I haven't been posting my Sunday Bible Studies lately, but decided to get back to it. 1 Samuel 23 would make a great guy movie. It has a chase scene, betrayal, guy bonding and a narrow escape.
1 Samuel 23
23:1-6 The Lord Delivered Keilah Through David
The conflict with David had taken over Saul’s mind, but the Philistines were still a threat in Israel. They attacked the city of Keilah. Keilah (Citadel) was a city in the lowlands of Judah (Joshua 15:33,44). It must have been a walled city, as Saul referred to it later in this chapter as a city of gates and bars. The Philistines must have been successful, as they were looting the threshing floors. Evidently, the Philistines did not like to farm, but they liked to steal grain from the Israelites. Actually, it was pretty good timing. They waited until the Israelites had harvested and threshed the grain, then came for the finished product.
Why did they seek help from David, and not to King Saul? They may have sought help from Saul and he did not come. He may have been too occupied by finding David and ending what he saw as an insurrection. It may have been that Keilah was in Judah and David was from the tribe of Judah. Or, it could be that Saul was seen as the destroyer, having murdered everyone in the town of Nob. Certainly we see a contrast here between Saul the destroyer and David the savior.
David realized the risk. He was hiding. If he went to battle, he would be out in the open. Also, he had only 400 men with him. However, David did not seek only his own safety. He sought the will of the Lord. Verse 2 tells us he inquired of the Lord. 22:20 tells us Abiathar the priest escaped the slaughter at Nob. 23:6 tells us he came with the ephod. If this was the ephod of the high priest, it had the breastplate attached to it (Exodus 28:15, 28). The breastplate had a pouch with two stones, known as the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30). When David inquired of the Lord, he likely did it through Abiathar, who would have used the Urim and Thummim.
It is important to note that the Urim and Thummim were given by God and God told them to use them. They did not come up with this idea on their own. We do not have them today and are not commanded to use them, so do not think you need to make a set and use it to determine God’s will. We have God’s word to guide us. We have his Spirit within us. We have Christ before the throne, interceding for us. Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.”
David is acting like the king here. He is acting like the king God wanted Israel to have. He sought the Lord before acting. He was concerned first for his people, not himself.
Notice, though, that everyone did not jump on the band wagon immediately. David sought the Lord, implying he would do what the Lord said. When the priest announced that the Lord said to go to Keilah, David’s men said they were afraid to go. In fact, they said, we are afraid here hiding from Saul, we’ll be much more afraid fighting the Philistines and wondering if Saul will attack us from behind. Remember, these are not all soldiers. 22:2 tells us they were men who were in distress, or in debt, or bitter in soul. To all those negative adjectives, now add “afraid”.
David must have been a bit rattled by this response, so he went and inquired of the Lord again. He forgot that the Lord already knew who his men were. Sometimes we do this when the visible is frightening, or the task does not make sense to us. The Lord told him to go and added, for assurance, that he would deliver the Philistines into their hands. So, they went, according to verse 5. They won the battle, saved the city, struck a great blow, and even got some spoils in return, the livestock of the Philistines. God saved his chosen people and he saved David, his chosen king.
If you go back to 22:5, you see that God sent his prophet, Gad, to David in Moab, telling him to return to Judah. This shows us God was working to save the city of Keilah before the Philistines even gathered to attack. If David had not returned, he would not have been close enough to come and deliver the city. Troubles often seem to burst into our lives unforeseen. But they are not unforeseen by God, and he is working for our good before we know of the problem.
This passage does cause us to consider the question of how we find God’s will today. Today, we focus on God’s Word. We are indwelt by his Spirit and led by him. He will guide us also.
23:7-14 Saul Pursues David
Saul’s spies again advise him of David’s location. This was as David’s men feared. Saul was delighted, as he thought David trapped inside the walled city where he could be overwhelmed and killed. Saul summoned the people to war. He had not done this to protect Keilah, but does it for his own self interest.
Notice how Saul interpreted the news. He said God had delivered David into his hands. He is attributing his wishes to God, who has announced to him that he is no longer in God’s favor. Saul has killed most of the priests. The high priest with the ephod is with David. Human beings have a great capacity to delude themselves. We need to be careful not to impose our desires on God. That is the hardest thing in the Christian life: finding what God wants and giving it to him, rather than finding what we want and asking God to be happy with it.
In contrast, David sought the Lord. He heard Saul was after him, so he ran to the Lord to discern his will. He was in a difficult situation, and he was there because the Lord sent him there. Yet, he did not despair or hate God for it. He simply went to the Lord and said “what’s next?”
The Lord told him Saul would indeed come after him and the men of the city would give him up, despite the fact that he had saved them. So, David and his men left. He moved from place to place, staying in strongholds in the wilderness of Ziph. Saul kept looking for him, but God protected him.
23:15-18 Jonathan Encourages David
David continued to move from place to place, knowing Saul’s men were hunting him and that Saul wanted to kill him. And you think you have a stressful job.
Jonathan found out where David was and went there. He risked at least his father’s disfavor, if not death, for doing this. But, he loved David and went to help him, knowing that David must be apprehensive and weary. Jonathan encouraged David. Verse 17 tells us he told David not to be afraid. Why should David not be afraid with the king after him? Because David would be king over Israel. The Lord had already told David so, and Jonathan knew it also. In verse 17, Jonathan said Saul knew it also. (So, Saul was intentionally trying to defy the Lord’s will.) He just reminded David of what the Lord had said, and reasoned that, if David was to be king, the Lord would not permit Saul to harm him.
Jonathan has no remorse that he will not be king. He loved the Lord and he loved the Lord’s man, David. He was content to be second to David, though we know that did not happen because Jonathan died along with his father.
What was the result of this talk? Verse 16 tells us Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God. He gave David assurance of God’s blessing and protection and of his own love and support.
After giving encouragement to David, Jonathan renewed his covenant with David before the Lord. This was the last time David and Jonathan would ever see each other on the earth. David’s last memory of his friend would be his coming to the wilderness to give him strength to go on.
23:19-29 The Ziphites betray David to Saul
In contrast to Jonathan’s loyalty, the people of Zip betrayed David. They sent men to Gibeah, where Saul still lived in his royal house in the allotment of Benjamin. Not only did they betray David’s location, they offered to “surrender” David to him. I think that means they would keep track of him and not let him leave until Saul got there with his men to kill him or capture him.
Saul sent the men back to spy on David so he would know his exact location. Saul and his men followed. But, David had spies also. They told him Saul was coming. So, David went further into the wilderness. Saul heard and pursued him. In a great chase scene, David tried to escape by going around the other side of the mountain from Saul and his men. Yet, Saul closed in on him. Just as he got close, however, a messenger came and told him the Philistines were attacking the land. So, Saul had to turn back and see to the defense of the country. David was able to escape. Ironically, David’s enemies, the Philistines, became his saviors, through the intervention of the Lord.
David also wrote a Psalm about the betrayal of the men from Ziph. It is Psalm 54.
i. In Psalm 54, David called out to the Lord for help: Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your strength (Psalm 54:1).
ii. In Psalm 54, David understood his enemies: For strangers have risen up against me, and oppressors have sought after my life; they have not set God before them (Psalm 54:3).
iii. In Psalm 54, David expressed his confidence in the Lord: Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is with those who uphold my life (Psalm 54:4).
iv. In Psalm 54, David let go of the bitterness and fear and praised the Lord instead: I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good (Psalm 54:6).
David left the treachery with the One who is sufficient to deal with them.