David is living his life on the run. Saul seeks him daily. Not everyone in Judah is loyal to David and the people of Ziph are among the disloyal group. They actively help Saul in his quest for David’s death.
There HAS to be a reason for this city’s actions. In The Davidic Chronicles the author Greg Baker attributes it to David’s group using the natural resources of the area, David’s demand for payment for protecting their shepherds, and jealousy. I could easily see his scenario played out. It could also be an attempt to curry favor with the king. Whatever their reason, they are on the WRONG side in my book.
Let’s see where the Spirit leads us today.
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David and his men are on constant look-out for Saul’s forces. They KNOW Saul would give anything to find them and end this, permanently. They felt very blessed that all of them made it safely back from Keilah. That was a close call! They are currently in the wilderness of Maon. David had moved them from the wilderness of Ziph after meeting with Joshua, the king’s son. It had been a welcome meeting between the two men but the reason for it was not welcome. Saul was seeking David in the area. Jonathan did not feel he was safe to remain there. After delivering David the news and renewing their bond Jonathan had to return to Gibeah and David moved his people.
Wherever David went he offered the services of his people as protection. The towns nearby have benefited greatly from their presence as they keep the shepherds and sheep safe.
One man in the town of Ziph wants David gone! His name is Philip and he was doing fine before David came. In fact, David has cut into his ‘protection’ business. He used to charge the other sheep owners for him watching over their sheep and shepherds. Those who didn’t pay usually wound up with missing sheep. David is ‘charging’ for his services too but his prices are much lower. Or so he would have the people believe.
David’s services are in exchange for supplies for those with him. David requests to be part of the shearer’s feasts. This only happens once a season but he has a LOT of mouths to feed.
Philip has been stewing on this David problem for months. He hasn’t been able to ‘add to his herd’ thanks to David’s watchful eye. Most of Philips ‘customers’ have pulled away from him and he doesn’t like the pinch it is putting on his purse. And it doesn’t look like David is planning on leaving any time soon. He realizes that he is going to have to do something about this situation or he might go broke.
Everyone in Israel knows Saul is searching for David. If Philip could get word to Saul of David’s whereabouts Saul would take care of Philips problem for him. But David has an army of his own. Philip has no idea what David would do if he found out someone informed on him. David might hunt the man down and slay him. Or David might rob the person of all his property. Or maybe David might call down fire from Heaven on such a person. Thoughts like this are the only things that have restrained Philip from informing on David to Saul already.
Philip has a few friends in town. They are some of the other business owners. He calls them together one night. As soon as they are all assembled Philip gets right to the point.
“We have to get rid of David. He is cutting into profits.”
“And how do you expect to do that? He has an army with him. He is well guarded.”
“I’m not saying to kill him.”
“What then because I don’t see him volunteering to leave.”
“He will leave all right. He just needs the right incentive or the right ‘escort’.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Philip face transforms as a wicked smile spreads across it. “Glad you asked.” Philip pauses to ensure he has everyone’s attention. “We are going to hand him over to Saul.”
“How are we supposed to do that? Won’t David see us on the road when we make our way town?”
“He may see us but if we go with ‘normal business” purposes he won’t have any reason to suspect us.”
The idea was immediately accepted and they began discussing who would go and what goods they would bring. They also agreed it would be wise to have their men watch David so they would know exactly where he was at all times. When everything had been agreed upon the meeting broke up for the night.
Early the next morning Philip’s plan was set in motion. Men posing as shepherds were sent to ‘tend the sheep’ near David. Philip and two other men would carry their wares to Jerusalem. They would then leave them in the hands of a merchant Philip knew well. This man would sell their items along with his own, for a commission of course. This would then leave Philip and his companions free to travel to Gibeah and request an audience with Saul.
All is proceeding according to plan. Philip and his friends approach Saul’s servant who is in charge of who gets in to see the king. Philip takes the lead.
“We need to see the king.”
“The king is not accepting visitors today. He is busy with state matters.” (Which means he is having one of his ‘bad’ days.)
“But we have come all the way from Ziph on important business.”
“I don’t care where you came from” barks the king’s servant. “I said he is not available.”
“So Saul does not wish to know the location of David and his men?” Philip shrugs and turns as if to leave.
“Wait! Why didn’t you tell me you had news of David right away?”
“You didn’t ask what my business was” replies Philip with a look of innocence.
The servant rushes off to consult with Saul. Philip and his friends begin laughing once he is away.
“I told you it would be easy” says Philip.
The servants is back within minutes and ushers Philip and his companions into Saul’s throne room.
“I understand you have news of David’s whereabouts. Speak” commands Saul.
“Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds of Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshinon.” Philip looks to his companions who eagerly nod their heads in agreement. He turns back to Saul and continues. “Now come down, O king, according to all your heart’s desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand” (verses 19-20).
Saul was up and off his throne so fast that his servant feared he was about to be struck. Instead he moved toward Philip and claps him on the shoulder.
“May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah” (verses 21-23).
