1 Samuel 26:1-12
Sermon preached on January 16, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
In 480 B.C. Leonidas, King of Sparta, was preparing to make his stand against the invading Persian army. Leonidas only had 300 men. The Persians had an army that was estimated to be between 100,000 to 300,000. The Persians also had 600 ships, which were manned by between 60,000 and 120,000 men. When the Persians arrived in the vicinity of the Spartans they sent an envoy to Leonidas. The envoy urged Leonidas to surrender. He said,
"Our archers are so numerous that the flight of their arrows darkens the sun."
"So much the better, for we shall fight them in the shade."
Leonidas and his Spartans made their stand against the Persians. They lost and Leonidas was killed, but their stand changed the course of history.
History is filled with examples of incredible bravery We have one of them have before us. Rarely does the world see such audacity. This is one of David's finest moments, one that almost rivals his stand before Goliath.
Consider the situation. King Saul came down with to Jeshimon with 3000 of is best men. He made camp and was preparing to find and kill David. The normal thing to do in a situation like that is to run away. There's nothing wrong with that and, in fact, it was David's overall strategy at this time. It wasn't Saul's superior numbers that made David flee, but the fact that he did not want to do battle with the Lord's anointed.
But, here in the first part of chapter 26, we have the account of an very extraordinary event. David heard that Saul had arrived and what does he do? He takes two of his men with him and heads directly toward Saul and his army. When he arrives he notes where Saul lays down. When it gets dark he said to Ahimelech the Hittite and his nephew Abishai, (verse 6)
"Who will go down into the camp
with me to Saul?"
It's incredible. In fact, if we didn't know of God's protection of David, we'd characterize David's actions as foolhardy. David goes into the heavily armed camp of King Saul accompanied by one man. He walks right up to the sleeping king and takes his spear and water jug. He then safely retreats.
The main thing we see here is that
God protects David and shows everyone that David is safe even in camp of his enemy.
What accounts for this story? Where did this incident originate? It wasn't due to the fact that David's faith had reached such a deep and abiding level that it was his great faith in God that led him boldly into Saul's camp. His faith at this point in his life, although it could be strong at times, was wavering. Shortly after this, at the beginning of the next chapter, David's faith falters. We read, (1 Samuel 27:1)
"David thought to himself,
'One of these days
I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.
The best thing I can do is
to escape to the land of the Philistines.
Then Saul will give up searching
for me anywhere in Israel,
and I will slip out of his hand."
David's faith did play a part, but it is clear from the context that at this point in his life, David's faith was up and down.
On the other hand, Satan had a role in this too. You could view this whole incident as a great temptation in which Satan tried to get David to kill King Saul. Satan was trying to disqualify David from being king. If he could get David to murder someone, it would go a long ways to disqualifying David. Three times Satan orchestrates things to tempt David to kill. In each case David had a good reason for taking someone's life.
The first incident was in the cave of En Gedi in chapter 24. David and his men were far back in the cave and Saul came in and had a nap. Saul was trying to kill David so David's men urged David to kill Saul. But David resisted. Then it was Nabal's ingratitude and his great insult. He deserved to die for treating David that way. It was only Abigail's intervention that saved David from bloodshed. The third time it's Saul again. Here in Jeshimon Saul showed that he was incorrigible. In spite of the fact that David had previously spared his life, Saul was still trying to take David's. Abishai was basically implying that Saul had forfeited his life by pursing David again.
Satan tried strategy after strategy in order to get David to kill. He wanted David disqualify himself from being king. He wanted David to be like Saul when he killed the priests of the Lord at Nob.
But since we read that the deep sleep that afflicted Saul and his men came from the Lord, I believe the best way of looking at this story is seeing the whole incident as being from God.
God was showing everyone that He was protecting David and that Saul and his men did not have the ability to kill David. God had promised him that he was going to be king over Israel and here we see David walking in Saul's camp without being harmed. Indeed, David tells Abishai to take Saul's spear and his water jug and then they both leave with them. The symbolism suggests that God was transferring authority and life from Saul to David. Both things are symbolic. Saul's spear. It's interesting to note that there are six reference in this chapter to David's spear. (v. 7,8,11,12,16,22) As Dale Davis says, (1 Samuel, p. 268)
"It is the dominant symbol of the episode."
