1 Samuel 31 – “What will they say when I’m gone?”



1 Samuel 31.



LEGEND: Told by Peter Marshall, one time Chaplain to the US Senate. “Tells of a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to the market. Before long the servant returned, white and trembling, very agitated said to his master, ‘Down in the market I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned around I saw that it was death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me a horse that I may hasten away to avoid her. I will ride to Samarra and hide there, and death will not find me!’

          The merchant lent the horse and the servant galloped away in great haste.

Later the merchant went to the market and saw death standing in the crowd. He went and asked her, ‘Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make a threatening gesture?’

          ‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ Death said, ‘It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra!’”

Each of us has an appointment with death – Have you faced up to the fact of death? Your own and others!

How we deal with the question of death – whether ours or others – will have a profound impact on how we live our lives.

It is also true that how we live our lives will have a profound impact on how we die – not the manner of our physical death as we have not control over that unless we plan suicide – but on our attitude towards dying!

We come to a stage in the life of David where Saul the king, David’s predecessor dies in battle along with his son Jonathan.

What do we learn from Saul’s death AND What do we learn from David’s reaction to the death of Saul, who hated and pursued David and to the death of Jonathan whom David loved very deeply!


1 Samuel 31 is an account of how King Saul dies. In the end he takes his own life – not that he would have lived much longer if he hadn’t – the Philistines archers had critically wounded Saul and soon they would be upon him and you can be sure they would have had their sport with him. In the same battle all of Saul’s sons are killed so he loses not only his own life but all his heirs – including Jonathan David’s dear friend.

It is a pathetic sight. The great King Saul — dead — and he had been at the beginning –

1 Samuel 10:1, 6-7

1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?    …….6 and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. (NIV)

It is a pathetic sight – the once great king mortally wounded by a Philistine arrow – the grounded littered with dead bodies.

He asks his armour bearer to finish him off … 1 Samuel 31:4

4 Saul said to his armour-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”

Isn’t it interesting that he is more concerned about his image before the enemy – even after his death the indignity of having his body used for the sport of the Philistines – BUT he is more concerned about that than he is about his relationship with God whom he is about to meet!

It is tragic but true that often we are far more concerned about our image before others / “What will people say?” / Disobeying God … refusing to live God’s way has that effect. It dulls our spiritual senses and we lose contact with what God thinks and with what God might say.

Of course Saul’s demise did not start on that fateful day on the battlefield. This day need not have been like this. Saul’s demise had started when little by little, day by day he had compromised … not followed God’s instructions but taken things into his own hands. Not just a slip here and there but a persistent disobedience to the instructions of God.

Saul is a classic example in the Bible of one who having being bless by God and anointed for ministry, in his case as king of Israel, but then because of willful, persistent, selfish desire, not only loses the blessing of God on his life BUT disaster is inevitable. We can never disobey God with impunity, there are always consequences.

We might go for a long time thinking, like Saul that everything will be all right – Maybe we have disobey – we have willfully chosen to do our own thing – whatever that might be —

— compromise in a physical sexual  relationship

— compromise in the area of business ethics

— compromise by only telling half the truth to save face and protect image

and God doesn’t send a bolt of lightening from heaven and so we think he doesn’t really mind and we have gotten away with it and so we dull our consciences and do it again (or something else) BUT make no mistake, God is not mock.

The unbeliever who refuses to believe in Christ for salvation will suffer the judgement of God in the final analysis.

The believer who like Saul disobeys will suffer the loss of God’s blessings and rewards – you may not lose your salvation but you will lose the joy and blessing!

Saul lost his ministry of being king – he lost God’s presence and thus his ability to be a blessing to others  … in fact he became a channel of doom. Because of his disobedience his family suffered, David and his family and followers suffered, the whole nation suffered, the result was a sound defeat by the enemy … the death of Saul and his sons … the nations remained in a state of disarray for years after.

What was Saul’s epitaph? Saul himself gives us his epitaph back in  …. 1 Samuel 26:21   21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.” (NIV)

I have acted like a fool – some translation “I have played the fool” – How aptly this described the life of Saul. Such promise, such opportunity. He was the pick of the litter. Head and shoulders above his fellow Israelites. He was anointed by God. He was handsome. He was strong. He was a natural leader. He had every advantage  BUT he played the fool.

Sidlow Baxter writes :…

A man plays the fool ….


  • when he neglects his godly friends, as Saul neglected Samuel.

Neglect of godly friends.

In the earlier part of his life Saul sought Samuel the prophet – Samuel was a godly man – Saul was determined to follow his own council and his own opinions. He was not comfortable in the presence of Samuel.

One of the first signs that things are slipping spiritually, in our lives, is when we loose the desire to spend time with God’s people in worship and fellowship.


  • when he goes on enterprises for God before God has sent him, as Saul did.

Running ahead of God.

In 1 Sam 14 – Trouble with the  Philistines – Saul asks God what to do but God doesn’t answer immediately so Saul makes a rash decision that would have Cost the life of his son Jonathan had the men not intervened. [And there were other examples!!]

We can be so impatient – we want God to guide us but he must do it now and do it our way – when our problems are not quickly solved OR our desires not satisfied we are tempted to make things happen/ to manipulate / to scheme….

The number of people I know who have be too impatient to wait for God’s timing and provision and married in haste and you know the second half of the proverb … repent at leisure!!


  • when he disobeys God in even seemingly small matters, as Saul did: for such disobedience nearly always leads on to worse defaults.

Little sins, unconfessed, grow into habitual patterns of sinful behaviour.

When Saul disobeyed in the early part of his kingship — instead of repenting and admitting his wrong he made excuses, he tried to cover up. And one by one the disobediences became a pattern of behaviour.


  • when he tries to cover up his disobedience to God by religious excuses, as Saul did. “To obey is better than sacrifice”.

A religious facade does not fool God.

Saul fights the Amalakites [1 Sam. 15] – the instructions are to destroy everything BUT Saul thinks he knows better and he keeps back some of the animals under the guise of offering them to God as sacrifices.

This is one of the most subtle temptations of all – being religious without really having a heart for God.

It can come in the form of doing good works, attending Church, saying prayers, studying the Bible … all of which are good things to do … BUT if these come from a heart that is far from God he is neither fooled nor impressed.

Remember that Jesus saved his harshest criticism for the Religious people of his day – they had all the outward trappings but  they were self-righteous hypocrites who were more interested in serving self and their own religious laws than in serving God.

Is it any wonder Jesus gave this warning …

Matthew 7:20-27 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (NIV)

Samuel to Saul “To obey is better than sacrifice”.


  • when he allows some jealousy or hated to master and enslave and deprave him, as Saul did, toward David.

Harbouring bitterness / jealousy eats you up inside.

Sometimes we carry deep feelings of hurt and jealousy and bitterness because of what someone may have said or done in the past. If these are left to fester they will only do us harm.

I am not saying that there is an instant remedy – sometimes it takes years to work through issues and deal with hurts … BUT are we making an effort … OR enjoying wallowing in feelings of self-pity, etc


  • when he turns from God, from the God he has grieved, and seeks an alternative in spiritism …

Seeking spiritual guidance / fulfillment in something / some-one other than God.

This is one of the hallmarks of the society in which we live. There is a great interest in the paranormal, [horoscopes, psychics, New Age religions ….] , trying to find fulfillment within ourselves, or through work, or possessions …….

And Christians are not immune from these attitudes … we can have a form of Christianity yet still be living for / worshipping God plus….


THE end of all these ways of sin and folly is moral and spiritual suicide. We can only finish such a down-grade course with the pathetic groan of Saul “I have played the fool!”

When anyone takes a path away from God – no matter how successful the world may acclaim one – God’s assessment will be agree with Saul’s I have played the fool!”


That will depend on what we are and how we live now.

The question is then “Who am I really trying to please?” “Whose opinion of us matters?”

We were made to please God .. The psalmist {David}expresses it this way ….

Psalm 103:1-2

1 [Of David.]

Praise the LORD, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits — (NIV)

BUT sin often causes us to lower our sights and seek other kinds of approval rather than God’s. We are often guilty of spending enormous amounts of energy seeking the approval of substitute gods.

We want to know that there is someone who is pleased with us who values us and what we have accomplished. We need the approval of other people, that is not wrong, except when it is to the exclusion of God’s evaluation of us. This was Saul’s problem – more concerned what people thought than what God thought.

ILLUS. I remember going to the funeral of an uncle of mine – a man we called uncle – he was not a blood relation. He was a bombastic, selfish man who lived at the club with his mates leaving his wife alone at home for hours and hours. The tribute at the funeral may me wonder if I was at the right Chapel!!


Will people have to make up kind things to say at your funeral? If God was the one giving the tribute at your funeral what would he say?

What would be your epitaph? Would it be like ……

  • David – “A man after God’s own Heart”
  • Abraham – “The Friend of God”
  • Enoch – “He walked with God”
  • Caleb – “Wholeheartedly followed the Lord”
  • Stephen – “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”
  • Jesus – “Surely this was a righteous man / the Son of god”


  • Would it be to spend more time at the office? NO – with your loved ones!
  • Would you make more of an effort to speak to that friend about Jesus?
  • How would your time set aside to prayer and study the Bible be affected?
  • Who would you go to to put right some wrong?

“When the time comes to die make sure that is all you have to do!” (Ed McCulley)

Do we want the assessment of our lives to be that of Saul’s “I HAVE PLAYED THE FOOL!”


Would we like the assessment to be that of another Saul – Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul in the NT 2 Timothy 4:7-8 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)

How we live our lives will determine how we face our death – like King Saul in the OT in fear and rebellion and out of touch with God.


Like Saul [Paul] in the NT looking forward with joy and hope to heaven because we know that as far as it depends on me , I have done all that is possible to live a life that pleases God.

Hebrews 13:15-16

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name.       [not just warm fuzzy feelings – but as the writer clarifies]     16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (NIV)

Like Saul, we play the fool when ….


– we neglect our godly friends.

– we run ahead of God.

– we allow little sins, unconfessed, to grow into habitual patterns of sinful behaviour.

– we hide behind a religious facade.

– we harbour bitterness / jealousy that eats us up inside.

– we seek spiritual guidance / fulfillment in something or someone other than God.





“What will they say about me when I’m  




“What will God say about me?”


1 Samuel 27 & 29-30 – Sleeping with the enemy!



1 Samuel 27 & 29 – 30.




ILLUS.: Harry is a Christian – he had had his own business BUT because of external pressures and unfair competition from  the opposition, things had become extremely bad – He believed God had seen him through a few scraps. However, the ongoing struggle to keep his head above water wore him down.

It seemed that the only way out – the only way to survive was to join a bigger outfit – one of the opposition. As first it had gone well – he prospered – his employees were happy.

The business ethics of the new company were very suspect – Harry compromised – he tried to operate with double standards – eventually the cracks showed – the new company decided they no longer wanted him – his own employees were very unhappy — it seemed as if he had lost everything for good. He was at the end of himself.

If Harry – via a time machine – met David in the Pub on a Friday night they would have had a lot in common —

For years now David had been hard pressed … the decade of his 20’s was spent in the wilderness with a price on his head. At a young age he was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to be the future king of Israel. He had served in the court of King Saul as a friend and musician. He became a national hero by killing Goliath and then many other victories against the Philistines. BUT then he was driven from these accomplishments and admirations to survive as best he could in the deserts around Palestine. We don’t know the exact time but it was about 10 years that David was a fugitive in the wilderness.

During his time in the wilderness many came to be his followers – this group grew to about 600 men – along with their wives and children  – it is a sizeable group that David is leading.

Those who came are described as follows … 1 Samuel 22:2 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered round him, and he became their leader.

This is the profile of David’s ‘congregation’  – people whose lives are characterized by debt, distress and discontent. They are not exactly the cream of Israelite society!! They are more like the dregs, the rejects, the misfits, the dropouts!! This was David’s company for 10 years – they lived together, worked together, worshipped together under David’s leadership. This ragtag, motley crew were the embryonic Holy Nation of God that would emerge under the Kingship of David.

Does this not sometimes remind us of what the church is like – are we not sometimes // often disappointed with the community of God’s people. We come to church looking for God and we find a motley crew of imperfect debtors, distressed and discontents.

So many people end up saying “I love God but I hate the church”.

BUT we need to remember that Jesus ate with crooks and prostitutes! “It is the sick not the healthy that need a Doctor” Jesus said.

Paul … 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (NIV)

You see the company of God’s people is made up of those we would not ordinarily choose to be with (and who would not ordinarily choose to be with us) BUT we had better get used to it! David did! Jesus did! Paul did!

You see, we don’t first become good and nice and then get God!! First we get God – ( or rather he gets us) – and then over a life time God trains us in his ways!


Towards the end of his outlaw days David having twice spared King Saul’s life, having been prevented from killing Nabal and seeing how God had provided and protected and lead him … NOW becomes despondent … despair sets in.

1.1. Despair.

This wilderness experience has dragged on for a long time and David is in despair … listen … 1 Samuel 27:1

1 But David thought to himself, “One of these days I shall be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” (NIV)

Thus began 16 months of what the movie title calls “Sleeping with the enemy!”

What led to this …

He takes his eyes off God and looks to himself … But David thought to himself…

He had been assured by God that he would be the next King of Israel – through Samuel, Abigail, Jonathan and even Saul himself. BUT he has become irrational and pessimistic. He ends up in the depth of despondency – he begins to function as if he is not chosen by God – as if he is not one of God’s children.

It is possible to be a Christian BUT to be disobedient and to behave as if one is not a Christian … at this point in David’s life he is operating on carnal rather than godly standards.

David goes to live amongst the Philistines, with King Achish of Gath … Isn’t that where Goliath came from? YES! Are these people not Israel’s enemy? YES! Didn’t David go here before and nearly get himself killed? YES!   SO what on earth is he thinking about going back??

Last time he was alone — this time he has his two wives and children and his 600 men and their followers with him. What he does affects his whole company!!

None of us lives to ourselves! We often hear in our society the cry! “What I do with my life is my business — I am not hurting anyone!!” BUT we do! No one lives independently from everyone else. What I do or do not do has an effect on those around me — when I make a decision that is contrary to God’s order of things it effects those who trust me, depend on me,  look up to me  — my children, my friends ….

ILLUS.: Modern example is parents in the last generation — many sent their Children to church/SS but could not be bothered to get involved themselves — is it any wonder that the present generation is ignorant and uninterested in the things of God??

