Does God Hate Anyone?



There are people who have turned their backs on God. God doesn’t hate them. There are people who mock God and rejoice at insulting and offending and even persecuting those who follow Him. God doesn’t hate them. People may set themselves up as enemies of God, but God does not see it that way. He does see the reality – that some people hate him and have rebelled against him, even as Absalom did to David. But he also looks at each one of them and sees a unique human being whom he loves deeply.


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2 Samuel #18 . 2 Samuel Chapter 18

Second Samuel chapter eighteen records the end of Absalom’s rebellion, and of Absalom himself. If you remember, David fled for his life across the Jordan river and to the city of Mahanaim. This was about ten miles east of the Jordan river, up in the mountains, about halfway between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. It was within the nation Israel at the time (now it is part of Jordan) but a fair distance over rough country from Jerusalem, if you were traveling on foot.



There, David gathered an army of those who were still loyal to him. Six-hundred to one-thousand soldiers had fled with David. The bible doesn’t tell us how many more he found, but the Jewish historian Josephus says that he had four thousand men when he went to fight the army of his son Absalom (I don’t know where Josephus got his information). The bible doesn’t tell us how many men Absalom had either. David ordered his men, devised a battle plan, and prepared to go out. But his men convinced him to stay in the city while they fought on his behalf. This made sense. Absalom had to kill only one man – David – in order to win. David had the humility and wisdom to recognize this, and so he listened to his men and stayed behind. But he gave his three chief commanders clear orders to “deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).



Many of those who fought for David were probably veterans of his earlier campaigns. They remain today some of the most famous warriors in history. Certainly David had most of the best military commanders of the nation on his side, even though he was at a disadvantage in numbers. Their strategy had been devised with the help of David himself. It is quite likely that David chose to go to the city of Mahanaim precisely because it was in the Forest of Ephraim. The area is not forested today, but it remains rugged and mountainous, as it was in those times also. In the rough terrain and the forest, the advantage of greater numbers that Absalom had might have been largely neutralized. David’s smaller, more experienced force had a better chance there than in a pitched battle in an open area.

Absalom’s army was out-maneuvered, out-led and out-fought. They were defeated. The scripture records that many men perished in the rough terrain. The text records that 20,000 men perished, more killed by forest than by the battle. In previous teachings I have explained the difficulties of numbers in Hebrew. If you think it would be more realistic if the number was 2,000 men, by all means, go with that. The Hebrew could read either way.

This rough terrain was forested in David’s time

In the defeat, Absalom fled on his mule. He went under the twisted, low-hanging branches of an oak tree, and his head was caught in the branches. The mule kept going, and left him hanging there, unable to touch the ground, and apparently unable to extricate himself from the tree. The text simply says that Absalom was caught by his head. It is the Jewish historian Josephus who claims it was, in particular, Absalom’s beautiful thick hair, about which he was so conceited, that trapped him.

Remember, David wanted his men to deal gently with Absalom. In a pitched battle, that could have been very difficult. If he was well and wielding weapons, and defended by others, it might have been impossible to take him prisoner without severely wounding him or even killing him. But here was the perfect opportunity to bring him back to David whole and unharmed. He was helpless and disarmed, a threat to no one. The first Israelite to discover this, found Joab, David’s chief general, and told him. But Joab, instead of seeing this a stroke of extreme good fortune to capture Absalom without anyone getting hurt, took advantage of his helplessness and attacked him as he hung there. No doubt not wanting to be the only guilty party, he recruited ten young soldiers to assist him, so that the blame was shared. Absalom was struck dead. Now I want to point out that there was probably some bad blood between Absalom and Joab. Joab had apparently had a soft spot for him. He helped Absalom get permission to return to Israel after he had murdered his brother. Joab helped David and Absalom reunite. But Absalom had been arrogant and high-handed with Joab, and it was doubtful he had ever thanked him. So I think it is quite likely that Joab bore special grudge against him, and that he killed him as much for his own sake as for David’s.

David first heard the news that the battle was won, and he was glad. But shortly after that, he heard that his son had been killed. He was overcome by grief and he lamented loudly. As a result, the victorious army marched into the city without the celebration and joy that were normal when the battle was won.

Joab, never deterred, rebuked David. He pointed out, probably correctly, that it was almost an insult to his men. Then Joab expresses what is really on his heart:

6 You love your enemies and hate those who love you! Today you have made it clear that the commanders and soldiers mean nothing to you. In fact, today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead, it would be fine with you!

Joab never understood David’s kindness and love toward those who tried to destroy him: Saul, Abner and Ish-bosheth, to name a few. The world was black and white to Joab – those with us, and those against us. But David was God’s chosen instrument because he had a heart that God could use to show the world what the coming savior was really like. David, expressing God’s heart, saw very few people that he truly hated or called enemies. Even so, David was not a blind idealist. He did what had to be done. So he fought when it was necessary. But he always wished for reconciliation, and the death of those who called themselves his enemies grieved him. In this case, although he still grieved for his son, he was humble enough to recognize that Joab was right, and he was shaming the men who had risked their lives for him. So he went out to them and congratulated them.

I really want us to hear the heart of God through this part of David’s life. There are people who have turned their backs on God. God doesn’t hate them. There are people who mock God and rejoice at insulting and offending and even persecuting those who follow Him. God doesn’t hate them. There are people who have twisted the truth about God into manipulative and evil false religions that oppress millions of people. God doesn’t hate them. People may set themselves up as enemies of God, but God does not see it that way. He does see the reality – that some people hate him and have rebelled against him, even as Absalom did to David. But he also looks at each one of them and sees a unique human being whom he loves deeply.

10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! (Rom 5:10, HCSB)

The bible is clear that some human beings can and do choose their own destruction rather than admit their need for God. God allows them to do that, or else love for God could never be real. But like David, he grieves deeply when people choose their own destruction. It happens, but he is never happy about it.

11 Tell them: As I live” — the declaration of the Lord GOD — “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel? (Ezek 33:11, HCSB)

Sometimes when we’ve been wandering away from God, we stay away because we think that God feels about us the way we deserve. Sometimes we think he feels about us the way we have felt against him. The prodigal son went home with a prepared speech, hoping he might be given a place among his father’s servants. But his father saw him from a distance and ran toward him, arms thrown open to welcome him back and to restore him to the family. That is how he is with us.

But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. (Luke 15:20, HCSB)

While Jesus was being tortured to death, he prayed for the people who were killing him, saying, “Father, forgive them!” (Luke 24:34).

