MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron
The more I learn of the life of David, the more evident his humanness appears. He faced tremendous challenges, yet he sought to do the right thing, according to the heart of God. The way David handled many situations can speak to us, and bring healing and hope for our souls.
Last week we studied David fleeing from King Saul, and observed the aid which came to him from different sources (1 Samuel chapters 21 and 22), including Ahimelech and the priests who were later massacred by Saul (1Samuel 22:18). We also found that David heeded the advice of the prophet Gad and returned to his homeland, trusting that God, not Saul, was in control of his life.
When he arrived in Judah, David received bad news. “‘Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are plundering the threshing floors’” (1 Samuel 23:1). It is possible Gad had been informed by God, and that’s why he advised David to return home. Before intervening, David twice sought the Lord’s will. Going would put the Philistines in front, and Saul behind him in pursuit. But God knew best, so after the inquiries, David received a promise that the Philistines would be delivered into his hand (1 Samuel 23:2, 4).
After the victory, Ahimelech’s son Abiathar sought out David, and brought an ephod, a garment used for divination. Saul, intent on preserving his reign and filled with jealousy, headed toward Keilah to lay siege. But now David had both a priest (Abiathar) and prophet (Gad) with him, and God in control.
David again sought counsel from the Lord. “‘Will Saul come down just as thy servant has heard?’ … And the Lord said, ‘He will come down.’ David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ and the Lord said, ‘They will surrender you’” (1 Samuel 23:11, 12). Though David had just saved them from the Philistines, the city’s leaders were focused on personal safety to the point of betraying their rescuers. David fled the city, on the run once more. Still threatened by David’s successes, Saul followed into the wilderness of Ziph, southeast of Hebron. Each day Saul looked for David and his six hundred men, but God was in charge.
While Saul burned with a desire to kill, his son continued to demonstrate a generous, unselfish loyalty to David, and firm faith in God. Their moving final meeting is described in 1 Samuel 23:16-17. “Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father shall not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.’” The two friends renewed their covenant and then went separate ways.
In the wilderness, David was again betrayed, this time by the residents of Ziph (1 Samuel 23:19-20). However, sometimes God uses enemies to serve his purpose. Provided with word of David’s whereabouts, Saul and his men pursued them into the desert areas west of the Dead Sea. At one point, only a rocky mountain separated the two groups. But just then, a messenger arrived to tell Saul of another Philistine crisis back home, so he turned around, and David was spared.
Chapter 24 of 1 Samuel contains an extraordinary account. “Now it came about when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, ‘Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.’ Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats” (verses 1-2). David and his men were hidden deep in the recesses of a cave, when the king happened to enter the same cave to relieve himself.
David’s men realized it was the king, and jubilantly urged David to count the situation as a gift from God. David in the darkness of the cave refused to harm Saul, though he was close enough he cut off a piece of the king’s robe.
After Saul left the cave, David followed after, called out to the king, and bowed before him in a sign of submission. He showed the cut piece of robe, and gave an emotional speech (verses 9 through 14).
David’s unexpected appearance from the same cave and his act of mercy deeply touched the heart of Saul. His motives were changed, at least temporarily, as he replied, “‘May the Lord therefore reward you with good in return for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand’” (verses 19-20).
Each of us may have a Saul in our lives; hopefully we also have a Jonathan. As we continue to study the life of David, we can trust that our lives ultimately are in the hand of God – individually and as a nation.