Memo 1056: The Spirit of Pharaoh

Last week, we looked at a chapter in David's life that wasn't his finest hour. He had taken refuge among the Philistines, although if our father-in-law and king were trying to kill us, perhaps we would have done the same thing. At any rate, this week we see that Achish, to whom David had fled, had big plans for his trophy traitor:

In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.” David said, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.” Achish replied, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life" (1 Samuel 28:1-2).

Either David intended to fight Saul with the Philistines, figuring he had a better chance of survival among a larger army, or he was deceiving Achish and had no intentions of fighting against his people. Either way, Achish perceived David's loyalty as genuine and wanted to appoint David his bodyguard for life. This is reminiscent of another king who ruled over David's ancestors and that was Egypt's Pharaoh in Moses' time. What did Achish and Pharaoh have in common? Let's see if we can answer that question.


Both Pharaoh and Achish were only too happy to use the strength and gifts of God's people for their own ends. Pharaoh had an empire to build and Achish had a career as a marauder and pirate to further, so both leaders were looking for a few good men (and women no doubt) to further their cause. They were ready to use people in the worst sense of the word use. They saw God's people as a commodity to co-opt for their own convenience and purpose but the problem was that God has other plans for His people and still does today. Achish had the same spirit that Pharaoh had and that spirit is still prevalent in leaders today, whether they be in business, government, or even the church. Those leaders forget that it's not about them, it's about Him and the purpose He has for the people.

In both cases, God thwarted the plans of the ruler and intervened with a message that said, "Let my people go." In David's case, it was the other Philistine rules who ousted him from their midst:

But the Philistine commanders were angry with Achish and said, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men?" (1 Samuel 29:4).

Whatever David was thinking or doing came to an end, but as we will see in the lesson next week, he did not fully recover his senses until a near tragedy engulfed him and his followers.


God's people always walk a fine line between being in the world but not of it. Most people work for a Pharaoh or Achish who is looking to build their kingdom with little regard for God's. Paul wrote these instructions for slaves but substitute the word "workers" or "employees" and it is still applicable:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:22-24).

Part of your training for reigning is learning how to see that you are serving God when you are serving others over you. You are to devote who you are to them without becoming like them. You are not to pretend to be one person with them and then another person around the things of God. If you are serving Pharaoh and Pharaoh's spirit is overwhelming yours, then it's time to trust the Lord and clarify your allegiance.

James wrote, "You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). I'm not sure if David was only "dating" the Philistines or had made a covenant with them in his mind, but he was playing with fire and you are too if you are giving the best of your purpose and creativity to Pharaoh. The good news is that God helped David extricate himself from Achish and He will do the same for you if you find yourself in a partnership that is taking more than you are getting in return and want to escape. If not, then He may just leave you where you are. Have a blessed week.

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