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The Deliverer and the Destroyer: Who You Follow Shapes What You Become

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February 16, 2014

Now Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men who were with him. (1 Sam. 22:6)

Please open your Bible at 1 Samuel 22. We are following the stories of Saul and of David—two kings who chose very different paths and whose lives had very different outcomes.

People gathered round these two and became their followers. Under the leadership of David their commander, the motley crew who became his followers eventually became “the mighty men.”

The principle here is a very important one: The lives of these mighty men were shaped by the character of the person they followed. Who you follow shapes what you become. The men who followed Saul became very different from the men who followed David. Their character was formed by the leadership that they chose.

Here’s what that means for us: Your choice of the friends you will hang out with is a life-shaping decision. Your choice of the kind of ministry on which your soul is to be fed will shape the kind of Christian you become. Your choice of the kinds of books you read, the films you watch, and the websites you follow, will shape your character and your conversation.

Who (or what) you follow will shape what you become. We read in the Bible that “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). The company you keep will shape the character you form.

I want us to see how Saul and David led their people in two very different directions. The first is the story of a town that was destroyed by Saul and his followers, and the second is the story of a city that was delivered by David and his followers. The contrast is striking.

The Profile of a Destroyer

We begin with the story of the slaughter of the priests from a town called Nob. Saul has been looking for David, and he has not been able to find him. But now 400 men have come and pledged their loyalty to David in the Cave of Adullam.

It’s one thing to stay in hiding when you are alone, but it’s much more difficult to stay hidden when 400 men are travelling with you! So it’s not surprising that sightings of David and his men began to circulate back to Saul. We need to search ourselves to see if there are any of these characteristics in our lives—our words, our thinking, and our writing.

5 TACTICS OF THE DESTROYER:

1. Intimidation

Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him. (1 Sam. 22:6)

It’s interesting how often we read about Saul having his spear in his hand! The servants knew about that spear. They had seen him throw it at David. They knew how destructive Saul could be when he flew into a fit of anger.

Saul knew that they knew this! There he was, sitting with his spear—an unspoken threat. These servants had better do what Saul says. The spear in Saul’s hand adds the unspoken words “Or else!” That’s intimidation.

The Bible says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man” (Prov. 22:24). All people get angry from time to time, but some people are habitually angry. Bad company ruins good character. Hang around angry people and you’ll become an angry person.

2. Obligation

Saul said to his servants who stood about him, “Hear now, people of Benjamin; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards.” (1 Sam. 22:7)

Remember, we saw last time from 1 Samuel 8 that Saul exercised a totalitarian rule. He was a tyrant. Samuel prophesied that when a king took over, he would take orchards, vineyards, and fields from ordinary people and then give them to his servants (1 Sam. 8:14).

Saul’s servants were used to getting backhanders and sweeteners. We would call them “political favors.” The servants had received fields and vineyards, and now Saul uses this against them.

His message is clear: “You owe me because I’ve been looking after you.” A destructive person uses what they give as a means of exercising control. Destructive people never give freely; it always comes “with strings.”

Here you are in a relationship, and this person seems very kind. You go out with them and no expense is spared. You have never been treated so well. Gradually this person is putting you in a position of obligation. What you thought was kindness becomes a means of control: “You owe me.”

This is how a destructive person operates. Destructive people use what seems like kindness as a means of control. It’s all in the Bible, and God has put it there because he wants you to be wise.

3. Accusation

“all of you have conspired against me.” (1 Sam. 22:8)

This is an extraordinary accusation that is totally without foundation. The destructive person often lives with a feeling that everyone is conspiring against them. There’s a very simple reason for this: Saul was so consumed every day with “How can I destroy David? How can I destroy David?” that he assumes everybody else is conspiring against him.

So Saul begins to imagine threats that do not even exist: “No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse” (1 Sam. 22:8). That was true. Jonathan did make a covenant with David when he realized that God had chosen David to be the future king.

But notice what Saul says next: “None of you… discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day” (1 Sam. 22:8). This is a complete reversal of the reality that Saul is out to get David! Jonathan never stirred up anyone against Saul, and David, even when he had the opportunity, never lifted a finger against Saul.

This conspiracy was a figment of Saul’s imagination. But he lashes out in wild accusations against people who’ve been perfectly loyal to him. How often a marriage, a church, a business, a family, or a ministry has been destroyed by wild accusations. That’s how destructive people operate.

