Synopsis 1Sam 24;3-12 10/23/2018
Once again, the Philistines had invaded Israel. Saul disengaged his pursuit of David in order to repel the Philistine invasion. Once this was complete, Saul brought three thousand soldiers back into Judah to capture David and his men.
While searching for David in the desert near Engedi, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. However, he was not aware that the cave he chose was actually David’s hiding place.
So, Saul went into the cave alone. Recognizing that God had delivered Saul into David’s hand, his men advised him to kill Saul. But David merely crept close and cutoff a piece of material from Saul’s robe as evidence that he could have easily killed the king.
Saul left the cave after he was finished. And then, David emerged behind him. He spoke to Saul. He explained what happened. David described how he chose to spare Saul his life. He wanted Saul to understand that it had never been his intention to kill him.
David Would Not Harm The Lord’s Anointed
David refused to injure any person that had been ordained and anointed king. And even though they were enemies, Saul was this ordained person. He was the anointed King of Israel. David understood that God would punish anyone who violated His purpose for a specially ordained human being.
God Has Ordained Every Person With Purpose
God created me in His image. And in the same way, He created you. And not just you. He created every human being who has ever been conceived in His image.
Now we know that God is efficient and purposeful. This is a fundamental Christian claim. Because of this, I know that am vested with dignity. God made me. And He made me for a reason. And these are among the central claims of our faith.
And not just me. God made everyone in this same way.
But sometimes I don’t see it.
The thing is, I know my own sins. And I know my own failings. And this knowledge makes me feel less than dignified. In fact, it sometimes makes me feel dirty and tainted and worthless. And because of this, my tendency is to think that most people are like me. So, I’m naturally tempted to think that most people are dirty, tainted and worthless.
God has challenged my feelings with His word. And if I come to terms with what He has said, then things begin to change. If I let His claims about my creation work on my mind, my emotions begin to fall in line. And I come slowly to believe that I have purpose. I realize my life means something.
And then I naturally begin to see that everyone is made in a similar way. And then I begin to find the freedom to see in the other, what David discovered in Saul. I find the Lord’s anointed.
And so when we meet, I pray I will see in you the anointing of God.
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them.” Gen 1:27
Synopsis 1Sam 23:19-24:2 10/21/2018
The men of Ziph reported to King Saul that David was hiding in their region. Saul expressed gratitude to them. And he asked them to get more specific information that he could act on.
Eventually Saul got word that David was in the region of Maon south of Hebron. Saul’s forces and David’s forces were moving along on opposite sides of a gorge. David was looking for an escape. But Saul was pressing for an attack.
At that moment, Saul received messengers who informed him that the Philistines had attacked. He disengaged from pursuing David. And then redirected his army to meet the Philistine invaders.
David then moved from Maon to the strongholds of Engedi.
David and his men had no way out. They were separated from Saul’s army by nothing more than a deep gorge. And while the gorge provided separation for a moment, Saul’s superior forces would eventually flank David’s forces. Once that happened, David’s forces would be quickly surrounded. And that would be the end.
Out of this desperate situation, God saved David and his men. The Philistines struck at just the right moment. Saul felt forced to disengage. So, he redirected his men to meet the Philistine invasion. And this allowed David to escape.
A Way Where There Was No Way
God is always revealing Himself in some new way.
The foundation of His relationship with human beings always remains constant. For example, we are saved by faith. And, we are saved because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Or, as another example, He has created all things with purpose and for His glory.
But even so, He seems to delight in showing His faithfulness in new and unpredictable ways. His love is fresh and creative every day.
“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” Isaiah 46:19
Synopsis 1Sam 23:6-18 10/20/2018
Saul ordered Doeg the Edomite to kill all the priests from Nob, including Ahimelech and his sons. However, one son escaped the slaughter. Abiathar somehow managed to avoid capture. So he went to David in search of protection and safety.
The result was that David was growing stronger. He now had a followership of six-hundred men and the rightful High Priest in his camp.
