1 Samuel 22:6-23
There is no escaping troubles in this life. Ever since mankind sinned against God and came under the curse of suffering and death, troubles are common to all humanity. But God designs the troubles to reveal to us how desperately we need Him. Our suffering drives us to our Savior.
What sometimes comes as a shock to us is what we endure after we have turned in faith to Him and have committed ourselves to serve Him. We expect life to be better—and it is always better to be close to God. But that does not mean life is necessarily easier. Whoever joins up to serve Jesus Christ will endure persecution from His enemies. Nor does our flesh want to yield to the Spirit of God that indwells believers. Serving God means spiritual war. Jesus said, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Your reward is great in heaven when men say all manner of evil against you falsely for His sake. The true prophets were treated the same way.
Consider David, the youngest of Jesse’s clan, tending sheep, but a man after God’s own heart. Samuel anoints him to be the future king. He rises quickly to prominence, playing the harp for the demon-oppressed King Saul, killing Goliath, leading military operations, achieving multiple victories over Israel’s chief enemies, the Philistines. He was married to the king’s daughter and was close friends with Jonathan, the king’s son. His was a household name. He was a national hero and the subject of celebration songs. But right now that is not the story of his life. Now he is hated and hunted by jealous Saul. He is running for his life, a fugitive. He is banished from his high position and driven from his wife. He no longer has the company of his close friend Jonathan. He has several hundred men gathered to him, also misfits in this kingdom ruled by a tyrant.
The last time we were in this series we found David in a cave, gaining shelter in the shadow.
Shelter in the Shadow
Safety: Divine Refuge (1 Samuel 22:1a)
Community: Divine Purpose (1 Samuel 22:1b-4)
Prophecy: Divine Direction (1 Samuel 22:5)
In the first part of 1 Samuel 22, David is in a cave. In the rest of 1 Samuel 22 we find Saul on a mountaintop holding court. The contrast is jarring. It does not seem right. Saul hates David because God has chosen David and David loves God. Saul’s true character is exposed for what it is—selfish, brutal, and heartless. He is the classic persecutor of God’s people. But he seems to be prospering while David suffers.
Perhaps you have experienced similar circumstances or are going through that now. You are learning that Paul was right when he told Timothy that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Maybe theologically and theoretically we can agree with that. But it does not seem fair that wicked people prosper, carrying out even murder against good people, making them fugitives. This section of David’s life will help us work through this puzzle. It will help us come to grips with reality. The Word of God does not present a veneer over what life is like. It doesn't talk about serving Jesus in platitudes that don't work in the real world where it gets gritty and bloody. It works in the midst of a broken world, through much suffering. It is what the Bible presents and yet it also presents to us a God who will win the victory. Let's read 1 Samuel 22:6-23:
6 Now Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men who were with him. Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him. 7 And Saul said to his servants who stood about him, “Hear now, people of Benjamin; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, 8 that all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.” 9 Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, 10 and he inquired of the Lord for him and gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.” 11 Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father's house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. 12 And Saul said, “Hear now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” 13 And Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” 14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, “And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king's son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house? 15 Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? No! Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.” 16 And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father's house.” 17 And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. 18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. 19 And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword. 20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 21 And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. 23 Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.”
Refuge from the Destroyer
· Lies Against the Godly (1 Samuel 22:6-15)
· Murder of the Innocent (1 Samuel 22:16-19)
· Refuge for the Remnant (1 Samuel 22:20-23)
This is a dark chapter and difficult to wrestle with, but it is fitting because life, when it gets this way, is difficult to wrestle with. We need hope that God will carry us through.
I. Lies Against the Godly (1 Samuel 22:6-15)
You see that Saul's lies are driven fundamentally by self-devotion. He is talking about himself all the time.
Conspired against me (2x)
No one discloses to me (3x)
None of you is sorry for me
Stirred up my servant against me
Risen up against me
Then he appeals to his servants’ greed—will the son of Jesse give you what I’ve given you
This is a man after man's own heart. Saul lives for himself. That is why he had no room for God’s direction of his life. That is why God took the kingdom from him and gave it to a man after God’s own heart. The essence of sinful living is self—living for what I want regardless of what God’s will is. Forget His commands, forget submitting to His will, regardless of the truth, regardless of how my choices harm others--I live for myself. Saul is dangerous and does the atrocities he does, because right at the core of it, where God belongs, he has enthroned himself. You would never dream he would become the monster he becomes. People don't dream how far sin and Satan will take them when they make that wrong fundamental choice: I am in the world to serve myself. When we are in the world to serve self, others will suffer. Saul lies because of self-devotion.
