I Samuel 23

Whatever befalls us,
if we acknowledge God in all our ways and seek direction from Him,
God will baffle the designs of the enemy and turn their counsels in our favor.

1 Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.

2 Therefore David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.

3 And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?

4 Then David enquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.

5 So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

6 And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.

7 ¶ And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.

8 And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.

9 ¶ And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.

10 Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.

11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.

12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.

13 ¶ Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.

14 And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.

15 And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.

16 ¶ And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.

17 And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.

18 And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.

19 ¶ Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon?

20 Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand.

21 And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me.

22 Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly.

23 See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.

24 And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon.

25 Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.

26 And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.

27 ¶ But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.

28 Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.

29 And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at En-gedi.

1 Samuel 23:1-14 – Success and Safety under God’s Guidance

   We learn here that those who are called to walk in the maze of human life need to look constantly upward for direction. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Our eyes need to be fixed constantly on the Lord. “Lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). We have no priestly ephod to direct us. But if we roll the responsibility of our way on God and wait for Him, the conviction of His plan will steal into our hearts, and this will be corroborated by the advice of experienced friends and the trend of circumstances.
   The recompense of the people of Keilah for David’s noble interposition on their behalf was very base, and warns us not to trust in human safeguards, which are so liable to be broken down. The only place of absolute security is in God. Blessed are they whose life is “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3)! David knew that, and in these sad and difficult days, when he was hunted as a partridge on the mountains, he was composing some of his most helpful psalms. See Psalms 11, 54, 57. In our own troubled times, how good it is that we should listen to the sweet music of the eternal world which surrounds this one and in which the harried soul may have its abiding-place.

I Samuel 23:9—He said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.

   David was passing through one of the most awful experiences of his life, when his men spoke of stoning him instead of taking up his cause. How many times in this chapter we are informed that David inquired of the Lord! Some three or four times the appeal for direction was renewed, as though he were fearful to stir one step by the light of his own unaided wisdom. In that changeful life of his, it must have been extremely difficult to set the Lord always before him, and await Divine direction. Many a time his circumstances might seem to demand immediate action rather than prayer; and the rude soldiery must have insisted on their voice being heard rather than a priest’s; but David was not deterred by one or the other, and still held to his practice of consulting the Urim and Thummim stone, set in the ephod; which was probably a splendid diamond, flashing with God’s distinct “Yes,” or growing cloudy and dark with his definite “No.”
   Let us inquire of the Lord. The answer will surely come, if we wait for it. If we are not sure of it, let us still wait, for it will come not so early as to save us from using our faith, not so late as to permit us to be overwhelmed. Direction will come in the growing conviction of duty, in the drift of circumstances, in the advice of friends, in the perceptions of a sanctified judgment. None that wait on God can be ashamed. Whether our duty is to arise and pursue, to sit still, or to escape “the meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way” (Psalm 25:9). He gives us a white stone in which a name is written, which only they know who receive.

1 Samuel 23:15-29 – A Relentless Pursuit Foiled

   Amid outward strife, God is sure to provide some rill of human love—a tender friendship, a Jonathan. See Psalm 106:46. This is the mission of a friend—to strengthen our hands in God, whisper words of hope, and enter into renewed covenants with us. Is not this what our best Friend does? He finds us out in the deepest woods, and whispers His Fear not. There is no hunted soul to whom Jesus will not come to pour in the oil and wine of His presence.
   Let us always strengthen our friends’ hands in God. We sometimes weaken their good resolutions by our timid entreaties, as Peter did when he urged the Lord to spare Himself, Matthew 16:22. No, you must always help your friend to be his noblest and strongest. The angel strengthened the Redeemer in the garden. The one word for us to pass on is, “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong” (Daniel 10:19).
   The Ziphites made a direct bid for Saul’s favor, but their plot miscarried. When a man puts his life into God’s hands, he has no need to fear “the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day” (Psalm 91:5). Whatever difficulties threaten him, there is ever a way of escape.