David and his men went down from the stronghold to Keilah. Keilah was a citadel city in the lowlands. Saul discovered David’s location there and called the army to pursue him. But David was able to ask God through the High Priest what to do. And so he escaped Keilah into the wilderness.
Finally, Jonathan came to David in the wilderness. He encouraged him and pledged his fidelity. And, he acknowledged that David would be king. And he went on to say that even King Saul knew this.
Priestly Access to God
In ancient Israel, access to God was mediated by the priests. And this was especially accomplished by the High Priest. In those days, the people feared God and they lived in dread of sinning against Him by violating the Law of Moses. And they especially dreaded the publicity of their sins. But still, they all sinned. And so, the priests mediated between God and man.
Now Saul ordered eighty-five priests murdered. Only one priest from the line of Eli the High Priest, survived. His name was Abiathar. And he fled to David for protection. As a result, Saul was without access to an authentic high priest. Accordingly, his access to God was limited.
David, on the other hand, had the authentic high priest under his protection. So, in his exile, God was more proximate to him than He would ordinarily be to any Israelite – even the king.
Jesus High Priest and Access To God
Like most people in America, I live in a remarkable time filled with extraordinary technological advances. In this time, even a person with average wealth lives with an almost unimaginable access to goods and services. As many people have observed, even the most wealthy ancient king could not begin to conceive of the material blessings of modern people.
It’s like that with God too. The ancients could not have imagined having unfettered, immediate access to God. They would struggle to believe that they could call upon a high priest at will. And yet, only because of the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have that access. And it can never be taken from us.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” Heb 4:15-16
Synopsis 1Sam 22:15-23:5 10/17/2018
Saul called Ahimelech, the High Priest, for questioning. Doeg the Edomite had testified against Ahimelech. Doeg reported that he saw David receive food and Goliath’s sword from Ahimelech at Nob.
Ahimelech didn’t know that David was a fugitive when he gave him provisions. Still, Saul condemned him and all of his family to death. So, Saul gave the order to the guards to kill the high priest and his family.
However, the guards refused. They felt conflicted. For them, the prospect of killing the Lord’s anointed priests was unfathomable. So Saul sought the foreigner Doeg to murder the priests. And so, Doeg killed eighty-five priests that day.
Then Saul turned his wrath on the entire priestly community at Nob. In a stunning irony, he put the entire community under the ban. So his forces allowed nothing to live. Every woman, child and animal was destroyed.
Tragically, only a single priest survived the attack. His name was Abiathar. He was forced to flee. And so, he went to David and his community. And there, he received protection from Saul.
Saul’s Drive to Protect His Throne
The destruction of Nob punctuates the deep irony of Saul’s life. In the past, Samuel castigated Saul for failing to utterly destroy the Amalekites. At that time, King Saul received a command from God through the prophet Samuel. He obeyed the command to attack. But he disobeyed by allowing his army to keep some of the spoils from the battle. He was afraid his men might revolt.
But years later, when Saul was feeling afraid of a conspiracy against him, he was no longer afraid of his soldiers. He commanded them to utterly destroy an entire city of priests. And the soldiers obeyed.
His decision proved that his fear of the loss of his kingship was greater than his fear of God.
So it clear that Saul could not escape the fear of losing his throne. It was an obsession. And he constantly thought about David.
But what if he had faced this fear. What if Saul had gone to Samuel and acknowledged that David was God’s choice for king? What if he had chosen to retire his kingship and allow David to become king in his place – while he was still alive? Would it have been so terrible to live out his elder days as the “King Emeritus” of Israel?
If he could have understood how his life would end, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have chosen a pleasant retirement instead.
The Drive to Protect the Self
Think about the fears that keep you awake at night. What if they all came to pass in a single day? What if you lost your money? And what if you lost your job? And what if every bad thing you ever imagined came upon you? What then?
Here’s what: You would meet the challenge. You would deal with it. And you would cope. What’s more, you would overcome.
God made you powerful to meet challenges. God made you powerful to cope with whatever comes your way. And God made you powerful to be an overcomer.
