02Jun20 - Preacher Diary
When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he went into the stronghold.
2 Samuel 5:17, New Living Translation.
- Philistine Ears
There are ears that get pained when they hear good of you. They are evil ears, like those of these Philistines. When they heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, their spleen burst and their displeasure was unprecedented. Those were the same Philistines who had housed David, apparently very accommodating of him while he was an unfortunate refugee fleeing his murderous master, Saul. They had been ‘there for him’ until then, but they could not stand the news of his rise. We are compelled by hindsight to wonder, therefore, if, all the while, they had actually been giving care, or merely acting care?
So long as David was dependent, they were OK to keep him, to like him, to be friends with him. But when they merely “heard” that fortune at last had smiled on the same David, they would not waste time to even confirm if it had been mere rumour; they at once mobilised “ALL their forces” against the news, against the man; they mobilized “ALL their forces”: air force, navy, land forces, amphibious forces, marine forces, witchcraft forces, diplomatic forces, seductive Delilah-forces, the forces of fake news and slander – “all their forces.” Alas their Philistine ears; evil ears that had been secretly comfortable with the stories of his tribulations, but would hear nothing of his jubilation. They were comfortable with his stagnation, not his progression. They were ‘ok’ with him for as long as he was in misery and pain, but they wouldn’t stand his new anointing of glory and fame. Philistines ears against which we might invoke the ‘guided’ sword of Simon Peter (John 18:10).here are ears that get pained when they hear good of you. They are evil ears, like those of these Philistines. When they heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, their spleen burst and their displeasure was unprecedented. Those were the same Philistines who had housed David, apparently very accommodating of him while he was an unfortunate refugee fleeing his murderous master, Saul. They had been ‘there for him’ until then, but they could not stand the news of his rise. We are compelled by hindsight to wonder, therefore, if, all the while, they had actually been giving care, or merely acting care?
If they could mobilize so much malice at the mere news of his enthronement, what worse might they have done if they had been there themselves! What did their seers ‘see’ in the anointed man to warrant so much mobilization of ‘forces’ against that single head?
- When to Know your True Friends
It is often said that true friends are known in the day of one’s misfortune; that not those who crowd around one’s banquet table in the day of plenty but those who remain committed in the day of famine are the true friends. That will not always be true, not with Philistines of the kind seen in our passage. It takes your abundance, your promotion, your sudden good fortunes, to show the true colour of those. They could be all smiles and all care as long as you are dependent, as long as you are down, as long as you are beneath; but soon as things begin to change for the better in your life, the Philistine in them will show up. They might smile ‘with concern’ in your misfortunes, but would frown with malice at your celebration. They are evil ears too pained to hear the good things of you; ears that are pleased only with news of your woes, while they strangely sustain the public show of caring about your welfare. Their hidden thoughts and their public acts are usually at concealed odds. They could say all the right things before you, but their venom could be boundless behind you. While they profess how much they care, they would never sincerely commit to helping you out of your woes about which they say that they care. Philistines.
Some friends might be exposed by your woes; others you would know only in the day of your glory, by the pain on their faces and the inexplicable vexation in their tone. Elijah had one prominent servant before Elisha came, a servant who ‘stood with him’ while the prophet called down fire at Mount Carmel. That servant was there at Elijah’s post-Carmel prophetic prayers when the dry sky released anxious rains upon the famished land, to the pleasure of the king and the great fame of the prophet and his team (1 Kings 18:36-39, 43-46). A chapter later, however, when the same prophet was compelled to enter his wilderness, that servant did not proceed with him, and expired at the same comfortable Beersheba spot where he had stopped to let his master go. His true self was revealed only in the day of his master’s ‘wilderness’ experience (1 Kings 19:3-4). Sadly, we hear no more of that servant thereafter. His name did not appear on the transition honours list that God presented to Elijah, of persons upon whom to transfer some of the oil on his own life (1 Kings 19:15-17). That servant had been unlike Job’s speechless three friends who stayed with him through his trails and after; friends whom even God so identified, whom Job had to pray for before he himself could be blessed by God (Job 2:11; 42:10).
On the other side of the coin, Hagar had always been a very ‘nice girl,’ a committed and dependable helper in the house while Sarah groaned in barrenness. So was her son a ‘fine boy’ while the promise of Isaac still lingered with uncertain torture over Sarah. However, when Isaac finally came, and was being celebrated, the hidden malice showed on the mocking faces. The young Ishmael’s public misbehaviour in scorning Isaac was merely the open display of the secret lessons that his mother Hagar had been teaching him in the privacy of her tent (Genesis 21:6-10; 16:3-5). The true Ishmael became manifest in the day of festivity, as he mocked conspicuously in that day of which Sarah proclaimed, “God had made me to laugh.” Some friends might be revealed through our pains, others through our ovation, like the Philistines. Some friends we might see more clearly through our tears, others through the filter of our laughter, like Ishmael and Hagar.
- Troubles Attracted by the Anointing
Promotion does not always bring rest; sometimes it attracts wars. Soon as God spoke of Jesus, publicly declaring Him as the beloved Son; soon as the Holy Spirit openly endorsed Him by descending on Him in the form of a dove, Satan showed up (Luke 4:1). The fresh anointing seemed to have attracted the subsequent wilderness with its recurrent temptations. Favour sometimes brings with it the malice of those who detest the flavour of the favour. Those who seek favour should therefore also be prepared for some of the ‘fringe benefits’ that sometimes come with good fortune. When David was anointed king was when the Philistines mobilized against him. We may ask, Should the anointing attract wars? If that anointing had been of God, why should it bring battles instead of blessings? Ask David.
There are battles that arise simply because of the anointing on one’s head. The Philistines might not have bothered if the news was that David had bought a new chariot, or married another wife; but “When the Philistines heard that David had been ANOINTED…” trouble. Empty heads need no helmet; but anointed heads do, because the oil they carry naturally attracts Philistine missiles (Psalm 140:7; Isaiah 59:17; Ephesians 6:17). The battle was not against David’s head, it was against the oil on the head. If you worry therefore why Philistines seem so often mobilized against you, it could be that they have seen upon you something that you have not yet seen upon yourself: the anointing.
- Parties on the Anointing
When David was anointed, it stirred the enemies, forcing him to go “into the stronghold.” When Jesus was anointed, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He fasted forty days and forty nights: a kind of stronghold. In my generation, however, we celebrate the anointing differently, with feasts and fanfare. We throw parties to which we invite friends and enemies, and we note with bitterness those who did not come to ‘celebrate with us.’
When that happens, I often wonder if it was the same anointing that David received, which drove him into a stronghold; and which Jesus also received and was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). Such parties on the anointing merely expose how we see the ‘call of God,’ as a ‘chieftaincy title,’ as an achievement, as an earned designation of honour (like a university or other professional or honorary degree) rather than as an enlistment to death in the frontlines of a most fierce battle between Light and Darkness. Even Saul was told that the anointing he had received would guide him into contact with a company of prophets the encounter with whom was going to transform him into another man (1 Samuel 10:5-6). When we party for being anointed, we betray a shallow understanding of the oil that had come upon the head, or we otherwise could be announcing inadvertently that the anointing had merely been a ceremony of empty oil upon an empty head.
From The Preacher’s diary,
September 6, 2019.