Peter betrayed Jesus in his darkest hour. Jesus forgave him and restored him. He welcomed him back into a relationship of trust, even after what Peter did. Paul persecuted those who trusted Jesus. He had them arrested and even executed. But Jesus welcomed him and forgave him when Paul repented. Jesus himself said:

7 I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance. (Luke 15:7, HCSB)

The plan, of course, is that the 99 righteous people, already living in God’s grace, rejoice along with Jesus and the angels of heaven.

David knew that he had been forgiven much. He had sinned horribly and yet, repented and received forgiveness. He hoped for the same thing for Absalom. This is a reflection of Jesus’ hope for us. Jesus sees us as we are, but he loves us anyway. He doesn’t hate you, and he never will. He wants the best for you, and he knows that comes only when you trust him. If you have already returned to him, why don’t you share the good news with others who also may not know


David, fleeing from Jerusalem, is cursed by Shimei.  William Hole, Old Testament History (Eyre and Spottiswoode, c 1925 )

Leaders and governments come and go. So do countries and nations. Israel’s hope was not in David’s leadership, but in God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. Our hope is the same. If we are shaken by an election, for good or for bad, then to that extent, our faith is not truly grounded in an eternal God who promises us an eternal hope. This isn’t just about elections. This is about anything in life that threatens to shake us.

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2 Samuel #17 . 2 Samuel Chapter 17

This is not a political sermon, so just bear with me through the first few paragraphs, and you’ll see that there is some rich spiritual application.

I think it is safe to say that the election in the United States this past week reveals that we often deeply divided as a nation. Although the electoral college victory for Barak Obama was clear and decisive, the margin int he popular vote was less than 3%. These division may cause us dismay. Sometimes it may seem that the atmosphere is far to bitter and partisan. Many people are dismayed by politicians themselves — so many of them seem willing to push the envelope of ethical behavior extremely far.

The scripture that we are looking at today is especially relevant in these times. David was good king; in fact, he was God’s choice for king. But Absalom sounded good, looked good and deceived enough good people, and recruited enough schemers, to take power and send his dad David running for his life. Politically, things looked bad for Israel. How could the country be so ignorant as to let this smooth-talking, charming megalomaniac come to power? Obviously, there were still many who supported David, and who felt that Absalom was a very bad choice for king. But they were defeated and silenced. God’s choice no longer mattered. Righteousness and right didn’t matter. Instead, power went to the one who was most ruthless and clever. Those who were wise and aware in Israel, who trusted the Lord, must have been deeply dismayed.

At the end of 2 Samuel chapter 15, we learn that when David fled from his son Absalom, he left behind a kind of spy network. Two priests who were loyal to David stayed in the city – Zadok and Abiathar. Their two sons – Ahimaaz and Jonathan stayed outside the city, ready to relay messages to David. David also had a friend and advisor named Hushai. Hushai stayed behind and pretended to betray David, and so became an false advisor to Absalom, a kind of double agent.

David had another close friend who was an advisor. This man was named Ahithophel. 2 Samuel 16:23 says this:

Now the advice Ahithophel gave in those days was like someone asking about a word from God — such was the regard that both David and Absalom had for Ahithophel’s advice. (2Sam 16:23, HCSB)

This man truly did betray David. He supported Absalom and threw his lot in entirely with him. It is quite likely that when David wrote psalm 55, it was primarily Ahithophel whom he had in mind. He said these things:

Now it is not an enemy who insults me — otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me — otherwise I could hide from him. But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God. (Ps 55:12-14, HCSB)

…My friend acts violently against those at peace with him; he violates his covenant. His buttery words are smooth, but war is in his heart. His words are softer than oil, but they are drawn swords. (Psalm 55:20-21)

When David first heard that Ahithophel had betrayed him, he prayed for the Lord to confound his advice and to defeat him. He says similar things in Psalm 55. There is something here that intrigues me. If you read the Psalms especially, David is never shy about praying for destruction to come upon evil and evil-doers. Whenever I read such things, I cringe a little bit. I think most modern Christians do. It sounds so simplistic to our sophisticated ears. These types of prayers seem to assume that we are good, not bad, and we have the ability to discern who the bad ones are. I don’t think I’ve ever heard modern Christians pray that way. Now, Jesus did say to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. So I think we ought to do that. But have we ever considered that part of our prayers could be asking God to frustrate and confound the schemes of unrighteous and wicked people? Here’s another sample from David:

Let those who seek to take my life be disgraced and confounded. Let those who wish me harm be driven back and humiliated. Let those who say to me, “Aha, aha! ” be horrified because of their shame. (Ps 40:14-15, HCSB)

If we pray in faith, trusting that God knows who truly needs to be confounded frustrated, and who doesn’t I think it is appropriate at times to pray against the success of those who appear to be against God. I’m not saying that we get to judge who those people are – I’m just saying that we can appeal to God to restrain and defeat wickedness, trusting him to judge who is wicked and who is not.

Ahithophel certainly appeared to become a wicked person. His first advice to Absalom was that he publicly violate the women of David’s harem, who had been left behind when David fled. This was a symbolic cultural gesture, expressing contempt for David, and showing the people that he had completely cowed and defeated him. The possession of the King’s wives was a way of solidifying his own claim to be the new king.

Absalom took that advice, fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy that David’s wives would be treated publicly as David treated Uriah’s wife privately. The Hebrew leaves a little bit of room for interpretation. Absalom’s men pitched tents in public view – on the roof of the palace. The text says that Absalom “went in” to the women. It could mean that he raped them. But in the customs of those days, when a married woman was alone with a man who was not her husband, it was a disgrace. Whether or not anything happened, it was assumed that something had. So, whatever happened, from that time forth, those women were treated as if they had been raped. In those days, the custom (not biblical, just cultural) was that no other man would ever again be with them. They would have no place with their previous husband, nor any chance of a new one. However, after the rebellion was all over, David made sure that they were well cared for for the rest of their lives.

Ahithophel’s next advice was cunning and probably would have been effective. He told Absalom to pursue David quickly, to strike and kill him while he was still on the run, and end any doubt about who was king. But Absalom chose to also ask Hushai, David’s secret agent in the palace. Hushai gave advice that sounded excellent. He reminded Absalom that David was a cunning, fearsome old warrior, and that some of the Thirty were also with him. It would be no small thing to take such heroes on without enough preparation or force. David and Abishai (who was with him) had once killed six hundred men in a single battle, just between the two of them. Hushai suggested that Absalom could not risk bad news like a battle gone wrong, so early in his bid for power. The Lord heard David’s prayer, and Ahithophel’s scheme was frustrated.

