Ziklag - Running to the World - A perilous place to be

Running to the world for safety: A perilous place to be

Big Idea

Those of the Lord are graciously chastised.

The world is no place for a Christian to seek safety.


Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

No Christian is immune to the deception of sin, because the old man within is wounded, not yet dead. Hence Paul's constant plea of "putting off the old self" (Ephesians 4:22).

The Old Testament was written about men "of like passions with us" (James 5:17) and hence is exceedingly instructive, as it gives a glimpse of where we might be heading and the consequences of our follies. It also shows the loving tenderness of God who does not lead with a bit and bridle.

Scripture affords us a look at man, warts and all. From Adam to you and I the same story is told, yet in dealing with His people we see God, "the same yesterday, today and for ever", "patient, gracious and holy". The narratives of the Old Testament unfolds the exceeding grace of God as man in his wavering sojourn, is prodded and poked in an attempt to keep us on the straight and narrow. The character of David probably is second to none in the extremes of experience of a man, yet the story about David demonstrates the patience and gentleness of God in His dealing with him "a man after his own heart".

In the narrative of David's life's experience we see unfolded the grace of God, for the grace of God is magnified in man's ruin (Spurgeon).

Indeed the experience of David probably covers nearly everything saints are likely to see, hear and experience themselves, today.

The value of the experience depends upon the wisdom upon whom the ruin fell. Example - prodigal son's brother, who in self-righteousness proclaims "these many years do I serve there, neither transgressed I at any time". What vanity! What pride! How could he possibly expect the fattened calf? The calf belong to him whom grace had decked the believing sinner.

So often a saint wonders off on his own onto some by-road, a meadow that looks easier than the road (John Bunyan). And in a dream they encounter a thorny hedge that hems them in. It is not by words of warning, the shouting of the preacher from the pulpit, of the words of warning from a father, but it is from Providence Himself that the opposing forces of misfortune are brought to a halt. The cries of anguish, the heart felt sorry need not have been entered into if the Christian had leaned not on his own understanding.

Furthermore, it is clearly evident the man does not learn from a single experience. It can take a lifetime to understand that the path of the Lord is the only passage to take. This was like Christian (Pilgrims Progress), whose sojourn was made difficult more often by his error than the path itself.

Young folk, and old alike, too often run to the world when fear overcomes them. Yet the world has nothing to offer a believing saint. Difficulties in marriage or at work cannot be solved by the world - yes they can offer some consolation for a time, but it is only in fellowship with God can we hope for restoration. Here in the narrative of David we find a lesson of what the world can offer.

The Setting

The Bible presents man as he is, and unfolds the character of God as he deals with the waywardness of man.

Saul never knew he needed the grace of God. Saul was outwardly moral, with no record of the flagrant sins of David. He was outwardly moral and religious, with an expression of self righteousness, "I have performed the commandment of the LORD". Yet he was flawed in every way and God rejected him.

How could such a man value grace? An unbroken heart, an unconvinced sinner cannot enter into the meaning of the term Grace.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18 (KJV)

David is presented in 1 Samuel, up to Chapter 21, as the rejected King, a picture of our Lord, who also came to save His own, but was rejected. He is clearly depicted as a man after God's own heart; yet also depicts a man, with a mind and soul just like ours, with the same passions, and problems of life.

1 Samuel 27:1 (KJV)

 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me(,) to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.

This is David's second excursion into the land of the Philistines, his enemies. It is not an excursion that Christian should make, nor is it a place for any Christian to be. The Philistines are haters of God's people, and war against them all day long:

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Psalm 2:1 (KJV)

Before looking at the passage pertaining to Ziklag, first look at 1 Samuel 21.

1 Samuel 21:10 (KJV)

And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.

Note that this is the first time that David is in fear:

He is unafraid when he is anointed king of Israel at the time the Lord rejected Saul.

