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Bible Search
From the Sheep Pen to the Palace
The Fugitive
I Samuel 21-22
 
Back in 1963, a new television series was introduced to Americans called "the Fugitive".  It was on the air for four seasons.  It starred David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, a physician who is falsely convicted of his wife's murder and sentenced to receive the death penalty.
 
En route to death row, the train that is carrying him to prison derails allowing him to escape and begin a cross-country search for the real killer. At the same time, Dr. Kimble is hounded by the authorities, most notably by Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard (Barry Morse).
 
Maybe you remember this intro. . . (video)
 
For the first thirteen episodes, viewers didn't know the full story.  But in episode 14, the truth finally came out about who was the real killer.  In the meantime, Dr. Kimble lived as a fugitive. 
 
When we catch up with the hero of our story, a young shepherd boy turned valiant war hero turned hated enemy of King Saul, he, too, is a fugitive.  It is a strange twist in the story for a man who is on his way from the sheep pens to the palace. 
 
But when we last left him, he has been assured by his best friend in the world, Jonathan the son of King Saul, that he will be king.  But for now, he is on the run. 
 
Last week, we did an overview of chapters 18-23 to explore the friendship between Jonathan and David.   
Today I want to backtrack a little bit and fill in some of the gaps we left in chapters 21 and 22. 
 
These two chapters actually relate a series of four locations that David visits.  But more than that, each of the locations also reveals a combination of choices and emotions that combine to record some of the darkest days of David's journey to the palace.  And what I want to do is walk us through those places beginning with
 
1. David at Nob: Deception and Fear
 
Chapter 21:1-9
 
Nob is home to 85 priests of God, home to the High Priest Ahimelech and home to the tabernacle. It’s a terrible thing to run out of options but that’s exactly what has happened. David didn’t particularly want to come here but he hardly had any choice. And he didn’t really want to do what he was going to do but with Saul breathing down his neck, extreme measures were called for. When you’re a fugitive, you play the cards you’re dealt.
 
The story begins in
 
1 Samuel 21:1-2a
 
Now as you know, all of that was an outright lie.  David was not there conducting a secret mission for King Saul, he is running for his life from Saul.  But,  David must have sounded convincing because Ahimelech believed it without any question.
But it was a lie nonetheless. David lied because he was caught between a rock and a hard place.
Saul was trying to kill him and after so long on the road a man gets desperate and he says whatever he has to say to stay alive. So, David did what he felt like he had to do, not because he thought it was right, but because he thought it was necessary. And he never meant to hurt anyone else with his lie.
 
We’re told the purpose of the lie down in
 
verse 3
 
That partly explains what David was thinking. He has a few men on the run with him and they haven’t had a thing to eat. So he lies to Ahimelech in order to get food for his men.  And before we get too critical, most of us would have probably done the same thing, especially if we have others depending on us to eat. 
 
So David tells one of what we call those “little white lies,” the kind many people tell from time to time. Certainly it seems justified to tell a lie if that’s the only way to get food to eat. It was pure situation ethics—the end justifies the means.
 
Now complicating the story is the fact that the only bread the priest has available is the bread that has been on the table of showbread in the temple. The loaves are about to be replaced with fresh bread, but it is consecrated to the Lord and is to be eaten only by the priests. 
 
 
 
We will discover later in the account that Ahimelech seeks approval from the Lord to give the bread to David and his men and the Lord grants it because they are ceremonially clean.
 
Note one other detail that is tucked away in
 
verse 7
 
It is easy to overlook that little piece of information, but before this section of Scripture is completed, it will become very important.  Just keep that in mind as we make our way through the story. 
 
Also, notice, just before David leaves town, he says, “Oh by the way, you don’t happen to have a sword handy do you? I left mine back home.” Notice the end of
 
verse 8
 
So he goes back to his original lie in order to gain a weapon. 
 
verse 9
 
One has to wonder what has gotten into David.   First, he lies, then he lies again. And now he's willing to take the sword of Goliath to fight his battles.  I remember when he wouldn't even use the king of Israel's sword and armor because they hadn't been proven. All he needed when he went out to face Goliath was a slingshot , some rocks and the Lord. 
 