Ahithophel’s reaction seems completely out of proportion. He goes and hangs himself. The text doesn’t really tell us why. I have a few theories, but they are only guesses. One thought is that Ahithophel reacted a little bit like Judas did one thousand years later, when he betrayed Jesus. Ahithophel may have realized that what he had done was wrong, and failed to believe that he could be forgiven and restored. So rather than repent and trust the mercy of God, he listened to lies of the devil that there was no forgiveness or hope, and destroyed himself.

The text does give us one clue. It says that Ahithophel did killed himself after he realized that his advice had not been followed. It could be that in his wisdom, he realized even at that early stage that if they didn’t kill David quickly, then they would inevitably lose. He may have seen right then that Absalom’s rebellion was doomed to failure. Rather than wait through all the turmoil and then be executed by David, he decided to put his affairs in order and deprive David the satisfaction of doing justice upon his body.

In any case, David’s prayer against evil was answered quite clearly.

Chapter 17 verses 17-29 read like an adventure novel. Hushai didn’t know at this point if Absalom would follow his advice or Ahithophel’s, and so he activated the spy network, warning David to flee across the Jordan river that very night. A servant girl went out from the palace bearing a message to the sons of the two priests. But the activity was noticed, and the two young men were pursued as they carried the message to the fleeing king. They took refuge in the courtyard of a friend, hiding in the well. The woman of the house spread canvas out over the well, and covered it with grain, so that no one even knew it was there. The soldiers of Absalom searched, but failed to discover the hidden well. Afterward, the young men continued on and successfully delivered their message, with the result that David and his household fled further on to safety.

So what do we do with all this? Let me be clear as I offer the first application. I am not saying that president Barak Obama is evil or unrighteous or that he is not God’s choice for president. I am not saying either that he is God’s first choice to be our president. But I know that whether or not he is God’s choice for president, many informed faithful Christians are very concerned that he has been reelected.

I want to point out that people have been following the Lord for thousands of years, and really only in the last three hundred years have human beings had consistent opportunities to choose their own government. Christian faith thrives in freedom. Christian faith thrives in oppression. God is not hindered by unrighteous rulers – if he were, Christianity would never have survived. So if you are thrilled that president Obama has been reelected, good. Just remember your hope should be in the Lord, not in a ruler. If you are dismayed, remember the same thing.

Leaders and governments come and go. So do countries and nations. Israel’s hope was not in David’s leadership, but in God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. Our hope is the same. If we are shaken by an election, for good or for bad, then to that extent, our faith is not truly grounded in an eternal God who promises us an eternal hope. David, as he fled from his murderous son, wrote this:

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)

This isn’t just about elections. This is about anything in life that threatens to shake us. What does it mean, “he will never allow the righteous to be shaken?” When David wrote that, he had lost all that he had worked so hard for decades to attain. He was in danger of losing his life. His own son was trying to kill him. But he says, “the Lord will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Obviously, he did not mean that things would never be hard. Obviously, he did not meant that the future on earth would never look bleak. What he meant is that our faith in the Lord looks beyond the here and now. You may wonder, “am I one of ‘the righteous’?” You are, if you trust Jesus. The promise of scripture is that Jesus imparts his own righteousness to us. This is not based upon what we have done, but rather on our faith in what he has done for us.

I think it is helpful to see David’s heart of faith in his extremely difficult and discouraging circumstance. Paul writes to the Philippians. He mentions people who are focused mainly on what is happening here and now:

They are focused on earthly things,but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)

We are citizens of heaven. We have the same eternal king today that we had two weeks ago, the same leader that our predecessors in faith had two thousand years ago. Our best future is ahead of us, and nothing can take it away. It is difficult when life is unpleasant, or hard, or full of sorrow. But circumstances did not fundamentally shake David. They don’t have to shake your either. Set your hope fully in your eternal future with Jesus.



At times, we don’t experience the gracious heart of God in daily life, because we insist that God must be gracious in the particular way we want him to

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Download 2 Samuel Part 8
I promised I wouldn’t preach the same sermon yet again, and I won’t. However, I do want to preach this time from the same text as the last sermon. Last time we looked at what this text meant for who we are as Christians, and how we should function as a church. But there is a lot more here to consider as well.

The first thing that struck me when I read this was the safety and freedom there is in living in daily relationship with God. God doesn’t allow our misguided good intentions to go unchecked. Both Nathan and David had their hearts in the right place. They were sincere. Both of them, however, were sincerely wrong. Even so, because they were keeping in step with the Lord, they were able to hear when the Lord corrected them. And the Lord did correct them. He didn’t say, “shoot, they got it wrong again. Oh well.” No, when they didn’t get it right away, he spoke to them again. So we can trust God’s leadership. Picture someone walking with a friend who is blind and using a cane. They come the corner of a street where there is traffic. The friend says quietly, “stop here.” The blind person doesn’t hear it, and keeps walking. Of course the guide is going to repeat himself, more loudly, and maybe even grab onto his blind friend, to prevent him from being hurt. Do we expect any less from God?

Now, one important thing here is that Nathan and David really did want to do whatever God wanted in this situation. They weren’t insisting on their own way. So when they made the wrong choice, they were able to hear the Lord when he spoke to them about it. Unfortunately, sometimes we are like a blind person who says to our guide, “I don’t trust you, so I won’t go where you are taking me.” We ignore Him when he says “turn here,” or “stop there.” Then, sad to say, often we blame God the bad things that result from our unwillingness to listen to him. But when Nathan and David were open, the Lord kept them moving in the right direction, and they were able to hear it.

This is tremendously comforting to me. Sometimes, we get so caught up in wanting to do the right thing that we become almost paralyzed with fear that we will make the wrong choice. We think, “If I screw this up, it will be disaster. I could destroy God’s plan for my life. I could destroy my chance at happiness.” Maybe we’re looking at a job or career move. Maybe we’re buying a house, or choosing a college or deciding what we want to be when we grow up. Maybe we’re trying to decide if we should marry someone or not. Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we can have tremendous freedom, hope and joy in these choices. If we truly want God to do what he wants in and through our lives, then step forward boldly and make your best choice. If you are wrong, the Lord will correct you. We don’t have to be experts at hearing from God. But we have to be open to letting him do whatever he wants. If we maintain that openness, we’ll be able to hear it if we start down a path where he doesn’t want us to go.

