And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. (1 Samuel 23:14)
Do you recall, “The Fugitive”? It was a successful TV show, later made into a movie. In the story, Dr. Richard Kimble is falsely convicted for the murder of his wife. Kimble escapes, but is relentlessly pursued by Lt. Gerard. The fugitive is an innocent man, never able to relax, and always on the run. That was the real story of David. Though guilty of no crime, he was chased continually by King Saul, who meant to kill him.
In chapter 21 of 1 Samuel, we find David desperate. He constantly is looking over his shoulder, without a minute’s peace. The fear of man had supplanted the fear of God—and, thus, David made poor decisions. He told a lie in order to gain Goliath’s sword and gather provisions. This would result in the death of the priests. Beyond this, David actually goes into enemy territory—looking to the world for protection, rather than trusting in God to be his Refuge. One is reminded of Peter who did much the same thing when he denied Jesus. It is understandable from a human standpoint, but inexcusable from heaven’s perspective. “The fear of man brings a snare….” (Prov.29:25a) The worst of it is that David then acted like a lunatic before the Philistines in order to save his skin, bringing reproach to himself, and to his God.
Things get worse, as the evil Doeg (chapter 22) reports to Saul that Ahimelech and the other priests have aided David. The paranoid king has them executed by the vicious dog of a man, Doeg. Eighty five innocent servants of God are slaughtered. The failure of our faith—and particularly that of a leader may have far-reaching implications—consequences we do not anticipate when we yield to fear. The good news is that David would learn. He would be driven back to lean on the Lord. These lessons would be written indelibly by experience on his soul. The fugitive would eventually be vindicated. The fire David went through would refine his character and God would hammer him on the anvil of trouble into a king.
David was a man after God’s own heart—yet, still a MAN—with all the frailties of the flesh that comes with that. There never comes a time when we can trust our own strength. We are also reminded that failure need not be final—we can grow through it, rise above it, as we are humbled by it. That very brokenness brings us to God and into grace. “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)