This part of David’s story and the image above, brings this song to mind.
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert, you can remember your name,
‘Cause there aint no one for to give you no pain. Dewey Bunnell, America
As King Saul’s unprovoked attempts to kill him wore David down, he moved further and further away from the centre of Isra’el, until in 1 Samuel 25 we see him and his supporters ekking out an existance guarding flocks in the centre of nowhere.
That is why I started with that map. Even now, Paran is in the middle of nowhere. It’s where you go when you’ve just had enough! The terrain screams desolation, hopelessness and misery.
Three thousand years ago, it was probably greener, but now it’s decimated by overgrazing. Paran is home to a small kibbutz and which the main industry appears to be selling solar generated power back to the grid. At least deserts are good for something… They are inhospitable places to hide, especially when you are isolated from your family, friends and community and are completely cut off from your centre of worship.
Many of us have felt the frustration and exhaustion that David was experiencing after years of running from Saul. We are all pursued by situations which dog us, whether we deserve them or not, and problems which simply will not go away. At times like that, it feels like the only path to peace is to get as far away from the maelstrom as possible.
But where does retreat get us?
David did receive a blessing in the form of taking Abigail as a wife, but that incident at Paran also almost led him to unrighteous murder. Then as the weariness he was feeling didn’t lift, the next step was to align himself with his hated enemy, the Philistines, in the hope Saul would finally ease off. Saul would never risk crossing a Philistine border.
David did need to pull his life back together again. I am not criticising him. He and his men had wives, children, livestock and a need for a secure living place and income. He was up against an enemy who wasn’t as easy to overthrow as Goliath, and his spiritual life would have been heavily strained. This was a testing period for him in terms of his ability to lead his men and live in a godly manner. Only by the grace and providence of God, he would have completely failed.
However, running led to sin. You never take shelter with the enemy and long term, this led to David losing his heart’s desire: the right to build the temple at Jerusalem. He paid a high price for this mistake, one he could never have foreseen at the time.
This period in David’s life is a reminder for us all to face our problems, rather than distance ourselves from them. We need to continue to believe in God’s ability to deliver us and not falter, no matter what uncertainties and pain we go through.
Think long and hard before you run. It may be far better to stand your ground and continue to sing God’s praises, no matter how tired you become.
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