He is unafraid when he goes forth and kills Goliath. In boldness he utters:

… who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 1 Samuel 17:26 (KJV)

He is unafraid when he goes out and slaughters thousands of Philistines; of which Saul becomes mightily jealous (1 Samuel 18:29), yet David behaves wisely (1 Sam 18:14). At this point Saul is afraid but David trusts in the Lord.

Saul tries to kill David and persecutes him in 1 Samuel 19, yet his trust is in the Lord.

Saul tries again to kill David, 1 Samuel 20 (Jonathan, the lad and the bow & arrows). David flees (v. 42) with no word of being afraid.

David, starving, takes the show bread for food (1 Samuel 21). (There is an illustration in this action that is worth meditating on - even Jesus commented on it).

David retrieves Goliath's sword (1 Samuel 21:9) but does not remember the time he faced the champion in the might of the Lord and won. But he comes to this point in time, drops his guard, takes his eyes of his Lord, and becomes afraid - he flees to Gath.


Is where Goliath, the enemy of Israel came from (1 Samuel 17:4).

The city was one of five royal cities of the Philistines, the city on which the Ark of the Covenant brought calamity. (1 Samuel 5)

A changed behaviour

David takes himself out of the hands of the Lord, and places himself into the hands Achish (meaning anger) (1 Samuel 21:10).

He places himself in the midst of his and God's enemies.

Remember that Canaan was given Israel when the fullness of their sins was complete, and as part of Gods righteousness, judgement was to befall the land in that Israel was instructed to:

… drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their moulded images, and demolish all their high places; Numbers 33:52 (NKJV)

The Philistines recognises him for who he is (1 Samuel 21:11).

The world knows exactly what a Christian represents.

The Christian then has two choices - be rejected or change his behaviour.

David choses the latter - he changes his behaviour, and becomes like a madman (1 Samuel 21:13).

If one departs the dependency of God, ones behaviour must change.

But a saint should, indeed it is imperative, that he maintains dignity that flows from the consciousness of the presence of God[1].

The life of a Christian must demonstrate the distinction of being under grace, that is, being a child of God; being not of this world and being not subservient to the prince of darkness - but being in the light with a truly visible testimony.

When faith gives way there cannot be a testimony of any worth - it is utterly dead.

To the world (the enemies of God) a man of faith who puts aside his faith is despised as a madman[2]. He cannot be in two camps at once.

Hence we see David denying his kingship, becoming a fool - an "unhappy fugitive"[3].

The is always danger when the saint seeks the world for protection, because in the circus of life, the world can but make one put aside ones faith in God. It can do no other. It will demand dependence on the things that grow old, rust and gather mould.

The flesh and the spirit cannot be made "twain one", because there is enmity between the two. Indeed the world will rejoice when the flesh wins out.

The fool departs

1 Samuel 22:1 (KJV) David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him.

What a relief to the reader. The anointed one of God, with no doubt anguish of soul, departs thence.

It is clear that the Providence of God tears David away from this situation and sets him up in the wilderness.

David clearly looked back on this experience and realized the foolishness of it when he writes Psalm 34.

Psalm 34

A psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.

1        I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2        My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, …
4        I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

6        This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7        The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

19      any are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

The life of David 1 Samuel 22 - 27

The life of David after this episode is truly instructive, but will not be entered into here. But we can see a picture of our Lord, rejected, encompassed about on all sides, but in complete communion with His Father. We see a man who trusts in the Lord, and seeks His face.

The narrative also demonstrates that a Christian recognizes the authority which God has established, even if the authority is his deepest enemy. Saul was not to be killed (1 Sam 24 etc), noting that it is his heart that reproaches him, not his conscience. This is similar to Jesus accepting the Roman authority, although he had on hand 12,000 Angels. The cutting off of part of Saul's garment demonstrates the character of the servant Saul is dealing with.

Of course, in these chapters we have the beautiful story of Abigail. David falls into the danger of avenging himself (1 Samuel 25:26), out of a natural heart. For it is the natural heart that desires vengeance, but he clearly learns, articulated in Psalm 35 "They reward me evil for good", "they speak not peace".. but wants the Lord to deal with them "Let destruction come upon him unawares" and as expressed to Abigail. "hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand" (32).


