Now the Philistines had gathered all their forces at Aphek. And the Israelites were encamped by the spring that is in Jezreel. 2 As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, 3 the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” 4 But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him.And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? 5 Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”
1 Samuel 29:1-5
As mentioned a few times throughout our study of 1 Samuel, a good portion of the Psalms that we love were written by David during the events that we have been reading through. Which, to say it again, adds some depth to the Psalms where we see David have to endure some really difficult challenges, including ongoing attacks on his life by King Saul.
Yet even though David endured these heavy and ongoing challenges, the Psalms of David are filled with words of praise towards God. David was seeking to set his heart towards the Lord throughout the challenges that came his way. This is such a good model and example for us when various trials come our way.
Now, the Psalm that I am about to read you does not give us any indications on when it was written in terms of the timeline of David’s life or the particular challenge that he was enduring that inspired this psalm. However, the sentiments of what was written in this Psalm I do think set us up for our passage today and the challenge that David faced in today’s passage.
This is from Psalm 109. I am only going to read the first three verses that say this: “Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.” As mentioned, the timeline and events related to this Psalm have been lost to history. But, as also mentioned, these words of Psalm 109 I do think capture the sentiment of what David surely was feeling during the events of our passage today.
In 1 Samuel 29, we will see that David was having things said about him, where he felt he was being attacked, falsely accused, and where his integrity was being questioned without cause. These are challenges that, in different levels, we all can identify with. There have been times when we feel that we have had false accusations put on us and others question our integrity without cause.
Now, before we get into this passage, let me quickly set the context of the passage for us. I want to start with the context in 1 Samuel 26. In that passage, for the second time, David spared Saul’s life, even though as mentioned, Saul was seeking to take David’s life. This action in chapter 26 was part of the good that David was doing, particularly towards Saul, who was clearly not doing good towards him.
As mentioned a few weeks back when we went through chapter 26, this ongoing good that David was doing had to leave him weary. Can you imagine how hard that had to be for David? To be on the run for years, having multiple attempts on his life, and facing lots of hardship. Yet David was seeking to continue to do good for that very person who was making his life miserable. David had to be weary in doing good, where it didn’t seem like any of his good was paying off. Rather, there had to be a temptation to think all of his good was being done in vain. This is basically what we read at the start of chapter 27, where we read that eventually the weariness started to catch up to David.
As David moved from being weary to being defeated and discouraged, it just felt like in the text that David was completely burnt out. He just couldn’t do it anymore. He became convinced that it was only a matter of time before Saul would kill him.
So, in David’s burnout, we read what he did, which is what we often do when we are burned out. He got stuck in his own head, taking counsel in his own heart, which is always a symptom of burnout. We are so far into our own heads that we make really poor and irrational decisions. This certainly was true of David in chapter 27.
In his own head, David’s trust in the Lord, His Word, and His promises really started to wane. In previous chapters in 1 Samuel, David was standing up for God’s word, showing deep trust in the promises God made, and he was doing so in ways that the Lord was even using David to inspire others to do the same.
But in chapter 27, in his burnout, David was struggling to trust God’s good Word to him, which was a word where the Lord previously told David to stay in Israel even though Saul was seeking to kill him. As David was in his own head, as he struggled to trust God’s Word, we read that he made a foolish, irrational decision of disobedience. He left Israel, and not only did David leave Israel, but we read that David left Israel to go and live in the land of Israel’s enemy, the Philistines.
Because as David was in his own head. As mentioned, he was convinced that it was only a matter of time before Saul would kill him, and he felt his best option, safest option, was to head right into the stronghold of his enemy.
In his burnout, David. Not thinking right, not acting like himself. He was really twisted around in his own head. And in the text, as David headed to the land of the Philistines, he made more just odd and confusing decisions. To start, he decided to hire himself out to a Philistine King named Achish to become a solider of fortune or a mercenary for Achish. And he did this. Even though Achish was the very person just a few chapters prior David had to flee from in order to save his life.
Then, go further. Burnout David. Made the odd, confusing decision. That he desired to plant roots in the Philistine territory, out in the country, in a place called Ziklag. The great inspiring character for so much of 1 Samuel. In chapter 27 looked so different. Where he made decisions that not only seemed foolish. But so out of character. Which is a reminder to us that even the best of us. Can fall prey to burnout, to getting stuck in our own heads. To make foolish decisions that don’t add up.
