David the fearful man of God

David might be God’s chosen King, but he had a fearful human heart, just as you or I do.


1Sam. 21:10    That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.  11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: 

  “ ‘Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his tens of thousands’?”

1Sam. 21:12    David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.  13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. 

1Sam. 21:14    Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me?  15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” 


Psa. 34:1    I will extol the LORD at all times;

his praise will always be on my lips. 

The story of 1 Samuel details Israel’s first foray into being a nation ruled by kings. Saul was Israel’s first king – but a king chosen by the people, not by God. However in 1 Samuel 16, God anoints David as his choice of king. God’s Spirit leaves Saul and comes upon David. The next chapter tells the well known story of a small shepherd boy (David) taking on the giant warrior (Goliath), killing him and ultimately leading to a defeat of the Philistines, Israel’s enemy, and earning David a fearsome reputation both in Israel and among the Philistines. In chapters 18-19, Saul’s jealousy of David grows and he tries multiple times to kill David, who eventually has to flee in order to save his life. Israel is a nation ruled by a murderous leader, and David, the king anointed with God’s Spirit, is in exile – a refugee in a foreign country with many enemies seeking to destroy him.

In this context we read the story of 1 Samuel 21, where David seems to take an odd approach to saving his life. Let’s not pretend it isn’t a comical image: David pretending to be insane, scratching the doors and drooling like a crazy adult-sized baby. But these aren’t the actions of a madman; these are the actions of a refugee who fears his life and is desperate to save it. Despite his reputation as the slayer of tens of thousands (1 Sam 21:11), David is very much afraid.

Wait a sec – isn’t this the kid who killed Goliath? Isn’t this God’s anointed king? Why the fear? Surely David should know that God would protect him – after all, he is God’s chosen king and has been given God’s Spirit… or not?

It must have been a terrifying and confusing time for David. He has so much tangible evidence of God’s choice of him, his protection, his guidance, his help – yet with every king seeking to kill him, we can understand why he “took those words to heart” (1 Sam 21:12) and feared. David might be God’s chosen King, but he was just as human as you or I. He had a fearful human heart, just as you or I do. Yet despite his fear, David pens Psalm 34. Verse 1 gives us insight into how, despite his fear, his relationship with God gives him comfort.

Psa. 34:1    I will extol the LORD at all times;

his praise will always be on my lips. 

Cross, Jesus, god, Holy Spirit, Daily Devotion, Fearful

Despite his very real fears for his life, David can still extol and praise the LORD at all times. He trusts God, he remembers all that God has done, he remembers that God is with him by his Spirit. This leads him to praise his God – despite all the evidence which may cause him to question God’s protection of him.

Head: What tangible reminders do you have of God’s protection in the past? How does Jesus’ death and the gift of the Spirit protect you every day?

Heart: When does your heart feel afraid – despite the knowledge of God’s protection of you? 

Hands: Reflect on Psa. 34.1 today as a reality check: a reminder that despite real fears, we can still praise God, because he does protect us by Jesus’ death and the gift of his Spirit.

Prayer: Memorise Psa 34.1 and pray it today to refocus your thoughts and fears on your Saviour God.

A song to listen to: Christ is Risen



Writer: Katharine Yock

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