Surviving Attack

tumblr_m1e50bLWVk1qljd8so1_500Patches O’Houlihan had nothing on David.  If the 5 D’s could work for David, Patches could make them work in dodgeball.

First things first: learn to dodge.  David learned to dodge.  Saul hurled his spear at David and David “turned from his face twice”, according to the Hebrew.  The NIV renders it “eluded”.  The idea is that David learned to evade the spears.  Being around spear throwers mandates that we, as targets, must learn to dodge the attacks that come.  Often there is little that we can do about the predicaments that we are in and our proximity to spears, so we must learn to stay alive amidst the danger.  By learning how to make them miss, we retain our place and remain alive.  Sometimes it is the pay, the relationship (familial or something like it), or the commitment, that keeps us from relocating, forcing us to stay within spearing range, but learning how to dodge, keeps us alive.

The second maneuver is to dive away.  I played goalkeeper in college.  Once you start to dive for a ball, there is no going the other direction.  When you are parallel to the ground there is no changing directions.  That is why there is no guessing, just reacting.  David had to commit to the direction away from spear throwing.  The common sense reaction, the way of this world says: “Saul no longer has a spear, and now I have his”, therefore, I grab his spear and throw it back at him.  But David knew that once your hand finds comfort on the handle of a spear, it will never find comfort without it again.  The move has to be away from the spear and a commitment to never picking one up.  Too many spear-throwers begin by picking one up that was originally thrown at them.  If we are to be men after God’s heart, then we must commit to not becoming spear throwers ourselves.  That means leaving the ones that were aimed originally at us, stuck in the wall, never to be thrown again.

Gardner Rodeo Bible Camp  Dodgeball MVP

Thirdly, David has to dip into his own soul and remember his identity.  If you have ever read the Psalms, David is no stranger to probing the depths of his identity and his relationship with God.   In 1 Samuel 18.12-19, David was committed to not letting the spear throwing change him.  He remained in closer relationship with the Lord (12), a commander of troops (13-14), a humble servant to Saul (18-19), and a man after the heart of God.  How many times does being targeted affect the target?  We can become “the victim” and wallow in pity or we can be come the aggressor and start throwing the spears.  Some choose to hole up and never trust again and some seek revenge at every opportunity.  Some have allowed the incident to take over their every detail of their lives.  They save old emails and letter of attack, archive old documents and letters of accusations or lists of people that they wronged…I for one don’t know anything about that (insert sarcastic emoji here).  Each document, file, extension, email, voicemail, text, and story became a sharpened point aimed back at the ones I felt were attacking me.  I became the very thing that I hated, because I didn’t know how to move on from the spear stuck in the wall.  It has taken a lot for me to dip back into what God created me to be and to do.

David learned to duck; keep your head down or lose it.  Through all of the turmoil, David continued to serve the man that God had chosen to lead his people (1 Samuel 18.12-16).  What is good for David was also good for Saul.  A victory for David meant also that the people of Israel, led by Saul, was also victorious.  The spear throwers may be elders, pastors, government officials, or bosses, it doesn’t matter, God put them in that position and we are to serve as long as we are under their charge.  God’s Word says:

  • When the Government throws spears: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rom. 13.1)
  • When Elders or pastors throw spears, Paul reminds us in his speech to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20.28)  God picked them and the elders of the church.
  • When bosses throw spears: “we are to obey our earthly masters” not as slaves, but as workers who “are working for the Lord and not for men…because it is the Lord Christ that we are serving.” (Col 3.22-24)

We could say the same for parents, friends, family members, other believers, and any other title that we could come up with.  We are to learn to duck, to continue to serve those that the Lord has given us to serve.
When we are exhausted because of the first 4 D’s, we move on to the fifth: Dodge (yeah again).  But before we get to that, we need to look at the last characteristic of a spear thrower.  Verse 29 of 1 Samuel 18 says: “Saul became still more afraid of him [David], and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.”  Once spear throwing begins, without God’s intervention and the person’s repentance, it will not end.  Saul wasn’t going to stop.  David “eluded” him the first time (18.11), and “eluded” him a second time (19.10).  This time the Hebrew account uses the word pater.  The word is used for a dam that is “breached” in Proverbs 17.14 and being “released” from a job in 2 Chron. 23.8.  Essentially it conveys the idea of “breaking for the open”.  David was left in 1 Samuel 19.10 with no other option than to make a break for it and run away.  First of all, this is not the idea of running in fear or backing away from a fight.  That is cowardice.  This is David, choosing to honor God, by letting the party established by God, to rule his people.  David dodged, to wait for his time and turn, appointed by God, to rule His people.  As a target, there will come a time when the only option that is God honoring is to leave.  In my experience, I missed multiple opportunities to honor God by leaving.  I should have gone to Kearney when I had the opportunity.  My spear-throwing career started, because I chose to stay.   I had the chance to follow and glorify God, yet I chose to stay and start chucking.  To this day, I am appalled at my profession of spear throwing.  Nate and Chad told me that things wouldn’t change…I didn’t listen.  Will things change for you as the target?  I don’t know.  But when the time comes, running is not cowardice or abandonment (as I once thought) but a decision to let God be God and his established leadership remain.


Resume of a Spear Thrower


Tombstone (1993)

Life was simpler when the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black.  Every cowboy that walked into a scene was able to be identified immediately by the hat they wore.  Wouldn’t life be easier if we could just recognize the good and the bad at a glance.

Actions reflect the man.  Saul’s actions would lead to multiple attempts on David’s life.  Maybe you have had spears thrown in your direction?  Perhaps you were the one throwing them?  Chances are, at one time or another, you have been both.  It could be that you are living life under the charge of one who is trying to stick you to a wall?  Maybe you are the one in charge and wondering if you are in danger of starting to throw spears?  The characteristics of a spear thrower can be found in the middle of 1 Samuel 18.

