What does it say?
Samuel has anointed Israel’s greatest king, but does not live to see him reign. Samuel dies (1Sam 25) and Israel will not see such a powerful religious leader until Elijah. Still on the run from Saul, David asks Nabal to provide for his men in return for their service to him. Nabal is a horrible individual and refuses to help David. He dies shortly afterward, and David takes his wife Abigail.
Once again David has Saul’s life in his hand but spares him (1Sam 26). By this time David is convinced that Saul is eventually going to kill him and again goes to the Philistine city of Gath thinking that Saul will not pursue him there (1Sam 27). David deceived the Philistine leader Achish previously, and now does so again. David convinces him that he is raiding Israeli territory when in reality he is attacking outlying Philistine villages and leaving no one behind to tell the story.
What does it mean?
Life is complicated and layered. On one level we see David’s faith in God’s sovereignty. Having been chosen and anointed as king, David patiently waits for God to bring his kingdom to pass rather than take matters into his own hands. On another level we see David with a marauding band of men wiping out Philistine villages as he deceives a neighboring king. David is one of the Bible’s great heroes, but even before he gets the throne he would already be disqualified from teaching Sunday school in many churches.
Our lives are no less complicated, layered and flawed. As we read stories from the Old Testament that are so hard to comprehend and challenge our modern sensibilities, we must remember that God deals with us in the context of our times, culture and understanding. This does not mean that God’s truth is relative; it means that God takes his absolute truth and speaks it into any cultural context, despite our flaws. Were the ancients to look into contemporary times, they would see inconsistencies, flaws and sins that would cause them to gasp. Our Western individualism, for example, would be considered highly offensive (and to many contemporary cultures also).
How will I respond?
While I am appalled at David’s multiple wives, wiping out entire villages and deceiving kings; there are other aspects of David’s life that provoke in me great admiration. What are some of my personal sins that perhaps I don’t take seriously enough. Perhaps I am proud of not having killed or having multiple wives, but do I tend to overlook gossip, lust, greed, or lack of discipline in my life as “minor issues?”