Desperate and dangerous

Chatswood Baptist Church

1 Samuel 27:1-28:2



Have you ever felt desperate? Have you ever felt that your troubles were so insurmountable that there was just no way out except to do something drastic? Have you ever thought that if things didn’t change that you were going to have to take what some might view as some pretty desperate measures? Sometimes it feels like that the pressure is just too much to bare. It’s often at moments of desperation that we make mistakes and make poor decisions and do and say things that we later regret.

I think at least part of the problem with feeling desperate is that we start to lose perspective on things. Our vision begins to narrow, and we convince ourselves that there is no good way out of our troubles and sometimes we convince ourselves that the bad way is the only. If we aren’t careful our fears can end up controlling us and we can end up justifying saying and doing things that we would not normally say and do. Have you felt this sort of pressure? How do you cope with your troubles when they seem to come constantly, like the waves on the beach, never letting up, rolling in one after another?


In chapters 27 we come to a point in the story of David where he seems to have become overwhelmed by his very many troubles and hardship. Even though David was the man after God’s own heart, chosen by God to replace Saul, we see in this chapter that he is more like us than we perhaps have thought.  After reading his story so far you might have come to expect more of David. But what I think we see is that, like us, David could become desperate saying and doing those things that were seemed to be more driven by his fears than his faith. What is perhaps surprising is that this episode in David’s life comes straight after chapter 26 where David showed great faith sparing Saul life because he trusted in the Lord to deliver him from all his troubles (26:24). In chapter 27 it appears that just the sheer volume of the troubles rolling in must have started to get to David. David doesn’t seem as sure as he had been about the Lord delivering him from his troubles in this chapter[1].


David’s desperation

David appears desperate from the opening verse of chapter 27.

1 Samuel 27:1

27 But David thought to himself, “One of these days I shall 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.”[2]

  • David believed he might perish at Saul’s hands

These words seem strange to our ears after what had happened in the last chapter. David had spoken about the Lord delivering him from all his troubles (26:24) and the last chapter closed out with Saul blessing David and admitting that David would surely triumph. But this chapter begins with a “But”. But David thought to himself that one of these days he would be “destroyed by the hand of Saul”. Despite everything that had happened up until this point now David thought Saul might destroy him. The word “destroyed” is the word to “perish” which David used in the previous chapter when he told Abishai that the Lord would strike down Saul and either his time would come, and he would die, or else he would “perish” on the battle field. Now David thought to himself that one of these days that it would be him who would “perish at the hand of Saul.” Despite having been delivered from Saul’s hands on numerous occasions, David now seems to have convinced himself that the Lord wasn’t going to keep on being able to deliver him if he stayed in Israel.

  • David talks to himself

What is surprising in this chapter is that there is completely no mention of the Lord in it. David seems to have forgotten about the Lord and how he had kept him safe thus far. We don’t hear of David turning to the Lord and asking for his help as he has done previously. Instead, we hear David just talking to himself.

In chapter 23 when David had learnt that Saul was plotting against him and he didn’t know what to do, he called for the priest to bring the ephod. Without going into details, this was a way of asking the Lord what he should be doing and the Lord guided him. But strangely, there is no mention of the Lord at all in this chapter. Where we might have expected to read that David turned to the Lord and talked to him about his dilemma we only read that David talked to himself. The words, ‘David thought to himself’ are literally ‘David spoke to his heart”

  • Beware of the wrong sort of self-talk

Ralph David, in his commentary, makes the point that there is a sort of self-talk that isn’t good for us. When faced with our troubles and feeling anxious about what’s going on in our lives we sometimes have a conversation with ourselves that doesn’t help matters but only makes them worse. Instead of reminding ourselves of who it is that we are trusting, and what the Lord has already done for us and what he has promised us and how we can rely on him, we tell ourselves how bad things are and how inadequate we are and how hopeless the situation is. We can make things worse by the way we talk to ourselves. Ralph Davis says that “the junk you tell yourself can make a difference”[3].

  • We can convince ourselves of anything

The way you talk to yourself is important because we love listening to no one better than ourselves. It is therefore easy to convince ourselves of what we know we shouldn’t do by the way we talk to ourselves.

I do it with food that I know I shouldn’t be eating especially when I’m sitting at my desk working on a Friday. But then I start, in my head talking to myself. I tell myself I’m hungry and that I haven’t had break and that I really do deserve a treat. And a treat can be a sort of a break and I need a break and besides I won’t be able to stop thinking about eating something until I’ve eaten. I won’t be to properly focus on what I’m meant to be doing without something to eat. If I want to work well then, I really should have something to eat. I’ll work better if I don’t feel hungry and keep thinking about eating. I tell myself, I’ll never get this sermon finished unless I have something to eat. What’s more important the sermon or my diet? It’s almost wrong to not to eat. Hang it. It will just be easier to go and do it.