But now, he is willing to take the sword of the archenemy of Israel and use it as his defense.  I think David has lost his mind! 
And in a sense, he has.  he has lost his moral bearings.  He is in the wilderness, cut off from friends and family and the isolation of the wilderness makes a man do strange things.
 
And we need to mark it down and learn from his experiences that if you spend enough time out there in the wilderness, you stay out of church long enough, you get out from under the preaching and teaching of the Word of God long enough, and I promise you the constant pressure will pull at you and wear you down until your perspective begins to change. 
 
And all of a sudden, things that used to seem wrong don’t seem so bad anymore and things you swore you’d never do, you end up doing.
 
And for David, Nob became a place of fear and desperation.  We see the fear in the lies he told and we sense his desperation in the taking of Goliath's sword. 
 
But, that's not the worst of it.  Next we find
 
2. David at Gath: Compromise and Humiliation
 
1 Samuel 21:10-15
 
Fear drove him to come to Nob where he lies and take's Goliath's sword, and at Gath, fear drives him to do the strangest thing he has ever done.
 
verse 10
 
 
David goes to Gath. If you're familiar with the ground we've already covered in the story of David, then Gath should ring a bell.  We've heard that name somewhere before. 
 
It was back in chapter 17 at verse 4 where we were introduced to the champion of the Philistines, a man named Goliath from Gath. So Gath is in Philistine territory. That means it’s not in Israel which means David has now fled for refuge to the enemy camp.
 
Why in the world would David do something like that? It’s hard to know all the answers but I maybe he was thinking along these lines. “Gath is the last place Saul would ever look for me. I’ll go tell King Achish what’s going on and he’ll understand. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Then when I become king of Israel, I’ll come back down here and wipe these pagans out.”
 
So now he’s down in Gath with Goliath’s people. It doesn’t look very good, does it? The man of God hiding in the enemy camp. It was an act of outright spiritual treason. The people of God were to have nothing to do with the Philistines. They were to be separated from the surrounding nations.
 
But David looked around and said, “What’s the quickest way out?” That’s a huge temptation when you find yourself in the wilderness: to take the quickest way out. You can write it down as a spiritual principle: When you are in the wilderness, the quickest way out is almost always wrong. When you start compromising your convictions, when you go over to the world’s side, disaster is soon to follow.
 
This whole scheme would have worked except for some of the Philistine servants who saw David, recognized him, and remembered a little ditty that had been on the Hebrew Hit Parade.
 
verse 11
 
In so many words, they're asking King Achish, "Are you nuts?  Don't you remember this guy? This man is the greatest warrior the Israelites have!  And now he's brave enough to come right into our camp!  You're going to get us all killed!"
 
But remember, David is there hiding from Saul.  He doesn't want to be known as the might warrior.  He just wants a place to hide out.  In fact, verse 12 tells us that it is David who is afraid.  And when he realized he couldn’t hide his true identity, his fear made him act like a madman.
 
verses 12-13
 
This, from the man who won the greatest military victory in Israel’s history, the victory over Goliath. It looks to me like they may need to write another verse to the song about David!  Maybe something like,
 
"David may have slain his tens of thousands, but       now he's hanging round Goliath's kin. 
 
He flipped his wig, he needs a bib and fears the King of Gath will do him in.
 
The funniest part of the story is in
 
verses 14 and 15
It seems the king has a little sarcasm in him!  After all, he's got enough nuts in the house already!  He sure doesn't need another one! And in utter humiliation, the mighty Israelite warrior escapes from Gath. Now he’s back on his own. First there was fear, then a lie, then desperation, then compromise, and now humiliation. But the worst is yet to come.  Next we find
 
3. David at Adullam: Depression and Restoration
 
22:1-5
 
David now has reached the bottom.  The good news is he will soon be on his way back up.  When we get to chapter 22, he's back in Israel, but he is still running and still hiding. He comes to a place called the Cave of Adullam.
 
1 Samuel 22:1-2
 
It's quite a group isn't it?  The national hero of Israel and his royal guard. Every troublemaker in Israel came out to join him. He was the captain of the crooks and the duke of the deadbeats.
 
