1 Samuel 27:1

Sermon preached on November 3, 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.

Steve Jobs of Apple Computer had a very peculiar personality trait. People who worked for him, and others who have had close contact with him called it the, 'reality distortion field'. By that they meant that he sometimes created an aura around him that seemed to distort reality. It's like his will and the power of his personality was so strong that he could at times, 'seem' to distort reality. He could so thoroughly convince himself of something that he could convince others of it too, at least while he was with them. He wanted his engineers to do the best work and sometimes he told them that they could do things which in reality were impossible. They would believe him. Andy Hertzfeld tells of the first time he heard of the reality distortion field. He had just started working on the Macintosh project in 1981 as a software programmer and a few days later he met his manager, Bud Tribble. Tribble showed him the official software schedule that had them shipping the Macintosh in January, 1982, which was less than 10 months away. Hertzfeld said, (Revelation in the Valley, p. 24)

"Bud, that's crazy! We've hardly even started yet. There's no way we can get it done by then."

In a very low voice, Tribble said that he knew that. Hertzfeld then responded,

"You know? If you know the schedule is off-base, why don't you correct it?"

Tribble replied,

"Well, it's Steve. Steve insists that we're shipping in early 1982 and won't accept answers to the contrary. The best way to describe the situation is a term from Star Trek. Steve has a reality distortion field."

When Hertzfeld looked confused, Tribble continued,

"A reality distortion field. In his presence reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he's not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules."

Hertzfeld said that at first he thought Tribble was exaggerating but he soon got to witness many instances of the reality distortion field at work. He defined it thus,

"The reality distortion field was a confounding mélange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand."

Hertzfeld also discovered that there was little you could do to shield you from its power. He said,

"Amazingly, the reality distortion field seemed to be effective even if you were acutely aware of it. We would often discuss potential techniques for grounding it, but after a while most of us gave up, accepting it as a force of nature."

But Hertzfeld and Tribble were right and Jobs was wrong about the Macintosh schedule. The reality distortion field couldn't change that. The Macintosh wasn't ready in 10 months year as Jobs said it could be done. It took two years longer than that. It wasn't ready until January 1984.

It's important that we live in touch with reality. It's important that we make decisions on how we live in accord with reality.

What we see in our text is that David wasn't acting in accord with reality. God had promised him that he would be king over Israel. He had been anointed by Samuel. He had God's promises that He would be king. God was protecting him every step of the way. Yet, In spite of God's protection, in spite of God's promise to him, in spite of Jonathan and Abigail assuring him on separate occasions that he would surely be king over Israel—David's faith faltered here. We read, (1 Samuel 27:1)

"But 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 was under severe pressure. Saul was trying to kill him. Some of his own countrymen, who should have been supporting him, were looking to hand him over to Saul. He had close call after close call—from Saul twice throwing a javelin at him, to the escape at the desert of Maon, where Saul almost had him, and it was only a messenger coming telling Saul that the Philistines were invading the land, to David hiding in a cave and that was the very cave where Saul went into to take a nap. David had saved the city of Keilah, and yet he was told that they would betray him to Saul. David was experiencing trial after trial, close call after close call.

The great truth our text shows us is that

David's faith faltered when it should not have.

In our text here, David has a skewed view of reality. He is distorted in his thinking. He wasn't thinking biblically. David was afraid he would be 'destroyed' by Saul. The word means literally means to be 'swept away' in the sense of being carried away to destruction. We see the same word in Genesis 19:15-17 where the angel of the Lord told Lot that he had to hurry and leave or he would be 'swept away' when the city was destroyed. That's what David was afraid of. It's like waves of troubles were coming upon David and, even though he had escaped them, David felt that soon one of them would sweep him away. David's faith faltered.

This should not have happened. David was very wrong in this. He was not acting in accord with reality. He was falling for the devil's trap. John Woodhouse writes, (1 Samuel, p. 499)

"What is…troubling about David's words is that they sound like a capitulation to Saul's evil intentions. David had protested that Saul's pursuit of him was driving him away from 'the heritage of the Lord,' 'away from the presence of the Lord' (1 Samuel 26:19-20). The implication was that if Saul kept up his persecution, David would have to leave the land of Israel and live in a pagan land where 'other gods' were served (1 Samuel 26:19). This potential outcome of Saul's policy was presented by David as proof of its wickedness."

