‘the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt’, 1 Sam. 30. 31
We all know of certain localities which form the recognised haunts of various types of men. The rows and walks of Old Chelsea form the haunts of artists, while members of the legal profession are to be found hurrying across the shady precincts of the Temple. Old sea salts lounge in the narrow streets abutting the harbour of many a sea coast town; the pensive angler loves the shady nook by the river. But where are your haunts?
In 1 Samuel 30. 27-31 we find a list of names of places in the hill country of southern Judea. They formed the haunts of David and his followers during the period when hunted by Saul and rejected by men. The careless reader would be tempted to skip over them rapidly but nothing that the Spirit of God has inspired can be dismissed as unimportant. If we take these names, hunt up their meanings and then meditate upon them, we shall find a wealth of spiritual food in them. If only our haunts were conformed to the spiritual counterparts suggested by those of David, what happy Christians we should be. Let us briefly glance at them.
Bethel, the first named on the list, means ‘the house of God’. It was the place of the vision of Jacob’s ladder, where he received a wonderful revelation of God, coupled with a very precious promise. Today God looks upon no material building as His dwelling place, but He delights to presence Himself in the midst of His gathered people wherever they meet. The assembly is ‘the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’, 1 Tim. 3. 15. Do we haunt such gatherings as often as we possibly can, or are we among those who forsake the assembling of themselves together? Thomas was absent from the meeting one Lord’s day and he missed so much. The following week was a miserable one for Thomas, but the other disciples were glad because they had seen the Lord.
Ramoth means ‘the heights’. How grand it is to have mountain top experience with our God; cf. Hab. 3. 18-19. We refer to those happy seasons when the restless world seems far, far beneath, and we find ourselves shut in with Him. How precious is the memory of such occasions. They were times when we saw no man save Jesus only. Let us covet them. May we be found haunting the heights in our spiritual experience.
Jattir means ‘wide’, reminding us that ‘He brought me forth also into a large place’, Ps. 18. 19. How extensive are our blessings. How boundless is the love of our Father. How grand to walk abroad throughout the length and breadth of our spiritual Canaan, and to get to know experimentally the ‘wideness’ of the place in the heavenlies that is ours in Christ, Eph. 1. 3, 17-23; 3. 17-19.
Aroer signifies ‘enclosed’. At once our thoughts fly to the sweet verse in the Canticles where the Heavenly Bridegroom says of His beloved, ‘A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse’, 4. 12. The gardens inthe East are enclosed with hedges of prickly pear cactus preserving their delights exclusively for their owners. No strangers may intrude into their beautiful seclusion. Are our hearts likewise enclosed for the sole use and delight of the Master, or has the hedge been broken down, and a breach made for the entry of the world with its pleasures and business?
Siphmoth means ‘fruitful’. ‘I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit’, said our Lord on the night of His betrayal, John 15. 16. That is the one reason why He has left us here. Earlier in the chapter He had instructed His disciples (and us) in the matter of fruit-bearing. It is essential that we abide in Him and in addition the pruning knife may be necessary. What a privilege, what an honour, to bear precious fruit for Him; fruit, v. 2, more fruit, v. 2, and much fruit, vv. 5, 8. It may be a ministry-leading lost sinners to Christ or building up fellow-believers, but it is all for Him.
Eshtemoa means ‘a bosom’. How very near we are to our divine Redeemer. ‘His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me’, sings the bride in the Song of Songs, 2. 6. Moses, in his parting blessing to the children of Israel, rejoiced that they were in the bosom of their protecting God, for that is the force of the word translated ‘loved’ in Deuteronomy 33. 3. We are reminded of the apostle John who knew so much of leaning on Jesus’ breast, John 13. 23. What a lovely haunt this is. Positionally we are so near to our Saviour that we could not be nearer, yet we should desire to be more in the good of this practically.
Nearer in heart each day,
Bring me to Thee.
Rachal is ‘a place of traffic’. Here business is done. It is our business to occupy until He come. All else must take a second place. Whatever He has entrusted to us, health and strength, youthful energy perhaps, mental faculties, pounds, shillings and pence – all these are to be pressed into trafficking for the Master. Whatever we do out of love to Him will receive its commendation although all the enabling will have come from Himself.
Jerahmeel means ‘God is merciful’. Mercy is kindness to those who are in need. Our case was desperate but God, in His mercy, has met us in our need. We read something of God’s mercy in Psalm 103. We rejoice to discover that it is as high as the heaven above, and from everlasting to everlasting. When we get home to heaven, with overflowing hearts we shall say, surely goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our lives. Let us gratefully acknowledge it now and seek grace to display mercy to others, Jas. 2. 13.
Ken means ‘a possession’. We are a wealthy people; let us enjoy our possessions. Because our Saviour became poor we have all been made rich. Included in our possessions are forgiveness of sins, justification, acceptance in the Beloved, a peace that passeth understanding, a joy that is unspeakable, the companionship of the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother, the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful hope of seeing the Lord Himself face to face. Let us haunt these possessions constantly.
Hormah is ‘a fortress’. As long as we are on the pilgrim journey homeward we shall be liable to attack from our arch-enemy, the devil, cf. Eph. 6. 10-18. He is always on the alert, never sleepy. He knows our weak points far better than we know them ourselves. He has stumbled and ensnared far better men than we are. But thank God we have a safe retreat. The coneys make their home in the rocks and are safe there from all attacks. In Christ we have a covert from every storm. In ourselves we have no strength whatever but in Him we need have no fear.
Chor-Ashan stands for ‘the smelting furnace’. How we dread this. ‘Anywhere but there Lord’, we plead, but He who knows the end from the beginning, and who always does what is best, sometimes brings us to haunt the furnace of sore affliction, 1 Pet. 1. 6-9. Job, Abraham, Jacob and Daniel were all led that way, and shall we marvel if we are called upon to experience the smelting furnace? Yet He is always at our side, cf. Dan. 3.24-25. He has never deserted one of His saints yet and He will not desert us.
Athach means ‘a lodging place’. We are only here for a short while. Constantly we need to be reminded that we are strangers and pilgrims – in the world but not of it. It is so easy to settle down and thrust our roots deeply into the things of earth and to forget that this world is only a lodging place. We are only passing through it to an infinitely better home. Dr. Handley Moule’s rendering of Philippians 3. 20 is very sweet; ‘Our city home is in heaven’. Let us hear once again the words of the prophet of old, ‘Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest’, Mic. 2. 10.
Hebron, the last mentioned of these haunts of David, is perhaps the best, for it means ‘fellowship’ or ‘communion’. We remember that Hebron became the possession of that trusty warrior, Caleb, who followed fully. Let us make it our possession too. Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. There is much energy and organisation in evidence today; the danger is that quiet communion with the Master may be crowded out. Remember ‘Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her’. May it be ours to spend some time each day in communion; it will be difficult some days but it will be well worth it.
Such were the haunts of the sweet psalmist of Israel. Where are we usually to be found in our leisure time? The Lord only leads us to haunt those places where He can be found with us. Experience in such haunts made David’s men become mighty. Fellowship with our Lord where He leads the way will make us strong in the things of God too.