Some Things Take Time

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.
2 Samuel 5:4 (NIV)

When I was a boy I spent entire class periods in elementary school learning how to use the library. If I was interested in a subject or had a question that needed answering I would have to wait until the day of the week our class would visit the school library. I would look up the subject in a large set of drawers that housed small index cards arranged by the Dewey Decimal System. It gave me a number that corresponded to the numbers on the spines of books arranged on the shelf and from there I could find all the books on the subject that interested me. Then, all I had to do was scour the books on the shelf to find what I was looking for.

By the time I was a teenager, there was a set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias on the bookshelf in our home. My mom acquired the entire set of encyclopedias, volume by volume, over a period of time using S&H “Green Stamps” she got at the Hy-Vee grocery store. What a time saver. Now, if I wanted the answer to a question I could go to our basement family room and look it up in the encyclopedia.

When I was in my twenties I purchased my first computer. It was an IBM PS1 with a 3.5-inch “floppy” disc drive and no internal hard drive. I eventually purchased a 300-megabyte hard drive for just over $300 and installed it myself. With that computer, I got on the internet for the first time through a phone line that dialed up the connection, but anyone trying to call me at home would get an intermittent tone called a “busy signal” telling them that I was using the phone line at the moment.

By the time I was thirty, I was able to access almost any information I wanted on the internet from home. No going to the library. No looking it up in a book. Simply dial into the internet (which by then I could do AND still use the home phone line AT THE SAME TIME! Genius!) and type in what I’m looking for.

On the way to the lake, this past Wednesday night Wendy and I saw a gorgeous rainbow. “Why are rainbows arched?” we mused. Wendy simply picked up her phone, which is connected to the internet at all times, and asked the question. Everything you could possibly want to know about the subject was available to us instantly on our cell phones as we sat in our car speeding down Highway 63 in rural Missouri.

Along this life journey, I’ve observed that we are becoming increasingly impatient people. I have enjoyed the blessings of rapidly advancing and evolving technology that delivers results and instant gratification, but scarcely have I slowed down long enough to consider the impact that it’s having on me. According to Samuel Merrit University, at the very least, technology is having these five impacts on humanity:

  • We have decreased attention spans.
  • We are more easily distracted.
  • We can more easily multitask.
  • We have grown addicted to digital technology.
  • Our in-person social interactions have been impaired.

David was anointed king as a boy. Chapter-by-chapter we’ve followed his journey across some twenty years from being a young hero over Goliath to developing into a warrior to spending years as an outlaw on the run, to becoming a mercenary for hire against his own people, to becoming the leader of his tribe. He didn’t realize the fruition of his anointing until he was 30.

Some things take time, and I am increasingly conditioned to believe that everything should happen for me immediately and upon demand. I know I’m at risk of sounding like I’m having a Grumpy Old Man moment, but I’m really not. I enjoy the blessings of technology as much as everyone else. At the same time, I wonder what it is doing to me, how it is changing me, and when I should be concerned. One of the fruits of God’s Spirit is patience. David had to learn it in his long trek to the throne. I have had to learn it (often the hard way) in relationships and life and art and business.

Today, I’m reminding myself to embrace patience. Some things take time in order to work out for the best, and I want God’s best for me, no matter how long it takes.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

A Different Set of Rules

How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
2 Samuel 4:11 (NIV)

Every human system, small or large, has its rules of behavior. Most often, they are unwritten. Even if there is some sort of written code of conduct, there are still unwritten rules that guide people’s behaviors. At home, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the workplace, in church, and in our communities we learn to behave within the unwritten rules of the systems in which we live and breathe and operate each day.

I don’t think we can quite imagine or comprehend exactly what life was like within the human systems of David’s day. Even reading in yesterday’s chapter of David’s many wives, his children with those wives, and his demand of the return of his wife Michal as if he was reclaiming a piece of property. It’s hard for us to comprehend living life under those rules.

