Living with the Enemy

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1 Samuel 27:1-12 (David among the Philistines)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is on David and Saul, and we are now entering the final phase of the series. In these final chapters Saul finally gives up his pursuit of David, while David goes to live among the Philistines. As a result, we no longer have narratives which show David and Saul facing off against each other as we have in the past. Instead the narrative alternates back and forth between episodes with David and episodes with Saul. Today’s episode focuses on David and his decision to go live among the Philistines, who just happened to be Israel’s worst enemy at the time. (Read 1 Samuel 27:1-4 and pray)

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One of the tensions we experience as Christians is living as followers of Jesus in a world that doesn’t believe in Jesus. The world around us is not always friendly to Christians or Christian belief. And as Christians we can often feel awkward or even alienated because of our beliefs. This is reflected in some of the songs we sing as a church: “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger.” Or “This world is not my home, I’m just a’passing through … and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

David must have felt some of that tension when he made the decision to go and live among the Philistines. Commentators are divided as to whether David was right or wrong to go and live with the Philistines. Some see it as an example of moral compromise, similar to when Lot in the Bible went to live among the people of Sodom, while others see it as a wise maneuver to avoid further conflict with Saul.

The text neither approves nor disapproves of David’s decision. It simply tells us what David did. But whether David was right or wrong in his decision, the result was the same. David finds himself living with the enemy, and so we find a parallel to our situation as Christians today. As Christians who have been saved out of the world, how are we to live in the world? Like David with the Philistines, we also find ourselves living with the enemy.

Now I want to clarify something right up front. When I say we are living with the enemy, I am not necessarily talking about people. People are not your enemy. The Bible says our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of darkness in this world. We should not view unbelievers as enemies to be hated, but rather as potential brothers and sisters in Christ, as potential believers in Jesus. Now some of those people may be actual enemies, but even then, Jesus says you are to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you.

No, when we say we are living with the enemy, we are talking about living in this world that is unfriendly to God. We are talking about the world system that is opposed to God and his ways, and especially opposed to belief in Jesus Christ.

And we find three biblical principles for Christians living in the world illustrated for us in our passage today: 1) We live in the world. 2) We are to live as good citizens in the world. And 3) We are to reserve our highest loyalty for God. As Christians we live in the world, but we must live for God in the world. So, let’s get started.

I. We live in the world (1-4)

First, we must face the reality that as Christians we live in the world. God doesn’t take us into heaven the moment we’re saved. He leaves us in the world. The world is opposed to God and his ways, and so we must live out our Christian lives in the midst of the enemy. We see this illustrated for us in David’s situation with the Philistines. Look at 1 Samuel 27:1-4:

But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will 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 So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath. 3 David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal. 4 When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him. (1 Samuel 27:1-4)

Despite Saul’s promises to the contrary, David knows that Saul is never going to stop pursuing him. Rightly or wrongly, David concludes that the safest strategy for him is to escape to the land of the Philistines. So, David returns to Gath with his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, and with all his men and their households.

Now we’ve seen David in Gath before. Gath was one of the five main cities of the Philistines, and David escaped here once before back in 1 Samuel 21. If you recall, David tried to sneak in there alone that time, but he was recognized and ended up having to act like a madman in order to escape with his life.

But this time David goes publicly with a large group of people. And even though Israel and the Philistines are enemies, King Achish welcomes David this time. He knows David is on the run from Saul, so he’s probably thinking along the lines: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Rightly or wrongly, David goes to live among the Philistines, and the strategy is successful at least as far as Saul is concerned. When Saul learns that David is in Gath, he finally stops searching for him to kill him. And so, David is finally safe from Saul, but now he finds himself living with the enemy.

   A. You are in the world but not of the world
      – John 17:14-16

As Christians we also are living with the enemy. We live in a world that is opposed to God. The Bible says that as a Christian you are in the world but not of the world. That phrase “in the world but not of the world” comes from a prayer Jesus prayed for his followers in John 17: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:14-16)

As a Christian you are in the world but not of the world. That means even though you live in the world, you are not to live like the world. God has left you in the world to be a witness for him. And you cannot be a witness to the world if you live just like the world.

   B. In this world you will have trouble
      – John 16:33

Jesus also said that as a Christian in this world you will have trouble. Jesus says to his followers in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) It would be wonderful if God took us to heaven the moment we were saved, but that is not God’s plan. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, because Christ has overcome the world.

David was living with the enemy, and as a result he also was going to experience trouble. But God would help him and deliver him, just like God helps us and delivers us from trouble in the world.

So that’s the first principle we learn from David living with the Philistines. As Christians we live in the world. You are in the world but not of the world. And in this world, you will have trouble.

II. We are to live as good citizens in the world (5-7)

Secondly, as long as we live in the world, we are to live as good citizens of the world. Look at 1 Samuel 27:5-7:

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor 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?” 6 So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. 7 David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months. (1 Samuel 27:5-7)

Once David was in Gath, he treated the king with respect. He lived in such a way that he found favor in the king’s eyes and was even able to ask for a place in the country for him and his people. He was willing to accept whatever place the king assigned him.

