1 Samuel 29:3
The commanders of the Philistines asked, "What about these Hebrews?" Achish replied, "Is this not David, the servant of King Saul of Israel? He has been with me all these days, even years, and from the day he defected until today I have found no fault in him."
One Question with Two MeaningsA. Maclaren, D. D.1 Samuel 29:3
What Doest Thou Here?Alexander Maclaren1 Samuel 29:3
A Good Man in Bad CompanyB. Dale 1 Samuel 29:1-11
AchishB. Dale 1 Samuel 29:1-11
What a dilemma for David! He could not refuse the confidence he had sought from Achish. He could not renounce the allegiance he had so recently pledged. If he should disobey the king of Gath, he could look for nothing but indignant reproach and a traitor's doom. If he should obey him, he would, in course of a few days, be fighting against his own nation, and bringing them again under the yoke of the Philistines; and this would be worse than death. Perplexed and reluctant, he marched in the rear of the invading army, suffering inwardly all the more that he was obliged to hide his unwillingness, and to affect a zeal against Israel which his heart disowned. See in this story -

I. THE ILLUSTRATION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. While David wrought himself into a most critical position, and an apparently fatal embroilment with the Philistines, the Lord wrought wonderfully through the very errors of his servant, so as to preserve him in safety, and open his way to a higher destiny. It was well appointed that he should be out of the land of Israel at this time, so that he should neither hasten nor hinder the discomfiture of Saul, and that the Philistines should give him shelter, and yet not involve him in the crime of desolating and enslaving his native land. How to escape from the dilemma in which he was caught baffled even David's ready mind; but the Lord always knows how to deliver. He does so through means and agencies that are natural; in this case through the very natural jealousy of the Philistine lords, and their proper military prudence, objecting to have the person of the king intrusted to the keeping of a band of Israelites, and that band commanded by a skilful and daring captain in the rear of their army, where their defection would be most dangerous. "The lords favour thee not," said Achish. And, like our kings in old times, who durst not disregard the voice of the barons, Achish intimated to David that it was best for him to retire from the army. David was quite acute enough to see the advantage which the Philistine chiefs were unwittingly conferring upon him. They, as his enemies, helped him out of the dilemma in which he had been placed by Achish, his friend. Such things are not infrequent in the providence of God. Often a man's enemies open to him the way out of great difficulty. Disfavour is shown, or a sharp word spoken, and it turns out a great advantage. The wrath of opponents or rivals may act as so much dynamite to explode a rock of obstruction which friendly hands cannot remove, and so to clear the path of deliverance.

II. THE ILLUSTRATION OF HUMAN LIFE. See how a man may fall through want of moral firmness into a false position utterly unworthy of his character. It was, as respects David's integrity, unfortunate that he found such favour with the Philistine king. It is always a misfortune to be successful in the beginning of wrong doing, for it soothes the conscience and leads one on to compromise himself more deeply. And one false step leads to another. David's unbelief led him into a course of deceit and dissimulation from which he saw no way of escape, and every day drew him further into a position which was false and unworthy. It is a story full of admonition and warning. One may easily let himself into a trap from which he cannot let himself out. One may take a false step, which involves another and another, till there is a course of deflection. An object is gained, but in the success the conscience is soiled; and then the penalty is that one is compelled to act out the part he has assumed, to go on in the way on which he only meant to venture for a time and for a purpose. He thought to do a questionable thing and then return to his integrity; but lo! he is in a maze, and cannot find the way out. The gain which he sought turns out to be a loss; the favour which he craftily won proves to be a burden and a danger; and there is no remedy. It is very unsafe to possess great powers of deception. David had them, and they nearly ruined him. But the experience through which he passed taught him to abhor deceit, and to desire, what God desires, truth in the inward parts. For proof of this see Psalm 15:1, 2; Psalm 34:12, 13; Psalm 51:6. Mark, too, how he appeals to the God of truth, and, ashamed of his own unveracity in certain passages of his early life, puts all his dependence in his later years on the veracity and faithfulness of God, who has made with him an "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure" (see 2 Samuel 23:5; Psalm 25:10; Psalm 31:5). The security of our salvation rests not on our tenacity of faith, but on the truth of God our Saviour. He cannot lie. The Son of David, our Prince of life, is faithful and true; and he who is our God in Christ Jesus will never fail those who rely on his word. "Yet he abideth faithful;. he cannot deny himself." - F.

