Imagine going for a drive in your car. At every intersection you make a decision. Making the right decision as to which direction to travel will determine whether you reach your destination or end up desperately lost.
Each day you and I make decisions that determine the course of our lives. Every decision carries with it some kind of consequence. What we choose to eat impacts our health and vitality, what we choose to purchase now will determine what we are able to do later, and how we choose to respond to others will impact how they respond to us.
Some decisions don’t seem like a big deal in the present but have major consequences in the future,
- The athlete who seeks and “edge” now through performance enhancing drugs may face disqualification or severe physical problems in the future as those substances eat away at their body.
- The person who needs a few drinks to “take the edge off” may end up addicted or abusive, or becoming a danger behind the wheel.
- The unmarried couple who give in to their passions may face pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, a sense of shame or a diminished ability to know intimacy with their spouse in the future.
This morning we want to learn about decisions and their consequences by looking at the life of David. As we turn to 1 Samuel 21 & 22 we see a different side to David. In these chapters David makes some decisions that result in some very unpleasant consequences.
David at Nob
After David was told by Jonathan that his dad (King Saul) was determined to kill him David went to the town of Nob. Nob was a city of the priests. It is believed by many that this is where the Tabernacle was housed before it was moved to Jerusalem in the time of David. David may have been drawn to Nob because it was where one could go to inquire of God. In 1 Samuel 22 it appears that David did inquire of God. What he inquired we don’t know.
When David arrived in town the guy in charge, a priest by the name of Ahimelech, was nervous. He was especially nervous because David was alone. I suspect it was like the nervousness you’d feel if an IRS agent came to your front door. It might mean nothing (they may just be asking for directions). . . but then again it might be something very unpleasant.
The priest asked David the purpose of his visit. David responded with a lie. He told Ahimelech that he was on urgent business for the King. Perhaps David lied because he thought it would protect the priest from charges of aiding and abetting a fugitive. It’s also possible that David may have lied because he felt it was the only way to get the food and weapon he desired.
As you read the account you see that one lie leads to another. David lied about his mission, he lied about having men waiting for him, and he lied about why he did not have a weapon. Once we start lying, we often have to keep lying. The more we lie, the easier it is to lie. Eventually we can lie without it even bothering us (then we can run for political office). David’s lies get him the bread and weapon he desired.
These lies may not have seemed like a big deal at the time. However, they brought tragic consequences. Within earshot of the conversation was a man identified as Doeg an Edomite. Doeg worked for the King. In chapter 22 we learn that sometime later Saul was ranting and raving about David and Doeg told Saul about the conversation David had with Ahimelech. In his paranoia Saul saw this as a great conspiracy against him. He summoned Ahimelech and his father’s entire family. When these priests arrived before Saul, he charged them with treason.
Ahimelech (unlike David) told Saul the truth,
“Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? 15 Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.” [1 Sam 22:14-15]
Saul was unmoved. He sentenced the entire family to death. Doeg was told to kill the 85 priests who were there that day. Saul also sent soldiers into Nob to kill everyone and everything including the children, infants, donkeys, cattle and sheep.
These things happened as a consequence of David’s action. David Payne identifies three reasons David was responsible for this crime,
- His deceit. David lied about what was going on. He led Ahimelech to do something he may not have done if he knew the truth.
- His selfishness. David was so wrapped up in his “needs” that he gave no thought to the danger he was incurring for the priest and his family. He later reported that when he saw Doeg he suspected he would report to Saul. David knew this but did nothing.
- His lack of faith in God. Rather than turn to God who had protected him in the past (he even did it miraculously when he was with Samuel), David relied on his own methods. Rather than seek God’s directive, he relied on his own “plan”.
David was guilty of trying to “help God”. Abraham and Sarah tried to help God when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. The result was a conflict between the descendents of Isaac (Israel) and Ishmael (the Arabs) that continues today. Jacob tried to help God by deceiving his father Isaac and the consequence was war between Israel and Edom (the descendents of his brother, Esau). Aaron tried to help God by building a Golden calf for the people to worship while Moses was on the mountain with God. The consequence was the death of thousands of Israelites. Moses tried to help God by striking the rock to get water for the people. Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land as a consequence. Anytime we try to “help God” by doing what is wrong, we make a serious mistake.
