8: On the Road Again

“The Life of David”

Lesson 8: I Samuel 21



If you have been a Christian very long you have already 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” into deeper and deeper sin. And in a case like that it is amazing the kinds of things that Christians can get into. When a Christian is out of fellowship and refuses to get right with the Lord his actions can become so bizarre that sometimes it could take a “professional” to explain i But the Bible does explain it in Galatians 5:16 and 17


This I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish .


Here we have explained for us the two “natures” of the Christian life. And the fact of which one is in control determines the way the Christian will act. Of course, the optimum, and the goal for the Christian is to regularly, as verse 16 points out, walk in the Spirit.


There are a number cases in which seemingly mature Christians, both in and out of the Bible have “dropped out of the race” for years before coming back to the Lord by following these instructions. 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. Because this is true a Christian who is out of fellowship is one of the most miserable people in the world – he doesn’t have the joy of the Lord, but at the same time he can’t get the same degree of pleasure out of sin that his unsaved friends do.


Of course, the goal for the Christian is to “walk in the Spirit” consistently in the words of verse 16 of Galatians. This is such an important concept that I want to digress from our study of the life of David (although it is not really a digression) and spend some extra time to discuss this concept.


First of all, it is important to notice the specific wording of the verse. Notice that it doesn’t say that we are to run in him. Walking is probably one of the things that we most take for granted. Have you ever analyzed the act of walking? What do we do when we walk? First we pick up one of our feet and swing it forward. Then we catch put our weight on that foot and leg and then repeat the process. Even though we think of walking as a single action, it is actually a series of actions. This explains many of the “mysterious


Before Jesus left the earth he told the disciples that he was going to send them “another comforter” (His name for the Holy Spirit,) who would, among other things, remind them of the things He had taught them.  From that day forward, when a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he or she receives the Holy Spirit.


Satan is fully aware of this arrangement and does everything he can to thwart it. When a believer is tempted to make a sinful decision, the Holy Spirit reminds him about it. If the believer obeys the Spirit and doesn’t go through with the sin, he has taken a “step” in the Spirit. And just as it is but with walking in our physical body, one step leads to another and before long we are “walking in the Spirit.” in the beginning we will find it difficult, but again, we grow spiritually as we walk.

This 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. He had great spiritual experiences in his life – being delivered from a lion and a bear as a young shepherd, killing Goliath with a slingshot 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 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 this enemy. At the beginning of chapter 20 he fled from Saul to Naioth, where Samuel the prophet lived. This indicates that the Holy Spirit still had some influence over h is life – which is always true in a believer, even when he is out of fellowship. But when David left Samuel and went to Jonathon for advice in our last lesson 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! And 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: In verses 1 thru 9

we find David’s flight to God emissary (the priest). And the first thing we see is the inquiry that Ahimilech makes in verse 1:

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”


Probably Ahimelech had heard that David was a fugitive and didn’t want to get involved. And he was surprised that nobody was with him  – David, being a regimental commander, would normally  travel with 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 Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, “do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I am sending 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 ran from Jezebel, their queen. Peter was not afraid to step out of a boat into a storm, yet shrank from a young girl who thought she recognized him. And it could just as easily happen to you or me under the right circumstances – remember I Corinthians 10:12 – “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Former Dallas Seminary chaplain Bill Bryan once said, “It is easier to trust God in the sunshine than in the dark. A renowned Bible teacher and pastor of the early 20th century, B.W. Newton said, “it is one thing to trust God while overcoming, but to trust Him while being overcome is something else.”


As we have seen, David was no stranger to adversity, but this was something different: always before he had always known victory, but this thing just went on and on. And eventually it became too much, even for David.


Now we have seen the inquiry from Ahimelech, and “the iniquity” with which David answered it.So in verses 3 through 6 and 8 and 9 David begins an inventory of what Ahimilech has that might be of use.


(3) “Now, therefore, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be had(4) The priest answered David and said, “There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread, if the young men have at least kept themselves from” (5)Then David answered 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 in the vessel this day.” (6 ) So the priest gave him holy 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 in 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 of in the tabernacle – and that only after it had been replaced by freshly baked bread. But David demands the bread and says in verse 5 that it is “in effect common,” even though he was 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. Look at Matthew 12:1 through 8:


At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. (2) And when the Pharisees saw it, they hey said to Him, “Look your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”(3) And He said to them, “Have you not read what David when he was hungry, he and those who were with him (4)How he entered the house of God (4) How he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him but only for the priests? (5) Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests profane the temple and are blameless? (6) Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. (7) But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice “you would not have condemned the guiltless.


Actually, Jesus was teaching two things here: First, that men do not have to obey “man-made” religious laws; and second, that David, like Jesus, was God’s anointed, and therefore it was alright for him to have the sanctified items – after all, he was the representative of the one who was pictured by the ceremonial bread. Now, going back to I Samuel 21, skip over verse 7 we will come back to it in a minute) and look at verse 8


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 hast.” (9) So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in he valley of Elah, there it is wrapped in a cloth, behind the ephod if you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”


Here is another indication of how far David has fallen!  There is a little Statement back in chapter 17 that points up the poignancy of this. Look at 17:50


So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone and there was no sword in the hand of David.


There had been a time, not too long ago, when a sword was not important to David,  because he had the Lord with him. But now he was willing to use anything he could get his hands on.


Now we skipped over verse 7 a few minutes ago, but go back there for a moment. We have seen the inquiry that Ahimelech made of David, the inventory that David made of supplies he could get his hands on. But verse 7 brings out the presence of an incidental bystander.


Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD. And his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul.


That verse may not seem very important, but keep it in mind, because when we come to chapter 22 we will see that it is very significant. But at this point, suffice it to say that Ahimilech’s support of David is going to be very costly! Now moving on to verses 10 through 15 we find the flight to God’s enemy. His flight is described  in verse 10


Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish, 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 of God; 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 who is out of fellowship 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. And sure enough, in verse he is recognized!


And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David, the king of the land? Did they not 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 againin chapter 20 Abraham’s deception was discovered. Peter’s attempt to hide his discipleship at the trial of Jesus failed – he was identified by his “drawl” (of all things.) And the same thing will happen to us sooner or later. And this is a 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. David’s reaction to the recognition is in verses 12 and 13.


Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish, king of Gath. (13) So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gare, 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. Later he would 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 reminds us again that  the godliest of among us are capable of the grossest and most embarrassing sins without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in an a sense it gets even worse! Verses 14 and 15 tell 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 to 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, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Peter, to Ananias, – and it can happen to us if we try it. Leaning on his own understanding” brought David to Gath, but it also brought him 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 Abimelech “drove him away and he departed.” And in fact, that Psalm is a good note on which to end our study of this episode. Apparently Achish driving him out brought back 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. (4) 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 He heard me, and delivered him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear him. (10) (11) Come you children, listen to me.I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.( 12) Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days that he may see good? (13) Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. (15) The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and (14) Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (15)The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry. (16) The face of the LORD is against those who do evil. To cut off the remembrance of (17) The righteous cry out and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.(18) The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who have a broken heart and saves those who have a contrite spirit.