We stand with David, ready to enter the battle against Israel on the side of the Philistines. The lords of the Philistines remember the song Israel sang about him. The king of Gath trusts him but no others. “Go home David!”
David has been telling the Achish that he has been attacking his own people while in Ziklag but this was a lie. He took great pains that no one found out or carried tales of his deeds back to Gath. He left no one alive when he struck. The king of Gath bought his lies and trusted him implicitly. He is the one who brought David to this battle. But David didn’t refuse either. He must have had something up his sleeve for he did NOT attack his own people. Saul was also bound to be in this battle and David would NOT raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed.
We are going to begin our story today by stepping back into 1 Samuel 28:1-2. It sets the stage for our reading today. Let’s see where the Spirit takes us.
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David and his men have returned home to Ziklag after another successful raid. Upon arrival David sees three of Achish’s soldiers apparently waiting for him. They stand apart from the inhabitants of the camp. David drops the bundle he is carrying at his wives’ feet before going to meet them.
“Have you news for me?” David asks.
“King Achish wants to see you. You are to bring your men for we go to war.”
“I will follow as soon as we tend to our families.”
“No. You will follow now.”
“May we at least partake of a meal before embarking? You are welcome to join us.”
The soldiers have been on the road all day too and the smell of the roasting meat has stirred their appetites.
“For a speedy meal we may delay. But it must not reach Achish that we delayed.”
David smiles and silently thinks of all the things that Achish doesn’t know. “Not everything must be reported to our king. Join me.” David turns and calls out to the camp. “We feast for we march to battle beside Achish when satisfied.”
The women of the camp begin laying out the meal. There are roasted grains, bread, roasted kid, and vegetables grown from their own gardens. It is truly a feast fit for a king. David and his three visitors are served first. Food and wine flow freely among all the people of Ziklag. David and his men, along with the three soldiers of Gath, limit themselves on the wine for they must remain clear headed. It would not do to appear before Achish drunk on wine.
Once their repast is complete David gathers his weapons that had been set aside while at table. His men quickly follow suit. All set off for Gath where Achish awaits. David talks with Achish’s soldiers along the way.
“Tell me of Achish’s war. Who are we to face?”
“We are to face Israel.”
David stumbles in surprise but is able to recover quickly. “Surely Achish does not have enough forces to take on Saul and his army directly alone.”
“He does not. But he does not fight alone. All the Philistine lords join with him. We are but a small part of a much larger force.”
David knows the size of the Philistine armies and of their prowess in battle. Israel will need all the help it can get. David is silent for a while as he contemplated how to handle this situation. He will NOT kill Hebrews but he cannot refuse to go to battle with Achish on those grounds. That would expose his deception over the past year. He also cannot allow the Philistines to march into Israel unimpeded. Maybe it is time to give up the ruse and strike against the Philistines. But that is not an option when he stands among them in preparation for battle.
David and his escort along with his men reach Gath before nightfall. Achish is waiting for them in his throne room.
“Good of you to come” Achish says sarcastically as David and his escort enter.
“Forgive me my king as we were out raiding when your envoy arrived. We came as soon as we could.”
“Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army” (28:1b).
“Very well, you shall know what your servant can do” (28:2a) replied David.
Achish is very pleased with David’s response and his character since entering his service. Achish bestows David with the greatest complement he can. “’Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life’ (28:2b). We march at daybreak for Aphek.”
While David and the king are occupied, David’s men discuss the situation among themselves. They move a short distance away from Gath to prevent being overheard by Achish’s soldiers.
“David said we wouldn’t have to kill Israelites. How are we going to avoid it now?”
“I don’t know about you but there are a couple of Israelites I wouldn’t mind killing. It would stop all this running.”
“We have sworn to David never to raise our hand against Saul. ‘He is the Lords’ anointed.’”
“And those who follow him and pursue us? Are they the ‘Lord’s anointed’ also?”
“They are merely soldiers doing as their leader commands.”
“We have sworn to follow David. We will do as he commands.”
This was the final word as far as David’s men were concerned. They trust him with their lives.
David rejoins his men. “We have been called to war with the Philistines as they face Israel.”
“We overheard as much as we marched here. But what are we really going to do?”
“I have been named Achish’s personal bodyguard. We are to follow on his heels in battle.”
“But what of Israel? Are we to attack our brothers?!”
“No. We will not spill Hebrew blood. We have kept from doing so thus far and I will not change that command. What we will do is to wait until the fighting is at its peak and rejoin our brothers against the Philistines.”
Relief washes over David’s men as he lays out his plan. “We must be careful to maintain the illusion of allegiance to Achish. He must not doubt us or we may be prevented from accompanying them in battle. Saul can use all the help he can get for the Philistines are bringing all their forces. Our attack from the rear may be the act that saves Israel from Philistine rule.”
Morning breaks with the sound of sandals slapping the ground and armor rattling in rhythm. The Philistine lords move their troops into position. By late day all have arrived at Aphek. Although Gath is one of the closest cities to supply troops they are in the rear. Achish has a reason for this. He knows his fellow Philistine lords may not be pleased to see David’s group among them. He hopes to hide them at the back where he can claim them as his personal bodyguards.
Achish is one of five kings who have contributed resources to this battle. These men share the responsibility of tactics. A commander of thousands from each king will coordinate the troops and arrange them in formation. All the battalions march past by hundreds and by thousands, being directed as to placement of their camp and equipment. They also receive their orders during this phase of preparation.
David and his six hundred men pass before the command position in anticipation. They already have their orders from David and Achish. To them this is a mere formality. The commanders of the Philistines are distressed when they see David and his men. David and his men are clearly not Philistine warriors. They are Hebrews! Whose fool idea was it to include Hebrews in their ranks when those are the very people they are going against? It seems glaringly obvious who the ‘fool’ is as the Hebrews are following right behind him; Achish, king of Gath. Word is sent immediately to the other Philistine lords.
