Summary: This is a series on the life of David and what made him a man after God’s heart. Here we find David’s faults and weaknesses a puzzling companion to the great title "Man after God’s own heart"
MAINTAINING YOUR INTEGRITY IN THE WILDERNESS?
David is on the run. In this part of the story of David’s life everything has broken loose. Quiet suspicions that Saul is trying to kill him are now loudly in the open. Even Jonathon who struggled to grasp how his own father could possibly consider murder now knows that Saul is insane. As a result of Saul’s madness, David has lost his place in the royal court, he has lost his wife, and he has lost touch with his friend. Fearing for his life, David flees to the wilderness, and there makes four dreadful decisions. Let me share these thumbnail sketches with you…
1. David’s “Down” Events
a) Lying to the Priest – David has left the royal courts so fast that he did not take any food or arms with him. So he travels to the city of priests, Nob, where 86 priests and their families lived. The narrator tells us that when David approached Ahimelech the priest, he trembled. Ahimelech was obviously afraid and we can assume that he knew David was a fugitive. He was also suspicious since David, a military officer, was traveling alone without an armed guard as was the custom. He was traveling alone and it was the Sabbath, which meant he shouldn’t have been traveling at all. How does David explain himself to the priest?
David tells Ahimelech that he is on a secret mission for King Saul and he is not at liberty to discuss the nature of that mission. His men are awaiting him in another location. What he needs is bread or some kind of food.
Ahimelech says the only bread available is consecrated bread – that is, bread which is dedicated to the LORD. This bread sits on a table for seven days and then is eaten only by priests. It represents the presence of the LORD. Breaking the rules slightly the priest gives David this bread, particularly because David has assured him he is working for the king.
Next David asks for a weapon of some sort. For some reason the sword of Goliath has been stored here and has been dedicated to the LORD as well and therefore belongs to God. Ahimelech gives David this sword and David leaves.
What the narrator has implied but not said outright is that David lied to the priest. Curiously, the sin here is not that David ate bread reserved for God and his priests, for Jesus affirmed this act of mercy in Matthew 12:3, and in fact, David would not have to had to lie to receive this bread. No, it is the lie that stands out here, and it gets worse.
b) Faking insanity – In fleeing from Saul, David decides that the best place to hide is in the territory of the Philistines. In essence, David hides among the enemies of God and his people. Thinking he won’t be recognized he goes to Achish, leader of the Philistines and offers his services. But David is carrying the sword of Goliath, he’s in the city of Gath, the home town of Goliath, and he’s a fairly well known character around there. The Philistines do remember the guy that killed their cousin and the subsequent humiliation they experienced at his hand. They even know his little song of fame: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” David has allowed himself to be captured by men who would love to get revenge for the death of Goliath.
David, a cunning and shrewd actor, spins a façade of deception. He starts blubbering saliva down his lips and onto his beard, babbling nonsensical words, and spreading graffiti all over the town gates. I don’t doubt he would have wet his pants if it would help his ruse. All of this was a sure sign to the people of that time that David was insane. Achish responds with a comical statement: “Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me?” So Achish sends David away since he has enough lunatics on his staff.
The lies and the deception work and so the story goes.
c) Lying to Achish – Some time later David actually secures the affection of Achish and becomes his personal body guard. If we read on in chapter 27 we find that we are not told why Achish accepts him now if he wouldn’t before. But here he is living among the enemy to escape the madness of Saul. Not wanting to live under the watchful eye of his Philistine master, David asks for a town of his own and receives Ziklag as his allotment.
For their own protection and for the reward of loot that comes from attacking one’s enemies, David raids nearby tribes that pose a threat. His tactic is to sweep in, kill every man, woman and child so that there are no witnesses, and do a clean sweep so as to leave no evidence of their attack.