Which is why we all need to find places of rest. We can’t always be on the go. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why the Lord gave the Sabbath. To rest. Well, to keep going in chapter 27, as you also may remember. About half way through the chapter. It seemed like the fog of burnout started to lift a bit for David.
As it seemed like David started to recognize the pickle he put himself in. So throughout the end of chapter 27, it appears that David was trying to almost like weasel his way out of his foolish decision using his own cunning ability. Which probably indicated that the fog had not fully lifted. Because it felt like David was seeking to trust himself to find his way out rather than trust in the Lord.
And how David tried to weasel his way out was by being deceitful to Achish on what he was actually up to as a solider of fortune. Maybe communicating some half-truths to him. And as David was being a bit deceitful, we read that he was pretty successful at pulling the wool over Achish’s eyes. Because Achish began to see David as a lifelong loyal servant.
So, chapter 27, then chapter 28, which as you also may remember centered on the downfall of Saul. Who was so afraid of the Philistines who were on the attack that Saul sought a medium to get counsel. As mentioned, that was at the center of chapter 28. But at the start of that chapter, which is important for context today, we read that as Achish was part of the Philistine attack and naturally went to what he thought was his trusted servant David to further employ David as his solider of fortune.
So that is the context of the passage for today. Achish getting David to help fight against Israel, where seemingly in the text, David was at least somewhat entertaining that idea.
Which is probably further indication to us that the fog of burnout had not fully lifted from David. It seems like in our text today he is still a bit twisted around in his own head. In his own heart. Which is a reminder to us that when we come to burnout, it is not always a quick fix. Rather, sometimes it might take us a lot of time to unwind.
Look back with me at our text. Verse 1: The Philistine army, which was a massive army, was in Aphek, while Saul and his army were by a spring in Jezreel.
Now, the point of interest here with these locations seems to indicate that the author of 1 Samuel is backtracking a bit in the storyline of the book. Meaning the historical timeframe of chapter 29 seems to be before what was read in chapter 28. Think of what movies at times might do to help tell a story, where we are seeing an event only for the movie to take us back in time a bit to show us some things that happened that lead up to that event. It feels a bit like this is what is happening here. Although there is a bit of a debate on that where others think the events are listed in historical order. However, whichever stance you take on the debate really doesn’t affect any of the application of the text. This is just a point of interest.
Verse 2: As the Philistines were in their camp, we read that the lords or military leaders were organizing their military companies by hundreds and thousands.
Once again, a massive army. And as the various lords were organizing the military camp, getting a better handle on what type of army they had, we read that David was there with his men, bringing up the rear with Achish.
And as David was marching with the army, we see that some in the army were not excited to have David among their ranks. So in verse 3, the commanders started to question and complain among themselves. “What are these Hebrews doing here? Why are they among us? How is this okay?”
And as the commanders started to question and complain, we see that these complaints made their way to the ear of Achish, which caused Achish to stand up for what he assumed was his loyal and trustworthy servant.
In the text, at the end of verse 3, one commander who knows who this is says, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, the king of Israel? You know, David, the one who left Saul, who left Israel, who deserted them. The one who has been with me for days and years. You know, a really long time for me to get to know him.”
Well, commanders, in that length of time since he deserted to me, over that entire length of time, I have found no fault in him to this day. David has been the model servant. He is innocent of any wrongdoing that you are accusing him of.
However, in the text, even though Achish, who was a man of power and influence, vouched for David, the commanders were not convinced. They were not swayed by Achish in their thoughts about David. In fact, in verse 4, we see that the commanders were even angry at Achish for standing up for David and for questioning their wisdom.
So we read that in their anger, the commanders clapped back at Achish. “Achish, we don’t want to hear this. We don’t care that he has served you this length of time and you have found no fault in him. We want you to send this man back that he may return to the place to which you assigned him.”
Meaning, Achish, send David back to his home back in the country into the area of Ziklag because, Achish, we are telling you right now, we are not going to let David go down with us into battle. That ain’t happening, no matter what you tell us.
Because, Achish, what we think will happen, what we are convinced will happen if we let David go into battle with us, is that his true colors will be revealed in the battle. David will become an adversary to us and fight against us.
Achish, don’t be so naive. Don’t you see how that is going to help David reconcile himself to Saul, his Lord? Don’t you think whatever tension David and Saul were having would simply go away when David came to Saul holding our heads? This here probably is a reference to what happened in chapter 17 and the story of David and Goliath. After David struck down Goliath with the stone, David cut off the head of the giant as a spoil of war to bring back to Israel.
