“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts. Perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” John Steinbeck
It is easier to rule by intimidation and violence, than by humility and faith. Yet, despite many threats to David’s life and kingship, he never turned into an aggression-driven tyrant. David’s attitude was this:
“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.” Psalm 62:1-3a
However, this lesson in trust was not learned early. It only became a life choice of David’s after Saul’s initial attempts to kill him. Like all of us, David resorted to fleshly methods of coping first, then developed a greater faith the hard way.
When Saul fully gave full vent to his jealousy and paranoia about David, David fled first to the prophet Samuel, seeking refuge and guidance. Word of David’s location reached Saul, and after miraculous deliverance, David had to run again. He sought out Jonathan for answers and when Jonathan confirmed Saul’s determination to see David dead, he again fled and did something that an older David would find unpalatable. [Full story refs: 1 Samuel 19-21]
Firstly, he lied to the high priest who looked after the Tabernacle. David obtained holy bread which he had no right to touch. Secondly, he headed straight for a weapon: he demanded the return of Goliath’s sword from the priest. “There is nothing like it!” David replied. “Give it to me!” [Ref: 1 Samuel 21:9b] That is a very emphatic request. There is nothing faith-reliant, or humble about it, and I suspect that the main reason that David went to the Tabernacle, is neither for bread or spiritual guidance, (he’d already met with Samuel), but to get that sword. (See an in-depth analysis in the footnotes.)
That doesn’t sound like David. What happened to:
“But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
I praise God for what He has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4/11
It wasn’t built into him yet.
David should have been in trouble with the Lord for taking the bread and possibly, also for taking the sword, however, the grace of God intervenes in this part of his story. The Lord uses this awful incident to help David survive to become King. God allowed David both the bread and the sword without penalty, as he and his men had to eat, and David would have to defend himself from many threats in the wilderness, he’d face in the years to come. As the sword and bread was God’s, it was also His to give and use as He desired. [Ref: 1 Samuel 21]
I am basing this on Jesus’ own discussion of this issue in Mark 2:25-26 “He [Jesus] answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (The Law helps people, people aren’t to be enslaved by it.)
God provided, regardless of His Law.
So now we have a terrified David. He runs for safety to Gath, a *large Philistine city, close to the borders of Judah, where Saul and his men won’t follow; but he is recognised and has to retreat yet again. To run to an enemy you have repeatedly fought against is an incredibly desperate, fear-fuelled act. It says a great deal about David’s frame of mind.
To escape the wrath of Saul, David’s family also has had to abandon their property and livelihood, and join David in hiding. He gets his ageing parents to safety through the family’s **ties in Moab, and he is left in mortal danger, with only a group of fellow renegades, his brothers and… Goliath’s sword.
Put yourself in David’s shoes. Everything has blown up out of control and rectifying it is far beyond his control. David probably knew why Saul had turned on him and feels acutely persecuted. He has never tried to seize power from Saul and is blameless, homeless and grieving his separation from his wife, Michal, (who he must have been worried about, knowing Saul’s temper, and because she’d risked her life to save him.) A significant number of innocent people are dead or suffering, and it’s all because of him. All David has is his faith and that sword. Symbolically, what would this sword have meant to David?
This treasure had to be a symbol of hope and encouragement. It would represent:
1. God’s proven intention to deliver Isra’el from her enemies, and maybe David from his;
2. it was a sign of God’s favour and honour on David’s life;
3. it was a promise of Kingship to come, as it was a king’s grade weapon; and
4. it was a means of violent defence.
With David’s full history in mind, Goliath’s sword teaches me two lessons that I can apply to my own life.
1. Remember what God has done in our lives.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9
This is a traditional approach set down first by Moses, then repeated by the Psalmist, Asaph, as he reminds the people of his era to remember God’s deeds in Psalm 78. David does this also, in obedience to Moses, in Psalms such as Psalm 66. A publicly sung Psalm would enable the goodness of God to become a testimony and source of empowerment to everyone who heard it.
“Come and see what our God has done,
what awesome miracles He performs for people!
He made a dry path through the Red Sea,
and His people went across on foot.
There we rejoiced in Him.
For by His great power He rules forever.
He watches every movement of the nations;
let no rebel rise in defiance.” Psalm 66:5-7
Whatever the Lord has done in your life, keep it by your side, like a sword, as a reminder of God’s provision and love for you. Write it down, or keep a souvenir, so you remember that testimony. It will help you in the future.
2. When desperate or hurting, never let your actions be tinged with regret
David’s visit to the priests at Nob had catastrophic consequences. They were killed by Saul for helping, which devastated David. As long as he carried Goliath’s sword, as useful and encouraging as that symbol would have been, he would also be carrying a reminder of those deaths, his lies and his lack of faith. It is possible that this tragedy is part of what taught David to look for the Lord for deliverance, rather than first reaching for a weapon to defend himself with.
In all things, no matter how stressed we are, it’s far better to act in the best character we can muster, so we don’t look back with regret, or weep over the bridges we have burnt behind us. Don’t become aggressive when you’re backed into corners; whether that’s through words you will later regret, bitterness, or any action that is unrighteous.
It’s easy to grasp any tool to make yourself feel safer in a time of desperation, just slow down and try and ensure that you’re reaching for the right one.
Please see “By Heart or By Sword” for further explanation on David not using violence for deliverance. http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32075
* This is based on recent archaeological findings. Gath is thought to have been around eight times larger than David’s Jerusalem, and would have been a logical hiding place.
** David’s family ties were via his grandmother, Ruth, from the book of Ruth.
To understand this part of David’s story properly, you need to understand the circumstances surrounding the sword. For example, why wasn’t it with David in the first place? As part of the spoils of war, Goliath’s sword was rightfully David’s and Saul did not take it as his own. Goliath’s sword was a huge, heavy piece of iron, in days when apart from King Saul and his Crown Prince, Jonathan, no one throughout Isra’el had iron weapons at all. [Ref: 1 Samuel 13:19-22 ] Even though David had headed Saul’s army, maybe he wasn’t entitled to carry a weapon of such a high calibre? That privilege may only have belonged to the King, and David was a humble servant, who would not have kept a better weapon for himself, than the King had.
As the sword was located in a sacred place, behind the ephod in the Tabernacle where God was worshipped, I wonder if David had surrendered it to the Lord as an offering? It was his first victory and it appears that he knew where the sword was. The location of the sword would not have kept it safe from raiding Philistines, so if it was an offering, did David have the right to take it back? Especially as at the same time, David was also given the holy bread that had sat in the Tabernacle as an offering to the Lord, and was strictly only for the priests consumption, under the Laws God gave the people through Moses. The bread was to help feed the priests. Taking that bread, was like taking part of someone’s wages and should not have happened. This is complex and I don’t have all the answers. I have studied and debated this long and hard and this is the best I can figure out. I could be completely off track. What do you think?
The Spiritually Mature David’s Attitude to Deliverance:
“Be still in the presence of the LORD,
and wait patiently for Him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.” Psalm 37:7-9
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honour come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8 (Cross reference Psalm 131:2)
“LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land You have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!” Psalm 16:5-8
Article source for these Scriptures: The Anti-King: David and Humility
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