay out of Saul’s way. He heads to Nob and meets Ahimelech who was the priest. He is traveling with a small group of young men, and they have no food. So he asks the priest for some bread. Ahimelech gives over some of the old bread from the offering so they can eat. David had left quickly and brought nothing along. He may be been the choice of God to become king, but at this point, the circumstances did not indicate that at all.
He had left quickly to the point that he didn’t even have a spear or sword along. Not exactly the best way to be wandering around. So he also asks the priest if there are any weapons he can have, and all that is there is the sword of Goliath, the sword he had captured earlier when he killed the enemy. So he took that with him so he had some protection. And with that, he moved on to get further away from Saul.
He went to Achish, king of Gath, to see if he could stay there. Of course all he got was questions. “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances”? David is trying to stay under the radar but his reputation succeeds him. People can’t understand why a man of his stature is there seeking a place to live – after all he is to be king. And David does what most of us do from time to time – he becomes fearful.
He decides to “change his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard”. David became a pretender. He is overcome by the circumstances at hand and decides to act like a mad man so he is not captured in his state of weakness. How do you act when the circumstances become overwhelming? Do you pretend? Or do you run to God to see what He has planned? David didn’t check with God on this – he just fled. He ran for his life and then didn’t have a plan on what to do – no food, no sword, no place to stay. And the biggest issue – no talk with God. That is where we need to run first when we need direction and provision – to the source!