In the text, the commanders are saying, surely this is what David will do to us if he is allowed to go into battle. Verse 5: After all, Achish, like you said, “Is this not David? You know the great and mighty warrior David, the David who has been on the winning end of so many battles against us. To the point that over in Israel, they sing the song that we despise with all that is in us: ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’
And for us, let’s be mindful that it would seem likely that some of the people that David struck down in previous battles against the Philistines would have been friends, family members, perhaps brothers, fathers of the commanders who are pushing back against Achish. And now here in this scene, Achish is telling the army to link arms with that very David. We can understand why they wanted nothing to do with David. In some levels, it is actually surprising that they didn’t kill David right there, rather than just sending David back home.
Verse 6: As Achish received the pushback, we read that he called David over to himself to catch him up on what was taking place. So we read Achish said to David, “David, as the Lord lives, you have been honest. And to me, David, it seems right that you should march out and march in with me in this campaign because, David, for over the years, I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this very day. Nevertheless, David, I need you to understand the lords do not approve of you.”
Now, a couple of thoughts here. First, it is a little interesting that Achish appealed to the Lord by saying, “as the Lord lives,” which perhaps was an indication that at some point Achish started to trust in the Lord over and against the false gods of the Philistines, perhaps as a result of David’s witness. However, what seems more likely is that Achish was simply trying to add David’s God onto the list of gods he already had, which is often referred to as Pluralism, which biblically does not work.
Second, as a reminder from the intro, David has not been fully honest with Achish. He was telling Achish he was attacking one area for him as a solider of fortune, but in reality, he was attacking a different area. Now, I am sure that in many, perhaps all, of the other areas of David’s relationship with Achish, he was honest and upright, but David was not completely blameless. We will come back to this at the end.
Verse 7: David, because the lords do not approve of you, you need to head back home. And as you do so, David, I know you are a fighter, but please go back peaceably. Don’t fight with them, just accept this for what it is. Because if you fight with them, you are only going to further displease the lords of the Philistines.
Now, as David hears all of this, he is clearly frustrated. The words of Psalm 109 that I read earlier, he feels like he is being wrongfully accused, unfairly treated, attacked without cause. So he responds back to Achish, “But what have I done? Tell me, what have you found in your servant from the day I entered into your service, those days and years that I have been with you? What is the reason why I cannot go with you and fight against the enemies of my lord the king? Achish, this is not fair, this is not just. They are wronging me and my reputation. These are false accusations that should be dismissed.”
Verse 9: Achish, back to David, “David, I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Don’t be mad at me, I am not the one accusing you, I am just the messenger. Nevertheless, David, the commanders of the Philistines said very firmly, with nothing that could change their mind, ‘David shall not go up with us into battle.’ And really, David, at this point, there is nothing I can do to convince them otherwise.”
Verse 10: So, David, please heed what I am asking you to do. I want you to rise early in the morning and peaceably depart as soon as you have light. And understand, David, the sooner you are able to head home, the better it will be for everyone. This is a fight we can’t win.
And with that, verse 11: David did as he was told and set out with his men early in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines while the rest of the army went up to Jezreel.
Which ends our text of study for this morning. Now, a few weeks back, we started up a Simeon Trust Women’s study, which is a video series that gives helpful tools in how to interpret the Bible. And, by the way, for any women here who might still be interested in this study, we would love for you to join us. And if you are interested in this study but can’t make the time we are currently meeting, please talk with me. I think there are some options that we can do to accommodate you.
So, in this study, one of the ongoing encouragements is for us to be good Bible readers, to understand God’s Word, to properly apply God’s Word into our own context. The importance of first trying to understand the text in its own context, understand the authorial intent of the passage, and tied to that, how the original readers would have understood the passage.
And that is so important because without doing those things at the start, we can really go down some strange paths and miss out on what God is telling us from His Word.
So, in our text today, I do think the thing the author is communicating to us, the thing that the original readers would have gleaned from this passage, revolves around the innocence of David. Both Achish and David felt he was being falsely accused, and I think that is what the author is presenting to us because that seems to be the theme throughout the text.
Look back with me again in verse 3: Achish responded to the commanders’ concerns by saying that David has been with him for a long time since he deserted Saul, and “I have found no fault in him to this day.”
Then, in Verse 6, after the commanders explained why they were concerned and why they could not be swayed in their thoughts, Achish went to David to tell him the news by saying, “For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day.”
