I Samuel 27: Hide and Seek
After his second encounter with King Saul, what happens next may surprise you. David is discouraged after Saul’s confession of wrongdoing. Why? Because David knows King Saul and knows he is dealing with a man with a troubled mind. David is dealing with a king who is a violent psychopath. A murderous liar who will continue to hound David until one of them is dead.
David knew he could not trust King Saul’s promise. But it seems he had decided he could not trust God’s promise, either. He was not walking by faith, but by sight. When a believer walks by sight, they are leaning on their own understanding. They are scheming as to how they can solve their problems. David’s scheme is to find safety in the enemy’s camp. He returns to Gath where he will reside the next 16 months.
David’s scheme in Gath involves three ongoing deceptions: asking for a city where he and his 600 men and families can live; ongoing raids he and his men conduct; and expressing the desire to fight the king’s battle.
David’s problem is a common problem when we are going through difficult times. David has been on the run now for 7 years. He is three years away from being king, but he is doubting it will ever happen. He is discouraged with this seemingly never-ending game of hide and seek with Saul. David is suffering. He reaches a low point in this on-going struggle. Always on the move. Always looking over his shoulder. Now responsible for the welfare of not only his family, but his men and their families, maybe 2-3000 men, women and children. Imagine how difficult your life is when you are trying to take care of your family in difficult times and then imagine the responsibility multiplied by 100- fold and made even more intense by the constant pursuit of the enemy who wants to destroy you and your family.
Listen to the raw emotions David expresses in his prayer: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my own soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13: 1,2. David is exhausted physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. David is suffering burn- out. Burnout is used to describe these conditions which include lack of energy, physical pain, forgetfulness, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression and anger. One becomes pessimistic, cynical and a loss of enjoyment.
Why is this happening to us Lord? Why have you forsaken us? Why are you not doing something? These are common questions which we have all asked when we are going through a dark season of suffering. The suffering may come from a variety of sources. The question of evil is a hard one to answer. But Augustine comes as close as anyone to giving us God’s reasons, when he wrote: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer evil not to exist.”
Suffering can come from many different sources, but the result is always the same. The result is: suffering threatens our lives and our ability to enjoy life to the fullness God intended. Now you realize, you and I are no different from David. We are up one day and down the next. On a mountain top and enjoying success in every area of our lives: career, relationships, finances and health. Then you go to bed one way and wake up another. How are you viewing your circumstances? Are you viewing God through the lens of your circumstances? Remember what Job said? “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) I don’t know about you- but I could enjoy good- 24-7 and skip the adversity and suffering part all together. What has formed your opinion of what is good in your life? The Word of God or the culture, the world which wants to conform you to its thinking. We are part of a fallen race living in a sinful society. Has the culture conformed us and shaped our thinking about what is the good life? The abundant life? Is this culture’s idea of success the same as God’s idea of success?
We must be careful and guard against the two fiery darts of the enemy: doubt and despair. Our world view is not only how we view the world, it is what we see the world with. And here is what we need to see: GOD IS BIGGER THAN OUR PROBLEMS!
The promises of God often lose their power in our lives because God has become distant in our eyes. When beholding something from a distance it looks smaller, doesn’t it? You can recite promises from memory- but suffering seems to give us amnesia. God devastated the most powerful nation in the world, Egypt, with 10 plagues under Moses. Then when they left and the Pharaoh and his army followed them and they were seemingly trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, they panicked. It was as if the power of Almighty God they had witnessed was veiled in fear. What did Moses tell them to do: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…” (Exodus 14: 13) You need to BEHOLD YOUR GOD!
According to Job 38, the angels were present when God created the heavens and the earth. We read they sang together and shouted for joy. Do you realize who beheld the mighty power of God? Lucifer. No wonder he wants us to doubt His word- he has witnessed the power of God’s Word. Lucifer saw God speak the heavens and the earth into existence. “Behold, the Lord God comes with might and His arm rules for Him.” (Isaiah 40)
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GOD?
Tozer is credited with saying, ‘what comes to one’s mind when they think about God is the most important thing about them’. What do you think about God? Are you thinking He cannot solve your problem? That your problem is too big for Him to handle? Too tangled a mess to untangle?
Who is this God who gives His promises to David and us? He is the God of might, who created the world and everything in it by His word. He is the God of all wisdom, Who can make a way when there is no way. He is all powerful, all knowing, all seeing. All things were created by Him and for Him.
Problems too big for God? God holds the vast oceans in the hollow of His hand. Heavy as the mountains? He picks up mountains and lays them on His scale.
A THORNY PROBLEM
The Apostle Paul had previously been caught up into the third heaven. What happened next has been the subject of much discussion. “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing, I pleaded three times with the Lord that it might depart. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12)
On September 16, 1977, I got saved and went to my first AA meeting. As I walked into the basement of a church on West End Avenue that Friday morning they were reading the 12 steps. The first three steps struck me like a lightning bolt.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
This is just what I had done in a hotel room not a half hour before. AA is the most successful program in helping people achieve long term sobriety. Its secret is the power of powerlessness. It was this realization of powerlessness which brought me to my knees, desperate to be set free from this enemy- alcohol. Like Paul I came to realize the thorn given to me by God was not a hindrance, but an advantage.
