1 Samuel 23-24 (NIV)
David Saves Keilah
23 When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” 2 he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”
The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”
3 But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”
4 Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” 5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 6 (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelech had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)
David probably had the priest use the Urim and Thummim (think of a kind of dice) to determine the Lord’s will, as was customary at the time. To me, the broader lesson is to stop and consider the Lord’s will before we do something. Some of my larger mistakes have been when I didn’t consider God’s perspective on something first. Once that was done deliberately because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the answer. Bad idea!!
Saul Pursues David
7 Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has handed him over to me, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” 8 And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.
9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” 10 David said, “O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”
And the Lord said, “He will.”
12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”
And the Lord said, “They will.”
13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.
14 David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.
19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king.”
21 Saul replied, “The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and make further preparation. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.”
24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.
26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.
David Spares Saul’s Life
24 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.
3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.
8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.
14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”
22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Unfortunately, Saul still didn’t learn his lesson from this. But what a man of God David was! He had an easy opportunity to kill the man who had wronged him. It would have been so easy for him to rationalize that he was going to be the king eventually, so why not take out Saul now? He could have reasoned that it was a “sign from God.”
Please add any reflections that you have.