Sunday, January 05, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "The Fugitive"

“The Fugitive”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
January 5, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 21:1-23:29

We are returning today to our ongoing series in 1 Samuel that we call “A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel.”

We took a holiday break to learn about the Long Expected Lion, the Angels We Have Heard on High and the “Search Me” prayer of Psalm 139.

But we are back now in 1 Samuel and we need to remind ourselves where we are in the story.

Here’s where we are: David is “The Fugitive.”

Do any of you remember the classic TV show, the "Fugitive?"  It ran four seasons from 1963 to 1967. And later Harrison Ford made it into a movie.

The Fugitive was the story of Dr. Richard Kimble who was wrongly convicted of killing his wife but through a prison train wreck, he escaped and traveled the nation looking for the one armed man who was the real culprit. All the time Kimble was chased by police Lieutenant Gerard who dogged his every step for 120 thrilling episodes.

I didn’t see it the first time through, but in the Summer of 1993, I watched an episode every single day at 4pm for a month on A&E. I absolutely loved that show.

There was so much tension and drama. You didn’t know what was going to happen each week and if Kimble was going to get caught.

Well, in our real life story in 1 Samuel, David has been secretly anointed king to replace Saul, he has triumphed over the giant Goliath, he has been a successful leader in Saul’s army, married Saul’s daughter, and befriend Saul’s son Jonathan.

But he is now a fugitive.

David is on the run.

In fact, he will be on the run for the rest of the book. For the rest of 1 Samuel, David will be the fugitive.

The story from here to the end of the book is an exciting action adventure–full of narrative tension:

Will David get caught?
Will David get hurt?
Will David’s friends get hurt?
Will David’s family get hurt?
Where will David go?

What will Saul do?
Will David and Jonathan ever see each other again?
Will David ever get to rest?

And most importantly, what is God doing in all of this?

What is God doing to and through The Fugitive?   V.1

“David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, ‘Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?’”

Do you see what’s going on?

Nob is apparently where the tabernacle is currently set up.  Ahimelech is the current high priest.

David apparently wants divine guidance and is hoping to find it (and some other things) at the tabernacle at Nob.

But he’s spooks Ahimelech. Maybe Ahimelech knows more than he’s says about what is going on. V.2

“David answered Ahimelech the priest, ‘The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, 'No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.' As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.’”

David stretches the truth, but perhaps he’s trying to protect Ahimelech when the authorities catch up to him. This way, he won’t have been aiding and abetting a known fugitive.   V.4

“But the priest answered David, ‘I don't have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here–provided the men have kept themselves from women.’ David replied, ‘Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men's things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!’ So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the LORD and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.”

This was the bread of the Presence that was to be baked and then set before the Lord to celebrate His provision and to remind them that God lived among them.

It was supposed to only be eaten by the Levites.

Is David a Levite?

No, but he’s a man in need, and a consecrated one at that. And Ahimelech recognizes that the principle of caring for the needy is greater than the principle of following the letter of the law. So he gives him the bread.

Our Lord Jesus will commend this approach a thousand years later and build His Sabbath theology off of it.
But what I think we should notice right now is that God is providing daily bread for David even as he suffers as a fugitive.

I think we’re going to see today that faithfully following God can be really hard sometimes.

But that God is always faithful.

Here, he’s providing daily bread from an very unlikely source.

But at the same time, there is trouble brewing. The camera cuts over to a someone who isn’t a one-armed man, but he’s definitely a villain. V.7

“Now one of Saul's servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul's head shepherd.”

That’s all it says, but that’s enough to know he’s trouble. We don’t know why he was detained. Perhaps a vow was keeping him close to the tabernacle. Perhaps he was under priestly arrest for some reason.

All we know is that he was a herdsman, a non-Israelite, and a faithful follower of Saul.

One of my favorite pastors used to call him, “Dirty Dog Doeg.”

And whenever I read this, I think of him. The music hits a dark chord.

And then back to Ahimelech. V.8

“David asked Ahimelech, ‘Don't you have a spear or a sword here? I haven't brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king's business was urgent.’ The priest replied, ‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.’ David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me.’”

David is reunited with Goliath’s sword, but he’s still a fugitive.

And he decides to run into the arms of his national enemy. V.10

“That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. [Nuh uh?! He went to the Philistines? That’s crazy! But apparently David thinks that anywhere else is better than near Saul! V.11] But the servants of Achish said to him, ‘Isn't this David, the king of the land? [Interesting.] Isn't he the one they sing about in their dances: ‘'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands'?’ [Gulp.]

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.

So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. [Graffiti and spittle and pretending to be crazy. That’s how scared David was.]

Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’”

Do you see what’s going on?

David is desperate.

He doesn’t know where to go.  He flees from Saul right into the hands of his enemies whom he has killed hundreds if not tens of thousands.

And just when he realizes that this might have not been his best idea, he does whatever he can think of to get out of it.

I don’t think he’s doing something here that we should imitate.

It’s just showing hard desperate he is. ...

And yet at the same time, he is learning that God is taking care of him.

How do I know that? Psalm 34 and Psalm 56.

David wrote both of those psalms and the superscriptions that go with them psalms tell us that they came out of David’s experience right here in Gath.

Read them this afternoon and see what David learned.

I don’t think that David learned how to act like he’s loony tunes.

He learned that God is bigger than His enemies.

Psalm 56:3&4, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

How did David escape from Gath?

It wasn’t because he was so smart to act so dumb.

David realized later that God had his back.

So, next he goes to the cave of Adullam. Chapter 22, verse 1.

“David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.”

He’s a fugitive, but now he’s a fugitive with an army.

A motley crew. A bunch of ruffians living on the edge of society, but they gather around David and he leads them. David is a natural leader.

His extended family has also come to him. They are probably worried about reprisals from Saul.  David is, too, so he finds a place for his parents in Moab. V.3

“From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, ‘Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?’ So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.”

I never noticed this before, but David has family ties back to Moab, doesn’t he?

Remember where his great-grandma Ruth was from? Moab, right?

I think that’s an instance of God taking care of David long before there even was a David!
David is a fugitive, and he’s scared for his family, but God is always faithful. And He’s always providing His word to David. V.5

“But the prophet Gad said to David, ‘Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.’ So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.”

I think that verse is interesting because Saul doesn’t get that any more. Saul doesn’t get clear words from God anymore.  But David does.

David is a fugitive, but he is not alone.

Now in verse 6, the camera cuts away to Saul and gives us scene to see just how far Saul has fallen.

He is not longer just “disappointing Saul,” he has become evil Saul. More like an anti-Christ. More like King Herod. V.6

“Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul, spear in hand, (always a spear in hand!) was seated under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing around him. Saul said to them, ‘Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds?

Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.’”

He is not pretending to be crazy. He has become unhinged through his persistent self focus. V.9

“But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul's officials, said, ‘I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.’”

Doeg knows which side his bread is buttered on.

“Then the king sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and his father's whole family, who were the priests at Nob, and they all came to the king. [This is the one who fed David the consecrated bread.] Saul said, ‘Listen now, son of Ahitub.’ ‘Yes, my lord,’ he answered.

Saul said to him, ‘Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?’

Ahimelech answered the king, ‘Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king's son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household?

Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father's family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.’

But the king said, ‘You will surely die, Ahimelech, you and your father's whole family.’

Then the king ordered the guards at his side: ‘Turn and kill the priests of the LORD, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.’ But the king's officials were not willing to raise a hand to strike the priests of the LORD.”

Can you believe he said that? “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD.”

They wouldn’t do it. But Doeg would. V.18

“The king then ordered Doeg, ‘You turn and strike down the priests.’ So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.”

Saul is out of control. V.20

“But Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, escaped and fled to join David. He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the LORD. [Only 1 escaped of the whole family and the whole town.] Then David said to Abiathar: ‘That day, [that stinking day!] when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father's whole family. Stay with me; don't be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.’”

That’s a powerful moment in this story.

David is hurting. He feels and knows that he is responsible for their deaths.

Oh he knows that Saul is responsible. Doeg is responsible.

But it all comes down to David, too.

Following God can be really hard. Bewildering!

David can’t protect everyone he loves.

What a contrast with Saul. Saul kills priests. David shelters this one. ...

In chapter 23, the fugitive becomes a savior. Verse 1.

“When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,’ he inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The LORD answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’”

Now, this is interesting!

David’s intelligence network gets him word that his old enemies, the Philistines, whom he had recently escaped himself are attacking the Jewish community at Keilah and stealing their harvests.

What does the fugitive do?  Say, “Oh too bad!”  No, he asks the Lord if he should take his ragtag army and attack.

And God says, “Yes. Save Keilah.” And David’s men say, “Say what?”  V.3

“But David's men said to him, ‘Here in Judah we are afraid. [Of Saul! Don’t forget Saul!] How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!’ Once again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.’

So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.”

Even though he’s on the run from Saul, he’s still fighting Israel’s battles!  V.6

“(Now Abiathar son of Ahimelech had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)

Saul was told [more intelligence networks] that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, ‘God has handed him over to me, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.’”

Not, “Wow. He saved Keilah? Maybe I ought to re-think this.” v.8

“And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.

