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The Flea Flees

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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May 10, 2024 4:00 am

The Flea Flees

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 10, 2024 4:00 am

David trusted God for deliverance and protection—against lions, bears, giants, enemy armies, and even against temptation. But he wasn’t perfect! Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines an occasion when David failed to rely on God’s faithfulness.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


When you follow David's story in the Bible in First Samuel, you see him trusting God for empowerment and protection against lions and bears and giants and all kinds of enemies, even against temptation.

But he doesn't always do that. Today on Truth for Life, we'll hear about one occasion where David, in fear, relied on his own cunning instead of relying on God's faithfulness. Alistair Begg is opening the Bible to 1 Samuel.

It is a phenomenal collapse by any standards. It's right up there with the story of Elijah after his victory with the prophets of Baal. It's the same kind of scandal that you find in the life of Peter, where he says quite presumptuously and presumably in front of his friends to Jesus, Lord, I'm ready to go with you to prison and to death. And then, within a matter of a very short time, in responding to a lady, he says, Woman, I do not know who Jesus is.

Now, it is really quite astonishing that one who has been chosen to be Israel's king should, as Woodhouse points out, have this skeleton in his closet. And if you look at the text, you can see that it is there, and it is hard to deny. He has determined that the best thing he can do is escape. You'll see that in verse 1.

I should escape. And so, in verse 2, we're told that he went over to the other side. Just even those two words convey, I think, more than geography, as we will see. Now, one of the striking features that we should note immediately of the record that we have in the Bible is the way in which it presents all of its heroes—we can refer to them in that way—not airbrushed but warts and all. And actually, it's one of the verifying features, I think, of the authenticity of the Scriptures. If somebody was trying to make it up, they would try and clean it up.

But it isn't made up. It is a record of the people that God has chosen to use. He puts his treasure in old clay pots, and we can see that as we read our Bibles. Now, to help us navigate the chapter, I just have three headings. First of all, to notice, quite simply, in verses 1–4, the plan or David's plan. He says, What I'm going to do is I will escape, and all being well, Saul will stop looking for me. Now, on the previous occasion, driven by his fear of Saul—and this is back in chapter 21—he made a beeline for Gath, you will remember. And then, on that occasion, his fear of being discovered produced what we refer to, then, as a kind of an academy-award-winning performance, whereby he feigned madness and duped the king Achish in the process. Now, here we are again, and once again he is outwitting the king.

Now, as you read this, you find yourself saying, at least I do, well, I wonder, did Achish forget what happened? Or is he simply prepared to let bygones be bygones for the sake of the potential benefit that is now represented with the fighting force that on this occasion David is bringing to the matter? In verse 2, So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him. Now, the real question that is here is not about the execution of his plan but rather about the motivation. What is the underlying fear that caused David to take this approach? Now, we ought to be thinking along these lines, because we're reading our Bibles, and we're supposed to think.

And we see the end of 26. Now, what we're told is that David said in his heart. Now, that little phrase is important. In other words, he was ruminating with himself at the core of his being. This wasn't just something that was bouncing around in his mind.

No. You imagine him—at least I do—three o'clock in the morning, and he wakens up in his bed. And he says to himself, you know, one of these days Saul is bound to get me. And then he says, and you know, I'm responsible for so many people—not only the six hundred men, but now their wives and their children.

That's a burden. And so, as he ponders in this way, he says, you know, I think the very best thing for me to do is simply to escape. There is nothing better for me. Really, David? Didn't you read your own poem? Didn't you read your own psalm, 62, where you began? For you alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.

I shall not be shaken. You wrote that. So what is this about there is nothing better than that I should escape? Well, you see, what he's doing is he's talking to himself, but he's not talking sense to himself. People say, You shouldn't talk to yourself.

Well, most people do talk to themselves, not necessarily out loud. But if you talk to yourself, it's important that you talk sense to yourself. And what he's doing here is he's leaning on his own understanding. You remember in Proverbs 3, it doesn't say, Do not use your understanding. It says, Do not lean on your understanding. So he's allowing the questions which press in upon him to overturn his conviction that God is sufficient rather than allowing the reality of God as his fortress and his security, taking care of these overwhelming questions.

Now, I hope that none of us immediately find ourselves taking the high ground and sitting in judgment on him. And in fact, how often, in these peculiar days in which we find ourselves, have we not been guilty of the very same approach—big affirmations of faith and conviction, followed by almost an overwhelming sense of discouragement and perhaps defeat? It's good to acknowledge these things about ourselves, because it's true.

Somebody gave me a quote from Spurgeon this week, where Spurgeon says, If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be. So we're not going to think ill of David in this way, and we're going to learn to talk to ourselves, to talk truth to ourselves. That's why we study the Bible. That's why we're studying this old book, because God speaks to us through his Word.

