“A Pastor’s Commentary”
“The Life of David”
On the Road Again”
If you have been a Christian very long you have had the experience of hearing about some fellow Christian who has fallen into sin. And although it is not always the case, sometimes we hear about such a person going into a long “odyssey” of deeper sin. And in a case like that, it is amazing the kinds of things they can get into. When a Christian is out of fellowship and refuses to get right with the Lord his conduct presents a strange enigma that no psychologist can explain. But the Bible does explain it in Galatians 5:16 and 17
This I say, then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and these two are contrary to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you wish.” Here we have explained for us the two “natures” “of the Christian: the flesh and the spirit. And the fact of which one is in control determines in which way the Christian will act. And the final clause of the verse has a double impact – the presence of the “flesh” keeps the Christian from doing all that he would like to from a spiritual standpoint, And the presence of the Spirit keeps us from being completely dominated by the flesh. At this point it is important to clarify some terms we will be using in this study. First, “the flesh” is a term used by New Testament writers to describe the fact that we as Christians have the ability and, in fact the tendency to sin. since this is true, a Christian who is in disobedience to the scripture is one of the most miserable people in the world – he doesn’t have the joy and satisfaction of knowing that there is nothing between himself and his Lord, but at the same time he can’t get the same degree of pleasure out of sin that his unsaved or disobedient friends do.Of course, the optimum, and the goal for the Christian is to “walk in the spirit.”- step-by step obedience to the Holy spirit. So verse 17 explains many of the “mysterious” things that some Christians do, both in the Bible and in our own day. – and David is one of them.
David had had great spiritual experiences in his life – being delivered from death by a bear and a lion, killing Goliath as a young man, and God had chosen him to replace Saul as King of Israel and had gotten him into the palace setting. But Saul’s rage and jealousy got worse and worse as time went by and he became consumed with the idea of killing David. And evidently under this constant hammering even David’s great faith began to fail. And before long all David could think about was his enemy. At the beginning of chapter 20 he fled from Saul to Naioth, where Samuel the prophet lived. This indicates that the Spirit still had some influence over his life – which is always true in a believer, even when he is disobedient. (Romans 6:14 says “sin shall not have dominion (complete control) over you. But when David left Samuel and went to Jonathon for advice (as he did in our last study) we see the flesh more and more in control – especially when he coerced Jonathon into lying for him. And that control is going to continue throughout this chapter – and get worse and worse!
David apparently “gave up” on Saul – decided that he was never going to change – and what’s worse, God wasn’t going to make him change. So David literally “hits the road” – becomes a vagabond and a fugitive. And that brings us to the beginning of chapter 21.
His first stop is in verses 1 through 9: he flees to God’s emissary: Ahimelech the priest.
Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?”
Ahimelech was no dummy; probably everybody in Israel had heard about David’s disappearance. He may have just not wanted to get involved. And he was surprised that nobody with him – David, being a regimental commander, would normally travel with an entourage. This shows again the fickleness of human nature – even among God’s people – David was a hero as long as he was winning, but when he falls from favor with the king he is automatically “suspect” But unfortunately, Ahimelech’s “inquiry” is met with iniquity in verse 2. For some reason David feels compelled to tell a lie.
So David said to Ahimilech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business and said to me “Do not let anyone know about the business on which I sent you,or what I have commanded you.” And I have directed my young men to such and such a place.
Here is another indication of David’s fear – apparently he felt that the truth wouldn’t have sounded good enough. How ironic! The man who had not been afraid to meet the Philistine giant single handedly is now afraid to speak the truth! But this is typical of a believer who stops trusting. And there are other examples: In I Kings 18 Elijah withstood 400 priests of Baal victoriously, yet in the next chapter he ran for h is life from Jezebel, their queen. Peter was not afraid to step out of a boat into a storm yet shrank in fear from a young girl who thought she recognized him. And it could happen to you or me under he right circumstances. – remember I Corinthians 10:12 – “Let him who thinks he stands lest he fall.” David had known a lot of difficulties before this, but there is a big difference here: Always before he had eventually known victory, but this thing with Saul just went on and on. And eventually it just got to be too much, even for David. Someone has said, “It is one thing to trust Him while being overcome is another thing.