Their actions have had a profound affect on their children // and the nation!

David’s action was born out of despair — this led eventually to duplicity

1.2. Duplicity.

David had moved away from God and at first things seemed to be OK. The pressure was gone  – he felt safe from Saul, he wasn’t been hunted down. He had been right that Saul would not follow him into enemy territory. What relief he must have felt. He had a false scene of security.

Sins and disobedience often has temporary pleasure — it can be exhilarating. We are fools if we portray sin as unpleasant. It is pleasurable and exhilarating … FOR A TIME!! Sin’s pleasures are always passing … ultimately they never satisfy! NEVER!

It is not always that we deliberately set out to sin. “I have had enough of God it is time for a bit of sin!!” NO! Sometimes the responsibility of following God feels too much and we simply drift … we want to release the pressure .. BUT little do we realise that the short-term benefits are soon overtaken by long-term disaster.

David started to lead a double life – he and his men had been used to a free and adventurous life in the wilderness now they chaffed under the constant scrutiny of King Achish. SO David persuade Achish to give him the town of Ziklag.

From there David raided the tribes of the Negev – [the South] the Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites were Israel’s enemies not the Philistines – Achish thought David was raiding the South of Judah – that is what David told him- so David lied ….in order to conceal his deceit he always killed every person in the tribes he raided to stop Achish discovering the truth.

When you operate under a cloak of secrecy you don’t want anyone asking so you are vague, you cover up and you lie!

David professed allegiance to Achish but he was lying to him. Achish trusted David and when the Philistine commanders challenged him he defended David …

1 Samuel 29:3-9 3 The commanders of the Philistines asked, “What about these Hebrews?”

Achish replied, “Is this not David, who was an officer of Saul king of Israel? He has already been with me for over a year, and from the day he left Saul until now, I have found no fault in him.”


9 Achish answered, “I know that you have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God;

All through this period of David’s life we have no record of him writing any psalms; he seems to have hung up his harp and lost his song and the only mention of God comes from the heathen King Achish.

All through this time instead of fighting the Philistines who are the enemies of Israel, God’s people – David is cozying up to them!!

This kind of duplicity eventually cracks and ends in disillusionment.

1.3. Disillusionment.

The time eventually comes when the Philistines are again at war with Israel and David has the dilemma of fighting with the Philistines against his own people. His life is completely back to front. He had fled from fighting Saul NOW he is faced with exactly that. BUT the Philistine Commanders don’t want him and he and his men are sent packing back to Ziklag.

Trying to live a double life always ends in disillusionment – I can’t claim to belong to God while at the same time trying to live without reference to God and his principles. When one first walks away from God because the responsibility of spiritual discipline seems too heavy, at first it feels pleasureable and freeing, maybe even delightful. But after a while the bills fall due and you have to pay the piper.

David and his men are disillusioned. It is never nice to be told you are not wanted.  So they head back to Ziklag … 1 Samuel 30:1-4

1 David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. (NIV)

Put yourself in David’s place – he is disowned by both sides – Philistine and Israel — spiritually he is far from God — he comes back to his home tired and disillusioned  and everything that he and his men own have been captured or burned to the ground — all he has is an ash heap!! And then to crown it all even his men turn against him. 1 Samuel 30:6 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters……

At this point there seems little to choose between David and King Saul.

2. THE ROAD TO RECOVERY.  (Chapter 30)

2.1. Repentance.

David had reach the lowest rung on the ladder – it is here that you either jump into oblivion or cry out to God for forgiveness and rescue — and this is where we see the difference between David and Saul — David does cry out to God!!! …. . But David found strength in the LORD his God.  [30:6] (NIV)

For the first time in 16 months David looks up and says “Oh God Help me!”

And he does — he always does. David makes no demands — sets no conditions — David finds that God has allowed this not to destroy him but rather to bring him to his knees and force him to look up!

Maybe you have know the joys and delights of walking with Christ. The excitement of being a Christian BUT like David you have drifted — you are a Christian but you are not living like one. NOW the disillusionment and depression of being away from God is killing you. Reach up! Come home! God is waiting, willing to forgive and ready to restore. It is time to return …. to find strength again in the Lord your God.

2.2. Reassurance.

David was repentant that day at Ziklag – he doesn’t rush off after the raiders he is prepared to wait for God.

The temptation so often is to ask for God’s help and then rush on ahead with our own solutions — David waited for God to show him what to do through Abiathar the priest.

2.3. Restoration.

With God’s reassurance David sets out to undo, as far as he could , the damage  his own conduct had caused. A third of his men [200] can’t continue BUT the rest press on and all is recovered.

This is due not to David’s prowess but to God’s mercy. The evidence that David has learned a lesson is that he is so generous to the 200 who could not make it …. 1 Samuel 30:23-25

23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All shall share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this. (NIV)

The restoration was not just of David’s family and goods but a restoration of the relationship between David and his God!!


This Ziklag period in David’s life is a good example of how when we move away from God he doesn’t abandon us. David is living in enemy territory – the Biblical narrator doesn’t pass judgement on David but simply tells us what David does.

Even in the place – Ziklag where David has gone – God is working out his purposes for David. God protects David from violating his covenant – he works out David’s salvation. Spiritual life is not so much what we do for God but what God does for us!

We live in a world system and a society that is basically contrary to God’s way. The Bible tells us that the world is under the power of the Evil One. Sometimes as Christians was drift or are sucked into that rather than towards God. BUT God is behind the scenes doing for us what we aren’t doing for ourselves.

3.1. Reality.

There are many people who are “living under the Patronage of Achish of Gath” – [Peterson]

Many of these are distressed about this – they feel guilty but honestly don’t know what to do. — jobs with companies that do business in ways that  show no regard for God’s principles. — married to spouses who despise the name of Jesus — tangled up in a system that exploits the poor and ignores the oppressed. There are few Christians who have not  experienced such thing for a time. This is the reality of life.

Peterson – “God is perfectly capable of working out his purposes in our lives even when we can’t lift a finger to help. Better yet, God is faithfully working out our salvation even when every time we lift a finger it seems to contribute to the other side, the Philistine side.”

3.2. Company.

In the midst of David’s Ziklag experience he had a community of his people around him … but these were the discontented, the debtor and the distressed.

This is not just David’s story, it is also the story of the 600 and their families, we know few names but this is a story about community.

“The Christian life is never just my story; it is a community of stories” – [Peterson] … each of our stories affects the other and is affected by it!! As we come into the Christian community and into the Church we discover that there are people in that community that we do not like / who irritate us // who cause us to be angry // hurt …. but God has called them to repentance too. We are a company of people – God’s people. God doesn’t call perfect people — he calls sinners .. you and me.

3.3. Sovereignty.

Having saved individuals God brings them together and sets about the life-time task of  changing them to be what HE wants. As we rub against each other and bump into each other … we see inconsistencies, failure, faithlessness, we moralise and doubt and ridicule, we whinge and complain  etc. ..etc….

BUT then we begin to see other things …. sacrifice, humility, honesty, courage in difficulty, joy in worship, faithfulness through suffering, obedience against the odds, constancy in prayer,…. in short we begin to see Christ lived out before us in the lives of our fellow Christians – NOT perfect but trophies to the sovereign work of God who is working out his purposes in our lives  – And in Ziklag of all places!!



1 Samuel 27 & 29-30.




      Ø Despair

      Ø Duplicity

      Ø Disillusionment




      Ø Repentance

      Ø Reassurance

      Ø Restoration




      Ø Reality

      Ø Company

      Ø Sovereignty

1 Samuel 25:1-44 – Men behaving badly…woman saves the day!


                           … WOMAN SAVES THE DAY!


1 Samuel 25:1-44.




Life is a very complex tangle of relationships … family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances, customers, clients, strangers … our paths cross with many others and life is such that we will at various time be insulted, hurt, rejected, criticized, ignored, victimised and so on.


Christians are not cut off from the realities of life – we do not live in a spiritual cocoon.

A very common experience is that we start off our spiritual life with enthusiasm and promise – a desire to know and serve God – like David to ‘have a heart for God’ – BUT then somewhere along the line we are spoiled and corrupted. We can so easily end up shipwrecked.


None of us is exempt from the potential of this process. Someone offends us, crosses us and we don’t get what we want and all our self-importance and ego surges to defend. And we set out to avenge our offended feelings and image!


If ever this applied to anyone it applied to David in his reaction to Nabal. If it was not for the intervention of a wise and gracious and courageous, not to mention, beautiful woman, David would have made a huge mistake.


So this is a story about MEN BEHAVING BADLY …. and about a WOMAN WHO SAVES THE DAY!



David and his band of followers moved out of the desert area around En-Gedi to an area called Maon. In the area lived a wealthy farmer named Nabal … his sheep and goats were out in the fields grazing. Israel is wild, rugged country – it still is, and not just geographically but also politically – wild groups of raiders would often fight with the shepherds and steal the stock – BUT David and his men were different and while they were in the area they protected the shepherds from these raiders.

It was customary, that when shearing time came, and a feast was held, those who had protected the sheep were rewarded for their protection. No law but like tipping a waiter for service given.


Nabal is shearing his sheep. So it is payday. David sends a delegation to Nabal … he sends warm greetings … wishes him well … and asks for some provisions.




Nabal is a wealthy man – 1000 goats and 3000 sheep – v.2 tells us that he is very wealthy – Heb. ‘heavy’ – this guy is loaded.

David is not asking for half his wealth – just a few provision for services rendered. NB that David doesn’t demand specific things or amounts … ………………. 1 Samuel 25:8 ……………. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’ ”


Listen to Nabal’s response … 1 Samuel 25:10-11

10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and my water, and my meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”


Nabal acts as if he has never heard of David – He not only refuses his request but he insults him … he lumps him together with the common criminals who are infesting the wilderness. He likens him to nothing more than a runaway slave!


Nabal is a self absorbed, egotistical fool. NB the number of times he uses the words ‘I’ – ‘my’ – ‘mine’ in v.11

Nabal’s name is very appropriate – it lit. means ‘fool’. Remember that in the Bible ‘fool’ is not someone who is simpleminded but someone who says ‘There is no God’ – not necessarily an atheist but a person who lives as if there is no God.


Nabal is also a harsh man – hard, stubborn and belligerent … 1 Samuel 25:3 3 His name was Nabal………… a Calebite, … surly and mean in his dealings. (NIV)


We might say that Nabal is not the most gracious man in the world!

His refusal and insult sparks a swift and violent reaction from David.




We are not exactly sure how long David and his men had been living in the wilderness – their provisions would have been meagre – they were looking forward to a few roasted lambs and some home baking. There are few beasts more irritable than hungry men.



ILLUS.: Remember when I was in the army – out on patrol for days in the desert in SWA [now Namibia] – coming back to base the patrol always got first place in line for food and the cooks would give bigger portions – because the camp commander knew that when men stomachs are full they are more manageable!!


When David’s hears the report of Nabal’s response he loses it. He is so angry. He is outrage. He wants vengeance. He is going to kill this rude, harsh, ungrateful fool. He is going with 400 armed men – to deal with a farmer and a few shepherds – a bit of overkill isn’t it??!


David over-reacts – doesn’t this touch a chord within each of us? someone hit us at a vulnerable spot – we feel hurt, insulted, snubbed, our pride is dented and we react, in fact we usually over-react. I know I have done it!!


When Saul was out to kill David he had been a model of patience and godliness … he had treated Saul with dignity as God’s anointed.

When King Saul felt threatened he went and wiped out the entire town of Nob …now David is on the verge of become like Saul … out to get anyone who threatened his status.

David! Where is your self-restraint … a few insulting words from a fool like Nabal and you have gone crazy!”


Doesn’t this expose something in us that should make us cringe. It shows how sinful the heart really is even when it has been renewed by grace!

This incident tells us that is doesn’t matter how long I have been a Christian or how many battles with temptation I may have won. I may have defeated sin in this and that area of my life yesterday BUT I can so easily fall flat on my face today!


ILLUS.: There is a saying in sports circles that you are only as good as your last game!


A similar principle operates in the spiritual realm … we may have been Christians for many years … struggled to overcome various sins and temptations and then at the pinprick of an insult we explode into vengeful attack mode! To show restraint in dealing with one person who is unkind or hateful is no guarantee that I will not explode at the next one who does it.


That is what David did … by his reaction David is behaving and becoming just like Nabal. The very thing that he despises is the very thing that he is succumbing to!!

Nabal is a fool and a vulgar man and that provokes David to react with like vulgarity … Listen to his crudity … you might not like this but this is what it says in the KJV … 1 Samuel 25:21-22 21 Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow  [NABAL] hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good. 22 So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. (KJV)


When we react in an ungodly way to ungodly insults we are becoming like the one you insulted or offended us.


So we have Nabal the ‘Fool’ and David the ‘Revenger’ … MEN BEHAVING BADLY!


And it would have ended in disaster and blood shed had it not been for the swift and wise intervention of a beautiful woman!




Abigail is Nabal’s wife … and what a contrast to her fool of a husband.

1 Samuel 25:3 3 ….. his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings. (NIV)


She is a lovely woman within and without. She is a wise woman whose decisions make good sense. She is governed by good-logical thinking rather than by her emotions. And if that weren’t enough she was also good looking.


She get a report from the servants that her foolish husband had insulted David and that he is on his way with 400 men to deal with it.

It is obviously common knowledge that she is the sensible wise one in the family – the servants know that they can go to her rather than to her husband. It makes you wonder who was the brains behind the accumulation of the wealth anyway!

The servants come to her. She is approachable. Her husband is not. She see her husband for what he is. She knows his weaknesses and at this moment he is weak and she doesn’t fight him but protects.

She doesn’t become all ‘super-spiritual’ – “I think I should pray about this!”

There is a time to pray and there is a time to act – this situation demanded action. BUT it is clear from the way she approaches David that she is a godly woman.


We can’t suddenly become spiritual when a crisis hit, we need to be developing our spiritual strength on and on-going basis – in worship and fellowship with God and with his people [the church] so that when a crisis hits we have the spiritual wisdom and courage to act decisively.


This was Abigail … and here she acts in favour of her spouse.

Some of the best counsel a man can get is from his wife, who knows him better than anyone else on earth. The best kind of help / direction / and ever rebuke often comes from our spouses. They know when to do it, how to do it and it is usually done with the right motives!!


