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Life of David

God Is My Refuge

1 Samuel 19; Psalm 59

At the head of Psalm 59, which David wrote concerning the events found in 1 Samuel 19, is a Hebrew word: Miktam. It is variously translated as "golden" or "secret treasure." It means a writing that is so precious that it must be engraved on stone with letters of gold. David names six of his poems with this phrase; this is one of the precious poems.

"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway." (JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit) So let us hear the tale as it is told to us:

(1 Sam 19 NIV) Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David {2} and warned him, "My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. {3} I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I'll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out." {4} Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. {5} He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?" {6} Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: "As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death." {7} So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before. {8} Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him. {9} But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, {10} Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape. {11} Saul sent men to David's house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, warned him, "If you don't run for your life tonight, tomorrow you'll be killed." {12} So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. {13} Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats' hair at the head. {14} When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, "He is ill." {15} Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, "Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him." {16} But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats' hair. {17} Saul said to Michal, "Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?" Michal told him, "He said to me, 'Let me get away. Why should I kill you?'" {18} When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. {19} Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; {20} so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied. {21} Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. {22} Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, "Where are Samuel and David?" "Over in Naioth at Ramah," they said. {23} So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. {24} He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"

Then let us see what David had to say in the Psalm he wrote on this occasion:

(Psa 59 NIV) For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David's house in order to kill him. Deliver me from my enemies, O God; protect me from those who rise up against me. {2} Deliver me from evildoers and save me from bloodthirsty men. {3} See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, O LORD. {4} I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight! {5} O LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, rouse yourself to punish all the nations; show no mercy to wicked traitors. Selah {6} They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. {7} See what they spew from their mouths-- they spew out swords from their lips, and they say, "Who can hear us?" {8} But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations. {9} O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, {10} my loving God. God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me. {11} But do not kill them, O Lord our shield, or my people will forget. In your might make them wander about, and bring them down. {12} For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. For the curses and lies they utter, {13} consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob. Selah {14} They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. {15} They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied. {16} But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. {17} O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.


What of our troubles? Do they not usually come in person - that is, in the form of other people?

Our assailants

If there is any one thing the Christian should see in his assailants, it is that they enjoy persecuting the innocent. It seems as if this is the definition of the wicked - not that they are content to be wicked, but that they must persecute the innocent as well. We should expect it; they crucified Christ, if you will recall. But there are two other aspects David gives us, here and in the Psalm:

  • "Who can hear us?" Have you ever noticed that the wicked think very little of their own words? "Hey, what are you so upset about?" They think words trivial - and presume that God does also. The Christian should know better.
  • No one was ever assaulted by the weak. This is one reason God prefers to keep us that way - so that we are not tempted to assault others. But who are the strong? Are they only those in the flesh - physically strong - or are they not also the ones who think themselves morally strong. (If you think not, who calls us intolerant?) This is yet another reason to "judge not."
What should we ask for, when oppressed?

David is not shy about asking God for help, as we shall see in the Psalm. He asks for defense and deliverance. But we might add a few things as well:

  • Deliverance? Yes, but also from temptation.
  • Deliverance from the corruption of our own hearts - the thought of vengeance.
  • And David asks that his enemies be made an example - a beautiful expression of his desire for God's will[1] and also care for God's people - that they might see and learn.

God's Providence

It is interesting to see how God provides for David in this circumstance - by the same methods he will provide for us today:


God has given David his Jonathan - one to uphold him and warn him.

  • Do our friends warn us? Do we listen, or do we go our own way?
  • Recognize too, that there are limits to this. Jonathan reasons with his father, and it works - for a while.

God often uses family in his providence. In this instance, he has used Michal as a shock absorber - one who slows up the enemy. We often see this in the wrong light - Michal "failed." Not so; she did what God intended - she slowed the men up just enough for David's escape. Do you believe in "coincidence?"


How often we run to one who is strong in the Lord! This is wise. Note that Samuel can provide no security; he commands no troops. But his strength is in counsel and wisdom, and these are most necessary. God Himself will provide the power.

God provides the deliverance

It is fascinating what God does; here is an almost perfect picture of God's way:

  • First, he turns evil - and evil men - into good. The wicked come; they go back as prophets!
  • Note that God triumphs not by the weapons of this world - but by his own Spirit.
  • Even so, Saul persists - and so will our enemies. But who is eternal but God?

The names of God

David's life with God can be seen in the names and titles he uses for God:

  • LORD God Almighty - the word "Almighty" here really means "Lord of Hosts" - and the capitalized "LORD" is Jehovah. So the title is personal, carrying the name of God, and powerful, as the commander of the armies of heaven. Do we really know our Lord that closely? Do we really believe in his power? Or is it just hoping in hope?
  • God of Israel - that is to say, the God of the covenant relationship. We too have a covenant relationship with God. David knows, and we should too, that when we remain in that relationship God remains faithful to us. He is eternal; he cannot change.
  • My strength - really, think about it: is your own strength adequate to the trials of this life? You must choose between the two: your strength or his.
  • My fortress - the word literally means a specific high tower on a mountain in Moab. It's the kind of spot where an army could surround you - but not get in. We might say we had a hole to crawl in and pull in after us. He is our security.
  • My loving God - that's the modern translation; the older versions more accurately translated "loving" as merciful. He is the God of forgiveness, the one willing to welcome the sinner home.
  • Our shield - the word has two uses. First, it is used for the small shield, sometimes called a "buckler," which is used in hand to hand combat. It's also used for a crocodile's hide! It's not a passive word, but implies that He is what we use in hand to hand combat with the enemy - and the enemy is looking at an angry crocodile.
  • My refuge in times of trouble - the word means a retreat , a fleeing - a way out. Sometimes it is all so overwhelming that you just need a place to run to. The world may overwhelm us - but never him.

The end of the matter

It often appears to the Christian that life is a series of desperate adventures, one crisis after another. Only by knowing the end can we keep our faith strong and courage up.

David shows us, symbolically, how this is done. He runs from the court of Saul - a symbol of the world - to the house of Samuel, whose name means "Asked of God." We must turn from the world and its comforts and ask of God the comfort that comes from him, the peace that passes all understanding.

It is fascinating, is it not, that the end of David's Psalm is this:

{16} But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. {17} O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.

The trials of the child of God are many and long; the power of God is supreme, and the end of the matter? To praise God, and love him forever.

[1] Proverbs 17:13

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