The king gave him the area of Ziklag. Interestingly, Ziklag was an area that was supposed to be Israelite territory anyways. It was one of the areas that God told Joshua and the Israelites to conquer when they first entered the Promised Land. (Joshua 15:31) David and his fellow Israelites are finally living there in this city promised to them so many years before.

And so, David and his people find a place of freedom and security among the Philistines where they can live their lives in safety until God takes care of Saul in his own time. David and his people end up living there for a whole year and four months.

In the same way as Christians we are also called to live as good citizens in the world. There are three things I would like to emphasize about being a good citizen here.

   A. Submit yourself to the governing authorities
      – 1 Peter 2:13-14

First, the Bible says you should submit yourself to the governing authorities. We read in 1 Peter 2: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13-14)

As Christians we are not to be rebels and rabble rousers. We are to submit to the governing authorities and obey the laws of the land. Yes, in this world you will have trouble, but that doesn’t mean you should go looking for trouble. If you suffer as a Christian, you should not suffer for doing wrong but for doing right.

As Christians we are to live as good citizens in this world. And that means first of all, that you should submit yourself to the governing authorities.

   B. Pray for and seek the good of your community
      – Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Secondly, you should pray for your community and seek the good of your community. When God sent the Israelites into exile to Babylon, he told them to pray for Babylon. We read God’s instructions in Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

We find similar instructions in the New Testament. 1 Timothy 2 says: “I urge, then …. that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) As a Christian living in this world, you should pray for your community and seek the good of your community.

   C. Let your daily life win the respect of outsiders
      – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

And then thirdly, you should let your daily life win the respect of outsiders. Paul says to Christians in 1 Thessalonians 4: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

People in the world may not like your beliefs, but they should not be able to criticize your behavior. Live your life in such a way that you win the respect of even those who disagree with your beliefs as a Christian.

Yes, spiritually you may be living with the enemy, but as a Christian living in this world you are called to be a good citizen in this world. That means you need to: 1) submit yourself to the governing authorities; 2) pray for and seek the good of your community; and 3) let your daily life win the respect of outsiders.

III. We are to reserve our highest loyalty for God (8-12)

Finally, even though we live in the world, and even though we are to live as good citizens in the world, we are still to reserve our highest loyalty for God. We see this illustrated by David’s activities once he was settled with his people in Ziklag. Look at 1 Samuel 27:8-12:

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.) 9 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.

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.” 11 He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, “They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’ ”

And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory. 12 Achish trusted David and said to himself, “He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever.” (1 Samuel 27:8-12)

Even though they are living with the Philistines, David’s loyalty remains with God and with Israel. David uses this opportunity to fight the enemies of Israel and to free up areas of land that God had promised the Israelites but remained unconquered.

God had originally placed these areas under the ban. In other words, the Israelites had been commanded to completely destroy the people living in these cities. It’s hard for us to understand how this worked in those days, but this was part of God’s judgment on the land of Canaan, and the Israelites had not been faithful to finish the job. Now David as the future king of Israel finishes the job for them.

David even attacks the Amalekites. Remember it was Saul who was supposed to destroy the Amalekites back in 1 Samuel 15. In fact, it was because Saul spared the king of the Amalekites and kept the best of the spoil for himself that God took the kingship away from Saul and gave it to David.

As a good citizen of the Philistines, David brings the plunder from these raids to King Achish. But notice how David is purposely vague about where he has been raiding. “Oh, we were raiding up near the area of Judah. We were up in the area of the Kenites.” Achish assumes that David is fighting the Israelites, when David is really fighting the enemies of Israel.

David may have been living with the Philistines, but his main loyalty remained with God and God’s people. In the same way, as Christians living in the world, we are to reserve our highest loyalty for God.

   A. You can’t be friends with both God and the world
      – James 4:4

The Bible says you can’t be friends with both God and the world. We read in James 4:4: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God?” (James 4:4)

Even though we should be friends with the people around us (remember, people aren’t the enemy!), the Bible tells us that friendship with the world is hatred towards God. Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world system that stands against God becomes an enemy of God themselves. You can’t be friends with both God and the world.

   B. Your true citizenship is in heaven
      – Philippians 3:20

You can’t be friends with both God and the world. And you need to remember where your true citizenship lies. Your true citizenship is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 reminds us as Christians: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) Your true citizenship is in heaven. That’s where God is. That’s where Jesus is. This world is passing away, and one day Jesus will return and set up his own kingdom forever.

And so, as Christians we must always reserve our highest loyalty for God. You can’t be friends with both God and the world. Your true citizenship is in heaven.

CONCLUSION: When David went to live with the Philistines, he found himself living with the enemy. And as Christians living in this world, we also are living with the enemy.

Remember, the people around you aren’t the enemy. Every unbeliever you meet is a potential believer. They are a potential future brother or sister in Christ. People aren’t the enemy. It’s this world itself which is the enemy, the world system that is opposed to God and Christ.

As Christians we live in the world, but we must live for God in the world. God always comes first. We live in the world because that is where God has placed us. We live as good citizens in the world because that is part of our testimony as followers of Christ. But our first loyalty is always to God.

It’s not easy living with the enemy. But it’s what God has called us to do as followers of Jesus. And Jesus is there to help you every day. So, when the going gets tough, remember Jesus’ words from John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

© Ray Fowler

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