If Nabal had consulted his wife in this matter the incident wouldn’t have occurred. BUT for Abigail to confront Nabal now would be suicidal and so she acts on his behalf .. without his knowledge!


There is some beauty that is only skin deep and is applied from without and sometimes it is accompanied by an empty head and a shallow life. NOT SO with  Abigail who is both beautiful and wise!


She puts together a huge hamper and goes to meet David and his men.

She bows before David with reverence and respect. She doesn’t try to cover her husband’s foolishness or make excuses. BUT she takes the responsibility upon herself as the go-between / mediator. She stands BETWEEN NABAL AND DAVID bearing gifts of food and appealing to reason!


She also acts as a mediator BETWEEN GOD AND DAVID.


What she says to David can be summarized like this ..  “David please, please don’t do this thing. It is not worthy of the future King of Israel. Remember God’s anointing on you. Remember God’s mercy to you. Don’t stoop to fighting personal grudge battles. Your task is to fight the battles of the Lord.”


The she said something that struck at David’s heart and must have hit him between the eyes like the stone from his sling had hit Goliath between the eyes. … 1 Samuel 25:29 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. (NIV)


Remember Goliath, David, how you went out in the power of the God of Israel!” David wasn’t doing that now.


David wasn’t about God’s business he was out to exact personal vengeance and if he didn’t stop he would damage his track record and he would have blood on his hands.

David has been out in the wilderness NOT to see how strong and resilient he is BUT how to discover the strength and faithfulness of God. When God puts us through the wilderness experience it is not to make us self-reliant and independent BUT rather to make us depend entirely on God himself.


Nabal was no Goliath. If David hadn’t stopped he would have been no better than Nabal. One fool in this story is enough.


Astonishingly David stops – listens – looks! Here on her knees between David’s army and Nabal is Beauty – Abigail speaks and she speaks God back into David’s life.


Peterson “ The accelerating momentum of the story is stopped and then reversed by Abigail, marginal Abigail. Abigail is marginal because she’s a women in a man-dominated world. Abigail is marginal because she is weaponless in a sword-rattling world.”


Abigail’s beauty both inward and outward – her action and her words – her beauty shows up David’s plunge into ugliness and he sees and he hears God again.

Her beauty puts David in touch with the Lord again, and with the beauty of the Lord. He suddenly realises who he is, what he is doing and what his life is for.



Abigail brings David back in touch with God.

This is a beautiful picture of our Lord Jesus Christ – the one who is our mediator – who in all his beauty and splendour became the go-between between heaven and earth — and still fulfills that role. And calls us as his people – his church on earth [ together and individually] – to be ‘Abigails’, reflecting the beauty of the Lord to those who are making fool of themselves by living life without reference to God.

That is the lesson that Abigail teaches us.


There is another lesson that we can learn from David.

David responds to Abigail’s pleading!!


What a teachable spirit David has! Hears is David with his sword ready to kill YET he stops and listens to this woman without interrupting – and he changes! A man after God’s heart. He was willing to change! He was willing to admit he was wrong and change!

Sometimes we become angry and bitter and blind and we stubbornly refuse to change because we believe that we are right.

David was right that he had been wronged BUT he was wrong to be a revenger!

BUT David had the grace and a God-sensitive heart to stop and turn around when someone godly and wise gave him a ‘word in season’.


That is what we need to be like flexible and teachable. Because if we are not flexible and teachable we will end up being like Nabal – harsh and mean and foolish. David set out to deal with Nabal but that isn’t spirituality in that … all that would have done would be to reduce David to Nabal’s level.


When we are hurt / insulted / wronged in some way whether real or imaginary it is so easy to become wrapped up in ourselves and to want to attack to defend our egos or to erect a protective wall  — BUT in so doing we can become so wrapped up in ourselves that we can entirely forget about God.


God doesn’t want us to be wrapped up in ourselves — he wants us to be wrapped up in Him … listen to what Abigail says in 1 Samuel 25:29 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. (NIV)

bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God – What a wonderful promise!

Colossians 3:2-3 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (NIV)


Learn to think like God and not like Nabal. As a Christian your life is wrapped up in Christ. Get God’s perspective on things – don’t fall into the trap of evaluating live from the perspective of ‘one who lives life with no reference to God and his word.


God honoured David and shortly afterwards Nabal died and David courted and married Abigail. If vengeance is required God will see to it in his time.

For our part we need to be teachable like David and wise and beautiful like Abigail.





1 Samuel 25:1-44



            ~ he spurns a reasonable request

            ~ he insults a man with an army



            ~ he over-reacts because his pride is hurt

            ~ past restraint is no guarantee against

                   future failure


           … A WOMAN SAVES THE DAY!!



            ~ between Nabal and David

            ~ between God and David

                  ~ Abigail puts David back in touch

                        with God

                  ~ David is teachable / flexible


1 Samuel 24:1-22 – Mistreatment and retaliation



1 Samuel 24:1-22.




Something that every person has to deal with in life is conflict with other people / or opposition from other people  / or being the victim of someone else’s aggression.


It starts from an early age –

ILLUS.: – you only have to come to the toddlers group on a Tuesday morning to see that even at that age there is aggression and conflict – over a toy or who goes down the slide first.

When as an adult you see one child striking out at another and you intervene and try to resolve the situation and find out what caused the problem … “What is a very common response from one or both?”  — “She started it!!”


The implication being – though the child would not articulate it is this way – “Because So-and-so hurt me in some way I therefore have the right to retaliate!”


If you hurt me I am going to hurt you back – very often with interest!


We see it in homes – children/ teenager are hurt by their parent – intentionally or not – the child feels aggrieved – is cheeky/ misbehaves etc…  {Parents are not always responsible for a child’s misbehaviour!! – often comes naturally with no provocation!}


At school you may have been told off by a teacher or put down in front of the class and you carry a grudge against that teacher / bad-mouth him at every opportunity / you might even like to damage his car if you could do it and not get caught!!

Because you feel hurt by that teacher you feel you have the right to retaliate!


At work a colleague may stab you in the back – Do you respond in like manner with the reasoning “I am only doing to her what she did to me!”


May be you trusted a friend with some intimate details of your life and he spreads it around. “Are you justified in responding in kind?”


Even in the Church family you get hurt because of what someone says or does. Do we file it away for future revenge.


We may pride ourselves that WE would not do anything by way of retaliation BUT if something bad happens to that person or they are hurt by another we are secretly delighted – they deserve what they  got because of what they did to me.


We ease our consciences by saying “Well, he got what was coming to him – he deserved it!”



David —

I do not know anyone personally who has been the target of a murderous plot. Someone who is on a hit list without the benefit of a democratic trial by jury.

David was in such a position… as we have seen over the past weeks. King Saul was out to get him — David was being victimized — Is there justification for righteous retaliation?




1.1. The situation.


Saul is relentless in his pursuit of David … not only Saul but his whole army with him… 1 Samuel 23:14

14 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. …………………

1 Samuel 24:2 2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. (NIV)


David and his men are fugitives hiding in the Wilderness of En-Gedi .. last week we saw how rugged the country is … so while is was a harsh place to live it was also a good place to hide because it was full of crags and cliffs and caves.


1.2. The Opportunity.

1 Samuel 24:3-4

3 He [SAUL] came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ ”


The Bible is a very down to earth book – Saul is chasing David and as nature would have it Saul needs to go to the loo. Well what better place than a cave when you are in the country – it is sheltered and private.

Well Saul thought it was private … little did he know that David and his men were hiding in the very cave he chose. Talk about being vulnerable.

It is bad enough the king being seen at that delicate moment but in the very presence of the enemy … what an opportunity for David. … If he killed Saul not only would he be able to stop running BUT he would also become King in the place of Saul … What a temptation for David! What a test!!


David’s men are convinced that this is a God-given opportunity … by human logic it seemed so obvious didn’t it.

An opportunity presents itself for retaliation should David not take it.


You are in the office and the one who stabbed you in the back is being criticise it is so easy to just turn the knife … add your voice to the character assassination.

Or be economical with the truth to show that person in a bad light.


David and his men have been trained to fight and here is there enemy at his most vulnerable moment . “Go for it David! This is it!”


1.3. The Action.

Picture the scene … David creeps up behind Saul, dagger in hand ready to plunge it into Saul’s back. You can almost heard the men’s silence applause!


And what does David do … he becomes a tailor for a moment and redesigns the kings robe!


1.4. The Reaction.

… from the men.

We are not told what the reaction of David’s men is but we can guess.

“David you are a fool, you had him at your mercy and you let him slip away! David he was trying to kill you, you have every right to protect yourself!”


… from David.

David’s reaction is quite different. He doesn’t chastise himself for missing an opportunity … BUT rather his conscience bothers him for what he did.

His men are baffled … and David has to persuade them with strong words of rebuke!


1 Samuel 24:5-7

5 Afterwards, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. (NIV)


David had learned many lessons in the wilderness … during that time he had been in close contact with God … he was learning to think the way God wanted him to think … he had learnt that God was his refuge / his protection / and he didn’t need to play God … in fact he had learned that it is wrong to play God. Thus to raise his hand against the one God anointed, even if he was being victimised, was not his right … God would deal with Saul in his own time.


It is so easy to justify retaliation / revenge / getting even … we can rationalize when we yield to temptation. “I didn’t kill anyone, it was just a snip!”

“I didn’t have a stand up argument, it was just a little dig!” / and unkind remark /a hurtful retort /…. it is so easy to justify! He does it to me doesn’t he?

BUT those small things are small steps along the path of retaliation and revenge. And even a small step in that direction is a wrong step.


Our society /or our friends might consider steps along that path perfectly justifiable /even commendable – as David’s men no doubt did – but ultimately we have to deal with God and he wants us to have a tender conscience.


You see if we really want to walk with God we have to deal with the little things / the details as well as the big things.


Even for a snippet of the king’s robe David says “That wasn’t right!” It bothered him.


David learned a principle which he teaches his men.

Had Saul been in the wrong? YES! no question.

Was it David’s job to make it right? NO! that was God’s job.





1 Samuel 24:8-9

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? (NIV)

… and he goes on to tell Saul that he is wrong in his assessment of David.


2.1. Humility.

NB first that David doesn’t rub Saul’s nose in it. He treats Saul with the respect that is due to a king.

ILLUS.: When I was in the army we were taught that we were to respect a persons rank. You saluted an officer irrespective of whether or not you like him. You had to respect the rank conferred on him by the Military Authority.


That is what David is doing here – he knows that Saul was anointed king by God and so out of respect for God and his chosen king he treats Saul with the dignity deserving of kings.


He shows his humility by treating Saul with respect … BUT also by not parading his own righteousness.

He presents the truth … he does not polish his own ego.

It is so easy when you know you are in the right to become very self-righteous and patronising to the one you wronged you.


2.2. Honesty.


David does something very important here – wrong is being done against him and it is necessary for him to declare the truth.

We have a tendency very often to leave things alone. “Oh, just leave it, it will all work out!”   If it is a trivial matter and what we are defending is our own pride and ego then, yes, it is better left alone!   If, however, it is an important principle then we need to declare the truth.

David – “King Saul, people are telling lies about me and you are listening to false counsel. — here is the proof, I could have killed you but I didn’t!”


He now reiterates the principle he had explained to his men. “God is judge and we have no right to usurp his role!” … 1 Samuel 24:15 15 May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.” (NIV)


Our judgement is not always true – it is much safer to leave matters in God’s hands.



2.3. Reality.


Saul’s response is one of remorse … 1 Samuel 24:16-17

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. (NIV)

… he goes on to acknowledge that David will one day be king.

Then he goes away and leaves David alone. BUT what does David do… “Does he rush back to the palace?”  NO! 1 Samuel 24:22

22 … Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. (NIV)

David is not naive, he knows Saul too well, and he was right as before long he was again hunting David.


Saul is a sorrowful character … he appears he to have repented, he is sorry for hunting David BUT it doesn’t last. He was sorry for the moment but there is no follow through. He is not truly repentant BUT rather feeling rather foolish for being show up by a better man than he.


It is easy to become emotional and feel sorry for ourselves rather than sorry for our sin before God. What is the benefit of having our hearts stirred, of being emotionally upset  if it doesn’t lead to a heart for God. Appropriate emotion is good and right – and maybe we need more of it – but if it stops there and doesn’t lead to action then is may only serve to lead us deeper into sin and rebellion.


How many have come face to face with the love of God and their hearts are stirred and yet they have silenced that holy emotion and gone out to live in disobedience to God’s principles.

Saul came so close to true repentance at the impact of David’s love BUT it did not last, sadly!


David’s non-retaliatory response to Saul’s aggression did produce a favourable response in Saul, at least for a time … a good example of the proverb … “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies be at peace with him”


The reality of life is that the “enemy” – whoever you happen to be at odds with – will not always see the error of his ways. You may not get a quick acknowledgment that you are right and that he/she is sorry. What you might well get is another load of abuse and aggression!

As Christians we are to act in a kind, loving truthful way … but we are not to be naive and gullible … rather  “… as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves…”


But we are responsible for declaring the truth — we are not responsible for the reaction it produces — let me remind you though that we need to do it in a humble and honest way — not rubbing the other person’s nose in it NOR rubbing our own pride!




What can we learn from this incident in David’s life.


3.1. People aren’t perfect so expect to be wronged.

The same nature that was in King Saul is in every person, including you and me.

If we are guilty of treating others badly we need to come to terms with it, acknowledge and call it what God calls it — Sin… and then repent!


3.2. Being wronged is inevitable so expect feelings of revenge.

I am not saying retaliate … but we will feel like retaliating and getting even. These feeling will surely come.

Handle mistreatment is not easy and doing it God’s way does not come naturally.

That is why what Jesus taught was so revolutionary .. Luke 6:31 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. (NIV) -.. .. “NOT as they DO to you!!”

It is very rare for a person not to retaliate, or at least not want to.


3.3. Feelings of revenge are predictable so accept God’s help.

David’s men wanted David to kill Saul and he almost did .. but he stopped and he put right even the small thing he did do.


Are you resentful because of the way someone has treated you … holding a grudge … hoping for an opportunity to get back.

It stirs you up,…. maybe you can sleep at night thinking about it … the desire for revenge is a very subtle temptation because we find it easy to justify and even our friends and society may commend us for ‘standing up for ourselves’.


So what about that friend who has broken your confidence … that teacher who told you off … that boss who treated you unfairly … that colleague who stabbed you in the back … or even you spouse who has let you down?


