1 Samuel 31 has the Philistines fighting Israel again. And they were whipping up on them to the point that the Israelites fled but were caught and slain. Saul’s sons were struck down and Saul himself was “badly wounded by the archers”. He knows his time is short so he asks his armor-bearer to kill him. But the armor-bearer was afraid and wouldn’t do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. Saul dies that day along with his servant to also killed himself.
It was a bad day for Saul and his family. He died, along with his sons. “Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together”. This was a complete victory for the Philistines and they made a big deal out of it. The Philistines came back the next day and cut off Saul’s head and stripped his body of the armor he was wearing and they took it to their temple of Ashtaroth and displayed it there, “fastened his body to the wall”. It is a big deal.
“When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled”. This was a huge loss for the Israelites and they recognized that their lives were at risk, so they ran. But when they heard what had happened to Saul’s body, and how the Philistines had made a mockery of it, a few men took exception.
“The valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there”. In spite of their fear, they took the action of retrieving Saul and his son’s bodies so they could no longer be made a mockery. And to assure it didn’t happen again, they burned them after retrieving the bodies. Then they buried the bones and fasted in mourning. The kingdom is changing as the leader is now gone.
1 Samuel 30 has David and his men returning to Ziklag only to find that the Amalekites had made a raid and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it. He came back to a burned out city with all the women and possessions gone, including David’s own two wives. Not a happy time. Everyone is mourning and the people are frustrated and ready to stone David for leaving everyone behind and allowing them to be captured while they were away. David is also distressed as he has lost everything too.
So what does the coming king do when the chips are down? “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”. He goes to God for strength. He was at the end of himself, so he turns to God. So often we wait for that distressing time before we get around to going to God. But God is always there. Then David calls for the priests to bring the ephod so he can seek God’s direction on whether to chase after the Amalekites or not, and God says yes, so he takes off with his 600 men.
Two hundred men stayed behind as they were too exhausted to join the chase. Along the route, they ran into a servant who had been abandoned by his master. He had been there for the raid and was able to lead David and his men to the place the Amalekites and their captives were staying. They were celebrating their victory when David attacked. “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”. He finished the job completely.
“David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives”. His mission was a success and he brings everyone and everything back safely. Some of the knuckleheads among his men don’t want to share any of the spoils with the 200 who had stayed behind. But David makes it clear. “They shall share alike”. And he made it a rule for Israel that there would be equality among his people whether they were in the battle or staying behind to stay by the baggage. He gives some of the spoils to those places who have allowed him and his men to live the last years.
1 Samuel 29 has the Philistines lining up for battle with the Israelites. The lords of the Philistines were getting organized and it comes to their attention that David is in the rear with Achish. There is concern that David and his men were there amongst the army. Achish assures them that David is loyal because he “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”. David has been a good servant to Achish and he doesn’t want David sent away.
But the Philistine’s are not so sure. In fact, they say “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us”. They know he is a mighty warrior with a huge reputation for doing damage in battle. Their fear is that in the heart of the battle David will flip sides and destroy them, like he has before. So they have a discussion with Achish and tell him David has to go.
So David gets called in and told he and his men have to leave. They can’t be part of the battle, even as Achish tells him he really wants him to come with him. David again is pushed aside. He doesn’t like it. “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king”? He’s asked this question many times before of Saul, and now he is asking the same question of Achish.
Achish doesn’t have a good reason for David’s dismissal, but he tells him to pack up and “depart as soon as you have light”. David respects his wishes and he sets out with his guys early to head back to the land of the Philistines where he has been living. It isn’t a happy time, but David moves on. And the Philistines continue on their way to Jezreel. Without David, they are not nearly as intimidating. Time will tell how their dismissal impacts them in the days ahead.
1 Samuel 28 has the army of the Philistines gathering to make war with Saul and the Israelites. Achish, king of Gath, tells David “I will make you my bodyguard for life”. He has earned much trust with the king. Samuel comes up here and although he has been dead for a while, the fact that he is mentioned again emphasizes the spiritual vacuum left by Samuel’s departure. “When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly”.
Saul began to lose his courage when the Holy Spirit withdrew from him and now, after the death of Samuel (the only man to have much spiritual influence on Saul) his courage seems almost completely gone. Saul doesn’t know what to do. “When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him”. King Saul has rejected and is currently rejecting God’s previously revealed will. Since Saul doesn’t care to obey God in what he already knows, God will not give him more to know.
So Saul asks his servants to find him a woman who is a medium. Instead of dissuading him from this wicked and destructive practice, which his servants should and would have done, if they had either loved God or their king, they further him in it. He disguises himself and goes. Saul asks here to bring up Samuel who tells him it isn’t going to be a good outcome. “The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David”.
