Means of Escape (I Samuel 19:8-24)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 19:8–19:24
Crying for a King
I. A Narrow Escape
Listen to the following news clip from last year:
“Some people awoke to roaring floodwaters. Others were roused by panicked banging on their cabin doors. At least a few got out of bed and were plunged almost immediately into deep, churning water. Vacationing families camped in a remote Arkansas valley had only a moment or two in the darkness to escape from the worst flood to hit this area in nearly 30 years. For at least 18 people, it wasn't enough.
The deadly wall of water that rushed through a region southwest of Little Rock struck with such force that witnesses could hear trees being ripped apart and lumber buckling in homes that had been smashed.
Terry Whatley was staying at the Albert Pike Recreation Area with a group of about 35 friends and relatives. Around 3:30 a.m. Friday, someone pounded on the door of his camper to warn of the rising water.
He gathered everyone and got out into ankle-deep water. Soon it rose to up to their chests as they tried to reach higher ground. "I just started thinking to myself, 'This is a bad way to die,'" said Whatley, whose group included three people who were confirmed killed in the flash flood.”
Have you ever experienced a narrow escape like this one? Maybe it was a near miss with another car. Maybe you barely avoided something that came crashing down in your garage or in a warehouse Maybe like me when I was younger, the path of a tornado came dangerously close to your home.
Even if you can’t remember being in a situation like this, the reality is, all of us experience escape more often than we realize.
This morning, the phrase “narrow escape” is a great way to describe David’s circumstances in our main passage this morning. So turn with me to I Samuel 19:8-24.
II. The Passage: “And He Fled Away and Escaped” (19:8-24)
If you were with us last week or were able to listen to last week’s message, you may remember how the last passage, verses 1-7 of I Samuel 19…you may remember how that passage ended with Saul and David being reconciled through the critical, the effective intercession of Jonathan, Saul’s son.
A. God’s Favor and a Familiar Threat (19:8-10)
So let’s see how things are shaping up as David, who is Saul’s servant, Saul’s soldier, and as of recently, Saul’s son-in-law, let’s see how things go as David returns to the royal court, supposedly in the good graces of the king. Look at verse 8:
And there was war again. And David went out and fought with the Philistines and struck them with a great blow, so that they fled before him. 9 Then a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre. 10 And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.
Now, when we first read verse 8, I think our first thought is “Wonderful! David is back with Saul and he is wreaking havoc on Saul’s enemies.” Saul should be pleased right? Well, obviously he’s not. These verses are, in fact, an echo of what we saw in the last chapter. Listen again to 18:6-11…
As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing…7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8 And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?”… 10 The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. 11 And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.
Now remember, Saul is a cursed king. He knows he has been rejected by God, but he will not step down from the throne. More importantly, he has not genuinely humbled himself before God. He is not a man who is marked by repentance and faith.
Therefore as we see here, God is tightening the vise of his judgment on Saul. But instead of dealing with his own sin, he wants to blame someone else. He wants to blame David. David is the source of his problems, right? Why not shisk-a-bob that little 'attention-getter' and be done with him.
Aren’t we often like Saul? When were struggling under the heavy weight of our own consequences, it’s easy to blame and lash out at other people, isn’t it?
But as we see here, David is all too familiar with this kind of threat. David learned from his experience in chapter 18: when the king looks upset and reaches for his spear, get ready to take evasive action. But now David knows that he is not simply a random target for a tormented king. No, he knows Saul wants him dead. So he escapes into the night.
Sadly, the irony of the passage can be seen in the repetition of two key verbs: we're told in verse 8 that David struck the Philistines and they fled. But in verse 10, we're told how Saul's spear struck the wall, but this time, it was David who fled. The hero has become the hunted.
B. God’s Favor and Help from Another (19:11-17)
Look at where the story goes in verses 11-17:
Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. 13 Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats' hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. 14 And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” 15 Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” 16 And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go. Why should I kill you?’”
So Saul is not giving up. He wants David dead. And so he positions men around David’s house, so that in the morning, when David goes to pick up donuts or a latte, the men can seize him and kill him.
But once again, like we saw with Jonathan in verses1-7, ironically, it is another one of Saul’s children that protects David in the face of this new threat. David’s new wife, Michal, Saul's daughter, warns him to get out right away. Maybe she saw the men waiting in the shadows. Maybe she could sense the change in her father. Whatever it was, Michal knows that David must go, and he must go now.
So she lowers him down through the window (their home might have been on the city wall) and then she sets up a diversion to give David more time to escape. She takes some sort of carved image or idol (why she has this or these is not clear) and then she takes a little goat hair and she borrows a classic play from the “Escape from Alcatraz” playbook. She puts the idol under the covers, puts the hair at the end, sticking out, and when Saul's men come, they believe the story that David is sick in bed.