So come back to the present. Stop worrying about your life. By God’s grace, you will be sufficient in every hour of trial you ever encounter – if you simply commit to remaining in the present.
“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” Phil 4:13
Synopsis 1Sam 22:6-14 10/16/2018
Saul felt betrayed. He knew that Jonathan had made a covenant with David. But the sense of betrayal was not limited to his relationship with Jonathan. At this point, he feared a conspiracy against him lead by David.
So, he held a council. He sat with a spear in his hand. And, Saul demanded to know any and all conspirators. It was an ominous and fearful moment for the king’s court. A single ill-considered word could bring sudden death. So, the tension was palpable. Saul wanted answers. But more importantly, he demanded absolute loyalty.
For their part, the leaders of Israel felt perplexed. They all knew that David was absolutely loyal. But to defend David’s loyalty to a king who was already convinced would have been a death sentence.
In this moment of extraordinary tension, Doeg offered his information. He had seen David with Ahimelech at Nob. And Ahimelech had given David food and Goliath’s sword.
So, Saul sent for Ahimelech the high priest. Convinced that he had found evidence of a conspiracy against him, he questioned Ahimelech forcefully.
Saul Looking For Conspiracy
Saul was looking for evidence. But his problem was that he was already sure he knew the truth: David was a threat. So, in practice, he sought out evidence not to learn the truth, but only to confirm his suspicions.
Creative Power and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
It’s important to remember that personal power is a two edged sword. It cuts both ways. God has made me in His image. I am a creative being. But like any other gift, creativity can produce either blessings or almost unimageable horrors.
Sometimes my thinking gets stuck. Maybe I feel afraid. The fear may not make sense to anyone else, but it seems obvious to me – because I have a real feeling of fear.
I may think I’m open to the truth. But, like Saul, all I really have is an assumption or unsubstantiated hunch. As a result, what can happen is a mental bias that forms in my brain. I accept any evidence that supports my assumption. But any evidence that does not support my assumption, I discount. In the absence of real truth-seeking, I end up with a grotesque distortion.
Curiously, when I act out of this fear, I very often cause the thing I fear to actually materialize. That’s the power of human creativity. Unfortunately, I have made many enemies out of this kind of error. You see, it turns out that a vilified person will eventually react.
And then, the person or thing that I feared most, eventually becomes my actual enemy.
“the sword you fear shall overtake you in the land of Egypt; the hunger you dread shall pursue you to Egypt and there you shall die.” Jeremiah 42:16
Synopsis 1Sam 21:12-22:5 10/16/2018
David left Nob and travelled to Gath. But the Philistines immediately recognized him. And they reported him to Achish, their king. So David feigned mental disease. As a result, Achish dismissed David as a lunatic.
He fled from Gath to the cave of Adullam. Here he reconnected with his family. And it was here that David attracted a following of men who were social outcasts. Nearly four hundred men placed themselves under his authority.
Once he had established himself, David took his mother and father to Moab. He entrusted their protection there to the king of Moab. Then he returned to his stronghold. However, a prophet named Gad warned him to relocate back in the land of Judah.
David Moved From Strength to Strength
David was desperate. With trepidation, he searched for safety and protection.
Initially he tried to find safety in the one place Saul could never go. He travelled to Gath of the Philistines. Gath was Goliath’s home town. David somehow imagined that he could be there undetected. But his fame extended farther than he realized. And so, he was immediately recognized. And he only escaped the situation by feigning madness.
But from there he went up to a stronghold. The cave of Adullam provided protection. It was a place to safely rest. At this stronghold, he was able to re-establish communications with his family. And it was there, that David began to attract followers.
Because he had this new stronghold and over four hundred followers, David regained some confidence. At this point, he felt the need to protect his parents. So he travelled to Moab. There he petitioned the king of Moab to protect his father and mother.
David recovered incrementally. He went from strength to strength.
From Strength to Strength
Necessity is the mother of invention. And need drives us to achieve. But there is no skipping steps. David built a base and gained a following of men to support him before travelling to Moab seeking protection for his family.