We can talk ourselves into anything when we convince ourselves of the hopelessness of the situation. My eating might seem a frivolous example, but it is the same kind of self-talk that convinces us to do lots of things that we know we shouldn’t be doing. You need to ask yourself what sort of self-talk do you do? What sort of junk have you be telling yourself lately? What is that you have been trying to justify to your heart? We need to be careful what we say to our heart.

Of course, the right sort of self-talk can do whole lot of good. When we remind ourselves of the truth of what we believe the Lord can strengthen our faith. Ralph Davis, (I think quoting Charles Spurgeon) calls this soul talk. We see it in the Psalms and David even did it.

Psalm 62:5-6

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.


We should be talking to our souls and preaching o ourselves what we know to be true so that we aren’t given over to despair and fear. We need to be reminding ourselves what we know to be true because we can so easily lead ourselves astray when we feel desperate. What sort of talking do you do to yourself?  Sadly, David seems to have convinced himself that the Lord wasn’t going to be able to keep on saving if he remained there in Israel. He came to believe that he would never be safe so long as he was in Israel and Saul was alive.

David’s plan

So, David comes up with his own plan to make himself secure. David decided to move to the land of the Philistines and take refuge in Gath. You might remember that Gath was the place that Goliath, the Philistine champion had come from. David was now seeking leaving the Promised Land and finding refuge among the enemies of God’s people.

There is old proverb that goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Over the course of history this idea has joined unlikely allies together to fight against a common foe. In World War II the Western allies recognised their need to unite together with the Soviets to defeat the Nazis. Churchill and Roosevelt and Stalin didn’t trust one another, but what brought them together was their common foe, Hitler. David must have hoped that now Saul had made him his enemy that he would find an ally in the King of Gath who was fighting against Saul and the Israelites.

  • David’s plan involved compromise

I think it is very difficult to think that this was a wise or a good move for David. It is easy understand how David could come to this point after all he had been through but, David appears to have had a lapse in judgment. He seems to have forgotten everything that the Lord had been teaching him. It seems to be one step back after all the step forwards that David had been making in his journey of faith.

I say it was a lapse of judgment on David’s part for David seems to think that the King of Gath can keep him safe in his land in way that the Lord couldn’t keep him safe in the land of Israel. He believes that this king can solve his troubles with Saul and give him the security that he was looking for. We will see next week that David was wrong to ever think this. Even in Philistia he couldn’t escape trouble. It was also wrong for David to rely on this king for his security because the king expected David’s allegiance and loyalty in return. In asking for a place to stay David even referred to himself as the king’s servant.

1 Samuel 27:5-6

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favour in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. David lived in Philistine territory for a year and four months.

It sounds wrong for the Lord’s chosen king to be seeking the favour of this king referring to himself as this king’s servant. Of course, the problem with being this king’s servant is that it inevitably meant compromise because you just can’t serve two masters.

When you look for your security in the wrong places you always end up with divided loyalties. If you look for your security here rather than finding it in the Lord then you will have divided loyalties for what this world offers you always comes with strings attached[4]. Of course, the favour and generosity of this foreign king came at a cost. He hadn’t welcomed David out of the goodness of his own heart, but because he expected David’s allegiance in return. David and his men were regarded as mercenaries and were expected to join the king in his fight against the Israelites forces.

David’s ruthlessness and deception

At least this was something that David knew that he could not do. But instead of fleeing Gath as he had done once before David resorted to a shocking degree of ruthlessness and deception to maintain the favour of the king.

  • On his raids David killed everyone

David and his men went out on went out on raids as they were expected but they didn’t raid the Israelites, as the Philistines did, but the enemies of Israel. David was ruthless on these raids killing everyone.

1 Samuel 27:8-9

Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.) Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.

There are some who try to excuse David for killing everyone. Some argue that he might have been carrying out the judgement of the Lord. But, the only indication of his motive in the text is found in verse 11 where we are told that he didn’t leave a man or a woman alive because he thought that the survivors might inform on them back at Gath. David thought that if any survivors had remained they might have told the king of Gath what he had been up to. It would then soon become clear to the King of Gath that the enemy of his enemy was really was no friend of his at all.

David resorted to an ugly cold-hearted ruthlessness to protect himself. Having found his security in the wrong things he then worried that he might lose the things and he end up doing and saying anything to protect the little that he thought that he had. This is true when we put our security in anything other than the Lord, our God. If we make money our security, then we end up doing and saying things to ensure that we don’t lose what we have. We will make choices that will compromise our single-minded devotion to Christ. The Lord Jesus said that you cannot serve both God and money.

  • David lied about it Achish

In the case of David, he then lied about it to the king of Gath. When he returned from his raids, the king would ask him where he had been and David would tell Achish exactly what the king wanted or expected to hear.

1 Samuel 27:10

10 When Achish asked, “Where did you go raiding today?” David would say, “Against the Negev of Judah” or “Against the Negev of Jerahmeel” or “Against the Negev of the Kenites.”

