Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” (1 Sam. 27:1)
How can David, a man after God’s own heart, say this?
How can he only consult his own heart and not consult the Lord?
How can there be nothing better for him than to escape to the land of the Philistines, the enemies of God and of Israel?
How can David seem to have so little faith in the Lord, who has chosen him and given him favor and protection? Where is the trust that he had as he stood confidently against Goliath, saying, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine”? (1 Sam. 17:37) Where is the boldness that he had when he crept at night unnoticed and unharmed into the center of Saul’s camp of 3,000 men, taking Saul’s spear and water jug? [right]
David, of all men, should have faith in God’s protection. Yet, without seeming to pray or inquire of the Lord, he listens to the fear in his heart, flees, and seeks refuge with Israel’s enemy, the Philistines.
Faith and fear seem to vie for dominance in the hearts of all men. Elijah, a mighty prophet of the Lord, fled from Jezebel in fear for his life despite the unmistakable display of God’s power and might he had seen. The disciples cried out during the storm, accusing Jesus of not caring when they were afraid in the storm. Despite the overwhelming promises and goodness of the Lord, our faith can shrink in the storms of life. We all can listen to the fear in our hearts and feel abandoned by God.
David spends a year and four months in Gath, “away from the presence of the Lord” (1 Sam. 26:20). He uses that time to subdue some of the enemies of Israel, but also lives a lie, feigning allegiance to Achish. He also puts his family and entourage at risk while they live in Ziklag. David is caught in the middle as the Philistines are preparing to wage war against Israel.
All comes home to roost in chapter 30 when the Philistines are marching on Israel and David and his men return to Ziklag to find the city burned and the women and children taken captive. Instead of listening to his heart, David finally “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam. 30:6).
How did he strengthen himself in the Lord? The psalms he wrote give us an idea:
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies . . . In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears . . . He bowed the heavens and came down . . .
(Psalms 18:1-3, 6, 9)
David meditated on the character and nature of God until he was strengthened. Like a tea bag steeping in water, David praised God until his heart was changed. Instead of listening to the fear in his heart, David preached good news to his own heart and was strengthened.
“We ought to be deeply grateful to God for the Inspired history of the life of His servant, David. It was a great life, a vigorous life, a life spent in many positions and conditions. I almost rejoice that it was not a faultless life, for its failings and errors are instructive. It is the life of a man after God’s own heart but still, the life of one who went astray, like a lost sheep and was recovered by the great Shepherd’s Divine Grace.” (Charles Spurgeon, June 26, 1881, sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.)