The commanders and lords gather to demand an answer from Achish. “What are these Hebrews doing here?” (verse 3b).
Unfazed, Achish answers; “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel…”
“Our point exactly!”
“…who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day” (verse 3c).
Achish’s words of praise for David melted in the heat of the other lord’s anger. They had not tested David’s mettle and they were not willing to do so at this critical point. “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall NOT go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become and adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (verses 4b-5).
Achish knew he could not prevail against all the other lords. His plan to bring David had failed. It was his failure, not David’s. He must make David understand that he had not lost faith in him. Achish called David to his side. He took David to the side but kept within the other lord’s hearing so they would know that he had heeded their words.
“As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. So go back now; and go peaceably, that you man not displease the lords of the Philistines” (verses 6-7).
David’s plan to help Saul’s army depended on being in this battle. He has to try and convince Achish to let them stay. “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (verse 8).
Achish is touched by David’s loyalty but David’s feelings are of less importance than those of his fellow lords. He tries once more to soften the blow that must fall. “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then rise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who came with you, and start early in the morning, and depart as soon as you have light” (verses 9-10).
David knows that Achish has given him these orders in the hearing of the commanders and lords for a reason. If he does not obey, the Philistines will fall on him and his men before marching to meet Saul. He will obey. “It will be as you command my king.”
David returns to his men who have been assigned a camp location away from the Philistine armies. They were purposefully separated from the beginning. They are however within the watchful eye of the commanders, lest there be trouble.
“We will not be joining in this battle. We have been ordered to return home. We leave at first light.”
David’s men know better than to discuss their plans to help Saul’s army within the confines of the Philistine camp. Sleep would not come willingly tonight as they considered the fate of their brothers and the fact that they could do nothing to help them.
David’s men set out towards Ziklag first thing in the morning. They had barely begun their travel when they noticed they were being followed by a group of three men. They could easily have overpowered their pursuers but that would probably be a mistake. These men no doubt had orders to report back on David and his men reaching their destination. It appeared the Philistine lords would ensure they didn’t return to the battle field.
Everyone was disappointed by the turn of events. They knew Israel would be outnumbered when the fighting started, not to mention out armed. David strengthened their hearts when he quietly began to share his latest plan.
“We will lead these men home as fast as possible then double back and rejoin the battle. We may not even need to go all the way home. If they are convinced we have gone too far to be of any danger they may turn back early. We need to be ready to act whatever the situation.”
David and his men picked up the pace. They needed to hurry if they had any hope of making the round trip before Saul falls to the Philistines.
(to be continued)
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I find it ironic how the other Philistine lords know the truth about David and the man he has been ‘serving’ is blind to it. Achish wanted to believe David so he didn’t dig any deeper. I wonder if he could have found evidence of the truth if he had searched for it. One place to start would be the places David said he had raided. How could David get away with such blatant lies for over a year? Because, again, Achish only saw what he wanted to see.
I’m reading a book right now called Boys of Courage: A WW2 Historical Novel, by Amos Blas. In the section I’m reading now one of the characters is being indoctrinated by a religious group and being fed answers that meet the group’s agenda. One of their precepts is that the Messiah is still coming while another proclaims one of their past leaders was the Messiah. They had contradicting information right in front of them but they wanted to believe what the group said so badly that they didn’t see the problem in their own teaching.
Thinking about the Holocaust, that principle probably fits many of the people both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews didn’t believe what was being said by the German really represented their hearts. They wanted to believe there were more good people out there than bad. They didn’t realize how easily the bad came out when given enough encouragement. The good people who only heard about the atrocities probably dismissed them as rumor or over inflated reports. They each had their truth and it took facing it head on to break through the blindness.
In the book I’m reading the question of how could God let this happen is being raised. Both the Jews and the Germans believed God was on their side. Many of the Jews took no action because they were waiting for God to rescue them. People ask why He didn’t. Some lost all faith in a loving God as a result of this human depravity. Some blame the Jews and claim it was punishment for the death of Jesus.
I want to weigh in on the answer for this question. I want to address the last rational first. Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I KNOW God answers His Son’s prayers. I do NOT believe God held 6,000,000 people guilty and worthy of death for His Son’s death.
As for how could a loving God allow such an event, it’s because He IS a loving God. God gave man free choice. Adam and Eve used that choice to allow sin into the world. God has done everything to allow us redemption from that sin but those who refuse His gift are not dragged kicking and screaming into line with it. There are a few exceptions in the beginning of His plan but once Jesus completed His work it is up to each man to make the choice. Our loving God holds his arms open to us. We have to choose to love Him back. He won’t force that love. And those who reject it act on their sinful nature, regardless of what label they try to slap on themselves and their actions.
I have NO doubt God welcomed many of those who died into His arms. Unfortunately those who didn’t welcome His Son didn’t welcome Him. But that is something for another discussion. I’ve gone far enough afield already today.
Father God, I know I’m jumping ahead right now is saying ‘Thank You’ for sending David home. You had a plan in mind for this battle and David needed to be out of the way. He could not be Saul’s savior. He couldn’t save Israel from their future defeat. Saul’s kingdom had to fall and it couldn’t fall on top of David.
You brought David right where he needed to be at exactly the right time. You do the same in my life. Today when my husband stumbled, You gave me the strength to hold him until others were able to step in. You allowed our phone call to be returned for the errand we were trying to accomplish and prevented a wasted trip. I know these are small things but I LOVE seeing Your hand in them. I didn’t even have to pray for these answers. You KNEW my needs and met them out of love.