But it gets worse. “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…. the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me”. Not only is Saul going to lose the kingdom because of his previous disobedience, he also will be dying in battle along with his sons. He makes a run at falling before God on his face, but it is way too little far too late for his future. There is a price to pay for sin. And Saul is paying it now.
1 Samuel 27 begins with these powerful words: “Then David said in his heart”. David has been chased by Saul for some time now. He’s getting a bit burned out and frustrated by the journey. He is tired and ready to get on with his rule as king. But it isn’t quite time for that yet. The sad story of this chapter begins with something David said only in his heart. He may have never said it out loud; he may have never said it to anyone else; he may have never said it to God. But David said it in his heart. What we say in our heart has a tremendous power to shape our thinking, our actions, even our whole destiny. Our heart is a powerful force, and we need to listen to and manage it well.
So what was David’s heart dealing with? “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. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand”. The Philistines were enemies of David and his people, yet David has a word of discouragement, coming from a heart that was tired of trusting God for His continued deliverance. God had protected David so many times before, why wouldn’t He continue to protect him from the hand of Saul? But in his discouragement, David forgets God’s past deliverance.
David takes his 600 men and their households, along with his own, to live under Achish king of Gath. And he lived there for a year and four months. Saul could never have driven David to live with the Philistines. If Saul were to tell David, “You must leave the people of God and go live among the Philistines,” David would never bow to it. But discouragement and despair are more powerful enemies than even Saul was. Discouragement and despair will drive David to do something that Saul could never make him do. He and his men now live in the land of the Philistines which he had previously been at war with.
So David becomes a bandit in the land. “David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites….strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish”. He went and took their loot like an armed robber. Then he came back and he lied to gain favor with Achish. He told him he was robbing the people of Israel when in fact he was killing Philistines and covering up his sin with lies. Unchecked sin just gets worse and worse, and we’ll see David make some bigger sins in the chapters ahead.
1 Samuel 26 has Saul coming after David yet again. This time, Saul brings “three thousand chosen men” to pursue him. But “David sent out spies and learned that Saul had come”. He wasn’t surprised even though he had just spared Saul’s life. Saul and his men were sleeping in camp when David decides to once again sneak up to where Saul was asleep and take something – this time his sword and jar of water – so there would be no doubt that he had been there. David asked for someone to go with him, and Abishai volunteers, so they sneak into camp.
“Then said Abishai to David, God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice”. He was lying there and an easy target to be killed. But “David said, 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”. David wasn’t on a mission to kill Saul, only to make yet another point about how he could have killed him but chose to allow him to live. Saul didn’t really deserve to live, but David again shows his respect for God’s authority.
You might wonder how David and Abishai were able to sneak into camp unnoticed. Because God plus one is always enough. Since God’s hand was involved, “they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them”. So David goes out of the camp with Saul’s stuff and calls to him from afar, accusing the captain of his guard and chief bodyguard Abner of not doing his job to protect the king. David knows that Saul’s continued pursuit is really not his own doing, but bad counsel from some of his closest folks.
“If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord”. David knows good and well it is not God who wants him dead. So he calls on Saul to wake up and realize that he is listening to bad advice and direction from his men. And then David says “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed”. David spared Saul because he knows Saul was God’s anointed, at least at one time. He is not willing to violate that at this time and take his life, even if he is really asking for it.
1 Samuel 24 has Saul done fighting with the Philistines and ready to pursue David again. “Saul took three thousand chosen men” and took off to catch David in the wilderness. As they approached the area David was, Saul went into a cave to rest. Little did he know that David and his men were deep inside the cave, so it appeared that God had handed Saul to David on a platter to kill him. But David did not – he only cut off a corner of Saul’s robe while he sleep.
David’s men were encouraging him to kill the evil king whom they had been running from for some time. But David would not. “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed”. After Saul moved out of the cave, David came out and called to him. And he tells Saul that he had spared his life. “For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands”.
Saul is impacted by that. He knew that the only reason he was alive and breathing now was that David had chosen not to kill him out of honor and respect. After all, Saul is David’s father-in-law. And he was the king. Saul says “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil”. David repays evil with good. He is not vindictive. He intentionally lets Saul live and makes a calculated decision to change their relationship by doing good.
It works. Saul knows his time as king is short lived and David will be taking the throne. He does have an ask of David. “I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house”. Saul just doesn’t want to have his legacy erased. David agrees and swears to keep things intact for Saul’s heritage. But this was a pivotal decision and outcome because David chose to repay evil with good.