Then, in Verse 8, as David was given this information from Achish, we read he responded back, “But what have I done? What have you found in my life over the years that prove my guilt, that is keeping me from going out to fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”
Finally, in verse 9, Achish, back to David, says, “I know that you are blameless in my sight as an angel of God.”
So, I do think the emphasis the author of the text wants us to see is that which revolves around the innocence of David, where David and Achish felt he was being wronged for something he didn’t do.
And as mentioned at the start of this sermon, I am sure we all relate to those feelings and the sentiments of David’s words in Psalm 109 that seem to fall in line with what he was feeling in our text today.
So with this in mind, I have 4 major thoughts for us from our text in line with this theme in terms of application to our own hearts.
1st: False accusations will come when we walk by faith. Now, obviously, false accusations can and do come in many areas of life, but I do think we need to recognize and understand that when you and I are walking by faith, following after God, following His commands, seeking to accomplish His will, there will be false accusations made about us. This is a real part of the sober New Testament declaration that if anyone desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, you will be persecuted.
In our text, why did the Philistines have such a hard time with David, even though he is presented in the text as innocent? It was because of how David acted by faith in God in all of the various previous battles that he fought, which was captured in the popular song of Israel: ‘Saul struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’
To illustrate this, let me remind us of some of the details surrounding the story of David and Goliath that our text today alluded to at the end of verse 4. In the story, remember how Israel and the Philistines were in a bit of a staring contest with each other, where each was on one mountain with a valley in between.
And in the staring contest, neither side wanted to make the first move towards battle. Which would have required them to leave the high ground on their mountain to go into the valley to engage in battle while their opponent was still in their high ground.
As you remember, as the staring contest continued day after day, eventually, the giant man Goliath grew impatient. So, eventually, what he started to do was he would head toward the valley in shouting distance of Israel, where he would say the most defile things he could say towards Israel, towards the God of Israel. All with the hopes of provoking Israel into the valley to fight.
And one of the days while Goliath was hurling his insults, David happened to be there to deliver his big brothers some supplies from home. And as David heard Goliath, by faith, David was engaged, declaring how could Israel let Goliath defile the Lord. By faith, David then began to plead with King Saul to let him go into the valley to take on the Giant. By faith, David was confident that the Lord protected him. By faith, David entered into the valley without any sword or armor but only his shepherd’s sling and 5 stones. By faith, David flung a stone right at the head of Goliath, striking him down to the ground. By faith, David ran over to take the sword of Goliath to cut off his head.
And these acts of faith were David’s model time and time again against the Philistines. Where, by faith, David trusted in the Lord and fought for the Lord with the strength of the Lord. And because of these acts of faith in the Lord, friends, this is why, in the end, the Philistines hated him. This is why they made accusations against him and his character. They hated David and his faith in the Lord.
To say it again, there are many avenues in life that could possibly lead us to being falsely accused. But one area that almost guarantees it will happen is when you and I live by faith in God. Now, we don’t need to have a martyr’s complex over this or just assume every time something like this happens, it is because of how faithful we have been. But to keep saying it, this is a real part of our faith. So, we can’t be surprised if and when it happens.
And friends, if and when it happens, as difficult and frustrating as it can be, let me remind you of the words of Jesus, who simply said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
2nd: When we feel falsely accused, we must trust that in the providential hand of God is there to work all things for the good of His people of faith. Now, one of the most famous examples of this in the Scripture is the story of Joseph. Who you may remember was falsely accused of inappropriate behavior with his master’s wife, which he did not do. But because of the false accusations, Joseph was put in prison.
Yet in that story, we learned that the providential hand was all over that story. Because while in prison, Joseph was brought into a relationship with the Pharaoh of Egypt, where he eventually became the 2nd in command over all of Egypt. And while Joseph was in that role, he was used by God to sustain God’s people from a severe drought in the area. False accusations that were meant for evil by those who gave them providentially were used by God to do good.
And friends, I think we see the same thing in our text today with David, which is the more subtle yet powerful point of this passage. And we see this played out in upcoming passages in our study. First, in our next study in chapter 30, we will read that God used the accusations of the commanders to send David back to Ziklag. As David arrived on the scene, he learned that the Amalekites had just raided the area and captured David’s wives. This sent David and his men into a different battle where he rescued his wives and all others who were captured by the Amalekites. If David was at war, he would not have been present to rescue his family and defend the people of his new home. Great good came in chapter 30 because David was sent home.