You can allow feeling of resentment, anger and bitterness to eat you up inside … or you can learn to forgive! Ask for God’s help to forgive through Jesus Christ.

We need to ask forgiveness for ourselves for allowing roots of bitterness and resentment to have built up in our hearts.

Yes we may have been wronged — even very badly hurt – and it is not right what the other person did — they are wrong … and we maybe feel justified in retaliating … BUT God calls it something else …

Romans 12:18-21 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. ………       21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)


How often are we to take revenge? “Never”, says God, … Not sometimes! Not even occasionally!

We are not talking about standing up for what is right in public — or defending a just cause.

What we are talking about is personal offense .. when harm is done to us and we don’t like it and we want to get even … and we fan the flames by refusing to forgive.


ILLUS.: Years ago Janet and I resigned from an organisation we had worked with for some time – we had little choice at the time – as things were said about us that were not truth – a letter was then circulated giving false reasons  as to why we left. To try and counter the accusations would have meant dragging others into the situation and would have brought God’s name into disrepute amongst some who were not Christians. It was extremely difficult not to retaliate and defend ourselves BUT we felt it was right. Years later we have been amazed how God has brought out the truth in other ways and we have been vindicated – not with everyone involved but with many.

19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath – God has a way of being the truth to light — and if not in this life certainly at the judgement – let’s leave it to him.


If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone – you can’t change the other person BUT you can handle your part, to forgive, with God’s help.


If anyone ever had a right to retaliate and to defend his rights it was Jesus … Falsely accused … convicted and put to death on trumpt up charges yet responded .. “Father, forgive them …”  Let’s learn from David and from Jesus that forgiveness is better than revenge. It may help the one who committed the wrong to realise their error and put it right BUT even if not it is to our benefit and to God’s glory when we leave vengeance to him.



1 Samuel 24:1-22



The Situation

The Opportunity

The Action

The Reaction

                … from David’s men

                … from David himself








People aren’t perfect …                                       so expect to be wronged

Being wronged is inevitable …                           so expect  feelings of revenge

Feelings of revenge are predictable …             so accept God’s help


Jesus – “LOVE  YOUR   ENEMIES”    Matthew 5:44


1 Samuel 23:1-29 – David in the desert



1 Samuel 23:1 -29 (Psalm 142 and 57)




ILLUS.: 1984 I went to luncheon with a friend – BU {Baptist Union} Assembly in RSA {South Africa} – I went reluctantly – a promational lunch from by a Tour company promoting tours to Israel. At the end there was a ticket draw and guess who won! The following year I went to Israel for a week, all expenses paid.

During that week we went to En-Gedi, an oasis alongside the Dead Sea – I swam (floated) in the Dead Sea.


West of the Dead Sea are very steep cliffs and crags and precipices – they are barren and dry and dusty – it is a vast expanse of wilderness with many caves and canyons. It is one of the harshest and most inhospitable places on earth.


It is sorching during the day – the heat is so oppressive that it feel like you are under a magnifying glass in the noon day sun. At night, esp. during the winter, it is bitterly cold.




In the wilderness of En-Gedi is where David spent many years eking out an existence while he was on the run from the murderous king Saul.


ILLUS.: Ever watched a Western movie and seen the parched, austere Badlands?

En-Gedi is like that!!


Wilderness is harsh and wild and yet there is something strangely attractive about the wild –

Jack London’s famous book is entitled The Call Of The Wild – and there a call – there is something that draws us.


There is something wonderful and well as frightening about the wild. There are sights and sounds and smells — there is silence sometimes, and solitude.

The majestic mountains, the deep ravines, the rolling plains, the torrents of whitewater or the parched riverbed …

There are certain things you can only know when you have climbed a mountain or walked a trail.


David didn’t start off in the wilderness nor did he end up there BUT he spent some very important years there. It seems that those, like David, who have a heart for God, spend some time in the wilderness.

David didn’t choose to go into the desert – he didn’t go on a safari – or a nature trail to photograph lizards and hyenas or exotic wild flowers. His name was David the shepherd of Bethlehem — NOT David Attenborough of the BBC.

He went there are a fugitive – running for his life from the maniac who wanted to kill him, King Saul.


In the wilderness David found peace and beauty.


The wilderness can be a place of beauty and of danger. A majestic mountain can become dangerously deadly when the mist descends and the cold front arrives; a magnificent animal in a camera lense can suddenly become a deadly killer; a picturesque mountain stream can become an icy killer [or grave] if your foot slips…


We are removed from the physical wilderness as we surround ourselves with all the mod cons — towns and cities, roads and streetlights, central heating and superstores, NHS and life insurance…

BUT there are times and circumstances in life that no matter how modern or sophisticated we have become we are plunged into a wilderness.

We can be going along fine – life is good to us and suddenly – suddenly we are no longer in control – something goes wrong – Our physical health, our emotional wellbeing, our jobs, our friends, our family …


All of a sudden we are in a terribly frightening and dangerous desert – we are seeing and hearing and experiencing things that are new and scary – a normal response!! BUT if at the same time we will be alert to the dealing of God in our life – there can be great beauty in the desert as we learn something of the  mystery of God and the wonder of life.


The PLACE David was in — starting the cave of Adullum … the desert of Ziph … the wilderness of En-Gedi.




When David first ran – he was alone – first to the Priests at Nob and then to Gath, the Philistine town and then to the cave of Adullum …

In a strange place away from all that is familiar – alone except for God … it is during this time that he writes …

Psalm 142:1-7

1 [A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.]

I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.

2 I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.

3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.

In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.

4 Look to my right and see; no-one is concerned for me.

I have no refuge; no-one cares for my life.

5 I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;

rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. (NIV)


Does David express how you have felt at times ~~ (he does for me) ~~ it that how you feel now?? ~~ If you are a child of God there will be times when he takes you through the wildernesses of life.

Remember that those he loves he disciplines and puts to the test ~~ an easy, comfortable, problem-free life is not necessarily a sign of God blessing.


God was preparing David for kingship and he was putting him through a vigorous training programme ~~

God has removed all the props from David’s life ~~ in that aloneness, in that dark cave, in the despair, there is no escape and no one to turn to BUT God!!


The people that David encounters in these chapters are not those who come to help him BUT those who come to him for help … his family, who had always treated him well – remember how he wasn’t even invited to the party when Samuel came to visit; and how his brothers ridiculed and criticized him when he arrived in the army camp –  …

then look at the rabble that God sends him to be the raw material that he has to work with to build an army …

1 Samuel 22:2 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered round him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. (NIV)

Saul had mistreated and abused the country and those disaffected came running to David — he was a kind of Robin Hood of the time ..


God was beginning the process of rebuilding David’s life … this rabble, initially about 400,  this motley crew were to become David’s mighty men of valour, his right hand men, the officers in his government when he became King.

This number soon became 600 … and then continued until the whole nation was behind him.


Later another would come … led into the same wilderness … put to the test … he would draw around himself a motley bunch of people who in time, in dependence on God would turn the world upside down … and his holy nation, the church is still growing, and will continue until he is crown King of Kings and Lord of lords.


God had a plan for David … to use him for his glory. He has a plan for you and for me; it won’t always be pleasant – it will sometimes go through the wilderness BUT the wilderness is there to teach us and mould us in a way that nothing else can.




Besides the harshness of living in the wilderness David had other pressures to cope with …

1) He was surrounded by fearful followers.

Fear had caused David to panic and run and in the process make some major blunders. Now he has 400 men who are afraid .. can he teach them from the lessons he has learned.

The Philistines are attacking Keilah .. David consults the Lord, something he had failed to do at Nob and Gath … God says go and help …BUT

1 Samuel 23:3   3 But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (NIV)

David is learning to check it out with God … David and his men go to help Keilah and routed the Philistines.

Brought courage to the hearts of his men and rescue to the citizens of Keilah.

You would think they would be eternally grateful but not so …


2) He was rejected by those he had helped.

When Saul discovers that David is in Keilah he sets off to capture him …

David consults the Lord … 1 Samuel 23:12

12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”

And the LORD said, “They will.” (NIV)


He had put his life and the life of his men at risk … now he is kicked in the teeth … ingratitude is hard to swallow … our natural reaction is retaliation.

There is no hint of that here … David walks away … he hadn’t rescued them for their praise BUT because God had told him to … he was simply being obedient to God’s word.


When our motives for doing good to others is to gain their praise and approval we will be disappointed … God calls us to obey .. to do good to others because it is right and what he desire of us!!


3) He is betrayed by strangers.

David and his men flee to the Desert of Ziph. BUT some of the men from that area, for unknown reason [possibly to gain favour with the king], betray his position to Saul.

He had fear in the ranks, ingratitude from those he’d helped and now treachery from strangers.


4) He is pursued by his enemy.

David has to constantly watch his back. He knows that Saul will be after him at every oppotunity. Saul army way out numbers David’s rabble force and as they close in and it looks like all is lost God arranges a diversion…

1 Samuel 23:26-28

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, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines.


Many years later the apostle Paul would write words David would readily understand …

1 Corinthians 10:13 13. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted [tested] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted [tested], he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV)


When the pressure was to great God stepped in.

Have you ever been in a situation where you are at your wits end and you can’t go on and then God steps in … often in the form other people to help.


ILLUS. maybe under pressure at work — it becomes unbearable and at breaking point your vindictive boss resigns or you are offered a different post.


Sometimes after a period of spiritual struggle when you are ready to give up God draws near in a very special way that you find difficult to discribe but is nevertheless very real and uplifting.


*5) He is encouraged by a friend.

1 Samuel 23:15-18         15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him to find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh. (NIV)

When we are in the wilderness – the love and encouragement of a friend can be infinitely precious.


ILLUS.: When we first came to England – life was hard for us in many ways – we had no family here – our finaces were very tight – my work was very insecure. We were at a very low time.

A friend who was travelling through Europe en route to USA took a special detour at his own expense to come and spent three days with us – he had no hidden agenda – he wasn’t using us as a B&B – he came for us.


I can’t tell you what that meant to Janet and me! He did for us what Jonathan did for David … helped him to find strength in God.


Do you know of a friend in the wilderness right now … go to them … you don’t have to preach a sermon .. or have all the answers … just let them know that you care … a visit – a card – a phone call – a hug – — it does wonders at any time but especially when  you are in the wilderness!!




Going through a wilderness experience doesn’t necessarily cause us to grow and learn the lessons God is trying to teach us. It is possible to encounter hard time and to regress.

It is possible to become so full of bitterness and self-pity and anger that we only ever look inward and never upward ~~ I am not saying that we will never be angry or bitter or sorrow for ourselves these are natural reactions to difficulties ~~ BUT when we wallow in self-pity and harbour a bitter and angry spirit on and on and on … Then we will not learn what God has for us.

Instead of being like David who looked up and cried out to God for deliverance we will become like Saul, bitter and twisted, bent on a course of self-destruction — and we harm not only ourselves but those aroung us!!


We can be in the wilderness and be so absorbed with the harshness that we miss the beauty …

ILLUS.: A friend took some American young people to the Kruger National Park in RSA – all the seemed concerned about was when they would get lunch/ supper and breakfast – The opportunity to sit at a watering hole and watch the African sunrise and the animals coming to drink – but some were so self-absorbed they didn’t even get out of the minibus and go into the hide – what an opportunity missed.


If God  is taking you through the wilderness of life don’t miss the beauty of what he is trying to teach you through it.


David learned from God because he was prepared to admit his need and cry for help.


I am sure that there were many lessons that David learned in those years in the desert BUT one, I believe stands out.

Over and over again in the Psalms we come across this word – REFUGE – a place to run to in time of stress / danger / temptation ~~ as we read about this in the writings of David we can’t help but see the word as conveying a good experience, BUT what drove David to refuge was a bad experience.

He started out running for his life and found the life he was running for = God. “God is our refuge”


The prayer that David prayed in the wilderness is recorded in

Psalm 57:1-11

1 [For the director of music. [To the tune of] “Do Not Destroy”. Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.]

 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.

            I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

            2 I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfils [his purpose] for me.

            3 He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; Selah

                        God sends his love and his faithfulness.

4 I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts —

            men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

6 They spread a net for my feet — I was bowed down in distress.

They dug a pit in my path — but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah

7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.

8 Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.

10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. (NIV)


Going through a wilderness doesn’t automatically make us like David.

Saul was in the wilderness too, running after David, obsessed with hunting him down, full of murderous intent.

Meanwhile David is running to God, finding his refuge in God, alert to the wonders of his wilderness.

Peterson “We can’t be naive about the wilderness; it’s a dangerous place. But we must never avoid the wilderness; it’s a wonderful place”





1 Samuel 23:1-29  (Psalms 57 & 142)



  •  A wilderness can be harsh and frightening

      as well as beautiful and peaceful.



  •  At first he was alone
  •  Then came his family
  •  Then came the distressed and discontent



  •  He was surrounded by fearful followers
  •  He was rejected by those he had helped
  •  He was betrayed by strangers
  •  He was pursued by an enemy
    •  He was encouraged by a friend



  • Saul’s wilderness experience made him 

    angry and bitter

  • David’s wilderness experience turned him

    towards God where he learned that God

    alone is a refuge

1 Samuel 21:1 – 22:23 – David: Lying for his life!



1 Samuel 21:1 – 22:23.




ILLUS.:  I am sure that there is no one here today who hasn’t lied in order to get out of trouble or to save your skin or to save face!

> a child caught out, then lying to escape punishment.

> as a teenager lying about where you are going or who you were with because if you tell the truth you know your parents will not allow you to do what you want to do.

> as an adult maybe you have lied to get a job / or protect your job / or to protect your reputation.

> Lied to avoid speaking to someone on the phone, “My dad says to tell you that he is not here..!”

David was in a situation where he felt forced to lie in order to save his life. Is this the right thing to do in those circumstances? Should David have behaved differently?  Was it necessary for him to behave as he did? What were the consequences of his lying? What was his response when he looked back over this  period of his life?

I am so glad that the Bible is honest about its characters – it tells us about them with all their struggles and failures and weaknesses as well as the triumphs.

The story of David is not set before us as a moral model to copy – he is not someone who had arrived spiritually, who had it all together, or who is a perfect example we are to follow. NO, David is a person who does things badly at times, often worse than we do, BUT in the process he doesn’t give up, he doesn’t withdraw from God.

