David had fled his own land and is seeking refuge in the enemy’s camp. Ironically, his king jealously hates him while the enemy’s king has shown him favor. Meanwhile, his own people love him and the enemy’s subjects despise him. Remember, David is now in the land of the Philistines. Goliath was their hero and David is now carrying his sword! How jealous must these men have been when he came around! God’s providence sure finds his people in some strange debacles.
And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
12 And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” ~1 Samuel 21:10-15
It seems that David had believed that Achish, the king of the Philistines, would show him kindness. When he arrives, however, because Achish’s subjects are severely jealous and insecure about his presence in their house, David begins to fear. Ironically, the very thing he did to honor and obey God the most were the things he was here hated most for. It was his righteous deeds which made him a stench to these enemies. Envy was dripping like sweat off of these men every time David came around. Therefore, they sang his victory song to remind their king who he was dealing with. Essentially, they were saying, look, your highness, this is the dude that killed lots of us as well as our hero. Look whose sword he is sporting. Don’t trust him lest he kill you and steal your high position, too!
David knew what these jealous and hateful men were saying about him. He realized that he had placed his trust in man’s deliverance when seeking refuge with King Achish, rather than God’s. He became afraid and began to pretend he was a mad man in order to protect himself.
Funny thing about pleading insanity…it’s intention is always to get you off the hook. Who can hold someone responsible if their mind is malfunctioning? Not only that, why worry about them at all, right? There’s no advantage in dealing with their kind or taking anything they have too seriously. David knows how people think and he uses their ungodly, mistaken stereotypes to self-preserve.
Nevertheless, regardless of how David acted behaviorally, spiritually he was flawlessly intact. Here, as he pretends to be insane, we find him penning psalm 34.
He begins with praise and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. (Psalm 34:1-4) He assures the people of God that when we look to God and trust Him alone, we will never be ashamed.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.~Psalm 34:5
This is quite a statement from a man who was considered out of his mind by his colleagues and everyone who saw him that day. David contends that those who look to God and place trust in Him alone are radiant. No matter what other people’s thoughts of who they are are, if they are in the will of God they are never ashamed. The light of Christ shines on them and is seen by all. Consider Stephen.
And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.~Acts 6:15
Who was looking at Stephen? Why were they staring so intently at him? It wasn’t because his face was radiant. In fact, they completely ignored that fact. They sought to falsely accuse him because of their jealousy and guilt.
And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”~Acts 6:10-14
Stephen’s speech following these accusations proves how he did not violate God’s law – they did- which is why they reacted so violently towards him. The Pharisees would have caught on to what Stephen was saying very quickly. He showed them that their hypocrisy was not hidden and he refutes his charges of blasphemy by his reverence, respect and knowledge of God’s Word.
As he begins his speech, Stephen mentions the lands of Chaldea and Haran. He does so to prove how God spoke in the ages past and is not confined to speak in one place. God can speak outside our accepted place. He is making the point that God is universally present. Jesus himself proves this true by speaking with the Samaritan woman and instructing her that true worship is not dependant upon a place, rather the Spirit and the Truth. The religious elite were extremely angry and threatened by both Stephen and Jesus’ statements because the temple is where and what gave them their power and identity.
Stephen continuously proves their accusations unfounded . His ultimate purpose and goal is to show that the temple, the land and every other type and shadow gives way to the person and work of Christ.
Though Stephen died a martyr that day, he did so speaking the truth. He was not ashamed nor should he be. Paul puts Stephen’s boldness into words for us in Philippians:
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.~Philippians 1:19-21
Back to Psalm 34. Still speaking of his deliverance, David says this:
This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.~Psalm 34:6-7
Unlike the prideful Pharisees or the kings who thought themselves superior, David regards himself as a poor man; someone whom no one respected or appreciated. Psalm 102 assures such people that God hears them:
He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,
And shall not despise their prayer. ~Psalm 102:17
Not only does God hear such people, He considers them important enough to guard and protect with his angels. (Psalm 34:7, Hebrews 1:14) Should we do differently??
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
The able and fierce aren’t always satisfied but the meek shall inherit the earth. The religious Pharisees thought they had won in killing Stephen and making a mockery of his true words, but whose legacy and soul lives on and whose is a stench to both God and man to this day?
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.~Psalm 34:11
Another proof that King David was humble and thought lowly of himself is this: he did not think himself above teaching children. And what does he teach them? Of all the skillful things David had mastered, he speaks of none but the fear of the Lord. David understands what is important not only for himself, but for the children whom God had placed before him.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it. ~Psalm 34:12-14
Do you want to live? See goodness? Verses 12-14 teach us how. Everything we say must be sincere. We must never be double-tongued. We must never say one thing and do another nor speak kindly to the face and slander behind the back. “If peace seems to flee from us, we must pursue it. Follow peace with all men, spare no pains, no expense to preserve and recover peace.” ~Matthew Henry
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit. ~Psalm 34:17-18
Who is righteous? The man who has a broken heart. Many people have much pain, sadness and hurt in their hearts, but they refuse to be broken before the Lord. A broken heart is what we must come with if we want to see God. Also, a contrite spirit. We must have a spirit that thinks of our self as David did; lowly and without confidence in our own merit and works. Apart from these attributes, we cannot know God.
When we are hated by the authorities in God’s land, our temptation is often to seek refuge in the enemy’s camp. Unfortunately, when we go there we end up having to pretend we’re someone we’re not. If we are spiritually healthy, it won’t take us too long to figure out that neither friends nor enemies serve well as saviors. God himself is our only refuge.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.~Psalm 34:19
God’s providences sometimes seem to run counter to his promises. But God doesn’t promise health, wealth and prosperity to his people. There is no amount of positive thinking that will keep us from the many trials Our Sovereign God deems right and necessary for sake of our sanctification and others’ salvation. When the world is against us let us consider and imitate Stephen, whose legacy of boldness, knowledge, and unashamed adherence to the truth lives on.