1 Samuel 23 (NRSV)
David Saves the City of Keilah
Now they told David, “The Philistines are fighting against Keilah (an Israelite town), and are robbing the threshing floors.”
So it seems that as soon as the people got their grain all harvested, the Philistines swooped in and stole it. Why did the people go to David? Why didn’t they go to King Saul? Evidently Saul was not able to protect them.
2David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”
The Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”
3But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?”
The men said, “Hey, David, open your eyes. We aren’t exactly a well-trained and well-equipped regular army. And we already have Saul as an enemy–why go adding the Philistines to the list?”
4Then David inquired of the Lord again. The Lord answered him, “Yes, go down to Keilah; for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” 5So David and his men went to Keilah, fought with the Philistines, brought away their livestock, and dealt them a heavy defeat. Thus David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah. 6When Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he came down with an ephod in his hand.
7Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand; for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” 8Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
Not to war against the Philistines, who had been oppressing fellow Israelites. No, Saul, goes to war against David, to save his own reputation. Such pathetic leadership!
9When David learned that Saul was plotting evil against him, he said to the priest Abiathar, “Bring the ephod here.” 10David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11And now, will Saul come down as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, I beseech you, tell your servant.”
The Lord said, “He will come down.”
12Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?”
The Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, set out and left Keilah; they wandered wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition.
14David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but the Lord did not give him into his hand.
David continually asks the Lord for directions and thereby stays alive.
David Eludes Saul in the Wilderness
15David was in the Wilderness of Ziph at Horesh when he learned that Saul had come out to seek his life.
Ziph was a town below the southern tip of the Dead Sea. It was not a comfortable or easy place to be. God guided and protected David, but it wasn’t comfortable or easy. This was an essential time for God’s work in David’s life. He became a man after God’s heart in the shepherd’s field but he became a king in the wilderness.
16Saul’s son Jonathan set out and came to David at Horesh; there he strengthened his hand through the Lord. 17He said to him, “Do not be afraid; for the hand of my father Saul shall not find you; you shall be king over Israel, and I shall be second to you; my father Saul also knows that this is so.” 18Then the two of them made a covenant before the Lord; David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.
This may have been the final time that David and Jonathan were together. And how generous and gracious of Jonathan to encourage David in the Lord.
19Then some Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “David is hiding among us in the strongholds of Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon. 20Now, O king, whenever you wish to come down, do so; and our part will be to surrender him into the king’s hand.”
For David: On the one hand, a faithful Jonathan. On the other hand, a fellow Israelite ready to betray him.
21Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord for showing me compassion! 22Go and make sure once more; find out exactly where he is, and who has seen him there; for I am told that he is very cunning. 23Look around and learn all the hiding places where he lurks, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you; and if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.”
24So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. 25Saul and his men went to search for him. When David was told, he went down to the rock and stayed in the wilderness of Maon. When Saul heard that, he pursued David into the wilderness of Maon.
David wrote a psalm about this experience; we will read Psalm 54 tomorrow.
26Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. David was hurrying to get away from Saul, while Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them. 27Then a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come; for the Philistines have made a raid on the land.” 28So Saul stopped pursuing David, and went against the Philistines; therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29David then went up from there, and lived in the strongholds of En-gedi.
David may have felt himself in danger from Saul, but actually he was quite safe in the Lord’s hands. And we, in the various vicissitudes of our lives, can also rest in our Lord’s loving care for us. “My peace I give to you,” Jesus said, “— not as the world gives.” HERE are two old hymns, “Near to the Heart of God” and “A Wonderful Savior,” sung by Evie Tornquist Karlsson. She was recognized as the Dove Award recipient of Female Vocalist of the Year for 1977 and 1978. Lyrics follow.
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
It’s a place where sin cannot molest,
It’s near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before you,
Hold us near to the heart of God
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.
With His strong hand.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.