David’s life is not an ideal life but and actual / real life. Hopefully David’s life helps us to cultivate an honest life before God; a life with a sense of reality that is aware of God and responsive to God.

David is not a super-spiritual saint living in a cocoon – he doesn’t spend his life living next to a stream with lush green banks and  playing his harp!! He had those moments in his life but they were few. David has to live in a hostile world that is unfriendly and threatening – in the tough, real world he must workout his relationship to God and other people.

This incident in his life is part of his learning / growing / training for his job as king. God will use our failures and our successes to make us what he wants us to be IF we are people with a heart for God – like David was a ‘man after God’s own heart’.

In the period of his life David begins a life on the run from King Saul – he knows that King Saul’s intent is to murder him. At the beginning Saul had black moods that past but now there was a price on David’s head.

His life is in danger – he runs – he doesn’t pack, he doesn’t plan – he simply runs!

On 3 occasions during this time he tells or lives lies!!



We saw last time how on 6 occasions Saul tries to kill David himself or have David killed.

He is unsafe at the palace with the king’s son, he is unsafe at home with the king’s daughter (Michal, his wife), even unsafe with the prophet Samuel at Ramah (ch.19).

In spite of his friend Jonathan’s assurances David feared for his life and out of that fear sprang his first lie! (back in ch.20).

In order to discover his standing at the palace David pushes his friend, Jonathan, into a compromising position. He fabricates a story about his absence from the New Moon festival …

1 Samuel 20:5-7

5 So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his home town, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ 7 If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. (NIV)

Jonathan goes along with this lie but it drove a deep wedge between him and his father. It was a risky thing to do and it stretched the bonds of the friendship between David and Jonathan.

What drove David to lie? FEAR …

1 Samuel 20:3   3 But David…. said, “…….. there is only a step between me and death.” (NIV)

Before we criticize David we need to admit that we would surely have done the same! When things / people turn against us and the ship of our lives threatens to capsize we too, can lose perspective and flee in fear! The circumstances of life become far more real to us than the presence of God!

Maybe this is where David is at – instead of looking up at God he looks around at his situation and his heart fills with fear and he lies (through Jonathan) to Saul and then runs!!

What caused David to panic? Had his close fellowship with God grown cold? As he had moved up in the world had he begun to rely more on his reputation as a warrior than on God?

It is so easy to try and rely on our own resources. Or on past experiences.

The question is, “How up to date is our relationship with Jesus?”  When God thrusts us into the uncertainties and problems of life is our faith overcome with fear and shrivels up? When God looks at our hearts does he see hearts that rely on him or on their own inadequate resources?

Earlier, David’s perspective had been different – when he faced Goliath he was confident because he had God’s perspective on things ~~ now Saul seemed and invincible menace, he seemed like a giant to David. He panicked and he ran for his life!!

After a few days (probably) on the run David comes to Nob, where there is a colony of priests and their families ~ their task is to care for the tabernacle ~ Ahimelech is the senior priest.

David is hungry and defenseless and he wants food and weaponry!

Ahimelech is suspicious! Why is David alone? Where are his men?  Something is wrong! He must have known, as all Israel must have known, that Saul was out to get David.

As Ahimelech questions David fear grips his heart and truth is the casualty…

1 Samuel 21:2-3

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. 3 Now then, what have you to hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” (NIV)

David lies ~ there are no men and there is no secret mission!

The only bread available is the stale / old ‘shewbread’ – this is the bread place placed before the Lord in the Tabernacle as a reminder to the people of God’s provision ~ Fresh bread was placed there every week and this bread David asks for is the old bread.

This was allowed to be eaten by the priest alone! Strictly speaking it was illegal for David or his fictitious men to eat this bread.

BUT Jesus used this very story to make a point about the Law of Moses – the Jewish laws.  These were divided into levels of importance and the basic point that Jesus made was this: Laws about compassion and human need are more important than laws about ritual and ceremony. (Mark 2:25-26)

Ahimelech asks about the ceremonial purity of David’s men ~ if they are going to eat the holy bread ~ David lies again and swears blind that they are ritually pure.

He gets the bread.

NOW he need a weapon…

1 Samuel 21:8-9            8 David asked Ahimelech, “Don’t you have a spear or sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s business was urgent.”

9 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.” (NIV)

The last mention of this sword was when David killed the giant – presumably he had presented it to God as a thank offering ~ as sign that the Lord does not need swords or spears to save his people (17:47)

David is in panic-mode. It is strange that he wants Goliath’s sword ~ it hadn’t done Goliath any good.

David himself was the one who said ..

1 Samuel 17:45

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty….

Now he is distressed and panicking and in effect he is saying to King Saul “I am not coming to you in the name of the Lord; I am coming to you with a sword …”

Was there a time in your life when like David you trusted God implicitly ~ in the name of the Lord ~ but now you are on a long drift from God and you are trusting in you equivalent of Goliath’s sword?

In Desperation David goes to Gath, a Philistine town, recklessly fleeing into an enemy city ~ he seeks refuge with King Achish. BUT he is recognised and his life is endangered. He lies again ~ pretending / living a lie ~ he feigns insanity, scratches at the Palace door and dribbles down his beard. The kings response is that he has enough madmen and David is thrown out and escapes.

So here is David no longer the shepherd and warrior relying on God BUT fearful and fleeing for his life – fabricating lies and feigning madness. No longer trusting God to save him – his only thought on saving his own skin!!

NB – no mention in this chapter of David consulting God or the phrase so often in previous chapters “and the Lord was with David”

Before we judged David let’s examine our own hearts ~ “How do you and I respond to the harsh realities of life?”


David returns to Judah on the instruction of Gad, the prophet. [22:1-5]


We can look at these incidents in David’s life and say “Well it maybe wasn’t the best thing to do but he got away with it, didn’t he?”

Oh no he didn’t!!

The incident with Jonathan put Jonathan’s life at risk ~ Saul tried to kill his own son.

The incident in Gath – nearly cost David his life and it dishonoured the name of the God of Israel before the enemy.

We might consider these consequences minor ~ but went a pattern of lying and deceit develops there is inevitably a price to pay. In this case others paid the price for David’s lies!!

At Nob, when David lied to Ahimelech, Doeg, one of Saul’s servants was listening ~ he was an opportunist and at the right moment he told Saul what had transpired that day as a result Saul ordered the priests and their families and all their possessions to be destroyed and Doeg was the man who did the dreadful deed…..

1 Samuel 22:18-19

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. 19 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.

David’s sin led to tragedy ~ sin always does! Sin is expensive!

Let’s look at our lives ~ are we fabricating / lying / pretending to each other/ourselves/God. Is your spirit gone sour / cold / indifferent? God is asking you, “What is wrong?” He knows what is wrong but he wants you to admit it. Have you become fearful of trusting God and his resources! You doubt his word and his promises ~ you have grown spiritually stale and are on a long drift from God. BUT instead of admitting it and you are covering it over and pretending that all is well. “Why doesn’t the preacher worry about those who really need help and stop meddling in my life!”

When we depart from a living faith and a living obedience the consequences can be tragic not only for us personally but also for other people.

The massacre of 85 priests and their families was a hard lesson for David to learn.


Not everybody was killed that fatally day of the massacre ~ One of Ahimelech’s sons, Abiathar, escaped and came to David …

1 Samuel 22:20-22

20 But Abiathar, son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the LORD. 22 Then David said to Abiathar: “That 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. (NIV)

When David hears what happened – he realises that his is indirectly responsible this tragedy.

Immediately, without hesitation, without qualification, he admits his guilt.

The way he tells it – that the day he lied to Ahimelech he knew Doeg was there and he knew how unscrupulous that man was – even then there was a struggle in his conscience ~ but he was panic-stricken.

Doeg used the sword but David takes his share of the responsibility …

Some verses from Ps. 34 look like a lesson he may have learned from this incident………

Psalm 34:11-14

11 Come, my children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Whoever of you loves life

and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from speaking lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it. (NIV)

David felt deep remorse for what he had done at Nob. If he hadn’t been going through a bad phase of panic and unbelief, the people of Nob would still be alive.

But as we will see, whatever failures he had been through and however bad he felt, he persisted in faith.


What did David learn?

  • It would produce sympathy in David. ~ It is easy to criticise others when one’s life has been cushy and easy. David would never be able to forget that his patience and endurance had been tested to the limited. And he had be found wanting!!
  • It would teach David about grace. ~ grace is receiving what we do not deserve or merit ~ David would never forget that when he was full of sin and impatience, when he was lying to Ahimelech and disgracing himself before the enemies of God, that God did not abandon him.             We have all done things that if God had entirely written us off he would have been perfectly justified, and we could have no complaint!       David would be more tender with people, after he himself had been so tenderly dealt with by God.                                                                 Maybe you have lied in the past ~ verbally or by pretense ~ or maybe you are living a lie now ~ afraid of being caught out / afraid of admitting your guilt like David did because you fear rejection and abandonment. God is gracious and tender and forgiving. He longs for us to experience his grace ~ to deal with our sinfulness ~ because Jesus died to save us – and God loves us.
  • It would teach David about the marvelous deliverances of God. ~ When David was at his worst and could find no help anywhere. He flees into the desert, to the cave of Adullam. It is not a palace but it is a refuge.    When we are at our wits’ end ~ when we have let God down badly ~ when we have tried all sorts of desperate measures to extract ourselves from our troubles – it is then that God steps in. He doesn’t always remove the trouble // he seldom does!  BUT he is there to accept us and help us if we turn to him. “God will not let us be tested beyond the level we can bear.” [1 Cor.10:13]

The Bible is full of stories about shepherds and fishermen and farmers and many other ordinary people who responded in faith to God’s call. And when they failed, often miserably and with devastating consequences, God graciously forgave their sins and indiscretions and restored them.

David was just an unknown shepherd boy who made many mistakes ~~ YET God never forsook him ~ and in the light of that there is hope for each and everyone of us!

I don’t know what burden you carry ~ The consequences of a past sin? ~ A current pretense and the fear of being exposed? ~ A sense of failure / towards God / or your family / or your self even ???

BUT  I know this that the God who graciously kept and restored David is the same God who comes to us is Jesus Christ and says “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done …28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ..”  Matthew 11:28

The one who says … 1 John 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

As a result we can share David’s response — Ps. 52 which he wrote about the episode with Doeg and Ahimelech – he shows the stupidity of evil doing and then writes  … Psalm 52:8-9

8 But I am like an olive tree

flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God’s unfailing love

for ever and ever.

9 I will praise you for ever for what you have done;

in your name [in you]I will hope, for your name is [you are ] good.

I will praise you in the presence of your saints. (NIV)



1 Samuel 21:1 – 22:23



  • fear ~ panic ~ loss of perspective
  • he focused more on his circumstances than he did on his God



  • risked his friend’s  life – Jonathan
  • dishonoured God before the Philistines
  • caused the community at Nob to be massacred

“Deceit always has a price tag!”



  • his admission of guilt is immediate and without excuse


* It would produce in David, sympathy.

* It would teach David about grace.

* It would teach David about the

       wonderful deliverances of God.

1 Samuel 18:1 – 20:42 – Fame, foe, friend



1 Samuel 18:1 – 20:42



It is said that  “A week is a long time in politics” – It is true of politics and it is true of life!

Our lives can be radically changed from one day to the next –

ILLUS.: One day you can be a young au pair caring for a baby the next you can be accused of murdering that baby. One day unknown – the next day seen by millions on TV. [Louise Woodward and the death of Matthew Eappen – British au pair working in USA – 1997 ]

One day you can be Prime minister – the next jobless!

Through tragedy or triumph life can radically change in moments!

David’s life had radically changed – one day he was a shepherd looking after sheep in the desert – the next day he had killed Goliath and become a national hero.

We could be forgiven for thinking that fame and success and popularity should be welcomed as friends. Was this for David the beginning of a comfortable and easy life at the palace? He had taken the risk in facing up to and killing Goliath and now he should receive his due reward?

We may be tempted to think that if we have served God in some way and sacrificed and taken risks in the process that somehow God now owns us! It is so easy for fame and success to go to our heads – even when doing God’s work!!

There are issues that confront David is these chapters (18 – 20) we are going to focus on three areas of life that David has to deal with FAME – FOE – FRIEND [with the major focus on friend]


1. FAME.

From the Time David was anointed by the prophet Samuel he knew he was going to be the next king of Israel. But before the Goliath incident, the question was whether he would be able to handle obscurity. He was appointed by God to be the king yet scarcely anyone knew – David had shown that he could handle obscurity and he did not try to force God’s hand but waited patiently for God’s timing.

As a result of the Goliath episode David is thrust into the limelight – the question now is… “How will he handle being a National hero?”

He went from unknown shepherd to national celebrity overnight!!

As a result he was given considerable leadership in Saul’s Army – the army officers respected him – the people loved him.

*How did David respond??

David’s fame and success did not go to his head – he did what the king asked of him – he didn’t boast about it – he did it diligently and skillfully – and most importantly he did it in dependence of God ~~ for we read on a number of occasions in these chapters  “ … and the Lord was with David.”

The people respected and loved David – and praised him highly …

1 Samuel 18:7 7 As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his tens of thousands.” (NIV)

David’s acceptance by the people ~ his success in Battle ~ was not popular with everyone, namely King Saul!

2. FOE.

Saul’s problem was that he could not handle David’s success and popularity and he became extremely jealous and angry and full of hate.

The impact of the crowd’s song .. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”.. penetrated the marrow of Saul’s bones.  Saul must have thought to himself  “They will want to make him king next!” Everything that David did stirred up feelings of jealousy and suspicion in Saul.

Every report of David’s successes was evidence that God was with David and that he had abandoned Saul as King!

Saul was afraid because the people praised David more than Saul [18v7]

Saul was afraid because the Lord was with David [18v12]

Saul was afraid because David was successful [18v15]

Saul was afraid because his daughter, Michal, loved David [18v29]

Fear and hate and jealousy mixed together turned to violence and Saul tried to have David killed. He was in absolute turmoil —

ILLUS.: In the Book “The history of Mr Polly” by H G Wells he describes Mr Polly like this .. “He was not so much a human being as a civil war.”

That would be a good description of King Saul.

Saul was eaten up with destructive jealousy ..

1 Samuel 18:9-11 9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

10 The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying  [in this context – probably ecstatic utterances – not necessarily from God – here from the evil Spirit] in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand 11 and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. (NIV)

As we work our way through these chapters we see that these irrational outbursts escalated into cold-blooded, carefully calculated assassination plots ..