We are transformed. We're renewed as the Scriptures take hold, running then, to resist the insinuations of the evil one, to remind ourselves that our security doesn't lie in our circumstances but in God's providence and in God's promises, reminding ourselves not to succumb to the notion that my identity is in my job or in my genes or in my looks or in my schools but in the Lord who has made me his own. You see, David has actually forgotten his own poems. And the fact that his plan worked, because it did work, as you'll see in verse 4, and when it was told, Saul, that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.

Pragmatism cannot be allowed to dictate our understanding of the story. So, in 1–4, we have his plan. The motivation of it, we need to ponder. The execution of it is clear. And then, in verses 5–7, his place. His place. If I have found favor in your eyes, he says, Let a place be given to me. Now, what he's actually doing here, as the story unfolds, we will discover, is making sure that he can be out of the reach of Achish and the Philistines. He basically comes to him, and he says, You know, I think it probably would be better—there's a large group of us—it'd be better for us to have a place of our own. He is concerned that his geographical relocation will not prove a hindrance to what he really wants to accomplish. And it's actually not difficult to see how Achish could reason along these lines too, and say to himself, Well, you know, since Saul and David are enemies, then the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And so, yeah, why don't I do that for you? So what he's actually doing now is he is hoodwinking the king. He did it in a far more dramatic way back in chapter 21. He had to, because of the pressure of the circumstances. But in this case, it's a very, very fascinating approach that he takes. It's not necessarily commendable, but it is quite unusually brilliant. Now, you can see how cunning he is.

Look at this approach. If I have found favor in your eyes… Well, clearly, he has already found favor in his eyes, or he wouldn't be there. Why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you? Your servant? You're now the servant of the Philistine king? No, this takes deference to the point of duplicity.

No, he says it doesn't really just seem sensible. It doesn't seem right that I should be taking up place in the royal city. You're the king, you know. Verse 6, So that day Echish gave him Zitlag. And that is how Zitlag became what it then became, namely, a city of the kings of Judah. If you go back and read for homework, you will discover that it was part of the cities that were there when the people came in to possess the land. Somehow or another, the Philistines got their noses into it, and by this point, it's sufficiently under Philistine control that the king of the Philistines can designate it as a place for David to be. That, in turn, in the providence of God, brings it back into the realm of Judah. Now, what this actually did, in practical terms, was it placed David and his men beyond the border of Israel in a position from which they could do some real damage to their enemies.

And that they're going to do. It also placed David outside the reach of the reconnaissance of Eichish himself. The only way that Eichish could know what was going on is if David informed him what was going on. And what was going on. If you look at the eleventh verse, you will see in our text it says, Such was his custom all the while he lived there.

In the NIV, it says that was his practice. So, if we had gone there in the year and four months when David and his troops were centered in Ziklag, what would we have discovered? Well, we would have discovered this—that he took action against all these people that are described for us in the eighth verse.

Now David, in this situation, finds himself in a position, if you like, to do some cleanup. It's important that we read the Bible in the context of the Bible. We read Deuteronomy 6 with great frequency, Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is one, and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and your strength.

And then you go into chapter 7 and you find out exactly what that meant. It meant that you can't play fast and loose with sin. It meant that you cannot tolerate that which is opposed to God's holiness. And so, in actual fact, David was not attacking the Philistines, but he was actually attacking people who were hostile both to Israel and to the Philistines. Now, the implication of it is very straightforward, and it is taxing when you think about it, again, in terms of who's doing this. He was attacking mutual enemies while pretending to be attacking his own people.

That's what we need to understand. What he's actually doing is not what he says he's doing. Now, if then, according to Matthew Henry, he can be, if you like, exonerated in any way for his actions, there is no way that he can be excused for his lies.

Because he flat-out lies. When Achish inquired about the rage—you'll see it there, there's almost a sort of naïve simplicity to this character. Verse 10, and when Achish asked, Where have you made a raid today?

So, tell me about your most recent raids. And he came back to me and he said, Well, I've been pillaging in the territories of the Negev of Judah and the Negev of the Jeharamalites or the Negev of the Kenites. Now, what he's actually doing is he's trying to make Achish think what Achish actually does think—that his attacks are being made on the interests of his own people, that he's actually attacking Judah.

And in order to make sure that that story doesn't get out, he goes to great lengths, as you will see. And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring the news to Gath, thinking, lest they should tell about us and say, David, this is what David did. So I'm not sure about Matthew Henry's analysis of it, the idea that it is justifiable because what he's really doing is what God wanted him to do.

I don't know. I know this—that he's telling lies. And that is a violation of God's command. Now, what then ensues, of course, is there for you to ponder in the text. David now finds himself compromised by his own cunning, that he's too clever for his own good. His plan? I'm gonna get killed. I may as well go over there.

It's the best thing I could possibly do. Saul buys it so he doesn't pursue him. If I can get myself a place away from Gath, can I be able to operate with great freedom, execute it? And then he continues to follow his pattern, and so he ends up with a major problem. His problem is just this, that he's done such a fantastic job of conning Achish that he can't get away from his own deal.

