Fugitives of the World - Protected by God
Imagine being told that you have been anointed the king of the land.
Would feel pretty good wouldn’t it? David got that news in 1 Samuel 16. It is not until 2 Samuel 2 and then fully in 2 Samuel 5 that he actually becomes king of the whole land. That’s an awfully long time isn’t it.
It’s almost like coming to church on a Sunday - hearing news like we heard last week - that where ever the presence of the Lord is there is always victory - feeling pumped up with the knowledge that as a Christian you share in the victory of Jesus. You walk out with words in our ears like ‘Death where is your sting’, confident that the Spirit is in you and you can take on the world and live for God.
And then Monday hits. I don’t often feel victorious on a Monday. It hard. And then instead of enjoying the week, we endure it. Work, travel, family, school - its all tough. The pull to live sinfully, pursue lusts and ungodly desires tugs at us. And we are not feeling victorious, we feel like we are at war. And in this day in age, with the language directed at Christians, such as bigots, homophobe, and close minded and the pressure to conform, the feeling is not as victor, but as fugitive. It’s like the king that we live for is illegal - and in some places in the world preaching the name of Jesus is illegal. Where is God’s protection Monday-Saturday? What does God’s protection look like?
David is familiar with such questions. He was told he was the king in 1 Sam 16 but is then pursued and hunted by King Saul right up until Saul’s death in 1 Sam 31. And even then it takes a couple more chapters into 2 Samuel for David to be pronounced king.
Last week in chapter 18, Saul tried to kill David, often through use of a third party like the Philistines. This week things escalate a little. This week we have four escape stories from chapter 19 and throughout the chapter we will see God’s protection over David and then we will conclude by considering what God’s protection might look for us, not just for today, but every day.
If we come to today’s Scripture like we did last week we would see that instead of 3 episodes in our weekly mini-series we have 4. We wont have time to look at each in equal measure, but let’s see how we go.
Episode 1: What a friend David has in Jonathan
Episode 1: What a friend David has in Jonathan
The question of God’s protection has to be on David’s mind. 1 Sam 18 was littered with all the different ways Saul tried to kill David without getting his hands dirty, but verse 1 of 1 Sam 19 suggests that Saul is tired of beating around the bush and shortly after the embarrassment of marrying David off to one of his daughters Michal, Saul wants to kill David.
And to complicate things, everyone in Saul’s family seem to love David and not Saul. Jonathan is a dear friend to David and last week we saw Jonathan recognise that the presence of the God was truely with David and not his father. Saul’s own family is getting tense as sides are drawn and Saul is being quickly isolated.
Jonathan’s love for David extends to hatching a plan to protect David. Jonathan offers his father rational, moral and theological reasons not to kill David.
Rational: 1 Sam 19.4: He has not wronged you and what has happened has benefited you greatly.
Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly.
Moral:1 Samuel 19.5: He risked his life for Israel when he fought Goliath. And Theological: The Lord used him to win a great victory.
He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”
This threefold argument seems to settle the crazed and rage filled Saul down. Saul listens to his Son and David ends this episode standing with Saul and some sort of tense peace.
As an aside: It is amazing what can be resolved over a conversation face to face - particularly in our day in age of phone call and keyboard ninja warriors.
Unfortunately the practical protection that Jonathan offers here does not last because our second episode has Saul trying to kill David again.
Episode 2: Attack of the Saul
Episode 2: Attack of the Saul
Almost without a pause, verse 8 goes:
Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.
Once more there was war. And David, goes out as he usually does, and struck them down and they fled. It’s funny that, while the Philistines are this ever present threat to Israel in the narrative, this is their only mention.
David struck down the enemies of God’s people and they fled. But then look what happens.
A repeat of 1 Sam 18 with Saul again raging around the house, being tormented by an evil spirit, just happens to have a spear in his hand. We see the peace that Jonathan arranged in episode one vanish as Saul throws the spear at David and misses.
Other translations go for the more literal interpretation of describing the spear ‘striking’ the wall and David ‘fleeing’. In the same way David is used for God’s good will in striking down the Philistines and them fleeing, what this episode describes is David being treated like an enemy of God.
In David being treated like the enemy and forced to run, episode two reminds us of just how far Saul has drifted from being suitable to lead God’s people. He isn’t leading God’s people, but trying to kill the one who God has chosen to be the king - David. And David, well, he is the fugitive.
How is it that we can see God protection here? At the core of the sadness of Saul treating David like the enemy we simply note that the spear that Saul threw struck the wall and not the heart. A guy by the name of Dale Ralph Davies notes that:
Sometimes the clearest evidence that God has not deserted you is not that you are successfully past your trial but that you are still on your feet in the middle of it.
David, conquerer of Philistines is treated like a Philistine, but God protects him - even if it means that he is only just kept in the fight.
Episode 3: Escape through the window - Ps 59
Episode 3: Escape through the window - Ps 59
Things get interesting in episode three: the escape through the window.
Saul sends some goons over to David’s house to watch it and kill him in the morning. Unlike the previous chapter, Saul continues to pursue David after throwing his spear. But there was someone on the inside. Once again, from Saul’s family, in fact his own daughter warns David and he escapes out the window.
Michal buys some time by telling the messengers rather innocently that David was ill. So the scurry back to Saul. Obviously they were not hiding as they watched. This would be the worst stake out in history as Michal knew they were there and essentially sends them away.
Saul is sick of it. For too long now David has been one step ahead of him. For too long now his plans haven’t worked. Time to take them into his own hand. 1 Samuel 19.15
Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.”