Then, in chapter 31, as David was defending his land, we read that the Philistines and Israel engaged in battle where Saul was killed.
Who knows if David was present at that battle? Perhaps he would have had a hand in the death of Saul, to kill the Lord’s anointed, which would have spoiled things for David as he moved into the kingly role that we see in 2 Samuel. God’s providential hand sent David home and potentially spared David from bringing about great and lasting harm.
Church, not everything is good. False accusations are not good. But we have to trust God’s promise that He is indeed working all things for our good, including false accusations. Who knows how He might be using them in our life.
3rd: We are never fully innocent. So last Sunday, I was really grateful to have everyone’s favorite college minister, our very own Uncle Wes, fill the pulpit to preach God’s Word to us. Primarily, I was grateful because I always appreciate the insights that Wes has. But I also was grateful to have an extra week to try to wrestle with this passage. Just because it is honestly kind of confusing to me on a few fronts. Let me try to explain.
1st: I am kind of confused by David here in this scene. Is he really wanting to fight against Israel? In 1 Samuel 28, that, as mentioned, perhaps comes after our text in the historical timeline, it felt like David was trying to figure out how he could get out of having to go to battle against Israel. But in our text today, it is almost like he is offended, frustrated, disappointed that the commanders and Achish are sending him home.
Where in verse 6, it is almost like he was trying to plead his case to go. I would have thought David would have been all over the command to go. Ummmmmmm, yes, send me home, I should not be here, I need to be in Ziklag. But as mentioned, it was almost like he was offended that he couldn’t stay and fight. Now perhaps David was desiring to go into battle to do exactly what the Philistines were afraid he was wanting to do: to turn on them and attack them from the inside. But I don’t know if that is the sense we get in the text. It just seems odd here with David. Maybe this is just more indication he was still trying to unwind from the burnout he went into in chapter 27.
So with the extra week, I have continued to try to understand David here. The 2nd thing I continued to wrestle with is that David is not fully innocent. Now the text is clearly presenting him as innocent, and perhaps some of the things that the Philistines were accusing him of he was indeed innocent of. But David was not fully innocent. After all, he was lying to Achish in chapter 27 on where he was making raids. So the past two weeks, as I have thought about this over and over again, it was just a reminder to me that in the end, none of us are truly innocent of everything. Now sure, perhaps in given situations we are innocent, but in the end, we are all sinners, we have all fallen short, we are not innocent. And I do think that is something we always need to take into account, especially when we feel we are being wronged.
We just are not as innocent as we want to think we are. Which leads to the last thing I wanted to share this morning. 4th: There is one only who is innocent. Which, by the way, ultimately in the end, every passage is ultimately pointing us to. Whether it be a passage like Psalm 109 or 1 Samuel 29, in the end, all of Scripture is pointing us to the one who is innocent. Which is not David, but this one did come from David’s lineage, being born of a virgin, who was given the name Jesus. He is Emmanuel, God with us, true God, true man. And, friends, Scripture is clear that Jesus is the one, the only one, who lived a perfect life without sin.
Yet, even though Jesus was fully innocent in all things, sinless, it was Jesus who was brought before a court where chief priests and the whole council spoke false testimony against him. In fact, many false witnesses came against him, making false accusation after false accusation, where our Lord stood silent like a sheep before the slaughter. And even though the court could find nothing that could incriminate him, evil men still sentenced Jesus to die on a cross. Yet, in this great act of evil against innocent Jesus, God was doing the ultimate good. Because it was on the cross, innocent Jesus stood in the place of guilty sinners like you and me, where Jesus proved to be the spotless lamb of God who bore the judgment of God in our place. Where innocent Jesus died for guilty sinners, only for him to rise again on the third day.
And, friend, the promise of God that Scripture pleads with us is that any and all who, by faith, turn from sin and turn to Jesus would find forgiveness. By faith, they would be justified in God’s courtroom, with the righteousness of innocent, sinless Jesus being counted as their righteousness. The promise of God is not only that his people would be declared righteous; the promise is that they would be adopted into God’s eternal family as his precious child.
So, friends, whenever you and I feel wronged, let those times drive you to the only one who is innocent: Jesus Christ. And by faith, trust in him, whether it be to trust in him for the first time or trust in him for the next time. Trust in Jesus, who is the great high priest who can sympathize with us in our weakness yet without sin.