“His Craft and Power Are Great”
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“His Craft and Power Are Great”

1 Samuel 22:1–23  (ID: 3434)

King Saul had rejected God’s word, choosing instead to believe the devil’s lies and act in accord with the spirit of the antichrist. In his paranoid state, he accused his men of disloyalty, then ordered Ahimelech and his fellow priests to be murdered. Meanwhile, David and his small company were protected as they hid among Saul’s enemies and moved as the Spirit directed. As Alistair Begg points out, God alone kept David safe from harm—a protection that is also ours when we run to Jesus for spiritual refuge.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 4

Whose Reign Is This? 1 Samuel 21:1–31:13 Series ID: 109014

Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, let me invite you to follow along as I read from 1 Samuel and from chapter 22. First Samuel 22 and from verse 1:

“David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

“And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, ‘Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.’ And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. Then the prophet Gad said to David, ‘Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.’ So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.

“Now Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men who were with him. 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. And 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, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, that all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.’ Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, ‘I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, and he inquired of the Lord for him and gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.’

“Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. And Saul said, ‘Hear now, son of Ahitub.’ And he answered, ‘Here I am, my lord.’ And Saul said to him, ‘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?’ Then Ahimelech answered the king, ‘And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house? Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? No! Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.’ And the king said, ‘You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.’ And the king said to the guard who stood about him, ‘Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.’ But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. Then the king said to Doeg, ‘You turn and strike the priests.’ And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.

“But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. And David said to Abiathar, ‘I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father’s house. Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.’”


Father, we thank you that all that was written of your dealings in the past was written down in order that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.[1] As we turn to the Bible now, we seek the help of the Holy Spirit. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we’re turning to 1 Samuel 22. We have returned to our studies in Samuel, and we plan on keeping going. We’ll see how we do.

But let me begin by just asking you if you are ever perplexed by the circumstances of life and perhaps have found yourself saying things like “No one pays attention to my plight,” “There’s not a soul who cares about what happens to me,” “I am in a dungeon, and there is apparently no exit.” To the extent that you’ve ever felt that or you do feel that, then you ought to be encouraged that you are in good company. And the company that you’re keeping is certainly the company of David. Because the poems of David, which we have as our Psalms, contain all kinds of sentiments: joys, struggles, trials, and deep expressions, honest expressions, of his concern. In the psalm that was read for us, Psalm 142, in one verse he says, “I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” And then, in the very next verse, he says, “You[, Lord,] are my refuge.”[2]

Now, what is happening there? Well, he is recognizing that his circumstances are such that in verse 4, I think it is, that’s exactly how he feels, but he needs to remind himself in verse 5 of what is actually true. I think, as we said last time, that faith in this instance is bringing our emotions and our circumstances under the jurisdiction of the promises of God.

Now, this chapter, 22—and I read it as carefully as I could—is fairly long, and it’s fairly full. It ends on a note of comfort, a note of assurance, but we need first of all to consider the entire narrative. Let me say something about how we’re going to go about this. The pace—hopefully, we’ll move along. And the parts that I leave out, I leave out either because I don’t know what they mean or because I think it would be good for you to do further study on your own, or perhaps a combination of the two. And what we will do is we will follow the narrative, we will follow the story line, making points of application as they appear along the way.

Dire Straits and a Motley Crew

Well, let me ask you this, first of all: Why do you think the first five verses would make me think about Mark Knopfler and a 1980s heavy metal band? That’s a question only for a very small group who are listening. The answer is because these first five verses introduce us to David, who is in dire straits and surrounded by a motley crew. Having escaped from Gath at the end of 21, he has gone to hide in the cave of Adullam. This cave archaeologists have located some sixteen miles southwest of Jerusalem. And in that cave he is joined, you will see there in verse 1, by his brothers and all his father’s house, the family members all coming to link up with him. You will perhaps remember that his relationship with his brothers was not exactly cordial when he had shown up on the battlefield and Eliab, his oldest brother, had said to him, “I know how conceited you are[, David,] and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”[3] And, of course, there was no battle, and David took on Goliath, and the story unfolded from there. I wonder, now, in the cave, did the brothers joke about this? I hope they did. Because laughter is good medicine, not least of all when applied to sibling rivalry.

