Seward United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fellowship

August 31, 2014
 
King David Series- 8
 
1st Corinthians 1:26-31 and 1st Samuel 27
 
 David has been on the run for years now.  He spent the entire decade of his 20s as an outlaw, a political fugitive, hiding from King Saul.  Most of it was spent in the wilderness of Judea, in the southeastern corner of the land of Canaan.  It was a wilderness both physically, and spiritually, a dry and difficult land and a dry and difficult life to live.  
 Eugene Peterson says here in his book that our initial response to the wilderness is almost always to flee from it, to get out of it.  But instead, we are often much better off if, instead of fleeing the difficulty, we embrace it, and we find what is good and best in the wilderness.  And often what is best are the relationships that we find and nurture in the midst of difficult times.  
 David fled alone from Saul.  But as a God-anointed person, he wasn’t alone for long.  There were other people like David among the Israelites, people who were on the outside looking in.  They are described as “the distressed, the indebted, and the discontented.”  They don’t sound so great, do they?  They are not exactly the cream of the crop.  
 But they are not so different from what God’s people have always been.  Our modern word “Hebrew” comes from a word in the ancient Near East world that basically meant “drifter, nomad, homeless person.”  There are Egyptian writings of the time period that speak derisively of the “Hapiru” people, their word for these drifters.  When the Israelites went to live among the Egyptians in the days of Jacob and Joseph, there was a reason that the Egyptians didn’t want them to live among them.  They sent them to live in the land of Goshen, because they didn’t like “drifters, nomads.”  God chose to make a nation out of homeless, wandering, drifters.  
 We heard from 1st Corinthians earlier.  Paul says to the church, “Most of you were not wise or wealthy or powerful.  You were ‘foolish,’ weak, and counted as nothing.”  Hardly seems like the way to win friends and influence people!  And Paul was speaking those words to the Corinthian church, which of all the New Testament churches was the one that had the most wealthy and influential people.  But even there, Paul said, “Most of you weren’t.”  
 Being the people of God is not about who you are or where you come from.  It’s about what God can and will do among you and through you.  That’s what makes us the people of God.  
 In the wilderness, this band of misfits who gathered around David became a people of God.  1st Chronicles chapter 12 describes this band of men as fiercely loyal and brave.  They were “like the army of God.”  God turned a band of misfits, debtors, and distressed people into the leadership of a nation.
 When David fled alone, he first went to Gath, a Philistine city, ruled by King Achish.  But he was soon sent away.  After all, he was from the enemy.  David went to the Cave of Adullam.  There this people started to form.  They included David’s family, his brothers who didn’t think much of him either.  They probably came to him out of necessity.  Saul would not be kind to them either.  But they also became part of this people of God.  By the time David left the Cave of Adullam, he had 400 men with him.
 Next he went to the Judean wilderness.  There the number of men with him grew to 600, plus their families.  It could not have been easy to keep 600 men, plus their families, perhaps 2000 people altogether, safe and fed in the dry wilderness.  
 So David decided he had to leave Israelite territory altogether.  A lot of people make a big deal out of the fact that the Bible never mentions David asking God about this decision.  David apparently decides on his own to leave Israel.  Does that mean that God had nothing to do with the decision?  Maybe.  But not necessarily.  David certainly was a person whose life was God-filled.  It’s hard to imagine him making a decision without prayer.  Either way, the decision put him in a difficult position.  But either way, God still provided.  After all, God is able to do more for you and I than we could ever think or ask.
 So David goes back to Gath.  Gath was one of the five Philistine cities.  These cities were a confederation.  The five cities were Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron.  Each had its own king, but they were also allied together for their common defense.  
 This time David is welcomed.  There are probably two reasons why.  One is that by now everyone knows Saul is out to get David.  The second is that David has 600 disciplined fighting men with him.  The use of mercenary soldiers was common in the ancient Near East, and often political fugitives would become mercenaries in some
other kingdom.  And the Philistines had use for them.  Philistia was much smaller and less populated than Israel.  Their advantage was their military technology, chariots and iron weapons, both of which Israel lacked.  But being much smaller, they could use warm bodies to put on the field of battle.  
 Sure enough, Saul gives up the chase.  He’s not about to go into Philistia to get David.  
 David stays in Gath for some time, but then he asks to be moved elsewhere, to a village in the countryside.  And King Achish gives him the village of Ziklag.  Ziklag was about 15 miles south of Gath.  It was still outside of Israelite territory, but it was far enough away from the Philistine cities that David was not living under a microscope.  
 And from Ziklag, David goes into business as a raider against the Amalekites and their neighbors who lived in the Negev Desert in the south of Canaan and in the Sinai Desert.  These tribes were long-time enemies of Israel, who frequently conducted raids against them.  But David always told Achish that he was raiding the villages of Israel.
 Theologians and Bible scholars disagree about how to view David’s actions.  Some take a “moralizing approach.”  Moralism is the belief that there are always clear cut right choices and wrong choices, and the burden is on us to find and choose the right.  But that approach leaves little room for God and his grace.
 Others take a “secularizing approach.”  Secularism means that our spiritual life is divorced from our day to day living.  In a sinful world, sinful actions are sometimes necessary.  So it’s okay to do whatever you have to do.  It has nothing to do with your spiritual life.
 Neither one of these two approaches is completely satisfying.  How do we survive and honor God in a sinful world?  How do we remain faithful when often there is no “one right choice?”  The truth is that in some way or another, at some time or another, we will all spend some time in Ziklag.  We will all spend some time among a people who are trying to honor God and be faithful to him, but at the same time, we are “serving Achish,” serving the world.  What if the business we work for is involved in something immoral?  Do we quit work for the sake of conscience?  And if we do, what about our families who depend on us?  There is no easy choice in these situations.  
 But in the midst of our time in Ziklag, God still provides.  God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  God provided for David.  His time in Ziklag was a refuge from King Saul, who was bent on murdering him.  It was safety for David and his men.  But at the same time, God also protected David from violating his covenant as the anointed king.  David may have spent his time serving an enemy of his people, but he was spared from having to do harm to his own people for the sake of his own survival.  If you want to look at it very practically, David also had a chance to learn about the technology of the Philistines.  After David becomes king, Israel starts to use iron weapons and chariots, just like the Philistines, and the Philistine threat was finally neutralized.  
 But the best of all in this situation was the people that David was with and the relationships that were formed.  This band of men, gathered around David, became the leadership of the nation, a godly leadership at that.  They became the palace officials, the commanders of the army, the people who led Israel for a generation.  And they were forged in the crucible of the wilderness.  They had learned to depend on God.  
 In the most unlikely of places, Ziklag, a people of God, a church, was formed.  
 In the Church, among the people of God, we are frequently thrust together with people that we would not choose to associate with on our own.  We are thrust together with people of different races, different social classes, different lifestyles, different politics.  
 And the truth is, they might not always be helpful.  At times they can be downright hurtful.  But what we find is that we need them.  Community is a necessity.  We can’t live a life of faithfulness without being encouraged along the way by others who are also trying to be faithful.  

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