  • promised to marry his daughter, Merab, to David on condition he proved himself in battle – the plan was to expose him to so much danger that he would be killed. When David showed up alive, Merab was hastily married to another.
  • Michal, Saul’s other daughter, fell in love with David and Saul’s devilish mind set the obscene dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins – surely 100 chances for David to be killed – BUT when David showed up with two hundred [double the quota] Saul had no choice but to allow the marriage to go ahead.
  • The first attempt failing Saul sent hire killers stake out the house and  murder David ~ David escaped – the men went to get him and Michal told them he was sick in bed ~~ instead of barging in and killing him the men reported back to Saul the David was sick in bed and couldn’t come out to be murdered ~~ enraged he ordered David brought bed and all so he could kill David himself. BUT the occupant of the bed turn out to be a dummy with a goat-hair wig!!

David’s goodness and success was what nearly got him killed. Saul hated David because he was good!!

Saul was enflamed with jealousy.

There are two key lessons for us as we look at Saul’s envy of David:-

  1. When we, like David, have a heart for God – get on with doing good we can expect opposition and jealousy from others ~ even other Christians! We can sometimes thing that if we are serving Christ and his church we won’t face those kinds of problems BUT there will always be people who will try to cut you down or undermine your work.                                   If God does bless you and your efforts ~ have David’s attitude and don’t flaunt your success.
  2. Learn to deal with any root of bitterness/jealousy that may spring up when you see others prospering. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of being jealous of those God is blessing or using other individuals of groups. Often manifests itself in and overly critical attitude – always questioning or being a wet-blanket. [However, doesn’t mean we must be naive and accept everything that is claimed to be of God!!]

What is David’s response to Saul’s aggression?

A glimpse of his attitude in … Psalm 37:1-4

1 [Of David.]

Do not fret because of evil men

or be envious of those who do wrong;

2 for like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD

and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)

When Jesus was on earth – he went about doing good; he above all others had a heart for God; his supreme desire was to please his Father in Heaven. Many responded to him with jealous anger and hatred and finally murder!!

Following Christ and doing good will not always bring earthly praise and reward!! Few people will pat you on the back for being a Christian.

In the midst of David’s difficulties God gave him a friend!!



Jonathan’s friendship with David brackets Saul’s repeated attempts to kill David.

The story of their friendship begins with these words ..

1 Samuel 18:1 & 3

1 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. ……… 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.

Chapters 18 – 20 are filled with the details of Saul’s 6 attempts to murder David; 3x he tried to kill him with his own spear; 2x he lured him into almost certain death by sending him against the Philistines when offering his daughters as prizes ~ first Merab and then Michal; 1x he sent in a death squad to kill David in his own bed.

Each attempt failed because God was with David, protecting him ~ with the help of his friend/s.

As Jonathan helps David to escape from Saul at the end of Chapter 20 that closes the bracket on this period of David’s life at the palace and Saul’s attempts to murder him.

1 Samuel 20:42

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants for ever.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. (NIV)

At a very difficult time in David’s life God supplies a very special friend.

They were soul-mates and their friendship was covenant based.

Friendship with David complicated Jonathan’s life. He risked losing his Father’s favour and he willingly sacrificed his own kingly future ~~ But in spite of the risks and the personal losses he became and stayed David’s friend.

True friendship is not superficial backslapping.


We have seen something of David’s heart for God but what of Jonathan?

True Piety. ~ we first meet Jonathan in Ch. 14. where he and his amrourbearer take on and beat a host of Philistines. BUT listen to where his confidence lies…

1 Samuel 14:6

6 Jonathan said to his young armour-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (NIV)

He has a great sense of trust in God – he is utterly and completely convinced of the power of God. And when he hears David say regarding Goliath “The battle is the Lord’s” he is drawn to him as one who trusts God as he does!

Humility ~ Saul was threatened that he would lose his throne to David ~ but listen to Jonathan on the same subject .. 1 Samuel 23:17 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (NIV)

Jonathan is committed to God ~ God puts up kings and brings them down ~ he is humble enough to depend on God whether he is king or David is king.

We see the same humble attitude in David when he is offered the kings daughter in marriage ..

1 Samuel 18:18

18 But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my father’s clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” (NIV)

Loyalty ~ In the end David had to flee for his life and would might have expected Jonathan to go with him BUT he doesn’t. He remains with His father, king Saul.

Why? Because he is enamoured with his father? NO! BUT he believed that his father needed him more than David.

Later when David had opportunity to kill Saul – he refused ~ they both had a deep sense of loyalty to this demented king.

Here are two people whose souls are drawn together in deep friendship. David describes his friendship with Jonathan .. 2 Samuel 1:26

26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.

Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (NIV)

Some in contemporary society try to identify this as a homosexual relationship. Those who do that totally defy the heart of the scriptures as well as reveal their own twisted morality. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that any sexual impropriety existed in the friendship of David and Jonathan!

The secret of this deep soul friendship is that they both possessed and heart for God.

The secret of a lasting and deep friendship is not simply to look for someone like yourself BUT to develop a heart for God and to seek others with a similar desire.

ILLUS.: People in our society are crying out for these deep relationships ~ Why are there so many dating agencies and Lonely Hearts Clubs ~ People looking for the perfect partner ~ disappointed over and over again.

WHY? because so many are selfish grabbing acquaintances – taking what you can get – pleasing self …

Young people ~ as you look for a marriage partner in the future ~ even now deciding who you will date Look for the qualities you see in David and Jonathan – Develop a heart for God yourself and look for a friend who also has a heart for God. You will never have a good marriage without a good friendship!!


Their friendship was based on more than just similar qualities of character ~ they made a covenant / a pact of friendship. A deep sense of promise and commitment and loyalty.

The people of Israel understood covenant ~ God had promised that he would be their God – he took the initiative –  and the people responded by saying that they would be his people.

Jonathan took the initiative in the pact with David ~ there was a huge difference in their social status ~ Jonathan was a Prince – David was a shepherd.

They made a covenant and stuck to it whatever the cost ~ In ch.20 when David is afraid to go to the palace feast, Jonathan sticks out his neck for his friend and defends David to hid father ~ Saul gets so angry that he tries to kill his own son. Jonathan was willing to risk his life for David – that was the price of friendship.

Jonathan gave his friendship willingly ~ I can’t demand friendship ~ we can’t choose who our loyal friends will be.

You can choose to be a friend BUT you can’t choose to have a friend. Your friends will choose to be your friends.

Jonathan lived out his covenantal friendship with David in the hostile environment of Saul’s court. His difficult circumstances didn’t cancel out his covenant promises ~

Isn’t that the kind of commitment we need today in our marriages, our workplace, our church life ~~ where it is commitment and not circumstances that determine our friendship and loyalty!!

It is customary for friends to give gifts – it was so in OT times – ..

1 Samuel 18:4 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (NIV)

.. tangible evidence of friendship ~ not just words. These things were the symbols of his status and the King’s son and he gave them to David. All that he was and all that he could do he placed at the disposal of his friend, for he loved him as he loved himself.

Prince Jonathan ~~ The Prince of Glory took the initiative and came down to this world to us ~ he made an offer of friendship and commitment to you and to me ~ by his death he gave tangible evidence of his loyalty to the covenant which he sealed with his own blood.

His friendship his covenant friendship – he swears never to leave us or forsake us. He covers us with his protective royal clothing ~ his righteousness. He gives us his sword – the word of God ……..

John 15:13-14 13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. (NIV)

Jesus showed covenant-friendship by giving his life ~~ he calls us to respond by obeying his commands.


Proverbs 18:24

24 ….. there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

For the Christian that friend is the Lord Jesus Christ – make sure your relationship with him is strong – give him control of your live, once and for all and every day.

Then turn your attention to developing earthly friendships.

What qualities do you have that others would want to have in common with you?

What initiatives are you taking?

If you would have friends you must show yourself friendly!!

“Reach out to people ~~ not to advance your position BUT to advance their condition.” [Briscoe]

When it comes to the fellowship of God’s people in the Church —

  • Do you have anything in common with other believers?
  • Who are the Christians with whom you spend time?
  • Are you committed to the body of Christ, the Church? This local church!!! BINSCOMBE!

You say….

“Well I don’t have anybody. Nobody has shown me any interest.”

Turn around and ask yourself …

“What initiatives have I taken to look out for other people.”

MEN esp….

The story of David and Jonathan is one of manly faith, masculine courage and deep love “Are you reaching out to other men?”

We need deep commitment to each other if the church is going to be strong. Satan will attack us ~~ “Will our friendship in Christ last the distance??”

ILLUS. People say … “I stopped going to that Church!”


I didn’t get anything out of it.”

Is that why we come to Church – to get something out!

I thought we went to put something in – service – worship – friendship!!

“Well I don’t get involved in that sort of thing?”


“Well it doesn’t meet my needs.”

Should we not go as a Jonathan to a David to address HIS needs.

What about the commitment made to the Church? spouse? children?

The stuff of which spirituality is made is communion with Christ worked out in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

When David was up against it he had a Jonathan ~ God’s provision ~ who took the initiative and committed to him and ministered to him.

Jesus is the ultimate friend to us.

What he asks of us is to be friends ~ soul-mates ~ covenant friends to others.

You can’t be that deep friend to everybody BUT are you being that friend to somebody??



1 Samuel 18:1 – 20:42

 1. FAME.

  • David had learned to handle obscurity
  • Now he is tested in the limelight of popularity

 2. FOE.

  • ‘A heart for God’ and doing good will often bring opposition and hostility
  • Beware of jealousy and bitterness when others succeed or prosper


  • Soul mates

– piety  – humility  – loyalty

  • Covenant commitment

            – pact / promise / practical commitment


              sentiment / fantasy / empty words


 “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

                                                                                Proverbs 18:24

 JESUS  —“Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”                                           John 15:13-14


1 Samuel 16:4 – 17:58 – Fighting giants and other battles!



1 Samuel 16v4 – 17v58.



As people we are so impressed by appearance – we are impressed by size, style, monetary value etc..

ILLUS.: Some time ago I was watching ‘TOP GEAR’ a TV programme about motor cars – they had three cars on show with all badges and names covered – people had to choose which one they preferred. The one that came out on top was revealed to be the new ‘Skoda’ at which point most of those who had choosen it said they would not buy it – WHY? because  driving a Skoda is not particularly stylist nor would it enhance one’s status to say “Well, I drive a Skoda!”

So it is with sport, intellect, music, money, class, career ….

Negatively we are fearful, sceptical, angry at a person or groups because of what we observe outwardly. We make judgements based on what we observe – the criterea being, appearance, ability, social class, financial status, job description.

So people have very negative / even fearful feelings towards Social Services, NHS, Church — sometimes irrartional but very real nevertheless!!

The Armies of Israel were gathered against the army of the Philistines – at the valley of Elah – what the saw and heard made them fearful. They only saw the external.

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well known stories of all time.

It is a story the touches a cord in most hearts – we love to see the underdogs take on and beat the Goliaths of this world

ILLUS.: When a small trader is being pushed out by one of the Big Boys and  takes on the big Conglomerate and  wins — it warms my heart!

David took on Goliath and won!!!

Let us not run ahead of ourselves – Where has David been since he was anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the future king of Israel?

  • First off, David goes back to his sheep – gets on with his job awaiting God’s direction.
  • Meanwhile, Saul’s life is in ruins, the Spirit of God has left him in his role as king. As a result Saul has black moods – his servants suggest some music to help him feel better [16v16] – did no one mention that he needed to call on God for mercy and forgivenness for his sin!!
  • Someone knows about David’s musical skills and he is summoned to the palace – what better place to learn about ‘raoyal life’ than in a palace. God has a wonderfaul way of maniplulating our lives to get us the experience and and training we need to do his work.
  • So here we have “A king -(elect) – serving a KING” – After this time at the palace David returns to his sheep.

The period of David’s preparation in seclusion is about to end – In Ch. 17 with the Goliath incident David is thrust in to the public arena.



The Valley of Elah is not a narrow ravine but more like a wide canyon – about a mile wide – in some places even wider. In the moddle was a streambed where David gathered his 5 stones – on each side half-mile slopes where the opposing armies camped.

It was not uncommon for battles to be decided by representatives from each army facing each other in one-to-one combat. This was the Philistine challenge to Israel – they had a secret weapon named Goliath – the envy of any professional basketball team!!. Goliath’s armour and weaponry was comsiderable – he was a walking war machine.

His challenge was to any Israeli soldier to come and fight him.

You would have thought that that task would have fallen to king Saul – while not a giant – we do know that he stood head and shoulders above his fellow countrymen.

For 40 days Goliath had challenged army of Israel …

1 Samuel 17:8-11 & 16

8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.


16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

The Valley of Elah was a couldron of fear and hate and arrogance – a leathal brew of emotion stirred up for nearly 6 weeks.

It is into this situation that David – the shepherd – is sent by his father who is anxious about his other sons fighting in Saul’s army. Rather not fighting but paralysed with fear!!

1. David sees the same facts but views them differently.

When David arrives at the army camp and hears and sees Goliath – he  sees exactly what everyone else sees. An arrogant giant, armed to the teeth, spoiling for a fight – fluanting his size and his strength and daring anyone to take him on – day in and day out.

That is what giants are like – fear / worry for example!! they come day after day / morning and evening – relentless, intimidating. They come in the form of a person / a pressure / a worry  hammering away at us – yelling across our personal valley. They are usually bullies!!

Goliath was a bully – intimidating, arrogant, full of himself. He dominated the scene – 9”9’ tall twirling his 25lb spear like a matchstick – provoking, taunting, teasing — he dominated centre stage.

David enters the scene – sees the same outward circumstances but he has been given the ability to see as God sees and he is neither impressed nor intimidated. No matter how big the giant, God is greater. No matter how strong the giant, God is all-powerful.

David saw the facts that everyone else saw but he viewed them differently!

His brothers, Saul and the army thought Goliath could not possibly lose. David thought Goliath could not possibly win.

The people and Saul react with fear.

David reacts with indignation … 1 Samuel 17:26

26 David asked …………. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (NIV)

In the hills of Bethlehem, looking after sheep, David had learnt something about God – about the greatness of God and closeness of fellowship with God – we see it in the psalms. He has experienced the strength of God in protecting the sheep from lions and bears. His praying, singing, meditation, adoration had so shaped his understanding that God was more real to him than the sheep or the lion or the bear.

