In 1 Samuel 29, we see the situation between Israel and the Philistines deteriorating and war looming yet again. This time, David is on the other side, so to speak, having gone to Achish to hide from the plots of Saul and thus being enlisted in the Philistine army. It seems life has become so difficult for him that he must either fight against his native country and king or lose the support of the Philistine commanders and end up back to square one, being hunted by Saul. This ‘no-win’ situation cannot have been easy for David and his army of six hundred men.

As it turns out, God provides a ‘third way’, with the Philistine commanders refusing to let David – the one who had slain tens of thousands of Philistines in the past – go out to fight for them. Achish may have been convinced of David’s sincerity, saying David was like an angel of God to him (1 Sam 29:9), but they were far more cynical and pragmatic. The decision was taken out of David’s hands; he was told to go back to Ziklag and wait out the battle.

Eugene Peterson comments that ‘God’s purposes are being worked out most profoundly when we’re least aware of them.’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘Leap Over A Wall’, P 100) David does not seem particularly happy with God’s solution; many of us react in a similar way when decisions are made for us, rather than by us. But if we truly believe that God works for good in all circumstances for those who are loved by God and called according to His purposes (Rom 8:28), then we must come to terms with the fact that God’s people are never victims of their circumstances. God is there in all situations, including the ones which cause us despair and distress, working for our good. His ‘third way’ (as the Israelites had experienced on leaving Egypt when they faced death by drowning or death from Pharaoh’s chariots only to find the Red Sea parting before them, enabling them to pass through on dry land) reminds us that He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20) Deliverance and salvation come from Him; the battle belongs to the Lord.