Cloudy Days and Dark Nights | 1 Samuel 27
The Pilgrim's Progress, a literary classic, was written by John Bunyan while he was in prison for preaching the gospel without a license. It is an allegory of the Christian life. In his book he teaches his readers how to handle cloudy days and dark nights through a pilgrim named Christian.
While travelling to the Celestial City, Christian falls into a bog, a deep miry muddy hole called the Slough of Despond. His loyal friend and travelling companion, Pliable, finds his way out and goes home and leaves Christian to struggle alone in the slough. As he struggles, he cries for help and finally the Holy Spirit comes and pulls his out of the Slough of Despond. The Holy Spirit sets Christian on his feet and wipes the slime of despondency off his brow.
Each of us spend time in that muddy hole. We have times when we see no hope and we are tempted to give up. We have times when we can't see past the clouds in the sky. It seems that the more we do to try to come out of the muddy hole the further down we sink. Even though there is nothing morally, ethically or spiritually wrong with feeling the deep pangs of despair, it's when we try to find our own way out that we have problems. It's like a corkscrew, the harder we try with our own resources the further down we go.
David certainly had times like these. In I Samuel 27 we find an episode of disobedience in his life. He was down, again. This time he tried to find his own way out and ran for cover in the enemy camp. What did he do that we need to avoid? How can we prevent falling deeper and deeper in the muck and mire of the cloudy days and dark nights? We do not have to dash toward disobedience.
David's dash toward disobedience started with distorting thinking. The Bible says out of the heart comes the issues of life. David's mind was distorted. He only saw his perspective.
David was on a roller coaster high. Twice he could have killed Saul and twice he passed the chance by. He wanted to kill Nabal but was talked out of it by Abigail. He was feeling righteous and victorious. He was vulnerable to self's seductive voice.
There is nothing wrong with talking to yourself. Just make sure that what you respond to are the right things. David responded to the wrong things that he was saying to himself. All he could see was a wall. Not once in this chapter does he seek God's perspective and advice.
His reasoning was clouded with pessimism. He had his paintbrush out and he was painting his horizon black. All the people who had had influence in his life had said positive things about his future. Samuel anointed David to be King of Israel one day. Jonathan who was supposed to be king said to David, "You are next in line to the throne." Abigail, his new bride, knew that David would be king. Even his enemy, Saul had once said, "I know that I am looking at my replacement." David, pious hero on the outside, was a pouting doubter on the inside. He felt that one day he would die at the hands of Saul.
His logic was strictly rational. He could think of nothing better to do than to go with the enemy. He says:
There is nothing better for me to do than that I should speedily escape in the land of the Philistines, and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any border of Israel. So shall I escape out of his hand. (I Samuel 27:1c)
This story is a perfect example of destruction beginning with what we think. Every sin that is committed begins with our thinking. No murder has been committed without first being thought about. No harsh word has ever been spoken that was not first thought.
David's dash toward disobedience had some serious consequences.
He brought others with him. Maybe he didn't invite them but they came. All 600 of them. He had trained them and they looked up to him and followed him.
Who are you bringing with you? No one lives unto themselves, nor dies to themselves, nor sins to themselves. Like David, we have a circle of people who follow our lead. We will be accountable for how we took that responsibility.
He had a false sense of security. Disobedience should bring remorse, but more often it brings exhilaration. That's how David felt. Saul called off the search for David and when he did I am sure David let out one huge sigh of relief. True, sin has its pleasures, but they are passing. David felt safe in Philistia but destruction was around the corner. When we are disobedient we will think everything is all right when in fact it isn't.
He went through a period of compromise. The longer he splashed around in the bog the less he wanted to get out. He spent sixteen months in Philistia and in that period of time no psalms were ever written.
Mullah, an ancient Persian humorist, and his son were walking down a road with their donkey grazing in front of them. As they walked they would pass various groups of people. One man said, "Look how foolish they are, walking instead of riding their donkey!" Hearing the remark of the man, Mullah and his son got on the donkey and rode it to the next village. As they entered the village a woman shouted, "They ought to be ashamed making that Donkey carry two riders!" Hearing these words Mullah dismounted and let his son ride the donkey. As they continued to travel another woman said, "Poor old man. That boy should be ashamed making his father walk while he rides the donkey. So mullah gets on the donkey and his son walks. They continued on their journey and another man shouted, "Look at that old man riding while he make his son walk!" Mullah rubbed his beard and said, "You can't please any of the people all the time." Then he picked up the donkey carried it the rest of the journey. Compromise is a common result of disobedience.
Duplicity, vagueness and secrecy became a part of David's life. David couldn't see the storm brewing. The clouds became darker and darker. Soon David was knee deep in muddy mistakes. He was Israelite at heart but had to act like a Philistine.
David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines. (I Samuel 27:11)
David's dash toward disobedience brought destruction. He finally had his secrets found out. He could no longer compromise and be an Israelite.
David was displaced. He was neither Israelite nor Philistine. He had fooled Achish but not his commanders.
And the commanders of Philistia were angry with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto Achish, Make this fellow return, that he may go to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down into battle, lest he become our adversary. (I Samuel 29:4)
He was distrusted and in distress. David was sinking deeper and deeper. David was at the bottom. What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.
David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him. Because the soul of the people was grieved. (I Samuel 29:6)
Fortunately David's destruction was not final. He finally pulled back the cloud and saw God standing, waiting patiently. The text says that David encouraged himself in the Lord.
How about it? Have your tired feet slipped and slid into despair because you have tried to manage your life without God? Have you lived the last few days, weeks or months as if there were no God? David would say "You don't have to have cloudy days and dark nights any longer. Pull back the clouds and look to God for help!"