1 Samuel 27:1-28:2
Drew Williams

Doubt is a very disturbing thing. Like, have you ever gone looking for something that you were sure you knew where you last left it, but then you can’t find it? And you start doubting whether or not you are remembering correctly?

Or you are telling a story from your childhood, and then someone else, like a sibling, chimes in with an alternative version of the story that is different from what you remember. But now you’re not so sure whether or not you’re remembering it right. You’re starting to doubt what you believed about that memory.

And what if this expands into our fundamental beliefs about family, God, our politics, or the things we believe about ourselves? Doubt can find a single crack in any of these things, and start widening it, like a plant in a section of cement. And pretty soon, the crack is wider and wider, and what once was so certain for us now seems broken or crumbling.

What do we do when we doubt that God is still there for us? Well, we’re not the first people to ask this question. And as we’ve been following David’s journey these last few weeks, we’ve seen him endure some pretty big and difficult things. So today, we’ll get a peek into how it is affecting his faith.

Today’s message will cover all of 1 Samuel 27 and the first few verses of chapter 28, but now let’s hear the beginning of 1 Samuel 27.

“But David…”

Okay, right here, right away we need to pause. Our scripture reading starting with “But David…”! We’re starting in the middle of a thought. So we need to back up and remind ourselves what comes before so we know why David is acting separately from it.

Back up with me to 26:7, “So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head.”

This is the second time Saul has pursued and trapped David, intent on killing him, and this is the second time David has found Saul vulnerable and within striking distance, and his partner, Abishai, says that it must be God’s will for David to kill Saul, but David disagrees.

V 9 “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” David refuses to kill Saul, and instead takes his spear and water jug and high-tails it out of there. The next morning, Saul wakes up to find that the camp had been infiltrated, and his items had been taken. David confronts him from afar and proves how he could have killed him, but chose not to.

  1. 18 “Why are you pursuing me? What have I done, what wrong am I guilty of?”

Saul realized David’s integrity of character and said in v 21 “I have sinned.” then in v 25 “May you be blessed, my son.”

And the passage ends with “So David went his own way, and Saul returned home… But David…”

Ah! Here we go! David and Saul had a somewhat nice encounter, considering Saul had just been pursuing him intent to kill him, and then depart from each other on good terms.

READ: [1 Samuel 27:1-7] Keep your Bibles open to follow along!

So David doesn’t seem too convinced that Saul will be good for his word and stay on good terms with David. Even though he had been anointed as the next king of Israel, he’s showing some doubts in whether or not that will actually come to pass. He’s pretty sure Saul will have a change of heart and decide to try and chase him down and kill him again, so he decides to head where Saul would never look for him: Philistine territory. After all, David was the one who had defeated Goliath and led the charge against the Philistines. David was the premier Israelite military leader who had led many successful battles against the Philistines. He would have to be crazy to go into Philistine territory!

But we see that not only does David go into Philistine territory, he relocates there with his 600 men AND THEIR FAMILIES. Women, children, livestock. Probably 2000-3000 people. And they go to Achish, who is king in Gath. You might remember that name.

David had fled to Gath before in 1 Samuel 21, but that time he was alone and acted crazy so that the king didn’t imprison him, because everyone had recognized him as the one who had killed Goliath, the former champion of Gath.

This time, he shows up with 600 armed men, and feels confident enough to be able to go directly to king Achish and speak to him in his right mind. Now, apparently, what David does here might have been a common practice in the Ancient Near East. Disenfranchised people would regularly hire themselves out as paramilitary assets in exchange for livestock and perhaps even land. This might have been similar to what he and his men were doing for Nabal during their time near Carmel.

Amazingly, king Achish apparently accepts David’s request to settle there with his whole troupe of people. We don’t know what David did to win over Achish, but he garnered enough favor with the Philistine king to ask for a town of his own to have and preside over.

Achish grants his wish, and David’s people move to a town called Ziklag. Now he’s got a base of operations safe from the threat of Saul and out from under the supervision of Achish.

It’s David’s first free moment from Saul’s pursuit and his first impulse is to bargain and look out for his own interests. Maybe it’s because he’s spent all that time running for his life that he doesn’t know how to slow down, so he just keeps running and chasing and fighting in order to provide for himself.

Even though God has provided for him up until now, there’s no mention of David asking God for anything here. He figures out how to get what he wants, and he moves forward.

