THE first period of David’s rejection was spent in hiding. It lasted about 5 years. (1 Sam. 22-26). He abode in the Cave of Adullam, and in the wilderness in strongholds. They were days of persecution and adversity. With his men he went “whithersoever they could go.” They had “no certain dwelling place” and no “continuing city.” His followers numbered only about 600 men. Saul “sought him every day.” The Psalms that were written by him in those days reveal their dangers. He walked through the “valley of the shadow of death,” but was ever confident of the overshadowing wings. “In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge until these calamities be overpast,” Ps. 57. 1. His spirit was overwhelmed and he cried, “I am brought very low.”But He could say “Thou knewest my path,” and “Thou shalt deal bountifully with me.” Looking back over those eventful days from sunnier slopes, he recollects his words and says, “I was brought low and He helped me …O my soul …the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” (Ps. 116. 6-7).
The words of the Apostle in 1 Cor. 4. 9-13, read like a pen portrait of the experience of David and his followers. “We are weak,…despised,… reviled,… persecuted,… and defamed… We are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things.” David reaped seemingly nothing but ingratitude for his deeds of kindness. He delivered Keilah, yet they would have treacherously handed him over to Saul. Even though he spared Saul on two occasions, yet Saul ceased not to pursue him. He was a wall unto Nabal, yet in his adversity Nabal would not give him any succour, but rather railed on him!
But dark, difficult and dangerous though those days were, the promises and presence of God were made very real to him. Though the company with him was small, it was very self-contained. With him, the anointed king, was Gad the prophet and Abiathar the priest. Moreover his followers were true men, mighty men, men who were genuine in their love and devotion to him. Happy such companies, even though persecution may be their lot, where both the prophetic and priestly ministry are evident, and where true devotion to Christ is manifest.
Had David’s faith never faltered or waned (1 Sam. 27. 1) he never would have forsaken the wilderness, beset with constant dangers though it was, for the land of the Philistines. He was given Ziklag and he lived there for a year and four months. It is true that he had no persecution from Saul after taking that step. But that was not because Saul’s attitude had changed. David had escaped persecution at the price of compromise! He had sought the patronage of a heathen king! The same sad story was repeated in the history of the church when the Smyrnean days of trial were ended, and the Pergamos period, the accepting of the world’s patronage, the alliance of church and state commenced. David had had clear and unmistakable guidance to leave Adullam for the land of Judah (1 Sam. 22. 5), and later to leave Keilah (23. 9-12), but to go to the land of the Philistines he consulted his own heart only (27. 1). While at Ziklag there was an accession to David of many from all Israel. For precarious, though life at Ziklag was, it had its amenities as compared with the rigours of the cave and the wilderness. By going to Ziklag David had made it easier for many to share his rejection. Doubtless it appealed to not a few that otherwise would not have sought him, but that appeal was to the flesh. Hence we read of “wicked men, men of belial,” base fellows, amongst his followers at Ziklag (1 Sam. 30. 22, 2 Sam. 23. 6-7).
In thus following the line of least resistance David did not escape difficulties and perplexities, for when Ziklag was burnt down, the people spake of stoning him! No such insurrection was hinted while he was hunted as “a partridge in the mountains.” This he had brought on himself through a lapse of faith.
Moreover it was only through the merciful overruling of God that David was not found fighting alongside the Philistines against Israel ! What a strange alliance! But such are the latent possibilities when a Christian, or a servant of Christ, or an assembly turns aside from sharing His reproach outside the camp to live in “Easy Street.” This is the lesson of Ziklag.
After the death of Saul, David enquired of the Lord, and he was directed to Hebron where the men of Judah came and anointed him king over the house of Judah. The Amalekite who had slain Saul had brought his crown and bracelet to David, hoping thereby to have been honoured. But David disdained to receive the crown from the hands of an Amalekite. It is important to remember that rule among God’s people should be by virtue of spiritual fitness. Yet it is to be feared that many who have not the spiritual qualifications for leadership are in that position because of social or financial considerations to the spiritual detriment of the assemblies. They had received the crown as from the hand of an Amalekite.
In Hebron David reigned for 7 years and 6 months. Then at the tragic death of Ishbosheth he was anointed king over Israel (2 Sam. 5. 3). Men who had understanding of the times, and knew what Israel ought to do; men of war, who could keep rank, not of a double heart, but with a perfect heart; and all the rest of Israel were of one heart to make him king. Of that day it is recorded “There was joy in Israel.” So there will be in the churches when such a wholehearted and single-eyed desire for the Lord’s glory will be the motivating power. This is the lesson of Hebron, the priestly city of refuge, the place of fellowship.