In the Presence of My Enemies
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Bible Passage: 1 Samuel 29
Have you ever been in a no-win situation? No matter what you decide to do, you’re going to lose. Men – your wife asks you what you think of her new haircut. You say, “I think it looks great.” Then she says, “Do you like it better than it was before?” … There is no right answer to that question. It’s like an executioner asking if you’ve rather be hung, shot, or poisoned – you’ll still be dead. No win.
Do you remember two weeks ago, we left David in a no-win situation. He was pretending to be loyal to a pagan king and now he’s stuck because the Philistine army is gathering to attack Israel and the pagan king expects David to fight on their side.
The writer left us with a cliffhanger. What will David do?
1 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’?”
Instead of having one king, the Philistines had different men ruling over each city. The other commanders do not trust David, for good reason. Achish tried to defend David, but loses the argument.
6 Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you.
7 So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” 8 And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”
David is a really good actor. We already know he’s been deceiving Achich.
9 And Achish answered David and said, “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’
10 Now then rise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who came with you, and start early in the morning, and depart as soon as you have light.” 11 So David set out with his men early in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. But the Philistines went up to Jezreel.
First, notice that God is again silent in this story. The only mention of God at all is by the pagan king! This is another reminder for us – just because we don’t hear God speaking doesn’t mean He’s absent. God is clearly working this out behind the scenes.
God is not only concerned with the end results. He is also concerned with the means. He extends mercy to David by using the suspicion of David’s enemies!
This was a close call and God let David feel it. Imagine the stress of this situation! There was nothing David for say or do to get himself out of this dilemma. In 2021, he could just claim he tested positive for covid. But that wasn’t going to work.
The only thing David could do was show up and wait. If he fights with the Philistines, he will show himself to be a real traitor to his own people. If he refuses to fight or turns on the Philistines in battle, he will be caught behind enemy lines.
And don’t forget – David got himself into this mess. He decided to retreat to Philistia without consulting God. He went in fear. God doesn’t owe David anything.
But God was merciful. He saved David in a way that only God could. If David tried to do anything at all expect wait, he could have ruined everything. Instead, David did nothing – which is exactly what God wanted David to do.
There are at least two lessons here.
First, consider God’s mercy in your life.
We should all be able to look back over our lives and see moments when our foolishness should have destroyed us – but God was merciful.
I remember some of those moments clearly. My sin had all the potential of ruining my life. I can easily see where my words and actions should have ruined my marriage. I can easily see where my sin should have ruined my future as a pastor. I can see the providential mercy of God in my life.
From a human perspective, if I’m being honest, I read the stories of Saul and David and it is difficult for me to see a big difference between the two men. I’m thinking specifically of the sins they committed. It is clear to me that David has more faith than Saul. But both men committed obvious sins that could have led to their demise. The biggest difference between them is the mercy of God.
If you do not see the mercy of God in your life, if you are not amazed by it – that’s a big problem. Worship may be on your lips, but it won’t be in your heart.
Perhaps the most famous Psalm in the Bible is Psalm 23, written by David. In verse 5 he says, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” We love that line.
But have you ever stopped to consider that most of the time David ended up in the presence of his enemies by making bad decisions? And yet, his experience was that God would prepare a table for him anyway. In fact, in our story today, God uses David’s enemies to prepare the table!
David ends Psalm 23 by saying, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” It is obvious David knows something about the mercy of God.
Consider God’s mercy in your life. Things are not as bad as they could be, or as bad as they should be.
Second. God doesn’t need us to do anything. His mercy operates independent of us. David got himself in this mess and does nothing to help. God didn’t wait for David to clean up what David messed up. God saved David without any help from David. And He saves us without any help from us.
Now, when I say God doesn’t need us to do anything, that’s not the same thing as saying God doesn’t want us to do anything. God certainly wants us to respond to His mercy in worship and faith and repentance and obedience. But God’s mercy is given freely – without condition.
This is not something easy for us to accept or believe, but it is all over the Bible.
Ephesians 2:4 – God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.
1 Peter 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
What’s the theme here? – God is rich in mercy, and we did nothing to earn it.
It has to be that way. Just as God in His mercy saved David from himself, God in His mercy saves us from ourselves.
And the amazing part is how He did it. God used David’s own enemies to accomplish His will for David’s salvation.
That should sound familiar… remember how Peter described God’s plan of salvation in Acts 2?
…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
What’s Peter saying? God used bad men to kill Jesus on purpose! God used His enemies to establish grace for His enemies! And Jesus endured this injustice willingly.
In 1 Samuel 29, David was saved by doing nothing. He had no power to save himself anyway. But Jesus had the power to save Himself! In fact, He was mocked for not saving Himself! But he took it. All of it. The laughter. The spit. The thorns. The nails. The spear. The wrath of God for our sin. And the death. Why? To trade places with David and with us.
The mercy of God is free for us, but not free for God. It was very costly. The only way God could prepare a table for us in the midst of our enemies (sin and death) was by the death of Jesus.
It looked like a no-win situation, but it was the ultimate victory.
Did you notice the little detail in verse 11? The writer tells us that David rose early in the morning to return home. Chapter 30 tells us that David arrived at home on the third day.
When was Jesus Christ raised from the dead? Early in the morning on the third day. You can’t make this stuff up. The Bible is too amazing of a book to be written by men.
More importantly, our God is too amazing to ignore. He is rich in mercy and He’s offering it to you in Christ. And He doesn’t need you to do anything except receive it in wonder.