He no longer swears not to lay a hand against David. He doesn’t even say that the Philistines will do it for him. He simply orders his body be brought forward so that he, Saul, could kill him.
Michal, however, has done the old switcheroo. She grabs some stuff from the house and makes it look like David is sleeping in the bed, and it is unclear why there are idols in the house. Equally as unclear is what we are to understand of when Michal lies to her father apart from that it’s clear here that Michal isn’t perfect and under the stress of a fugitive husband and a mad mad father, she lies to save some face.
So David escapes again and we reach the climax of the chapter.
Episode 4: Psalm 2 acted out
Episode 4: Psalm 2 acted out
What is interesting about verse 18 is not that David escaped, but where he went. In terms of supporters or some sort of power base, David would be expected to go to Bethlehem. But David doesn’t go where he is militaristically strong, he flees to Ramah where Samuel, the prophet of the nation and the one who anointed David, is located. Ramah was both a shorter distance to travel and it was where the spiritual leader of the nation was. David’s move is spiritually tactical.
In what is an odd scene that follows, Saul sends three waves of men to go and get David, but all stop short and are prevented by the Spirit of God from reaching David. We are not sure what this prophesying was. Samuel is a prophet because he speaks the word of God, but Saul has seen to be prophesying when he was raging around the house in the previous chapter. It seems to vary but always be some sort of speech under the influence of a power beyond that of the speaker, as one commentator remarks.
Finally, Saul gets off his bum and goes out to capture and kill David. His journey is even delayed as he stops for directions in 1 Sam 19.22. Unlike his servants, we get details of Saul’s journey. Ever since 1 Samuel 9 we have known that Saul was not the sharpest guy geographically. He wandered and wandered and wandered looking for donkeys before stumbling across Samuel.
After finding Samuel in 1 Sam 9, he is anointed as the leader of Israel and then, as he is walking on home he comes across a band of prophets and starts prophesying. Ecstatically because the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. And within that context, this is really positive. People remark in 1 Samuel 10.11, “Is Saul among the Prophets?”
When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Now, look at 1 Samuel 19.23
So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth.
It happened again, but as we have seen in what has happened with Saul’s messengers, this is not positive. Saul is ecstatically raging about as he is under judgement from God. He does not have control of his body. And then we get this.
He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Jonathan, Saul’s son gladly handed his robes over to David in 1 Samuel 18 as a sign that David was truely the man who would be king. David is the true heir to the throne. Here, look at verse 24, Saul strips off his garments and he lay naked all that day and all that night. Jonathan’s actions we willing and dignified. Saul’s are shameful and distressful.
“Is Saul among the prophets” began as such as encouraging sign in chapter 10. Now, it is a reminder that Saul’s prophesying is a sign of God’s rejection of him. Once it was a proverb that elevated a farm boy to a position of high importance, but now it humbles him at the feet of Samuel.
This little episode is a really an acting out of sorts of the beginning of Psalm 2 where we hear Ps 2.1-3
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
It’s useless to go against the will of God because where the presence of the Lord is there is always victory. As we have seen the decent of Saul and him spiral into sin, we have seen the protection of the Lord’s anointed one - David. God’s protection is just constant throughout this chapter, no other force in the whole land could deter God from ensuring that David would live out God’s purpose for Him.
The remarkable thing about the conclusion here is that the presence of the Lord is no longer behind the scenes, offering protection through Jonathan, David’s elusiveness, or even Michal, but now it is in plain sight. Whereas throughout the narrative, Saul has appeared to be in power and on the front foot, now we continue to hear Ps 2.4-6
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
Where the presence of the Lord is there is always victory.
Back in David’s day this narrative would of been hugely encouraging because they could see that David was being raised up and protected the whole way by God, to be Israel’s king. He was treated like a fugitive, but throughout this time he knew who his God was - the God who sits in heaven and scoffs at attempts to disturb God’s will.
As we reflect on our Monday to Saturday lives, how is it that you expect God to protect you. He could do it practically by raising up brothers and sisters to support and encourage you. Even after Jesus ascended to heaven, the lower a mate in a basket trick was still used by Christians in Acts 9.19-31. But at the same time, I doubt that you will need to abseil any walls to escape assassins.
In fact, God’s protection often wont be as obvious as the spirit of the Lord forcing others to prophecy and lie naked all day and all night. It might not even cure me of this sore throat and runny nose this week. The reality is that God’s protection of us is not focused on our physical needs, but our Spiritual.
We are studying the reformation every Thursday night here at church and some names such as Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer. Those three men are known and loved by God and were fine Anglican Bishops and God protected their souls, even through their gruelling executions by being burnt at the stake. Enemies of the state and yet loved by God.
Is this how we consider be protected by God? Are our eyes fixed upon the God in heaven who laughs at those who would have us persecuted? When the sweat rolls down the back of our necks as we sit and consider if we would be bold enough to speak the gospel to a work college or to a family member? When we fear being torn to shreds by the anger and disagreement of others?
The truth is that no one here will receive the news that they are going to be the next king of Israel. That isn’t going to happen. But we have received the news that Jesus is the true king of Israel and that he suffered and died and rose again for our salvation. He wears the victors crown now and those who trust in him are united in Him. John 3.36
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
And this eternal life is eternally protected. John 4.28
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,
This world can take a lot from us. But it cannot take the salvation secured to us by Christ. With that sort of protection, what sort of confidence do we take into Monday?