How real is God to you and me? When we face ‘goliaths’ in our lives – are we intimidated and paralysed by fear OR can we look to Jesus and say with the apostle Paul .. Philippians 4:13 13 I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength.

David’s heart was so God- dominated that he could not believe what he saw when he arrived at the Israelites army base – ‘goliath-fear, goliath-phobia’ – it was an epidemic!!

BUT David’s God-inspired response is Who is this uncircumcised Philistine.

2. David faces hostility from within the camp.

The saying “With friends like that who needs enemies!”  certainly was applicable to David that day.

His brother, Eliab, was not very encouraging to put it mildly. David has just brought his brothers gifts BUT they treated him with utter contempt – He receives most discouragement from within his own family.

Listen… 1 Samuel 17:28

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked,  –

  • questions his purpose for coming  “Why have you come down here? —  —
  • questions his sense of responsibility And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? —
  • questions his character I know how conceited you are —-
  • questions his inner motives and how wicked your heart is; —–
  • questions his intention to fight Goliath you came down only to watch the battle.” (NIV)

It is easy to see why Eliab was not anointed as future king!!

Like all coward he likes to have a joke at someone else’s expense – he doesn’t have the courage to face Goliath himself but he is quick to point an accusing finger. It is often the case that those quick to point to other’s sins are really not willing to face up to their own.

David could have reacted to this slanderous attack BUT all he does is protest and then walk away!!

1 Samuel 17:29-30

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. (NIV)

He doesn’t retaliate nor allow the criticism to get to him – to distract his purpose!

3. David uses Spiritual logic rather than human, logic.


In the providence of God David’s inquiries get to the ears of the King and he is summoned – Saul doen’t recognise the boy who played the harp in the palace. Maybe David has added a few years and grown a beard since they last met.

BUT David is still young and inexperienced in battle.

Saul is understandably sceptical that this young, inexperienced youth could take on an beat Goliath – I mean crazy, isn’t it!!

1 Samuel 17:32-33

32 David said to Saul, “Let no-one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” (NIV)

By the standards of human logic Saul is absolutely right. You are just a kid – still wet behind the ears.

David uses spiritual logic to comvince Saul … 1 Samuel 17:37 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” (NIV)

David has know God’s help before – his logic is based on his knowledge of God.

He remembers the victories of the past — we are so prone to forget what God has done before and we tend to relive our failures.

BUT David, based on his knowledge of God, has assurance of faith.

2 Corinthians 1:10 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, (NIV)

4. David starts in faith and continues in Faith.

Saul doesn’t have too many options so he agrees to allow David to fight Goliath BUT with some advise from him.

Isn’t ir amazing how often the one’s not willing to do the job are the ones who have the most advice to give.

ILLUS. Listen to a bunch of men watching a football/rugby match – they all know how the game should be played.

Wear my armour!” says Saul.

What a joke – Saul is a 52 long and David is a 36 regular.

He must have looked a sight – like a tortoise with an oversized shell!!

It was not easy for David to refuse Saul’s help – to walk away – BUT to have worn Saul’s armour would have been a disaster.

Wearing borrowed armour always is.

So David goes to face Goliath – dressed as a shepherd with a sling and 5 stones!!

1 Samuel 17:40 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. (NIV)

5. David’s battle is between worldly confidence and godly faith.

Goliath must have thought this was a real joke – he was going to feed this little shrimp to the birds. He is so cocky – confidence in his own ability.

This is so typical of worldly wisdom – we have all the answers – we can fight our own battle – who needs God and all the religious stuff.

We as God’s people are often faced with this arrogant, self-confident world. We get intimadated, our knees knock, we focus on the odds against us and we forget to pray.

I wonder what God must think when he has said, “My power is available. There is no one on earth greater. You trust me!.”

David is not self-confident or trying to impress – Saul or Israel or even God.

Goliath relishes victory  BUT David relishes the name of His God been better known throughout the world.

David also knows that the battle is not his but God’s … 1 Samuel 17:47 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (NIV)

This is also a battle between God’s chosen people and those who oppose that God of Israel. That Day in the Valley of Elah there were the arrogant, bullying people of Philistia and the demoralised and anxious people of Israel. On the one side there was a powerful but stupid giant and on the other an anointed but deeply flawed and frighten king.

No one dreamed the the shepherd picking up stones in the streambed was going to do the most significant work of the day!! David calm and confident in his! God.

Suddenly the giant is dead – the Philistines are routed! God has executed a victoy at the hands of a man whose faith and hope of salvation was in God alone!

The only one who really had a grip on the situation that day was David – everyone else was focusing on the giant – their horizons were filled with Goliath – David’s focus was on God – Goliath was not centred stage for David.


3000 years after David — 2000 years after Jesus Died and arose again!!

David prefigures Jesus – David had a heart for God but he had feet of clay – as we will see later. BUT Jesus was the man who truly and completely and perfectly had a heart for God.

He, far more than David, is our conquering hero – he slew the giants of sin / death / hell — as the Israelites rallied to faith because of the faith of David so we are called to live by faith in Christ.

Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

He calls us to be ‘kings’ in Christ – dealing with the goliaths of life by faith because we know our God and can see the challenges and problem of life with the eye of faith.

I don’t know what intimidating gaint you are facing today.

Maybe it relates to your school / job / college ….

Maybe it is a person / unemployment / a difficult marriage / an illness / lonliness / the prospect of singleness / …

Maybe it is some fear lurking deep in your heart, sapping your energy, draining your faith.

God is saying to you right now “All I ask of you is 5 stones and a sling of faith” — “I’ll accomplish the victory – you don’t have to wear someone else’s armour – or be concerned with jealous criticism – I’ll get you through and I’ll get the glory – YOU JUST TRUST ME!!

Maybe you don’t know what lies across the valley. You don’t know waht the gaint is – but you are plagued with uncertainty. That is a giant in itself!!

Whatever the giant maybe – compare it to God himself and say in faith “The battle is yours, Lord! I give myself to you! I’ll trust you!”

So often we want God to kill the giant before we will trust HIM!  BUT if we want to be like David, with a heart for God, we must learn to trust. Goliath wasn’t the first challenge David faced in his life and he wasn’t the last.

Sometimes God allows us to face giant to strip us of our self-confidence and arrogance and to bring us to a place where we will trust him. Not him plus … !

He wants us to come to him with all our fears, problems, worries, even our confusion.

Remember that “The Battle is the Lord’s!” and Jesus has already won the victory!!



1 Samuel 17:1 – 58.


 1. David sees the same facts but views them differently.  [v 4 – 26]

 2. David faces hostility from within the camp.  [v 28 – 30]

 3. David uses spiritual logic rather than human logic. [ 31 – 37]

 4. David starts in faith and continues in faith. [v 38 – 40]

5. David’s battle is between worldly confidence and godly faith. [v 41 – 51]


1 Samuel 16: 1-13 – Having a heart for God



1 Samuel 16:1-13.


ILLUS.: In the year 1809 world attention – at least Western world – was focused on Napoleon marching across Austria. One village and town after another were falling before his armies.

During that same year thousands of babies were born in Britain and America but who cared about bottles, nappies and cradles with such momentous event going on in Europe.

In that same year William Gladstone was born in Liverpool. Alfred Tennyson began life in Lincolnshire. Edgar Alan Poe was born in Boston. Charles Robert Darwin wore his first nappy and in a little log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, an illiterate labourer and his wife named their newborn son Abraham Lincoln.

The lives of these men would have a dramatic effect on the coming century and beyond – But nobody cared about these babies while Napoleon was marching through Austria – yet today only historians could name one of the battles Napoleon fought in Austria. However there are few people today whose lives have not been touched by the men mentioned above. The babies – the nobodies in 1809.

Israelites living in Palestine in about 1030 -1020 BC were focused on a man named Saul, the first king of Israel. He was leading the nation – winning battles – meanwhile a young lad named David was looking sheep. a young lad nobody noticed – nobody that is, except God.

At SGM – who made the headlines today? Isn’t it politicians, generals, CEO’s of big plc’s., who change the world?

NO! God’s people are agents for change – they only have a message that changes the heart.

David was an agent for change in his day AND to this day – the psalms he wrote are still read and sung by millions of people around the world.

David is called a “man after God’s heart” 1 Sam.13:14 Acts 13:22


Because David’s life was perfect and polished and sophisticated? Because he had arrived and is an example of a perfect follower of God? NO! But because in David we have a man grappling with life – having the rough edges rubbed off – a man who is alive to God. And we are never more alive than when/until we are dealing with God.

David’s life teaches us about many things:- friends and enemies, lovers, children, wives, parents, danger, pride, humiliation; death, sickness, sexuality; justice, peace, worship — but always in the midst of all these things and people it is God with whom we have to do!!

David’s story is a down-to-earth story. It deals with David as a Man after God’s heart in the rough and tumble of everyday life. David is not some sanctimonious super-saint – he is a shepherd, a warrior, a friend, a husband, a lover, a sinner, a king, a father, a musician, a poet, a worshipper of God.


Our Western way of thinking the heart is the seat of the emotions – the symbol of the heart is strongly linked with romantic love.

But in scripture the heart refers to that inner part of us designed to discern the truth, to represent our inner being, to be the spiritual epicentre of our lives.

We use the word heart to refer to far more than a collection of ventricles, values and veins!!          Examples:–

  • someone is good at heart
  • we learn things by heart
  • someone courageous has a heart of steel
  • urging someone to be compassionate we say, ‘Have a heart’
  • to desire to achieve something ‘we set our hearts on it’
  • if we take something seriously ‘we take it to heart’
  • open and transparent ‘she wears her heart on her sleeve’

These are very close to the biblical symbols – the heart as the real person – the centre of being.

We are told “Love the lord your God with all your heart…” –

What does David’s life teaches us about the kind of heart that pleases God?



Saul failed as king and God has dispatched Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a king elect – one of the sons of Jesse – but he wasn’t told which one. Samuel is afraid of what Saul might do if he finds out but he obeys God anyway!

But he didn’t allow opposition to stop him obeying God – nor must we!!

David knows nothing about these goings on. He is simply getting on with what he should be getting on with – faithfully doing his job – keeping sheep!

Samuel arrives at Jesse’s home and 7 sons are paraded before Samuel. … So exhibit A is passed over and so on to Exhibit G – 7 sons. Was Samuel panicking at this point – there was no one else in the queue!!

And so David is called from the field – he wasn’t thought worth considering by his Father who had to be prompted to remember that he did have another son – a youngster – a nobody! …….. David is duly anointed as King-elect.

What made David useful for God’s service? What makes anyone useful for God’s service?

A glimpse from David’s later writings…

Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting. (NIV)

David wanted his heart to be openly transparent before God. “Search my heart, Know my heart. Test me. Try me.”

That is why God chose Jesse’s son no. 8 – he may have been a kid looking after sheep BUT God saw his heart.

A Lesson for Samuel [and us] ….

1 Samuel 16:7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

By the way … God is not against externals. He is all for beauty but he is never misled by it. David was a handsome young man BUT that didn’t determine he was to be king.

Something we have to learn in our modern day is that internals are more important than externals. We live in the age of image / packaging… Whether it is pineapples or politicians – the presentation / the image is all-important.

ILLUS. – Politicians have teams of spin-doctors and image-makers working for them.

Even in the supermarket the fruit and veg. has to be the right size / shape / colour – it doesn’t seem to matter that they may be full of pesticides / herbicides / fungicides that could damage your health — so long as they look good!!

Image / marketing is good if there is substance behind the image – eg. SGM trendy materials!!

Put another way God is far more concerned with character than he is about reputation. Doesn’t mean that he is not concerned about our reputation BUT he is more interested in our character.

Reputation is about what people think of us // what we are able to project about ourselves // and what others perceive us to be.

Character is what God knows we are like // it is what we are when no one is watching. ILL: English Gentleman – uses a butter-knife even when dining alone!

“We can package, we can perform, we can project, we can promote, we can pretend. “ [Briscoe] BUT God sees right through all that into our hearts and minds – he sees our character. He looks at the heart.

God is not looking for us to be perfect – he knows that he won’t find a perfect person. BUT he is looking for a heart that is honest, that is genuine, that is repentant.

We can so easily slide into consumer Christianity – What is in it for me?  BUT do I have a heart for God? – his agneda!


The qualities of a godly heart.

SPIRITUALITY – What does it mean to “be a man/woman after God’s heart”? – a person whose life is in harmony with the God. What is important to God is important to you. What burdens God, burdens you.

Someone whose heart is completely God’s …

2 Chronicles 16:9 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him….


HUMILITY – a humble heart …

1 Samuel 16:1   1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (NIV)

Long before Samuel went to Jesse’s house, God had visited and he saw the youngest son and said “That is my man!”

WHY?? He saw a heart completely his – a boy faithfully keeping his father’s sheep – he saw a humble servant heart.

A servant – a genuine servant is not concerned about self-glory but the glory of the one served.


Psalm 78:71-72             71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. 72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them. (NIV)

many synonyms for the Heb. word. — wholesome, innocent, having simplicity of life, sound.  i.e. honest to the core!!

Our world tells us “As long as you can make a good impression!!”write a glowing CV and project a good image at interview – that’s all you need to do!!  NOT with God – you can’t pretend with Him.

The preparation of a godly heart.

God was training David right from the beginning – and David was willing to learn! — in solitude and obscurity — through monotony and reality!

SOLITUDE – nature was David’s teacher on the rugged hills near Bethlehem were he looked after the sheep – on the cold nights and the scorching hot days – through wind and rain. And David was alone with the sheep & with God.

We are so quick to fill our lives with noise! The radio / TV always on /  — If we can’t stand to be alone with ourselves and with God, maybe there are deep unresolved problems.

OBSCURITY – God doesn’t prepare his men and women in the limelight – but in obscurity…

Joseph – for years a slave in Egypt  – then Prime Minister.

Moses 40 years in the desert – then led Israel the next 40.

Jesus first 30 years in a backwater of Palestine – then 3 years of public ministry.

Paul 10 years in obscurity before God began to use him.

If we can’t be a man or woman of God in private and in obscurity we will never do it in Public.

MONOTONY – many Christians want one exciting experience after another – not interested in the mundane or ordinary! BUT God looks for faithfulness in the ordinary, the routine, the insignificant, the uneventful, daily tasks of life. Life without a break — just plain L-I-F-E. ILL: It is not the Mt.tops but the valleys that are fertile!!