One of the things I love about reading the stories of David is that he’s not some stereotypical hero who does everything perfectly. Quite the contrary, David is an extremely flawed human being who makes huge, costly mistakes – yet for all that he is still “a man after God’s own heart.” That gives me hope. I see David constantly striving to live by God’s rules even while he’s mired in the messy human systems of his day.

In the past few chapters, we’ve read two instances of men who believe that they are getting in David’s good graces by killing David’s enemy and bringing the evidence to him. I have to believe that this was the standard operating procedure of the unwritten rules of regional war and politics in David’s day. This was how local power brokers ruled. Kill my enemy for me, bring me evidence of it, and I’ll reward you richly. If you kill off the sons of my enemy then you’ve made my position even stronger (because there’s not a stray son out there plotting revenge). Kill my enemy, kill my enemies’ sons and you might even find yourself with a cushy position of power in my administration or army. That’s the way it works. Those are the unwritten rules.

But, not for David. In these instances I see David playing by a different set of rules. In David’s eyes, Saul was still God’s anointed king. Jonathan was still his best friend. Saul was still the father of his best friend and Jonathan was still the son of God’s anointed king. In David’s eyes, God’s rules trump the unwritten rules of the local human system. You don’t lay your hands on God’s anointed – not even if you’re the one anointed to eventually take his place. You don’t kill the son of God’s anointed. Period.

Today I’m thinking about the unwritten rules of the human systems in which I live and breathe and operate every day. Are there ways in which my words and behavior are unconsciously incongruent with God’s desire because I’m mindlessly behaving in the way I’ve been conditioned? Am I willing to play by a different set of rules when God’s desires run contrary to prevailing cultural mores?

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

A Lesson in Abner

“May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 2 Samuel 3:9-10 (NIV)

Abner is one of the most fascinating characters in the unfolding drama of the conflict between the houses of Saul and David. Abner was Saul’s general, and second in command. As such, Abner had amassed tremendous power and influence. With Saul’s well-known mental health issues, it was likely Abner who provided stability, respect, and fear in the chain of command. Upon Saul’s death, it was Abner who quickly propped up the weaker younger brother of Jonathan, Ish-bosheth, as his puppet to maintain control of the northern tribes.

Abner served Saul and his family faithfully, but his ultimate service was always about himself.

It struck me as I read this morning that Abner was well aware God had anointed David king of Israel. The way he worded his threat to Ish-bosheth it would seem he even believed that David’s ascent to the throne was a divinely appointed certainty. Yet, Abner spent two decades fighting faithfully for the house of Saul because that was where his bread was buttered.

Today’s chapter gives us a clear picture of Abner’s character. Abner seems to have enjoyed the fruits of his position. Now we see that he so disrespected his former master and the son of Saul he made into his political marionette, that he felt it was his right to feast on the forbidden fruit of Saul’s harem. After all, who was going to stop him? When Ish-bosheth finds the guts to stand up to Abner and call him to account, Abner does what all power brokers do: he makes a power play. As the game of thrones continues in determining who will be King of Israel, Ish-Bosheth plays the trump card he holds in his hand and vows to deliver the northern tribes to David wrapped up with a bow.

Abner is Judas. The inner-circle confidant who is secretly pilfering things for himself, and willing to betray his master if it suits his personal agenda. Abner is Iago, the 2nd in command whom the commander shouldn’t trust. Abner is the one who knows God’s truth, but never submits to it unless it happens to dovetail with his duplicitous purposes.

As I meditate in the quiet this morning, I can’t help but recognize the Abner in me. David wrote in the lyric of one of his songs: “search me God…and see if there is any offensive way in me.” I’m kind of feeling that same spirit this morning. I can see in my own life the perpendicular lines of God’s way and my way. Along my life journey, I confess that I have had my own duplicitous moments. I have, at times, served with selfish motives.

I am reminded by today’s chapter of the difference between the man I desire to be, and the man I sometimes prove to be by my own words and actions. I’m reminded that I have still not arrived. I am reminded that I’m still in process. God, examine my heart and help me be less like Abner and more of a man after your own heart.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in April 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (CaD 2 Sam 2) Wayfarer

Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:4 (NIV)

Life gets messy. When individuals and complex systems of individuals are all navigating their disparate paths and personal agendas, the results are inevitably going to include conflict. Tracing David’s path from being anointed king as a young man and his ascension to the throne of Israel is a meandering path through some very messy personal and political terrain.

