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1 Samuel 26:2 Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David

The greatest threat to Saul was not David, but Saul himself. Since God determined he should not be king (1 Samuel 15:23), Saul should have arranged a smooth transition to the king of God’s choice. By resolving to keep his position, regardless of God’s will, Saul became an increasingly tragic figure. This is true for all who serve in the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom belongs to Jesus Christ, and not to anyone else. Pastors, teachers, musicians, custodians and ushers all serve at the discretion of Jesus Christ, and are never promised a permanent position. Opposition does not mean a person should resign, but whoever serves in any position should be willing to resign, whenever they believe it is God’s will to do so.

1 Samuel 26:3 Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah

When David learned that Saul and his army were camping nearby, he waited until it was dark. Then he and one of his soldiers went into the enemy camp. So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. . . . Abishai said to David, Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice (1 Samuel 26:7-8).

Abishai wanted to kill Saul, but David wanted to prove his loyalty once again. He wanted to show Saul that he could take his life if he wanted to, but that he really did not want to. [T]he Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish (1 Samuel 26:10), said David.

There is a time to act, and there is a time to wait, and wisdom knows the difference. It would take over ten years from the time David was anointed king until he actually became king. But David was willing to wait on God no matter how long it took. One of the greatest tests of faith is waiting for God to act. This was a test of David’s faith, and unlike Saul, David passed. 

1 Samuel 26:12 So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep

Walking into a camp of three thousand enemy soldiers appears to be foolish. Nevertheless, David and Abishai were willing to do it, because they believed that God was with them. Common sense is a gift from God that he normally wants us to use. But there are also times for taking risks because we believe that God is with us. Taking risks for God (and being willing to fail) are part of the life of faith.

1 Samuel 26:13 Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away

From there, David called out to the commander of Saul’s army. Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? . . . As surely as the Lord lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 26:15-16), he said.

Then David called attention to the missing spear and water jug. This was proof that he was there, and could have killed Saul if he wanted. Once again we can imagine Saul’s alarm, when he learned that his life had been spared, by the man he was trying to kill. 

Wise people learn from their mistakes and become a little wiser. Fools repeat their mistakes and become more foolish still. The first time David spared his life, Saul should have learned that David was not a threat to him. But the victim of his own paranoia, Saul repeated his mistake, and showed himself to be a royal fool. God knows we all make mistakes. May God help us not to repeat them.

1 Samuel 26:17 Saul recognized David’s voice and said, Is that your voice, David my son? David replied, Yes it is, my lord the king

This is the final conversation between David and Saul. Saul appeared to repent, and acknowledged David as the future king of Israel (1 Samuel 26:25). But Saul could not be trusted, and David knew it. To be in Saul’s presence was to risk his life, and the lives of his men. The only wise course was to separate, and they never spoke again. Sometimes we can’t  just get along.

1 Samuel 27:1 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

The relentless stress of being hunted by Saul compelled David to form an apparent alliance with Israel’s enemy—the Philistines. Achish, king of Gath, gave David and his six hundred men the town of Ziklag. With David on his side, Achish thought he would have less to fear from the nation of Israel.

1 Samuel 27:8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites.

David led Achish to think that he was attacking God’s people in Judah, but he was really attacking Israel’s enemies. To be sure he was not discovered, David did not leave a man or woman alive (1 Samuel 27:9). David was defeating God’s enemies, and protecting himself from being found out.

1 Samuel 27:12 Achish trusted David and said to himself, He has become so obnoxious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant for life

David deceived Achish, and survived in Philistine territory for over a year. But after he came to power, David defeated the Philistines (1 Chronicles 18:1). His double-life was over, and he could be who he really was.

It is not clear if David’s double-life met with God’s approval, but he was not the last believer to hide his true identity. Joseph [of Arimathea] was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders (John 19:38), wrote John. This is never advisable (Matthew 10:33), but people often do what they must, in order to stay alive. We should pray for Christians who are facing persecution, and use the freedom we enjoy to advance the kingdom of God.

Reflection and Review
When should God’s servants be willing to resign?
Was it foolish for David to walk into Saul’s camp?
How should Christians evangelize where Christianity is illegal?