1 Samuel 27:1-11 Keep Friends Close, But Enemies Closer
1 Samuel 27:1-11
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.”
2 So David took his 600 men and went over and joined Achish son of Maoch, the king of Gath. 3 David and his men and their families settled there with Achish at Gath. David brought his two wives along with him- Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, Nabal’s widow from Carmel. 4 Word soon reached Saul that David had fled to Gath, so he stopped hunting for him.
5 One day David said to Achish, “If it is all right with you, we would rather live in one of the country towns instead of here in the royal city.” 6 So Achish gave him the town of Ziklag (which still belongs to the kings of Judah to this day), 7 and they lived there among the Philistines for a year and four months.
8 David and his men spent their time raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites- people who had lived near Shur, toward the land of Egypt, since ancient times. 9 David did not leave one person alive in the villages he attacked. He took the sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothing before returning home to see King Achish. 10 “Where did you make your raid today?” Achish would ask. And David would reply, “Against the south of Judah, the Jerahmeelites, and the Kenites.”
11 No one was left alive to come to Gath and tell where he had really been. This happened again and again while he was living among the Philistines. 12 Achish believed David and thought to himself, “By now the people of Israel must hate him bitterly. Now he will have to stay here and serve me forever.”
David, forced by circumstances allies himself with Archish and undertakes a vassal and lord relationship in return for a place of refuge in a town of Ziklag. David tries to gain Achish’s trust although he keeps strict boundaries with Achish. Knowing that Achish will one day become an enemy, for this reason David keeps him close in a bid to better understand the Philistine mindset and culture. In today’s episode, we learn to be shrewd in being harmless and affable while maintaining boundaries with people, especially those who are different in values system and vision. In doing so, we reap the benefits of the cooperation while protecting ourselves from unnecessary harm and disruptions.
So Achish gave him the town of Ziklag and they lived there among the Philistines for a year and four months – David is forced to retreat into Philistine territories in order to avoid another confrontation with Saul. So David took his 600 men and went over and joined Achish son of Maoch, the king of Gath and Saul, having heard that David has “defected”, he stops pursuing him. David allies himself with Achish undertaking a vassal and lord relationship, he pledges loyalty to Achish in return to live in the town of Ziklag. For 16 months, they live in Ziklag during which David becomes familiarized with the Philistine culture and mindset. This is an important phase in David’s development as a leader as this exposure to the Philistines will equip him to deal savvily with them when he eventually ascends to the throne.
No one was left alive to come to Gath and tell where he had really been – During David’s tenure in Gath, he raids the towns and tribes killing the people and looting all their livestock and other goods. These are raids against desert people that are at that time in enmity with Israel. Whenever, Achish enquire of his activities, David reports to Achish that his attacks are against his own tribe Judah, or Jerahmeel, or the Kenites, fabrications which endear him all the more to the Philistines and persuaded them that he is a true and loyal subject. However, it is hard to believe that something of that scale done in broad daylight would escape unnoticed which proves that it is really the hand of God that is protecting David’s cover.
- Work with anyone who is willing to work with you but do not entrust yourself to them. Many allies can provide opportunities and benefits for a time and season, but do not entrust yourself to those that have differing values system and vision by:
- including them in your plans,
- accepting them into your inner circle or
- revealing sensitive information about yourself.
David allies himself with Achish who provides invaluable refuge and protection, but maintains strict boundaries with him. Jesus fellowships freely with people but He does not entrust Himself to them as their values system and motives are incompatible with His. Hence, Jesus does not let them into His inner circle. He keeps His identity hidden, and His movement secret and He speaks in parables.
But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. John 2:24-25
By being vigilant in keeping your boundary, you reap the benefits of cooperation while protecting yourself from unnecessary harm and disruptions. After working together for a while, when you are comfortable with the person’s values system, life vision and his fear of God, only then you can progress to the next level of trust.
- Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. This simply means that with those individuals you trust, respect and hold dear in your life, you should cling to them, and cherish them, especially those who are children of God. But on the other hand, it’s quite a different story when it comes to your enemies. An enemy is someone who is out to harm you physically, mentally or spiritually when given a chance and he is diametrically opposed to God and the things He stands for. This individual is not your friend, but is hostile and a foe to be reckoned with. This type of person you want to keep close by appearing harmless and affable. In so doing, you keep a vigilant eye on him and his every motive, being fully aware of his deceptions and activities. The more you know this person (by getting close to), the better off you are.
Sometimes in a professional environment, it is required of you to work with an enemy and you must not reject this arrangement because God has orchestrated a situation so that you may know them inside out. It is important to really understand your objective and get your emotions out of the way. Keeping a boundary is essential in that your enemy must know as little about you as possible while you endeavor to gain his trust. David is being forced to ally with Achish for a time so that he may understand the Philistine mindset and culture. While at the same time, he maintains boundary by keeping Achish out of his daily operations and his plans for the future.
- Do you have a tendency to alienate yourself from people who have different values system than you have? These people could come from the workplace or even from the family. However, by keeping your distance, you are depriving yourself of important opportunities, avenues of cooperation and knowledge. Even competing companies “work together” for a season to harness each other’s strengths and to learn more about each other.
- Do you have in mind a set of criteria to properly evaluate relationships so as to differentiate between enemy, acquaintance and friend? To David, Achish is an acquaintance but a potential enemy, but can never be a friend.
Dear Lord, give me a clear mind when working with people who are different. Help me work with clear principles while maintaining a boundary. Give me your Spirit of wisdom to discern if a person is a friend or a foe. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.