Today we continue on in our journey through the book of 1 Samuel. For the past several weeks, we’ve been following David as he attempts to escape the grasp of King Saul. Even though David has been nothing but loyal to Saul, Saul has become insane with jealousy towards David and is convinced that David is trying to conspire against him. Saul has become so fearful of David that it seems there is nothing he won’t do to try to capture and kill David.
In fact, Saul has just executed 85 priests and their families because the priest Ahimelech had earlier given David some supplies for his journey! Of course, Ahimelech didn’t even know that David was fleeing from Saul, but Saul accused him of conspiring with David and ordered that he be put to death. Ahimelech and all of his relatives were then murdered by Saul’s henchman, Doeg. Only one member of Ahimelech’s family escaped – his son Abithar who fled for his life and found refuge with David.
Of course, Abithar wasn’t the only person who found refuge with David. You’ll remember that when David was hiding from Saul at the cave of Adullam, a whole group of people came to David and joined him there. These men were described as being in trouble or in debt or bitter of soul. But they all found compassion and refuge with David until David was the captain of about 400 men.
About that time, the prophet Gad told David that the Lord wanted him to return to Judah. And so, being obedient to the Lord, David and his men left the safety of their stronghold in the cave of Adullam and returned to Judah. And that’s about where we left David last time.
Saul is still on the hunt for David and David is now hiding out with his 400 men in the forrest of Hereth.
Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but as soon as I read about David hiding out with his men in the forest of Hereth, I immediate thought about the story of Robin Hood. I mean, just change a few names and the plot is strangely similar. Instead of Robin Hood and his band of merry men hiding out in the Sherwood Forest – you have David and his ragtag group of 400 men hiding out in the forest of Hereth. And instead of Prince John and the sheriff of Nottingham trying to hunt down Robin Hood, you have King Saul and his evil herdsman, Doeg trying to hunt down David. You could even find similarities between Robin Hood’s loyal friend, little John, and David’s loyal friend Jonathan.
The only thing we haven’t seen yet is David stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Then again, in today’s passage, we’re going to see David coming to the rescue of those in need – even while being on the run himself – so maybe there are some more similarities after all.
Our passage begins today with David receiving some bad news from the nearby town of Keilah. It says in 1 Samuel chapter 23, verse 1…
One day news came to David that the Philistines were at Keilah stealing grain from the threshing floors. 2 David asked the Lord, “Should I go and attack them?”
“Yes, go and save Keilah,” the Lord told him.
1 Samuel 23:1-2
It’s a simple and fairly straight forward start to this story, but it strikes me as being a bit odd. The first part makes sense…. The part about the Philistines stealing grain from Keilah… Keilah was a fortified town in Judah, right near the border of the Philistine’s – just south actually of the cave of Adullam where David was hiding from Saul earlier. Since it was kinda way out on the outskirts of Isrealite territorry, it would make sense that the Philistines would send in raiding parties just over the border to try to steal grain from the Israelites. That part makes perfect sense.
But the part that seems odd is that David would even think about trying to come to their rescue. Don’t forget, right now David is being hunted by King Saul. He’s not really in a position to rescue anyone! Instead of rescuing Keilah, he’s kinda the one who needs rescuing. But there he is, asking the Lord if he should go save Keliah by attacking the Philistines.
Of course, at one time, this would have been right up David’s alley. David was once the most successful commander in Saul’s army and had won tremendous victories fighting against the Philistines. But he no longer commands the armies of Israel. All he’s got right now is this ragtag bunch of 400 men who only showed up because they were in trouble, in debt, or in some other way bitter of soul! Not exactly the elite troops that David had earlier led into battle!
So what is David thinking? Well, we’re not told what David was thinking – we’re just told what he was doing. And what he was doing was exactly what Saul should have been doing.
As the King of Israel, Saul should have been the one coming to the rescue of this Isrealite town. That was kinda his #1 responsibility as King – to protect and rescue his people!
But what was he doing? He was busy chasing after David – trying to protect himself from a threat that wasn’t even really a threat!
The fact is, David was acting more like the king that Saul was. Even though he didn’t have the resources or the elite armies of Israel at his command, David took the responsibility upon himself to protect the people of Keilah. He clearly felt that if he COULD do something to rescue this Isrealite town, then he SHOULD.
And by the way, that’s a principle that I think all of us should live by. That is, if we have the opportunity and the means to do some good for someone, then we really have a responsibility to take action and to do that good thing! When we know that we can help someone, or encourage someone, or bless someone in some way… I would argue that, as soon as we become aware of that opportunity, it then becomes our moral responsibility to do that good thing for them. After all, doing good for others is a way that we can reflect the character of God. And I think that’s a principle back up by Scripture. Galatians 6:9 tells us….
