Leadership Lessons Part XII: Going without God

In 1 Samuel 21, we find that David is going to let his anger drive his decisions and move forward without consulting and following God’s leading. David makes some crucial mistakes that are both understandable and damaging to him. Here is the text:

David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” 2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the LORD and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

7 Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd. 8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.” 9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.” David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

Let’s recall the background we’re working with here. Saul, the King of Israel who is also David’s Father-in-Law, is after David’s life. So David first flees from Saul with Jonathan’s support and goes to Samuel at Ramah. Recall that Samuel is the country’s high priest and is probably just as powerful as the King. They both go to Naioth where a school for prophets is being run by Samuel (the school would be analogous to a present-day seminary for pastors). Saul finds out where David is and sends men to kill him. God protects David and even though Saul’s men reach David, they don’t kill him.

Still, David is no fool. So he goes to Nob and is clearly “on the run”. His interaction with Ahimelech is recorded for us in the first nine verses of chapter 21. What we can see in this interaction are three true elements:

  • He didn’t seek God’s guidance
  • He lied to Ahimelech
  • He puts Ahimelech “on the spot” – cf. Matt 12.1-80

I think we see David in an emerging state in which he’s both trying to survive and is also having to lead an increasing number of disgruntled-with-Saul warriors. I think he wants to protect Ahimelech in case Saul’s men come to him and ask him why he didn’t kill David on behalf of the King. David’s attempt at protecting Ahimelech is clumsy and betrays just how much David has to learn about negotiations and leadership.

When we “go it alone”, we don’t seek God’s guidance. We’re more apt to lie or deceive others and are more apt to break the rules. We vary things just a bit and in the end, it comes back to bite us.

What should David have done? First, he should have been truthful with Ahimelech and asked Ahimelech for guidance from God. Secondly, he should have trusted God like he did on the day when he killed Goliath with the stone. I find it ironic that he now asks for the sword of the one whom he killed with a stone. Lastly, while he should have stayed as far away from Saul as possible, he also should have stayed in Israel. He had a growing band of men around him that he was leading. Placing his faith and trust in God’s expressed anointing on his life to be King, he should have trusted God more fully.

Another aspect of going it alone is that you end up losing a portion of your testimony. We’re told that David flees to Achish, King of Gath, a Philistine city. They recognize him there, so he ends up acting like a mad man so that they don’t kill him. Talk about jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan. He loses his dignity in the process. Achish ends up laughing at David and lets him go. While it is a shrewd way to escape, let’s not lose sight of the notion that David lost the respect of Achish as well. This has profound lessons for us as we interact with the unsaved in business.

David is put on the run and starts what appears to be well over a decade of running by not consulting with God or turning to Him for guidance and continued protection. Let’s not repeat David’s mistakes here. When we’re under significant stress, that is the time to turn to the Lord and see His face, direction and protection. God will provide all that we need to accomplish the purposes he has for us. Let’s not lie to others and let’s not degrade ourselves the point where we those who don’t know the Lord end up laughing at us because of our eccentric behavior.


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