Cartoon by Gary Larson

1 Samuel 21:9-13 : And the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here.”…And David rose and fled to Achish the king of Gath.  And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”  And David changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 

1Corinthians 1:18, 25:  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing […] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The valley of Elah is the valley of the “strong tree.” It was there David went with a staff (cross) and his sling. It was there he severed Goliath of Gaths head with his own giant sword. The whole thing was foolish from the outside: a young boy unseasoned in war facing a giant in armor trained from his youth (1Sam. 17:33).  It was inverted just as the cross would be and is now: foolish to the wisdom of humanity. The cross happened on a hill named Golgotha, where Goliath’s head was placed (1Sam. 17:54). When the king of Gath lost his champion, it would have seemed as if the word had gone mad!

Now in 1Samuel 21 David the slayer of Goliath is at Gath’s gate with their champion’s sword and their king looking down on him. What do the uncircumcised see? What do the uncircumcised of heart ever see? They see a mad man.  The victor’s path to victory is sheer madness. The word of the cross is foolishness, insanity, madness to those who go by human wisdom.  Bear your cross? Lose your life?

This type of wisdom from God was completely unexpected so as to be hidden and unknowable until God revealed it (1Cor. 2:7-8). It remains foolishness until the Spirit reveals it. That is why Paul prayed the church would have a spirit of revelation (Eph. 1:17).

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Psalm 34:1, 7-8, 19-20 : Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!…Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. 

John 19:36: For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”

Abimelech means father of king. This event is recorded in 1Samuel 21 where king Achish sees David and sends him away because he appears to be mad. Achish means only a man. Either he was the father king or the elder father of the king was there too to see Davids madness.

Regardless, “only a man” perceives David as mad. David pictures Christ-crucified at the enemy gate. They didn’t and still don’t know what to do with Him. David’s madness at the gate is a picture of the cross. John shows this when he quotes David’s psalm, “None of his bones were broken.” The cross was a strange battle and a death that took the bite out of the enemy. You get the sense by reading the Gospel accounts that God was in charge the entire time. He could have sent down legions of angels, He could have avoided the cross. But why? The cross was never to be avoided. Jesus set His face to go to the cross. He willingly laid down His life on the cross. He didnt fight to get away. He didnt avoid any of the pain, jeering, accusations, etc. In the end, they sought to quickly end his life so as not to violate the Jews feast day.  But they found that Jesus had already died. Though the enemy had nailed Jesus on the cross, he could not control Him there either.

When Achish sent David away from Gath’s gates it reminds me of what happened to Israel at Passover when Pharaoh sent the nation away. The two didn’t mix any more than sanity does with madness or life with death. David had to go. Israel, God’s Son (see Exodus 4:22) had to go. The grave could never keep Jesus either. He always knew that the cross was His hour to set people free in a way that seemed mad from any other view.

Cameron Fultz is author of Jesus Pictures, Spiritual Knowledge, and Behold.

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