We all feel called by God toward certain professions, toward certain goals and dreams. Sometimes, though, it seems that we merely end up wandering. But as J.R.R. Tolkien once poetically wrote, “not all those who wander are lost”. Reminding us of this, Chris Hill, in his book, “Walking to Jerusalem,” follows the path of King David, giving us a glimpse of the Biblical figure’s long and convoluted journey to his prophesied destiny.
Like David, each of us has our cities to pass through on the way to our destinies. These stops will sometimes cause us outrage and impatience—they may even be places of tears and pain—but each stop helps us grow. Each detour we take along the way is a divine education. And that’s what Hill’s book is all about—learning to recognize those places in your life, and becoming open to allowing God to teach you through them.
Bethlehem, The City of Beginnings
Bethlehem, where David was born, was a small farming town. Like many of us, David grew up within the confines of a tiny world, never imagining the kingship that awaited him. Even for those who grow up in larger cities, our world is often limited to the few surrounding blocks. It may seem that these small beginnings contribute little, but they’re actually valuable places of learning for us.
Hill writes that, in Bethlehem, “David learned how to sing and play the music that would usher him to his next city,” and learned how to “accurately wield his slingshot…using only smooth stones pulled from the ground at his feet.” This is the same type of sling that would later fell the giant, Goliath.
Our formative years are often spent in isolation from the world, where God forms in us the basic skills and desires that will serve us throughout the rest of our journey. Look back at your own Bethlehem with a thankful heart, and consider what it taught you.
Gibeah, The City of Exposure
David’s next stop was Gibeah, King Saul’s capital city, and the place where David was first recognized for his talents. King Saul, having disobeyed God, was tormented by an evil spirit, and was advised to send for David in order to make use of the boy’s musical skill with the lyre. Indeed, when David played for Saul, the king found temporary respite from the attacks of the spirit.
David likely did not imagine that playing music for a fallen, demonically tormented king was an ideal situation when he knew that he had been anointed to be the next king. As many of us would in similar situations, he must have felt some measure of impatience.
But there was much for David to learn. He was exposed to royalty. He was exposed to improper rule, which taught David what not to do, giving him insight and wisdom. Through service, God prepared David for his destiny. So if you’re at the Gibeah stage of your life, do not let impatience take hold—you are being prepared and taught through exposure.
Valley of Elah, The City of Transition
The Valley of Elah is where David faced a giant—and won. It served as the turning point in his life, catapulting him to fame and lofty positions. But it wasn’t easy.
Goliath struck fear into an entire army. He struck fear into a king. His massive frame and enormous weapon were capable of tearing apart any who stood before him.
David, however, wasted no time in volunteering to take on the giant. We see David draw upon his childhood experience fighting off lions as a sheepherder, and from his experience using his sling to take Goliath down quickly and easily.
Not only this, but David showed absolute confidence in the power of God, and whatever fear he might have felt on the inside, he acted as if it were not there. Like David, when the opportunity to use what God has instilled in us through our experiences arises, we must take it.
Each of us goes through our own Valley of Elah—we must choose to have faith and act rather than to cower in fear like Saul’s army. Only by doing so can we claim our full potential.
Jebus, The City of Personal Promise
Before Jerusalem was conquered by the Israelites, it was called Jebus, and was controlled by the Jebusites. David took the head of the defeated Goliath to Jebus, likely as a display of God’s power to the Jebusites, and a promise that David would one day return to conquer the city.
Hill, in his book, writes, “When you overcome one giant, do not take the trophy to a place in your past. Do not bury the trophy in a territory others have conquered; instead, dream of a new territory of conquest and bury your trophy there.”
God places dreams within us for a reason. When tempered with prayer and attention to the will of God, these dreams are often God’s way of speaking to us. Rather than burying those dreams in your past, where they’ll be forgotten, bury them in your future—set a goal based on your calling, and make a personal promise to go after it.
Return to Gibeah, The City of Re-Equipping
In Gibeah, David is thrust into a new role in the court at Gibeah as part of the system of rule. He had to adjust to a new culture, new friends, and a new vocation—he wasn’t going back home, and he had to take the time to adjust and re-equip himself in order to be successful. It was also here that David first began to be persecuted by Saul, after winning the accolades of the people as a result of David’s extremely successful military campaigns. David had entered a new world, and there was no going back. We all likely have vivid memories of our own Gibeah—a time when we’ve been thrust into a new world, like when we left for college or the military, or even a new job. We’ve come up against adversity, and possibly longed for earlier times. It’s difficult.
But this is where David truly learned how to lead, along with how to lose. It was the fiery forge where he was reformed stronger than ever. The same is true for us, when we encounter such situations.
Gath, The City in Hell’s Backyard
If Gibeah was David’s frying pan, then Gath was the proverbial fire. Fleeing from King Saul, David travels to Gath, the territory of an enemy king. When David is recognized, he pretends to go mad, and the king, thankfully, throws him out rather than imprisoning or executing him.
Gath is the challenge that we are not ready for. There are times in all of our lives when we must back down from a fight, when we must run rather than engage. The ability to recognize when we are not ready is a hard-learned lesson, but one we cannot do without. This is a difficult city to visit, but an essential one.