David was faithful – day in and day out looking after a bunch of sheep!!

Are we faithful in the daily things! The boring things! Getting on with the job when no one is around / when no one sees / when no one even cares!! God sees!!

REALITY – David didn’t sit on a hilltop in a dreamy haze playing a harp. He faced the dangers and realities of shepherd life.

He didn’t suddenly become the great warrior when he face Goliath in ch.17.

He had face other realities before Goliath!!

1 Samuel 17:34-35 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. {SOLITUDE, OBSUCRITY, MONOTONY} When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, {REALITY} 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. (NIV)


It is in the little things and in the lonely places that God is building our character! – he is never in a hurry!

After David was anointed it was another 13 years before he became king. [20 for all Israel] All that time God was at work in his heart!

God looks at us and says. “You are mine! I want to use you. Because you proved yourself faithful there.” Our calling is to be faithful in the demanding tasks whether that is, at home, in our marriage, our jobs, or just the daily grind of life!

God delights in taking the nobodies of this world and making them in ‘His-bodies’ Men and women who have hearts after God’s heart!! Is it that we develop a heart for God OR that God sets his heart on us?? Both God chose David — and David chose to respond to God!!

God is not looking for perfect people – just people with a heart for him. You may not be in The Times headlines BUT if you are God’s person – living for him – having a heart for him THEN your influence in the world for good is great!

SGM’s publications contain more good news than all the Newspaper combined! AND they, not tabloids or broad-sheets, have the potential to change the world!




1 Samuel 16:1-13.



      late 11thC BC

      Saul is king of Israel

            – the nations first king

             – starts well but fails

      Samuel the prophet instructed by God to anoint another king



      our inner being

      our spiritual epicentre



      internals rather than externals

      character rather than reputation


3. A HEART AFTER GOD: David’s example.

      Qualities of a godly heart

            – Spirituality, humility, integrity

      Preparation of a godly heart

             – solitude        – obscurity

              – monotony    – reality

      Response of a godly heart

            patience –  waiting for God’s timing

            faithfulness – commitment to the task at hand

1 Samuel 13 & 15 – It’s not just how you start, it’s how you finish



1 Samuel 13 and 15 (The reasons for Saul’s downfall)



ILLUS.: When I was younger 100 – 400 m runner – Sprinter.

Comrade’s Marathon 50 miles – from sea-level to 2000 feet – a grueling race run each year between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. ~ approx. 20,000 athletes. Many train well and pace themselves but there are always some you steam off and a great pace and with draw not long into the race.

Life is like a marathon rather than a sprint – that is equally true if not more true for the Christian life. NT tells us that we are to “run the race set before us” – to “train like good athletes” – not to get “weary in doing good” – to “perserve to the end”.

God doesn’t want people who dip into spiritual things occassionally  with a short burst of enthusiasm that don’t last – he is not against enthusiasm so long as it is part of a long-haul life and not a here-today-gone-tomorrow spirituality.

In so many areas of life people start well – but sadly they finish badly or not at all.

As the song goes “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish

Saul is a prime example of a man who starts well and has great promise but who fails to reach his God-given potential. It is one of the most dismal stories in the Bible. I believe God placed it in the Bible as a stark warning to us as to how NOT to live our lives.


When we first meet Saul in the pages of scripture he is tall, handsome and strong – he is  humble and has a servant heart.

He was approved by God and accepted by the people.

a) Chosen .

1 Samuel 10:24 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no-one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” (NIV)

He led the people well – he was successful on the battlefield – he was compassionate in his treatment of his fellow Israelites and didn’t allow his power to go to his head.

It was God’s purpose to use Saul as a responsible leader for Israel.

1 Samuel 10:1   1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance? (NIV)

The tragedy of Saul is while he knew God had great plans for him, he allowed his own selfishness to rob him of the greater joy of pleasing God. We will see why is a moment!!

Saul’s life had great possibilities – useful possibilities for God but it was spoiled by the pursuit of uslelsss things.

God’s plan is that every one of us can be useful in his kingdom but self-centredness and disobedience rob us of that privelege.

b) Equipped.

Saul never failed because God asked him to do something that was beyond him. God never asks us to do anything without supplying us with the where-with-all to do it. The provision is not always given in advance nor do we have reserve supplies.

ILLUS.: Contact principle – in Lisbon where we lived – 1989/90 – electric trams – ocassionally a contact would come loose from the over-head cables – the tram driver would use a long pole to retrun the contact pole to the cable – no power without contact.

So too spiritual life – on the contact principle – with God through the Spirit – NOT the storage principle

1 Samuel 9:2 2 He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites — a head taller than any of the others. (NIV)

He was physically equipped for the task….

1 Samuel 9:27 27 As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us” — and the servant did so — “but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God.” (NIV)

He was spiritually equipped — and disciplined to hear the word of God!

1 Samuel 10:6&10  (Samuel speaking) 6 The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed …….. 10 When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. (NIV)

Why did Saul have this dramatic experience – firstly to show him prove to him that God was with him and secondly, to authenticate his kingship to the people – remember that they had never had a king before.

In the beginning Saul concerned himself with spiritual things and listening to the word of God – mainly through Samuel the prophet – but sadly things started to go wrong when Saul thought his views were more important than God’s instruction.

What was it that caused Saul to fail – after all David sinned as we know – he was a ‘man after God’s heart’ – what was it about Saul’s sin that was so different as to cause God to reject him.


Following the story from 13v8ff – we see a number of Saul’s characteristics that got out of hand and caused his downfall as King.

a) Impatient.

Samuel tha prophet had told Saul to wait for him at Gilgal – and Samuel would come and offer sacrifices to the Lord.

1 Samuel 13:7-12 …..

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited for seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favour.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

Saul could not wait –  he took matters into his own hands – he offered a sacrifice which was not his right to do – that was the exclusive right of the Priests.
When we run ahead of God and try to force his hand we always make matters difficult for ourselvs and others and we dishonour God.

Remember how the story of the church begins “ Wait in Jerusalem for what my father has promised” Jesus said.

b) Presumptuous.

1 Samuel 13:13-14

13 “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (NIV)

When as God’s people we insist on our own way – plotting our own course – and not being sensitive to what is right and wrong before God THEN we are like Saul – presumptuous. The Bible tells us to come to God with boldness and confidence BUT that can easily degenerate in irreverance and presumption.

Saul got too big for his boot – he lost the sense of awe and worship

c) Disobedient.

Already noted 1 Samuel 13:13. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you ..

This disobedience occurs again in Ch.15 – he is told to destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions – this was God’s punishment on them.

Samuel even reminds Saul to be obedient 1 Samuel 15:1 1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. (NIV)

But as the day worn on he saw the plunder and he kept some of it back and spared the life of King Agag.

He had heard the warning but as the day passed what he SAW meant more to him than what he HEARD from God.

Both occasions of disobedience – in ch.13 Saul offered sacrifices in order to keep the people together and ready for battle. In the case of the Amalekites he kept the best animals back because it was what the people wanted. Saul was quite ready to side with the people in letting the people decide the terms on which they would worship God. The people loomed large in Saul’s considerations, far larger than God. He simply brought God in as a way of doing good work. BUT God will not be used.

d) Cowardly.

By allowing himself to be influenced by the people – to be a people-pleaser – he tries to pass the buck 1 Samuel 15:15       15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” (NIV)

– he showed himself to have no spiritual backbone.

1 Samuel 15:24             24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. (NIV)

e) Proud.

He wanted the honour for himself – 1 Samuel 15:12 12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honour and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.” (NIV)

Saul was happy to worship God – BUT he wanted to make sure that he received glory for himself –

We are so subtle at grabbing the limelight for ourselves. We want people to notice us !!

f) Hypocritical.

If one of these traits is worse than another then maybe this is at the top of the list. It is bad enough when someone is proud and impatient and disobedient BUT to try and pretend to God very foolish.

1 Samuel 15:13-14         13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”     14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (NIV)

Word ‘hypocrite comes from Greek theatrical circles – describes someone who wears a mask – pretending to be what they are not!

Saul was trying to convince Samuel that he was godly – he didn’t fool Samuel – but even if he had he would not have fooled God!!

We could go on looking at Saul weaknesses but the pattern is clear – he was more concerned about his honour than God’s — and he was more concerned about saving face before the nation’s leaders and people than about honest repentance before God!!


Saul was called to lead Israel – their first king. He could not lead them in the end because God wanted a man after his heart BUT Saul proved himself NOT to be that man.

Saul proved himself to be UNSUITABLE for leaderhip – he was disqualified from leadership because he was hard-hearted! He became UNUSABLE in God’s hands. Because he was immovable / unrepentant.

God was patient with Saul and gave him every opportunity to turn back but instead he turned away.

a) lack of repentance.

Saul ruled for 42 years – for thirty of those years he knew his kingdom would be given to another. Why did God allow these 30 years? to give the opportunity to repent. He gave him David a man after his own heart to be in close fellowship with him. Isn’t God gracious?

We often fail to understand God’s grace – his goodness is designed to lead us to repentance  – not to support us in our sin. When we sin and God doesn’t zap us immediately it is not because he approves of our sin BUT he is patient and gives opportunity to repent.

Nothing but repentance will change an hard, independent, self-centred, arrogant, disobedient heart!

BUT didn’t Saul repent??

1 Samuel 15:24-31         24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.”


30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honour me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God………. (NIV)

True repentance is being broken hearted over sin – Saul is embarrassed because he was caught out – this is a face saving excercise.

Repentence works godly sorrow in our hearts – it is not just sorry for the consequences, that we have been caught and everyone knows. BUT deep sorrow for the sin itself and turning away from it.

Saul is not ready for the change of heart that repentance requires.

b) lost of God’s presence.

Possibly some of the most fearful word s in the Bible appear in 1 Samuel 16:14

14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul…….

If this is difficult to accept, then what comes next is worse still … , and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. (NIV)

However hard it may be for us to understand this – we must accept that God has power over evil spirits and he can command them.  He is sovereign over all things.

What Saul experienced was not simply depression because he was rejected as king – no there was demonic activity involved in Saul’s problem.

What began to control him was not the Spirit of God but and evil spirit which not only deprived him of peace of mind, but stirred up feelings and thoughts and imaginations to such an extent that at times it drove him into madness.

When the Spirit of God departed he had what today would be called psychological illnesses. If we sent Saul to a modern day psychologist he would be diagnosed with melancholia,  paranoia, bizzare emotional instability and homocidal tendencies. His behaviour had become irrational — basically he had fallen apart. We know he had dealings with the occult later in life – we don’t know about earlier in his life.

NB .. dabbling with the occult – at whatever level is playing with black fire!!! Anyone involved in horoscopes, palm reading, tarot cards, ouija board is is opening themselves up to all kinds of satanic activity.

Are we saying that the Lord allows satanic activity?

… that God allows spiritual misbehaviour to have psychological implications? YES!!

Satan is alive and well. Never underestimate his power.

In places where Satan himself is worshipped people live in the pit of hell.

ILLUS.: in RSA I have seen – Muslim / Hindu festivals…

In the West where people turn away more and more from the Word of God and the Church of God and the Spirit of God the possibility of demonic activity increases. That is bore out in our society by the obession with witches, and the paranormal.

c) lost his peace of mind and heart

Saul lost the presence of God because he turned away from God. Spiritual misbehaviour will have all kinds of psychological ramifications.

  • Why do some people go into deep depression? Sometimes – NOT always – sometimes there is a spiritual cause.
  • Why are some people paranoid? Sometimes – NOT always – sometimes because they know deep in their hearts that they are living in stubborn disobedience to God. They spend their time looking over their shoudlers and well they might.
  • Why do some people act irrationally? Sometimes – NOT always – sometimes they have adopted an irrational position as far as God is concerned – they profess to know him but their hearts ar far from him.

Often there is psychological disturbance and emotional instability caused because people are screwed up spiritually!


  • don’t attribute ALL emotional and irrational behaviour to a spiritual cause!
  • on the other hand, don’t  assume that all emotional and psychological imbalance has a natural cause.

It was an evil spirit that came upon Saul from the LORD and psychological disintergration was certainly a result.



We can’t be certain of Saul’s eternal destiny BUT we do know that he failed to be what God intented for him. He missed out on God’s best for him because of his wilful disobedience and unrepentent heart.

The lesson is clear, if I harden my heart and GO ON HARDENING my heart I will not remain emotionally and spiritually unscathed. On of the greatest abuses of God’s grace and God’s love is when  we think we can continue disobeying him with impunity – flaunting his laws over and over again without suffering ill effects.

If we flagrantly disobey and persistently harden our hearts we cannot come out unscathed.

When we diliberately and persistently go our own way – when we choose a path that leads us away from God he doesn’t stike us with lightening. A person can go that way – and stifle the conscience – and can think that he/she got away with it – “God didn’t zap me” – BUT you know what is frightening – if someone wants to deliberately go their own way God will let them go… ROMANS 1 – when people wilfully set a course away from God he lets them go “God gave them over ..” x2 –

As we look at David’s life in the weeks to come we will see that David sinned – grossly – and we may consider that David’s sins were worse than Saul’s . The difference is that David had a heart for God and when he realised his sin his heart broke before God in humility and repentence – Saul made excuses and tried to save face.

As we look at Saul and David – both started well – chosen and anointed by God – well equipped for the task both physically and spiritually – BUT Saul’s heart became hard and stubborn.

A good start is important – a good finish is equally important – just like in a marathon – we can’t live on past spiritual experience – “I was saved 30 years ago”  “I did so-and-so for God 5 years ago

– What about today? Is your heart soft towards God today? Are you walking with him today?

OR is there some hardness — some unconfessed sin that is hindering your spiritual development. Are you wearing a mask? Everyone may think you are a wonderful Christian BUT God knows your heart!

We need to hear with spiritual ears Samuel word to Saul

1 Samuel 15:22

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (NIV)





1 Samuel 13 & 15



  • Chosen
  • Equipped



  • Impatient
  • Presumptuous
  • Disobedient
  • Cowardly
  • Proud
  • Hypocritical



  • Lack of repentance
  • Lost of God’s presence
  • Lost of peace of mind and heart



  • Persistent, deliberate hardening of the heart …

         …always leads to spiritual and/or emotional                       and/or physical harm