The Redefined Student Ministry is studying the life of David in January and February, but it’s impossible to talk about everything in just seven meetings. We’ll have to skip some stuff from one week to the next, so we’re covering all the in-between stuff here on the blog!
Last Friday, we looked at 1 Samuel 26. King Saul is hunting David, and chapter 26 is the second easy opportunity that David has to kill Saul. It’s also the second time he refuses. After the confrontation they go their separate ways, but Saul’s gratitude for his preserved life doesn’t last long.
In the next chapter, David decides that the best way to keep Saul off his back is to move in with the enemy.
Sleeping with the Enemy
David and his volunteer, ragtag army of 600 men move into the land of the Philistines—sworn enemies of David’d people. (Goliath was a Philistine, remember. David single-handedly defeated their army several years before this.)
King Achish allows them to stay, and he could have any number of motives:
- To keep an eye on David where he has a better chance of capturing or killing David if he needs to.
- To irritate and possibly draw in his enemy, King Saul.
Achish knew that Saul was hunting David, and may even have hoped to convert David and his army to the Philistine “side.” We don’t really know, but put yourself in Achish’s shoes: it’s a little risky, but there are benefits to having your enemy within your realm of control.
David’s plan worked:
And it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath; so he sought him no more. (1 Sam 27:4)
Just because it seemed to work, though, doesn’t mean it was the best plan, and we get another example of David’s imperfect leadership.
God’s Plan, or David’s Plan?
Because God didn’t need Israel’s enemy to keep David safe. When David first ran away from Saul, God told him to go to the land of Judah—a Jewish land. But David was (understandably, although that’s not an excuse) tired of wandering the wilderness and constantly evading a madman with an army who was trying to kill him. So he took the easy out.
And we don’t really hear from God at all about the matter. There’s no great judgment that comes down on David for the decision. And actually, it seems to work out okay—David moves his people to the edge of Philistine territory, where they won’t be influenced by the false gods of the Philistines and they can practice their faith unwatched. The area was far enough away from the capital that David could raid other non-Jewish towns and King Achish never knew about it. It was also close enough to Israel, that David could, presumably, stay in touch with some of his people inside his kingdom.
And let’s talk about those raids. The reason King Achish never found out about them was because David’s men left no survivors. None. Deliberately so Achish would never know that David was lying to him.
Ugliness in the Bible
This is ugly stuff. While it was not uncommon, we still don’t like to think about our hero participating in—even leading—these kinds of things, and yet, here they are: recorded in scripture for eternity.
Critics point to these kinds of passages to say, “Look: Your God is bloodthirsty and genocidal. The bible condones the slaughter of women and children.”
But we have to remember that much of the bible is just history and biography. God does not approve of everything that anyone does (except Jesus), and David was no exception. He was chosen by God. He is honored in scripture. But that doesn’t mean that everything he ever did was right. David was human, in a time and a society very different from our own, and everyone makes bad decisions sometimes.
If anything, passages like these support the authenticity of the bible. Think about it: If you were going to write a story about a hero—someone that would be one of God’s “favorites,” who would foreshadow Jesus, who would be the greatest king a nation ever had … would you write this scene? If you were making up this story, would you make your hero a liar and a killer of children?
I wouldn’t. I would want readers to love my hero.
But the bible doesn’t gloss over people’s flaws. Because it’s writers were not drafting children’s bedtime stories: they were being obedient to the voice of God and recording the history of His people.
David’s Story is Hope for Us
David is a huge figure in God’s story. He does a lot of great things. He is the father (figuratively, he’s actually the great-great-etc-grandfather) and foreshadow of the Messiah. He is the “man after God’s own heart.”
David is all those things because even though he makes mistakes and poor decisions, his heart is always to do well. He repents of his sin. He seeks and pursues God as best as he can.
Bible passages like 1 Samuel 27 are not particularly inspirational in that they model the way we should live, but they do remind us that God’s mercy is new every morning. That when we repent, He is faithful to forgive us. That when we seek Him, we will find him. That no matter what you’ve done, God still wants you.
Alexis is an Associate Editor and Researcher by day, and a Redefined Ministry Servant by night. When she’s not in front of a keyboard (which is almost never), she likes playing with her toddler, reading, and eating too much Indian food.