1 SAMUEL 21, 22, 23 and 24
The whole of life is a degree-course in learning to trust God. It is not simple to do, which is why it takes a lifetime to master. In this university of Christian Life, the examination season comes when times get very tough, when we reach the end of our own resources, our self-confidence, and even our will to live – what then remains is pure and undiluted trust in the One we cannot see, for a future we cannot foresee!
David was now himself in the wilderness – literally and metaphorically – having had to flee the king’s court. He ran for his life to the only friendly location he could think off, to seek the Lord’s will and to beg some basic provisions. Ahimelek, the High Priest would have known and loved this son of Jesse, and admired not only his battle-prowess, but also the passion of his praise and worship; David was for a short time amongst friends. Yet he lied to the priest, telling him that he was on a secret mission for Saul and that he was not alone but with a force of men. He deceived Ahimelek into giving him the day-old consecrated bread (by then replaced by a new batch), and the sword of Goliath (that was rightly David’s by conquest in any case). Why did he lie? Perhaps to protect the High Priest from being implicated in aiding David’s escape? Whatever the reason, it failed, due to the presence of Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul’s servants, who scampered back to his master and spilled the beans. David bitterly regretted this error of judgement. Later that same day, David deceived the king of Gath by pretending to be insane to avoid being arrested there.
In the wilderness, a large group of social outcasts gathered around David, and he became their commander in chief. He had with him a prophet, Gad, and later on, Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek. Abiathar was now fatherless, since Saul had discovered the incident with the bread and the sword of Goliath and had taken the worst possible interpretation of Ahimelek’s motives; Doeg the Edomite – ever eager to please his king – not only executed the High Priest but 85 others, the town that they lived in, and everyone connected with the place. Only Abiathar had escaped. Joining up with David, he told the full story and David had cause to regret keeping Ahimelek ‘in the dark’ about his reasons for being there.
In 1 Samuel 23, we read a story that teaches us something fundamental about biblical prophecy: David was garrisoned in a walled town called Keilah and heard that Saul had found out about his location. He sought revelation from the Lord, via Abiathar the priest, and asked of God two specific questions: (1) Will Saul come down to find me at this town? and: (2) Will the citizens of Keilah hand me over to Saul? In both cases, the answer from the Lord was ‘Yes’. And yet, neither of these events happened? Did God change His mind, or did the prophet get it wrong? No, and No. This episode illustrates a key aspect of prophecy: at least some of it is conditional. The above example is a case in point: Saul would arrive at Keilah and the citizens would hand David and his men over if David had remained there any longer. In practice, he took note of the prophecy and took evasive action; therefore, the prophecy was not fulfilled, and its purpose was to warn. Certain other prophecies are not conditional, and their purpose is to encourage and strengthen faith – e.g., those concerning the Return of Christ. So the main question to be levelled at a prophecy, once you have tested it, is: “What was it given for?”.
David was not a perfect man, not without sin, but he was without doubt a man of great integrity. Saul, in pursuit of his rival, chanced upon the very cave in which David and his men were hiding and adopted it as his private WC. David, hiding further back in the cave slipped towards the front and hacked off the corner of Saul’s royal robe that was hanging in the corner. No-one else noticed. Afterwards, troubled by his conscience for harming even part of the clothing of the Lord’s Anointed, David revealed both his integrity and his presence, and showed Saul the corner of that robe as evidence that he, David, meant Saul no harm. Saul was convinced – for at least a day or so!