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Life of David

Growing In Adversity

1 Samuel 20-24; Psalms 32, 54, 57

(Note: for the sake of space the text of 1 Samuel is omitted.)

IT IS good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.

(Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 12). Old Thomas was right: no matter how much we dislike the process, we grow in adversity. We grow closer to God, and that's the direction that counts. In this section we shall see how David does just that - starting by relying in his own strength and actions, and ending in the exaltation of being completely dependent upon God - and loving it.

David relies on his own means (1 Samuel 21)

David is not immune to the temptations that all of us face. He is overwhelmed with trouble, and he does what most of us do: he tries to handle it himself. In this way he shows us the folly of doing so:

  • He takes the sword of Goliath - and this is symbolic of what he is doing. He is using the weapons of the world.
  • He lies to the priest. He no doubt justified it in his mind that it was lie or die - but the Lord would show him better than that. This would prove to be a very costly lie, for the priests. Was this lie justified? Could he have foreseen the consequences? Perhaps this is one reason we should tell the truth and trust God.
  • He runs to the enemy of his enemy - again, the world's way of doing things. Was he surprised to find fear there to greet him? Perhaps. But note that running to the obvious source of help didn't work. God had other plans.
  • David now stoops to outright deception. No longer is this a "little white lie;" David is desperate. He feigns insanity - and then, in God's mercy, Abimelech kicks him out of the palace. He is now a nut case wandering the streets as a homeless man.
  • "God's mercy sometimes reminds us of our sin" (Spurgeon). God, in this unlikely way, rescues his servant and gently reminds him that he has been doing it the wrong way.

David, the poet, tells us his reaction to these lessons in this Psalm.

(Psa 34 NIV) Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left. I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. {2} My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. {3} Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. {4} I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. {5} Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. {6} This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. {7} The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. {8} Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. {9} Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. {10} The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. {11} Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. {12} Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, {13} keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. {14} Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. {15} The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; {16} the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. {17} The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. {18} The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. {19} A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; {20} he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. {21} Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. {22} The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Hear the thoughts of one who has learned of the Lord:

Bless the Lord (v.1-3)
  • Bless him at all times in all places - not just when the going is good.
  • Boast in him - not in your own strength
  • Do so publicly - so that others in similar circumstance may hear and learn, and join (and encourage) you.
Seek the Lord (v. 4-7)
  • Seek him, and be delivered both from your fears and the cause of your fears.
  • David tells us (v.5) that this is not just his experience - he sees it around him.
  • He attributes deliverance to the angel of the Lord (perhaps a reference to Christ) - which certainly means we should look for deliverance in unexpected ways and places. God's providence is sometimes amusing but always sure.
Taste and see (v8-10)
  • This is a matter of experience - try it yourself!
  • Fear God - then you have nothing else to fear.
  • Others may lack, but you will not - God will provide. "I have never seen the righteous forsaken."
Advice to Children (v11-14)
  • "Watch what you say!" Opening your big mouth can get you in a lot of trouble - David discovered that with his first lie.
  • "Depart from evil" - in other words, don't be where evil lives! Watch your steps! (Have you ever told that one to your children?)
  • Rather, what should you being doing? You should seek peace. For those who love a good fight (and David is a warrior) this is often unwelcome advice.
How the Lord deals with the evil and the righteous (v15-22)
  • How often we forget it, but - God does know what's going on.
  • He listens to the cry of the righteous - not the whining. The broken and contrite heart is still the key to an audience with God.
  • The wicked will still be with us - for a while. Patience, child of God.

David and the evil man (1 Samuel 22)

David has grown, but the consequences of his actions - in this instance borne by others - have yet to be completed. But we can see from his actions the change in his relationship with God:

  • David gathers around himself the malcontents of his society - the debtors about to be sold as slaves, and others. There is something here which rings of redemption. The outcasts of society heard Christ, the Son of David, far more readily than the leaders.
  • David acknowledges his fault, and guilt, to Abiathar, the surviving priest. He also takes him in, sheltering the persecuted. Evil is not overcome by saying, "tut, tut."
  • But most important: David now asks God for guidance, in this instance via the prophet, Gad.

He also gives us his thoughts here, found in Psalm 52 - mostly about the evil man, Doeg.

