1 Samuel 29

The armies of the Philistines and of Israel reach the place where they set themselves in battle formation. “David and his men passed on in the rearward with Achish,” for according to the king’s promise they have been made his bodyguards. The princes of the Philistines challenge this: “What are these Hebrews?” This is what always happens when a believer places himself in a false position by seeking the world’s protection. He cannot gain the world’s confidence unless perhaps the world is depending upon him like Achish because he has made God’s people abhor him and has given himself into bondage in this way. Moreover Achish, we must observe, has still other motives for confidence, and we cannot help but see in him a certain natural nobility, won over by the apparent uprightness of David’s character (Alas! it is not even apparently so in God’s sight). Achish defends David before the princes: “I have found nothing in him since the day of his falling away to me to this day” (1 Sam. 29:33Then said the princes of the Philistines, What do these Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day? (1 Samuel 29:3)). Achish bears testimony to him: “As Jehovah liveth, thou art upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the camp is acceptable to me; for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming to me to this day” (1 Sam. 29:66Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the Lord liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the lords favor thee not. (1 Samuel 29:6)). A most favorable testimony, but one based on the fact that “David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel” (1 Sam. 29:33Then said the princes of the Philistines, What do these Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day? (1 Samuel 29:3)), had become and would remain the servant of Achish.
Did David have a good conscience at having merited these praises? Was his heart really at ease before the high opinion of the uncircumcised king who was showing himself more noble and more honest than the Lord’s anointed? Could he receive this praise as he had once received that of Abigail (1 Sam. 25:2828I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. (1 Samuel 25:28))?
However that might be, Achish’s confidence does not succeed in overcoming the distrust of the princes, for it was precisely David’s character of faithfulness which could move him to return to his old master. Not so long ago he had smitten his ten thousand Philistines, in this in accord with Saul who had smitten his thousand. Why should he be for Achish today rather than for Saul? The lack of a clear-cut position in regard to the world can only produce conclusions like these. Our very faithfulness in the past is turned against us. Achish is obliged to reckon with the opinion of the princes, a policy unknown to a faithful believer, for God’s mind, opinion, and will direct him. But God uses men’s mistrust to save His beloved from a more serious fall than when he went up against Nabal to avenge himself. “Now,” says Achish, “return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 29:77Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 29:7)).
In the face of this animosity David (and this is one of the most humiliating points in his history) denies his faith and his character: “But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee to this day, that I should not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (1 Sam. 29:88And David said unto Achish, But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king? (1 Samuel 29:8)). What have I done? David could say this in truth to Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:11And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life? (1 Samuel 20:1)) and to Saul himself (1 Sam. 26:1818And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand? (1 Samuel 26:18)) but he could not in good conscience say this to Achish.
Knowing nothing of David’s secret undertakings against Israel’s enemies, the Philistine king could not find him at fault. But it is his own people whom David is asking to fight against; his people whom he terms “the enemies of the king”!
Achish acknowledges yet more explicitly the purity of David’s intentions: “I know that thou art acceptable to me, as an angel of God” (1 Sam. 29:99And Achish answered and said to David, I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, He shall not go up with us to the battle. (1 Samuel 29:9)), but the conclusion is that he must return. “Depart,” Achish tells David (1 Sam. 29:1010Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master's servants that are come with thee: and as soon as ye be up early in the morning, and have light, depart. (1 Samuel 29:10)). In sum, weighed in the same balance the opinion of the world surrounding him carries greater weight with Achish than the supposed integrity of David.
All of this shows us the abyss separating the family of God from the world, since even in respect to the child of God who is unfaithful to his calling the world is apprehensive and refuses his co-operation. This is only just. God makes us to feel, and it is grace on His part, that in this position we have nothing: neither the approval of God nor the favor of the world.
David returns back. What a helping hand the Lord has extended to him, although against his own will at the most critical moment of his entire life up until now! God has not abandoned him for a single instant. What grace! But what has become of the happy fellowship of heart with the Lord which had found expression in the songs of the sweet psalmist of Israel?