The spear thrower was angry (1 Samuel 18.8).  The hebrew word is chara.  It is a word that means more than just frustration, or hatred towards someone.  Chara is anger ready to act.  This type of anger is different for two reasons: (1) It is ready, as it resides just below the surface.  Cain was angry (Gen. 4.5) and sin was crouching at his door, ready.  Jonah was angry (Jonah 4.1), and it took a mere word from God to bring it out.  Like a hedge post that is smoldering, a slight breeze can flare up (chara) into a massive fire.  Saul’s anger lived just underneath his skin and not even Jonathan was safe from it (1 Sam 20.30). (2) It acts.  Chara makes itself known.  When the Lord’s anger is aroused He answers with fire (Num. 11), a plague (Ex. 32.10), a donkey (Num. 22.22), a death (2 Sam. 6.6), and a journey (Num 32.13).  Humans answer with a killing (Cain), a beating (Balaam [Num 22.27]), a death wish (Jonah [4.9]), and thrown tablets (Moses [Ex 32.19).  For Saul it manifested itself with two spear thrusts (once at David and once at Jonathan [1 Sam 20.30])  Chara always makes itself known.  But for what?  The first characteristic of a spear thrower is: when they care too much about who gets the credit.  What made Saul angry?  A simple song declaring that David killed his ten-thousands vs. Saul’s thousands. (1 Samuel 18.7)  Have you ever served with, worked with, been related too, or friends with, someone who needed the credit?  Their name had to be first, biggest, and brightest?  Have you ever needed to be known for your involvement, your name in print, or the praises of men?  If you have known or have been, then you know a potential spear thrower!

The spear thrower was galled (1 Samuel 18.8).  Literally the hebrew means “saw evil in his eyes” [ra’a b’ayin].  In front of Saul stood a threat to his kingdom.  Saul was looking into a future where he would not be the focal point and that really bothered him.  “What more can he get but the Kingdom?” Saul wondered to himself.  Which brings us to the second characteristic of a spear thrower: When they begin to own something that was never theirs to begin with.  Saul had to protect his Kingdom.  The pronouns are important.  Instead of Saul being charged with the care of God’s people, it became his Kingdom to rule and protect.  When it starts being your church, your ministry, your possessions, or your money, as opposed to the ministry you serve, the money God has given, or the things God has blessed you with, you are well on your way to becoming a spear thrower.  Saul want to protect his kingdom.  David, on the other hand, was “taken” from the pasture to the throne (1 Chronicles 17.7).  He was in charge of a Kingdom he never built, in a throne he didn’t own, to do a job he wasn’t worthy of.  David knew the true owner and possessor of this Kingdom, Saul though he was it.

The spear-thrower was jealous (1 Samuel 18.9).  This is the only time that this word is used in scripture (called a hapex legomena for those that care).  Saul “kept a jealous eye” on David.  Up to this point David had assuaged Saul with his harp playing, fought battles in his honor and brought victory to his name.  He had dined with him and advised him.  David was a faithful servant to the King.  Now at every dinner Saul had to look cross-eyed across the table at his servant.  He double checked everything David did.  It takes a conniving person to think everyone is conspiring against them.  So Saul kept watch.  When they/you start to look at everyone around as a threat, potential usurper, and enemy you’ve got a potential spear thrower on your hands.  David knew what Absalom was doing in Hebron (2 Samuel 15.7-9) but refused to look at his son as a threat.  The kingdom, after all, belonged to whom God had chosen, therefore, David would not stand in the way.  David refused to “keep a jealous eye” towards his son.  Saul, however, looked at everyone that way.

Finally, the spear-thrower was afraid (1 Samuel 18.12).  Saul’s fear was rooted in two things: 1) the realization that God was with David (v.12) and 2) the success of David made Saul uncomfortable (1 Samuel 18.15).  The Hebrew word yare’ [afraid] is supposed to be used in response to God:

  • “I was naked and I heard you walking, so I was afraid.” – Adam (Gen. 3)
  • “I hid my face because I was too scared to look at God.” – Moses (Ex. 3)
  • “Do Job fear you [God] for nothing?” – Satan (Job 1)

It is a word that is meant to be used of men understanding where they stand before a Holy God.  For Saul, however, it was a word used to describe his character and his rule.  The object of Saul’s fear was not God, but men.  Saul was afraid [yare’] of the people (15.24), Goliath (17.11), David (18.12), and the Philistines (28.5).  The great leader had become fearful of men. Fear would define him.  When the work of God and His people begin to frighten them/you, then you’ve got a potential spear-thrower on your hands.  Saul was bothered by God’s chosen servant, David, and God’s chosen direction, movement against the surrounding nations.  It can get scary when God’s leaders, start to be afraid of what He is doing and how He is doing it.

All these qualities wrapped Saul’s fingers around a spear and thrust it towards David (1 Sam. 18.11).  So what’s your bosses excuse?  What is your brother or sister’s excuse?  Is a co-worker displaying some of these qualities’?  Are you starting to get a “cross-eyed” look from leadership, or a sense of fear from a pastor?  What about you?  Have you taken census of your own soul?  Are you fearing the direction God is going?  Are you gripping for something that was never really yours to begin with?  Do people alongside you elicit fear every time their name comes up?  Do you need your name in lights or a mention on facebook or a shout out in a captioned photo?  Where is your heart as your serving?  Hoping a picture will get leaked somewhere?

But what happens when you’re the target?

The inspiration for this study came from a fantastic book by Gene Edwards called “A Tale of Three Kings”