Faith is bringing our emotions and our circumstances under the jurisdiction of the promises of God.

Now, there’s a family group here, but there’s also a company, and an interesting company it is—verse 2. It comprises those who are distressed, who are indebted, and who are described as bitter, discontented souls. They’re not exactly what you would call the crack troops. David Brooks, in The Road to Character, quotes from George Eliot’s novel Adam Bede, when he says in the journey through life, we have to live with all kinds of different people, and they with us: “These fellow mortals … must be accepted [for what] they are: you can neither straighten their noses nor brighten their wit nor rectify their dispositions.”[4] And such would be the case there as the group assembles, and David would look upon these folks and say, “Wow, what a group.” But we’re told, verse 2, that he became the commander over them and there were about four hundred men. Well, you perhaps will recall that back in chapter 18 he had been demoted to become the captain of a thousand men,[5] and now, here he is with a four-hundred group, a group of nobodies.

Now, I hope in your mind you will immediately start to fast-forward. And this is the kind of thing, I’m saying, as you think about it on your own, you probably will get there. It made me immediately think of Jesus calling the Twelve. When he calls the Twelve, they’re not from the Ivy League: tax collectors, traitors, terrorists, and fishermen. I’m not sure I want to call them a motley crew, but they are not obviously the people that you would look for. Similarly, later on, when Paul writes to Corinth, he says to them, “If you think about the way that God works, just look at yourselves.” And he says, “You will be struck by the fact that there is an absence of the wise, the powerful, and the noble there in your church.”[6]

Now, David we’re introduced to here not just as a commander but also as a caregiver—a caregiver for his parents. His parents must have been really old by now. Time has gone by. And what he’s doing in verse 3 and following is he’s getting them out of harm’s way, honoring his father and his mother. And he’s going to do this, he says, at the end of 3, “[until] I know what God will do for me.” He doesn’t know how things are going to fall out, and so he says, “Let’s make sure that you folks are taken care of.” The Moabites, of course, were enemies of Saul. And so, in much the same way that he went into Gath to hide among the enemies, so he secures his loved ones there as well.

But there was also, as you will recall, a family connection. Here again is some more homework: reread the book of Ruth, which precedes 1 Samuel. And as you read that, you will be perhaps forced to think about how it was quite amazing, the way in which the triple bereavement of Naomi—remember, her husband died, and both her sons died. And yet, in that sadness, it led to the resolve of Ruth to come back with Naomi to Bethlehem, which led in turn to her marriage to Boaz, which led in time to the birth of David. Because Ruth was David’s great-grandmother. In my notes I just scribbled down immediately a verse from a hymn:

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before his face I see.[7]

“I know not.” We don’t know whether this will be a protracted disaster zone, whether this will suddenly turn to bright, shining day. We do not know the circumstances of our own lives. And yet we find here, in the providence of God, great assurance. And, of course, the care that David displays for his family is a stark contrast to the broken relationships in the family of Saul.

Now, in verse 4 here, we have David no longer in the cave but in the stronghold. It’s hard to know just what is going on here. It would seem that he then went from the cave and into the stronghold; we don’t know how long he was there, and if we had needed to know, then we would have been told. But we do know that he then became the recipient of a word from God, and the prophet Gad came to him. Now, we meet Gad here for the very first time. He shows up later on, I think, in 2 Samuel and in Chronicles. And as a result of the word from Gad, David is on the move again. So in actual fact, although it says—the heading of the chapter is “David at the Cave of Adullam”—it’s more than that, because he’s moving now for the third time. And this time he’s going to move into Judah, which will present its own problems, but also, it will be the place in which he reigns as king. And off he goes to the forest of Hereth: “So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.” Unlike Saul, who by this time has been left to his own devices because the Spirit of God has departed from him, David is moving in accordance with God’s word. He would have been glad to sing with us, “The Word of God is light in my darkness, hope for the hopeless, strong and true.”[8]

So, verses 1–5 then: dire straits and in amongst a motley crew.

