1 Samuel Bible

Even a Future King is Not Perfect

We continue our study of the life of David today, but we are taking a turn in how we look at David’s life.

A King
In chapter 29 of 1 Samuel we start to see some of the parts of David that are less admirable and less commonly talked about regarding his character. David was not perfect and he had faults (just as we all do). This chapter brings to light some of those faults.

Let’s catch up with David who is hiding from Saul in the Philistine area under King Achish of Gath. David is hiding because he is fearful that eventually Saul is going to catch and kill him. And there were certainly some times when Saul was close to catching David. David has also been raiding towns and killing the people in those towns who were “kinda” allies of the Philistines, but they were also enemies of Israel. 

Now in 1 Samuel 28:1-2 and chapter 29 we see what David does when he must face the results of his previous lies. While doing some research on this passage of scripture I found a great quote which I believe accurately paints a picture of David’s current attitude and state of mind:

“Over time David grew weary of Saul’s pursuit and chose to escape to the land of the Philistines. He became vague about his purpose, defensive about his leadership, and lost the trust of Israel. Even great leaders become vulnerable when they grow tired, lonely, angry, or hungry.”[1]

When King Achish tells David that he expects David to help the Philistine army in their next battle against the Israelites, David responds, “Very well. Now you will see for yourself what we can do” (28:2 NLT). Betraying your own country was a big deal in David’s time just as it is a big deal today. As a reader it is hard to believe that David is going to follow through with this plan of fighting against his fellow countrymen.

In chapter 29 we see David marching at the rear of the Philistine troops with King Achish. From a reader’s perspective it appears that David is going through with this plan to kill his fellow countrymen. This must have been devastating for David because I am sure he did not want to fight against the Israelites. My guess is that David must of had tremendous inner turmoil about what he should do.

Then, a Philistine commander recognizes David and asks King Achish what David and his Hebrew friends are doing there about to attack Hebrew Israelites. The end result of the chapter is that the Philistine commanders do not allow David to go to battle with them because they are afraid he will turn against the Philistines and kill them. Thus, King Achish is forced to send David back to Ziklag. 

Luckily, David is not required to fight his own countrymen, the Israelites. 

Because David was operating in fear, he made a poor decision to go and live with the Philistines where he believed he was safer from Saul. Then, that poor decision led to the possibility that he might have to fight against his home country of Israel, his king, Saul, and his best friend, Jonathan. 

Saying that David is less than perfect is an understatement in this passage.

Here are three changes we have seen David make:

  1. Previously David was loyal to Saul, Israel, and His God. Now he is loyal to King Achich, Philistia, and he has abandoned his God. 
  2. Previously David held on to God’s promise. Now he has given up on that promise.
  3. Previously David was a servant (and armor bearer) to King Saul. Now he is a servant to King Achish and Philistia.

While thinking about this chapter through the lens of David and his character, I believe it might be a lesson for us that we do not have to be perfect. Maybe it is a lesson that God loves us and that he wants us to follow Him, but even after years of faithful service, when we fall away, God can still use us for good.

I believe David is perfect in some areas, and in some areas he is not perfect.

David is perfect in the fact that he is a man after God’s own heart.

In 1 Samuel 13:14 Samuel declares, “for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.” That is in reference to David who Samuel anoints to become king at a later time.

David is also perfect in the fact that he served God, Israel, and Saul for most of his life.

With the minor exception of the 16 months David and his men lived with the Philistines, David always faithfully served God, Israel, and Saul.

David is not perfect because he abandoned God by going to the Philistine territory.

In those times, the people had a strong belief that God was in a place, and that place for a Israelite was in Jerusalem. When David fled to the Philistine area, he abandoned God.

David is also not perfect because he lied.

Clearly in chapter 27 David lies about where he has been going and who he has been fighting. There are some biblical scholars who believe David also lies when David confirms King Achish’s request for David and his men to fight in the Philistine army against the Israelites. Some scholars believe that David lies to the King about being loyal to them, stating that David’s plan was to turn on the Philistines while in battle to continue his allegiance to Israel and his God.

If we look at this chapter to see that even a future king is not perfect, the question I think it is good to ask is this: If God’s criteria for David to eventually becoming king was David’s performance, would God have allowed him to become king? I believe the answer is, “No.” God would not have allowed David to become king if God’s choice of a king was based on performance. God knows that David is a man after His own heart, and that is what He admires about David (as we learned from 1 Samuel 16, God Looks at the Heart). David seeks to please God and faithfully follow Him.

In fact, my friend Gene Hill believes that God uses our imperfection. He believes God uses it as a way to draw us closer to God and that it allows us to point to God when good things happen because they are not all on our own.

Another great quote that I believe summarizes our point that a future leader does not need to be perfect is when Andy Stanley comments on David:

“While the details of our lives may overlap very little with David’s, there is one thing we all have in common with him. We’ve all put God’s grace to the test. We have broken his law. We’ve been irresponsible with his blessing. We’ve confessed a sin only to turn right around and repeat it. It’s those occasions when I begin to wonder, How many times? How many times can I expect God to forgive me for the same sin? All of us in our own ways have wondered, Where does grace end and retribution begin? If David’s story is any indication, grace has no end.”[2]

Question: For God to use you to do great things in the world, do you need to be perfect?

[1] John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 366.

[2] Andy Stanley, The Grace of God (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.: 2010), 104.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at