Anyone who thinks the Bible is boring has never read I Samuel 21 and 22! These passages read like a suspenseful plot in a blockbuster movie. David is a fugitive, running from Saul, whose increasing paranoia causes him to imagine that David wants to kill him. Enter Doeg the Edomite, who has seen David visiting the high priest, Ahimilech, and is happy to (incorrectly) inform Saul that the priest is protecting David. Paranoid Saul then instructs Doeg to kill Ahimilech and all the priests at Nob, and Doeg obliges by killing not only the priests but every man, woman, child, and animal. Only Ahimelech’s son, Abiathar, escapes and runs to David, telling him about the massacre. David is overcome with guilt because he knows Doeg told Saul he had been with Ahimilech, and he feels responsible for the deaths at Nob. Suddenly, the future king of Israel is hiding in a cave, fearing for his life.
Now, I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s safe to assume that David was fairly confident God would protect and preserve his life. After all, God had chosen him to be king when he was just a boy. But I’m also fairly certain that when David was on the run from Saul and acting like a madman in front of an enemy king and hiding in a cave alone, he wasn’t feeling very protected. In fact, he probably felt very much like a failure, wondering what God was doing? I’ve been there. Sure God had called me to something and wondering what went wrong–that mentoring relationship that didn’t go quite as well as I prayed it would. That small group that didn’t “gel” like I’d hoped. That ministry idea that never became reality because I was too scared. Those things sure felt like failures to me. But God doesn’t promise protection from failure or fear. He just asks me to be obedient and faithful, like David. And, when I choose to learn from past failures and step out in spite of my fears, God often rewards me far above what I could have imagined.
And then there’s Abiathar. He was the sole survivor of the massacre at Nob and yet he sought out David, the guy who was responsible for killing his father and other family members. David couldn’t do anything about the killings, but he could offer Abiathar sanctuary and reassurance. “Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” (I Samuel 22:23, ESV) David wasn’t scared of Abiathar, although maybe he should have been! David was confident God would protect Abiathar because David was confident God would protect him. His trust and hope were in the Lord, and he offered that trust and hope to a very frightened Abiathar. And David was right! Of course, he survived and became king, but Abiathar also survived and went on to become High Priest and “the king’s companion” (I Chronicles 15:11; 27:33-34). God had a plan for David and Abiathar, and He has a plan for me. And, just like them, I am indestructible until God’s plan for me is complete.
Although we can easily imagine what they may have been, I Samuel 21 and 22 don’t reveal much about David’s emotions during this time. However, Psalms 52, written in the cave just after David found out about Doeg’s betrayal, gives us a clear picture of David’s thought and feelings as he condemns Doeg’s behavior and affirms the steadfast love of God.
Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. (Psalm 52:1, ESV)
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good… (Psalm 52:8-9, ESV)
I’m grateful for today’s reminder that David was human, just like me. I tend to think of him as a spiritual paragon; after all, he was a “man after God’s own heart”. But he didn’t always think or do the right (spiritual) thing. He was afraid and worried. He made poor choices and sinned, just like me. But, as Psalm 52 reveals, David’s heart was focused on God, even in the most difficult situations. He recognized that God alone was worthy of his faith and trust. And, in the end, God dealt graciously with him, just as He deals graciously with me.