A Paranoid King and Doeg the Edomite

Then verses 6–10: a paranoid king and an Edomite called Doeg.

The narrative, you will notice, between verse 5 and verse 6, shifts. The camera moves now directly onto Saul. It will turn back to David before we finish, but for the next section it is all Saul. Saul’s ability to track David—if you like, his intelligence—has been rather poor. And the last time he had any news of his enemy’s movements was when David had fled to Samuel in Naioth in Ramah, which is back in chapter 19.[9]

But the picture that we are now given of Saul is once again… And incidentally, this chapter is a whole series of contrasts. I thought simply to tackle it in that way: “Here’s a contrast, here’s a contrast.” I’ll just point them out as they come. But here is one. The picture that we’re given of Saul is vastly different from that of David. Here we’re introduced to him “sitting at Gibeah,” “on the height,” “under the tamarisk tree,” surrounded by his servants and “with his spear in his hand.” Those of us who are familiar with the story will realize that it is a good thing that the spear is in his hand, because he has been used to letting it go from his hand as he’s tried a couple of times to nail David to the wall and once to kill his son Jon.

If you were choosing a team to join, if you just came on these circumstances—the folks who were along with David, and then the apparent might of Saul—we would be tempted, most of us, to say, “I think I’ll join the Saul team. That’s the major leagues. He’s a big guy, a tall guy. He’s got servants; they’re all in good position. And this funny little fellow, he doesn’t seem to have much at all. He’s playing in the minor leagues.” But, of course, what we need to keep in mind is that David is the anointed and Saul is the rejected.

Now, any news of David seems to set Saul off his rocker. And once again, this is exactly what happens. Saul said to his servants, having discovered that David was in the offing, “Let me say to you that when you think about what I can do for you, and this character, who is just a troubler for me, this son of Jesse”—“this son of Jesse”—“let me ask you,” he says, “do you think that he would be able to give you fields and vineyards? Do you think that he would be able to make you a commander of thousands and commanders of hundreds? And you have all conspired against me?” Again, I wrote in my notes, I wrote down, “He won’t be able to give you what I give you,” and then I wrote underneath it, “That’s a line from the devil if there ever was one.” That’s what the devil comes and says to us: “Why would you obey God? Why would you trust this Jesus? Why would you follow him at all? Why would you get involved with such a motley crew as hangs around your church and your friends? If you come with me, I’ve got so much for you.”

We do not know the circumstances of our own lives. And yet we find here, in the providence of God, great assurance.

Now, this, of course, had been a warning that had been sounded out back in chapter 8. I won’t go back to it, but I’ll tell you where it is: back in 8:14. And the warning was the warning that was given from Samuel concerning the king that the people asked for, who was the desire of the people but not after the heart of the Lord. And you remember—I hope some of you do—that he says, “Now, if you get this king, this is what he will do. He will take these things from you. He will take your daughters” and so on, “and the vineyards and the olive orchards” and stuff like that, “he will give them to his servants.”[10] Here we are. What has he said? “Do you think you could get servants and olive trees and so on from them? No. No. I’m the powerful one.” That’s what he’s saying: “I’m the king of the castle. I can’t believe what you people have done.”

Now, what does he say they have done? Well, he says, “You’ve conspired against me. You’ve kept information from me. None of you are sorry for me, that I am the hunted one”; that he is the one, verse 8, who is “[lying] in wait, as at this day”—which, of course, is the reverse of the case. It is Saul who is the protagonist. It is Saul who is lying in wait.

Well, of course, none of that was actually happening. And the servants are silent. It’s a kind of a bit of a rant, isn’t it, where he just goes off and he does all of this: “None of you sorry for me. My son stirred up my servants. They’re lying in wait, as at this day.” I imagine just a silence as they’re all looking at one another, saying, “Do you want to say something? I’m not gonna say anything. I’m not gonna get into it.”