Of course, having thought nothing of killing all the people, David had no qualms about lying to the king to protect himself. David was so good at lying and deceit that the king came to completely trust David and believed that he would be his servant forever.

  • It appeared at first like he would get away with it

It might have at first appeared to David that he was getting away with it. This is often how things first appear, but generally our wrongdoing catches up with us. There is a verse in the Bible that my mother used to repeat to me that came from the book of Numbers. “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). You don’t get away with what you think you’re getting away with.

In David’s case he seemed to get away with it for a year and 4 months. But in verse 1 of chapter 28 we see that the deception wasn’t going to last. David had done such a good job at convincing the king that when the Philistine forces gathered together to fight against Israel, King Achish decided that David and his men were to go with them.

1 Samuel 28:1-2

In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.” David said, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.” Achish replied, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”

Achish would see for himself what David could do and what he wouldn’t do. We know that David could not fight with the Philistines against his own people. But at this point in the story we don’t know what he will do.

If David doesn’t fight what will happen to all their families back in Philistia especially if the Philistines prevail? But if Saul prevailed against the Philistines wouldn’t David just be facing the same problem that he tried to escape from in the first place? What sort of trouble has David gotten himself into? We don’t immediately hear how this will be resolved for before we get to see what happens the scene changes and we hear of how Saul is preparing for the imminent battle. What is sad is that Saul is even more desperate than David saying and doing things that at one time he would never have done. This is where we are going to have to leave it for today. Strangely tyring to escape and avoid trouble only ever seems to compound our troubles for us.

Desperate and Dangerous

In this story I think we see how desperate and dangerous people can become when they start relying on themselves and forget that the Lord is with them. The more desperate that David became the more dangerous he became to himself and to others.

Now, it is true that often in the story in 1 Samuel, that David is pointing us to what the Lord Jesus is like, but this is not one of those occasions. This is one of those time where we see that David is someone very much like us – full of weakness and doubts – someone who needs the Lord to rescue him from himself.

  • The wrong move

David thought that he could escape his troubles by running away to Philistia. But this move I don’t believe is shown in the story to have been the right one. It involved him in compromise, deceit and a cold-hearted ruthlessness. Running away from his troubles in Israel just resulted in trouble of a different kind in Philistia. David had to keep up the appearance of loyalty and fidelity to his Philistine overlord and to do that it meant David said and did things that he wouldn’t have been able to justify before the Lord. For sure David wasn’t worried about Saul anymore but he now had another set of worries to deal with and to say that he didn’t deal with them at all well I think would be a gross understatement.

  • We become dangerous when desperate

When we forget that the Lord is our security and strength it is easy to become desperate. When we become desperate we become dangerous to ourselves and others. We end up doing what is right in our own eyes. But what is right in our own eyes is often that which isn’t right in the Lord’s eyes. Doing the wrong thing will only usually leads us into more and even greater wrongdoing. David needed to remember that the will of God for him “included more than just escaping from Saul”. The Lord wants more for us than being able to dodge the trouble that is in this world. David needed to pay more attention to his own words spoken just in the last chapter. “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness”.

  • We are to expect troubles

Trying to escape our troubles isn’t always the answer. Running away from them and trying to escape them usually only leads to another set of problems. What David seemed to forget was that the Lord was with him and the Lord would deliver him from his troubles. He needed to have a different type of conversation with himself.

The Bible never tells believers that our lives here in this world are meant to be trouble free. At times, we are tempted to think this way and you even get preachers telling you that the Lord wants you rise above all of your troubles and you should be trouble free. But we often have to learn to live with them. The Lord Jesus told his disciples while they are in this world they should expect trouble.

John 16:33b

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

  • The Lord has always promised to be with us

The answer to our troubles is to speak to our hearts and remember that Jesus is the one who has overcome the world and he is with us. He promised to be always with us, even unto the end of the age. This is what David should have learnt. We are told several times in the story that the Lord was with David. He should have taken heart. He should have reminded himself of this and talked his soul/heart about it. We also need to remind ourselves of this and do some talking to our own hearts.

Just as the Lord was with David and never did leave him or forsake him. The Lord Jesus has promised to always be with us even to the end of the age. He will never leave us forsake us. Everyone else might but he never will. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in chains and in gaol that when he had to stand that and make his defence before the authorities everyone abandoned him – no one supported him, everyone deserted him. But he wasn’t alone. He wrote, “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” and the Lord would rescue him (see 2 Tim. 4:16-18).

We are to take heart for the Lord has promised to never to leave us or forsake us. He always stands by us. He can strengthen us no matter what the trouble it is that we face. He can make us stand because he has overcome the world and ultimately he will deliver us. Of course, standing and not falling doesn’t mean that the troubles will be taken away but that he can keep us faithful until the end.


[1] 1 Samuel 17:37,26:24.

[2] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citation are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[3] Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the heart, page285

[4] See James 4:4-10