David was doing the very thing he said it would be wrong to do. David faith faltered. He sinned. His faith became very weak. He wasn't acting in accord with reality. David's faith shouldn't have faltered. David is an example here of what not to be like.

But the great question is:

How can we have great faith?

How can we avoid being like the disciples who Jesus characterized as being of 'little faith'. How can we overcome times of doubt when they come over us like a wave? I believe three things are key.

First, we need to have an accurate view of God, His power and His absolute commitment to us.

Christians, know your Bible. Let the truths about the power of God penetrate to your heart. Seek to know how great He is, how powerful He is. Seek to know how He loves you and is absolutely committed to you.

The God who created the universe, who upholds everything by His powerful Word, was absolutely committed to David and his survival.

David should have known that. David had God's promise. How could David doubt his survival in light of that? Our God is faithful. His Word is true. His promises can be relied on. Nothing in the universe can keep Him from fulfilling His promises. His truth is behind them. It's impossible for Him to lie.

David should have had faith like Abraham when God told him to take his son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11:17–19 says of Abraham,

"By faith Abraham,
when God tested him,
offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
He who had received the promises
was about to sacrifice
his one and only son,
even though God had said to him,
'It is through Isaac that
your offspring will be reckoned.'
Abraham reasoned that God
could raise the dead,
and figuratively speaking,
he did receive Isaac back from death."

It was the same way when God told Abraham, who was 99 years old, that he was going to have a son with Sarah. In Romans 4:18 we read,

"Against all hope,
Abraham in hope believed and so
became the father of many nations,
just as it had been said to him,
'So shall your offspring be.'"

God controls everything. Every atom in the universe is under His direct control. That's true of every quark, every string, and even things smaller than that if they exist. He controls everything. Nothing can thwart His will. In Isaiah 46:8–13 God declares,

"Remember this, fix it in mind,
take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things,
those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God,
and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land,
a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do.
Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are far from righteousness.
I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away;
and my salvation will not be delayed.
I will grant salvation to Zion,
my splendor to Israel."

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew this. They knew that their lives were in God's hands, no one else's. When the King Nebuchadnezzar told them to bow down and worship the golden image or be cast into the fiery furnace, they said to him, (Daniel 3:16–18)

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need
to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it,
and he will rescue us
from your hand, O king.
But even if he does not,
we want you to know, O king,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold
you have set up."

They didn't fear the fire. You'll remember what happened. When they were cast into the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar saw four men walking around, unharmed in it, and one of them looked like a son of the gods.

In the same way, Daniel didn't fear the lions in the lion's den. He was safe among them. Remember when King Herod killed James with the sword and how it pleased the Jews? (Acts 12:2-3) So he seized Peter and was going to try him and execute him. He put him in prison and he had him closely guarded. But it didn't matter. Peter had Jesus' promise that he was not going to be killed until he was much older. (John 21:18) Peter was safe. An angel of the Lord came and freed him from Herod's prison.

Christian, do you realize what kind of God you have? Do you have any idea of His power, His wisdom, His plan for His people?

When our faith falters our conception of God is too small. At times like that we need to call to mind what God's Word says about His faithfulness, His power, His commitment to His people. One of the passages I love in this regard is Isaiah 43:1–5.

"But now, this is what the Lord says
— he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Since you are precious and honored
in my sight, and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you…"

Or think of passages like Romans 8:35 where the apostle Paul demonstrates that nothing can separate us from God's love. We need to call to mind Elisha when he was surrounded by the Syrians at Dothan. We need to act in accord with reality. That's what Elisha was doing at Dothan.

Yet, we're often like David here. We take our eyes off God and His promises. We're like Elisha's servant, who when he got up that morning and saw Elisha's enemies, with their chariots and horses surrounding Dothan, ran to Elisha and said, (2 Kings 6:15–17)

"Oh, my lord, what shall we do?"

Elisha responded,

"Don't be afraid.
Those who are with us
are more than those who are with them."

Then Elisha prayed and asked that his servant could see correctly. We read,

"Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes,
and he looked and saw the hills
full of horses and chariots of fire
all around Elisha."

Christians, act in accordance with reality. God rules. He is in control. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is with us. He will never leave nor forsake you.