4. Manipulation

None of you is sorry for me. (1 Sam. 22:8)

This is an extraordinary statement to come from a king, but destructive people are often filled with self-pity: “Look how hard I have to work. Look at all that I have to endure.” That’s emotional manipulation. It is a tactic often used by a destructive person.

5. Misrepresentation

Here’s the back story: Earlier David came to the town of Nob (1 Sam. 21) and asked for food and a sword. Ahimelech the priest gave him some bread and Goliath’s sword (that belonged to David anyway). When Saul heard about this, he sent for Ahimelech. This man showed up in front of Saul with his colleagues—a total of 85 priests.

I want you to notice the mixture of truth and lies in what Saul says: “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day” (1 Sam. 22:13)?

  1. You have given him bread and a sword… (True)
  2. …and have inquired of God for him… (True)
  3. Why have you conspired against me? (False) This is a complete fabrication, an assumption. The conspiracy only existed in Saul’s mind.
  4. [David] has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day… (False) There was never a time when David lifted a finger against Saul.

Destructive people say some things that are true, but then they mix them up with other things that are completely false.

Saul correctly states some facts, but then he assumes a bad motive (you conspired against me), draws a false conclusion (David has risen against me), and he mixes them all together! W. G. Blaikie says:

It can never be too earnestly insisted on, that to be just to a man, you must not merely ascertain the facts of his case, but you must put the facts in their true light, and not color them with prejudices of your own or with suppositions which the man repudiates. [1]

In the worlds of Facebook™ and Twitter™, where massive numbers of people make instant judgments about the character of others, this is a truth that we desperately need to hear.

It is a great sin to assume bad motives on the basis of minimal information, and to draw false conclusions. That’s what destructive people habitually do. Watch for any signs of this pattern in your own life. Avoid people and places where that is the pattern.

Here you have the profile of a destructive person: Five tactics—intimidation, obligation, accusation, manipulation, and misrepresentation. From all such things, Lord, deliver us.

The rest of chapter 22 shows us where this leads. Saul, the destroyer, calls on his guards to kill not only Ahimelech, but also the priests who were with him. To their great credit they won’t do it.

Then Saul’s henchman, Doeg the Edomite, steps forward: “Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons… And Nob, the city of priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword” (1 Sam. 22:18-19). It was a terrible destruction.

The story of how Nob was destroyed by Saul is immediately followed in the Bible by the story of how the town of Keilah was delivered by David.

The fact that these two stories are right next to each other makes the contrast obvious. We are being invited to see: There is a destroyer and there is a deliverer. Your future life will depend on which one you follow.

The Profile of a Deliverer

Obviously we want to be like the deliverer rather than the destroyer, and this story shows us the character and company to cultivate.

1. Deliverers are ready to extend themselves for the good of others, even when their hands are already full.

You see this in the life of David. Saul’s army was hunting him. David had to find food and water for himself and his 400 men—his hands are full. But now he hears about a problem: “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors” (1 Sam. 23:1).

David could easily have said, “That’s not my problem. Saul is the King. Why doesn’t he go and deal with this?” But David is ready to extend himself for the good of others, even when his hands are already full.

I think of how many of you do this: You have your own family, but you extend your home to give refuge to another child; Your working life is full, but when an opportunity for ministry comes your way, you are ready to rise to the challenge. That’s what deliverers do. They don’t pass the buck. They step up and take responsibility.

2. Deliverers seek the face of God in prayer before they take action.

David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines” (1 Sam. 23:2)? Notice, David is not driven by responding to every need. Nobody can do that. David inquires of the Lord, “Is this a situation in which I should help, and if so, what is it that you want me to do?”

The contrast with Saul here is fascinating. Saul was the king. David was anointed but not yet crowned. Saul was the one responsible for the protection of Keilah. But Saul was too busy with his futile attempts to destroy David. He missed his calling because he filled his life with the wrong things!

Saul charges round the country, backwards and forwards, always acting on the latest blog post (!). You never make progress in the call of God if this is the way you live. David comes before God and discerns what God would have him to do. There’s all the difference in the world.

3. Deliverers remain resolute despite the fears of their friends.

David’s men said to him, ‘Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?’ (1 Sam. 23:3)

These men have not been following David for long. They are still in the early stages of their discipleship. They are not yet the men of courage that they would become.

The danger these men saw was that, if they took on the Philistines, they might get trapped with the Philistine army in front of them and Saul’s army behind them. There was good reason for their concern. No army wants to be fighting a battle on two fronts.