So, I can’t skip steps. And I have to build a foundation first. I have to work up through the potential of each moment if I hope to achieve lasting success. Because in the end, success is the motion from strength to strength.
This is true in every quest, spiritual or social or material.
The trustworthy will be richly blessed; but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. Prov 28:20
Synopsis 1Sam 21:4-11 10/15/2018
David went to Nob. There, he approached Ahimelech the priest. And he asked him for bread. Ahimelech replied that the only bread available was showbread that had been removed from before the Lord. Normally this bread could only be consumed by a priest. However, Ahimelech indicated that laymen could it eat if they had recently abstained from relationships with women.
Doeg the Edomite was at Nob. He was one of Saul’s servants. And while he was there, he observed David’s presence.
David also asked Abimelech if he had a weapon on hand. Abimelech indicated that Goliath’s spear was there. He offered it to David. And David accepted it.
David Went To The Tabernacle
It’s not clear that David had a plan. He escaped Saul. But the immediate challenge was where to go. He would not be safe anywhere in Israel. If he returned to Bethlehem, Saul’s men would track him down. Additionally, if David went home it might bring Saul’s retribution down on his father and brothers.
David went to Nob. Nob was near Jerusalem. But it was off the path Gibeah to David’s hometown of Bethlehem. And it was also off the route to Gath, David’s next destination. So, why Nob? Why did David travel to the tabernacle?
Probably there are lots of possible answers. However, one of these is that David saw God as the ultimate source of provision. As an outcaste from Saul’s court, and an outlaw, there was basically no safe place in Israel. But the tabernacle would be safe. And, it was the perfect place to seek provisions.
Where Do I Go When I Have A Need?
Where do I go when I don’t know what to do? For me, the answer is too often – anywhere but God. Not that I rejected God. But if I have a problem, my first thought is to find a specialist who understands the problem and can fix it. So I call my accountant, or banker, or doctor, or therapist or business partner.
I have problems. But as has been said by many wise men, “every problem represents an opportunity”. And the greatest opportunity that any problem affords is the potential to know God more intimately. This problem that I probably never wanted and almost certainly never asked for is the thing that is designed to bring me closer to the God of all creation – if I let it.
Look for Him as the ultimate resource.
“But I, like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God, I trust in God’s mercy forever and ever.” Psalms 52:10
Synopsis 1Sam 20:35-21:3 10/13/2018
Jonathan went out from the city on the third day. As planned, he arrived at the meeting place on time. And then, using the code they had previously agreed to, Jonathan alerted David to Saul’s intention to kill him.
Despite his intent to remain hidden, David approached Jonathan. They both affirmed their friendship. And Jonathan reminded David of the covenant between them – that Jonathan’s family would always be cared for by David.
David then departed and went into exile. He immediately went to Abimelech the priest at Nob. He went there in search of provisions.
David In Transition
David knew that things had changed. With Jonathan’s signal, it immediately became clear that little about his life would ever be the same. He would never again be a beloved general over King Saul’s army. And, he might never again see his wife. And, he would never be able to visit his friends. Nor could he ever visit his home and family. In fact, he could not even be seen amongst his people.
And he could not worship God at the tabernacle.
It was a moment of utter destitution. It was the bottom.
And so it was – a new beginning.
It was the transition to a new life.
Destitution and Transition
It doesn’t happen every day. But certain days have come in my life. And on those certain days, I came to understand that nothing would ever be the same again. In a moment, I suddenly realized that the things I had formally known would no longer be a part of my life. And what was to come next was not at all clear.
A transition had begun.
It was a challenge to meet. It was the feeling of grief over things lost. And it was the feeling of anxiety because of the uncertainty in the things to come. It was the feeling of wariness in a time when trusted relationships were either broken or betrayed.
And for me, it was the opportunity to trust in an ever deeper way. So there were tears and sadness and feelings of fear all mixed together. But despite all of this, there was the knowledge that God would see me through.
