1 Samuel 29: David almost fights for the Philistines

14 Aug

Achish trusted David enough to have him as his personal body guard, and in this capacity he brought David and his men to the battlefield with the Philistines. The other Philistines refused to allow David to stay and insisted Achish send David away.

It is interesting to reflect on this chapter as the Philistines responded in the way I would have done in their place. They quoted from the victory songs after David killed Goliath in their argument with Achish. Yet Achish told David that he completely trusted him and apologised for sending him away. David must have been a very charismatic man as he had this ability to build complete loyalty from others, even men who should have been his enemy.

We know that David would never have attacked Saul, so perhaps David was playing a dangerous game at this time. He knew (either by pure common sense or because God told him) that the other Philistines would never trust him to fight alongside Achish, so he went along to the battlefield expecting to be sent home. In this way he did not damage his relationship with Achish, but he also did not have to fight Saul.

David seemed to be completely open and transparent most of the time and always with his men, yet political enough to lie to Achish about who he had raided each day. To be fair, David did not kill Philistines when he lived with Achish – perhaps because that would have been too difficult to hide?

I am looking forward to seeing how David’s relationship with Achish unfolds in the future when he is king of Isreal. David could be a man worth studying when considering how to live in our modern world without respect for God – he managed to be unrelenting in his faith and religion yet made friends and allies with many men through wisdom which I conclude came from God.

1 Samuel 28: Saul gets desperate and does another stupid thing

13 Aug

On the eve of battle with the Philistines, Saul decides he needs to speak to Samuel. This is in spite of the fact that Samuel is dead and Saul, himself, rid the land of mediums who communicated with the dead. His men, as usual are ready to help, and tell him about a woman at Endor who escaped his purges.

This woman is far wiser than Saul and tries to avoid doing as he asks, even before she recognises him as the king. A spirit who looks like Samuel appears and gives Saul a message that makes him collapse in fear. The spirit says that Saul will be killed in battle with his sons the next day.

The woman and Saul’s men make him eat and they then leave to return to the battle field. So many people want to know the future and think they would like to know about their death. Saul gets this wish answered. God and the spirit which claimed to be Samuel both decree that consulting mediums is wrong. God does not say it does not work, he simply says it is not right for us to do so.

This story reminds me of another king who was given prophecies from women. Even though Shakespeare’s Macbeth is historically not particularly accurate (much like Hollywood blockbusters today), it does confront us with the challenge – is it useful or good to be given prophecies? It is an endless debate whether Macbeth would have killed King Duncan if the witches had not planted to seed in his mind, supported by that other woman Lady Macbeth.

I believe God does not want us to know the future because it can still be influenced by our choices and also He is sufficient for us. We don’t need to know the future when we know that we have been guided by God in the past. 

Saul had none of this security and his fear was compounded by the knowledge he received against his own better judgement.

1 Samuel 27: David settles in Philistine country

11 Aug

David decided that if he left Israel Saul would give up hunting him. Perhaps David realised that sooner or later his men and those of Saul would meet and fight, and he wanted to avoid what would have been civil war. Perhaps he simply was tired of being on the run.

David asked one of the Philistine kings, Achish, for a village to live in and was given Ziglag. It amazes me that the man who killed Goliath was being given refuge by the Philistines. Achish seemed to think that because David was being hunted by Saul that David was essentially a man for hire. David encouraged him to believe this by telling him that they were raiding Israelite settlements and settlements of people allied to the Israelites, when in reality he was raiding the traditional Israelite enemies of Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites.

David and his men settled down in Ziklag, bringing their families to live with them. David’s wives Ahinoam and Abigail also joined him. The raiding parties always came home with livestock and clothing and other spoils of war. In this way David “earned a living”.

I suppose that as a follower of God, it makes sense that David was continuing to wipe out the tribes which God had identified as enemies marked for Holy War. It  jars with my modern day sensibilities that the man who wrote so many psalms and who knew God’s heart was also a merciless raider who left no one alive.

 

1 Samuel 26: David spares Saul’s life again

10 Aug

Saul heard where David was hiding and went off in pursuit with 3,000 men. David was waiting for him and as he and his men were reconnoitering the area, he asked for a volunteer to accompany him into Saul’s camp. Together with Abishai, David slipped unnoticed into the camp and into Saul’s tent. Everyone was asleep.

Abishai wanted to kill Saul but David admonished him saying:
“As God lives, either God will strike him or his time will come and he’ll die in bed, or he’ll fall in battle, but God forbid that I should lay a finger on God’s anointed.” (The Message, verse 10)

When David was far enough from the camp, he shouted to wake Saul and his commander Abner. Saul recognised his voice and calls to David:
“Is that you, David my son?” (The Message verse 18)

Saul and David’s men could only be bewildered by the weirdness of this continuing hunt. David described it well when he said that he was a mere flea who a king should not be bothered with hunting. Yet Saul persistently hunted him and continuously found himself blessing David and apparently feeling bad about the hunting. Whilst Saul’s men could have been grateful for the rest from campaigning against the Philistines, they would still have been confronted with Saul’s fickle nature.

