When You Run (I Samuel 27:1-28:2)
Topic: I Samuel Passage: 1 Samuel 27:1–28:2
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Crying for a King
When You Run
I Samuel 27:1-28:2
November 6th, 2011
Way of Grace Church
Don’t you sometimes feel like running away from everything?
You know and I know there are times in our life when we absolutely believe that the best solution to a very difficult problem or a very difficult person is just simply to RUN, even though we know deep down it's not the right thing to do.
Now, I know of many situations in which people have literally run away. Girls trying to escape difficult homes. Husbands abandoning their families. Someone in trouble with the law leaving town in the middle of the night.
But aren't there other ways to 'run'?
When a wife builds a wall to keep her husband out, isn't she running? When a young man refuses to grow up and spends more time holding a video game controller than holding down a job, isn't he running? When a man chooses to drink, or to look at pornography, or to become a work-a-holic, instead of working through issues at home, isn't he running? When a girl throws herself at the first boy who shows interest in her, instead of dealing with a distant father, isn't she running?
Whenever we fail to deal with what must be dealt with, whenever we fail to take responsibility for our actions, whenever we shut down, or shut up, or turn back, or drop off, or tune out, give in, or give up, aren't we running?
Are you guilty of 'running'? Are you 'running away' this morning?
Turn, if you would, to I Samuel 27. As we enter the month of November, we find ourselves coming to the end of I Samuel, and as we'll see in the coming weeks, we also find ourselves coming to the end of the intertwined stories of David and Saul.
II. The Passage: “An Utter Stench to His People” (27:1-28:2)
I'd like to break this passage into four parts this morning. So let's look first at verse 1 of chapter 27.
A. The Heart That Runs: Doubting God’s Word (27:1)
Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. >>>
There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.”
Right away in this verse we are reminded of the conflict, the great struggle that has been dominating I Samuel ever since chapter 18. Saul, the first king of Israel, is also the rejected king of Israel. As the leader of God's people, Saul could not follow God's leadership, therefore he was rejected by God. But when God raises up David to be the next king, Saul is very quickly consumed by jealousy, and its not long before David finds himself running for his life.
This is part of the backdrop for chapter 27, verse 1. It's probably been several years that David has been on the run and as we see here, he's feeling the full weight of this difficult season. One commentator put it this way, “Hunted, tracked, and attacked by Saul; treacherously exposed; making thrilling escapes and executing daring escapades—nine chapters full of high-blood-pressure narrative. It's the stuff that makes great movies but takes its toll on real people.” (Dale Ralph Davis)
Even though Saul has assured him twice that he will not hurt him, David knows he is still a marked man. Saul will not keep his word. Because of this, and as we see here, David believes he must take drastic action. He must once again “escape to the land of the Philistines”. You may remember that David did this once before, back in 21:10.
Why would this be considered drastic action? Because the Philistine are the sworn enemies of Israel. This is the last place to which any Israelite would considering running, but that's exactly why David believes it is the only place he'll be safe.
You see, even though David is on the run from Saul, he is now toying with the idea of running in a very different way.
As I mentioned before, David's difficult life on the run from Saul is just part of the backdrop for chapter 27, verse 1. The last nine chapters have include much more than just David's suffering. They've also included reminder after reminder of God's gracious provision for and consistent protection of David. David is God's anointed king. He will not let harm come to him.
Jonathan reminded David of this very thing in 23:17, “And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” Abigail reminded David of this as well in chapter 25:
“For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live.  If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.” (I Samuel 25:28-29)
But even though David has been encouraged in this way, and even though David himself has seen how God has protected him, here in verse 1, he is beginning to doubt: “I shall (not I might, but I “shall”) perish one day by the hand of Saul.” David is tired. He's tired of running. Maybe tired of hoping. His faith is starting to waver.
But isn't this very same heart that sends all of us running? When we say, “I just want to run away from it all!”, aren't we saying something about our faith in what God has done and is doing in our lives?