King Saul is dead, but that doesn’t mean that David’s path to the throne is now less messy. Just the opposite. Things are going to get even messier. David’s family belongs to the tribe of Judah, and with the death of Saul the men of Judah move quickly to anoint David as their king. There are 12 tribes in Israel, however, and Judah’s brash act of independence reveals a schism between Judah and the other tribes that foreshadows centuries of bloody civil unrest to come when the nation splits in two during the reign of David’s grandson.

David is now King of Judah and its vast southern territory. The remnants of Saul’s political machine are not, however, eager to lose power or cede control of the nation to Judah’s famous outlaw. David was, after all, the young man Saul had designated as #1 on his most wanted list. Saul’s general, Abner, has is own political agenda. Abner sets up Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth as King of Israel and, no doubt, his puppet. Let the game of thrones begin.

Today I am again reminded of how messy life can get even in the politics and power struggles of my relatively small circles of life and influence. We all find ourselves embroiled in the game of thrones for our own little systemic kingdoms. Even as time and events lead towards divine ends, this life journey is fraught with difficulties, dangers, toils, and snares both personal and corporate. History should teach us that this has always been the case east of Eden, but I find we humans are constantly surprised by the reality of it.

In midst of the mess I’ve found it helpful to spiritually focus on the basics:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love others.
  3. Seek God’s kingdom first

… and then to press on one step, one day, at a time in the right direction.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in April 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything (CaD 2 Sam 1) Wayfarer

Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

One afternoon while in high school I sat at the counter in our family’s kitchen and was having an after-school snack. My mom had gotten home from work and was opening the mail. All of a sudden her hand went to her mouth (her signature gesture when she was going to start crying) and she began to weep. At first, I was scared, but then I realized that they were tears of astonishment.

My sister was in college. Times were tight. My folks were struggling financially. I hadn’t known it because I was a clueless teenager, and no one else knew it because my parents had not said anything to anyone. But, God knew. They received an anonymous envelope with cash in it and an anonymous note about God’s provision. Wouldn’t you know it, it was just the exact amount of money they needed to send my sister on her college choir trip.

“Timing is everything,” they say.

Along my life journey, I’ve been both amazed and incredibly frustrated by God’s timing. I have witnessed what I consider to be miraculous events of God’s timing like my parents’ cash gift. I’ve also been through long, difficult stretches of life’s journey when my timing was definitely not calibrated with God’s timing. What I wanted, and felt I/we needed, was perpetually not provided. This has usually led to grief, doubt, silent tantrums, and anger. In pretty much every case, a dose of 20/20 hindsight from a waypoint a bit further down the road made me grateful for God’s wisdom in NOT letting me have what I thought I wanted.

In today’s chapter, we pick up the story of David, who had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel as a boy. But, the timing of his ascension to the position was not immediate. Saul occupied the throne and David refused to usurp the throne or depose Saul, choosing to defer to God’s timing. If you’ve been following along with the story in 1 Samuel, you know this led to David being branded an outlaw, having a price put on his head, fleeing to neighboring countries, and living for years on the lam. Now we read of David’s response when he hears of the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathon, who happened to be David’s best friend.

I was struck by David’s grief this morning. Believe me, David was also frustrated by God’s timing. We’ve recently journeyed through some of the blues-like psalms David wrote in the wilderness expressing his anger and frustration with the situation. Yet, when his enemy Saul is finally killed and the way is finally opened up for David to walk into his anointed calling, David recognizes that his anointed calling comes with a price. David grieves for the king who had been “God’s anointed” king before him. He grieves for his friend Jonathon who also died and gave David a clear line of accession without political rival.