Saul, of course, doesn't care if David is in the middle of surgery. He orders his men to bring the whole bed with David in it, if that's what it takes. But when Saul's goons attempt this, the whole deception is uncovered.
And when Saul questions his daughter about her treasonous behavior, she introduces yet another deception into the mix: “Daddy, I had to let him go. He threatened to kill me.” I'm not sure how helpful that was for David, but at least it took some pressure off of Michal. How would you like a newlywed phase like this for your first year of marriage?
C. God’s Favor and the Spirit of God (19:18-24)
So what happens to David? Where does he go? Look at verse 18:
Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. 19 And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”
20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21 When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” 23 And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24 And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
So David seeks safety with Samuel, the man who anointed him. If anyone would know what to do at this point, it's Samuel.
But as we see here, after some time elapses, word gets out that David is hiding out with Samuel in Ramah. So Saul, once again, sends some of his men to go get David. But notice the standoff that takes place in verse 20. Saul's men meet Samuel's men. Soldiers meet prophets. But the offensive maneuver that takes place here come directly from the Holy Spirit.
Saul's men begin to prophesy, which doesn't simply mean they were speaking the words of God, but probably that they were overcome with or caught up in a spirit of prayer and praise. They came to kill a man, but now, here they are, preoccupied with prayer and praise. Only the Spirit of God can make a change like that!
And when Saul sends two more groups of messengers, the same thing happens to them. So, Saul decides to take matters into his own hands. Enough is enough. But when Saul travels to Ramah, he encounters the same fate as his messengers.
But this is not Saul's first time prophesying, is it? Way back in chapter 10, when Saul was first anointed, the Spirit of God came on him in this same way as a confirmation that he was chosen by God. But here, the story has come full circle. The Spirit of God once again intervenes, but this time to confirm Saul's rejection by God.
And once again, David is safe.
III. Perspective: “The Lord is…My Shield”
But as we think about what is being emphasized in these three accounts, we can't be content with the labeling these simply as, “episodes of escape” or “portraits of protection” or “scenes of safety”. No, what we see happening here is exactly what David sang about later in his life.
Listen to the words of David from II Samuel 22 (words that are virtually identical to those found in Psalm 18). II Samuel 22...
And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 3 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 4 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (II Samuel 22:1-4)
What we see here in I Samuel 19 are not simply exciting pictures of David's narrow escapes, but encouraging pictures pictures of God's deliverance. In each and every instance in I Samuel 19:8-24, we are given explicit examples of God as a fortress, of God as a shield, of God has a stronghold, of God as a refuge, of God as a deliverer, of God as a savior.
Once again, the writer here, God himself through these verses, wants to remind us that David is God's anointed. God's favor is on David. Listen to what David himself writes about God's promises to God's anointed:
But we are not David, are we? We have not been anointed as God's king. So what about our need for escape? No, I don't think any of us are on the run right now from someone who is threatening to kill us. But all of us find ourselves threatened by temptation.
Every day we are threatened, not by a jealous king, but by temptations to jealousy...not by a stubborn ruler, but by temptations to stubborn pride...not by a fearful leader, but by temptations to fear, and lust, and greed, and doubt, and indifference, and self-righteousness.
No, there is not a rejected royal hurling spears at us, but every day we have an enemy, there is an “evil one” who, according to Ephesians 6:16, is launching “flaming darts” directly at us. What are these darts? They are temptations. They are lies. That's why Ephesians 6 tells us that only the “shield of faith” can extinguish these...faith in what God has said.
There is no doubt that God does protect His people from things like accidents and illness and violence and mental and emotional anguish. As we talked about at the beginning, there are situations in which we have narrowly escaped harm. And in this situations, it is right to say, “God protected me. God saved us.”
But the word tells us clearly that God does not promise us protection from such things. He allows accidents and illness and violence and mental and emotional anguish into our lives. But he does promise us spiritual protection. He promises us that in Jesus Christ we are free from the oppressive tyranny of sin. We do not have to obey those slave masters whose names are “self-wisdom”, “self-centeredness”, and “self-love”.
Listen to how the Apostle Paul connects the idea of temptation and escape: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)
If we have hoped on Christ, then God’s word tells us that we are now in Christ, who is God's Anointed One (capital “A”). Christ (which means “the anointed one”) is our life.
