How long can you keep going? Most of us flatter ourselves that we are robust in the face of disappointment, and have the stamina to outlast tough times. Truth is, most of us don’t. We can collapse when life gets hard and faith gets difficult. And that is without facing the serious possibility of being murdered. So there was only so long David could keep running and hiding for. If Saul’s death squads didn’t find him out, stress and depression would soon burn him out. David needed to get away, for the sake of his life, and his own sanity.
He reasoned that, if he could get out of Israel, then Saul would give up the hunt (v.1). By this time he’s got quite an entourage, his family and six hundred men. There’s no way they can stay hidden in Israel. Best to get them out of the country (vv.2-4).
David knows how to handle Saul – get out of Israel – and now he needs to handle the Philistine king, Achish. He cleverly puts himself at a literal distance from the king, ensuring that he’s not under the king’s watch, but also avoiding putting strain on the relationship since he had well over six hundred mouth with him needing food. So for sixteen months he stayed in Philistia. And there he grew rich and stayed secure by raiding territories, and by carefully covering his tracks (vv.6-12).
The plundering obviously supported himself and his men, but was he right to do so? You could say that these were the enemies of God’s covenant people, so yes he was; or you could recoil at the slaughter of people who had no quarrel with David (and maybe every sympathy with his plight). The text does not give us a steer as we assess David’s actions. Neither does the text put any pressure on us to make up our minds. Who knows, then? Let God be David’s judge. He is more than able to be.
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Luke 9.58). Like David, Jesus was often homeless and rootless. Jesus lived in the enemy territory of the world, with a far from easy relationship with the powers of this world. Jesus knew that Satan was hunting Him, and that one day He would face him in deadly combat. And yet, Jesus was homeless and hunted for us and for our sakes. Remember David’s hardships (see Psalm 132.1), and remember Jesus’ hardships, too. They were to give you a home in heaven.