1 Samuel 26:14-27:1 Sometimes Retreating is Advancing
1 Samuel 26:14-27:1
14 Then he shouted down to the soldiers and to Abner son of Ner, “Wake up, Abner!” “Who is it?” Abner demanded. 15 “Well, Abner, you’re a great man, aren’t you?” David taunted. “Where in all Israel is there anyone as mighty? So why haven’t you guarded your master the king when someone came to kill him? 16 This isn’t good at all! I swear by the Lord that you and your men deserve to die, because you failed to protect your master, the Lord ’s anointed! Look around! Where are the king’s spear and the jug of water that were beside his head?” 17 Saul recognized David’s voice and called out, “Is that you, my son David?”
And David replied, “Yes, my lord the king. 18 Why are you chasing me? What have I done? What is my crime? 19 But now let my lord the king listen to his servant. If the Lord has stirred you up against me, then let him accept my offering. But if this is simply a human scheme, then may those involved be cursed by the Lord. For they have driven me from my home, so I can no longer live among the Lord ’s people, and they have said, ‘Go, worship pagan gods. ’ 20 Must I die on foreign soil, far from the presence of the Lord? Why has the king of Israel come out to search for a single flea? Why does he hunt me down like a partridge on the mountains?”
21 Then Saul confessed, “I have sinned. Come back home, my son, and I will no longer try to harm you, for you valued my life today. I have been a fool and very, very wrong.” 22 “Here is your spear, O king,” David replied. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord ’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.” 25 And Saul said to David, “Blessings on you, my son David. You will do many heroic deeds, and you will surely succeed.” Then David went away, and Saul returned home. 1 But David kept thinking to himself, “Someday Saul is going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to the Philistines. Then Saul will stop hunting for me in Israelite territory, and I will finally be safe.”
We could measure the development of David’s character by his consistent behavior over two very similar temptations. Now, David contemplates retreating into foreign land to avoid another confrontation. What is seen as a retreat of defeat in the natural amounts to an advance in the spirit while he awaits God’s timing to reenter the political scene in Israel. In today’s episode, we learn the importance to seeing things from God’s perspective and be assured of God’s faithfulness to restore us at a proper time. As in the case of David, it is sometimes necessary to retreat in order to advance.
Wake up, Abner! – The Spirit of God grips the entire camp including Saul and his right hand man causing them to slumber into a deep sleep. David intrudes into the heart of the camp, he takes Saul’s spear and jug and retreats to a safe distance before calling out to Abner. David addresses Abner accusing him of negligence, of not being able to protect the anointed one. He emphasizes the failure to protect as a failure that is worthy of death: you and your men deserve to die, because you failed to protect your master, the Lord ’s anointed.
Saul wakes up to the voice of David: Is that you, my son David? These are the words of a man who is confused, but who will not blink at killing one of his own for his selfish agenda. Once again David attempts to reason with Saul, throwing open the basis of Saul’s pursuit of him. David offers to make right through an offering should he had sinned against God. But if it is stirred by human agenda to annihilate a rival then may those involved be cursed by the Lord. David continues to elaborate on the severity of Saul’s act as it amounts to forcing him to migrate to a foreign nation to worship other gods: “…so I can no longer live among the Lord’s people, and they have said, ‘Go, worship pagan gods” and to be disinherited from Israel by dying in a foreign land. Therefore, rather than going head-on with Saul, David contemplates “retreating” from Israel and trusting that God will reinstate his position in Israel at a proper time.
I have sinned. Come back home, my son – Saul’s confession is nothing short of hypocrisy and deception, which David immediately retortes, “Here is your spear, O king.” David by sparing Saul reminded him of his righteousness in doing good and remaining loyal to Israel. Here, David reiterates an unchanging principle that he lives by: The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal; he is assured of God’s continual protection as long as he does what is right. At the meanwhile, David contemplates giving up his position in Israel by retreating to the Philistines.
- Opportunities do not take us forward, but truth does. Opportunities come and go, you may win some and lose some. However, what keeps us moving forward is not opportunities but steadfastness in the truth. Opportunities may give us sudden windfalls, but the truth is what keeps us prospering and growing. David may have “foregone” two opportunities to remove Saul, but the truth he stands for is far more potent than opportunities. And God will reward those who stands for the truth: The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power. We may regret over lost opportunities, but as long as we continue to walk in the truth, we will gain in the long run.
- God’s promise of continual protection and provision is better than what man can provide for himself. Man’s basic instinct is to provide solutions for himself, something that he can see and own. David can put an end to Saul’s continual threat by killing him. However, he chooses not to sin against God by committing murder, but to depend on God’s continual protection from Saul. Man in his unbelief endeavors to gather resources that he could see and control rather than to believe in the almighty God who fairs much better than earthly resources. Are you tempted to reinforce your own safety by gathering wealth and by power politics? But the one who trusts in God by doing His will is like a house that is built on a rock that will withstand the test of time.
- Sometimes a retreat in the natural amounts to an advance in the spirit. Even if you have to retreat to a lesser position, God sees your loyalty and will in His time cause you to advance in the spirit towards a higher position in the natural. David retreated and to many he seemed to have given up on his kingly call in Israel and he lost two opportunities to kill Saul. He went into the land of the Philistines under the protection of the ruler of Gath. However, God reinstated David and brought him back to Israel after Saul’s demise in battle with the Philistines. Some battles are not to be fought by any other than God Himself. Leaders of the highest position have been anointed and placed by divine edict and they will also be displaced via the same route. David’s time in retreat is divinely appointed for a reason during which he grew in favor with God and with man. In order to advance it is sometimes necessary to retreat.
- Are you addicted to action, supposing the lack of excitement implies backsliding and losing the momentum? Sometimes God brings us to a phase of retreat so that we could advance when the time comes. The men of faith: Moses, Joseph, Abraham all had their fair share of retreats. What matters is advancement in the spirit, and not the natural.
- Do you feel that you have fallen behind and out of favor with your boss? Do you feel being relegated to a state of being forgotten and humbled? As long as you keep in step with God, you are on track for He will exalt you at a proper time. Apostle Peter teaches,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Dear Lord, I submit myself to your plans and timing. I believe that you are now doing a sanctifying work in my life that will lay the foundation for my future glory and ministry. Help me overcome my fleshly mindset and weaknesses so that I may be exalted at a proper time. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.