1 Samuel 27: A Godless Chapter

I've prepared Sunday’s sermon on 1 Samuel 27. It’s one of those slightly awkward, ‘godless’ chapters of the Bible, in which the Lord neither speaks nor He is so much as mentioned. This is no accident; its human and divine authors knew exactly the point they were making. It begins with

And David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will [a]despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.”

God withdraws temporarily from David’s affairs because David has temporarily withdrawn Himself from God’s counsel. David’s cunning plan to escape Saul originates in his own heart, which is never a reliable repository of spiritual wisdom. Why did he not pray, or employ the urim and thumim as was his previous practice?

David’s analysis of his situation fails to take into account his glorious future as Israel’s greatest king. Although he cannot peer into that future, he does know that God has anointed him king to succeed Saul. If this is the case, it would be impossible for David to perish at Saul’s hand. By ignoring God’s word, he substitutes it for schemes of his own devising.

David has taken responsibility for his own safety rather than trusting his God who has done a remarkably good job so far. Cannot the God who delivered him from the hurled spears not deliver him from any further attempts on his person? The chapter immediately before this verse witnesses the Lord performing a miracle for David’s defence, causing Saul and his 3000 crack troops to remain sleeping as David strolls around their camp, helping himself to the royal spear and water jug.

David’s grand plan does seem to work- Saul tires of chasing him. This would have happened, anyway, however. And the price of David’s plan means he is subject to Philistine rule for over a year. Furthermore, he kills a great many civilians in this service and faces a dilemma at the chapter’s close when his new Philistine overlord demands he fights with him against his beloved Israel. None of this would have happened had he trusted God for his deliverance rather than his own heart. The Lord silently withdraws his immediate involvement in David’s affairs: if David can manage them better than the Lord, let David take all the credit.

I am sure that you and I can recall similar experiences in our own lives. The Lord’s silence is never permanent, and He will ensure that His eternal purposes are still fulfilled in our lives, despite our propensity to lean on our own understanding. He is faithful even when we are faithless. But for a season, He sometimes steps back that we might better learn from our mistakes and appreciate the benefits of following Him rather than running ahead.