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Whenever we have an opportunity to do good, we should do that good! Now of course, we can’t do every good thing that ever crosses our mind. I’m sure we’d all love to feed every hungry person in the world or sponsor every refugee family to come to Canada or even to care for all the needy and hurting people right here in our own town. But we are limited people with limited resources. There is only so much good that we can do.
But that certainly doesn’t mean we should do nothing! The principle here is that if we have the ability and resources to do good to someone, then we are to reflect the character of God and do that good thing.
James 4:17 takes it even a step further.
17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
Did you catch that? It is a sin, James says, not to do the good things that you know that you ought do.
My daughter said to me this week, “Do you know why I do the dishes so often? Its because of that verse.” (referring to this verse in James) She sees the pile of dirty dishes, and she knows that washing them would be a good thing to do – it would be a blessing to her family. And since she has the time and the ability to quickly wash them up, she feels that it would be wrong for her now to walk away and not wash the dishes. It would be like disobedience for her to ignore that little prompting of the Holy Spirit to do this good thing.
And I think that’s a reflection of Godly character. Acting like Jesus doesn’t just mean avoiding bad behaviour – it also means actively doing good for others!
I think that’s what David was doing. When he heard that the people of Keilah were in trouble, and he thought that perhaps he could help, he felt an obligation do good to them and to rescue them. And so he asked the Lord if he should go and attack the Philistines – and the Lord said, “Yes, go and save Keilah.”
However, David’s men weren’t quite so sure this was such a good idea. It says in verse 3:
3 But David’s men said, “We’re afraid even here in Judah. We certainly don’t want to go to Keilah to fight the whole Philistine army!”
4 So David asked the Lord again, and again the Lord replied, “Go down to Keilah, for I will help you conquer the Philistines.”
1 Samuel 23:3-4
Now you can understand the concern of David’s men. After all, as far as we know, these men were not trained for battle. They were just a ragtag group of misfits that gathered around David because he had compassion on them. It was scary enough to be hiding from Saul and your own countrymen – they could’t even imagine facing off against the whole army of the Philistines!
Now of course, David was used to facing giants and fearlessly leading men into battle, but I imagine for these guys, this would be a whole new experience – an experience that they weren’t sure they wanted to have.
And so as they state their objections to David, it seems as if David again shows them compassion and understanding. He doesn’t just push the issue and say “Look, we’re going and that’s final” But instead, as we read in verse 4, David asked the Lord again.
And I expect that David’s second inquiry was much more for the reassurance of his men, than for himself. I think David was already packing up his gear to go, but his men needed a little more assurance that this was actually what God wanted them to do. And so David asked the Lord a second time, and the Lord again replied, “Go down to Keilah, for I will help you conquer the Philistines.”
With this assurance from the Lord, the men put their faith in both God who had told them to go, and in David who would lead them into battle. We read in verse 5.
5 So David and his men went to Keilah. They slaughtered the Philistines and took all their livestock and rescued the people of Keilah.
1 Samuel 23:5
Just as God had promised, God helped David and his men defeat the Philistines and rescue the town of Keilah. They probably didn’t realize it at the time, but this would be the first step for this ragtag group of misfits to becoming David’s mighty men. This would be only the first of the many battles they would fight and win with David as their captain. But their victory celebration would be short lived, because it wouldn’t take long for Saul to hear the news and to come looking for David. The story continues in verse 6.
6 Now when Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he brought the ephod with him.
7 Saul soon learned that David was at Keilah. “Good!” he exclaimed. “We’ve got him now! God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!” 8 So Saul mobilized his entire army to march to Keilah and besiege David and his men.
9 But David learned of Saul’s plan and told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and ask the Lord what he should do.
1 Samuel 23:5-8
First of all, notice that Saul fully believes that God is helping him and has setup David to be captured and killed. When he hears that David is in Keilah, he exclaims “God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!”
Now certainly, David is in Keilah because of the Lord’s direction, but Saul has completely mis-interpreted the situation and has jumped to an entirely wrong conclusion. God has not brought David here to be captured by Saul, but rather to rescue the town of Keilah. You know, that thing that Saul was supposed to do! But Saul is so wrapped up in his own interests that he interprets every event and every circumstance as God leading him to wipe out David. His own bias completely clouds his judgement and distorts his understanding of the situation.
David on the other hand, doesn’t jump to any conclusions, but instead, determines to ask the Lord for direction. Abithar had brought the ephod with him when he had escaped from Nob as Doeg was killing all the priests and their families. And if you’re not familiar with the ephod, it was what was used by the presets to determined the Lord’s will. So David told Abithar to bring the ephod and they would ask the Lord what they should do. David will then make his decision, not based on the circumstances, but rather on the Word of the Lord.
