June 17, 2023
“David did not let a man or woman live to be brought to Gath, for he said, ‘Or they will inform on us and say, “This is what David did.”’ This was David’s custom...”
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“David did not let a man or woman live to be brought to Gath, for he said, ‘Or they will inform on us and say, “This is what David did.”’ This was David’s custom during the whole time he stayed in the Philistine territory. So (Philistine king) Achish trusted David, thinking, ‘Since he made himself detestable to his people Israel, he will be my servant forever.’” 1 Samuel 27:11-12 (HCSB)
Today’s chapter has enough drama and tension to hold our attention, but what makes the story so fascinating (and difficult) is the fact that it is God-less. That’s not to say God has not inspired the text. It’s just that the text does not mention God or say precisely or directly what the Lord is doing. It does not even inform us of the Lord’s point of view. Nor is there any indication of the writer’s position. There is no moral commentary on events that seem to demand moral commentary. We are left to wonder whether David is right or wrong. Perhaps, that is what God wants us to do: Judge these events Biblically, without His having to spell it out.
As was the case elsewhere in Scripture, the writer’s silence does not necessarily mean he approves of David’s course. It is possible to report an activity without endorsing it. For instance, one may testify about a robbery without approving theft. But how are David’s actions to be evaluated? We can only sift for clues and weigh them against God’s character, as defined by the truth of His Word.
I believe the writer is sympathetic to David’s difficulty yet presents him as in the wrong. The record of the Lord’s repeated protection should have convinced David that the Lord could keep him, even in Israel. Chapters 24 and 26 clearly show Saul’s protection was gone, and the king was exposed and helpless. Then, there seems to be a negative shadow cast on the human slaughter of David’s raids. I understand there are times when total warfare is condoned, and those times are only when the Lord commands such activity. Obviously, He knows best, and we must trust His leading. But the writer tells us David’s rationale was not God-directed. David needed to keep his “front” intact with King Achish. All that said, there is a sort of balance in the text. It understands David’s persecution and need for political sanctuary yet is not willing to justify all his conduct.
Even a “God-less” text teaches Godly truths and gives Godly direction for the Lord’s people. We are learning something about David, his moral breaking points, and his humanity. He is not perfect. After all, David is only a “type” of messiah, not the Messiah Himself. Proverbs 14:12 comes to mind.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)
We must remember the Lord did not allow David to build the Temple because of the bloodshed he had caused. In that sense, David shares something in common with all the Lord’s people (you & me included). We must all learn the hard lessons that come when we deceive ourselves into leaning on something other than the “everlasting arms!”