Bible Study - 1 Samuel Chapter 27: David’s Lapse of Faith


Bible Study Series: Life of David 

1 Samuel Chapter 27: David’s Lapse of Faith


by F Gordon

Speedy Escape

As we pick up the story we see that David is still on the run from Saul.  He has a new wife, Abigail, and he has spared the life of Saul yet again, yet there remains much pressure and trials on the life of David.  He seems to be tired of the constant running from place to place.

Chapter 27.1 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 despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand."

David said in his heart, “I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul”.  David has had many victories and his faith in God has been strong.  But all of us are open to fear, unbelief, and attacks from the enemy that cause us to fall from the position of faith we once held.  Jeremiah 17.9 states “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? This is our heart, it can deceive us as to God’s will and His promises to us.  It can look at circumstances and forget all God’s faithfulness.  David probably said to himself, “I’ve been running for years and I have all these people and families to look after, it’s only a matter of time before Saul will get me.  I need to move from the land of blessing to the enemies of Israel to be safe”.  This for David was a lapse of faith.  He looked at the world to provide security.

Security vs Trust

Many saints have had lapses of faith; Abraham left the land of Israel on two separate occasions for security, instead of trusting God.  The first time was in Genesis chapter 12.

Genesis 12.10-20 10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.  11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.  13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you." 14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.  15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house.  16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.  18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?  19 Why did you say, 'She is my sister'? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way."  20 So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.

Abraham has journeyed with God to the land of blessing only to find there is a famine.  It is true that we may be where God has called us, yet find that God withholds the rain and food, but this does not mean that he can’t provide as he did with Elijah at the brook.  Abraham left the land of blessing to go down to Egypt.  As Isaiah 31.1 says,  Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord! Egypt is figurative of alliance with the world, to trust in the flesh, or desire the things of the world.   Another example is Israel in the wilderness.  Sick of the food that God provided they desired the food of Egypt.  

Abraham was a man of faith, the father of faith, no less.  Yet whenever he found himself in Egypt he compromised that faith.   We find that he was afraid for his life, so he lied about his wife, saying she was his sister.  If not for God’s protection despite Abrahams error, Sarai would have remained in Pharaoh's house.  But God plagued him, so Pharaoh asked Abraham, “What is this you have done?  Why did you not tell me?” Then he sent them away.

Thirty Years Later…

Again in Genesis Chapter 20 we have the same situation, 30 years later.  

Genesis 20.1-2 1 And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar.  2 Now Abraham said of Sarah, his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

You would think that walking by faith for 30 years and God proving his faithfulness time and time again that being afraid Abraham would not lie as he did with Pharaoh.  But no, here we have the same weakness repeating itself with Abraham.  The flesh is unchanging and no amount of time will improve its desire to sin.  The flesh, our natural man, doesn’t get better, it doesn’t improve, it is fit only for crucifixion.  That is why Christ included us in his death, burial and resurrection.  That our old man the flesh should not have dominion over us but the new man, Christ.  When Abraham is living by faith he trusts God in his circumstances, when he is not, fear rules him, and lying accompanies fear. 

Genesis 20.3-7 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, "Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife."  4 But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, "Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also?  5 Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she, even she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this."  6 And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.  7 Now therefore, restore the man's wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours."

God’s protection was over Abraham’s failure and He knew the king was innocent of Abraham's lie.  God’s own hand held the king back from touching Sarah.  God then instructed Abimelech to restore Sarah to Abraham for he was a prophet and would pray for him.  Abimelech must have thought “What, he is a prophet!  You mean this man, the man that has deceived me, who lied to me, and nearly caused the death of me, this man is the prophet of God!”  God may have responded “yes, this man, despite all his weaknesses, he is mine”.