Today I’m thinking about God’s timing in my life. I’m exploring how I see God working in my journey on the macro level. I’m thinking about paths I desired to take that God blocked, paths that remain closed, and paths that have opened up that I didn’t expect. More than ever, I want to follow David’s example as I proceed on my own journey. I want to wait, trust, acknowledge, and honor God’s timing.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published on April 28, 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Legacy

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”
But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 
1 Samuel 31:4 (NIV)

I don’t come from a large family. My mom was an only child, and my dad had just one brother. So, I grew up with just one aunt and uncle, and only three first cousins. A week ago today, my dad got a call saying that his brother had taken a turn for the worst. I drove the folks up to northwest Iowa on Saturday so Dad could see his brother. The local hospice took over my uncle’s care earlier this week. It won’t be long.

After returning home on Saturday, Wendy and I attended a dinner for a locally centered missions organization that was rooted in one man’s love for the people of Haiti. It happens that Wendy actually worked for this man for many years, and he had a profound impact on her life in her young adult years. He died just this past year. His son has grown the mission organization his father inspired and at the dinner, he paid his father a wonderful tribute. Wendy shed more than a few tears.

Today’s chapter tells the end of Saul’s tragic story. Falling on his own sword in an act of suicide is an ironic and sad end to a life marked by self-destructive choices and behavior.

Not surprisingly, I have death on my mind this morning.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the reality that everything I possess gets left behind when this life journey is over. That’s not the only thing I leave behind, however. My possessions are meaningless in the grand scheme. What isn’t meaningless is the legacy I leave behind with those who my earthly life touched.

What will my legacy be?

In the quiet this morning, that is the question I’m pondering. Along this life journey, have I planted seeds of faith, hope, and love that will continue to bear fruit once I am gone? As I ponder the lives and legacies of Uncle Bud and Denny and Saul, It strikes me that legacy is never about just one day or one life event. Legacy is the culmination of daily motives, words, actions, relationships, and choices across some 30,000 or more days I may, or may not, be granted on this earth.

Some day it will be my life that others will remember, or not.

Every day counts. Tomorrow is never assured.

May I make the most of this day in ways that matter.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Source and the Purpose

The Source and the Purpose (CaD 1 Sam 30) Wayfarer

David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”
1 Samuel 30:23-24 (NIV)

This past Sunday afternoon, Wendy and I were blessed to help host over 100 people for a backyard cookout along with one of our backyard neighbors. We grilled up a bunch of burgers and dogs and people brought sides and desserts to share.

Last night our home was invaded by about twenty or so high school sophomores and their three adult leaders. A few weeks ago we were asked if the young people could meet at our house on Wednesday nights during this school year. There was never really any question. We’re glad to have them. Wendy and I stuck around for a bit to be introduced to the kids before we sequestered ourselves. Wendy and I have talked about making Wednesday night a date night with some friends who have also volunteered their house for the Wednesday night youth gatherings.

In today’s chapter, David and his men return to their sanctuary town in Philistine territory having been told to do so by King Achish in yesterday’s chapter. While they were off mustering for battle a raiding party of Amalekites swept through, plundered their town, and burned it to the ground. The Amalekites also took all of their wives and children as captives. The first thing David does is consult the priest, Abiathar, to inquire of God whether they should pursue the raiding party. David is given the green light.

While they are in hot pursuit, about 200 of David’s 600 men become weary and choose to stay behind. The remaining 400 overtake the Amalekites, defeat them and return with everyone’s women, children, and all the plunder the Amalekites had taken on their raids.

At this point, the 400 men who completed the defeat of the Amalekites argue with David that the 200 men who stayed behind should not receive any of the plunder since they didn’t participate in the battle. David’s response is swift and strong. The victory, David says, belongs to the Lord, not to their military prowess. The plunder, therefore, is a gift from God and it is to be shared by everyone. David calls his men to think about their Level Three circumstances with a Level Four perspective.

Along my spiritual journey, I have slowly come to embrace the spiritual reality that everything I have belongs to God. Everything in my “possession” will be abandoned and left behind when this journey is over. Jesus is the Alpha point from which all good things flow and all the good things that have flowed into my life. Jesus is the Omega point to which all good things, including all the good things in my life, will ultimately return. I’m not an owner. I’m a steward. The belief that anything I have is really mine is an illusion.

