I find this a troubling period in David’s life. Yet it illustrates well our human nature in our relationship with God when we are threatened. David has just escaped from Saul’s pursuit one more time, and this time with supernatural aid from God. It would be logical to think that David would relax knowing that God is on his side. That is not how David reacts.
But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will 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.”1 Samuel 27:1 NIV
Instead of trusting God and remaining in Israel David’s fear of Saul is so great that he thinks it better to hide among Israel’s greatest enemy. David takes his men and their families and goes to Achish, the king of Gath, seeking refuge. At this point it appears that David’s plan has worked. Achish accepts him into his city and Saul determines to give up his pursuit of David since he is even more afraid of the Philistines than he is of David.
Now the disturbing part of this story begins. Achish gives David a small city, but now David has to figure out how to provide for his army and their families. These men are not farmers or merchants. They are soldiers and what they know how to do is pillage and destroy. There are two possible targets for their destruction: Philistine territory or Israelite territory.
From a human perspective David’s plan seems brilliant. He will attack remote Philistine territories and destroy every person living in that territory leaving no witnesses to report back on what he has done. In addition, he will tell Achish that he has been raiding Israelite territory. Achish buys the deception and is convinced that David is making himself the enemy of Israel. Everyone acknowledges David’s prowess as a military leader. His reported victories convince Achish that David will be an asset to his kingdom for life.
What about us?
My struggle with this story is that rather than success being based on trust in God it is based on David’s cunning and successful deception. God never rebukes David directly as the story progresses, but David’s life gets very complicated as a consequence of his lack of trust in God.
In general, we must be careful when looking at stories in the Bible. The actions of the characters, regardless of their significance to the story, do not always provide us with positive examples for the choices we must make. I am certain that God would prefer for me to go to work to provide for my family rather than choosing to kill others and take their possessions as my own. David was a man after God’s own heart, but many of his actions were sinful. I will always make better choices when I evaluate the options from a perspective of trust in God rather than of fear of people.
David’s choice to deceive King Achish may be the beginning of David’s downward slide. Over and over in David’s life he will choose to escape through deceit. His choices to attempt to deceive never turn out well. We often choose some form of deception to smooth over some potential conflict in our own lives. For some reason it is easier to lie, than it is to tell the truth and face the consequences. God makes it clear that this is always a bad choice.
Telling the truth almost always appears to be the harder path to take, but results in a simpler life and is easier in the long run. Choosing any form of deception always appears to be the easier path to take, but results in a more complicated life that is harder in the long run.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.1 John 1:9-10 NIV
Truth telling requires trust in God. People may not respond well to the truth and the consequences of telling the truth may hurt. Our best chance to heal broken relationships is to continually walk in the truth and know we are walking with God.