1 Samuel 21-24
(The Fugitive)
March 27th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The priest said, “The sword of Goliath, the Philistine you killed at Oak Valley—that’s here! It’s behind the Ephod wrapped in a cloth. If you want it, take it. There’s nothing else here.”

- 1 Samuel 21:9 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

Saul was the first king of the nation of Israel, a position in history that could never be taken away. He had been anointed by God, was blessed with material success and a healthy family. He had an army of devout warriors who kept enemy nations at bay and he had the divine protection of God over the country. He should have been the most satisfied man in all of Israel, but instead he was envious of a younger man named David, who was a successful leader in the military. David was also the best friend of Saul's first son, Jonathan, and the husband of one of his daughters, Michal. He had been anointed by God as the next king, but was happy to wait patiently for his turn. We read in previous chapters that Saul was jealous of the attention and loyalty received by David and had made numerous attempts to murder him. David left his home to escape the cold grip of his king.

In chapters 21-24 we read about the continuation of Saul's maniacal pursuit of David. David was an innocent man on the run who had to acquire food and weaponry to sustain and protect himself. Given his situation, he felt justified in telling lies, such as explaining to Ahimelek, the priest at Nob, that he was on the king’s mission. This deception was costly, as we learn in chapter 22 - Saul killed all the priests of Nob for helping David, even though they were not aware of David’s true status relative to the king.

Meanwhile, David had gathered together a band of men that consisted of various types of fugitives and failures. They hid in the caves of Adullam. Even though he was a fugitive, David decided to risk his life by leaving his safe haven to help save the Israelites in Keilah - another example of his protective instincts. David defeated the Philistines again, but his actions allowed Saul to track him down. The ungrateful people of Keilah would have turned him in, so he escaped to hide in the desert of Ziph. During this time, Jonathan found him to give him a pep talk.

Saul catches up with David in chapter 24, but is unaware how close he is to his prey. David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but refused to give in to the temptation. Instead, he cut a small piece of cloth from Saul’s cloak and pledged his loyalty.

    Then David stood at the mouth of the cave and called to Saul, "My master! My king!" Saul looked back. David fell to his knees and bowed in reverence. He called out, "Why do you listen to those who say 'David is out to get you'? This very day with your very own eyes you have seen that just now in the cave God put you in my hands. My men wanted me to kill you, but I wouldn't do it. I told them that I won't lift a finger against my master—he's God's anointed. Oh, my father, look at this, look at this piece that I cut from your robe. I could have cut you—killed you!—but I didn't. Look at the evidence! I'm not against you. I'm no rebel. I haven't sinned against you, and yet you're hunting me down to kill me. Let's decide which of us is in the right. God may avenge me, but it is in his hands, not mine. An old proverb says, 'Evil deeds come from evil people.' So be assured that my hand won't touch you.

    - 1 Samuel 23:9-13 (MSG)

This speech brought Saul to tears. He called off the manhunt and returned home to the comforts of his palace.

Reflection and Application

We can learn from David’s bad and good decisions. His lies resulted in the death of 85 innocent men, but his bravery saved a village and his mercy saved a king who was the father of his best friend and his father-in-law. Notice that he consulted with God before leaving his safe house to save Keilah and he consulted with God regarding whether or not to leave Keilah. We all tend to make better decisions when we first consult with God. This discipline is valuable, even if we do not discern a direct verbal response. We usually find that the process of talking to God helps to put us at peace and helps us to sort through the pros and cons. We can have faith that he is listening and will be with us regardless of which direction our decision takes us.

David was correct to respect the position and role of the person in power, as long as he did not have to compromise God’s law. In fact, David upheld God’s law by showing mercy, and may have believed that if he did not show mercy that he would not receive it from God or others. That was a wise attitude, because as it turned out, David needed a lot of mercy later his life. David also demonstrated that the means to a goal are as important as the goal itself – he did not want to kill Saul to become king. Instead, he was committed to remain within the law and wait patiently for the role for which he had been anointed. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul advocates the same philosophy:

    Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

    This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    -Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

One of our friends who participates in this study travelled to Israel in February 2011 and wrote to let us know about their visit to the area where part of today's story took place:

    "Our group hiked up En Gedi and saw a cave that could very well have been the cave where David was hiding when he cut the corner off of Saul's robe. It is up at the top of a waterfall, so would have offered protection and security."

    "This site is pretty well thought of because there is a natural spring above it and therefore water to sustain a group of people. What's cool is that when you are down at ground level and look up, you can't see this at all...it looks totally barren. It isn't until you get up into the "mountain" that you come across this hidden enclave."

Let us also recognize Jonathan one more time. He might be the most humble person we meet in the first book of Samuel. As the eldest son of the king he could have reasoned that he had a legitimate claim to the throne and could have conspired with Saul to destroy David. Instead, he did the exact opposite. He conspired with David to protect him and was angry at his father on behalf of David. During his pep talk, he acknowledged that David would one day be king:

    “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.

    1 Samuel 23:7 (NIV)

How many of us could have the restraint to show that much humility? When you meet someone named Jonathan, remember the humility of the Jonathan who was the loyal best friend of a king-in-waiting.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When was the last time you explored a cave?
    2. Who has been your most loyal long-term friend (other than Jesus, which is of course the best friend that you can have)?
    3. In what situation coming up can you show unexpected mercy?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you are an awesome God who has showered us with mercy. Please forgive us the times we sought revenge and help us to seek and offer mercy in ways that are consistent with your will.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People accused of crimes that they did not commit

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Samuel 25-27 (The Fugitive - Part II)

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