The fact that we really can trust the Lord to guide us is wonderfully comforting. It is part of God’s grace. But wait, there’s even more. David, good-hearted man that he was, was thinking like this: “God chose me. He delivered me from Saul. He gave me victory over the Philistines. I have a secure place and even my own palace. God’s done so much for me. Now, I want to do something for God.” So he said, “I will build you a house, God.”

But God said this: “No. I know you want to do something for me. But I want to do more for you. You want to build me a house. Instead, I am going to build you a house.” The word used for “house” is the same all the way through. It is the Hebrew word pronounced “va’yit.” This is a pretty flexible word. It is used for David’s palace, for describing a dwelling and also for family, line of descendants and so on. I think the Lord deliberately inspired the writer to use the same word, in order to emphasize what he was doing. He was piling on the grace.

What God promises is that David will have a descendant who will rule forever. David’s descendant will preside over the kingdom of God. This is a prophecy. Now, I have said before that prophecy is kind of like viewing a mountain range from a long way away. It looks like all the mountains are next to each other in a line across the horizon. But when you actually get into the mountains, you often find a great gap between peaks that looked like they were right next to each other when viewed from a distance. In the same way, it looks like all parts of the prophecy are supposed to take place at the same time; yet when it comes you find that parts of prophecy were fulfilled a few years after, and others hundreds of years later. Here, the prophecy is not a perfect revelation. But it shows that there will be a descendant of David who reigns forever. This descendant will be chastised and punished – just as Jesus was punished for our sins. God will do something eternal through this person. There are a few things here that may refer to Solomon, but clearly, the prophecy is talking mainly about Jesus.

God didn’t just say that David was his favorite choice for king. He didn’t just give him victory over a giant. He didn’t just take care of him in those years of hardship and trouble. He didn’t just protect David during battle and make him victorious – often against overwhelming odds. He didn’t just actually make David king. He didn’t just deliver David from his enemies and give him a secure place to live and rule. He also promised (and delivered generations later) that David’s name and family line would be honored forever. He promised that the messiah would be descended from David. He is showering grace after grace upon David. You can’t out-give God.

David, understandably, was overwhelmed. He went and “sat before Lord.” And then he prayed. David says something very important in verse nineteen that seems to be lost in translation in many English versions of the bible. He says,

What You have done so far was a little thing to You, Lord GOD, for You have also spoken about Your servant’s house in the distant future. And this is a revelation for mankind, Lord GOD. (2Sam 7:19, HCSB)

In the NIV this reads: “Is this your usual way of dealing with man?” In the NAS it says “And this is the custom of man.” But the literal Hebrew says this: “And this the torah mankind, Lord God.”

The Hebrew word “torah” has various related meanings, as many words do. It can mean custom or rule. But the most common meaning is “law of God.” In fact, during the time of Jesus, torah is one of two terms that describe God’s revelation in the Bible. When a Jew said “the torah (law) and the prophets” he meant “the word of God as revealed in the bible.”

So what David is really saying here is also a kind of prophecy. He is saying that this promise of the descendant who will come – this promise of a messiah who will reign forever – is God’s very word for mankind. It is a law and a promise for all humanity. The gospel of John describes the Messiah (Jesus) like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)

One thousand years before John, in this text, David said, “this promise of a Messiah is the Word of God.”

In verse 21 David says this:

Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.

This shows us that the promise is according to God’s own heart. Some translations have “will” but “heart” is more literal. This promise reveals the generous, gracious, loving, wise heart of God.

So let’s make this personal right now. Do you believe that this extreme graciousness is according to the heart of God? Even more personal – do you believe that this great grace is the way that God deals with you?

Let me remind you about David. He lied in a moment of pressure. He blew his top when he was insulted. He ignored what God said about marriage. He was not perfect. God was not gracious to David because David deserved it. David did not deserve it. God was gracious because that is the heart of God.

So set aside any thought of “well, I don’t deserve God to treat me that way.” Of course you don’t. Neither do I. Neither did David. Do you understand and believe that if you let him, God will deal with you in the same way he dealt with David?

I would guess that a lot of us don’t experience God in this way, and sometimes we believe that we cannot. There are reasons for this.

At times, I think we don’t experience the gracious heart of God in day to day life, because we insist that God must be gracious in the particular way we want him to. We want a better income, and so if he doesn’t do that, even though he is offering us tremendous joy through relationships with dear friends, we don’t really receive that grace. We want healing, and so we spurn the grace he offers us to grow and have joy even in pain. We want our spouse to change, and so we don’t want to receive the grace the Lord offers us through that person – just as he is. When we have an attitude of entitlement – “God must provide grace in exactly the way I want it” – it is difficult to really receive.

Jesus was full of sorrow at the way so many people refused the grace he has to offer:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing! (Matt 23:37, HCSB)

At other times, we don’t recognize the gracious heart of God because we have allowed lies about God into our lives, especially through difficult events. A child dies. A spouse leaves. And we interpret those events in such a way that we begin to distrust the heart of God. The first problem creeps in when we insist on understanding everything. Why did the child have to die? I’m not saying we can’t ever honestly struggle with our pain, but I do believe that sometimes the answers to those questions are simply bigger than we can understand. When we demand that everything must make sense in a way that we can understand, it is easy to start to believe that God isn’t the good Person that the Bible tells us he is. Don’t get me wrong. If you follow this blog, you know I am an intellectual, and I’m all for using your mind. But the human mind is finite. Trying to understand an infinite God is not logical. At times, faith calls us to trust even beyond our understanding. When we can’t understand, we are faced with a choice – will we trust that God’s heart is good and gracious towards us in ways we can’t comprehend, or will we demand that the universe function according our own personal sense of justice and goodness? This text calls us to trust is that the heart of God is good and full of gracious intentions for us.


Abner was a corrupt, ambitious politician. But not even a man who gained control of an entire nation through dirty politics can stop God from working. And it turns out that all that selfish evil work was turned into God’s work. We can trust God’s good intentions and his ability to fulfill them, no matter what appearances say.


To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer:
Download 2 Samuel Part 3

Chapters two through five of second Samuel describe the years after David was made king of Judah, but before he became king of all Israel. There is some natural confusion about the time period involved, because the text puts it like this:

Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Saul’s son Ish-bosheth and moved him to Mahanaim.  He made him king over Gilead, Asher, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin — over all Israel. Saul’s son Ish-bosheth was 40 years old when he began his reign over Israel; he ruled for two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David.  The length of time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months. (2Sam 2:8-11, HCSB)

We are going to go into the political history of all this for moment. 3000 year old politics might seem confusing, irrelevant and boring to you. But please bear with me, for a short time, because I think once we understand the politics, we will actually understand better what the Lord wants to say to us today.