David’s men, on the other hand, could understandably have been impatient for him to become king and found his reluctance to kill Saul frustrating. However, David’s faith in God and understanding of God’s rules gave him his strength in battle and defined him as a man. Every time he did not kill Saul, he explicitly linked it to God. Each of these occasions became a chance for David to show his own men and Saul how he lived under God. David’s men had to have learned to respect this, even if initially it must have driven them mad.

David was so sure of God and how he fitted into the world under God, that he risked his life obeying God in battle by fighting and obeying God in battle by not fighting. In contrast Saul has no confidence in himself or God, Saul does not understand God’s world view. I would suggest that Saul’s mental frailty came from the collision between God’s reality and Saul’s complete lack of understanding of this. Saul was like a blind man staggering through darkness, whereas David clung to the small light of God’s guidance showing him each step he should take. Rather than tentatively stepping forward each time, David follows God with conviction leaving the provision of the ground beneath his feet to God.

Quick note

9 Aug

Hi – this is a quick apology for lack of blogging. I have been moving house for what seems like forever when you count all the packing, flat hunting and unpacking. In addition I have been a bit under the weather but still working, so I simply became swamped with life. But service will resume as usual tomorrow.

Karen

1 Samuel 25: Abigail and David

13 Jul

This chapter begins with a funeral and ends with a marriage. But plenty happened in between.

Samuel died. David moved again after Samuel’s funeral. Perhaps he thought that this momentous occasion could have pushed Saul to be afraid and crazy again (well more crazy than usual).

I have been wondering how David survived on the run. This time his men had protected the herds and shepherds of Nabal, and he asked for a share in the feast that accompanied sheep shearing. It seems like a protection racket, yet David and his men helped without a deal in advance and David’s request is gentle. He asks that they might share in the celebration in whatever way seems fair to Nabal.

Nabal was foolish and said no as well as insulting David and his men. David responded in anger and on the way to Nabal’s home, he made a rash promise to destroy Nabal and his family. But Nabal’s wife, Abigail intervened. Not only did she provide a banquet for David’s men but she also prevented David from carrying out his promise.

Abigail was brave and clever in the way she gave David every reason not to kill Nabal, but David should get some credit too. He had made the promise to kill Nabal with his men around him, to back down now could have been seen as cowardice. Other men might have felt that they had to keep their word. But David listens to Abigail and blesses her for preventing him from killing Nabal in vengeful anger.  So David and his men took the food, Nabal died within a week from shock when Abigail told him the story and David then married Abigail. Almost a fairytale ending.

Abigail predicted that anyone who opposed David would ultimately be dealt with by God. David acknowledged both her strength in stopping him and God’s protection over him, when he heard of Nabal’s death. But what interested me more was that Abigail knew David would be king. Suddenly I wondered, how many people in Israel knew that David had been anointed by Samuel? We have read that Jonathan knew David would be king – did David tell him he had been anointed? Or had people just assumed that David would be king next – which would be a bit weird since Jonathan had proved himself an able leader and warrior, and people must have known David and Jonathan were close?

Either it was more common knowledge at the time than I had assumed, or Abigail and maybe Jonathan (and others?) had been given insight by God. Both are equally possible. But it does add to the potential for chaos in the country in the wake of Samuel’s death, that more and more people think David will be king. Two anointed kings running around playing hide and seek cannot have been best for Israel..

1 Samuel 24: Saul at David’s mercy (i)

12 Jul

Saul came back from dealing with the Philistines to continue hunting David in En Gedi. He brought 3 companies of men to find David and his 600 men.

During the campaign Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. David and his men were in that cave. David crept forward and cut a piece off Saul’s robe. He then prevented his men from attacking Saul because he felt to guilty for raising his weapon against God’s anointed king.

David waited until Saul was a good way off before he came out the cave and shouted to Saul about the incident. He begged Saul not to waste his time hunting David because he wasn’t a rebel and he wasn’t worth Saul, the king’s, time. Saul wept and blessed David. He also declared that he knew David would be king but begged David not to wipe his family out. David promised not to do so and the two men went there separate ways.

I wonder what the two sets of warriors thought that day of their leaders? David’s men definitely thought he should have killed Saul when they had him at their mercy, Saul’s men probably felt a bit silly that David had got to close to him but also perhaps angry that Saul had dragged them off on this hunt and then given up in sobs!

Once again Saul sees things very clearly and knows that God favours David. Instead of turning to God now, whilst Samuel was still alive, he begs David’s mercy on his family. Maybe Saul is scared that if he repents God will accept him but only if he turns the kingdom over to David? Or maybe Saul believes his own press – God has anointed him and therefore he will remain king until his death. He does not ask David for mercy for himself – either he believes David would not kill him or he believes God is still protecting him. Whatever Saul really thought, it was a passing moment of clarity in his madness brought on by insecurity combined with power.

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