Text: 1 Samuel 21-24
Fleeing for his life from Saul, David stops for provisions in Nob from Ahimelech, the priest, who is oblivious to the reality of David’s situation. Saul’s servant Doeg witnessed their meeting and later tells Saul about it. Meanwhile David is searching for a safe place. After feigning lunacy to escape Gath, David comes to the cave of Adullam. There his brothers and family rally to him and he becomes the leader of 400 men.
When Saul learns how the priest at Nob helped David, he brutally commands the death of all the priests there. Doeg kills 85 of them and also attacks Nob and all its citizens. Abiathar escapes and flees to join David, who agrees to protect him.
Saul continues pursuing David but God continually protects him. In the Desert of En Gedi, Saul relieves himself privately in the very cave where David and his men are hiding. David secretly cuts off a piece of Saul’s robe but his conscience is activated and he confronts Saul afterward and says, “I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.”
Saul is overcome by remorse. Knowing the Lord will make David king after him, he asks David to swear an oath to deal kindly with his descendants. David gives the oath and Saul returns home.
Remember back in 1Samuel 15 when Samuel tells Saul God has rejected him as king? Samuel turns to leave and Saul catches hold of the hem of his robe and it tears. It is a prophetic picture: Samuel tells Saul the Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from him and has given it to one more worthy.
In today’s reading we come across this story where Saul is privately relieving himself in the very cave where David is hiding from him and David cuts off the corner of his robe. Afterward, David makes his presence known.
Seeing the hem of his robe in David’s hand, Saul realizes the fruitlessness of trying to prevent God’s stated intention to make David king in his place. It is a sure sign to Saul and it is enough for him in that moment to refrain from his pursuit of David and leave him alone (for a little while anyways).
We see David’s whole-hearted trust in God to orchestrate the fulfillment of this promise that he will be Israel’s king. Completely hands-off, David refuses to harm Saul when the opportunity presents itself, though Saul is desperately trying to kill him. David knows he does not need to make himself king and trusts that God Himself is putting all the pieces into place to bring about that promise at the right and perfect time. We read his exact thoughts on this in Psalm 57: “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me.”
This is perhaps one of the most trying times of David’s life and we hear his distress expressed in many of his Psalms. He is homeless, on the run in the wilderness; his life is constantly at risk, and yet it is in this context that we see God’s promise begin to unfold. Four hundred men recognize the anointing on David and make him their leader and this number will only grow as the story continues.
Despite the hardships he was experiencing, God was promoting David from being a high ranking official in Saul’s army to being king over all of Israel. David put his trust in God’s plans and purposes and refused to take matters into his own hands.
Romans 8:28 tells us, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Though not easy, sometimes the trial we are facing is actually the catalyst for our promotion into the higher purposes God has for us.
To think about:
What frame are you using to view your current struggles? Can you trust, as David did, that God will fulfill his purposes despite your difficult circumstance? Might you be in the process of God’s promotion from one situation into a better one?
Thank you, Lord for your plans and purposes that are so much greater than I can ask or imagine. Help me to be hands off, not forcing the outcome of my difficult situation, but trusting you to take care of me in the midst of my troubles. I put my life in your hands today and ask that my thoughts, actions and intentions bring you glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Song: Prophesy Your Promise (Bryan & Katie Torwalt)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.