But someone may object and say,

"Well, David had a particular promise. We don't have that. We don't know that we're going to survive the troubles of this life."

That's true. But if you think that way you're missing the main point. Earthly survival is the minor thing. David had promises of much more than an earthly kingship. So too, you have promises, not of an earthly kingship, but of an eternal kingdom, where you will rule with Jesus. You have nothing to fear. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. You should take hold of the promises of God and have great faith. His power is available for you—to live for Him, to extend His kingdom, to give Him glory and honor in all things.

In Ephesians 1:19–22 the apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would have the eyes of their heart enlightened, in order that they may know God's,

"incomparably great power
for us who believe.
That power is like the working
of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things
under his feet and appointed him
to be head over everything
for the church."

Christians, believe the promises.

Secondly, if you're going to avoid David's mistake,

you should note that he drew the exact opposite conclusion from his life experience that he should have.

Ever since Samuel had anointed David to be king, God had protected him. He had many close calls. Saul's javelin missed twice. He barely escaped being murdered in his bed by Saul's men. Time after time Saul almost caught him. But every time God protected David.

Now, what conclusion did David draw from all this?

That one of these days he would going to be 'swept away' by Saul.

That was the wrong answer. He could not have been more wrong. The correct answer was the exact opposite. God had been protecting him every step of the way—he should have concluded that God was going to continue to protect him. Why would he think differently? Was God going to stop being faithful? Was God going to stop being true? Of course not. David's thinking was totally wrong.

David was like Peter walking on the water toward Jesus. Peter was doing fine. He was walking on the water. It was holding him up. But the Bible tells us that, (Matthew 14:29–30)

"when he saw the wind, he was afraid
and, beginning to sink…"

Peter's faith wavered. How could that be? Those first steps that he took on the water should have so convinced him of Jesus' power that you'd think that after them, he'd start running to Jesus, fall on his knees on the water and praise Him. But no, he drew the absolute wrong conclusion—when he saw the wind, he became afraid, he thought those first steps on the water had put him in danger because now he was away from the boat. How could he draw such a wrong conclusion? Those first few steps should have fortified his faith and he should have laughed at the wind.

David's life experience should have taught him that God was faithful. David's past experiences, rather than weakening his faith, should have bolstered it. Rather than shaking David's faith, these experiences should have strengthened David's faith.

Christians, live in accord with reality. Let your life experiences, the past records of God's faithfulness, increase your faith.

Thirdly, in this regard, one of the things this means is that

you need to be careful how you talk to yourself.

Talk to yourself about the promises of God. You need to be careful what you tell yourself. Literally our text reads, "And David said to his heart…" Dale Davis writes, (1 Samuel, p. 283)

"David was talking to himself and what he kept saying to himself determined his action. What you say and keep saying to the center of you will direct your way. All of us propagandize our souls…"

David knew how he was supposed to talk to himself. We see it in many places in the Psalms that he wrote. For example, in Psalm 62:5-6 he said,

"Find rest, O my soul,
in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress,
I will not be shaken."

We see the same thing in Psalm 27. David wrote, (verse 1-3)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation
— whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life
— of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident."

That's what we need to do. Dale Davis tells us that one of the things that can help us avoid David's mistake here is, (p. 282)

"By talking to yourself, by talking truth to yourself, especially by speaking to yourself the truth about your God."

That's what you need to do when doubt comes your way. Apply the promises of God to your heart.

Lastly, for those who aren't Christians, what you should realize from our text is that

you're deceiving yourself with your reality distortion field.

You're somehow thinking that you don't need Jesus, that you'll be all right after you die, that you're not in great danger and that everything is okay.

You're like David, only in the opposite way. David was safe, he had all those promises from God, he was secure and there was nothing that his enemies could do to destroy him. Yet, he didn't believe that. He was foolish.

You're not safe, you don't have any promises from God, you're in a very precarious and dangerous position—and you're thinking that you're okay. You're not. You're disbelieving the threatening's of God. You're disbelieving the message of creation—nature and the universe that shows you clearly that there is a God. You're holding in contempt the invitation of Jesus Christ to find life in Him. And you think you're going to be okay. You're delusional. You have a reality distortion field around you. That reality distortion field is going to put you into hell. You're going to perish unless you go to Jesus. Go to Him now, before it's too late. Wake up!