SAUL PURSUES DAVID
TEXT: 1 Samuel 23:1-29
The preceding chapter reveals the flight of David into the cave of Adullam where the distressed and discontented resorted to him for protection and succor. His stay in this cave, occasioned by Saul’s unrelenting chase, afforded him some thoughtful moments for reminiscences, realization and confession of past misdeeds which led to the deadly massacre of eighty- five priests and the inhabitants of Nob by Saul based on Doeg’s malicious report. David’s conduct in this study bears evidence of spiritual restoration which also attracted continued divine deliverance from Saul’s relentless chase. Saul’s murderous act was intended to be punitive as well as serve as a deterrent to the inhabitants of all cities in Israel to refrain from sympathizing, associating with or helping David escape being caught. So, it was suicidal for anyone or city to stand in Saul’s way as he continued to hunt David. God, who is always faithful in preserving His children from the wrath of their enemies, preserved David’s life. Therefore, believers should daily live and serve Him with the assurance that “He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous…” (Job 36:7) but watches over them.
SELFLESS CONCERN AND WATCHFULNESS IN DOING GOD’S WILL (1 Samuel 23:1-15; Psalm 25:9; John 11:7,8;
Proverbs 3:5,6; Joshua 2:1-16; Psalm 118:8,9; Proverbs 18:10)
While still hiding in the cave of Adullam, David was informed of the Philistines’ invasion of Keilah. He took time to enquire from God whether to intervene and deliver them or not. He was not presumptuous here by relying on his past victory over Goliath or embarking on an ego trip for popularity. He humbly allowed the Spirit of God to lead him. Children of God should always ask for divine guidance before taking any major step in life. The Scripture says, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). God gave His nod for the rescue of the inhabitants of Keilah and David mobilized his foot soldiers for the battle.
However, the news that “the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing floors” terrified David’s men who drew his attention to the risk of confronting such a well-organized army. Undeterred by their fear, David went to God again for further clarification. Believers need to avoid fear-induced counsels when making critical decisions in life. They should instead resort to importunate praying to obtain the grace to obey God. Complacency, delay and procrastination after knowing the will of God under the guise of waiting for confirmation is deadly. If David had delayed further, the people of Keilah would have been destroyed. Believers do not need to wait for another prophecy or revelation before obeying clearly revealed will of God in Scripture. Subjects like repentance, restitution, water baptism, evangelism, tithe, etc. do not require praying to ascertain whether they are the will of God or not. We are just to obey.
Even in this context, God acceded to David’s planned rescue of the inhabitants of Keilah to teach us the importance of rescuing perishing souls. His irretrievable command is, “… Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15,16). Delaying to obey may lead to the perishing of souls and their blood will be required from us. With compassion, prompt obedience and selfless sacrifice, “David saved the inhabitants of Keilah” (1 Samuel 23:5). It was after this victory that Abiathar, son of Ahimelech the priest who was the only known survivor of Saul’s massacre, came with an ephod to meet David at Keilah. The ephod was a sacred vestment worn by priests and used as a means of knowing the mind of God (Exodus 28:6-14,31-35; 25:7; 1 Samuel 23:9,12; 30:7,8). As New Testament believers, we do not resort to consulting any ephod or casting lots to know God’s mind as we now have the Spirit and Word of God to guide us. Like Abiathar, believers who are suffering any form of persecution should abide in fellowship with God and fellow believers.
David was watchful while doing God’s will. Though he delivered the inhabitants of Keilah from being overrun by the Philistines, he did not put his trust in them to shield him from being captured by Saul. If he cast a javelin at Jonathan in an attempt to kill him and actually killed the priests whom his servants feared to touch, he would definitely not spare the people of Keilah for harboring
David. In fact, Saul was already celebrating David’s entry into a walled city that “God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars” (verse 7). It was the intelligence report that Saul was preparing to overrun the city of Keilah that drove him to use the ephod to pray to God. “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. 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” (verses 10-12). In answer to his enquiries, God told him Saul would come to seek him and the men would deliver him up. Rather than facilitate his escape with the fear and love of God in their hearts like Rahab did to the two spies sent to Jericho, the men of Keilah were ready to prove their loyalty to the king by delivering David, their benefactor into the hand of Saul. That is why the Bible admonishes that, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8,9). Christians should be watchful at all times and not depend even on their own understanding. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6).