Once he’s set in Ziklag, he immediately takes his men out on raids of nearby areas. They leave no one alive, and take all the plunder back to Ziklag. Of the three people groups mentioned in verse 8, the first and third are mentioned in other areas of the Hebrew scriptures. The Geshurites were long-time enemies of Israel who were listed along with the Philistines in the book of Joshua as peoples who still needed to be driven from the land.

The Amalekites were ancient enemies of Israel who had attacked them during their Exodus from Egypt. A few of you might even recognize the name as the group of people that Saul was commanded to wipe out, but instead he took all the plunder for himself and kept their king, Agag, alive as a trophy of his own power. That was the time that the prophet Samuel delivered the message to Saul that he had lost the anointing as king of Israel and then Samuel killed Agag himself.

So a few people might be able to look at David’s actions here as just him living into his assignment as king of Israel, continuing the work of the Lord of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land so that Israel could take the land.

But when I read this, I see David killing everyone, taking all the plunder, and then lying about his actions to Achish. Because Achish is apparently keeping somewhat close tabs on David. He’s asking “Where did you go raiding today?”

I’m not sure if David is bringing tribute back to Achish, or if they got dinner together regularly, or what. But when asked about it, David tells Achish that he’s been doing attacks against the “Negev of Judah,” or the dry pastoral region of Judah.

He gives a vague answer of a general geographical location of where Israelites were living. So Achish is delighted! He believes David. He trusts him! And I guess this shouldn’t surprise us, because it seems like everyone trusts David. Everyone he meets seems to be taken in by him and give him their support.

Our scripture explicitly tells us that David chose not to leave anyone alive from his raids so that there would be no one to rat on him with the truthful whereabouts of his raids.

And the incredible thing is that none of his 600 men rat him out, either! They are all loyal to their leader, their king.

After all, this is David’s first little experimental kingdom. He has a township. He has loyal men and women he has to care for and lead. And we’re seeing how he is stewarding this first call with conniving and military might.

He’s loyal to those who are loyal to him, but he’s not afraid to be sneaky with everyone else. This might be a clue for how he intends to lead the whole nation of Israel when he gets the chance.

In any case, Achish buys the lies wholeheartedly, and even thinks that he’s getting a huge advantage over Israel, since their former pre-eminent warrior is now a sword-for-hire, working for him, and wreaking havoc on his homeland.

There’s no way David will ever be able to go home if he’s leading attacks on Israelites. He’ll be stuck in the service of Achish for life! Or so the Philistine king hopes.

Chapter 28 then gives us the transition phrase, “In those days,” which is a non-descript way of saying “every year, around the same time, the Philistines would go to war to fight Israel.” This was a recurring, back and forth battle, with the boundary lines moving ever-so-slightly each year, depending on who came out on top.

So Achish turns to David and says, “You’re fighting for me this year.” And David says, “Sure thing, boss, then you’ll be able to see what I’m capable of.” And this ends our little scene in this story that we are travelling through.

And we’re left scratching our heads. Why is David acting this way? I thought he was one of the heroes of the Bible? I thought he’s the one who is “a man after God’s heart”?! Isn’t he the one who wrote all the Psalms in praise to God? Why is he lying and killing and raiding? Is this really the king that God wants? What are we supposed to DO with David here?

One thing we should notice is that God is not mentioned at all in this section. David doesn’t pray to God. God’s name isn’t mentioned. There is no intervention by God or any prophet from God.

So, does God sanction David’s raids and killing? The short answer is no. He allows it but does not sanction it. David never consults with God or the community. This action is all David.

And even though we know that Saul is not the true king that Israel needs, we get hints like this story that David will not be the true king, either! Only Jesus will serve as the king God has chosen to bring blessing to all.

So what can we learn from David in this section? Well, I want us to go back to the first verse of chapter 27, “But David thought to himself, ‘One of these days, Saul is going to kill me.’”

Chapter 27 starts with David’s doubt. He doubts that God is going to make good on his promise to establish David as king over Israel. Even after all that God has done for him, does David not trust God’s plan anymore?

Have you ever felt like God took too long to do something? You’ve been praying for something for years, and nothing has come of it yet? You’ve been waiting for the peace and love that you’ve been told comes with following Jesus, but so far it’s just been hard.

When God takes too long, don’t we ALL try to take matters into our own hands? Have you ever decided to stop waiting for God to knock some sense into your friend, or your kid, so you start dropping some not-so-subtle passive aggressive “suggestions”?

Have you ever gotten caught up in keeping up with the Joneses, pursuing that vacation, or that new car, or that new kitchen, in order to feel satisfied and content?