Oh, but here we go. We wondered when Doeg would show up. Right on cue, verse 9: “Then answered Doeg the Edomite…” Now, he’s referred to as “the Edomite” three times in the chapter so that we might know that he is not part of God’s covenant family.

Now, the report that Doeg gives is largely true, but he leaves out parts. He leaves out parts. For example, he doesn’t let Saul know that Ahimelech gave the stuff to David on the basis of the mistaken notion that David was serving Saul. All right? He leaves out that part. He says he took these provisions, or he gave them those provisions, which he did. But the reason that he gave them the provisions is because David had said to him, untruthfully, “I am on His Majesty’s secret service,” as it were. So he leaves out parts, and then he adds a part. He adds this part in verse 10: “He inquired of the Lord for him,” and then he says, “and [he] gave him [these] provisions.”

When David reflects on this—you find this in Psalm 52—he speaks of one who he says, “Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. You love evil more than good.”[11] And I think Psalm 52 has a heading. Yes, it does. Yeah, Psalm 52: “To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’” And David, reflecting on that, writes in that way.

Ahimelech Accused of Complicity

Well, thirdly—and we must keep on—verses 11–15. Ahimelech, then, is accused of complicity. Ahimelech is accused of complicity.

Remember, he was unaware of the conflict between Saul and David. “Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob.” And then it just says, “And all of them came to the king.” I just think—I imagine Ahimelech saying, “Well, we’re supposed to go and see Saul, and I think we ought to make a day of it. Don’t you think? I mean, we haven't been together for a while. We can call it a road trip.” There’s that sense of it. There’s no sense of threat as it’s conveyed to us here. They were summoned there, and so they all came. “All [of] his father’s house,” in verse 1, were in safety, and now the same phrase: “All [of] his father’s house” were to be confronted with treachery. You see that, what I’m pointing out? After “the son of Ahitub,” “and all his father’s house”—that’s verse 11. You go back to verse 1: “When his brothers and all his father’s house…” There’s another contrast: in the safety of the cave; confronting the treachery in the context of Saul.

Now, you’ll notice that Saul has a hard time calling anybody by their proper name. Certainly David’s name sticks in his throat, so he refers to him always as “the son of Jesse.” Now he’s decided he’s going to do this with Ahimelech. He’s the “son of Ahitub.” I take it that it is derogatory, that it is demeaning, and that it’s seeking to convey the notion, again, that respect is due to Saul and due supremely to Saul. And yet, given that that is the case, the response in verse 12 of Ahimelech is just quite straightforward: “Here I am, my lord.” No antagonism, almost deferential in its tone.

And then he goes straight into it: “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”—again, notice—“to lie in wait, … at this day?” This is one of his phrases: “He’s lying in wait. Right now, here he is.” You see the paranoia? “You see, somewhere, he’s around here. Somewhere, he’s coming for me. Why have you taken sides with the son of Jesse?”

Now, the response of Ahimelech as you read it displays what one commentator referred to as an innocent naivete. An innocent naivete. There’s a beauty about the kind of humble honesty of Ahimelech’s response. Given the fact that Doeg invented the notion of inquiring of the Lord, he responds to that. No mention was made of inquiring of the Lord back in chapter 21. And so he says, “You know, you think that this is the first time that I have inquired of the Lord? No! Not at all. But think about it: Who among all of your servants is as faithful as David? He’s your son-in-law. He’s the captain of your bodyguard. He’s honored in your house. It’d be surprising if I didn’t inquire of God for him. But please, don’t let the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.” In other words, he says, “I got no idea where all your conspiracy theory comes from.”

And then, in verses 16–19, we have death at the hands of Doeg. It is quite remarkable, isn’t it, that 16 follows 15? “I haven’t known anything about this.” But you see, in his blissful naivete, he assumes that commending David will be the kind of thing that Saul wants to hear, when it is the reverse of what he wants to hear. And so he says to him, “Ahimelech”—choosing to use his name for the first time—“Ahimelech, you will die, and all your father’s house.” And turning to his guard who stood about him, he said, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand is with David. They knew that he fled; they didn’t disclose it to me.”

