I Samuel 27-30
THE SELF-DUG HOLE
Scriptures: I Samuel 27:1-28:2; 29:1-7
Before I read our second scripture lesson we need to
understand the hole into which David has dug himself. If you remember from last week, King Saul, the king of Israel, is out to kill David because he is afraid that David will take over the throne. So David spends almost all of chapters 21-26 on the run, keeping just one step out of Saul's reach. Finally, David decides that the only way to escape Saul is to defect to the Philistines. The Philistines are the enemies of King Saul, so Saul will never go looking for David among the Philistines.
There is just one problem: the Philistines are also the
enemies of David. Goliath, the giant whom David killed, was a Philistine. Most of David's battles were against the Philistines. In I Samuel 18 after the Israelites win a great victory, the cheering crowd says, "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands." They are talking about killing Philistines. The Philistines are just as likely to hate David as Saul is, unless David somehow convinces the Philistines that he is now on their side.
David tries to do this by pretending to go on raids against
the Israelites and their allies. He tells the Philistines that he is conducting raids against the people of Judah, one of the tribes of Israel, and against the Kenites and Jerahmeelites who were allies of Israel, and he brings back some of the plunder to prove it. In reality, however, David goes on raids against the Geshurites and the Amalekites, who are enemies of Israel and possible friends of the Philistines. He makes the Philistines think he is attacking their enemies, when in reality he is attacking their friends. But to get away with this he has to kill all the Geshurites and Amalekites, so that none of them will squeal on him. Please note, God does not tell David to do this-any of it. David does all this on his own to deceive the Philistines, cover his tracks, and save his neck.
There is an old saying, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first
we practice to deceive." David weaves a tangled web of deceit to persuade King Achish, one of the Philistine kings, to give him sanctuary from the pursuit of Saul.
But at the beginning of chapter 28, David is caught in his own web.
Verse 1: "In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, 'You know, of course, that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.'"
Now David is caught. If he goes with Achish to fight against Israel,
he will become an enemy of his own people. He will never become the future king of Israel if he fights a war against them. On the other hand, if he refuses, then King Achish will know that David is a traitor-a closet Israelite. Achish will probably have him executed him as a spy. So what will happen? Now we are ready for our second scripture reading: I Samuel 29:1-7.
[Read I Samuel 29:1-7] David is bailed out by the other Philistine commanders. They tell
Achish, "We don't want this guy going into battle with us against the Israelites. You may trust him, but we don't. Send him home." So David is sent back to Ziklag where he can still be safe from King Saul, but he does not have to fight a war against his own people.
There are so many examples in the Bible and in life of people telling
lies to protect themselves and ending up in a hole from which they cannot escape. Next week in our 365 Bible stories we will read about David's affair with Bathsheba. David has an affair with a married woman. As a king David could take as a wife almost any unmarried woman he wanted, but even a king is not supposed to have an affair with a married woman, especially a woman married to one of his most trusted officers, a soldier named Uriah. David tries to hide the affair, but Bathsheba gets pregnant. Then David tries to cover up his responsibility for the pregnancy by bringing Uriah back from the war zone to sleep with his wife so that everyone will think that Uriah is the father. But Uriah refuses to come home to his wife. He tells David it would be wrong for him to go home and sleep in his own bed with his own wife while his fellow soldiers are huddled in tents risking their lives for their country. Uriah's loyalty to his troops is impressive, which makes David's actions all that more despicable, and hard to cover up. Finally, David arranges to have Uriah killed in battle. Then David can marry his widow and no one will know that he committed adultery with her. Except God knows, and eventually David is confronted by God about what he did.
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. In
Spokane I did some counseling with a couple who were not members of the church. The husband had a gambling problem. Like most gamblers he lost money. Even when he won money, he kept playing until he lost it. Then he started charging his credit card to pay his debts. When he could no longer make even the minimum payments, he got a second credit card to make payments on the first. Eventually the second card maxed out, and his wife found out about it because her own credit was blocked. That's when they came in for counseling.
Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. I
think of Enron. Enron was a Fortune 500 company that completely imploded when it tried to hide questionable business practices with questionable accounting practices. They dug themselves into a hole from which they could not climb out, except by going to jail.
In David's case he did not need to do that. God had promised to make
David the next king of Israel. David knew that. He also knew that God had repeatedly saved him from Saul in the past. But David quit trusting that promise. He decides that he had take matters into his own hands. He had to save himself by defecting to the Philistines and deceiving them about his true loyalty.
But in our second scripture reading we get a glimpse of God's grace.
It is not just the Philistines commanders who bail David out. God bails him out. Through all of David's complicated lies and cover-ups, God never gave up on him. God never turned away from him, and that is what allowed David eventually to come back and become the king that God intended him to be.
It is a common story: doing something wrong, trying to cover it up,
and digging ourselves into a hole from which we cannot escape. It's a story repeated over and over.
But the good news is that we don't have to do that anymore. We can
quit trusting in lies, because we can trust in God. We don't have to try and cover up what we've done, because God already knows all about it and still loves us. That's what God showed David in this story. We can give up on deception because God will not give up on us.
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Think how freeing it could be to climb out of that web into God's hands.