There was a long running program that was on while I was a child on ABC called Wide World of Sports. I loved watching the introduction to the show each week. The voice would describe the great athletes in the sporting world. Then, it would come to this part: “The thrill of victory….” The screen would show an athlete nailing a perfect ten in gymnastics. But then the voice continued, “…and the agony of defeat.” The screen would then show this ski jumper falling down the jump, head first over the edge, skis in every direction, wiping out all the way down the mountain. The statement encompasses the highs and lows of life. Sometimes you are standing on the peak with the thrill of victory. Sometimes you are down on your back dealing with the agony of defeat. It is amazing how quickly we can move from a peak to a valley.
David seems to have everything going for him at this point in his life. He has already been anointed king over Israel. When Saul dies, David is going to take over as king. David has now been victorious over the champion warrior of the Philistines, Goliath. No one was willing to face Goliath, but David did. Not only this, David now has a best friend in Jonathan, the son of Saul. Jonathan even takes his prince robe off and gives it to David (18:4), signifying Jonathan’s acceptance of David as the next king rather than himself. Most men would be seeking after the kingdom for themselves and Jonathan would have been the next king of Israel. But Jonathan knows that David has been anointed by God and this act of transferring his robe and goods symbolizes his acknowledgement and acceptance that David is the next king. Notice verse 5:
David marched out with the army, and was successful in everything Saul sent him to do. Saul put him in command of the soldiers, which pleased all the people and Saul’s servants as well.
The shepherd boy has the Lord with him so that he has been successful in all of the military battles he has in engaged in. Saul puts David in command of the soldiers because of his success and the armies are thrilled have David as their military leader. David leads Israel to great victories over the Philistines. David also comes home to a hero’s welcome.
As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments (18:6). This is the ticker tape parade as the heroes of war return home from driving off the Philistines. In the midst of the celebration, the women are singing during this celebration:
Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands (18:7).
David is basking in the glory of great success. David is on top of the world. The people love you. You are in charge of the army. You just saved Israel from enslavement to the Philistines. You are anointed to the next king over Israel. It would be time to sit back and think that it does not get any better than this. But notice what happens from this:
Saul was furious and resented this song. “They credited tens of thousands to David,” he complained, “but they only credited me with thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul watched David jealously from that day forward (18:8-9). This is the moment when everything in David’s life is going to change and the problems begin.
Saul Attempts To Kill David
It is one thing to deal with jealousy, a great enough evil. However, this jealousy that Saul is harboring leads Saul to make numerous attempts on David’s life.
1. David was playing the harp as usual, but Saul was holding a spear, and he threw it, thinking, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David got away from him twice (18:10-11). Can you believe that David had this happen twice?
2. Marriage with conditions that should get him killed by the Philistines (18:17,21). Saul says that David can marriage his daughter when he brings back 100 Philistine foreskins as a bride-price. “Actually, Saul intended to cause David’s death at the hands of the Philistines” (18:25).
3. Things are so bad that we read these words: “Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved him, and he became even more afraid of David. As a result, Saul was David’s enemy from then on” (18:28-29). Jonathan tells David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself” (19:2).
David, the giant slayer, the future king is on the run for his life. He has to hide in the countryside because Saul is seeking to kill him.
Point #1: Why Do the Righteous Suffer?
David has done good, but bad things are happening. It is one of life’s great mysteries that often can cause us to stumble in our faith in God. Why are bad things happening to me when I am trying to do what is right? We endure this kind of mental anguish because we expect that good things will happen while we are trying to do what is right. We can understand when bad things happen when we are doing what wrong. But why do bad things happen when we are doing what is right? David is enduring this problem. In fact, David even tells Jonathan, “David fled from Naioth in Ramah and came to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What did I do wrong? How have I sinned against your father so that he wants to take my life?” (20:1). Do you hear David asking what he has done to deserve this kind of treatment? The book of Ecclesiastes speaks to this problem. Asaph also addresses this feeling in Psalm 73. The book of Job also considers this problem because Job was a righteous and upright man who greatly suffered. Ultimately, one of the lessons we learn is that we will suffer because we are righteous. Rather than asking why bad things happen when we are trying to do good, we need to realize that bad things happen because we are doing good.
When we are trying to follow God, Satan is going to resist us and tempt us to turn away. What better way can Satan use to cause confusion in our lives but to bring turmoil when we try to do what is right? Satan tries to make the path of righteousness difficult so that we will not choose that road. It is easier to take the path of Job’s wife, to simply curse God and die. This is exactly the response Satan is looking for from us.
The other reason we must realize that bad things happen because we are doing good is because darkness does not want to have fellowship with light. When you, by your righteous works, cast light on the dark acts of the world, they are not going to simply sit idle by but will try to discredit you and cause you problems. Rather than change from the darkness, they are going to try to make you change from the light. “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Peter 4:4). We have to change our thinking about suffering, supposing that we should never suffer when trying to do good. We will suffer because we are doing good. Look at the life of Jesus to see this point exemplified.
Things are so bad that David flees to the land of Philistines, a nation that had just been ruined because of David’s military successes. David changes his behavior and acts like a madman for fear that they will kill him because of who he is. David finally settled in the cave of Adullam, all by himself.
What To Do
Trust God. So what are we to do when we find ourselves alone in the cave? It is at this moment in David’s life that he penned the 57th psalm. David says that he is seeking refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. David has nowhere else to turn but to God. Read this psalm with the pain of David’s life in mind and notice the confidence he is placing in God to take care of him. David does not know what is going to happen next. In fact, he says that he is waiting “…till I know what God will do for me” (22:3). But David does know that God’s “faithful love is as high as the heavens” and that His “faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (Psalm 57:10). It has been well said, “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” David turns in prayer to God. He is putting his life in God’s hands. David puts his trust in God’s loving kindness and faithfulness. When we fall into the valleys of life, we need to draw near to God. Don’t question God because you have been trying to do good but bad things have happened to you. Know that God is with you and you are being tested in your faith. “Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).
Draw near to others. It is hard to go through life alone. God recognized this in the very beginning in creating Eve for Adam. I believe God also recognized this by having Christians in various geographic areas come together regularly for worship, service, and fellowship. We need the strength of one another, especially in difficult times. In 1 Samuel 22:1-2 we see that when David’s family finds out where he is, they go to. His father, mother, and all in his house all come to him in this cave. But, more joined David at the cave. “And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him” (22:2). Did you notice that it was not the rich and successful that came to David’s aid. Rather, it was people who had been through what he was going through. The distressed, the indebted, and the bitter all came to David, totaling about 400 men. The body of Christ should act similarly. We are people who recognize that we need Jesus. We are people who have problems in life and are slaves to sin who need the grace and mercy of God. We need to draw near to one another and help one another through our difficulties. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Paul’s teaching implies that we are closely connected so that we can help one another. “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). These are commands to rely on each other, to connect to each other, and help one another.
- The righteous will suffer. Do not be surprised when difficulties come. Satan wants us to sin. We are being tested. Evil wants us to fail.
- Entrust yourself to God when in the valleys of life. God is faithful and God loves you. He will not leave you.
- Draw near to others who will help you. We need each other and we need to help each other.