(Psa 52 NIV) For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: "David has gone to the house of Ahimelech." Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? {2} Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. {3} You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. Selah {4} You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! {5} Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah {6} The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him, saying, {7} "Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!" {8} But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. {9} I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

The evil man's words (v. 1-4)

There are three words in particular to which I would call your attention:

  • "Boast" - how often have you heard this? It's a sure sign of the division between the righteous and the evil - the righteous boast in the Lord; the evil boast in themselves.
  • "Deceit" - David has learned the folly of this! But do we not know the evil man by the fact that his word cannot be trusted?
  • "Destruction" - here is a key. Do you take pleasure in the downfall of others? Does it please you to see a rival fail? Then see where you fit!

Ultimately the evil man is destroyed - but note please (v.5) that this is not by the hands of the righteous, but by the power of God. The evil trust in their own strength, but all human strength eventually wanes. The righteous? Again there are three words:

  • "laugh" - a child of God should be so confident of God's power, justice and love that he will laugh at such men. It is an attitude we don't see very much.
  • "endure" - this is the true method of handling evil: endurance. Do what is right, and wait for God to deliver you. Wait patiently, but in hope.
  • "praise" - and as you wait, praise God for what he has done - and what you know he will do.

David learns to trust God completely (1 Samuel 23)

David's attitude has certainly changed in two chapters. See what happens here:

  • David might regard the invasion of the Philistines as a good thing - distracting his enemy. He does not. He remembers the command of God, and goes after them.
  • He does so after inquiring of God. No longer does he depend upon his own wisdom.
  • Indeed, he encourages his followers by this. It's not a private faith; he makes it clear to all who his Guiding Star is.
  • When chased by Saul - and it's a narrow escape - he remains confident. He relies on God's guidance to avoid Saul.
  • Ultimately, he is delivered by the Philistines! God provides.

Again, David has given us his reaction to this - here's the Psalm he wrote when hiding in that cave.

(Psa 57 NIV) For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave. Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. {2} I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. {3} He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; Selah God sends his love and his faithfulness. {4} I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts-- men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. {5} Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. {6} They spread a net for my feet-- I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path-- but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah {7} My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. {8} Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. {9} I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. {10} For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. {11} Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

The first thing we must note is the transition: David has gone from low understanding to high exaltation. Some thought pictures which echo even to this day:

  • He takes refuge "in the shadow of your wings." The most obvious reference (Christ used it of Jerusalem) is to a hen and chicks. But perhaps David also saw the wings of the cherubim, covering the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. Either way, note that it is not the wings - but the merest shadow which provides refuge. God's shadow is stronger than the world's light.
  • He acknowledges that God will work his purpose and do so in his way. He sends from heaven, not from earth. It is not David's purpose that is fulfilled, but God's. Some of us are so concerned with our wants that we can't see His will.

There is an echo in here. Can you see it?

My troubles?

God's Echo

I'm in the midst of the lions

Let God be exalted

They're spreading a net for me

My heart is steadfast

In praising God comes our own strength, for God inhabits the praise of his people.

David now soars; he will "awaken the dawn" with his praise. And what will he praise?

  • Love
  • Faithfulness
  • Glory of God

Perhaps we should see his reaction to stress.

David shows his heart: Saul's robe (1 Samuel 24)

It is without doubt that the Lord will spare us if we will spare our enemies. ("Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.") We see in David's actions the work of a man after God's own heart:

  • Note that he rebukes the advice of his friends. They see things the world's way - Saul's in his hands. But David has learned to trust God.
  • Trust God - to the point that just cutting a corner off his robe makes David conscience-stricken. It's a small thing - but even the small things are important to the man of God.
  • The secret of this attitude? Obedience. Such is his obedience that he will not touch "the Lord's Anointed." David now realizes that Saul is God's problem, not his.
  • And see what happens! God's weapon - conscience - is powerful against Saul. He has David cornered in that cave - and cannot do anything but confess his sin and beg that David will care for his family when the time comes.

Walking with God - the way David is walking here - shows us three things:

  • When you walk with him, he will provide for you - his providential care, in his way, in his time, for his will, is always there.
  • As you walk, your faith will grow. More and more you will depend upon him, not upon yourself.
  • And as you do, the sense of exaltation grows. Soon you will cry, like David,

Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

His love, his faithfulness, his glory - our God.

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