Run for Your Life, David
Several years ago the Shah of Iran went into exile trying to save his life from his foes. Hunted down, he moved from Iran to Europe, to the United States, to Mexico and finally to Egypt. Though his cancer-ridden body was racked with pain, he had to keep moving, to keep fleeing until his untimely death.
David had a similar situation. Brought in by the Lord from tending the sheep and anointed by Samuel to become king, David became a longtime fugitive from the present king and his soldiers. Bitterness and jealousy had brewed in Saul’s heart and in time turned into hatred. That hatred, with all of its fury, was unleashed on the young man who was God’s choice to be king of Israel, David. Saul feared the loss of his power. Furthermore, he was afraid that his son, Jonathan, would not succeed him upon the throne.
It all started after David became the young hero of Israel. Goliath had been slain and the Philistines at least temporarily routed. Rejoicing filled the nation. The women danced in the streets, praising their new national hero. As a result, Saul was troubled. His court leaders suggested some quiet music to soothe his soul. David was the one chosen to play his instrument. Instead of quieting his heart, Saul became so enraged that he threw his javelin at David, trying to kill him. It narrowly missed. Hatred had grown into vengeance.
It also led to deceit, Saul went so far as to feign friendship with David, hoping to ensnare him. He made a deal with him, and what a deal it was! If David would lead at the forefront of the battle against the Philistines, the king would give him his eldest daughter to be his wife upon his return from battle. Saul’s real motive was for the young warrior to be killed in battle. That way, he would never need to fulfill his pledge. Instead, David’s life was spared. When he came home for the wedding, the deceitful Saul had already given his daughter, Merab, to another man.
Meanwhile, another daughter of Saul, Michal, fell in love with David. When the wicked king learned of this, he decided it would be a good idea to give her to him, in order that she would become a snare for him. Saul hoped she would betray David for his sake. But this plan also backfired. It wasn’t long before Saul learned that Michal really loved David. She would have no part in his conspiracy against the husband she had come to dearly love. The king was furious about this, and from this point on his total wrath was vented on David, for he feared him greatly. The majority of the remainder of his life was spent chasing him, with the avowed purpose of killing him.
And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually. Then the princes of the Philistines went forth; and it came to pass, after they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was much esteemed (1 Sam. 18:29-30).
The more David did, the more the people respected him. The more respect David gained, the more angry Saul became. It was a vicious circle. Saul chased and David fled. For years, David ran from one place to another. He literally ran for his life.
THE PLACES THAT HE RAN
It was never David’s desire to run throughout the countryside. He surely would have preferred to have settled in one place. After all, during his younger years had he not wandered throughout the wilderness caring for his father’s flocks? However, to save his life, David had no choice but to keep on moving. The Bible records in detail many of the places David went. There are at least fourteen of them.
It all started with the third time Saul tried to kill David with his javelin. David fled from his presence and went back home to be with his wife, Michal. Having learned that soldiers had been dispatched to kill her husband in the morning, she lowered him from a window to safety. With his escape, David fled to Ramah to see Samuel, the elderly high priest who had anointed him. Together they went on to Naioth (1 Sam. 19:18).
Saul came to Naioth to see Samuel, but David fled again. This time he fled to an unnamed place where he and Jonathan, Saul’s son and heir apparent to the throne, spent some time together. When Saul later made an attempt on Jonathan’s life, Jonathan warned David to flee again.
David’s next stop was at Nob (1 Sam. 21:1) where he met Ahimelech the priest. Hungry, he convinced him to give his band shewbread for food. To defend himself, David took the sword of Goliath, which was behind the ephod.
Again David fled, this time to Achish, king of Gath (1 Sam. 21:10). Fearing Achish, David feigned madness and fled from him, this time to the cave of Adullam. There he gathered together a ragtag band of about four hundred misfits. Next, he moved on in his flight to Mizpeh, then to the forest of Hereth (1 Sam. 22:3,5). So, it is very evident that David ran for his life.
When David learned that the Philistines were robbing and plundering the people at Keilah, he and his men moved out to fight them. He defeated the enemy and delivered the oppressed citizens of that city; however, when they proved themselves to be untrustworthy, the Lord warned David to flee again. Next he went to the wilderness of Ziph. From there it was on to the hill of Hachilah and to the wilderness of Maon, both south of Jeshimon. At one point Saul searched for David on one side of a mountain, while David was on the other. Saul and his men finally surrounded him, and the situation looked desperate. But when word came to Saul of a Philistine invasion, he rushed back home, letting up on David for a short time. David then left the area and went to the wilderness of En-gedi, overlooking the Dead Sea, hoping to find safety and rest.