Ish-bosheth (try to say that name quickly!) was clearly not king for the entire time of David’s reign over Judah alone. To put it another way, for five of the years that David was king over Judah, the rest of Israel had no king at all. Those five years may have been split between a time before Ish-bosheth’s rule and after. Or they might have come all before-hand, or all after. There is no way to tell for sure, but here is my guess:

After Saul’s death there was a great deal of confusion among the northern tribes of Israel. Many Israelites were now living in subservience to the Philistines, who had conquered a good portion of the country. The others had no leader or central organization to turn to for national identity. Remember, Saul was the very first king of Israel, and just a generation or so before him, the people had no king, no single leader. So when Saul died, and three of his four sons with him, the tribes reverted back to how they had lived before-hand – as a federation of tribes, loosely connected, but without a strong national identity. Some of them may have recalled Samuel’s warnings about having a king – and they had seen that Saul didn’t work out so well. So I suspect that there were several years immediately following Saul’s death without any strong desire or impetus to get another king.

In the meantime, the writer of the book of Samuel says that there was a war between Saul’s family and David’s. The text says that Abner became more and powerful in the family of Saul (3:6). Abner was Saul’s nephew or cousin, depending on how you read the Hebrew. He had also been Saul’s chief war-leader. It looks as though it was mainly Abner and his ambitions who opposed David’s kingship over all Israel. It took him some time to pull all his plans together. David was king for probably five years, while Abner blocked his every attempt to lead the whole nation. Meanwhile Abner himself was making connections, re-establishing a national identity, and finally setting up Saul’s son as the new king, but with himself as the real power-holder.

I think there are several understandable (but not justifiable) reasons for Abner’s actions. As Saul’s chief general, he had been the second most powerful man in Israel. With Saul dead and everything in confusion, all that went away. I think Abner wanted to go back to the way it was. I think he loved the power and position and wealth, and he was trying to regain it. In addition, Abner had been Saul’s right-hand man since the beginning. He was already there when David killed Goliath. So I imagine he had completely internalized Saul’s attitude toward David. Along with that, he may have felt that David was just like him – a great warrior, to be sure, but not a king. They had served Saul together for a short time – who was David to now pretend he was a king? Why did David think he was better than everyone else? He was a warrior, just like Abner, not a king. Finally, remember when Saul was hunting David, and David and his nephew Abishai stole Saul’s spear and water-bottle? Afterwards, they mocked Abner in front of Saul and his men. So there may have been some personal animosity there also, fueling Abner’s ambitions.

At some point, Abner was finally able to get the other Israelites to declare Ish-bosheth king over “all Israel.” But I think realistically, we have to assume that Ish-bosheth was more or less just a figurehead. The real driving force behind the civil war and behind Ish-bosheth’s monarchy, was Abner. In fact, we see this reflected when Ish-bosheth was afraid to argue with Abner (3:11), and because once Abner dies, the whole thing comes apart.

Now, I want to pause for a moment to consider this. It seems to me that Abner was not a very admirable man. Later on, we’ll see that he was completely willing to switch his allegiance to David when he realized that David was going to win. Abner was an unscrupulous political hatchet-man looking only for his own gain and ambition. We have plenty of people like that today. Sometimes modern-day politics drives me crazy, because the people in power seem to get there, and hold onto their power, through blatant dishonesty and corruption and scheming. Sometimes it helps to calm me down to realize that this has been going on for at least three-thousand years, since Abner lived that long ago.

But there is more than that here for us. Abner was a scoundrel. For five years, he carried out his schemes successfully. For two more years, it seemed that he had achieved his ambition. For seven years total, it seemed that he had thwarted David and thwarted God. And yet all the work that Abner did for himself and his selfish ambitions, ended up serving God’s purposes and plans for David.

You see, the nation was fractured after the death of Saul. It was Abner who reunited them. It was he who encouraged them to return to a sense of national identity. It was Abner who got Israel to commit once more to having one king over the whole nation. And once that was done, God handed that united kingdom over to his chosen servant David.

If David had become king right after Saul, he would have inherited a kingdom that was disorganized, disheartened and fractured. He would have had to do the work of rallying the tribes and unifying them. But instead, he simply watched while his enemy did the work for him, and watched while God turned it over to him.

This is incredibly encouraging for me. There are long periods of time in my life where I think that God’s will is being thwarted, or that evil is prevailing, and unscrupulous people are successful. But God knows what he is doing. He will use it all, sooner or later, to accomplish his purposes. Not even a man who gained control of an entire nation through dirty politics can stop God from working. And it turns out that all that selfish evil work was turned into God’s work.

Let’s continue on with the historical events. After Ish-bosheth became king, there was a significant battle between his men and David’s. The location of this battle, and of Ish-bosheth’s headquarters, is telling. The battle took place in the heart of the territory belonging to tribe of Benjamin – the tribe of Saul, Ish-bosheth and Abner. Ish-bosheth’s headquarters were located far to the east, across the Jordan valley. This means that by this point, David’s kingdom of Judah was starting to dominate the surrounding areas.

The rest of chapter 2 describes the battle, beginning with the tragic death of twelve young men from each side. If your response is “that’s horrible,” then you got the message. After the twenty-four young men killed each other, the men of Judah fell upon Abner’s men and crushed them. Abner and his forces flat out ran away.

During the chase David’s nephew Ashael fixes upon Abner. Ashael is the brother of Joab and Abishai, the sons of David’s sister Zeruiah. He probably knows that Abner personally is the main source of this war, and he seems determined to kill him, maybe thinking that he could end the war once for all.

Now, we come to the curious sense of honor that often restrained the brutality of war in those days. Abner saw Ashael pursuing him. He knew who Ashael was, and he warned him off.

 Abner said to him, “Turn to your right or left, seize one of the young soldiers, and take whatever you can get from him.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.  Once again, Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How could I ever look your brother Joab in the face? ”

Nowadays we think in terms of total war. But war in those days was a curious mixture of unimaginable brutality combined with strangely restraining rules of honor. Abner and Joab have just been commanding their men to kill each other in hand to hand combat – the most brutal, personal kind of war there is. And yet, Abner now is extremely reluctant to kill one of the chief leaders of the enemy. However, Ashael would not stop. So finally Abner did. The language seems to indicate that Abner stopped with his spear sticking out, butt-first behind him. His intent was probably to knock the wind out of Ashael, and bruise him to the point where he would stop pursuing him. But Ashael was running so fast that blunt end of the spear pierced him through the body and killed him.