This is something that is common to all of us, and David was human just like we are. In his moment of doubt, he made a series of decisions to look out for himself. He knew that Samuel had said that God had chosen him to be the next king. But Samuel is dead now. And Saul won’t seem to give up. Did God get it wrong? Is God even there?

Maybe you’ve felt that way before.

But here’s what I want you to know today: Even when we lack faith, even when we lose faith, God is faithful. We know from the rest of David’s story that he WILL become king. God will continue to use him for his purposes, even though David is sinful and has his doubts. This is because God’s grace and faithfulness are bigger than our sin and doubt.

And it’s hard to believe this sometimes, because the rest of the world works on give and take. The rest of the world runs on debt, and credit, and interest, and fees.

Sure you can have that thing, but you’ll be paying it off for a while!

Wow, what a great gift! Now you’d better write some thank you cards.

Even certain friendships seem to run on I O U’s. “Nah, you get lunch next time, I got this one!”

It is ingrained in us from every part of our society and family upbringing that we need to EARN our keep, EARN favor. We can’t just RECEIVE, we need to PAY BACK for kindness!

This stems from our desire to be self-made. We want to be self-sufficient. We don’t want a hand out. And if we can “return the favor”, then we can bolster our feeling of self-sufficiency.

Or, if we happen to be born in privilege, or inherit something we didn’t earn, then we’re in DEBT to the legacy, in DEBT to the resources that have been handed to us. Our world is built on reciprocity. I O U’s.

That’s why grace is such a foreign concept. Receiving something I didn’t earn? And there’s no way to pay it back? No, no, I can’t accept that!

Unmerited faithfulness is suspect. You’re going to stick with me? Even when I’ve messed up? Why? What’s in it for you? What do you want?

It’s hard for us to believe in grace and faithfulness, because we don’t see it anywhere else in our world. But God’s grace and faithfulness is bigger than our sin and doubt. Even when we doubt God and lack faith, God is faithful.

So here’s what I want you to DO today; two things: 1) Receive God’s grace, and 2) give grace.

First, even if you doubt it, receive God’s grace. If you feel that your sin is too big, or even if you keep sliding into old habits, you can receive God’s grace today. He’s offering it to you.

Imagine God as a smiling dad. Maybe that’s easy for you, because you had a good relationship with your dad. Maybe you didn’t have a good relationship with your dad, but you know what a good relationship SHOULD be.

You can close your eyes, right now if you want to, and imagine God smiling at you. He’s so proud that you’re His. He’s just looking at you. Taking you in. And then He opens His arms to beckon you in. That’s how he sees you.

No matter how big your sin is, God’s grace is bigger. And his arms reach further than our doubt can take us away from Him.

Maybe you feel abandoned, or not sure that God is still there for you. I want you to know that we can be sure that God has not given up on us, because we can look at how He’s acted in the past.

Remember how he did not give up on or abandon his creation. Even when Abraham doubted, God pursued. Even when Israel turned away as a nation, God stayed faithful. Even when David acted alone, God didn’t abandon him. Even while we were yet sinners, God sent his son to die for us and invite us into New Kingdom life that starts NOW!

I want you to receive God’s grace today, he’s offering it to you. I want you to receive God’s grace, and I want you to give grace, because we’ve received so much already. I want you to practice giving grace this week out of what you’ve received from God. You can’t give what you don’t have, but we’ve ALL received such amazing patience and forgiveness and love and grace from Jesus. And we GET to give that to others!

So ask God, “who is someone you’re calling me to give grace to?”

Maybe it’s someone who has wronged you, or someone who has just annoyed you. Who is God bringing to mind right now that he is inviting you to give grace to? To be kind to? To let off the hook?

Or if you don’t have a particular person come to mind, ask God to help you make an effort this week to give grace to other people in small ways each day. You can make it a way to start each day, by asking “How can I show grace to someone today? How can I bless someone today?”

Maybe you’ll get to start with someone in your own house. Maybe you’ll get to show grace to someone you’re interacting with in your day. Maybe God will bring someone to mind and you can text them or call them right then and there.

We GET to give grace to others because we have received grace from God. But you can’t give what you don’t have, so first we need to be willing to put down our incorrect belief of self-sufficiency and willingly receive the grace of God that he offers to each of us.

Grace that says, “I love you on your worst days.”

Grace that says, “You deserve better than this harmful cycle.”

Grace that says, “I’ll never stop pursuing you, no matter what. I am yours, and you are mine.”

Isn’t that good news?