The conflict between King Saul and David steps up a notch or two in this chapter.
1 Samuel 22:1-23
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.
3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” 4 So he left them with the king of Moab,and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.
5 But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.
6 Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul was seated, spear in hand, under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing at his side. 7 He said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8 Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.”
9 But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, said, “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. 10 Ahimelek inquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the swordof Goliath the Philistine.”
11 Then the king sent for the priest Ahimelek son of Ahitub and all the men of his family, who were the priests at Nob, and they all came to the king. 12 Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.”
“Yes, my lord,” he answered.
13 Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?”
14 Ahimelek answered the king, “Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? 15 Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.”
16 But the king said, “You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.”
17 Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”
But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.
18 The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.”So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19 He also put to the swordNob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.
20 But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. 23 Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”
Saul becomes more erratic now in his behaviour. He claims that the priests have sided with David and that he is being kept in the dark and been betrayed. He orders his guards to kill the priests. Displaying courage, they refuse to then Saul turns to Doeg the Edomite to carry out his murderous deed.
One son of priest Ahimelek, named Abiathar, manages to escape and flees to join David and those gathered with him.
What a contrast between Saul and David. Saul, the popular, powerful king – the people’s choice—had now become like Pharaoh in the days of Moses and like Herod in the time of Jesus. He is the one who has promised much but has delivered little. Many had lost out in Saul’s world and had become disillusioned. He has placed himself above God, and, through this murderous act, he removes any doubt as to where he sees his place in the scheme of things – someone in the place of God. He has virtually become the anti-Christ!
But then we look at David and his band of followers, they are the despised, the downtrodden, those who had not benefited in Saul’s kingdom. Whilst Saul is interested only in himself and his reputation, we see David even caring for his family at this time. He travels to Moab (David’s great grandmother was Ruth a Moabite) to keep his ageing parents out of harm’s way until the future became clearer. We see Saul only interested in being served, and, in contrast, we see David serving others.
When Abiathar reaches David and his band of outcasts and misfits, David reassures him to stay and not be afraid.
David is the forerunner of the true king to come in Jesus. Like Jesus, David gathers together the downtrodden, the poor the despised out of Saul’s kingdom. It’s no different in Jesus’ kingdom. Paul tells us in 1 Cor1:26-29 that not many were wise, influential or of noble birth by the world’s standards are called into God’s kingdom. On the contrary, God chose the foolish things, the weak things, the despised and lowly so that we might not boast about our position, because we are there only through Jesus.
David also echoes Jesus’ words when he says to escapee Abiathar to stay but not be afraid. But he reminds him that those trying to kill Abiathar are also trying to kill him too. David is also a suffering king just as God’s true king will be. Jesus invites us to come to him, those who are weary and heavy laden, and he will give them rest. But he also reminds us that if the world hated him, we can expect the same treatment from the world.
Head: What are the leaders like in your country? Are they popularist but delivering little after promising much? Or are they more like David?
Heart: Do you often feel a little too comfortable in the world’s kingdom, with the things of this world? Do you find it hard to more closely identify as a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom?
Hands: What is one thing you are doing this week to start or to stop that would help others identify you more closely with Jesus’ kingdom?
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father we thank you for David and how he was a forerunner of your true king Jesus. We thank you that we are loved by you despite being losers in the world’s eyes. We thank you that Jesus welcomes us and that we are safe with him. Help us as we face the opposition that comes from this world because we follow you. Help us to be faithful and loving as we serve others.
A song to listen to: Oh Lord, My Rock & My Redeemer