David at Gath
The story continues. From Nob David (the fugitive) went to King Achish in Gath (this was before the massacre at Nob! On first reading this may not mean anything to you. Gath was not only one of the cities of the Philistines; it was the hometown of Goliath! David had made a career of killing the Philistines. He had killed the hometown hero. He had killed and defiled 200 Philistines to win the hand of Michel. Now he walked into Gath wearing the distinctive sword of Goliath! What was he thinking?
Maybe David figured Gath would be the last place Saul would look for him. He was probably right! Did David think no one would recognize him? If so, he was wrong. The people seem to recognize him immediately. I think this is an example of David, once again, making an impulsive and wrong decision.
Psalm 56 was written during the time David was in Gath. The title of the Psalm says it was written “when the Philistines has seized him in Gath”. So it is possible that David came to hide out in Gath, he was discovered and arrested, and then brought to the King. Imagine how we would respond if Osama bin Laden came walking into the United States! I don’t think it would matter even if he said he came in peace or desired political asylum.
When David was brought before the King he had to think quickly. He pretended to be crazy. We are told he started clawing at the door and let saliva drip down his beard. It was an Oscar-worthy performance. The King pronounced him crazy. The only reason David wasn’t killed as because it was believed crazy people were possessed by a demon. If you killed the crazy person the demon might attack you!
David left town at first opportunity. I believe if David had first sought the Lord before he went to Gath, he would never have gone there. In this stressful time David lost sight of his true security. The same guy who stood in the power of God before Goliath with just a sling, now had to feign insanity to save his own life. He had forgotten what God can do. Though God had protected him through Jonathan, Michel, and Samuel, now David was alone and may have panicked a little.
Time when we are under great pressure put faith to the test. It is easy to be faithful when things are going well. The more pressure we face, the greater the temptation to rely on our “quick fixes” instead of trusting the Lord.
The question before us is pretty simple: How do we avoid making the same mistakes David made? How do we guard against decisions that have disastrous consequences? I think we can come up with four principles that can help us navigate through this difficult minefield.
First it is never right to do what is wrong. When we are doing what is wrong (lying, stealing, negotiating the Sabbath, gossiping, manipulating others or otherwise violating God’s commandments) we are NOT doing what God desires. God never requires our sin to accomplish His purposes. If your decision requires that you violate God’s truth in any way, your decision is not in God’s will for your life.
Did David have another other options? Of course he did. He could have told Ahimelech the truth privately and let him decide for himself; he could have returned to Samuel; or . . . wait for it . . . he could have trusted God to provide. The Lord God Almighty provided food for the Israelites for 40 years while they wandered in the desert! He could take care of his anointed King. This doesn’t mean David should do nothing . . .it means David should do what he could (without sinning) to meet his needs and then trust God for the rest. Here’s the bottom line: when we choose sin to “make things happen” we show we don’t really trust God.
I love the story of Eric Liddell. His story was told in the movie, Chariots of Fire. Eric was a sprinter from Scotland and the favorite to win the 1924 Olympics in the 100 meter race. His long-anticipated qualifying heat was scheduled on Sunday so he refused to run. He said it was more important to him to obey the Lord than to win the race. The Olympic Committee, countryman, and teammates put tremendous pressure on him but he refused to compromise in his obedience to God. Eventually, another man gave him his spot in the 400 meter race (which he won).
How many of us would have made the same decision? We might have justified running on Sunday by saying, “My teammates are depending on me” or “I have been training for this all my life” or “if I don’t do this I won’t be able to represent my country”. We face these decisions all the time.
- When pressured by friends to engage in illegal activity (shoplifting, cheating, drugs, underage drinking, lying to the police) to be accepted
- When pressured by a boyfriend or girlfriend to take part in immoral behavior to “prove our love”
- When pressured by an employer to look the other way regarding deceptive practices
- When pressured by time to cut corners
- When pressured by financial stress to try to make someone else pay for our mistake.
- When pressured to call in sick because we’d rather do something else.