And of course, that’s another great reminder for us. If we want to make right decisions and come to a proper understanding of our circumstances, we have to see things from God’s perspective – and we get that perspective from His Word. We may not have an ephod to help us determined the Lord’s will, but we have something even better. We have the written Word of God. Proverbs 30 verse 5 says….
5 Every word of God proves true.
He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.
If you want to know the truth about your situation, go to the Word of God. See what God has to say about it because every word of God proves true. It’s too easy for our circumstances or our own bias to cloud our judgement and distort our understanding. We have to go to the Word of God to see the truth.
And that’s exactly what David did. Using the ephod (and we’re not entire sure how that all worked), but however they did it, David asked the Lord for direction and the Lord gave him a clear answer. It says in verse 10….
10 Then David prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, I have heard that Saul is planning to come and destroy Keilah because I am here. 11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him? And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord, God of Israel, please tell me.”
And the Lord said, “He will come.”
12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?”
And the Lord replied, “Yes, they will betray you.”
1 Samuel 23:10-12
I imagine that this was a very difficult truth for David to hear. After all, David and his men had just risked their lives to rescue the people of Keilah from the Philistines, and now God tells him that the leaders of Keilah will betray him and turn him over to King Saul.
What a way to show your appreciation! Well, David wasn’t going to stick around and wait for Saul to arrive. Verse 13 says…
13 So David and his men—about 600 of them now—left Keilah and began roaming the countryside. Word soon reached Saul that David had escaped, so he didn’t go to Keilah after all. 14 David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.
1 Samuel 23:13-14
I think that’s about as far as we’re going to go today, but there are two lessons that I want to draw from these last verses. The first is a little bit of theology and the second is a little word of encouragement.
First of all, the theology. Most of us have heard about God’s omniscience. That means that God knows everything. He has all knowledge and He has full understanding of everything. He knows everything you do, He knows everything you think. He completely knows the past – He completely knows the future. He is omniscient. But in these verses, we see an aspect of God’s omniscience that maybe you haven’t thought about before.
Notice that God had told David, “Yes, Saul will come and Yes, the leaders of Keilah will betray you to him.” But that didn’t actually happen, did it? David left Keilah and so Saul never ended up even going there. So was God wrong?
No. God was telling David what would happen if he stayed there. You see, God knows not just what will happen, but he also knows what could happen. God knows all the possibilities of what could happen if people made different decisions or were in different circumstances.
And for me anyway, I find that very encouraging. It gives me a huge boost of confidence in the wisdom of God.
Lots of times we wonder why God allows bad things to happen in our lives – why did we lose our job or why did a loved one die or why did God allow these terrible tragedies like 9/11 or these school shootings or whatever.
But when you realize that God knows all the possibilities that could have been if things were different, and He still chose to allow this to happen, he must have had a very good reason for things to happen this way. In God’s infinite wisdom and through his infinite omniscience, God has determined that this way is the best way.
Psalm 147 verse 5 reminds us:
5 How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
His understanding is beyond comprehension!
Our understanding of our circumstances is so, so limited. We only see a tiny part of the big picture. But God’s understanding is complete. Its perfect. It’s beyond our comprehension.
And I guess that’s all the more reason for us to look to God’s Word when we’re trying to make sense of our world. If you’re looking for answers, why wouldn’t you look to the One who knows everything?!? His power is absolute and his understanding is beyond comprehension! And that infinite God who knows everything has given us a book full of everything that we need to know to navigate through this world. God’s Word is truly an incredible gift!
God must really love us a lot to give us his Word – a little glimpse of his infinite wisdom and ultimate plan!
And that reminds me of the second lesson in these verses. Take a look at the last verse of our story. It says:
Saul hunted [David] day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.
1 Samuel 23:14
Do you know what that means? It means that every single day, God was watching out for David. God was protecting him and keeping him safe. God used his omniscience and his absolute power to hold David safely in the palm of his hands and Saul couldn’t touch him!
That’s just another little encouragement – another example of how much God loves and cares for us. Because the same love that God had for David, is the same love that God has for you and me. I couldn’t help but thing of that passage in Romans 8 – and I think I’ll close with these verses… It says in Romans 8:31…
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a great encouragement! What a glorious truth to remember when we go through difficult circumstances! The infinite, omniscient God of the universe, loves you like crazy – in fact, he loves you enough to die for you – and there is nothing that can ever separate you from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a wonderful God!
Do you know that God in a personal way? Have you invited that infinite, omniscient, loving God to take control of your crazy, messed up world to give you purpose and direction? Have you invited him to be your King and to be your God?
If not, what’s stopping you? God’s known everything about you since before he created the world – he loves you like crazy and he wants you to go through life with him.
I would encourage you this morning, to get to know this God. To trust in him. To follow him. And to learn to love him just as He loves you.