Summary: First Samuel 27:1-28:2 shows us that even God's servants of great faith can falter.
When David was still a teenager, God called him to become the next king over Israel. However, David’s ascension to the throne was still many years away. David served Saul for a number of years, but eventually Saul became extremely jealous of David and wanted him killed. David became a fugitive on the run from Saul. And for more than seven years, Saul tried to kill David. In fact, one commentary notes that Saul tried to kill Dave 16 times! Even though David had God’s promises reiterated to him on numerous occasions, he got weary of being on the run from Saul. So, David got away from Saul by fleeing to the Philistines.
So, let’s read about David fleeing to the Philistines in 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2:
1 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.” 2 So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow. 4 And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.
5 Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” 6 So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. 7 And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.
8 Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. 9 And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. 10 When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” 11 And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’ ” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”
28:1 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” 2 David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.” (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2)
Richard Phillips notes in his commentary that some years ago, a society of atheists published a tract highlighting the failures of various Bible characters. For example, they said that Abraham was willing to sacrifice the honor of his wife to save himself. They referenced the Bible verses that confirmed this, and also noted that Abraham is called “the friend of God.” They asked, “What kind of God would befriend so dishonorable a man?”
The tract also said that Jacob was a liar and a cheat, and then noted that God made Jacob a prince of his people. They asked, “What does this say about the character of a deity who would call himself ‘the God of Jacob’?”
Next, the tract mentioned that Moses was a murderer, and yet God picked Moses to bring his law into the world.
And then the tract mentioned David, who was the worst of all. He seduced Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover it up. The tract noted that David was “a man after God’s own heart.” They asked, “What kind of God could find so much to praise in such a man, and why would anyone serve him?”
Phillips goes on to ask how we as Christians should respond to such accusations that are contained in this tract. First, we acknowledge that everything contained in this tract is true. In fact, Christians affirm that every character in the Bible—with the exception of Jesus Christ—is flawed, totally depraved, and sinful to the core. Moreover, in this sense, the Bible is unique in that, unlike all other religions, it showcases the faults and failures of its heroes.