The pursuit continued until Abner rallied his men on a hilltop. He called to Joab to stop, and again, following those curious rules of war, Joab agreed to let them go.

Not long after, Abner had a falling-out with king Ish-bosheth. I think he could see the writing on the wall, and he knew that David was going to prevail. The argument with Ish-bosheth was the final breaking point, and Abner decided to change his allegiance, to gain power in David’s new kingdom. He openly promises Ish-bosheth that he will turn the whole kingdom over to David. Chapter 3, verse 11 shows us that Ish-bosheth was indeed merely a figurehead, while Abner held the real power:

Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner because he was afraid of him. (2Sam 3:11, HCSB)

After this, Abner opened negotiations with David. He came to visit David in Hebron, and he left just before David’s nephew and war-leader, Joab, got back from a trip. Remember, Ashael, whom Abner recently killed in the battle, was Joab’s younger brother. Unknown to David, Joab sent messengers to Abner to bring him back. Abner believed he was there under the agreement of truce and safe passage that David had made with him. So he was taken by surprise when Joab pulled him aside and stabbed him, killing him.

David’s reaction to Abner’s death was just like his reaction to Saul’s death. I don’t think David had any illusions about what kind of man Abner was. He had known him for a long time, and Abner had been trying as hard as Saul to put an end to David. Even so, David refused to treat him like an enemy. Instead, he deplored the actions of Joab. David immediately declared that what Joab had done was wrong, and he prayed for God to repay him for it. He made Joab tear his clothes and mourn for Abner, the man who had killed his brother. He publicly praised Abner, and publicly condemned Joab.

Not long after this, with no Abner there to hold it together, Ish-bosheth was betrayed and killed. The murderers brought David his head, believing that David would be pleased to have his rival dead. But David treated them just as he had the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul – he has them executed.

This makes three times in five chapters that David punished people who claimed to have killed his enemies. I think we need to pay attention to it. Saul was clearly David’s enemy – he tried to kill him numerous times. Abner was clearly David’s enemy – he too tried to kill David by way of helping Saul. Later, as we see in these chapters, his own ambitions put him opposed to David. Ish-Bosheth, if not David’s enemy, was clearly opposed to David, and to David’s kingship over Israel.

And yet David mourned each of these men. He reacted strongly and negatively to those who caused their deaths. He was not pleased when they died, and he was not pleased with those who killed them. We have seen that David is man with many faults and failings. But we have also seen that however imperfect, he was a man with a real and living faith in the real and living God.

I think what this tells us is two things about David. First, he had perspective. He could look beyond personal rivalry, jealousy and even personal attacks. In the end, David was never willing to consider another Israelite – one of God’s chosen people – to be his enemy. In fact, when we read these chapters carefully, we find that David himself never participated in these battles against other Israelites. David wasn’t stupid. He knew ambition and fear and hatred when he saw it. But he never took it personally, and he didn’t consider the people themselves to be his enemies.

I think there is another lesson here for us. Sometimes we get caught up in personality conflicts and humans who frustrate or oppose us. But the real enemy are the demonic forces that only use and influence other humans (Ephesians 6:12). Other human beings are not the enemy. Particularly, if we follow the example of David, other Christians may often be misled and used by the devil, but they are never our real enemies.

Second, David always returned to trusting God. I would have been very concerned about Abner and his schemes. I would have been upset that for seven years, Abner succeeded. But David simply trusted God and waited. The ultimate result is that his enemy Abner did a lot of hard work on David’s behalf, and David got to reap the benefits – all for God’s glory.

One final thought. Abner, and to some degree the other Israelites, either resisted or passively ignored God’s choice for king. Ultimately, David still became the king, and it was the best possible thing – even for all the people who did not want him at first. Sometimes we resist God’s Lordship in our lives. It would be better for us than us running things ourselves, but we fight it anyway. It is better for us in the long run to let God have his way.



As God’s “anointed one” David’s life and actions give us insight into what Jesus is like. When God’s people get themselves into trouble, both David and Jesus are eager to come to our aid.

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1 Samuel #22. God’s Heart for

Rescue. 1 Samuel 23:1-13

We are reading a book of the Bible that is primarily a record of history. Theologians call this kind of Biblical writing, “narrative.” In Sunday school, we all called them “bible stories.” The gospels – the bible stories about Jesus – are narrative. So is the book of Acts. So also, is much of the Old Testament. Whenever we read narrative we should keep in mind that there are three basic layers to it.

First, narrative parts of the Bible are descriptions of actual historical events. Archaeology has consistently confirmed and correlated the bible stories we read. Skeptics used to claim that it was all made up – but in trying to prove that, they instead proved how historically reliable the Bible is.

Even so, we need to realize that this history was written with a purpose in mind. This is true of all history, by the way. Dr Mark Cheathem will soon have a new volume published about Andrew Jackson. It will tell readers about Andrew Jackson and his life, to be sure. But Dr Cheathem will also be telling the events of Jackson’s life from a definite perspective, and building a case that it is a valid perspective. His main thesis is that Jackson’s life was shaped by his own perception of himself as part of the Southern gentry class. In a similar way, the Bible tells us real history, with a certain particular perspective. [For more information about Dr. Cheathem and his books go to] The perspective used in the Bible is that God was at work in these events, and the writers, inspired by God, record how God was interacting with humans through the incidents that are recorded. So we not only look at the historical events, but, trusting that God inspired the writers, we look at how God was at work in them.

Finally, we recognize that God is still telling the story, and he uses the Bible to communicate with us today, to tell us how he is at work in us and around us today. The bible is there to help us know God better through Jesus Christ. So as we read, we look for how he wants to communicate with us in this very moment, and how it helps us to know Jesus better, and walk in relationship with him.

In 1 Samuel 23:1-13, David hears that the town of Keilah, near both the cave of Adullam and the forest of Hereth, is under attack by the Philistines. As soon as David hears of it, he has two immediate reactions. First, he wants to go rescue them. Second, he chooses to ask the Lord if he should do that. Remember, both a prophet and priest were with David at this point, and I am sure that together, the three of them asked God about it. David’s first reaction was exactly what God wanted. His heart, and David’s heart, was to deliver his people.

But David’s men said to him, “Look, we’re afraid here in Judah; how much more if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces! ” (1Sam 23:3, HCSB)

Remember David now has about six hundred men with him. The way war was waged in those days, it is possible that some of them had previously been sent to help Saul for a short time in some of his battles. These citizen-soldiers usually just stayed for one battle or one short campaign, and they were not as significant as the professional warriors. Generally, they just hung around, and if the battle went well, they provided manpower for pursuing enemies; if the battle went badly, they would have been the first to flee. Because these men were so low in society, however, it is possible that very few of them had any experience at warfare. Certainly, aside from David, none of them were professional warriors – yet. Quite simply, they were afraid.