So strong was Saul’s hatred for David, that as soon as the battle with the Philistine invaders was over, he rallied three thousand troops to chase this one young man. David was certainly a hunted man.
After a short break, as recorded in 1 Samuel 24, the search was on again. Following the death and burial of Samuel, David was on the run once more. He went into the wilderness of Paran. The final place to which he fled was back to the hill Hachilah, near Jeshimon.
David certainly got to see many places in these early years. He traveled through the cities of his nation and spent time in the wilderness. The Lord used this to prepare him for the future, although he was hunted like a wild animal. For David to mature, he had to learn how to live under pressure. David certainly passed that test.
THE REASONS HE RAN
First, David ran because of the hatred of Saul. The king had turned away from the sweet fellowship he once had with the Lord. The result was that the Spirit of God departed from him. Instead, his life was filled with mental attitude sins. Jealousy, anger and hatred took control. He could not stand the thought of someone else being the ruler. With his old sin nature in control, he decided he could handle David. He would kill him! That would solve the problem. But it didn’t.
Secondly, the young man anointed to be Israel’s next king ran because he had to learn some lessons. David needed to learn that the Lord would protect him. With all the resources granted to Saul, he was unable to touch David. David could only have written some of the most exquisite passages in the Psalms after going through his wilderness training. He no longer was the shepherd lad. He had been in God’s training school to become the next king.
Thirdly, God allowed David to be chased all over the country so he could expose him to the people. After he killed Goliath, did not the people cry out what a great warrior he was? Traveling throughout the land, David became known by the people. His name must have become a household word. His reputation was superb. God used the testing to prepare David and the people for what lay ahead. He would soon be king over a united Israel. The people had to somehow come to know and trust him. God’s way of doing this was just a little different than the way in which we might have done it.
OPPORTUNITIES HE HAD
During this wilderness time, it is very obvious that David could have destroyed Saul and taken over the rulership several times. The Bible clearly delineates this on at least two separate occasions.
The first occasion is recorded in 1 Samuel 24 when David was in hiding at En-gedi. Saul was in the area searching for him with three thousand troops. Apparently night came upon them, and they did the natural thing. They sought safety and shelter in a cave, probably had dinner and went to sleep.
Unknown to them, David and his men were also inside the same cave. With his adversary in a deep sleep, David had the opportunity to destroy Saul. His men encouraged him to kill their king and end his problem once and for all.
Yielding to the temptation, David arose and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe while he slept. The normal reaction would have been one of rejoicing, but not for David. God broke his tender heart because of this deed.
And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord. So David restrained his servants with these words, and permitted them not to rise against Saul . . . (1 Sam. 24:6, 7a).
Having sneaked out of the cave quietly, David cried out, awaking Saul and his men. As they filed out, David bowed to the king and asked why Saul had listened to the false advice of men who told him that David was out to destroy him. David promised he would seek no harm for Saul: “. . . mine hand shall not be upon thee” (1 Sam. 24:12b). Saul then realized his life had been spared. He admitted he knew that David would become king, but he pleaded with David to spare his family, to which David agreed.
The second occasion is found in 1 Samuel 26. Saul took his three thousand men to find David in the wilderness of Ziph. Again, Saul was asleep. This time David refused the temptation to kill Saul, even though Abishai begged him to do so.
David only took Saul’s spear and his cruse of water. He went off to a high hill and shouted, awaking Saul and his men. When he showed them the implements he had taken, it was obvious he had been in the camp. Saul knew his life had been spared once more.
“. . . Why doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? . . .” David inquired (1 Sam. 26:18). In other words, he asked Saul why he had been chasing him. If it were of God, let the Lord accept an offering and grant forgiveness. If men caused it, let them be accursed.
PEACE WITH SAUL
“Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son, David; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day. Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly” (1 Sam. 26:21).
“. . . and Saul returned to his place” (26:25c). “And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath, and he sought no more again for him” (1 Sam. 27:4).
The confrontation now completed, the chase was ended. No more would Saul and his men waste time and energy seeking to destroy David. There is no record that they ever met again. Saul went out to battle and met an early death. David was freed to fight the enemy. He began to take the land from them. The Lord had prepared the way to raise up His new king.
There are often differences between God’s children. Many rifts and problems occur. Sometimes we take human control, and we become like Saul, seeking to drive out those who would oppose us. This is so natural in the flesh.
Would to God that we would not be like Saul, but rather like David. If we have wronged another believer, let us seek forgiveness and attempt to settle the problem. Saul lost his testimony and eventually his life. David, on the other hand, behaved wisely and in the power of the Lord. He gained the respect of the people and went on to become the king of Israel.