We do not know what Paul’s “thorn” was. But it evidently was some physical problem which hindered Paul from being his best. Paul pleaded, he was desperate, three times for the Lord to remove it. The Lord did not, but instead told Paul His grace was sufficient. It was the thorn which produced the weakness, which enabled Paul to experience the strength of the Lord which is made perfect in weakness.
The “thorn” was a gift. It was given to Paul by the Lord. Satan was just the messenger, the delivery boy. This “thorn” kept Paul from being exalted, prideful in his own abilities. This thorn originated with God, was a gift from God sent to accomplish the purpose of God in Paul’s life. This view of life enable Paul to sing hymns in a jail while in chains. It viewed his imprisonment as a furtherance of the gospel.
One more story about Paul which reveals the uncertainty of control. 1 Corinthians 1 reveals how God builds us up by first tearing us down. Paul begins by telling us God is the God of all comfort how comforts us in all our tribulations, so that we might be able to comfort those who are in trouble. In other words it is the way God equips us to serve others. Then Paul recounts a story of when they were in Asia. He said, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves, but in the god who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us, in whom we shall trust that He will still deliver us. “Paul is like us- can you believe it? The great apostle has to be taught to trust the Lord and not himself. Paul was being taught by God to trust in Him, and not himself. Just as David was taught. Just as we are taught and being taught. Have you not noticed the great affliction David is enduring in training to be the king and give us great Psalms in which you hear the very cry of his heart as he longs for God the way the deer thirst for water. In afflictions, God teaches us to trust Him not ourselves. Praising Him in prosperity is a lot easier than praising Him in adversity. But praises in adversity, like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail are heard by others and begs the question- what must I do to be saved?
“Have you not known?” Have you not heard?” (Isaiah 40) Knowing God is the key. For this reason, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (I Cor 2)
“The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints or grows weary.” (This is One who invites you to come to Him and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you. It is easy.)
“His understanding is unsearchable.” You think Jesus doesn’t know how you feel? He understands suffering. In the Garden, He said to them” My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me. (Matthew 26- the man of sorrows who understands how we feel.)
“He gives power to the weak and to those who have not might He increases strength.” He renews our energy- like a runner who gets their 2nd wind, God is able to energize you for the work He calls you to do.
“Even the young men shall faint and be weary, and young men shall utterly fail. “ – It was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relieved. That is what is amazing about the Lord’s amazing all sufficient grace. I was such a failure by the time I was 31- I wanted to die.
I was in a pit so deep, I could not see how I could get out. Corrie Ten Boom, said there is no pit so deep, that God is not deeper still.
“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 28-31)
Notice the two words which describe the person who received strength.
The Weak. And those who Wait. The Lord gives power to the WEAK. And He renews the strength of those who WAIT on the Lord. The next time you are put in a state of powerlessness- realize the Lord has shared two important truths with you, which you must know and believe: His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.
What does it teach us? That through faith and patience we will receive the promise. Without faith it is impossible to please the Lord and those who come to Him, must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Ask.
LEARNING TO LEAD BY LEARNING TO FOLLOW
David was a shepherd, a warrior, a musician and a king in training. Having a shepherd’s heart, David had to be concerned about his family, his 600 men and their families. He was learning a great lesson here. He was learning the difficulty of taking care of hundreds of people who were under his rule. He is learning how to make wise decisions by making foolish ones. He had Saul on one side and the Philistines on the other side plus the Amalekites were in striking distance also. David chooses a way which seemed right to him. David and his army are given the city of Ziklag. He would later discover why they had given him this location. It was because it was in constant danger of invasion from the Amalekites. So here is David living with the enemy- so he is living a lie. Weaving a web of lies which are about to entrap him. And while off trying to keep up the façade of loyalty to Achish, he leaves the women and children in harm’s way. David is sent back to Ziklag by Achish to discover the Amalekites have invaded their homes and burned their homes taken their wealth and kidnapped the women and children. Imagine the horror and grief David and his men experienced. Some of them wanted to stone David for his actions had put them and their families in danger. We read David was “greatly distressed” for he had put himself and all of those under his rule in grave danger. Guess what David did? He strengthened himself in the Lord his God. He called upon the priest and inquired of the Lord. He prayed. He pursued and he got back their families. God was gracious to David. It was hopefully an important lesson he learned.
“No temptation has taken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation make the way of escape, so you MIGHT BEAR IT.” (I Cor. 10:13)
My idea of escape is not having to endure it. God does not think that way. His ways are higher than my ways. In God’s way we escape it by enduring it. Not exemption from trials, but escape through endurance. This way we learn to escape temptations and trials in the sense it does not hold us prisoner. We are granted the heavenly resources which enable us to turn our suffering into victory. A lesson in leadership learned by submitting to God’s Kingdom Authority.