Adullam, The City of Leadership Development
After escaping the clutches of the enemy Philistine king, David flees to the caves of Adullam, a place of relative safety. Here, he took time to recover and think.
Adullam was a place of both brokenness and healing for David. Although defeated and in hiding, David took the time to refocus on his purpose, eventually rekindling his relationships with his family—when they heard that he was near, they came to him. Not only this, but 400 men saw something admirable in David, while he was there, and joined him.
The caves of Adullam is a familiar place for many people. It’s that quiet place just after the loss of a job, or the ruination of a relationship. It’s a place of pain, but also of safety, of reformation. It’s where God builds you anew from the ashes of your old life.
Keilah, The City of Betrayal
After receiving instructions from the prophet, Gad, David obediently left the caves of Adullam with his men. As they travel, they come to the city of Keilah, which is under siege by the Philistines, and with the blessing of God, David and his men attack the Philistines and save the city.
All does not end well, however.
Saul hears that David is in Keilah, and amasses an army to come after him. When David learns of this, he turns to God, asking of the people of Keilah will give him up to Saul rather than face attack—God informs David that they will, indeed, betray him. David and his army pick up and leave soon after.
Betrayal, in itself, is a lesson—albeit a hard one. Look to David’s actions in Keilah; he didn’t linger. He didn’t lament or become hardened or untrusting. He simply moved on—moved past the disappointment and on to the next stage of his journey. We would do well to emulate him when we experience our own Keilah.
En Gedi, The City of Revenge
As Saul’s army pursues David and his men through the desert of En Gedi, Saul stops at a certain cave in order to relieve himself. It just so happens that this is the very cave in which David is hiding. Despite having the chance to end Saul’s life, David merely cuts a corner from his robe—an act symbolic of David’s removal of Saul’s ruling mantle. He spares Saul’s life, and the king leave the cave completely unaware of his brush with death.
Violence begets violence. There is an early Germanic societal term for it—weregild. Weregild, also known as man price, was the value placed on very person and piece of property. If a person were to be accidentally killed, then the killer would pay with his own life. It was, in every sense, “an eye for an eye”. But Jesus taught a different path, didn’t He?
David let God handle vengeance. When we reach the inevitable point in our lives when someone wrongs us, we wish for revenge. We crave it. But to exact it ourselves not only wastes our energies on our enemies, but also flies in the face of God’s command for us to “turn the other cheek”. Rather than being a command to simply take punishment, we are to wholly move on from it, as David did. He did not invite Saul to attack him—he simply walked away. We have much to learn from his example.
Ziklag, The City of Discouragement
Ziklag was a place of total loss, of abandonment and grief. Here, David and his men took up residence after once again seeking refuge from Saul with the Philistines. This time, though, David pledges his loyalty to the Philistine king and pretends to go out and attack the Israelites. In reality, attacks the enemies of Israel, such as the Amalekites. The Philistine king gives the city of Ziklag to David and his men to use as a base.
However, when David and his men are marching back to their city of Ziklag one day, they find it pillaged and burned, their families gone, having been kidnapped by the Amalekites. David’s men harbored animosity toward him after this, and began to plot against him.
David, at this point, had made several bad choices—namely, choosing to serve Israel’s greatest enemy, the same people who produced Goliath. However, as soon as David returned to God, asking Him for direction, God restored all—more than all, in fact.
God guaranteed that David and his host would recover their families and possessions from the Amalekites. They did, and were able to take the Amalekites’ treasures, as well.
Sometimes, we all wander off the path God has set out for us, but He’s always waiting, and willing, to redeem us. We have but to ask in sincerity and repent, and He will be with us once again. If you ever find yourself in Ziklag, just remember that He is still there for you, no matter your mistakes.
Hebron, The City of Almost There
Hebron is where David was crowned the king of Judah, but not yet of Israel. Here, God began to fulfill the prophesy surrounding David’s life—that he would take Saul’s throne as king over the combined kingdoms.
Sometimes, being close to our dreams is one of the most difficult places to be. Hill, in his book, cautions us “not to rush through the places of ‘almost there,’ because God is doing a great work in your life.” He is preparing you for the end—the fulfillment of the dream.
Jerusalem, The City of Dreams
Hill writes that, “When God gives you a promise and then reveals your purpose, you can count on it. But our hearts should be grateful for the process, because it is making us ready to retain the blessing he will pour into our lives.”
Indeed, when God finally brings us into our true calling, we should look back at the journey with thanks, for it is through the journey that God has made us ready to take on our destinies. Shortcuts do us no favors—simply look, for example, at the lives of many lottery winners, as opposed to the lives of successful entrepreneurs. Those who come suddenly into money are often ruined by it, but those who are slowly prepared to handle it are more likely to be successful, even if that preparation is difficult.
So look back on your own journey and mark off the cities you’ve visited. Take a moment to thank God for each one, and to reflect on what you gleaned from that time in your life—the most aware you are, the more you’ll learn, and the closer you’ll be to your Jerusalem.