Saul lies also, revealing his disloyalty not only against his son-in-law (David), but also against his own righteous son, Jonathan. Who could ask for a better son than Jonathan? He is a paragon of an excellent son and friend.
He says about Jonathan: “No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.”
This is not only a complete untruth, but a revealing of an unnatural treatment of a son he should have held in high esteem. He saw David as a threat in part because the throne would not pass to Jonathan his son. But he publicly dishonors his son and lies about him for the sake of his own pride and out of jealous hatred of David.
Sometimes loving God means family members will hate you. Jesus says you must love God more than family. Those who humbly suffer for the Lord's sake are often God’s means of turning even hostile family to faith in Him. Augustin, from the 4th century--one of the ways God reached Augustin's heart was that he had a mother who knew Jesus and who lived a holy and faithful life in spite of being mistreated by both her husband and her son. Sometimes loving God means that family members will hate you, but know this: If I live for myself, my family will suffer. I can't be devoted to myself instead of God and treat others the way I should treat them. Those closest to us will suffer most.
The obvious reality is that Saul's lies involved outright falsehoods. Jonathan did not stir up David against Saul. Saul drove David away. David is not lying in wait against Saul. He is hiding from Saul because Saul is pursuing him to murder him. There is only one true statement Saul makes about Jonathan and David. They do have a covenant together. Why? Because they are both devoted to Yahweh. They are of kindred heart because their hearts belong to God. This is a good thing, and Saul speaks evil of it. Saul hates them, fears them, lies against them, and even tries to murder them—because they love God and Saul has rejected God.
But try as he might, Saul can’t tear God from the throne of the universe. He cannot seize control of human history from the Sovereign Lord. Saul cannot pin God against the wall with his spear. So he tries to do the next best thing—destroy those who love God, who serve God. He lies against them.
We think of the enemies of the Lord as fanatical terrorists in distant lands, and in half of our world believers live in lands where it is illegal to worship the true God and they are persecuted for it. But not long ago a brother sharing his experience in our city made the comment that he would rather deal with Al-Qaeda than what he had faced from so-called Christian brothers here. Overstatement? No. A recognition of the same spirit. He has spent much of his life in the 10-40 window. He has had close friends slain by Al-Qaeda. Yet he saw the same spirit of hatred here. Few in our community would dare to wield a real sword against Christians, but they will defame and destroy them with their words. They attack the character and devotion of those serving Jesus. They try to destroy their ministries and livelihood.
It is good for us to step back, because Saul began well. When he was little in his own sight, he began well. Many a persecutor begins in a church pew. Many a person who hates Jesus and His people began being reared in a Christian home.
How do you speak of other believers? Are your words what you absolutely know to be true? Are they gracious? Do they build up? Do they show honor? Or do they tear down, dishonor, wound, slander, destroy? Why would you join the devil, the slanderer, the accuser of the brethren, Satan the adversary, Apollyon the destroyer in his rage against the servants of God? Why is such behavior so common among people who claim to know Jesus and even sing out praise to Him in the sanctuary? Do not join with the destroyer unless you consider yourself a child of the devil. God will deal with the Sauls and Doegs of the world. They will not escape. They are reserved for fiery judgment.
John 8:44: You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.
II. Slaughter of the Innocent (1 Samuel 22:16-19)
16 And the king said,“You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father's house.” 17 And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. 18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. 19 And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.
Saul could not bring himself to execute God’s command to destroy the enemies of the Lord’s people, the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:1-28). Wealth, popularity, and prestige meant too much to him. You recall that he saved the best of the livestock and spared King Ahab. He could not bring himself to destroy the Amalekites, but he is fine with wiping out the godly. He treats the priests of the Lord and their families as if they are under the divine ban, devoted to destruction. Saul’s root problem is not that he is a liar and murderer. His root problem is that he does not treat God as God. He worships at the altar of himself. He wages war to steal back what God has sovereignly taken from him. He is trying to destroy the one to whom God has given the kingdom, along with anyone aligned with him. So he engages in greed, lies, murder.
Kill the priests of the LORD—it is a recurring statement in the chapter. It is like a warning bell. This outrage is so blasphemous it is unthinkable. Even Saul’s own servants fear to go so far—all but one. A descendant of Esau. One who does not value the things of God. One whose devotion to self-advancement matches that of Saul.
Saul has Doeg execute the priests of the LORD because “their hand also is with David.” What does this mean? They fed David, gave him a sword, inquired of the LORD for him. These are their crimes. Saul hates David and Ahimelech because David is the Lord’s anointed, the man after God’s own heart. David is more important than even Saul imagined. We know that David is the link to the promised Savior-King, the ultimate Anointed One of the LORD, the Christ, Jesus. David is hated ultimately because of his connection to the Messiah. But David is safe because of his connection to the Messiah.