When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod.’ David said, ‘O LORD, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me.

Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant.’ And the LORD said, ‘He will.’

Again David asked, ‘Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?’ And the LORD said, ‘They will.’

You see what’s going on?

David asks God if the people he’s just saved will betray him to Saul.

And God says, “You bet they will. Get out of town fast!”

Do you see how much action there is here? V.13

“So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there. David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”

That’s one of the most important verses in this whole story. V.14

“Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”

God is faithful.

Even in the face of betrayal.
Even in the face of persecution.

Even while he has to be a fugitive, David sees that God is faithful.

Chased but not caught.

That’s David’s life right here.

Chased but not caught.

“Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”

In fact, God sent his friend to him at that point. His truest friend. V.15

“While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. [King James: “strengthened his hand in God.” NAS: “encouraged him in God. New Living Translation, “encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” Here’s what he said to him. V.17] ‘Don't be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’ The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.”

Do you see how Jonathan encouraged and strengthened David?

He did it by reminding David of the promises of God.

Yes, life right now is difficult, but God is good, God is faithful, God always keeps His promises. Don’t be afraid.

Sadly, I think this is the last time these two friends saw each other face to face.

But it was a good one. David was strengthened in God.

One last story before we draw 3 points of application.

It’s a story of betrayal and another close call. V.19

“The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king.’

Saul replied, ‘The LORD bless you for your concern for me. Go and make further preparation. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty.

Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.’ So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.

Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon.  Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

[Do you feel it? Lieutenant Gerard chasing Richard Kimble. Except that Saul is a law unto himself. It’s going to be close. V.26]

Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, [....] a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.’

Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. [Rock of Parting]  And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.”

Whooo.  That was a close call.

It just so happened that at the last moment, Saul was called away and David got away.

Chased but not caught.

How did that happen?

You know Richard Kimble got away from Lieutenant Gerard in every episode of “The Fugitive.” 120 episodes!

But the TV show never mentioned God as the cause.

It was either skill or luck.

But we have verse 14 to know how this happened to David.

“Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”

I see at least 3 life lesson to learn from this fugitive for our lives today.


David is God’s chosen, appointed, anointed King.

And his life stinks.

He’s pursued. He’s persecuted. He’s chased.

He’s chased into the arms of his other enemies.

He’s scared. Of Acish, the NIV said he was “very much afraid.” So scared, he felt that he had to pretend to be madman.

He feels responsible for the death of people who helped him.

He is scared that his loved ones will be hurt.

He’s told that he will be betrayed by the people he saved.

He is betrayed by the people of Ziph.

And every day is another close call.

David’s life stinks.

And he’s God’s chosen!

Following God by faith can sometimes be really really hard.

Can I just say that?

Following God by faith can sometimes be really hard.

Are you hurting right now?

Does it feel confusing right now because you know that you’re following God and yet it still hurts?

Just because you’re hurting doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong.

Job hurt even though he was blameless.

David was a fugitive even though he was the hero of the story.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified.

Don’t believe these prosperity teachers on the TV and the radio that tell you that if you belong to Jesus “everything is going to be okay.”

‘Cause it’s not. Not in this life.

Following God by faith might mean that your life stinks for what feels like a long time.

Have you been betrayed?  Like the Ziphites did to David?

Are you afraid like David was of Acish?

Is your life really hard right now?

That’s the way it can be following Jesus.

He told us to take up our crosses not to lay on our couches.

And I find great comfort in that. Because just because life hurts at points does not automatically mean that I’m out of the will of God.

In fact, it might mean that I’m smack dab in the middle of the will of God.

Just like David was.

Just like Jesus was.

Following God by faith can be really hard.


God provides.

Bread in the most unlikely situation.

Providential protection for David’s family through Moab?

A true friend coming at just the right moment.

A Philistine king that can’t be bothered with another madman.

A Philistine attack that comes at just the right moment to distract Saul in his pursuit.

Chased but NOT caught.

God is faithful.

He will always keep His promises.


Just like Jonathan helped David in verse 16. Find your strength in God.

Yes, life stinks sometimes.

But God is always faithful.

So find your strength in Him.

That’s what David did.  Listen to Psalm 54 as we transition to the Lord’s Table.

First, listen to where Psalm 54 comes from.

 "For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.

When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, "Is not David hiding among us?"

That’s 1 Samuel 23! David writes:

“Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might. 
Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.
Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life–men without regard for God. Selah
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them.
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes."

Find your strength in Him. You will not be disappointed.


A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord
11. The Lord Looks at the Heart
12. The Battle Is the Lord's
13. May the LORD Be With You