David and his men left Keilah for the wilderness of Ziph where they hid in strongholds. While they were there, Saul sought David every day but “God delivered him not into his hand”. As he did his part by abiding in strongholds, God also faithfully preserved him. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3; 27:1). Thus, Saul could not succeed in his wicked plot against David. We need to be wise, watchful and careful as we walk daily
in the will of God, bearing in mind that the name of Christ is our strong tower. We must run away from sin and abide in Christ always to continue to enjoy divine protection.
SACRIFICIAL COURAGE AND LOVE DURING TRIALS AND PERSECUTION (1 Samuel 23:16-19; Proverbs 18:24; Job 4:4; Joshua 1:6,7,9; Isaiah 35:3,4; Hebrews 12:12,13)
Jonathan’s visit to David at his trying time speaks volumes about genuine love amount the brethren. This visit was not to accuse or condemn David like Job’s friends did but to strengthen him, even when such gesture could endanger his own life. “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” (1 Samuel 23:17). The words we speak to brethren at their trying times mattera lot. Jonathan spoke words that will dissolved doubts and allayed David’s fears; and words of affirmation of divine purpose for David and Israel. In order to “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees”, the Scripture teaches that we should “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you” (Hebrews 12:12; Isaiah 35:4). Though it was obvious that Jonathan could not stop his
father, he did not take sides with him. He knew the truth that David would become king over Israel and he selflessly submitted to this will of God. Resisting, working and fighting against His will attracts troubles, demonic torment, sleepless nights and eventual destruction such as Saul suffered. Jonathan’s love and humble submission to the will of God are proofs of a sanctified heart which every believer needs. Jesus prayed and sacrificed His life for the sanctification of heaven-bound believers.
CONNIVANCE AND DELIVERANCE IN TRIALS AND PERSECUTION (1 Samuel 23:19-29; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12,13)
“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? 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”. The Ziphites who were of the same tribe of Judah with David were supposed to protect and assist him in time of his travail, but they betrayed him. With this unsolicited intelligence report on the hideout of David, Saul commended as well as commissioned the Ziphites to get more details about his movement. “And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me. 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” (1 Samuel 23:21,23). It was a hard time for David to have the king of Israel pursue him, and this time, intending to comb the land to terminate his life. It was ironical that instead of being celebrated, he was being chased; instead of recognition, he faced relegation; instead of reward, he suffered reproach; and for his love and kindness, he was betrayed even by his kinsmen. Trials and persecutions are part of the Christian’s experiences. God has promised that He would never leave nor forsake but will deliver us in times of trouble. It was in the expectation of deliverance after the Ziphites’ betrayal that David prayed in Psalm 54:1-7: “Save me, O God, by thy name… Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah. Behold, God is mine helper… I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good. For he hath delivered me out of all trouble…”. Believers need to imbibe these godly attitudes of praying, praising and trusting God for deliverance in times of betrayal.
It is instructive that David did not leave his suffering to an imagined fate but was also working on intelligence reports he received about Saul’s plots. Before the Ziphite betrayers could return, David had relocated from the stronghold in the hill of Hachilah to a rock in the wilderness of Maon. Prayer is good, but it is not an escape from responsibility of taking precautionary measures for self-protection. It was in this wilderness of Maon that Saul came close to capturing David. “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. But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David…” (1 Samuel 23:26-28). God, in His providence, delivered David by allowing Saul to hear news of invasion of the Philistines. He suspended the manhunt abruptly when it was almost the end of the road for the son of Jesse. God’s hands are indeed not short to deliver His people from trouble (Isaiah 59:1). Thus, David’s prayer in Psalm 54 above was fully answered and serves as an encouragement to believers in distressful situations to pray and expect divine intervention. He says, “call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). God will always make a way out of every difficult situation for His children at the right time. He is never late!
1. Admit that you are a sinner. "For all [humans] have sinned, and comes short of the glory of God....[and] the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 3:23)
2. Repent now. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out ...[for] if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness " (Acts 3:19, 1 John 1:9)
3. Believe that God loves you and Jesus died for you. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet Sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
4. Invite Jesus into your life through prayer of faith. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20)