Prodigal

Over the course of the previous few weeks, we have been talking about the dangers of self-will and self-interest. Last week, we saw that Saul’s self-interest and worry led him into sin and led him to drag others into sin with him. This week, we see how David’s worry leads him in a way similar to that of Saul. Our worry, fear about the future, causes us to do many things—sometimes things that make no sense. It causes us to make mountains out of mole hills, issues out of non-issues and conflicts out of things that shouldn’t even be hot topics. It causes us to build up walls and push people away who are concerned about our good.

1 Samuel 29:1-11

Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines were proceeding on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were proceeding on in the rear with Achish.

Then 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 the king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or rather these years, and I have found no fault in him from the day he deserted to me to this day?”

But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him, and the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Make the man go back, that he may return to his place where you have assigned him, and do not let him go down to battle with us, or in the battle he may become an adversary to us. For with what could this man make himself acceptable to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of these men? Is this not David, of whom they sing in the dances, saying,

‘Saul has slain his thousands,

And David his ten thousands’?”

Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army are pleasing in my sight; for I have not found evil in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, you are not pleasing in the sight of the lords. Now therefore return and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.”

David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And what have you found in your servant from the day when I came before you to this day, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”

But Achish replied to David, “I know that you are pleasing in my sight, like an angel of God; nevertheless the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He must not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then arise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who have come with you, and as soon as you have arisen early in the morning and have light, depart.”

So David arose early, he and his men, to depart in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.

David, the almost traitor (v. 1-2)

Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines were proceeding on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were proceeding on in the rear with Achish.

The Philistines are gathered to fight against Israel (28:1). Because David feared that he would be certainly swept away by Saul, he fled to Philistia (27:1). Achish gave David refuge and hoped David would become his own servant forever (26:6; 27:12). Achish has commanded David saying, “Know assuredly that you will go out with me in the camp, you and your men” (28:1). In formation, now, in Aphek, David and his men are marching with Achish against Israel.

What is God’s plan for David? Is it not for David to reign over Israel? Is God’s plan not to establish His own throne within His creation through David in Israel? How did things get so far out of hand that David is now about to march against Israel in battle?

  1. David reacted to a threat and ran from the problems he perceived (Cf. 27:1).
  2. David became concerned about his own glory rather than God’s (Cf. 27:8-12; 28:2).
  3. As a result, David not only ran from the country he was chosen to lead but now stands against her—against God’s plan for his life and the role God has for David in His kingdom.

In the previous passage, we saw Saul consult a medium because he feared the future. His fear led him into sin and caused him to reject God. God has handed Saul over to his sin, and Saul will never truly repent. Here, we see David being just as rebellious against God as Saul has been and for the same reason; He feared the future. He hasn’t consulted a medium, but he is a traitor against his country. There is an irony and a hypocrisy in David’s life. He refused to harm his king (Cf. 24:6; 26:9), but now marches against his king in battle because fear got the best of him.

For both Saul and David, fear and self-interest seemed to lead to sin and enmity with God. I wonder if the pattern is normative? In the Gospels, Jesus will teach about fear conerning the future:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:24-34).

Jesus will teach this in the context of serving either God or mammon, mammon being a word referring to all worldly prosperity. We will either love God and His interests or our own interests. We will either seek God’s kingdom or our own kingdoms. We cannot serve two masters. Therefore, because we cannot serve two masters, do not worry about your own provisions or your own future. Do not fear what may or may not be. Instead, seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Pray for God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven (Cf. Matthew 6:10). We learn that it is not fear that causes us to rebel against God. It is our rebellion against God that causes us to worry about the things of this life—the future and our own circumstances. Fear, worry, perpetuates our rebellious actions against God. Biblical Christianity, then, is explicitly opposed to consequentialism—justifying the means by their ends. First, we cannot know what the future holds, which renders consequentialism nonsensical. Second, our desire is to honor God and not try to win the best outcome for ourselves according to our own opinions. Many babies are murdered, marriages ended, violent acts committed, people pushed away by friends, votes cast, and divisions caused because people fear the future instead of God.

David, the guarded one (v. 3-11)

Then 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 the king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or rather these years, and I have found no fault in him from the day he deserted to me to this day?”
But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him, and the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Make the man go back, that he may return to his place where you have assigned him, and do not let him go down to battle with us, or in the battle he may become an adversary to us. For with what could this man make himself acceptable to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of these men? Is this not David, of whom they sing in the dances, saying,
‘Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands’?”