Last time when Saul wanted his men to take action he spoke to them sarcastically and accusingly. David does neither. Probably mostly out of concern for his men, he asks the Lord a second time. When they hear another affirmative, David wastes no more time. He leads them into battle, and they win a resounding victory, saving the town of Keilah.

But all is not well. No doubt David and his men were tired of living in the forest and the cave. So they weren’t in a hurry to leave Keilah – a real town with houses and even a wall. They were glad to hang out in civilization for a while. Saul hears that they are there, and declares: “God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself by entering a town with barred gates.”

I want to pause and point out two things. The first is a small difference. In all David’s interactions with God in this passage, he calls him “the Lord.” Saul calls him “God.” “The Lord,” is the way most English translations express the Hebrew personal name for God. So, in fact, it is a more casual and intimate way to talk to God. To picture it another way, say you were talking about a man named John Smith. David is calling him “John” and Saul is calling him “Mr. Smith.” I think this is a reflection of their different relationships with God. To Saul, God is a distant Supreme Being, one that might possibly be manipulated into helping him (Saul). To David, he is a close personal relation, a friend in all times.

The second thing I want to highlight is their different approach to God’s guidance. David pauses and talks to the Lord multiple times on many occasions. He asks what God wants to do in every situation. Four times in these thirteen verses, we see David seeking God’s guidance. On other hand, Saul simply assumes that God exists to assist him to fulfill his (Saul’s) own ambitions. In these verses, he doesn’t once seek to know what God wants him to do.

Let me state this even more clearly. In Saul’s mind, the whole point of God’s existence is to help Saul have the kind of life he wants. God is his assistant. But in David’s mind and heart, he (David) exists to serve God and carry out his will on earth. He is God’s servant, and even calls himself that exact thing in verse ten. I think that these two attitudes compete for dominance in everyone who believes in the existence of God. Is God there to help us live our lives – or are we here to express His Life and fulfill His Purpose here on earth? In other words, is my life about me (with God as a help and support to me), or is my life about God (with me as his valued tool and helper)? I think we all know the correct answer to that question. But practically speaking, many Christians live as if God is their servant, not the other way round. It is so easy to start thinking that the main point of God is to do good things for me. The truth is, the main point of my life is to let God work through me.

The citizens of Keilah are apparently not very grateful to David for his help. There is no record of any expression of thanks. Instead, when David asks the Lord if it is safe to stay there, the Lord tells him that the people of Keilah will hand David and his men over to Saul, if he stays. Saul’s intention is to surround the city and destroy it, with David and his men inside. It does not say so overtly, but it is quite possible that it was a citizen of the town who went to Saul with the information that David was there.

This is ironic. The people of Keilah rejected their rescuer. They sent for Saul to come and capture David. In rejecting God’s anointed one, the citizens of Keilah were inviting their own destruction. In their rejection of David, they were destroying themselves.

Thankfully for everyone, David sought God’s guidance, as he did so frequently, and he led his men back into the wilderness, saving both himself and the town of Keilah, yet once again.

Now, we have heard the history of what happened. We have noticed how God was involved back then. But what does this mean for you today? How is the Lord using this to speak to you, to help you know Jesus better and walk with him?

Remember that David is a type of Christ. God used his life to show us what the ultimate “anointed one” is like. One of the things I think the Lord shows us here is that the heart of God is to rescue us. David, anointed with God’s spirit, heard of people who were in trouble and oppressed, and his first response was, “Can I go save them? Please?” God’s heart is for redemption. He sees people in trouble and oppressed, and he says to the anointed one, “rescue them!” Jesus’ heart is for your rescue. I know there are many things that happen in this life which we don’t understand. But we can’t doubt that God loves us and wants to save us. He came in the flesh, he gave up his body in tortuous suffering to rescues us. His heart is for our redemption. Whatever you face, you are not forgotten. There is One who sees you as precious and valuable. His heart is for your ultimate salvation, for your best good.

David rescued the people of Keilah. Today, three thousand years later, it makes no difference to those people. But the redemption we get through God’s Ultimate anointed one is eternal. It is the redemption of our spirits, souls and eventually the re-making and resurrection of our bodies. Three thousand years from now, the redemption of Jesus will still make all the difference in the universe.

Sometimes, like the people of Keilah, we don’t welcome the one who delivers us. Their rejection of David is pretty poor behavior. Here, he has just saved them, but now they turn around and try to have him killed. When we reject Jesus, it is just as offensive and ugly. He gave his life for us. Some people would like his salvation, but want nothing to do with him – they don’t want a daily relationship with him. Perhaps he interferes with our lives in ways we don’t like. When we reject God’s anointed redeemer, we are inviting not freedom, but destruction into our lives. Let their behavior caution us to receive what God wants to do in our lives.

Maybe you identify with David’s men. You aren’t a professional, like he is. Perhaps God, through Jesus, is inviting you into something new and scary that you aren’t sure you are ready for. Maybe you’ve been invited to take part in a prayer ministry. You think, “I’ve been around church. I’ve prayed out loud a few times, but I’m not experienced like some other people.” When God’s anointed (Jesus) invites you into his mission, don’t shrink back. David’s rabble weren’t fighters at this point. But out of that same group came the greatest warriors in the history of Israel.

Maybe you think you don’t have the background to pray for others, or to share your faith with your neighbor, or make a stand for God. You might be right. You probably don’t have the right background. But neither did David’s men. All they really needed was enough trust to follow where God’s anointed one led them. That’s all we need. We small, no-account group of Jesus-followers might be exactly the tools God chooses to use.

Let the Lord speak to you right now.




What or who do you turn to in trouble or hardship? Why?

1 Samuel #19. God as Refuge 1 Samuel Chapter 21

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The excitement, adventure and romance of David’s life are not over yet – not by a long shot. So I encourage you to take to hear the message of these true stories. When something grabs your attention, shocks you, or stirs your heart, pause and ask the Lord to speak to you through it. Pay attention to how the Lord is appealing to your heart through the life of David. I trust that you can and will continue to do that, even when we move through the text a little more pedantically.

We left David just after he made a daring midnight escape, assisted by his young wife. He fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, which was being kept at a place called Nob, outside of Jerusalem. In fact, Nob was probably located at the place we now call the Mount of Olives. We are so used to thinking of the biblical capital city of Israel as Jerusalem, but Jerusalem at this time was controlled by foreigners known as Jebusites. David, at the time of his escape, was in Saul’s home-town, Gibeah, which was north of Nob.

