Sep 7, 2021
In Yahweh do I take refuge. How can you say to my soul, "Flee as a bird to your mountain!" For, behold, the wicked bend their bows. They set their arrows on the strings, That they may shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? Psalm 11:1-3
David wrote these words. Some think in response to Saul killing the priests living in Nob, a city located in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin near Jerusalem. But David had many occasions on which he could have penned those words.
He lived through a time of political upheaval in Israel when the kingdom was crumbling under an inept ruler harassed by an evil spirit. The presence of God left this ruler after repeated carelessness to warnings and his indifference to God's instructions. Now Israel suffered as its king chased his son-in-law with a murderous vigor.
The soldiers may have wondered at their circumstances, embroiled in what looked like a family argument between King Saul and his son, the crown prince Jonathan, on whether David was friend or foe. King Saul decreed foe, despite David's loyalty to the family and to Israel. Jonathan proclaimed him a friend, realizing God had taken the throne from his father and his family and given it to David.
After Jonathan was convinced his father intended to murder David and attempts were made on his own life, Jonathan made a pact of loyalty to David. David left Jonathan and went to Nob and talked to the priest there. David led the priest to believe he was on a secret expedition which he was by the order of Jonathan, however, and not Saul. The priest helped to supply him, but there was one problem.
Doeg the Edomite was also there at Nob. Doeg was there for some purpose related to worship, but he was Saul's livestock manager. Worse he was related to Esau and called an Edomite, a regular enemy to God's true worshippers. Today, we might view him as one who is religious but doesn't really know God. David knew when he saw him, he was trouble, so he continued on, ending up in Adullum.
Adullum lay on the border of Saul's kingdom and was located in what we call the West Bank today. David found shelter in a cave nearby. There his brothers came to him and anyone else in the kingdom that was living in oppression because of Saul.
These people had no trust in Saul helping them, no faith in his policies. Even David's parents came to Adullum, probably to save themselves from Saul's wrath. Soon a prophet told David to move out of his stronghold. He obeyed, traveling east to the forested area of Hereth in Judah's highlands. Eventually Saul was told about Jonathan's actions to defend David and David's escape.
And so Saul vented to his army, "Hear now, you Benjamites; will the son of Jesse [David] give everyone of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, that all of you have conspired against me, and there is none who discloses to me when my son makes a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you who is sorry for me, or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?" (1Sam 22:7-8)
Of course, David wasn't lying in wait. He was trying to stay alive. The army said nothing. Especially since Saul sat with his spear in his hand. The same spear he had tried to kill David and Jonathan with. But Doeg piped up. He told how he had seen David at Nob talking to the priest. Saul commanded his men to kill all the priests of Nob. They would not. So Saul told Doeg to do it. He killed all but one priest who escaped and ran to...David. Wouldn't you?
But Saul didn't stop there. He killed the men, women and infants at Nob. He didn't even spare the cattle, sheep and donkeys like he did for his Amalekite enemies. (1Samuel 15)
Then someone came and told David about Philistines attacking the city of Keilah. Keilah was a few miles south in the lowlands. They needed help. David asked God if he should go, and God said yes. David's men were not convinced. They were uneasy staying in Judah and now David wanted to defend a city there suffering from a siege at the hand of the Philistines?
David asked God again, and again God said go. David rescued the citizens of Keilah, and the people repaid him by sheltering him and his men. Then the lone priest of Nob arrived.
David was shocked. A king of Israel slaughtering priests of Yahweh? How could this happen? But there was more bad news: Saul was coming for David and to kill the people of Keilah. David did not trust the loyalty of Keilah's leaders.
And he was right not to. The word David used for men in 1 Samuel 23:11-12 is ba'al, lord. "Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?" According to Professor Nadav Na'aman in his article, "David's Sojourn in Keilah in Light of the Amarna Letters," this use of ba'al for lord was not in a positive context. It was used for leaders who betrayed you like the lords of Shechem and Gibeah in the book of Judges. David had history as his teacher.
The betrayal could have been out of fear. They may have heard about Nob. And the kingdom knew Saul was a bit off. But it could also have been for economic reasons. David started out with four hundred men at Adullum and by the time he left Keilah he had six hundred. That's a lot of men to supply. David escaped, but Saul would continue his failing goal while the kingdom was burdened with his ungodly rule.
David's friends thought he should flee, go somewhere really safe. But he never did. In this stage of his life, he stayed the course of obedience to God. Even when betrayed. Even when disrespected and taken for granted. In his lifetime, he faced the evil spirit driving Israel's government and at times seeking to overthrow it. He wasn't perfect, but he repented quickly, prayed, praised and trusted God in the dark days and in the glory days.
When he wrote that the foundations of Israel were being destroyed, he said the shathah was being destroyed- a basis, political or moral. The Keil and Delitzsch commentary adds "this is the well being on which the land depends." Barnes commentary says "it is when truth is no longer respected, when justice is no longer practiced, when fraud and violence have taken the place of honesty and honor and when a person's integrity and virtue no longer offers them security."
What do the righteous do when this happens to their nation? They stand facing the evil like David did, trusting God in His goodness toward them and His love of justice. But we have more than David had to stand on. We have Jesus. We have our place in His Kingdom, and we have the authority over all the power of the evil spirits threatening the foundations in our day. (Luke 10:19) But it is up to us to use what weapons we have.
David said the wicked (rasha), the morally wrong, bad persons, have drawn their bow and poised their arrow. But the Holy Spirit says we have the power to put out all the inflamed, angry (puroō) arrows of the wicked. (Ephesians 6:16) He tells us we can stand because no weapon formed against us will prosper. But that is only if you stand in your authority, in complete trust and praising-God-for-the-victory-faith.
David tells us when the foundations are being shaken, it is not the time to falter. When we are tested to see if we have faith, we need to prove that we do.
Whatever foundation is cracking under you, be it your job, your family, or everything you thought you knew about your nation, please take David's words to heart. We need our Davids right now. So do those around you. Even when they don't realize it.
Please share this with those who might be interested or who need encouragement.
Image by Danka & Peter courtesy of Unsplash
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