Memo 1054: Walkabout

As we continue our travels with David while he was fleeing Saul, we encounter a story in 1 Samuel 26 that seems like déjà vu. We saw the same scenario in 1 Samuel 24: Saul was pursuing David, David was hiding, Saul goes to sleep, David gets near to the king, his advisor suggested they kill Saul, but David refused to raise his hand against the reigning king, even though the king was behaving badly—murderously badly.

This makes me wonder why David didn't stay in hiding. He was outnumbered and he knew if Saul captured him, it was the end for him and God's purpose. And even when he found Saul's camp, why did he have the need to get even closer by entering the camp with just one companion while 3,000 of the enemy were asleep? The slightest noise would have ended 1 Samuel with chapter 26. But instead, we see that David once again proved himself to be Saul's superior, not only as a warrior but as a servant of God.

SNEAK IN, SNEAK OUT

The story begins as follows:

The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?” So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived (1 Samuel 26:1-4).

As usual, people seemed only to glad to betray David's cause by informing Saul of his whereabouts and as usual, Saul set out with an army that outnumbered David five to one. David had learned not to rely on the information of others when he could see for himself, so he set off to confirm the reports of Saul's presence. Sure enough, Saul was at it again and David was in danger. Yet then David does something unusual, counterintuitive to common sense. Instead of fleeing or hiding out, David decided to get a closer look.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him. David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” “I’ll go with you,” said Abishai. So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him (1 Samuel 26:5-7).

David sneaked into Saul's camp with only one companion, which meant he was then outnumbered 1,500 to one! We don't know the reason why he would risk such a move or what he hoped to accomplish, and even one of the two men he invited to go with him said, "No thanks." When David arrived, he was so confident of God's protection that he and his comrade engaged in a prolonged conversation as to what their next step should be. Abishai wanted to kill Saul, but just like in the cave in 1 Samuel 24, David wouldn't allow that to happen. Instead, he "borrowed" Saul's spear and water jug and they left the way they had come.

IF GOD BE FOR YOU

Maybe David was still hoping to talk to Saul and reason with him to stop the madness. Perhaps David was tempted to take matters into his own hands and assassinate Saul. Or maybe it was a foolish endeavor and God covered David's folly. Whatever the reason, we have to admire David's faith and courage. He was confident that he could get within arm's length of his mortal enemy and be safe. He was indeed safe, for we read, "So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep" (1 Samuel 26:12).

It's easy to quote the Bible but much harder to do what we quote. We can easily recite Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" or Romans 8:37, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Yet then we don't travel because we are afraid of the unknown, don't create for fear of criticism and failure, or don't speak up lest others think we are stupid. Our enemies pursue us but instead of running at them to defeat them, we hide in the wilderness of our minds—or better yet, hide out in church where it's safe.

Perhaps it's time this week to have a walkabout in the land that seems to be foreign and dangerous for you. That may mean applying for university, shopping for a new car, or looking for better living quarters even when you can't see how to pay for them. James wrote in his epistle a simple truth: "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17). Whatever David was thinking when he went on his walkabout, he trusted God and he put feet to his faith. It's time this week for you to do the same.

Don't be content to hear reports of what God or the enemy are doing, but go see for yourself. When you do, God will put your enemies into a deep sleep while He remains wide awake, and you will then have a testimony of what God did on your behalf when you didn't just watch your enemies, or sing about them, but when you went out to confront them, perhaps if only the enemies hidden in the recesses of your mind. Have a blessed week.