“But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here?” (ESV – Read the chapter)
How you ever been right on the cusp of doing something foolish you couldn’t undo and got stopped right before you did it? David and his men had been living among the Philistines for several months now. They headed there when David’s faith failed and he gave way to doubt in God’s promise to make him king or that Saul was ever really going to stop hunting him down until he was dead. And although the group had not participated in any raids against their own people, they were becoming comfortable in their new home; comfortable enough that they were preparing to join the Philistines in a battle against the Israelites. Once they did that, there was no going back. Israel’s future king would never ascend to the throne.
What was it that brought you back from your edge of losing everything? Was it a sudden moment of clarity? Was it a wave of guilt and realization of where you were?
For David and his men, they didn’t have anything like that just yet (we have to wait until chapter 30 to get there). Instead, as they were lining up for battle in a position of high honor—close to the king—the other Philistine commanders balked and refused to go into battle if David and his troops were anywhere on the line with them. After all, they reasoned, David was a great Israelite warrior who had killed hundreds of their countrymen. Sure, he’d apparently been a loyal Philistine for some time now, but joining in raids on non-Israelites and being a part of a battle against his own people were two different things. If he had a sudden change of heart, things could go very badly for them very quickly. They’d be fighting the enemy in front and behind.
David was far from God at this point in his life. He’d abandoned his faith and trust after his last encounter with Saul and had not yet returned from that. When he left God behind he set himself on a path. In our own lives, we are on a journey. Sometimes we get on a path like David’s that leads us away from God. If we stay on it long enough, we will eventually come to a moment—or perhaps a season—when to go further is to make turning around so difficult as to be nearly impossible. The choice will be ours as to what to do, but we must make it carefully because the destination of the two roads diverging in that time will not be the same. One will be life and one will not.
If you are in such a place now, on a path leading away from God, where are you going? If someone else were in your shoes and had experienced what you had experienced, they’d probably be on the same path. All the same, by not being on it now, they can see better what you probably can’t—the destination toward which you’re heading. Listen to them. Don’t go where you can’t come back.
Now, you can’t separate yourself from the love of God. Have no fear or delusions of that. His love will be rocksteady for you and He will be waiting to run to you with open arms when you are ready to head in His direction again no matter how far you’ve run the other way. But, you can make decisions that will render your ability to easily receive that love more difficult than it otherwise would be.
Come back. What you have ahead of you is not worth whatever it was that set you on that path in the first place. Grace and life are available in Jesus and they are stronger than whatever pain or sin you have experienced. When you see the signal screaming, “Stop!” No matter where it comes from—David’s came from the people who were further down the path he was on than he was—heed it. Come back to the God who never stopped loving you.