He's hoisted on his own petard. In other words, David has done such a tremendous job of fake news that he's confronted with this real dilemma. Because Achish thinks, now, that he's been down there kicking his own people. So when he puts his army together for the battle that is about to happen, David will be right there fighting with the Philistines. If he then refuses to go and fight with the Philistines, then Achish will no doubt realize that he's been conned, and David will probably lose his head. Now that's why you go into the first two verses of 28. Because you have to.

Because it gives the context of this. The Philistines were gathering their forces for war to fight against Israel. So this year and four months that has ensued has been a year and four months in which David, in isolation from his own people, has created the impression in the mind of the Philistine king that he's actually on his side.

But he's not on his side. And so Achish decides that he's going to give him a significant position. He said to David, Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.

And David said to Achish, quite cunning response, clever response, Very well, you shall know what your servant can do. And don't tell him what he's going to do, because he doesn't actually know what he's going to do. Because he's stuck! If I go, I'm a dead man. If I stay, I'm a dead man. I don't know what I'm going to do.

So his ambiguity is an indication of his duplicity. And just when we're itching to find out how this will be resolved, the storywriter presses pause and says, Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had… Wait, wait, wait a minute! That's like you're watching a sporting event, and all of a sudden they break in with a weather forecast or something, you know, and it goes across the bottom of the screen.

Beep, beep, beep, beep! And they're like, No, forget that right now! But of course, if it is that important, then it is important that this material is broken into by this material. And that's what the writer is saying here. You think David's got a problem? Wait till you see Saul's problem. So he breaks away from this, creating suspense, if you like stories, so that you have to say, I have to read on now and find out what happens. You're going to have to wait till chapter 29.

So let me end by noticing just this—what you will have detected already. There is no mention of God in this chapter. There is no sense in which David is relying on anything other than himself. The chapter ought to strike us as puzzling, disturbing, ought to cause us at least to wonder how David, as a ruthless liar, could possibly be the one upon whom God set his heart as to be his king.

Ralph Davis, in just a sentence or two, helps us out. He says, The Bible does not claim that God's servants are dipped in Clorox, so they will be infallibly sin-free and attractive to us. David was brilliant, he was brave, he was beautiful, but he was capable of deceit. He was capable of self-promotion. So not only are we confronted by the fact that the chapter contains no mention of God, but we're also caused to reflect upon the fact that the way this story is recounted for us, it resists every attempt to make David an example of virtue.

Now, that will come as a striking notion to some of us. Because the way in which we read the Bible, not least of all the Old Testament stories, is we read it in terms of the heroes. Daniel was a great fellow.

You should be great. David was terrific. You should be like David, and so on. Esther is a model person, and so on, and we go through the thing.

There is no question that there are lessons to be learned from them. But none of them ever are the hero of the story. Eventually, you see, we'll discover that not only was Achish foolish to put his trust in David, but we are definitely wrong if we make David the hero of the story. Because the story of the kings of Israel will one day end like a dangling conversation. Down through the corridors of time, the searchlight, if you like, scans the horizon, waiting for the one who is the embodiment of the king, settling on an evening there in a village in Bethlehem, where the wise men come asking the question, Where is he who has borne the king of the Jews? The spotlight fastening on the crowds in Jerusalem, testifying to the one of whom the prophet wrote, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey. What is the point?

Well, the point is pretty simple and it's straightforward, and I hope we can grasp it together. The very fact that David is in this chapter a reminder to us of his fallibility and his inability and his own sinfulness is in order that we would not fasten on him but that we would be reminded that Jesus is the only King, that Jesus is the only one that we can trust to tell us the truth. And that is why we say to one another in our song, Come now, come bow before him now with reverence and with fear. Yeah, chapter 27, a kind of godless chapter. Not a good chapter in the story of David's life.

Not the worst chapter in David's life, as we will see. But we learn lessons in the silences and in the absences, because that's the way God has given us the Bible. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. As Alistair mentioned in today's message, we need to learn how to speak truth to ourselves. In moments of weakness or trial, it's so helpful to have verses we know by heart, verses we can easily recall. But maybe scripture memory is something you've struggled with.

If so, we've got an excellent booklet we want to recommend to you. It will make memorizing scripture easier. It's titled How to Memorize Scripture for Life. Ask for the free booklet when you give a donation to support the ministry of Truth for Life.

Visit slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Now you may have heard me mention that in September Alistair is going to be teaching the Bible on a tour of New England aboard a Holland America cruise ship and you're invited to join him. This is a tour hosted by Salem Media Group. Alistair will be the guest speaker and will be opening the Bible throughout the seven-day trip. To find out more, visit

Thanks for listening this week. I think all of us can be guilty of ignoring God from time to time until there's a crisis in our lives. Then we expect immediate answers to our desperate prayers. But God may not answer exactly how or when we expect. Monday we'll consider why. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-10 06:46:23 / 2024-05-10 06:55:07 / 9

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