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Paul J. Bucknell
1 Samuel 29-30 presents a clear picture of God’s amazing grace and how He works with His people. Grace is found in our disobedience as well as during the period of chastisement. The point is that God is always with us.
For some people giving up is not an uncommon problem. Everything might be going so well but then suddenly all one’s efforts seem to be in vain. David faced many frustrations during his life. Although not all problems are due to our wrong decisions, some are. David quickly found out that God is able to correct a person.
Reflection: Think of a moral dilemma in which you might run into where you do not know how to get out of without dishonoring your Lord. What would you do?
We are not sure what David and his men were thinking about going when they went to war against Israel. Did they have some secret plan to turn against the Philistines? We are not sure. Did they secretly have a plot to get King Saul and take over the Israel government? This does not seem to be an option because of David’s previous sensitivity on not laying a hand upon King Saul. To be sure they strongly discussed this issue.
Again, we have no record of what they were thinking We do know, however, what the Philistines were thinking.
“Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines were proceeding on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were proceeding on in the rear with Achish. Then the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” (1 Samuel 29:1-3).
Time for reality check. David’s renown army and victories were assembled for battle behind their own Philistine army while facing the Israelites. They were rightly concerned. David was an Israelite and had powerfully fought against the Philistines in the past.
"And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or rather these years, and I have found no fault in him from the day he deserted to me to this day?”” (1 Samuel 29:3b).
Background: Why did King Achish like David so much? 1 Samuel 27:8-28:2 reveals a case of grand deception (not to be emulated). David was reckless in his deceit.
From 1 Samuel 27:8 to 28:2 David again and again deceived King Achish of the Philistines. He allowed the king to believe that David was killing the Israelites but in fact he destroyed other enemies of Israel. King Achish’s trust in David was so strong that he wanted to make David his own bodyguard (28:2).
“But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him, and the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Make the man go back, that he may return to his place where you have assigned him, and do not let him go down to battle with us, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For with what could this man make himself acceptable to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of these men? “Is this not David, of whom they sing in the dances, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?”” (1 Samuel 29:4-5).
In the end King Achish was pressured by his generals to dismiss David from the army. This decision too had its dangers. From the Philistine’s perspective David could have got upset and done much damage to the Philistines for this insult.
They viewed David’s possible unwillingness to help the Philistines in the future as a less of a threat than having David wipe the Philistines out from the back while fighting the Israelites.
"6 Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the LORD lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army are pleasing in my sight; for I have not found evil in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, you are not pleasing in the sight of the lords. 7 “Now therefore return, and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” 8 And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And what have you found in your servant from the day when I came before you to this day, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (1 Samuel 29:6-8).
We should note King Achish’s kind language here. Indeed part of this was sincere and perhaps part from fear that David could bring harm if upset. David faked disappointment by pretending that he really wanted to defeat the Israelites (29:8). David played this situation to the hilt. David no doubt was very glad to escape this moral dilemma. God had rescued him and his men from a terrible situation that he had gotten them into.
The world understands revenge but not forgiveness. King Achish thought that David was acting on hatred in battling Israel and especially King Saul who chased him out of the country. Achish could not understand David’ genuine heart of compassion and forgiveness. It was for this reason he was so deceived.
So what really happened here? We see God’s infinite grace portrayed here in two ways.
David and his men escaped a terrible situation. They had no way to escape. if they backed off, then the Philistines would immediately sense David’s scheme and destroy them. If they went forward, David and his men would be fighting the Lord and his people.
God intervened into this difficult situation and solved the unsolvable. God worked through the Philistine generals to persuade (i.e. force) King Achish to reconsider sending David. So because the Philistines initiated this proposal, David and his men were not looked at as spies or a real threat to the Philistines. (If they really thought the Israelites were a threat, the Philistines with their huge army would have just destroyed David and his men. They didn’t).
Application: We should realize that no matter how difficult our situation, God can make a way of escape. God’s interception enabled David and his men to exit a nightmarish situation. If we find ourselves in a very difficult situation where there seems to be no good solution, we should trust God to help us find an escape. God is able. He is willing. Trust Him. It is quite probable that a number of Psalms ring out the deliverance that David saw here.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
There is another lesson, however, perhaps even more significant. David had through his own devices brought himself and his men into this terrible predicament. Many times the problems we face are not through our wrong doing. This was not the case here. David over a period of years lived a life of deceit and false loyalty.
We should perceive this incident as a situation where God was breaking up David’s scheme by revealing how frail the plan was. Now David and his men were in a terrible predicament with no way out. David could not do anything.
Some of our terrible predicaments are because we have done wrong. Think of the child out of wedlock, the one lie that became a thousand lies, that plan of revenge we have been harboring for many years and then suddenly we are trapped and our plot is exposed. We have no way of escape.
The question here is why would God help David? He clearly did not deserve it. We do not even seem him praying. God exposed David’s plan and then delivered him.
Application: God did this to teach David a powerful lesson of grace and compassion. Even though a person deserves the worse, we can still choose to live by grace. We see the teaching, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
David was merciful to King Saul. Perhaps because of this God showed extreme grace to David. We do not know for sure but only that God’s grace came down upon David.
When God chooses to bless us, we should look to God’s extreme grace for our life’s mistakes. In some situations we have completely failed. Don’t give up. Anticipate God’s gracious work in our lives and learn from God’s grace. As God has been gracious, we are to be gracious. Learn to be like the Lord.
We, however, should not think this is the end of the story. In the next chapter, 1 Samuel 31, we see the training goes on.