1 Samuel 27:1 (KJV)

And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.

David's thought of heart is false and leads to a perilous position.

As Spurgeon could say:

"The thought of David's heart at this time was a false thought, because he certainly had no ground for thinking that God's anointing him by Samuel was intended to be left as an empty unmeaning act."[4]

We tend to forget the blessings we have been promised. The death of Jesus on the cross is not some empty meaningless act that is not going to be acted upon. God did not allow His own Son to die and not expect to fulfil the promises he gave - that we will be with Him some day. Abraham also forgot his promise as well.

Not once in all the perilous positions David had been, had God not delivered him - yet here he forgets all.

David flees to Gath, the same place he ended up mad. (Whether his is the same Achish as in 1 Sam 21:10, is unknown, but it is possible that is was, since David flees to him, perhaps because he knew him).

David seeks a place to settle down, with his two wives and 600 men (v. 5).

He is given Ziklag - perhaps meaning "odds and ends" or "wingdings", (which becomes a possession of Judah in due course). The city was one of 29 towns assigned to the tribe of Simeon. (Joshua 15 & 19).

David dwells there 1 year and 4 months (v. 7).

He dupes the Philistines that he is an enemy of Israel, goes out raiding various tribes (mindful that unlike the Philistines, these tribes are actually blood relations of Israel). He acts as a deceiver, which leads to his undoing. Hence David aligns himself to the Philistines (1 Sam 28:1-2) and disengages himself from God.

The Philistines amount a war effort and intend attacking Israel (1 Sam 29), prior to which is a military parade, onto which the troops of David are attached.

David is drawn in to join his enemies to fight against the armies of the living God! This is a most remarkable position for the man who killed Goliath, the hero of these enemies of God, to be in. Beware Christian, this is where Satan would like you to be, in a position to attack the God himself - to attack the Church, for what better ammunition than the church attacking itself. This is why there is an utter mess over the role of women, the role of marriage, homosexuality and all that accompanies it.

The Philistine war-lords see exactly who David is and demand that he is removed - for he will, as they say:

Philistines said to him, "Make this fellow return, that he may go back to the place which you have appointed for him… Is this not David, of whom they sang to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?" (1 Sam 29:4).

Note that at verse 6 the Philistines know exactly who the Lord God is, where the heathen accommodates the inner faithfulness of David.

There must have been a flush of shame here for David, to be reminded by the enemies of God and what God had set him out to do - that is, to deal with God's enemies the Philistines, yet he does not exactly acquiesce. He continues to deceive, not making clear that the enemies of Achish were not the enemies of David - for the enemies of Achish was Israel, of which David was anointed King.

David was indeed in a perilous situation, but we find a marvellous unexpected and wonderful release, providenced by God, a release from a situation caused by the lamentable faithlessness of His servant.

A Christian can no more fight against his own brothers and sisters in the Lord, than David could fight against his. What a position he had placed himself - on thin ice covering a crevasse!

Perhaps the following came to him:

Psalm 103:1-3 (KJV) Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

David on his return to Ziklag finds the city routed by the Amalekites with his two wives taken captive - the exact opposite he had set out to do at 1 Samual 17:1.

David deeply mourns his folly (4). Clearly these are tears of anger, along with tears of remorse of repentance.

It is not too not far fetched to see that David was deeply distressed (v. 6).

But David "encouraged himself in the LORD his God": "Yehovah, Elohiym".

Hence, in the strength of the Lord (8) he sets about retrieving his wives and the lost property.

(The narrative of how David divided the spoil is also instruction, and should be carefully read).

Protection of the world - what it really is

David clearly got back to full steam after his initial excursion into the land of his enemies - see 1 Samuel 10. But a man who is "full-steam ahead" who is out of fellowship with the Lord cannot not maintain his position.