When we make these choices we sell a piece of our soul. After we choose to negotiate God’s truth once, it gets easier and easier. Before long we are desperately lost and have no idea how to get home.
Before Any Decision we should ask, “At What Price?” If David had asked this question he might have considered the impact on Ahimelech or the reaction of the people in Gath.
Don’t miss the fact that Ahimelech also faced consequences. He was the good guy. He tried to help, he told the truth, and still died. Eric Liddell sought to honor God and was still disqualified from his race. Throughout history Christians refused to deny Christ; they made the right decision; but were still executed. Make no mistake. Sometimes the consequence of standing with God is not initially pleasant. Each of these people had to ask is it worth the price to deny the Lord (and the eternal blessing) in order to have some immediate pleasure?
Keep in mind that in most decisions there are immediate consequences, future consequences and eternal consequences. Let me give you some examples.
- A person that turns a blind eye to abuse in the home may have the immediate consequence of “peace” in their home. But the future consequences may be: escalated violence, a brutal retaliation, or dysfunctional relationships with others in the future. The eternal consequence may be that the one abused blames God and becomes hardened to the message of grace.
- A parent may see the immediate consequence of not involving their children in the church and youth programs as keeping their children happy or providing them the chance to be more active in other things. However the future consequence may be that a child concludes that serving God is not a priority so future decisions in High School and college will be based not on God’s standards but on the standards of the sinful world. The eternal consequence could be a disinterest in faith and result in our child spending eternity in Hell!
- Two people may view the immediate consequence of an adulterous relationship as pleasure and a “feeling of being alive”. The future consequence could be the loss of family, home, children, the destruction of your witness, the loss of respect from those who looked up to you and the continual justification of sin. The eternal consequence could be facing God’s judgment and the disillusionment of those who looked to you as an example of Christ.
Our challenge is to consider the various consequences of our words and actions before we speak or do them. Before acting we need to learn to consider the long term and eternal prices of such action.
It is Never too Late to Do what is right. In 1 Samuel 22:22 Ahimelech’s son, Abiathar (who may have been left behind to “take care of business” when the family was summoned to Saul)came to David. David said, “I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family.” David confessed his sin. David told Abiathar to stay with him and the men that had gathered around him. David could not bring Ahimelech back but he could protect Abiathar. And that is what he did.
As you read the Psalms written during this time you see David returning once again to the Lord. When David realized he had left God’s way he returned to the Lord. That’s the principle we must embrace: It is never too late to do what is right. It is never too late to once again line up our lives with the Word of God.
It may be time for you
- To admit a wrong you have done. You may need to contact someone from your past (a classmate, a family member, a former spouse) and confess your sin and ask for forgiveness. You may need to tell someone that you know that you hurt them and you are sorry you have done so.
- You may need to talk to a client you over-charged and make matters right
- You may need to re-examine your calendar or rethink your expenses
- You may need to admit a problem and make an appointment for counseling
- You may need to say “No” to the pressure of your friends so you can say “Yes” to God.
Failure does not need to be Final. David was a sinful man. He failed, he struggled, and he sometimes lost his focus and made the wrong turn. He was like us. This same man later became King of Israel. David was a “man after God’s own heart” not because he never failed, but because when he fell, he didn’t make excuses. Like a driver who has made the wrong turn, David turned around, admitted his lost state, and got back on the right road.
Do you sit here today feeling like a complete failure because of choices you have made? Do you feel that you are disqualified from God’s grace and the joy of His presence because of what you have done in the past? Before you can move forward, you must face the consequences of your actions. Admit your sin and acknowledge that without a Savior, you are without hope. Run to the Savior whose arms are open wide. Let him guide you back to the right course.
Every day we make decisions. Every decision has consequences. Let me remind you of the four principles to help us avoid tragic consequences,
- It is never right to do what is wrong
- Before any decision ask: “At What Price?” (look at the immediate, the future and the eternal price tags.
- It is never too late to do what is right
- Failure does not have to be Final
May God use these principles to help us choose the right way as we make choices in life. We all know from experience that the journey is always more enjoyable if we can keep from getting lost.