Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 27.1
But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”
Reflection: The Best We Can Do
By John Tillman
We have to always be careful when reading the Bible not to assume that actions described in God’s Word were prescribed by God’s command.
This is especially difficult with characters such as David. We tend to over-glorify David as a hero archetype who can do no wrong. We misapply the description of David as a “man after God’s own heart” to mean that every decision David made was wholly righteous. This is a terrible way to understand any Bible character, but an especially damaging way to understand David.
Harold Wilmington, in his commentary on 1 Samuel 27 states that David did not seem to trust Saul, “Nor, apparently did he trust God to protect him.”
This is despite the fact that God has just miraculously assisted David in proving to Saul that David meant him no harm. David suggests that people near Saul must be poisoning him against David, telling David to “go serve other gods.” Saul has confessed that his pursuit of David is sinful, sworn off searching for him, and predicted great things for David.
After this spiritual and political victory, David does exactly what the people poisoning Saul against him suggested. David becomes a servant to king Achish, enemy of Israel, servant of Dagon.
This is a practical political decision (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”) but is not depicted as a spiritual decision. Scripture often tells us that David consulted the Lord or prayed, but here it tells us only his human thought process. (Scripture does not tell us that David prayed or consulted the Lord once while in Philistia, except in crisis when their town of Ziklag had been burned and captured.) David’s words are “The best thing I can do…”.
Rather than the best thing, this decision may have been the worst thing David could have done. Through this decision, David becomes a liar, a war criminal, a slaughterer of women and children, and feigns madness to carry out his desperate plot. Achish, assuming David’s war crimes are against Israel, notes that David is now trapped and will be his servant forever.
The best we can do—in our strength and wisdom—may not be God’s best for us.
May God deliver us from decisions that are “the best we can do.”
May we never be enslaved to decisions of political practicality.
May we never compromise our souls to maintain convenient alliances.
May we seek God’s best rather than our human best.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. — Psalm 67,1-2
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
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