We're not sure if this was the very same spear that had on two different occasions whizzed by David when Saul had tried to kill him. (18:10–11; 19:10) It could have been. Saul's spear was a, (Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (NAC 7; ed. E. Ray Clendenen; Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 256)
"symbol of his authority and power…"
David takes Saul's spear. God was showing everyone that David was safe from Saul's spear. Saul had come against David with his spear and 3000 men. None of that mattered. There was no real threat against David.
But it also showed that authority is being transferred from Saul to David. John Woodhouse writes, (1 Samuel, p. 491)
"Without violence, David symbolically disarmed Saul…"
Indeed, the threat was against Saul. David and Abishai also took Saul's water jug. The water jug was also symbolic. Robert Bergen writes that the water jug was a,
"symbol of his life-sustaining resources. Having thus symbolically stripped Saul of both his social standing and life, they left."
Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (NAC 7; ed. E. Ray Clendenen; Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 256.
There are great lessons for us here.
First of all,
Christians, this shows you that your faith should not waver.
God is faithful. His is your shield and protector. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He never stops being that. He is always watching over you. He will always protect you. He will never fail you. You can always trust Him. You can always have great faith. Just as David was safe from Saul and his men, so you are safe from Satan and his minions. It doesn't matter where you are, what your condition, you are in the hand of Jesus Christ and you are safe.
David's faith was strong in this chapter, but right after this it faltered. He later said,
'One of these days
I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul."
David's faith should not have wavered. God had been doing remarkable things for him.
Consider what happened when David rebuked Saul outside the cave. After Saul left the cave at En Gedi and David called to him and told him how he could have killed him. That had a great short term effect on King Saul. He said, (1 Samuel 24:16–21)
"Is that your voice,
David my son?'
And he wept aloud.
'You are more righteous than I,' he said.
'You have treated me well,
but I have treated you badly.
You have just now told me
of the good you did to me;
the Lord delivered me into your hands,
but you did not kill me.
When a man finds his enemy,
does he let him get away unharmed?
May the Lord reward you well
for the way you treated me today.
I know that you will surely be king
and that the kingdom of Israel
will be established in your hands.
Now swear to me by the Lord
that you will not cut off my descendants
or wipe out my name
from my father's family."
That was incredible. To have his great enemy declare the rightness of his cause, to have him acknowledge that he knew that David would be king, to have him be so sure of it that he asked for mercy for his descendants.
Not only that, but David should also have learned from the incident with Nabal.
Nabal had treated David with contempt. He was rich and yet he was mean and surly. He repaid David evil for good. But what happened? God struck down Nabal. Not only that, but at the end of it all Abigail, Nabal's widow, became David's wife. This was a sign of victory. (2 Samuel 12:8) David had complete and final victory over Nabal.
So David's faith was increased by God's dealings with him. Indeed, David's words to Abishai suggest that he had learned something from the whole incident with Nabal. In chapter 25:38 we read that the Lord 'struck down' Nabal so that he died. Here in our text, David uses the same verb. He said to Abishai, (verse 10)
"As surely as the Lord lives,
the Lord himself will strike him;
either his time will come and he will die,
or he will go into battle and perish."
Dale Davis writes, (1 Samuel, p. 270)
"David has learned that Yahweh can be trusted to handle both fools and oppressors when such matters are left it his hands."
God's faithfulness to him had taught David certain things. He taught him that God is faithful. It taught him that God was not going to let him perish.
And here in Saul's camp David should have learned that he was safe no matter where he was. God would protect him.
At the Christmas Eve service in December I spoke on how after Simeon and Anna spoke about the baby Jesus in the temple, how Mary, (Luke 2:19)
"treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart."
Mary meditated on how Simeon and Anna had met her, on the remarkable words that they had spoken about Jesus. She kept these things close to her heart and used them to increase and fortify her faith.
David should have did the same thing. God had done wonderful things for him. They were such remarkable things that his faith never again should have wavered. But it did. Shortly after this David became afraid.
Christians, meditate on God' faithfulness. He doesn't change. He has promised that He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 11). He has told you that the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10) He has told you that He has you in His hand and that no one can pluck you out of His hand. (John 10) Christians, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is in control of all things. He is leading you to glory. Your faith in Him should be very great. You can always boldly do your duty without fear. You can be like Daniel faced with the lion's den—he went home and prayed as was his custom. He didn't have to fear the lions. God controlled their appetites, their mouths.
Jesus Himself is our great example here. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He got up and said to His disciples, (Matthew 26:45–46)
"Look, the hour is near,
and the Son of Man is betrayed
into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us go!