At no time did the Lord leave David in a perilous position - in hard positions, yes; in difficult positions, yes; but not in perilous positions. It was David himself that placed himself into that perilous position - as distinct from God placing him there. Yet by the grace of God, it was God that saved him from the perilous position.

Here we see the King of Israel being made "a keeper of mine head for ever". What a position to find the King in.

He slips out of the narrow way of faith and runs into the widest extremes. What we all need is Psalm 119:116.

Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.

David is free from the attacks of Saul - the world can be safe for a time, but it is not place for a Christian. It torments the soul, it causes us to deny who we belong to: we have to pretend that we are enemies of the very Friend we have.

Free from attacks but separated from God - out of trial means out of blessing.

It is far better to be exposed to attack and enjoy the protection of God than hide for a temporary period from attack and in foolishness accept the protection of the world, which it cannot offer.

We need to watch those by-roads

Abraham escaped to Egypt and nearly looses his wife by not being truthful - why did he not realise that God would protect Sarah as much as He was protecting Abraham?

We see Ziklag for David.

We see for Christian on his journey, in Pilgrim's Progress, take a by-path that leads him and Hopeful into a broad meadow that looked easy. The story tells us how they catch-up with Vain Confidence who falls into a deep pit[5]. The meadow was a trap.

By-roads only lead to the broad way, which leads to destruction.

The unpleasant situation that David was placed, due to his wilfulness, is clearly punishment, as it was for Abraham. But the evidence of the wilfulness is heightened with the sacking of Ziklag.

"Seeking a better country"

Hebrews 11:14 (KJV) For they [those in the hall of faith] that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

Those of faith seek a better country - they do not turn back to the world. They do not return to the world from whence they came.

This glorifies God

Note how the Lord allows this to happen - as David could write:

Psalm 32:9 (KJV) Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.

The Grace of God

  It is God in His providence, using the warlords of the Philistines to eject David from the dangerous position he had put himself.

  The world cannot confide in a man of God.

  The saint out of communion will not be accepted by the world. A saint in communium need not seek solace with the world.

  David could only act in his true character, as a slayer of 10,000's which was clearly recognized by the Philistines.

  It is God who orchestrates David ejection. David seemed to have no game plan other than to make himself as insignificant as possible - placing himself at the back-end of the military parade, (1 Sam 29:2).

  It is the grace of God that saves David, and David clearly learns from it.

Psalm 32

A Psalm of David, Maschil.

1        Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2        Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
3        When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
4        For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.
5        I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
6        For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
7        Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
8        I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
9        Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
10      Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
11      Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

What we learn from Ziklag

Do not trust your own understanding.

Understand fully and take to heart: "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt 28:20).

We will go through many trials, but let it not be forgotten, we will get to the other side, because God will be with us.

However, don't think you will not have trials. This is life. The life of a Christian will be gloriously difficult, but the difficulty does not make us faint - it stirs up everyone[6]. Because without testing we are not proved.

Too often a Christina prays for a nice easy life. This is not reality. We need to pray that we will not step back into self reliance.

The world is no place for safety, for it can but reject a saint - it can do no other. It will demand you change, and to fight God himself.

Psalm 56

Be merciful unto me, O God…
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
… God I have put my trust; …
Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?

[1] CH McIntosh, "The Life and Times of David: Ziklag"

[2]  It may have been possible that the madness that David feigns is actually real, as a reminder by God, that His king had no place seeking shelter amongst his enemies. Some debate this, but to my mind this may entirely be so. The acute agony David would have felt, in fleeing Saul, leaving all communion with the One he had a deep relation with, is not some imagined or conjured trick. The choice when he come to his senses would have appeared total repulsive and his soul rejected it: the visible evidence being his madness.

[3] Krummacher, FW "David. King of Israel", Kregel.

[4] Spurgeon, "Morning and Evening" October 17, Morning.

[5] John Bunyan Part 1, Stage 7.

[6] Chambers, O "My utmost for His Highest, July 7.

David Simon July 2005 (NVBF)
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Edited 23 April 2012