First, Achish found no fault in David because David hid his treachery from Achish by killing all of his victims (Cf. 27:11). Second, the other Philistine commanders feared David because of David’s reputation in Israel. They feared a future possibility. So, they reprimanded Achish and implored him to send David back to Ziklag.

Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army are pleasing in my sight; for I have not found evil in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, you are not pleasing in the sight of the lords. Now therefore return and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.”
David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And what have you found in your servant from the day when I came before you to this day, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”
But Achish replied to David, “I know that you are pleasing in my sight, like an angel of God; nevertheless the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He must not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then arise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who have come with you, and as soon as you have arisen early in the morning and have light, depart.”
So David arose early, he and his men, to depart in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.

God’s providence, His working all things together, has been a key theme through 1 Samuel. It seems the only difference between Saul and David is God’s providential hand and the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit (Cf. 16:13). Just as God kept David from worse sin against Nabal (Cf. 25:34), He now keeps David from fighting against the people he was chosen to serve as king. He does so by working together the fear of the Philistines. Achish saw David as an honest man and a true servant of God. I want my life to be such that even my enemies see me as a servant of God and recognize God because of His work in me and through me. That’s only possible if God keeps us from falling. Even though David was unfaithful, God is faithful to guard him from even worse sin because God has chosen him.

Fear, worry, causes us to do many things. We worry, fear the future, because we do not seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness but our own kingdoms and righteousness. As a result, we often run from God’s plan and stand against the work He is doing for His own glory and our good. In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus will tell the story of two sons. One son was faithful to the father. The other demanded his inheritance so he could go live his own life. After squandering his inheritance, the wayward, or prodigal, son returned to his father in shame and with repentance. His father welcomed him with open arms and reinstated him as an heir. In the same discourse, Luke 15:4-7, Jesus will illustrate his own work by insisting that no one would let one lost sheep go unfound—anyone would leave the ninety-nine in the pasture to find the one that had gone astray and rejoice once it is found and returned. Jesus will tell these parables in response to the Pharisees’ judgmentalism. They will grumble against Jesus because Jesus receives tax collectors and sinners and eats with them (Luke 15:2). When we run and sin, Jesus seeks us out to bring us back into His fold. When our own interests and plans fail, He is there to restore us as sons and daughters. He rejoices more over one person who repents than over those who need no repentance (Cf. Luke 15:7). Thank the Lord for His goodness. May we repent and return to Him and His plan for us. May we not be like the Pharisees, who will make themselves judges over the people and condemn those who are forgiven and heirs with Christ. Repentance is two-fold. We repent to our Father in Heaven. All sin is sin against Him. We also confess to one another. Instead of fault-finders, we are forgiveness-finders. This is the essence of living in Christian community with healthy Christian relationships. With regard to worship, Jesus will teach:

… if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (Matthew 5:23-24).

Jesus did not say, “If you believe you did something wrong.” He says, “If you… remember that your brother (a fellow Christian) has something against you…” We seek reconciliation on the basis of how we know others feel about us. Today, we observe holy communion. We receive the means of grace through the elements, the bread and wine. Worship is a holy thing, and more holy when the Lord’s supper is taken. Some of us have not sought the forgiveness of the brothers or sisters we have wronged. Our apology to others isn’t for their sake, it is for our own sake in Christ. As a Christian, I forgive all wrongs. I don’t expect people to apologize to me, and I don’t hold it against them if they do not (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5). We seek forgiveness from those we have wronged for the sake of our own standing before God, because He is holy. For this reason James will write:

… confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16).

The effective prayer of a righteous person, the person who seeks forgiveness from brothers and sisters in Christ, can accomplish much concerning the healing of the people. James’s instruction is reminiscent of 2 Chronicles 7:14–if God’s people humble themselves and pray, particularly for forgiveness, God will heal or revive their land. Do we really desire our lives to reflect that we are servants of God? Then, we live repentant lives. Do we want to experience revival and healing? The key is repentance before God and confession of our sins to one another. May the God of mercy not hand us over to temptation but deliver us from evil. May He guard us like He did David.


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