What do these Hebrews here?
David was almost at the lowest point of his fortunes when he fled into foreign territory. The Philistine commanders, very naturally, were suspicious of these allies, just as Englishmen would have been if, the night before Waterloo, a brigade of Frenchmen had deserted and offered their help to fight, Napoleon. So the question, "What, do these Hebrews here?" — amongst our ranks — was an extremely natural one, and it was answered in the only possible way, by the subsequent departure of David and his men from the unnatural and ill-omened alliance. Now, that suggests to us that Christian people are out of their places, even in the eyes of worldly people, when they are fighting shoulder to shoulder with them in certain causes; and it suggests the propriety of keeping apart. "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." "What do these Hebrews here?" is a question that, Philistia often asks. But now turn to the other question. Elijah had fallen into the mood of depression which so often follows great nervous tension. The usually undaunted prophet, in the reaction after the great effort, was fearful for his life, and deserted his work, and flung himself into solitude, and shook the dust off his feet against Israel. Was that not just doing what I have been saying that Christian people ought to do — separating himself from the world? In a sense yes, and the voice came, "What dost thou here, Elijah?" "Go back to your work; to Ahab, to Jezebel." "Go back to death if need be. Do not shirk your duty on the pretence of separating yourself from the world." So we put the two questions together. They limit one another, and they suggest the via media, the course between, and lead me to say one or two plain things about that duty of Christian separation from an evil world.

I. The first thing I would suggest to you is THE INEVITABLE INTERMINGLING, WHICH IS THE LAW OF GOD, AND THEREFORE CAN NEVER BE BROKEN WITH IMPUNITY. Christ's parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in the world being like a man that sowed good seed in his field, which sprung up intermingled with tares, contains the lesson, not so much of the purity or non-purity of the Church as of the inseparable intertwining in the world of Christian people with others. Society at present, and the earthly form of the Kingdom of God, are not organised on the basis of religious affinity, but upon a great many other things, such as family, kindred, business, a thousand ties of all sorts. There are types of Christian life today unwholesomely self-engrossed, and too much occupied with their own spiritual condition, to realize and discharge the duty of witnessing, in the world. Wherever you find a Christian man that tries more to keep himself apart, in the enjoyment and cultivation of his own religious life, than to fling himself into the midst of the world's worst evil, in order to fight and to cure it, you get a man who is sharing in Elijah's transgression, and needs Elijah's rebuke. The intermingling is inevitable in the present state of things.

II. And now let me say a word about the second thing, and that is — THE IMPERATIVE SEPARATION. "What do these Israelites here?" is the question. What do we do when we are left to do as we like? Where do we go? When the half-cwt. fastened by the bit of string is taken off the sapling it starts back to its original uprightedness. Is that what, your Christianity does? Let us look at the spirit. Where do I turn to? What do I like to do? Where are my chosen companions? What are my recreations? Is my life of such a sort as that the world will turn to ms and say, "What! you here!" "A man is known by the company he keeps," says an old Latin proverb, and I am bound to say that I do not think it is a good sign of the depth of a Christian professor's religion if he feels himself more at home in the company of the people that do not share his religion than in the company of those that do. There are two questions which every Christian professor ought to ask himself about such subjects. One is, Can I ask God to bless this, and my doing it? And the other is, Does this help or hinder my religion?

III. Now there is one last suggestion that I wish to make, and that is THE DOUBLE QUESTIONING THAT WE SHALL HAVE TO STAND. The lords of the Philistines said, "What do these Hebrews here?" They saw the inconsistency, if David and his men did not. They were sharp to detect it, and David and his band did not rise in their opinion. So let me tell you, you will neither recommend your religion nor yourselves to men of the world, by inconsistently trying to identify yourselves with them. The world respects an out-and-out Christian; and neither God nor the world respects an inconsistent one. But there is another question, and another questioner — "What dost, thou hers, Elijah?" That question is put to us all in the moment when we are truest to our professions and ourselves. What do you think you would say if, in some of these moments of unnecessary intermingling with questionable things and doubtful people, you were brought suddenly to this, that you had to formulate into some kind of plausibility your reason for being there? Let us cleave to Christ, and that will separate us from the world. If we cleave to the world, that will separate us from Christ.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.).

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