There are some strange episodes in Scripture, aren’t there? I tend to pass over most of them with a puzzled shake of my head, hoping to hear an illuminating sermon at some later date. I rarely chew on them long enough to take away any nourishment. My loss.
One of those episodes is contained in 1 Samuel 21:10-15 which concerns David’s flight from King Saul. As he fled, David wound up in a Philistine city where they already knew him – as their most dangerous enemy! He was brought before King Achish, who had the power to imprison or execute David immediately. In one of his lowest moments, David pretended to be insane. It was a last-ditch effort which seemingly had little chance of success, but in the end David escaped. I began to think through this bizarre incident because it also appears in the title of Psalm 34 (where Abimelech is probably a royal title for King Achish). David must have written that song of praise out of his sheer delight at finding God a faithful and miraculous deliverer.
So what can I learn from this? It’s unlikely I will ever be hunted by a mad despot or hauled before a royal court. Or is it? At the time of the insanity incident, David was carrying Goliath’s sword which serves as a perfect illustration of the point he means to make. After knocking the giant senseless with a stone, David used Goliath’s own weapon to cut off his head. The ruin of those who oppose God derives from their own actions; the sword of evil they have used to wound others will be their undoing at the Day of Judgment. So it is with our great enemy, the Deceiver, who hunts us through all the byways of life. He may win a few rounds now and then, but his own weapons will be his undoing. It is the righteousness of believers which saves them, and that comes from the presence of the Lord, not from their own goodness. When we appear in the courtroom of heaven, we must not justify ourselves with deeds and logic, but only with the foolishness of God: the gospel of our Redeemer. Those who trust in their own strength will perish, but no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him (Ps. 34:22).
Many in the modern world have concluded that the gospel is delusional. Those who sing about it must be insane. Well, we stand in good company. Before King Achish, David gave up everything – even his dignity and reason. Those who follow Christ know they also can do nothing but gibber like fools when it comes to saving themselves; we need a solution which is bigger than we are. And these same fools know the ecstatic joy of the risen Christ who triumphed over sin and death. David’s miraculous deliverance from King Achish and every metaphor in Psalm 34 tell us that we will be delivered from all our troubles (v. 17). Let us exult with the chorus of madmen!