Notice how David responds. He does not fly into a rage and denounce his men as a bunch of faithless cowards. That’s what Saul would have done. He listens to what they have to say. He takes their concerns to the Lord in prayer and continues to lead with strength and conviction.

David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines… and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah (1 Sam. 23:5).

It’s a marvelous story, but it doesn’t end there. Saul hears about the victory, and he thinks to himself: “David is at Keilah, and Keilah is a walled city. If he’s inside a walled city, then I’ve got him!”

Listen to what Saul said next: “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars” (1 Sam. 23:7). Here’s something astonishing: Saul believes that God is on his side!

This man has just butchered 85 priests and torched the entire town of Nob, and he thinks God is on his side. Saul thinks he knows what God is doing, and he is completely wrong.

Here is a tragedy of self-deception: You cannot rightly interpret the action of God when your heart is hard. “When the heart is wrong, the providences of God are certain to be misinterpreted” (A. W. Pink). This man is living in rebellion against God, and he believes God is on his side.

So Saul raises a larger army and moves towards Keilah: “David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him” (1 Sam. 23:9), so he called Abiathar, the priest, and asked two questions.

The first question was “Is Saul coming?” The answer is yes. The second is, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” In other words, “I’ve extended myself to save these people. I’ve risked myself to rescue them. Will they protect me or will they give me up?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you” (1 Sam. 23:12).

4. Deliverers remain faithful even when the people they serve are disloyal and ungrateful.

David had extended himself, putting himself and his men at risk for the sake of these people in Keilah. He had saved them from the Philistines (1 Sam. 23:5).

But these people will betray the one who saved them to save themselves from Saul. God says, “When Saul comes, they will give you up! You put yourself at risk for them, but they will not put themselves at risk for you.”

What would you have done if you were in David’s shoes? What do you do when a son, a daughter, a friend, or an employer—for whom you have extended yourself, gone the extra mile, made real sacrifices—proves to be selfish, disloyal, ungrateful, ready to give you up, if they think it would be to their advantage?

Saul would have destroyed the city. But not David, because he’s not a destroyer, he’s a deliverer. There is no rancor here, no denouncing these people for their ingratitude.

The Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go (1 Sam. 23:13). That’s grace. That’s what deliverers do, because they are very different from destroyers.

5. Deliverers trust in God rather than in the people they have served.

Do you see how important it was that David asked the Lord that second question: “Will the men of Keilah surrender me?”

David might have concluded, “My future is secure. I have helped a lot of people, surely I can count on them to stand by me! After all that I have done for the people of Keilah, they will be for me, they’ll support me.” But David does not put his confidence in the people he has served. He looks to God, not to the fruit of his ministry.

Notice how the story ends: David moves out into the wilderness and into the hill country, “and Saul sought him every day, but God did not given [David] into [Saul’s] hand” (1 Sam. 23:14).

The people you serve in life may care for you well, but they may not. Don’t be surprised when they give you up, if they think it’s to their advantage. If that should happen, here’s what you can hold onto: God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” God will never give you up.

Two Points of Application

1. Beware of destroyers, and make sure you don’t become one.

Satan is the great destroyer, and this world is filled with many people who are like him.

Paul says, “Many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). Christians live in a world where enemies of the gospel use the tactics of intimidation, obligation, accusation, manipulation, and misrepresentation.

It was Jesus who said, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” Christian believer, take this to heart. We must “be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We live in a world with many destroyers, and they’re out to destroy the gospel, which is our very life.

2. Behold the Deliverer and seek to become like him.

Do you see how David, who delivers the ungrateful people of Keilah, points us forward to Jesus our great Deliverer and Savior?

Jesus extends himself, coming into a world that is oppressed by the enemy, and he gives himself to prayer as he pursues the will of the Father. When Peter says to him, “You cannot go to the cross,” he presses on, resolute, despite the fears of his friends.

Think about his grace towards all of us, in the many ways that we have been ungrateful and disloyal, and have betrayed the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. What does he do? Does he say, “A plague on all your houses?” No! He is a deliverer. “When we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).

Think about how he came to his own people, and they didn’t receive him. Instead they gave him up. He trusted himself into the hands of his Father: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” And on the third day, the Father raised him from the dead in a mighty triumph. This is the Christ who says, “Follow me.” Who you follow shapes what you become.

 

[1] W. G. Blaikie, The Expositor’s Bible: First Book of Samuel, (London: Hodder & Stoughton), 1902

 

© Colin S. Smith

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