God’s Relentless Favor

In the previous passage, we saw that nothing we do can throw off God’s salvation or plan for our lives. Today, we are encouraged as we see this truth continue to play out in the story. God favors His people, and His favor is relentless.

1 Samuel 22:1-10

So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.

And David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother come and stay with you until I know what God will do for me.”

Then he left them with the king of Moab; and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.

The prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.

Then Saul heard that David and the men who were with him had been discovered. Now Saul was sitting in Gibeah, under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him.

Saul said to his servants who stood around him, “Hear now, O Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse also give to all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? For all of you have conspired against me so that there is no one who discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you who is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me to lie in ambush, as it is this day.”

Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing by the servants of Saul, said, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. He inquired of the Lord for him, gave him provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

David becomes captain (v. 1-5)

So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.

Remember the previous passage? David is fleeing because he fears for his life. His fear caused him to break God’s Law. He led a priest to sin for him. David even acted like a crazy person when someone else recognized him as king. He is, at this point, a faithless man sinning against God and denying God’s plan for his life—that he will be king (Cf. 15:28; 16). After David has done everything possible to show his incompetence and after he has rejected the kingly title, many of the Israelites who were in distress, debt, and discontent found him cowering in a cave and decided to follow him—about 400 men including David’s brothers. Oodelolly, oodelolly; Golly what a day! The cave was on the outskirts of Addulam, a city east of Gath in Judah (Cf. Joshua 15:35).

And David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother come and stay with you until I know what God will do for me.”
Then he left them with the king of Moab; and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.
The prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.

David travelled with his band of merry men to Mizpah of Moab to leave his mother and father there until God finishes whatever work He is about to do. Moab is on the Southeast side of the Dead Sea, outside of Israel. The king of Moab is the first ally David makes outside of Israel during his prolonged coup. David recognizes that God is working this together. Why else would a group of people show up at a cave to follow a crazy person? David knows God’s plan and sees God working that plan together despite his sin and incompetence.

David goes back to the cave, which is now being called a stronghold, and is instructed by the prophet, Gad, to go into the land of Judah. Since Addulam is in Judah, we can understand that David is being instructed to go farther into Judah. So, he barely marches farther into Judah—into the forest that borders Addulam.

Saul’s superiority complex (v. 6-10)

Then Saul heard that David and the men who were with him had been discovered. Now Saul was sitting in Gibeah, under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him.

Saul said to his servants who stood around him, “Hear now, O Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse also give to all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? For all of you have conspired against me so that there is no one who discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you who is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me to lie in ambush, as it is this day.”

If we remember all the way back to 1 Samuel 9, when Saul first comes into the story, we considered the blessing and curse tradition coming from Genesis 49. When Jacob was about to die, he revealed to his sons what would befall them. To Judah, he said,

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine,

And his teeth white from milk (Genesis 49:8-12).

Of Benjamin, he said,

Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil (Genesis 49:27).

David is in the tribe of Judah, and Saul is a Benjamite. At this juncture in the story, we see the Jewish blessing begin to take hold. David is traveling into Judah with an army that followed him because of nothing he did. Saul, like a ravenous wolf, will fight and fight to keep from praising David or being defeated by Him. Everything that is happening, here, follows the blessing and curse tradition of Genesis 49. Saul even ravages his own tribesman with guilt.

Those men whose basic needs were not being met joined David and rejected Saul. Not only did Saul give in to his pride in such a way that he forgot he was a servant to the people and to God, but the people were still looking to the wrong person to be satisfied. It remained true, as it was through Israel’s history, that the people had rejected God as king. Let us not look for satisfaction with human leaders (including our pastors). God is the only one who can save us and satisfy us forever. 

Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing by the servants of Saul, said, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. He inquired of the Lord for him, gave him provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
Doeg, who was detained before the Lord while David was at Nob (21:7) testified to Saul about what he saw while he was detained.