This is why there was never really any question that Wendy and I would allow our home to be invaded every Wednesday night by a bunch of teenagers. We are so blessed with our house. It’s exceeding, abundantly, beyond what we could have once imagined. The story of building it is a God story that leaves us with no doubt that we were supposed to build it, that we were supposed to use it generously, and with it, we were to practice hospitality. It was built to be used, lived in, and shared.

This morning, in the quiet, I’m thankful for all of the blessings I enjoy including my wonderful home office where I sit and type these words, but I’m also thankful for learning to have perspective about the source of the blessing and what we are to do with it.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“What on Earth?”

"What on Earth?" (CaD 1 Sam 29) Wayfarer

Achish answered [David], “I know that you have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God; nevertheless, the Philistine commanders have said, ‘He must not go up with us into battle.’ Now get up early, along with your master’s servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light.” 1 Samuel 29:9-10 (NIV)

Thus far, 2022 has been a challenging year for our business. Last year Wendy and I began praying for God to bless us with abundant growth, but instead, we encountered some significant setbacks. We entered 2022 with more questions than assurances. It seemed that God was doing just the opposite of what we were asking. It was enough to make us scratch our heads and ask “What on earth are you doing God?” Have you ever had one of those moments?

In today’s short chapter, we find David and his men living among the Philistines under the protection of King Achish. This was not an uncommon practice in ancient times when warriors fell out of favor with their own king. Other kings would take them on as mercenaries, providing them a place to live in exchange for military service when it was needed. Achish liked David so much, that he made David and his men his personal security detail, saying “I will make you my bodyguard for life.” For the record, David does the same thing in the future, making a contingent of Philistine mercenaries his personal security detail (2 Sam 15:18).

King Achish and the Philistines prepare to attack Saul and the Hebrew army, and David and his men are protecting King Achish. If David had a plan for what he was going to do when the battle started, the author doesn’t share. What we do know is that David finds himself in a dilemma. He certainly believes he should not raise his hand against God’s anointed, Saul, and it wouldn’t be good for him to fight against his own people when he’s God’s man to succeed Saul. At the same time, he needs to keep up appearances that he’s loyal to Achish. He’s having his own “What on earth?” moment.

The commanders of the Philistines, however, are not as trusting of David as King Achish is. They know David’s reputation as the champion of Goliath and a successful military leader. They fear that David’s loyalty to Achish is just a ruse, and they demand that Achish send David away. This puts Achish in a political dilemma with his commanders, and he sends David away. Crisis averted. God protects David’s standing with Achish while ensuring that David will not be entangled in the battle that will be Saul’s downfall. It turns out that God was present and working behind the scenes even while David may have been wondering “what on earth” God was up to.

As I look back on this year of business challenges, two things have become clear over time. First, we’ve always had projects come up just when we need them. Just like when God fed the Hebrews daily with manna from heaven. There’s always just enough for that day. God has been faithful. The second thing is that our challenges have actually served to highlight the need for some necessary strategic changes. If God had blessed us with abundant growth, we would have had the time to implement these changes, nor would we have felt the need. We might not have even seen the need.

So, in the quiet this morning, God is reminding me that when I’m asking “What on earth are you doing, God?” He is actually doing a great deal.

My job is to keep pressing on and trust His faithfulness.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Unmanageable

Unmanageable (CaD 1 Sam 28) Wayfarer

Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today.
1 Samuel 28:16-18

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” is a quote that has been misattributed to Albert Einstein for many years. Etymologists find no evidence of Einstein ever saying the words. It was fascinating for me to learn that the earliest documented uses of the quote are from the Twelve Step group Al-anon, particularly with regard to the second step: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

In yesterday’s chapter, I made the case that David’s flight to live among his enemies was prompted by the realization that Saul would never give up trying to kill him. Why? Because multiple times Saul had spoken words of repentance and sworn oaths to do so, and every time he goes right back to doing what he’s sworn he won’t do. It’s just like the insanity of addiction.

