The Hero Unheroic
1 Samuel 21:8-15
And David said to Ahimelech, And is there not here under your hand spear or sword?…

I. A WEAPON WAS GIVEN TO DAVID AT NOB THAT SHOULD HAVE STIRRED ALL THE HEROIC ELEMENT IN HIM AND RESTORED HIS FALTERING FAITH. Had he forgotten that the sword of Goliath was in custody of the priests? Or did he remember it, and was it for a sight and a grasp of this mighty weapon that he longed? Who can tell? The priest reminded him of the day when, with that very sword, he beheaded the prostrate giant in the valley of Elah. The words must have sent a thrill through David's heart, and touched some chord of shame. Why was he now so much afraid? Why could he not trust the Lord who had saved him in that dreadful combat to protect him now? He was all eagerness to have the sword in his hand again - "There is none like it; give it me." It may have been too ponderous for a man of ordinary size and strength to wield with any freedom, but its associations and memories made it more to David than ninny weapons of war. He ought to have been of good cheer when in one day he got both bread and sword out of the sanctuary. Is not this suggestive of a way of help and encouragement for all who know the Lord? In new emergencies let them recall past deliverances. As Matthew Henry says, "experiences are great encouragements." The God who helped us in some past time of need is able to help us again. The grace which gained one victory is strong enough to gain another. But -

II. RECOLLECTION WITHOUT ACTIVE FAITH AVAILS LITTLE. The courage which must have leaped up in David's breast at the sight and touch of Goliath's sword soon ebbed away. His mood of despondency returned as he neared the frontier, and he relapsed into shifts unworthy both of his past and of his future. It must be owned that his position was very critical. To cross the western frontier was to expose himself to suspicion and obloquy in Israel, and to run great risk of his life among the Philistines. He was between two fires: enraged Saul behind him, and before him the king of Oath, who might very probably avenge upon him the humiliation and death of the great champion of Oath, Goliath. When the latter of these risks actually threatened him, David, always quick to scent danger, perceived his extreme predicament; and, equally quick in suggestion and resource, fell on an ingenious plan to save his life. It was not dignified - it was not worthy of a devout and upright man; but it was clever and successful. David had often seen Saul in his frenzy, and knew how to counterfeit the symptoms. So he feigned insanity, and was allowed to leave the Philistine town unmolested, and to escape to his native land. (Illustrate from the stories of Ulysses and of Lucius Junius Brutus.) What may pass without censure in heathen Greeks and Romans may not so pass in a Hebrew like David, who knew the true God; and though we should not judge severely the action of a man under imminent mortal peril, we are disappointed to see the son of Jesse betake himself to stratagem and deceit. We are vexed to find the hero unheroic, the saint unsaintly. But -

III. ALL THE WHILE THERE WAS A DEEP VEIN OF DEVOUT FEELING IN DAVID'S MIND. Two of his psalms are said to refer to this time of trouble at Oath. The first of these is the thirty-fourth. It makes no definite allusion to the events related here, but we see no reason to disregard the old tradition embodied in its title, which refers its origin to the time of David's narrow escape from the Philistines. Not that he composed it on the spur of the moment, for the elaborate acrostic structure of the ode forbids that supposition. But the sweet singer, recalling his escape, recalled the devout feeling which it awakened. He did not introduce into his song any of the actual incidents at Gath, for he must have felt that, so far as his own behaviour was concerned, the incidents were not worthy of celebration; but he recorded his experience of Divine succour for the consolation of others in their extremity, ending with "Jehovah redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate." The other psalm to which we allude is the fifty-sixth. This, too, is ascribed to "David when the Philistines laid hold on him in Gath." It vividly describes his condition and his alarm, and tells where his hope of deliverance really lay. God knew his wanderings and regarded his tears; and thoughts of God were in David's heart even when he was playing the part of a maniac to delude the Philistines. "In God I put my trust: I am not afraid: what can man do unto me?" We do not palliate anything in David's conduct at Nob or at Gath that was unbecoming a servant of God. We must go to the great Son of David to learn a faultless morality, so that no guile may proceed out of our mouths, and we may use no pretexts to gain our objects, but count the keeping of a good conscience superior to all considerations of comfort and even of life, and have no fear of them who can kill the body, "but are not able to kill the soul." But the Psalms come in well to prevent our doing David any injustice. All through this painful passage of his life - in his flight, his grief, his mortal peril - his heart was crying out for God. So he was saved out of the hands of enemies. Goliath could not hurt him, nor Saul, nor Achish either. Not that God sanctioned any shift or subteruge; but God heard him, and saved him out of all his distresses. - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? for I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste.

WEB: David said to Ahimelech, "Isn't there here under your hand spear or sword? For I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste."

Haste! Haste!
Top of Page
Top of Page