Saul feels entitled to the throne, so entitled that he has his spear in his hand ready for war. David was running, sinning, and showing his incompetence. Yet, God is working things together such that people are discontent with Saul and are beginning to flee to David. Saul does everything he can to keep the ritual law while David seems to disregard the ritual law altogether. Yet, God favors David. He is delivering David. He is establishing David as king despite the fact that David has not been willfully cooperating. There are two interesting questions that come out of this part of the narrative. (1) Does God require our cooperation to save us, sanctify us, or establish us in the places He has for us? (2) Since God obviously favors some people (e.g. David) and not others (e.g. Saul), how do we read those verses of Scripture that tell us God is impartial and instruct us to be impartial?

1. Must we cooperate with God? This question has been the crux of theological debate for centuries. Synergistic doctrine insists that the human person must cooperate with God by contributing something in salvation, sanctification, and service. Monergistic doctrine insists that God does 100 percent of the work in our salvation, sanctification, and service. We know that God causes all things to work together (Cf. Romans 8:28) and that all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him (Cf. Romans 11:36). How does the human condition relate to God’s providence? Paul will write to those who have been saved by Christ in Ephesians 2:1-10,

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

We begin as people dead in our trespasses, unable to overcome our own nature. But God makes His people alive despite our inability, our total depravity. We are not saved of ourselves by our works; We are saved in spite of our unrighteousness by grace alone. Our works, prayers, and wealth do not move God. He moves us according to His will alone. We are His workmanship. We can never move or persuade God by our deeds; Instead, He moves us to the deeds that honor Him after He brings our dead souls to life. Monergism follows from God’s immutability and sovereignty and the lordship of Jesus Christ. Scripture is consistent in its message—God moves us and we cannot move Him. As we have seen through 1 Samuel, God will not change His mind—even in response to human religion or prayers (Cf. 15:29). No wonder God’s favor toward David is so relentless. No wonder we can hold fast to God’s relentless favor, knowing that even if we are faithless He is faithful because He cannot deny Himself (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

2. How is God impartial? How is God’s relentless favor not a form of partiality? He is partial to David in this story. Here, we recognize a common misappropriation of Scripture. People will say something like, “God doesn’t play favorites and you shouldn’t either,” in order to guilt-trip someone who appears to be showing some form of favoritism. Through Scripture, God favors His elect people and does not favor His enemies. That is favoritism. Are the Scriptures incoherent when they claim that God does not show favoritism or partiality (Cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:19; 1 Peter 1:17; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25; Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:9; Galatians 2:6)? When Scripture refers to God’s impartiality, it does so concerning His just judgment. God must reveal His wrath against sin regardless of a person’s status, ethnicity, works, or wealth. I encourage you to go check the above references and see for yourself. That is why a substitutionary atonement is necessary. God must reveal His wrath. If He is going to pass over anyone’s sins, His wrath must still be revealed against that person’s sin. So, He imputed the sins of His chosen people to Christ and revealed His wrath against Christ on the cross. It is not the case that God will not love some and hate others (Cf. Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:13). It is not the case that God will not favor some over others like we read about in this passage. It is the case that God will always judge justly.

Our partiality, then, is modeled after God’s. I can favor gathering with the body of Christ over doing other things. I can favor time with my spouse and son over time with other people. In the same way that Christ favored discipling the twelve and Moses invested in the judges of Israel (Exodus 18), so I can and should favor training a few and trusting those few to favor training some others. We are never instructed in Scripture to avoid having a favorite somebody or something. When we are instructed not to show partiality, that command also concerns just judgment (Cf. Leviticus 19:15-18; James 2:1-7). 

So, God does not break His own Law when He favors those He has chosen for Himself and when He gives people their positions in His kingdom, as part of His body. God’s favor for His chosen people is relentless. We can’t outrun, outwit, or outmaneuver the Lord God. No one can. Honestly, this is one of the most comforting doctrines Scripture teaches.

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