Here comes my betrayer!"
He boldly did His duty. He embraced God's will. So you should never be afraid. Your faith in God should be unwavering.
Secondly, in this regard, your faith in God ought to be so great that
it should inform your imagination and you can use that to think about the various ways in which God will work out His plan.
We see this in David's words to Abishai. He said, (verses 9-10)
"David said to Abishai,
'Don't destroy him!
Who can lay a hand
on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?
As surely as the Lord lives,' he said,
'the Lord himself will strike him;
either his time will come and he will die,
or he will go into battle and perish.'"
Dale Davis writes, (p. 271)
"Many contemporary believers, in fact, would do well to let their imaginations run riot in regard to the adequacy and sufficiency of God."
Davis goes on to say that faith sets imagination to work.
"David can conceive of various ways in which Yahweh will deliver him from Saul. He may work directly, as he did with Nabal, or he may bring Saul's ends in a more 'natural' way. The primary matter is that Yahweh will see to it, yet lively faith can envision numerous ways in which Yahweh will work. And there is nothing wrong with that so long as one realizes that Yahweh is not restricted to our range of possibilities and methods."
Davis couches his comments in the context of Isaiah 40, the great chapter which begins with
"Comfort, comfort my people."
I wish I had time to read it all. Read it later for yourself. It shows us such possibilities in God. How wonderful our God is. We should never doubt Him. Dale Davis writes, (p. 271)
"Surely God is praised when his people ask, 'Who can guess how he will work here?"
The third lesson we see from our text is that
you should not mistake opportunities with God's will.
Abishai completely misread the situation. He said to David, (verse 8)
"Today God has delivered
your enemy into your hands.
Now let me pin him to the ground
with one thrust of my spear;
I won't strike him twice."
The deep sleep falling on Saul and his men. For sure that was from God.
Like Abishai, we know that God controls everything. If an special opportunity comes along we might, like Abishai, think that it's God's will that we do it. We might think,
"After all, God has given me this opportunity."
That's so ridiculous that it seems we shouldn't have to bother refute it. But the sad fact is that we can get so twisted in our thinking that we mistake opportunities for God's will. But that's what Abishai did.
Just because you have the opportunity to do something doesn't mean that you should do it. The tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil was in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Did that mean that Adam and Eve should take its fruit and eat it? No. God had told them not to eat it.
When Jonah ran away from God he decided to go to Tarshish. When he arrived in Joppa, there was a ship ready to leave for Tarshish. How fortuitous! Would anyone be so foolish as to mistake that for God's will. I hope not. No, no, no.
You use God's commands to decide whether to do something or not. God's commandment, "You shall not kill", was what David was to follow. Abishai was totally wrong.
Dale Davis writes, (p. 272)
"God's ways will frequently baffle us but God's will is sufficiently clear to lead us…"
The third lesson we can derive from our text is that
you must not get discouraged when your doing what is right, when your kindness is misused and it comes back to trouble you.
In the cave at En Gedi David had spared King Saul's life. His men had urged him to kill Saul. But David showed him mercy.
But now in chapter 26 it seemed that David's mercy had been misguided. Saul was chasing after him once again, trying to kill him. Abishai's offer to kill Saul here in his camp seemed reasonable to Abishai. Satan was again trying to disqualify David from his calling of being the future king of Israel.
For unbelievers, this shows you the overpowering force of sin.
Consider King Saul. After the incident at the cave with David, Saul had promised that he had been wrong to pursue David. He admitted that David had never plotted against him or planned to harm him. He even conceded that David would surely be king and that the Kingdom of Israel would be established in his hand. He even asked that David show mercy to his descendants. Saul then returned home.
If you add up everything that Saul said outside the cave, hostilities between him and David were over. Yet, what do we see in our text? When the Ziphites inform him of David's whereabouts, Saul started chasing after him again. He brings 3000 of his best troops with him to try to kill David.
The great lesson is that on your own you can't resist the pull of sin that is leading to your destruction.
Like Jesus' words about the demon who left his house, sought rest, didn't find it. Went back, found it swept clean and garnished. He went and got other demons and they went back there. (Matthew 12:43–45)
If you're not a Christian you are slave to sin. (Romans 6) You may think you're in control, but you're not. Only Jesus can break the bonds of sin that hold you, that are going to destroy you. Only in Jesus is there freedom. Go to Him today.