Now, this is a big moment: “But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord.” They refused to carry out the death sentence, putting themselves at risk in doing so. But they would have said, “Right is right, and wrong is wrong. And this wouldn’t be right to do, and frankly, we’re not going to do it.” There is a time to say no, and they say no.

Now, Saul’s world is just absolutely crumbling around him. His influence is clearly waning. He’s now lost control not only of his family, but he’s lost control of the company that serve him. And all that is left to him now is to enlist the help of an Edomite. And “Doeg the Edomite,” he says, “you’re the one. You turn and strike the priests.” So this member who is not part of the covenant family of God, who is a descendant of Esau—you read about it back in Genesis—is going to do the deed.

‘You shall surely die,’ says the Antichrist. ‘With me you shall be in safekeeping,’ says the Christ.

Two Observations

Let me make two observations before we hasten to a conclusion.

If you have been following along carefully, then what Saul commands to have happen here should remind you of what Saul was supposed to do back in chapter 15, when, you will remember, the word of God to him was to carry out the destruction of the Amalekites. And on that occasion, they were supposed to, in a very singular way, “devote” the whole place “to destruction”;[12] you may remember that phrase. And then we read in 15:9, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them,” but “all that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.” So in other words, his own self-serving mentality prevented him from actually doing what he’d been told to do. So he refused to carry out the command of God to kill the enemy, and now he commands the enemy to kill the people of God. You see what happens when people start to unravel, when they turn their back on the law of God and on his truth? That’s the first observation.

And the second observation is even more striking, in that Doeg’s slaughter here fulfills a word of prophecy that was given back in chapter 2. Because if you turn to it—and you can read it for your homework—back in chapter 2, the word of God through his servant was such that he promised that the house of Eli would actually be destroyed. And so it is that we now find ourself all these years later—probably fifty years later—when the prophesy is fulfilled. Here is what was said then, 2:31:

Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men.

What is actually happening here is that the priesthood of Eli is being decimated, and paving the way for a whole new priestly function, a whole new priestly group. Actually, what is happening is that the shift is taking place from Nob as the center of religious life and moving it to Jerusalem, where it will be focused. We can’t see all of that now, but it is. The butchery in this circumstance is actually tied directly, linked, to the behavior, the wickedness, of Ahimelech’s great-grandfather, who was Phineas, who was the brother of Hophni, the depraved sons of Eli.

You say, “Things don’t matter. These things are buried in the past. Time fixes everything.” No, it doesn’t always. The evil work of Saul and Doeg is the evil work of an evil king and his sidekick. And yet what we discover is that this eventuality is not beyond the boundaries of the providence of God. And so, what you’re confronted with here is what a German commentator refers to as… We’re given an “unnerving insight into the mysterious, intricate ways of divine judgment,”[13] confronted by irony and mystery—the same irony and mystery that ultimately finds its focus in Jesus and in his death, as Peter preaches on that day, and he says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”[14]

You see, what we actually have here is the discovery—which we’ve known for some time, but it comes into focus—that Saul is actually the enemy of Israel; that Saul is seeking to crush the people of God. And as he seeks to crush the people of God, he actually joins a line of others throughout the history of the Bible and throughout the history of the world who have done and who do the same. We couldn’t work our way down the line; it would be too long. But think of Pharaoh in the day of Moses, who decided that all the children were to be obliterated, and yet God had Moses in a basket. Think about the killing of the innocents, when Herod—another paranoid, tyrannical king—endeavored to do the very same thing. He was opposed to God and to his purposes. Or think about Haman in the book of Esther.

Now, when you think about this for just a moment—and I hope you do—and you stand back from it, you say to yourself, “How can you explain such malevolent, tyrannical, horrific activity against the people of God?” How do you explain the pattern? Because the pattern hasn’t finished. Think about the events of the twentieth century and the people of God who’ve been martyred, and who remain martyred, for their faith? They’re not out causing trouble in the streets. They’re not raising banners. They’re simply following Jesus. How do you explain the pattern?