The logical thing for David to do first was to stop at his home in Bethlehem, just a few miles further on from Nob. There, it is certain that his family would supply him for a longer journey. However, by stopping at Nob, even though it was on the way, David probably delayed long enough for Saul’s men to get to Bethlehem before him – any reasonably smart person would assume that David would go there first. In other words, by stopping, David gave up his chance to go home and get certain help from people loyal to him by blood. So why did he go to Nob and give up that up?

We can certainly speculate about the answer to that question. He might have been afraid that Saul would punish his family. Even so, there is no reason Saul wouldn’t punish them anyway, because Saul could not have been sure that David had not, in fact, been to Bethlehem. Perhaps David was being cunning, and staying away from places he’d be expected. That’s definitely a possibility, but I think we can learn the real answer from the words of David himself.

1 O God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.

I thirst for You;

my body faints for You

in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.

2 So I gaze on You in the sanctuary

to see Your strength and Your glory.

3 My lips will glorify You

because Your faithful love is better than life. (Psalm 63:1-3)

Or again:

1 I am at rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from Him.

2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold; I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

For David, God was his family. He was the most important family, and the most certain help in times of trouble. Even though David went far beyond most of his contemporaries in his relationship with God, we need to remember that in those days, worship was oriented at the tabernacle. The presence of God was believed to be most real there. And before the time of Jesus, there was something unique and special about the tabernacle (and later, the temple). And so David was faced with a choice. He could go into exile and hiding without ever seeing his family again, or without ever worshipping at the tabernacle again. He chose God over his family. He couldn’t stand the thought of leaving without spending one more time in the presence of God in a special way.

In addition, he saw the Lord as a very real help in times of trouble. And so he chose to seek whatever help he might get from the Lord, trusting in the Lord’s help even more than the certain assistance he would have received from his family. Besides what we know of David’s heart from the psalms, the confirmation is also given in the next chapter. In 1 Samuel 22:10 we learn that David “inquired of the Lord” while he was there.

From verse 2 onwards, David refers to companions who are with him. So apparently a few people loyal to him went along when he fled. If we read this in isolation, we might think that David was embellishing the story for Ahimelech, the chief priest. In fact, Jesus refers to this very incident, and confirms that David had some men with him.

Another thing we notice in this text is that David tells a lie. He claims to be on a mission for Saul. I’m ashamed to say that when I first read this, I excused this behavior, because after all, he was fleeing for his life. But David’s lie leads to an awful slaughter, later on. The priest Ahimelech, and almost his entire family, were later murdered by Saul for helping David. Now Ahimelech, had he known the truth, may still have chosen to help David. But in that case, his death would have been the result of his own choice. As it was, David, by his lie, made the choice that led to the tragedy later on. It may seem harsh to point out that David sinned here. But you see, David had the right to risk his own life. He did not have the right to deceive someone else into risking his own life, and the lives of his wife and children. He ought to have given Ahimelech that choice by telling him the truth.

The priest gives David and his men some of the holy bread. In the tabernacle, (and later, in the temple) there was a table that held twelve loaves of bread. This was called the “bread of the presence.” The twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, sitting in the presence of the Lord. Each week, the priests baked twelve fresh loaves, and took the old ones off. Those old loaves were supposed to be eaten only be the priests and their families, since they were consecrated and considered holy. Ahimelech makes the choice to give some of this consecrated bread to David and his men. 1000 years later, Jesus officially approved this action. He taught that this incident demonstrates that the goal of worship activities is to bring us closer to God – not to serve empty religion and mindless tradition.

In addition to the bread, David obtains the sword of Goliath. Obviously, at some point, he had given it to the priests. This again shows us something about David’s heart. He never looked at his victory over the giant as his personal success. It was God’s victory, on behalf of the entire nation. So he placed the sword in the Lord’s sanctuary, so that all who worshiped could see a physical reminder of God’s power and grace and care for his people.

However, at this point his life, David needs a weapon. So he takes the sword back. It must have done the same thing for him that it did for the worshipers. It would have reminded him of how the Lord cared about him, and fought his battles for him.

After this David fled to the only place he thought he could be safe from Saul – to the Philistines. Once again, we are limited by writers who did not take the time or sheepskin for complete explanations about what happened, or what David could possibly have been thinking. It’s true that now David was Saul’s enemy. As the old saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy, is my friend.” And so he may have expected the Philistines to welcome him. In addition, war in those days was conducted very differently. There were often rules and even a kind of etiquette. It is possible that it would have been very bad form to kill an enemy when you met him away from the battle field; even more so if he came to your town of his own free will.

Even so, David seems to have overlooked the fact that he has killed thousands of Philistines in battle. Though they did not immediately kill or imprison him, the Philistine leaders felt pretty sour about their king welcoming the man who had killed so many of their soldiers and friends. They reminded the king of this, and David realizes that he is not in a good position. So he pretends to be insane until they let him wander off and escape once more.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this part of David’s tumultuous life is his attitude and heart through it all. It is true that he failed and gave in to fear by lying to Ahimelech. But through the rest of it, his heart remained steadfast, trusting in God alone for help. He wrote a psalm shortly after he escaped from the Philistines. Considering his circumstances, what he wrote is remarkable. Here is part of it:

1 I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.

2 I will boast in the LORD; the humble will hear and be glad.

3 Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me; let us exalt His name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.

6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles.

7 The Angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! 9 You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh, for those who fear Him lack nothing. (Ps 34:1-9, HCSB)

Let’s listen to the Lord for what he would say to us through 1 Samuel 21. Consider some of these questions:

Where do you run to when you are in trouble? Who, or what do you see as your most reliable help in trouble? Is it to the Lord? If not, why not? Take heart from David’s example, and let it encourage you to consider the Lord your best and most certain help. Learn from David that seeking the Lord is even more important than any other kind of assistance you might find.

Maybe your temptation is to cave in to fear, like David did when he lied. His lie had awful consequences. We don’t get to know what would have happened if he had told Ahimelech the truth, but it could hardly have been any worse than what did happen. Maybe the Lord is calling you to be honest in a situation where honesty could ruin a relationship or at least get you in trouble. But before you do, remember the awful consequences to dishonesty.

And what reminds you of God’s power, grace and help given to you in the past? What can encourage you like Goliath’s sword encouraged David? Take a few minutes now to listen to the Lord.