Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 20; Psalm 11

Today’s Scripture reading introduces a new phase in our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures. Several of the psalms that David authored were penned during his years in exile. Those psalms are introduced within our study of 1 Samuel and the life of David.

While 1 Samuel gives us the narrative and background of events in David’s life, his psalms give us insight into the internal struggles and meditations of this man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). While the Spirit of God occupied King Saul and his messengers in Ramah (1 Samuel 19:20-24), David circled back to request Jonathan’s intervention in his crisis with the king (1 Samuel 20:1). As we have seen, Saul’s heart was troubled with an evil spirit, and he found no peace.

1 Samuel 20 – David’s Fear

After David fled Ramah, he put as much distance between himself and his enemy as possible (1 Samuel 19:19-24). Despite the king’s efforts to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1-23), the bond between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, was never broken. Jonathan understood the LORD’s anointing was upon David, and in a great act of humility, he vowed to love David to the end of his life (1 Samuel 20:35-42). After he departed from Jonathan, David began an exile that would last ten years. Separated from his friend and father’s household, David retreated into the wilderness.

* Author’s note: During my 44 years in ministry, I have practiced studying the breadth and depth of individual word meanings found in Scripture passages. Today’s study will be an example of that discipline. In the following passage, you will find the words of Scripture in bold print and my amplification of some words in italics. These are my amplifications and are not taken from another Bible version. I hope my effort might give clarity and insight to your study.

Psalm 11

The introductory inscription of Psalm 11 identified David as the author. Also, because the psalm was addressed “To the chief musician,” when know it was meant to be a song of praise and worship. Although I am unsure of the historical setting of Psalm 11, its content is an appropriate parallel text for today’s devotional in 1 Samuel 20.

In Psalm 11, David faced the threat of an enemy and weighed the counsel of those who urged him to flee.

David: Faithful and Fearless (Psalm 11:1-3)

Psalm 11:1-3 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?
2  For, lo, the wicked 
[ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].
3  If the foundations
[support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken], what can the righteous [just] do?”

There are times when retreat and flight from an enemy is a wise and necessary choice. For example, when King Saul swore to kill him, David fled. Later, as king, David fled Jerusalem when his son Absalom stole the people’s affections (2 Samuel 15:6) and led an insurrection against him (2 Samuel 15:14). Throughout his life, David faced foes and confronted threats significant enough to move him to retreat (Psalm 11:1b-2).

Yet, in Psalm 11, David asserted his faith in the LORD and asked his counselors, would you have me flee like a frightened bird? (Psalm 11:1) He acknowledged the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (Psalm 11:2). Nevertheless, David was reminded that he was the LORD’s anointed and was, therefore, the moral pillar, the foundation of the saints of God (Psalm 11:3a).

David’s Reply to his Faithless Advisors (Psalm 11:4-7)

Psalm 11:4 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men.”

David asserted that the LORD was Sovereign of His creation. Although His throne was in heaven, David was confident that God observes the affairs of men with a steady eye and an unwavering gaze (Psalm 11:4).

Psalm 11:5 – “The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [cruelty; injustice] his soul [the LORD] hateth [as a foe].”

Psalm 11:5 states David’s confidence that the LORD knows the hearts of the righteous. He is the foe of men who afflict humanity with their evil deeds and hates the violence and terror of the wicked. God is the enemy of the lawless.

Psalm 11:6 – “Upon the wicked he [the LORD] shall rain [rain down] snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible [consuming; terrible; raging] tempest [wind; spirit]: this shall be the portion of their [the wicked][tcup [a symbol that the wicked would be forced to drink of their lawless way].”

Not unlike the weapons of modern warfare, David described the terror of God’s judgment as raining down upon the wicked who opposed Him and despised the righteous. The “cup” is found in Scripture as a symbol from which men are forced to drink. For example, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed concerning the suffering He would face, “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).

Psalm 11:7 – “For the righteous [just; lawful] LORD loveth righteousness [justice; moral virtue; obedience to His Commandments]; his countenance [face; presence] doth behold [perceive; contemplate; see] the upright [righteous; straight; just].”

Closing thoughts:

Today’s study ends with an assurance that the LORD’s love for the righteous never wanes. His eyes ever behold those whom He numbers among the righteous of the earth.

The world is dominated by the wicked who have rejected the LORD (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1), who are adversaries of the righteous. Yet, God is Sovereign over creation and a refuge to all who trust Him (Isaiah 40:31).

Questions to consider:

1) What was the advice of David’s counselors? (Psalm 11:1)

2) Who do the wicked seek to destroy? (Psalm 11:2)

3) Although the throne of God is in heaven, where are His eyes focused? (Psalm 11:4, 7)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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