1 Samuel 21-23: God the Stronghold
May 10, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
David is now on the run, and remarkable stories of God’s rescue of David are told. First of all, David takes the bread of the Presence, the special consecrated bread (21:3-6)—an event referenced by Jesus in support of his disciples (Mt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). He also takes Goliath’s sword (21:8-9). However, one of Saul’s servants is there, sees David (21:7), will report this to Saul (22:9-10), and Saul (through his servant Doeg) will enact fearful vengeance on the priest, and the priesthood, who had thus helped David (22:11-19). When one priest escapes and comes to David, by great contrast with Saul, David protects the priest (22:20-23). While Saul had alienated the prophetic class and the priestly class, claiming authority over these realms in addition to his kingly role, David recognizes and honors these appointments of God.
David pretends to be mad in Gath (21:10-15), frightened of how his reputation as a brilliant soldier would play out as he lives now in exile among his enemies. He escapes to a cave (22:1), and the riffraff of the community, those who had been alienated, gather to him (22:2). It is a rag-tag army, but it is the beginning of something new. Small beginnings are not to be sneered at any more than small seeds which lead to great trees.
While Saul enacts his horrible vengeance on the priests (22:11-19), attacking God’s people, David, on the run from Saul, protects God’s people, the City of Keilah (23:1-5). David listens to God and inquires of God before each move (23:2, 4). The contrast with Saul is great—Saul who seems to run first one way, then another, who hesitates and does not know what to do other than complain that he is not being supported. How important it is to listen to God through his Word, to inquire of God, to ask him for wisdom, to ask him to make your paths straight and to shine his light on your way so you can follow him. If we ask in faith with pure hearts, he will give us wisdom as we fear the Lord.
Saul is now hot in pursuit of David. He gets word as to where David is from the Ziphites (23:19), but instead of immediately acting, he wants them to make yet more sure (23:22-23). Hesitating, prevaricating; when the fear of the Lord is gone, all other becomes indecisive. Fear God, and we need not fear anyone else. Still, Saul closes in on David: he is going around one side of the mountain in the wilderness of Maon; David is going around the other side (23:26). He is in hot pursuit (23:26), but then God intervenes. A messenger comes to Saul that the Philistines are attacking the land, made a raid against the land, and so Saul leaves David, and David is saved (23:27-28).
It is better to be on the run against the powers that be, and live safe in God’s stronghold. It is better by far to have God as our refuge even if we are a refugee, than be an outwardly secure, powerful man but be on the run from God. David is running from Saul, but Saul is running from God. Who would you rather be? Hide yourself in God, whatever anyone else may think or say.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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