And if that's true, then we can claim the promises of God given to His anointed one; we can say like David, “The Lord is my shield..my refuge...my fortress...my deliverer...my savior”. I like how one commentator expressed this in light of the reality of Christ:
“I can be confident that God will keep me until whatever he has ordained for me to be or to do is accomplished. Some would perhaps crave more; but that is no small comfort. I do not need to share David's experiences; it is enough to know David's God.” (Dale Ralph Davies)
IV. Practice: Some Means of Escape
Now, let’s take just a few minutes and talk about the practical encouragements these passages give us in terms of God as our shield and our refuge.
I think of each of these three episodes communicates an important reminder to us, especially as we look to what God has revealed in the New Testament.
For example, number one, escape from temptation often comes when we recognize familiar threats.
David did escape from Saul two times before, as we read about in chapter 18. But the simple fact that the author includes a second account of Saul’s spear-throwing, is a reminder to us that temptations to the same sin are not simply a one-time threat.
Most of us probably struggle with the same kinds of temptations each day. Maybe we’re not tempted to greed everyday, but maybe we find ourselves struggling with our temper on a daily basis. Maybe our daily struggles involve the words we speak, or the fears we entertain, or the fantasies we indulge in.
It’s exactly what Paul said in I Corinthians 10: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. It’s the same old stuff. They are the same temptations we struggled with five thousand years ago AND five minutes ago.
Whatever the temptation, the question is, are we learning from each and every incident of temptation and failure? Are you allowing God to teaching you the lessons He wants to teach you about your heart, about the lies you believe, about the emptiness and deceitfulness of sin, and about the circumstances and relationships that are the breeding ground for temptation.
God wants to teach us through our failures in order to refine us and equip us so we can stand, so we can escape the next time that temptation rears its ugly head.
Number two, escape from temptation can be found through the help of faithful friends.
Just as David was helped in his escape by the warnings and wisdom of Michal, we also need to find strength in our relationships with each other.
I think the warning and encouragement from Hebrews 3 is so important:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Do you have relationships in your life which God is using as a daily source of exhortation, a daily source of warning and encouragement? You may not have a brother or sister calling or visiting or writing to you every day, but what about on a regular basis? We need that. God has designed the church that way it is for that very reason. We need one another.
I don’t know how many times God has used my brothers and sisters in the Lord to keep me sober-minded and help me escape from the threat of temptation.
And God is doing something wonderful as we speak. He is connecting more and more of us on an individual basis. He is forming one-on-one and one-on-two relationships within our church, in which there is weekly encouragement to grow in grace and go in grace. If you’re ready for that kind of encouragement, come talk with me afterwards. And don’t be surprised if someone talks to you about getting together to do this very thing. We all need it, don’t we?
Number three, escape from temptation can come through the assurance of God’s Spirit dwelling within us.
Like David’s experience with Samuel and the prophets at Ramah, we can find protection in the reality of God’s Spirit at work among us. It is, in fact, true to say that every means of escape we’ve talked about this morning comes as a result of God’s grace and God’s power through God’s Spirit.
But listen to how Paul encourages the Christians in Galatia and Ephesus:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16, 25)
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18)
Paul is not describing some kind of mystical exertion here, as if we could will the Spirit to work in our lives. No, the encouragement here is to obey the word of God in light of the encouragement that God’s Spirit is working inside us and wants to work inside us. It’s the encouragement that the power to overcome sin and escape temptation does not come from us. We have the power of God on our side! The Bible tells us that every true believer, ever follower of Jesus Christ now has the Spirit of God within them. Isn’t that reasurring? Doesn’t that bolster your faith?
So the next time you find yourself in that place of temptation, remember, if you belong to Jesus Christ through faith, you have the greatest power in the universe at your disposal to overcome that temptation. Even when we feel weak, we can be strengthened by the reality and availability of God’s strength through His Spirit.
All of us experience escape more often than we realize. God, by His grace, helps us, each day, to escape the snares of temptation.
Is temptation really a threat? Of course it is. Just think about the broken hearts, the broken homes, and the broken lives that result from, as Isaiah put it, each of us like sheep going astray and turning to our own way instead of God’s. Sin hurts us, and it hurts others through us.
And even more disastrous, sin makes us guilty before a holy and just God. There is an eternal danger that awaits us because of God’s perfect justice…unless we have looked, with the eyes of faith, to that bloody cross where Jesus died. And what we see there is God’s greatest means of escape. He died, so we could live. He was ensnared, so that we could escape. Have you and are you putting your faith in Jesus and what He did?
But the cross is not the end of the story, is it? Death did not have the last laugh. Jesus rose again. Jesus beat death. God’s anointed one was delivered from the cords of death and the muddy pit of suffering, just as David himself wrote about in the Psalms. God was faithful to His chosen king.
And because Jesus lives, we can live, right now in the fullness of life, and forever, in the presence of God. What an escape! What a savior!