Now we have seen “the inquiry” from Ahimelech and the iniquity with which David answered it. So in verses 3 through 6 and verses 8 and 9 David begins an inventory about what Ahimelech has that he might use.
(3) Now therefore what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found (4) And the priest and said to him, “Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was sanctified the vessels this day. (6) So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the LORD in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.
Now this is a difficult passage. No one but the priests were supposed to eat the bread that had been on the altar in the tabernacle – and that only after it had been replaced with freshly baked bread. But David demands this bread and says in verse 5 that it is “in effect common,” even though he is not a priest. So what does this mean? We have to go to the New Testament, to the teaching of Jesus, to get our answer.
In Matthew 12: 1 through 8. In this incident Jesus and the disciples went through the grain fields, on the Sabbath and the disciples were hungry and began to eat the grain. But as usual, the Pharisees showed up, and charged them with breaking the sabbath. But Jesus dismissed the issue by reminding the Pharisees of this very incident in David’s life. David taught the Pharisees and the disciples two things: first, that men do not have to obey “man made” rules that are not based on scripture. And second, that Jesus, like David, was God’s anointed, therefore it was all right for him to have the sanctified items – after all, those loaves were a picture of the One who would later be recognized as “the Bread of Life.”
Now going back to I Samuel 21, (skip over verse 7, we will come back to it in a minute) and look at verses 8 and 9
And David said to Ahimilech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword,? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” (9) So the priest said the sword of Goliath, the Philistine whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod, for there is no other like it. If you will take it, take it. For there is no other like it. And David said, “There is no other except that one here. And David said, “there is no other like it, give it to me.”
Now, moving on to verses 10 through 15, we find the flight to God’s Enemy (remember that the first section was “the flight to God’s emissary”). His flight is described very simply in verse 10
Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish, the king of Gath.
David should have never left Samuel in Naioth, as we pointed out in our last study. But now he pushes it to the extreme: he goes to the very enemies : the home of Goliath (remember that he had “defied the armies of the living God” back in chapter 17.) But this is always the way it is when a Christian is out of fellowship. He tries to fraternize with the world – he has to hide his true colors.
So David makes “his flight” to Gath, but it doesn’t help. In verses 11 through 15 we see his fears continue to grow. First, he is recognized! In verse 11
And the servants of Achish said to”him.”Is this not David, the king of the land? Did not they sing of him to one another in dances, saying “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands?”
God will not allow his people to remain “incognito” in the world. It is His will that we be “lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15) and He will thwart our efforts to be anything else. In Genesis chapter 12 and again in chapter 20 Abraham’s deception was discovered. Peter’s attempt to hide his discipleship failed – he was identified just by the way he talked! And the same thing will happen with us sooner or later. And this is part of God’s grace and mercy. He will not allow us to settle down and be at peace among His enemies for long – for our sakes.
Then there his reaction to his recognition in verses 12 and 13
Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath 13) So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate and let his saliva fall down on his beard.
David came here hoping for protection from Achish, but now it backfires, and he is afraid, in verse 12. David was later to write “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes (Psalm 118:9) and this probably where he learned that! How embarrassing this must have been to David in later years when it would have been obvious that it was all an act. And to do this in front of the very people whose champion he had destroyed in the name of God! But it should remind us again that the godliest among us are capable of the grossest and most embarrassing sins without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
But in a sense it gets even worse! Verses 14 and 15 tell us about his ridicule.
Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? (15) “Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?
This “ingenious” plan may have provided some temporary security, but it also ensured future disgrace. The same thing happened to Abraham, and to Isaac, to Jacob, to Peter, to Ananias – and it will happen to us if we try it. “Leaning on his own understanding” brought David to Gath, but it also brought great shame. In fact, it is really a miracle that the killer of the Philistines’ national hero escaped with his life!
The scripture doesn’t tell us how he got away, but there is a clue which may or may not be inspired – the superscription of Psalm 34 says that it is “a Psalm of David when he changed his behavior before Abimilech who drove him away and he departed.”
Apparently Achish driving him out brought David to his senses and he got right with the Lord. Look at what he wrote:
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth, (2) My soul shall make its boast in the LORD. The humble shall hear of it and be glad. (3) Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. (5) They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. (6) This poor man cried out and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (7)The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear him (8) Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in him! (9) Oh fear the LORD you his saints! There is no want to those who fear him.