At the end of yesterday's reading, we saw the fire of Saul’s anger. Not only was it directed at David, but it was also directed at his own son, Jonathan. By now Saul had already promised Jonathan four times he will not kill David. And four times he had reneged. Now it was time for David to flee. It was clear Saul wanted him dead. Jonathan was in a very precarious position. He was trying to be loyal to his father Saul, but he and David were the best of friends and he knew David would be the next king. It would be smart to be close to him as well. In that day and age, it was common practice for the incoming king to slay all the remaining family members of the prior king. Not only did Saul throw his spear at David in the house, but he also tried to kill Jonathan in the same way. David and Jonathan made a covenant between them that when David became king, Jonathan would be his second in command and if something happened to Jonathan, David would not wipe his family out. Not only were the two men close friends, but they were also both believers in the Lord.
The anger Saul showed at the new moon festival began a nearly ten-year period of David continually being on the run from Saul. For nearly ten years the man Samuel anointed to be king was in exile from the first king who was clearly mentally ill and dangerous. David's first stopping place was the city of Nob, just south of Gibeah. At that point the tabernacle was there and Ahimelech, the great grandson of Eli was serving as the priest. The fact that David was traveling alone frightened the high priest. Many knew of the trouble between David and Saul, but it is also clear many knew was anointed the next king. To be royalty and traveling alone was highly unusual. David was already gathering a band of men who would move about with him, protect him and fight with him. And David was hungry. The only food Ahimelech had was the week-old bread that had been removed from the table of show bread when the new had been put down. Usually, this food was reserved for the priests, but Ahimelech gave it to David. Again, we see the spiritual decline of Israel. If people had been bringing their tithes and offerings as the Lord had commanded, the priests would have much more food to give.
While David was at the tabernacle getting food from the priest one of Saul's men, a sheep herder named Doeg was also there. He was a descendant of Esau, an Edomite. Perhaps he was a Jewish proselyte and was following the Hebrew faith simply to keep his job. As a chief shepherd he could have been bringing a sacrifice because he was defiled. Whatever the reason, he was loyal to Saul and dutifully reported to Saul that he had seen David on the run. David not only took the bread from the high priest, but he also took Goliath's sword. Now he had food and he was armed. For his kindness to David, Ahimelech and his entire family were put to death at the hands of king Saul, all but Abiathar who escaped. David fled to Gath, one of the Philistine cities but he was afraid of the king, so he acted like a madman to avoid being killed. Both Psalm 34 and 56 came out of this rather bizarre time in David's life. Psalm 56 was his prayer for God's help when the situation became dangerous, and Psalm 34 was his hymn of praise after God had delivered him.
David moved on from Gath to the cave of Adullam. This wasn't too far from Bethlehem, David's hometown. He was in friendly territory and many came out to visit him. He was joined by his family, which means his brothers had deserted Saul's army. They knew David was the anointed king. They were there when Samuel anointed him. Others saw in David that he was the only hope Israel had and they joined him as well. David ended up with 400 high quality fighting men and later 200 more joined him. Psalms 57 and 142 are associated with this period in David's life. Both Psalms emphasize that David's faith was his refuge. The cave became for David almost a holy refuge but being on the run was like being in prison. However, David knew the Lord would see him through.
David left his parents in the care of the king of Moab which seems unusual. The Jews and Moabites did not have the greatest relationship but remember Ruth, David's great grandmother, was from Moab. That may have made all the difference. It appeared Saul had spies everywhere, looking for David. David next made his way to the stronghold which many believe was the fortress at Masada by the Dead Sea. But he was not there long because Gad, a prophet came to him and told him he was in danger. So, David and his men moved again. This was no small feat. If it were just David, he could have moved about easily but remember, David had 600 men with him. Saul was a scheming leader, and he had all sorts of schemers who watched out for him. Doeg, the Edomite was one of them...doing whatever he needed to do to keep in Saul's favor. He lied about what the high priest said and did but that didn't matter to him or Saul. Psalm 52 is David's writing about Doeg the Edomite.
Saul was paranoid, angry, and dangerous. He looked for David at all costs, but the Lord protected David and his men. The people of Israel had asked for a king like everybody else had, and in Saul that is what they got. Saul had ordered the execution of the high priest but only Doeg was willing to carry out the order. He was a liar and murdered at heart and he took his order to kill the high priest well beyond what was ordered, killing the whole family, the entire town and all the animals. However, this was part of the prophecy God had given to Eli, that none of his family would live to old age. And God had promised to replace the house of Eli with the house of Zadok.
Here are some thoughts about David. For ten years he was considered an outlaw. He fought the Lord's battles and delivered Israel from her enemies. He lived with his faithful men in the forsaken places of the land, and he often had to flee for his life. But David knew the Lord would deliver him and give him the promised throne. The city of Keilah was dangerously close to Philistine territory which meant they were always vulnerable to attack. The danger was even higher when it was harvest season because the Philistines were always looking for easy food. Both David and Saul had spies in the land and David's spies reported the Philistines were attacking Keilah. David determined to go rescue the people. But first he consulted the Lord...should he go or not and the Lord told him to go, that He would give the Philistines into David's hand. His men were fearful, so David asked again. Yes, the Lord said...go. David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines, and won the battle.
Saul heard that David had gone down to fight at Keilah and took off to capture him. The city had bars and gates and Saul could easily trap David there. David rescued the people of Keilah so you would expect them to protect David but that was not the case. God warned David to leave the city because the people would turn him over to Saul. Once again David found himself in the run. The Ziphites were not interest in protecting David either. They too were eager to let Saul know where David was hiding. What we see here is that Saul's character was deteriorating very quickly but God was building David into a courageous man of God.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W