Now in fairness to this group I will tell you before it's over, these men who came to David in the wilderness will one day become a might army. In later years his greatest warriors would come from this unlikely group. And as David changes, his men change. As he begins once again to walk with God, so do they.
 
 
But this is the beginning, and right now, this man huddling in a cave in depression with 400 hoodlums sure doesn't look much like the future king of Israel. But God has been at work in David’s life shaping him into a king. By the time David is ready, these men will be ready, too.
 
There is one more location I want you to see and I point it out because it helps us deal with a loose end that is dangling in the story.  Remember the guy named Doeg, the Edomite?  He's the one who heard David lying to Priest Ahimelech back at Nob about being on mission for Saul.
 
We pick his story back up in chapter 22.  Verse 5 tells us after escaping from Gath, David eventually makes his way to a place called Hereth. 
 
4. David at Hereth: Confrontation and Confession
 
1 Samuel 22:5-23
 
Meanwhile, over in the little village of Nob, things are unusually quiet.  There’s not a sound in that little village of priests. There never was very much noise but now the only sound you hear is the wind whistling through the bushes.
 
Overhead the vultures circle. In the hot sun, dismembered bodies lie on the ground. They have been hacked to death in some kind of execution. Eighty-five priests are dead. Their wives killed. And their children. A whole village, along with all their livestock has been wiped out.  What happened?  Who would do something like this?
 
Beginning at verse 6, we find out.  While David is running and hiding, King Saul is sitting under a tree in Ramah.  Paranoia has taken over his life.  He won't even lay down his spear. He has guards standing around him should someone attack. 
 
And as he is ranting and raving about how everyone is out to get him and no one will tell him the truth about David and how his own son Jonathan has turned against him, our man Doeg steps up and says, "I was in Nob the other day and I saw a priest named  Ahimelech give bread to David and he also gave him the sword of Goliath."
 
verses 11-19
 
Only one man lived to tell the story. His name was Abiathar. Somehow he found David and told him the story. We read David’s reaction in
 
1 Samuel 22:22
 
David thought he got away with it. But he didn’t. David the cool, confident, smooth-talking fugitive is now confronted with his own sin. He knew Doeg was there and he knew he would tell Saul, and he didn’t do anything about it. He was so wrapped up in himself that he didn’t even warn Ahimelech.
 
So who killed the priests of Nob? In reality, it wasn't Doeg and it wasn't Saul.  It is David who is responsible for their deaths. David’s hands were dripping with the blood of the innocent people of Nob.  Now, let's put it all together and see what it teaches us. 
There is a progression of sin in David's life that begins with fear, then a lie, then desperation, then compromise, then humiliation, and finally disaster.
 
The saddest part is that David never intended for things to end up like this. We never do! 
 
I remember when I was a teenager, there was a young couple in our church.  They had two small children.  He had a good job.  they were faithful and active teaching Sunday School and helping with the kids. But through a course of events, the wife wound up having an affair, the husband assaulted her lover, he lost his job and committed suicide. 
 
I remember playing the piano for his funeral and after everyone else had exited the church, I remember that young widowed mother standing at the casket, hugging her two little children up to her.  And as the tears poured down her face, she cried out her dead husband's name and said over and over again, "I didn't want it to end like this."
 
For David, it all began with a little white lie to get food for his men. It seemed so  justifiable at the time. Most of us would have done the same thing. If David had known, if David had stopped to think, if he had even dreamed of such a thing, he never would have told the lie. But he didn’t know, he didn’t think, he didn’t dream, and he did tell the lie. As the poet said, “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
 
From David's trip down "disaster" lane, three primary truths emerge: 
 
- The first is this: No one ever gets away with sin.
 
It is a moral law of the universe that all sin is eventually punished. Tucked away in the book of Numbers is a solemn warning for all of us: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
 
Galatians 6:7 says it this way:  “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that  he will also reap."  It was a lesson David learned the hard way. The chickens always come home to roost. The skeletons eventually come out of the closet. From the tiniest transgression to the greatest crime, no one ever gets away with sin.
 