When God says, “Stay and work it out”; when God says “Admit your wrong”; when God says, “Stop blaming everyone else”; when God says “Do that hard thing”; when God says, “Deal with your anger, your bitterness, your unforgiveness”; when God says “Trust me” or “Hang on” or “Don't be afraid”, and in response, we contemplate RUNNING...we are doubting his ability to take care of us; to give us what we need...to do the very thing we need to do.
If you're running this morning, do you recognize the heart that has inspired your flight?
The author of Psalm 78 identifies this same heart in the people of Israel and wandered in the desert with Moses. Even though God had done miraculous things among them, they still ran from His promises of provision and protection. The psalmist wrote:
Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel,  because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. (Psalm 78:21-22)
When you run, you are ultimately running from God's promises. Because of Jesus Christ, God has promised to provide for us. He has promised to protect us from spiritual ruin. He has promised to use all things for our good, and to help us overcome every temptation. When we trust Him and obey Him, He will take care of us.
B. The First Steps: In a Land of Idols (27:2-4)
But remember, David is only toying with this idea in his mind. Will he act on it? Will he really run. Look at verses 2-4:
So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath.  And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal's widow.  And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.
So we see very clearly here that David did give into that temptation; he did run. And we also see that unlike David's first trip to Gath in 21:10, he is no longer alone. He is now accompanied by 600 men. And we know from chapter 30 that wives and children are traveling with these men. So David comes to Gath with somewhere around 1500-2000 individuals.
But remember where David is. Remember where David has led these men and their families. He is in Gath. This is one of the towns in I Samuel chapter 5 that housed the stolen Ark of the Covenant as a trophy of the Philistine victory over Israel. This is the town in which Goliath was born, the warrior whom David killed because he “reproached Israel” and “defied the armies of the living God”.
To where David run? He's run to the home of God's enemies. He's run to a land of idols.
When we run from God's promises, we end up surrounded by the voices of the world. Each step farther away from what God wants us to do is a step deeper into the influence of what others want us to do.
Proverbs 19:27 tells us: Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. We also read in Proverbs 13:20 that, Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
When you run, you are running deeper into the world's influence. You are not simply escaping from a problem; you are placing yourself on the tightrope; you are setting yourself up for even bigger problems. Look at this is confirmed in the next section.
C. A Full Sprint: The Slippery Slope (27:5-12)
Look at what we read in 27:5...
Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?”  So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day.  And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months. Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt.  And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish.  When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.”  And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines.  And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”
Ziklag was probably 25 miles away from Gath. Not only did it probably have more open space for David's huge entourage, but David knew that he would be limited if he stayed under the watchful eye of Achish. So instead of setting up a refugee camp in Gath, Achish wisely grants David's request.
And what does David do in Ziklag for the 16 months of verse 7? He plunders! He attacks and plunders groups living in the southern deserts: the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites.
Now, some might argue that David did what he had to do. He had to provide for his family and for the families of his men. Others might argue that David was justified in attacking these groups because they were (v. 8) “the inhabitants of the land”, the very people Israel was supposed to expel from the land way back in the days of Joshua. And weren't the Amalekites the people Saul was supposed to destroy because of God's judgment back in I Samuel 15? So maybe David is simply trying to do the right thing here.
But look back at how verses 9-12 explain David's motives. Yes, he had to provide for his people, but David goes beyond what is necessary. He not only steals all the sheep and the donkeys and the supplies, but he also kills every man woman and child. Why? Is he carrying out God's judgment, as Saul was supposed to do in I Samuel 15? No, David has not been given that order.
Verse 11 is clear. David did not leave anyone alive because he wanted Achish to believe that he was actually attacking the Israelites and tribes that were friendly to the Israelites. If he let people live, they might expose his deception. So David's ruthlessness is working hand-in-hand with his truth-lessness. And...Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines.
So in running from Saul, David has run to a place of death and deception. In taking drastic action and fleeing to the land of the Philistines, David has begun to see everything in terms of drastic action. “What else can I do, he tells himself.” “There is no other way” he reasons.