No wonder David writes in Psalm 2:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
In such a world as this, where those that are evil hate those who are good, where those that hate the Anointed are against those who belong to him, in such a world, is there a refuge? David says blessed are all that take refuge in Him.
III. Refuge for the Remnant (1 Samuel 22:20-23)
20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 21 And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. 23 Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.”
I love those words, "But one." God always has His remnant no matter what the destroyer does. Herod slaughters all the infants of Bethlehem—but the One, Jesus Christ. The climax statement is verse 23: “Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.”
Saul slaughters the priests of the LORD. David provides safety for them. How you treat the servants of the LORD reveals your relationship to the LORD. All the pious talk and religious ceremony in the world is an empty, deceitful charade without loving loyalty to God’s people.
A greater Anointed one than David calls out to those pursued by the destroyer, “Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” David would be king one day. Abiathar would serve beside him for years. Jesus is King and will rule over all the universe one day. No one will be able to stand against Him, even death will be destroyed. When Jesus says stay with Me, you will be safe. He will deliver.
The destroyer pants for our blood, too. Our rebellious nature—the flesh, and sin, and Satan, his demons, and a hostile world conspire to deceive, to dominate, to destroy every human being. Their brutal exploits fill the bloody pages of human history, infest our own days with bitter pain, and set us sliding downhill, clawing, kicking, screaming, and despairing on an inescapable path to the hell that we deserve.
But there is a refuge for us in the Person of David’s distant son, the Anointed One, the Savior-King, Christ Jesus. Run to him and find rest from your fears and safety from your alarms. This One, completely innocent, utterly godly—the God-man Christ Jesus, bore the hatred of evil men, paid the death penalty for your sin and mine, and rose victorious from the grave. His sacrifice on the cross is greater than all our sin—by his shed blood God fulfills both His justice and His love—and can in righteousness forgive guilty sinners willing to repent and believe. His power of life is stronger than death: having died our death, He rose from the tomb three days later to offer eternal life to all willing to flee to Him.
We learned that Abiathar took the ephod of the high priest, which was used to enquire of the LORD. Abiathar will become a divine ally for David, providing direct revelation from God to help David survive all the schemes of the enemy and reach the throne as promised. This is just another demonstration that the Spirit of the LORD has departed from Saul and has rushed upon David to bless him.
We breathe a sigh of relief that Abiathar has escaped, but we are troubled still. We cannot erase the chilling echo of screams of women and little children. We envision the carnage of a community littered with blood-soaked linen-clad priests of the LORD, their families sprawled round them, their livestock bloating in the afternoon sun.
The servants of the LORD, true believers in the covenant of God, rescued from their sin by the Savior-King are persecuted by the destroyer to this day. You can hardly read the news without hearing of those wasting away in prison or slaughtered by those who hate the Lord. At the very least their names are reviled. The bodies of others lie in unmarked graves. Their blood, like Abel’s, soaking into the ground cries out to God. Others waste away in prisons, treated like the scum of the earth, yet saints of whom the world is not worthy.
What of Doeg, the butcher of priests, women, children? His kind still plagues the earth. What of them? Will no one stand in their way? Will no one bring justice against them? Let David himself give us insight. He wrote words in his grief over this atrocity. He wrote Psalm 52:To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.” Listen to his praise of God in the midst of this tragedy:
Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. 2 Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. 3 You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah 4 You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. 5 But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah 6 The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, 7 “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” 8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. 9 I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
The Doegs of the world will have their little day, but they are doomed. The truly blessed ones, serving not earthly kings but a heavenly One, gladly suffer persecution as those whose destiny is secure in the house of the LORD forever. They have found refuge from the destroyer in the Lord Jesus Christ their Savior, who says, "Stay with Me. You will be safe with Me."
1. Why do you think Scripture draws a connection between lies against others and murder?
2. Why do you think our own relationship to God directly impacts our treatment of other people, especially those who belong to Him?
3. When you are right with God what do your attitude, words, and actions toward brothers and sisters in Christ look like? When you are out of fellowship with God, what happens?
4. When human brutality breaks out against innocent people leaving death and sorrow in its wake, how do the sovereign power, wisdom, and goodness of God help you make sense of it? What connection do you see between such events and the cross of Jesus necessary to God’s redemptive plan?
5. What are common human substitutes for finding refuge in God alone, and why do they ultimately prove worthless? (See Psalm 52)
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
March 2, 2014