“For his anger lasts but a moment; his favor a lifetime. At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing.” Psalms 30:6
Synopsis 1Sam 20:25-34 10/12/2018
King Saul sat at the new moon feast. Jonathan and other leaders from Saul’s court were with him at table. However, David was missing. Initially, Saul dismissed his absence. But when he was absent on the second night of the month, Saul became concerned.
So, he questioned Jonathan. He asked him if he knew why David was not there. But Jonathan was testing his father. He and David had agreed on what to say. And so, Jonathan explained to his father that he had given David leave to return to Bethlehem for a family feast.
Saul reacted with irrational anger at Jonathan’s response. In the end, he revealed his intention to kill David. And so, Jonathan left the meal enraged at his father’s faithlessness.
Saul Devastates Jonathan
Jonathan felt devastated. His father was Saul, king of Israel. And Saul was determined to kill David, Jonathan’s best and closest friend.
Jonathan felt grief because he knew there would be no changing Saul’s mind this time. And he felt frustrated because it made no sense. He knew his father was being led by irrational emotions. And he felt powerless, because he knew there was nothing he could do to change things.
Yet, Jonathan remained faithful to both Saul and David. He kept following God despite his failed expectations.
Following Through Disappointment
Disappointment is unavoidable. It is a fact of life.
I feel disappointment because I have formed expectations. These are the “what should be” things in my mind – in my life. And it’s these expectations of how things should be that can fail. What’s more, that failure brings the feeling of disappointment and an accompanying emotional sadness.
Some expectations are completely legitimate. When someone voluntarily or contractually makes a promise, it’s reasonable to expect that they will do what they promised. But sometimes my expectations aren’t valid. Sometimes I just expect others to behave in a way that suits me.
But in either case, my response to disappointments is one of the key indicators of my growth in this life.
Risk is inherent and unavoidable. And, sometimes I’m disappointed. But, I can’t stop taking risks and still live a productive, meaningful and faithful life. So, don’t let the disappointments of life keep you from taking risks.
The righteous cry out, the LORD hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions. Psalm 34:18
In Memory: Connie June Patton 10/22/38-10/8/2018
Synopsis 1Sam 20:13-24 10/11/2018
David and Jonathan discussed a simple test to determine whether or not Saul was definitively trying to kill David. So, the test involved David deliberately missing an important feast at the king’s table. And, they both agreed that if Saul was irrationally irritated at David’s absence, this was evidence of his ill will toward David.
Then, Jonathan made David vow to never disown Jonathan, his family, or any of his descendants. It’s clear that Jonathan wanted David’s assurance that his family would thrive, even if he did not live into old age. David readily agreed.
After that, Jonathan made a secret code that he told to David. Then, Jonathan promised to communicate the outcome of his test using this code. As a result, David looked forward to knowing for certain if Saul intended to kill him.
The Friendship of Jonathan and David
So, Jonathan and David were friends. And there was no good thing that Jonathan would not do for a friend.
But this was no ordinary situation. For Jonathan was pitted between two critical relationships. On the one hand, Saul was king. What’s more, Saul was ordained by God to this appointed position. And, he was anointed by Samuel to this vocation. Both Jonathan and David feared the Lord. Neither would conspire against His chosen king.
On the other, it was his dear friend David. And Jonathan loved David. And Jonathan could see that God had also anointed David’s life.
What’s remarkable in the common run of ancient literature is the lack of intrigue. All the evidence points to David really wanting reconciliation with Saul. Clearly, David wanted to remain in the service of the king. David was loyal. And Jonathan also wanted David to remain in his father’s service. There was no hint of Machiavellian intrigue. There was no plotting or conspiring. So it was – a pure yet tragic friendship.
Intimacy and Secrecy
Best friends trust each other with the most sensitive kinds of information. A secret doesn’t necessarily mean there is some evil thing to hide. Still, the reality of most people’s experience is that self-revealing is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. So when a friend share’s something they would not share with the larger community, the secret protects that intimate disclosure.
This is why a true friend has the ability to keep a secret. Friendship is about acceptance and love. This means accepting the other as they are – as they have revealed themselves. And it means wanting and working for the best for that other person.
“A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity” Prov 17:17