I have made a lot of promises in my life. “I’ll be there” and “I’ll do that” are phrases I’ve used quite a bit over the years. Yet, tragically, I can also say that I’ve broken a lot of promises in my life. These promises range quite a bit with respect to their significance. I can recall promising my parents I would go to bed and then sneak out later to play more video games.
On a much more serious note, I made a promise on my wedding day to love and cherish my wife and yet I can recall times when I spoke in ways that did not reflect this promise. To put it plainly, I am a professional promise breaker. Really, we’re all professional promise breakers and this truth permeates the biblical text. One text that I have recently approached that displays this is 1 Sam 26-27.
David The Professional Promise Breaker
1 Samuel introduces us to the person of David. He is a man chosen by God after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14). We are also introduced to Saul, the lackluster king overshadowed by David (1 Sam 18:7). Saul’s hatred for David is the cause for much of the drama in 1 Samuel as he continually attempts to end David’s life. His repeated failed attempts are met with by mercy from David (1 Sam 24:5-7, 26:9).
In this second act of mercy by David, he says, “ Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” (1 Sam 26:24). Really, this was a statement against Saul and in favor of the Lord and his providential care for David. By this statement, David was declaring that he would trust in the care of the Lord for his deliverance. Sounds very nice, doesn’t it?
However, in the beginning of the following chapter we are met with a surprising character shift. 1 Sam 27:1-2 reads
Then David said in his heart, “ Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath.
But David, you just said that you would trust the Lord for his good favor resulting in your deliverance. If that was the case, why are fleeing in fear for your life? Though David had made these grand declarations promising that his trust would rest upon the Lord alone, his actions said otherwise.
Our God the Promise Keeper
One of my favorite worship songs is We Will Feast in the House of Zion by Sandra McCracken. A phrase in that song that I love goes, “Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed, you are the faithful one”. O is that true! I’ve broken more promises than I could (or want to) count. Yet, it is God who preserves me in spite of my failings (Phil 1:6). David himself, came to know that to be true (Psalm 51:1-2).
This is big news for our lives! In my marriage, I can know that my faulty love for my wife is cleansed by the greater and prior love of God in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:19). Though I’m the professional promise breaker, God is the professional promise keeper.