If you go to a Twelve Step meeting, you’ll hear stories of lives that have become unmanageable. Individuals speak of addictive insanity that has brought them to the brink of death and lives that have completely self-destructed. That’s where I observe Saul being in today’s chapter, only Saul’s problem is not alcoholism or drug addiction. Saul is addicted to his own pride, greed, and envy.

When the Philistines line up for battle with Saul and his army, Saul becomes afraid. He seeks some word or sign from God of what will happen, but God is silent. Samuel is dead. The high-priest, Abiathar, has joined up with David. Saul has no prophet in his service. In desperation, Saul hires a medium to conjure up the spirit of Samuel even though he knows that such an act is against God’s law. It’s just like when Saul crossed the line and offered sacrifices that only a priest was allowed to make. His fear drives him to cross the line and do what he knows he shouldn’t do, just like he’s always done expecting a different outcome.

Samuel’s spirit does appear and reiterates the very thing he had told Saul before. Saul’s repeated disobedience and his refusal to admit that his own actions have led his life to become unmanageable and to submit to God, who could restore his sanity, his own actions and choices have sealed his fate. He will die in the upcoming battle, and David will succeed him as king just as had been prophesied.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself looking back on my own life journey and the times my life had become unmanageable because of my foolish choices. It’s easy to read Saul’s story and shake my head in judgment, except I can’t. There’s another famous quote that I can make my own: “There, but for the grace of God, goes Tom Vander Well.” Saul is a tragic figure. The best thing about tragedies, even the real ones I hear in a Twelve Step meeting, is that they can help inform my own life and my own choices.

I don’t want to be a Saul. I would rather be a David.

The determining factor is what I choose to do with my own decisions, actions, and words today.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Purpose in the Pain

Purpose in the Pain (CaD 1 Sam 27) Wayfarer

But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines.
1 Samuel 27:1

Yesterday Wendy and I, along with our backyard neighbors, hosted a backyard cookout for over one hundred people from our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. It was awesome. For the record, I still smell like a charcoal grill.

One of the many interesting conversations I had was about how God orchestrates His purposes for us even through seemingly “bad” times. I had a couple of people relate to me about how they could look back and see how God was using difficult stretches of their life journeys to orchestrate positive outcomes and divine purpose even though it wasn’t obvious at the moment.

In today’s chapter, David finally realizes that no matter what promise Saul makes, and no matter what oath he swears, Saul will never stop trying to kill him. David determines that his best option is to live among his nation’s enemy, the Philistines. David knew that Saul could not risk the diplomatic crisis of invading Philistine territory looking for David. So, David goes to Achish, King of the Philistines, and secures sanctuary for himself and his men.

The author of 1 Samuel slips in two important facts regarding the continuing development of David’s leadership and preparation for the throne in the year and four months that David lived among his enemies.

First, the author notes that David’s band of outcasts, misfits, and mercenaries is at 600. That two hundred more men that David started out with back in chapter 22. His private army is growing as David continues to develop his leadership skills, and these men are loyal to David, not to a particular nation. This will serve David well when he eventually ascends to the throne. He has a highly trained and experienced army who are fiercely loyal to him and not just tribal conscripts who will follow whoever happens to be sitting on the throne.

The second fact is easy to miss for contemporary readers. While living in Philistine territory, David and his men raid towns and people groups who were supposed to have been conquered during the conquest of the Promised Land but were never successfully defeated. For the author’s Hebrew audience, this is significant. David is finishing the job given to Joshua that the Hebrew tribes could not, or would not, finish after Joshua died. In their eyes, this makes David a successor to their hero Joshua, marking David once again as God’s man for the job of leading the nation.

In the quiet this morning, these observations reminded me of my conversations from yesterday afternoon. When David flees Saul and is forced to live among his enemies, I doubt he saw what God was doing in the grand scheme. In fact, I think it likely that David only felt like his prophesied ascension to the throne was only getting further and further away from becoming a reality.

As I enter into another day, and a new work week, I’m reminded of a lyric from Psalm 112, which may have even been penned by David himself:

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright.”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.