“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife. And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him” (1 Samuel 27:1-4).
Our text informs us that David did not believe that King Saul would be true to his word, and so felt safer amongst the Philistines, the enemies of Israel. There is an indication that he was being motivated by fear instead of faith, for he believed that Achish would protect him from any supposed attack of Saul. We should not assume that the events recorded this chapter are sanctioned by God. “David distrusts God’s protection and therefore flees to the idolaters, who were enemies to God’s people” (Geneva Study Bible).
I will perish
David’s recent meeting with Saul, instead of making him joyful, caused him to become depressed and disappointed, and out of this he began once again to act in fear rather than faith. He had forgotten the promises that God had made him, so his perspective on life was pessimistic. As far as he was concerned, he was doomed unless he flees to Philistia, and his growing band of followers were swept along on his fear. No doubt David’s fear was founded upon his concern for those under his care and for the lives of his two wives. There is always the danger that believers will lose sight of the Lord’s protection and provision because of hardships and disappointments that overshadow their path. How could David possibly perish at the hands of Saul if God had ordained that he succeed him? A part of the problem is that David communed with his own heart rather than with God in prayer. “This was certainly a very great fault in David: for this proceeded from gross distrust of God’s promise and providence; and that after such repeated demonstrations of God’s peculiar care over him” (John Wesley).
The long years of fleeing from Saul had wearied David. Though his faith in God took him to great heights, here is one of those situations that drained strength from his spirit. His patient trust in the Lord had run flat. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:35-36) … “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Patience, which is enduring confidence and trust, will overcome any discouragement and disappointment in our lives. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).
I will be protected
Was it ever God’s will for David to find protection amongst the Philistines? It is true that his idea that Saul would not pursue him in Gath was correct, but that does not imply that his notion was ordained of God. Would God go back on His word through the prophet Gad? “Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah” (1 Samuel 22:5). God wanted David to trust Him in Israel not Philistia.
David had not learned from his previous mistake of seeking sanctuary amongst the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Once again his fear and disobedience would take him away from faith in God. It seems that he thought that he had more in common with the Philistines than with his own people back in Israel. “If we are Christ’s servants, we have more in common with the most uncongenial Christians than we have with the most congenial man who is not a Christian” (Alexander Maclaren). So those who find friendship with the unsaved rather than members of their own churches will find themselves on a downward course to disappointment. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Achish had other motives for allowing David and his men to reside in Gath, because the situation would “pave the way for the hostile measures against Israel which the Philistines were at this time meditating” (Jamieson, Fausett, Brown Bible Commentary).
David may well have accomplished his goal in gathering all his people in Gath, but he did so apart from God’s will. Prosperous outcomes do not always indicate that the Lord’s blessings are upon our endeavours. They could be the devil’s false blessings designed to keep our eyes off the true source of blessing. “Unbelief is a sin that easily besets even good men, when without are fightings, and within are fears; and it is a hard matter to get over them” (Matthew Henry).