Well, I can tell you how to explain it, and we will come back to it on another occasion. We can only explain it in terms of what is said in the Bible concerning the antichrist. In 1 John chapter 2, John is writing to his followers, and he says, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming”—“You know that antichrist is coming”—“so now many antichrists have come.”[15] He goes on in 4 to say, “The spirit of … antichrist … is in the world already.”[16] “Antichrist” simply means “one who opposes Christ.” And just as there will be a last day to all the last days, so ultimately the devil is the Antichrist, and there will be an Antichrist with a capital A. But meanwhile, says John, if you reflect on the story of the Bible, you will realize that there are antichrist figures dotted all over the place who actually provide a foretaste of the full embodiment of evil that is to come.

Paul refers to it differently when he refers to “the man of lawlessness,”[17] when he writes to the Thessalonians. “The mystery of lawlessness,” writes Paul, “is already at work”[18] in the world. “The mystery of lawlessness.” And suddenly you may find yourself saying, “You know, this study from so long ago and so far away seems to have something to say to explain the upending of our contemporary world.” In Thessalonians, Paul says, “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”[19] That is exactly what Saul does. That is exactly what Herod does. That is exactly what Haman does.

To stay with the Antichrist makes no sense at all, unless you have decided to believe a lie and reject the truth when safety is found in Christ alone.

And fortunately, there is a conclusion in 20–23, where we are told that Abiathar escapes, and he finds safety with David. Ironically, his name means “My father remains.” Of course, his father has gone with the other eighty-four. And as he conveys the news to David, David says, “I take responsibility for my part in these events.” Presumably, he regrets not having dealt with Doeg back in chapter 21, when he showed up then.

Let’s just finish by comparing the statement in verse 16 made by Saul to Ahimelech: “And the king said, ‘You shall surely die.’” The rejected king, the antichrist. For Christ actually is the Anointed One; therefore, David is the anointed one a thousand years before Jesus. He is the king who points to the ultimate king, and Saul is the antichrist who points forward to, ultimately, the Antichrist with an A. “You shall surely die,” says the Antichrist. “With me you shall be in safekeeping,” says the Christ.

You see, his logic is simply that of the gospel. David, as the Christ, is opposed by the Antichrist. To stay with the Antichrist makes no sense at all, unless you have decided to believe a lie and reject the truth when safety is found in Christ alone.

Well, as I say, plenty of fodder for follow-up.

A brief prayer:

Lord, we want to take seriously the exhortation of Paul to Timothy to study in such a way as to live under your approval and to learn to be “rightly handling the word of truth.”[20] We pray, Lord, for your help in this both in our public ministry and in our personal study. And we ask it in Christ’s name. Amen.

[1] See Romans 15:4.

[2] Psalm 142:4–5 (NIV).

[3] 1 Samuel 17:28 (NIV).

[4] George Eliot, Adam Bede (1859), bk. 2, chap. 17, quoted in David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015), 184.

[5] See 1 Samuel 18:13.

[6] 1 Corinthians 1:26 (paraphrasd).

[7] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” (1883).

[8] Brenton Brown, “Word of God” (2012).

[9] See 1 Samuel 19:18.

[10] 1 Samuel 18:11–14 (paraphrased).

[11] Psalm 52:2–3 (ESV).

[12] 1 Samuel 15:3 (ESV).

[13] Karl Gutbrod, Das Buch vom König, Die Botschaft des Alten Testaments, 4th ed. (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1975), 187, quoted in Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, Focus on the Bible (Fearn, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2000), 185n4.

[14] Acts 2:23 (ESV).

[15] 1 John 2:18 (ESV).

[16] 1 John 4:3 (ESV).

[17] 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (ESV).

[18] 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (ESV).

[19] 2 Thessalonians 2:11 (ESV).

[20] 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.