But isn't this what happens when we run...and keep running? We end up layering one sin on top of another. Why? Because when you run, you rationalize. When we run from God's promises, and run deeper into the world's influence, we begin to believe the lies all around us.
When a husband tells his wife, “I need my space”, his departure simply opens up the door for all sorts of temptations and all sorts of excuses. His separation feeds his sinful imagination. When a woman turns to prescription medications to escape her pain, she opens up a door for all sorts of temptations and all sorts of excuses. When a man or woman runs from reconciliation and forgiveness, when they cling to their bitterness, they become more vulnerable to lies, more prone to anger, more jaded to the needs of others, and more blind to their own failures.
The writer to the Hebrews gave us one of the most important warnings in the Bible when he wrote this to his readers: 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. (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)
Commenting on this verse, the English preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote: Sin will also plead with you that your circumstances are such that they furnish you with an excellent justification—you cannot do otherwise than make an exception to the general rule under the singular conditions in which you are now placed. It tempts you to put forth your hand unto iniquity, arguing that it is the quick way and the only way out of your present difficulties... Oh, for Grace to watch and pray lest we, also, become “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”!
When you run, the path away from your problems may seem like a straight, firm path, but very quickly it becomes an extremely slippery slope.
D. Dead in Our Tracks: The Crossroads of Compromise (28:1, 2)
And look at where that slippery slope leads for David. Look at verses 1 and 2 of chapter 28:
In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel.
And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.”  David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”
Look at where David’s running has brought him. His doubt in God’s promises, his choice to live among the enemy, his tactics of death and deception, all of this has placed him in a position he probably never thought possible. In running from Israel he is now being forced to face Israel, this time on the battlefield. The anointed king of God’s people has put himself on the verge of becoming the enemy of God’s people.
Remember, Achish already believes that David has turned on his own people. He would be a fool not to use David and his men in the battle to come. But if David refuses Achish, his deception will be uncovered. He will put himself and his followers in jeopardy.
Notice David’s extremely ambiguous answer in verse 2: “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” What will David do? His mind is undoubtedly racing.
You see, when you run, you eventually arrive at the crossroads of extreme compromise. David did not plan on being in this position. There is no evidence from the passage that David seriously contemplated fighting with the Philistines, but nevertheless, he finds himself in a pretty bad spot.
Proverbs 16:25 reminds us: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
If you running this morning, or if you are tempted to run in some way, remember that road quickly leads to a slippery slope; and remember where that slippery slope eventually leads. It leads to a place of compromise; a place where you will feel trapped; a place in which you never could have imagined yourself.
III. Running Away or Running the Race?
This morning, God wants to remind us of what is really happening when we run. He wants to use David as an example of what not to do.
But the writer’s main purpose here is NOT to give us moral instruction. He is not mainly concerned with whether or not his readers run away from difficult circumstances and difficult people. I think we are right in learning that lesson from this passage, but the writer’s main goal here is to tell us something important, not about running, but about David.
David was the king that Israel needed, but he was not the perfect king. His youthful faith in the face of the giant could and did give way to doubt. David will continue to have great victories, but his heart will also run again. He will again turn to death and deception to cover his tracks.
You see, like Israel, all of us are crying for a king. But the king we really need is not David, but the one who was called the ‘son of David”. We need Jesus.
Only Jesus can save runners like us.
And because He died in our place, because His innocent hands took the nails for our running feet, because He endured the consequences for our doubting hearts, only He can give us that new heart that remains, not runs.
You see, God doesn’t want you to run…He wants you to run. What I mean is that God doesn’t want you to run away…He wants you to run to Him. Listen again to the book of Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Jesus did not run. He endured. In love, for the glory of God, He stood His ground. And because He did, we can run to God in all things. The choice is not between running to our problems or running away from them. The choice is running away from our struggles or running through our struggles to God.
We can trust Him. He will provide and protect. Wherever you are this morning, whatever temptations you are facing, run…not away…but, by His grace, through faith, run into the strong arms of God.
David was wrong when he said, There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. There was something better. Much better.