David’s life as a fugitive was marked by ups and downs, but because his heart was turned toward God, his trials would mold him spiritually and prepare him to lead a nation. Because Saul had turned away from God, his experiences only drove him to greater despair and evil.
As chapter 25 opens, we are given the sad news of the death of God’s faithful prophet, Samuel. The impact of his death echoes throughout Israel and certainly affects David. We can almost feel the sadness in David as we read in verse 1 that he “rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran.”
Now verse 2 introduces us to a wealthy man named Nabal. His name literally means “fool,” and he’s going to live up to his name.
There could not be a more mismatched couple than Nabal and his sweet wife, Abigail. She is described in verse 3 as “discerning and beautiful.” Her later actions reveal she has a love for God as well.
David and his men have been unofficially protecting Nabal’s shepherds, according to verse 16. But when David eventually sends messengers to Nabal asking for some food, Nabal insults them and implies that David is a traitor to King Saul.
Well, that does it. David tells him men in verse 13, “Every man strap on his sword.”
Now David refused to kill Saul; but now he’s determined to wipe out an entire clan because he’s been insulted. David has handled some pretty big tests in life, but he’s about to fail in this one.
When Nabal’s wife hears that David is marching toward their home, she springs into action in verse 18. She loads up donkeys with “two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared . . . clusters of raisins and . . . cakes of figs.”
When she intercepts David and his army, Abigail delivers one of the most tactful speeches in Scripture. In verse 25 she admits that her husband is a foolish man, but she then urges David not to take matters into his own hands. She says here in verse 30:
“When the Lord has done . . . all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, [you] shall have no . . . pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause.”
In other words, “David, God has great things planned for you; don’t ruin it all over my foolish husband.”
Well, David is impressed and humbled, and he turns back. When Abigail returns home and the next day tells her husband what happened, he has some kind of stroke and ten days later he dies (verse 38).
Not long after that, David proposes marriage to Abigail, and she agrees. But before the wedding is barely over, here in chapter 26, Saul is after David again.
One night David and two of his men sneak into Saul’s camp. Once again, David can easily kill his chief enemy, who is fast asleep. Instead, David takes Saul’s spear and water jar and leaves. He says in verse 11, “The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.”
Once David and his men reach a hilltop some distance away, David shouts out and wakes up the camp and informs Saul of what just happened. Again, Saul makes a show of an apology, but this time David is not fooled. He knows Saul is not going to give up.
In fact, as we come to chapter 27, David is exhausted and discouraged; and he decides to go back to the Philistine city of Gath and hide out. Notice that David makes this decision without talking to God. He is frankly tired of running and wrongly assumes that God has gone on vacation somewhere in the universe.
Verse 2 tells us David and his men go to “Achish . . . king of Gath.” You might remember the last time David showed up here he had to act like he was insane in order to escape. But not this time. The king knows David has been running from Saul, and he assumes David and his men have defected from Israel’s army.
So, Achish gives David the town of Ziklag to live in (verse 6). And from there, David and his men conduct raids against other enemies of Israel, all the while telling King Achish they are fighting against Israel. David is playing with fire here.
Chapter 28 opens with the Philistine army gathering for a major campaign against Israel. King Achish expects David and his men to join him. We will learn later that in God’s providence, the other Philistine generals oppose David’s participation, which probably saves David’s life.
At this point, Saul gathers his army and verse 5 tells us, “He was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.” In desperation, Saul seeks guidance from the Lord, but God is silent. Of course He is; Saul hasn’t listened to God for years.
So, Saul tells his servants in verse 7, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may . . . inquire of her.” This is in direct defiance of God’s command back in Leviticus 19:31. Mediums and necromancers were those who sought to make contact with the spirit world in order to obtain information about the future.
Saul disguises himself as he goes to meet a witch, essentially, an occultic practitioner, living in the nearby village of En-dor. At first she doesn’t recognize Saul, and she reminds him that mediums are forbidden in Israel. She’s afraid she will be turned in.
Saul tells her in verse 10: “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” Isn’t it fascinating that Saul uses the name of the Lord, even as he is defying the Lord.
Now Saul tells this medium he wants to make a spirit connection with Samuel (verse 11). And to her total shock, Samuel appears to her. Then Saul explains to Samuel in verse 15:
“I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more . . . Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.”
Now this is a really strange event here. Some have sought to explain it away as deception or even a demon masquerading as Samuel. I think the best explanation is to take this passage at face value—Samuel actually appears, as the Bible says. And this woman’s surprise reveals she has no power to make it happen!
But why would God allow this? I believe this is a moment of vindication for the prophet Samuel, whom Saul has ignored for decades, But it is also a moment of revelation. There is indeed life after death; and God alone, not some medium or anyone else, has the power to control the spirit world.
Samuel’s final words to Saul are found here in verse 19: “Tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.” You will notice that Samuel never answers Saul’s question about what he should do; he tells Saul what God is going to do. The cold hard truth that he and his sons are going to die the next day causes Saul to fall down—not in repentance, but in fear.
Beloved, every single day, millions of people are consulting horoscopes, mediums, and palm readers because they are desperate for answers. But just like King Saul, they are rejecting the Lord of life—of everlasting life—and His word He’s given to us.
They are eagerly pursuing any knowledge they can, except the knowledge of the gospel and the truth about Jesus Christ. What they need to do—and what we invite them to do—is to fall to their knees and repent of their sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ before it is forever too late.