Philip and his companions bow deeply. Philip ends their interaction with his parting words of loyalty. “It will be done as you command my king.”
On the way back to Ziph the three men are congratulating one another on how well their plan worked.
“Saul will not wait for our report. He will surely be following us within a day. You could read the eagerness on his face. He wants David more than he has ever wanted anything in his entire life.”
“I agree. We need to make sure we don’t disappoint him or we may join David on his list of those he hunts.”
“Our men have been watching him. I trust they will not lose him.”
“They better not!”
Philip was correct in his assumption of Saul’s eagerness. He waited no time at all in summoning Abner.
“Ready the men! David has been sighted in the strongholds of Horesh. We have men there who will be tracking his movements so we do not miss him this time.”
Abner bows and affirms his loyalty. “It will be done as you command my king.”
It takes less than two hours for Saul’s men to be ready to march. Saul held them back another hour to give his new allies time to get ahead of him. Philip and company are well under way when Saul finally sets out.
Back in the wilderness of Maon David and his men have been going about their normal routine. About midday one of David’s men noticed something strange. A man had appeared to be following him. He caught glimpses of this man every so often from first meal until now. At first he thought nothing of it for they met many shepherds during their day but this same man kept popping up in unexpected places. And he was CERTAIN it was the same man each time. He decided that David should be made aware of this but he didn’t want to alert the man to his discovery.
After careful consideration David’s man called out to one of his fellows to attend him.
“I have need of your water skin. Mine appears empty.”
The second man quickly approached and held out his water skin. In a hushed voice the first man told of his suspicions. “I need you to inform David that we are being watched. I don’t know how to proceed and I don’t want to draw the observer further into the camp lest he discover our central location.”
The second man nods discretely. “Would you have me fill your water skin? I need to replenish my own and may as well tend to yours too.”
“That would be most welcome.” The first hands his skin off to his fellow who casually walks away. The observer maintains his watch on the first man.
Within minutes David joins the first man. “I brought your water skin. Your brother filled it for you. Would you join me for a rest?”
Both men move away and draw their observer with them. David quickly steps into the shadows and his man continues on. The observer passes the place where David waits without noticing him. David steps behind the man and calls out.
“Explain why you are following us” David demands.
“I wasn’t following you. I was…”
“Don’t deny it. You have been found out. No use denying it.”
“I was told to watch where you went but not to harm you.”
“This is harm enough! Who set you to this task and what was his reason? How many of you are there?”
“My master Philip of Ziph set me to this task. I know not the reason why. He has gone to market but is expected back in two days. I do not know the count but there are more than a score to be certain.”
“When did your master leave?”
“He left a full day before.”
“Return to your camp and do NOT speak of this or I WILL find you.”
As soon as the man is out of range David tells his man to quietly gather the troops. He also tells him to make the others aware and be on the look-out for the others following them.
The spies were easily flushed out and sent packing. The ease with which they were discovered tells David that they were not experts at their craft. With his men assembled they begin preparations to break camp again. They are becoming quite good at this with the amount of practice they have had. It still takes time though because their numbers are still growing. David is certain that the fellows following his men mean that Saul has been informed of their location and is on his way even now.
David and his band moved to the opposite side of the mountain from where they had just been. Morning brought with it a column of dust rising up from the ground. This was surely Saul’s army. They were moving fast! David’s band was slower because it contained children and animals. David knew it would be no time at all before Saul overtook them now that he knew where to look. He called out to the Lord for help as he pushed his people to their limits.
While David was crying out, the Lord was already answering him. A fast rider met up with Saul and his forces. He had an urgent message. He was quickly brought to where Saul was in the column.
“What is it? Speak” barked Saul.
“Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land” (verse 27).
Saul’s face fell. He didn’t want to lose this opportunity to capture David but his duty as king meant he had to protect all of Israel. If he failed to do so then there would be no kingdom for him to pass onto his son. With a heavy heart Saul ordered his forces back the way they came.
David could see Saul and his forces from his hiding place. He watched as they turned and left. David fell on his face before the Lord and gave thanks to the Lord. He had once again answered David in his time of need. David and his people moved onto the strongholds of Engedi since they were no longer safe where in the wilderness of Maon.
(to be continued)
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No matter how tough things are, you are NEVER out of God’s sight or beyond His reach. That was true for David and it is true for you and me! Call out to Him and trust that He has you firmly in His hand.
Father God, thank You for answering even before I ask. There have been MANY times when I asked You for something that should have taken time to complete if You had waited for my request but were fulfilled right away because You had already started the process. You know my needs before I even give voice or thought to them!
You knew David’s that day. You allowed the raid just in time to save David and his band. You let him see Your hand at work. The rock between them became a reminder to all. The Rock of Escape testified of Your knowledge of ALL our circumstances. Did David revisit this site after he became king? Did this day bolster his faith? I KNOW it would mine! You had a plan for David’s life and seeing You in action was part of his process in stepping into that plan.
I trust You with the plan for my life. I LOVE watching Your hand in action!