There is a second truth from David's expereince and it is
 
- The best thing you can ever do when confronted with sin is confess it quickly. 
 
You find out what a man is made of when he is confronted with his sin. Saul lived in a dream world. He was always saying, “He did it, she did it, they did it. It’s not my fault.” But David said, “I did it.’ Right there is the whole difference between David and Saul.
 
No doubt, David made a lot of mistakes and his mistakes hurt a lot of innocent people. But there’s one good thing you can say about him: When he was confronted, he didn’t try to make excuses.
Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” 
The hardest thing you will ever do is to come to your senses and say, “I did it” or “I am guilty” or “I was wrong.” Chuck Swindoll says that for the Christian, living in sin is a form of temporary spiritual insanity.
 
When we do wrong, we lose our moral compass and head right over the cliff. There is no cure until we come to our senses and admit what we have done. As we grow in Christ, it ought to become easier for us to say, “Please forgive me. I was wrong.” Until we can say that, we will never get better.
 
What happened to David can happen to any of us. There’s no limit to the sin we can commit once we begin to give in. We begin to cut corners and suddenly one thing leads to another and we end up doing things we swore we’d never do. And if we don’t stop, somebody is going to get hurt.
 
We lie and then we lie again, we swear and can’t stop, we break one promise and then we break another, we blow our top and then we blow it again, we hurt one person and then we hurt another.
We spread one rumor and then we embellish it and spread it again.  We take a small step into immorality and soon we’ve jumped in with all we’ve got. And so it goes. One sin soon leads to another.
 
The reason this story hits home is because so many of us are like David. We cut corners morally and ethically, we make excuses for our small sins, and under pressure we do things that we’d rather not do.
All the while we are like fugitives in the wilderness, running, hiding, always looking over our shoulder, hoping against hope we won’t get caught today.
 
But we need to be reminded that little sins can have big consequences. Being a man of integrity means more than taking care of the big issues of life. It also means you take care of the little things. David had to learn that lesson because life is made up of about 99% little things and maybe 1% big things.
 
Most of us tend to think that if we do right on the big things, the little things will take care of themselves. But the reverse is true. If we will do right on the little things, we won’t have much trouble when the big ones roll around. We would all be better off if we paid more attention to the way we live. And we would all be better off if we stopped making excuses for ourselves.
 
Someone might be tempted to ask, "So where was God in all of this? After all, couldn’t God have supplied David’s need for food so that he didn’t have to go to Ahimelech in the first place?"
 
Absolutely!  So why did God allow David to disobey, knowing that a whole village would be wiped out in the process?
 
It’s not possible to fully understand the ways of God, but this much is true: God allowed David’s deceit in order to humble him and to teach him that left to himself, he would ruin his own life. Sadly, an entire village was wiped out in the process of learning this lesson.
 
Maybe a better question is why doesn't God keep you from doing the stupid things you do?  We never want to take responsibility for our wrongs.  But we need to be reminded that our disobedience always hurts others. 
And before we go blaming God for the mess in our life, maybe we need to 'fess up and take responsibility before anybody else gets hurt! 
 
Which brings me to the final lesson:
 
- When we sin, someone is going to have to pay the price.
 
In this case, an entire village of innocent people paid the price. But it is also at that point that we see the gospel, for when we sinned Christ paid the price for us. He died for our sins and He too was innocent.
 
And because he was the Son of God, He not only died because of our sins, He died that our sins might be forgiven forever. The Bible says that Christ died for us, the innocent for the guilty, that He might bring us to God.
 
Here is the heart of the Gospel. By God’s grace you can stop your wayward living, at any point you can be forgiven. The good news of the gospel is that God specializes in forgiving sinners. That applies just as much to Christians who sin as it does to those who do not know the Lord.  Whenever we are ready to turn for home, the Heavenly Father will run to meet us on the way.
 
If you want a new life, you can have one. If you are ready to say, “I have sinned,” God is ready to forgive you. Forgiveness is free but you’ve got to admit you need it and then you’ve got to ask for it. When you do, your new life will begin. God help you to do it today.
 
Let's pray
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