By-path Meadow

Just like Abraham, David also had issues with lying when he failed to trust God.  In 1 Samuel 21.2 David flees from Saul and lies to the priest Ahimelech, which causes 85 priests to be killed.  Then in 1 Samuel 21.13 he fled to Gath, pretended to be mad, scratching at the gate with saliva running down his beard.  And in 1 Samuel 27, after being given shelter at Ziklag, he lied to Achish concerning who he was attacking. How did David get here and how do we also find ourselves in a place of compromise?

In Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, we have the story of Christian and Hopeful who are on a journey to the Celestial city.  The path they find themselves on is difficult to walk, but then they see another path close by called By-path Meadow.  So over the fence the two go, leaving the narrow path for one that was easier to travel.  This path ran alongside the narrow path for a short while, then it led them away into danger with pits and snares.  Eventually they were captured by Giant Despair and locked in his dungeon.  Christian and Hopeful regretted leaving the narrow path, and who would have thought it would lead them so far out of the way!

We all find the narrow path difficult at times.  David also saw another path that he thought would make life easier for a while, but he was drifting into enemy territory.  This always has dire consequences.

Lest We Drift Away

Hebrews Chapter 2.1 has the first of 5 warnings for the believer.  Hebrews was given to the hearers of the good news that Jesus is the son of God, that His death fulfils the law, and He is the only means of salvation.  So hear and take notice of Him.

Hebrews 2.1  Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  

This first warning is to pay attention to what you have heard concerning Christ lest you drift away.  Drifting is so easy to do and most of the time we don’t even realise we’re doing it.  The anchor on my boat used to slip and drag when not secured on the seafloor.  How I knew was I took marks on the land and continually checked to make sure I hadn’t drifted off my spot!  It’s the same with our faith.  Most christians drift away from the centrality of Christ slowly, it’s not a sudden departure.  All you have to do is nothing.  If we don’t give earnest heed to the scriptures we will drift.  If we don’t give attention to, and keep our eyes fixed on Christ, we can drift.  This is why Paul says in Phillippians 2.12 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, and in Colossians Chapter 3.2; set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

1 Samuel 27.2-12 Then David arose and went over with the six hundred men who were with him to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath.  3 So David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, each man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal's widow.  4 And it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath; so he sought him no more.  5 Then David said to Achish, "If I have now found favour in your eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?"  6 So Achish gave him Ziklag that day. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day.  7 Now the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was one full year and four months. 8 And David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. For those nations were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as you go to Shur, even as far as the land of Egypt.  9 Whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish.  10 Then Achish would say, "Where have you made a raid today?" And David would say, "Against the southern area of Judah, or against the southern area of the Jerahmeelites, or against the southern area of the Kenites."  11 David would save neither man nor woman alive, to bring news to Gath, saying, "Lest they should inform on us, saying, 'Thus David did.' " And thus was his behaviour all the time he dwelt in the country of the Philistines.  12 So Achish believed David, saying, "He has made his people Israel utterly abhor him; therefore he will be my servant forever."

David has drifted, his heart is not set on God’s word or his guidance and as a consequence he spends 1 year and 4 months living with the enemies of Israel.  Interestingly, there are no Psalms or songs that can be traced to this time in David’s life.  While he was there he gained favour with Achish, but he was lying to him concerning who he was killing, leaving no one alive to alert the king.  We even find David and his men in 1 Samuel Chapter 29 at the rear of the Philistine army about to go to war against Israel.  How could this be?  How could David find himself going to war against God’s own people?  How could a man after God’s own heart find himself in enemy land and enrolled in the enemy's army?  This would be like us joining ISIS and going to war against Christians and Israelis.  What would have happened if the Philistine Lords hadn’t said “Wait on, something is not right here, what are these Hebrews doing here?!’  Thankfully the providence of God means David does not sin any further.  However, he will still be disciplined by God and suffer the consequences of living in Ziklag.  

Like David and Abraham, we also are prone to drifting away from God.  We need to check that the paths we walk down are not taking us away from God when life is difficult, but that we remain steady in God’s will and purpose for us.

God Bless