And don't forget that about the printable Study Guide so you can continue delving deeper in your personal Quiet Time! To access each week's guide in The Library, make sure to sign up to the blog via email so you have the password!
I hear people complain all the time about how boring the Old Testament is, and I just don’t get it. So many of the stories within its pages read more like a major Hollywood film than an old dusty book full of stodgy narration…and this week is no exception. Danger, risk, threat, evasion, rescuing innocents, and preserving lives leave me on the edge of my seat as I try to wrap my mind around the fact that this is more than simply a story. This was actually David’s life, David’s story.
As we wrapped up last week, we learned that King Saul commanded the priests and every living thing to be killed in the city of Nob because Ahimalech gave David bread and a sword. Ahimalech’s son the lone survivor, David brought him in with open arms. With a heavy heart David took responsibility for the massacre, realizing if it weren’t for his deception from a lack of trust in God …those men, women, children, and animals would likely still be alive.
As his mania over David increased, Saul grew more and more neglectful of his true purpose as ruler of Israel, his entire mission as king focusing on David’s imaginary crimes and how to find and kill him. Though on the run, God tasked David with protecting the people from neighboring nations. As we begin chapter 23, we learn that the Philistines were fighting against Keilah, looting the threshing floors.
In case you're wondering...
The threshing floor was a vital part of agriculture in the Near East. Typically circular in shape, with a diameter of 25-40 feet (7.6-12.2 meters), the threshing floor was commonly positioned near a village in an area with high wind exposure.
Once the farmer had selected the location, he cleared the ground of stones and compressed the soil until a firm surface resulted. When the “floor” was ready, he laid recently harvested sheaves of grain on it for threshing. The farmer than used large animals, such as oxen or donkeys, to pull heavy threshing sleds over the grain, separating the kernels from the stalks and husks. When the threshing was complete, a winnowing fork was used to toss the grain into the air. The wind blew away the lighter stalks and husks (chaff), as the heavier kernels fell back to the floor. The farmer sifted the kernels through trays to remove any dirt gathered in the process and then temporarily stored the grain in heaps on the floor or sealed it in jars for later use. (Notes from The Archeological Bible . NIV)
The urgency David felt in learning the Philistines were attacking the threshing floor was because this would develop into a major hardship for the people of Keilah, stripping the people of grain for following year’s crop. The Bible says David “inquired of the Lord”. The Hebrew word used here is sha’al which means beg, ask, and request. So basically, though this situation needed immediate attention, he stopped to pray.
What a different transpiration than last week’s study! As David ran from Saul first to Nob, then Gath, then on to Adullam and Mizpah, we don’t hear of him stopping to talk to God at all. David didn’t ask The Lord what His plan was, how he should handle things, where he should go, or whom he should trust his life with. And because he went off using his own strategy, rather than trusting The Lord, with his circumstance, David’s honor waned and people died.
Here in 1 Samuel 23:2, David prays and God answers telling him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” Approaching his men with the Lord’s instructions, they balked at God’s direction, wondered how they could even consider going against Philistine forces in Keilah while living in hiding from Saul.
Approaching God in prayer once again, this time possibly in front of his men, David asked for clarity in the Lord’s direction. He inquired this second time, not because of his own skepticism, for he had none. He came before the throne of God rather, for the sake of his men who carried doubt and fear. This is both the sign of a good leader and indication that David’s faith and trust was continuing to grow.
Here in the beginning of chapter 23, David has faith the Lord’s direction, but his men do not yet have that same confidence. Helping bring them to a place where they could grow in their assurance in their Heavenly Father, David prays a second time.
The Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” (23:4) In obedience and faithfulness, David’s company inflicted heavy losses upon the Philistine army, ultimately defeating them and saving the people of Keilah. Saul of course caught wind that David and his band of outcasts were at Keilah and mustering his forces, he excitedly believed God was handing the young man over to him. “For David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.”(23:7)
Again David showed the strength of his trust in God, not allowing his natural warrior instincts to kick in, but instead asking the Lord how to proceed.
David: 10 Eternal God of Israel, Your servant has heard that Saul the king is coming to Keilah to destroy the city since I am here. 11 Will the leaders of Keilah hand me over to save their lives? Is what I heard true? Is Saul really coming? I beg of You, please tell Your servant.
Eternal One: He will come.
David: 12 Then will the men of Keilah hand me over along with my men to Saul when he arrives?
Eternal One: They will do this.
(1 Samuel 23:10-12 . The Voice)
David and his men of about 600 escaped the city before Saul’s soldiers arrived, traveling all over, never staying in a single place for long. Only breaking pursuit when news arrived that the Philistines were invading the country, King Saul continued his manic hunt, changing course whenever new information came about David’s whereabouts.
Returning from chasing the Philistines, Saul gathered 3,000 men after learning his adversary was hiding in the wilderness of En-Gedi. Coming to an area that held sheep shelters, Saul spotted a nearby cave and went in to relieve himself. It just so happened that David and his men were already hiding in the far back of the very same cave.
(Fiction couldn’t be better than this!!)
Creeping up unnoticed, David carefully cut a corner of fabric from Saul’s robe. Feeling extremely convicted by what he had done, David called out to the king after he had exited the cave. The synergy between the two men shows them in one of their finest moments together, each responding positively to the other.
Saul apologizes in recognition that because David didn’t take Saul’s life while in the cave, he likely isn’t actually out to take his kingship. Does David then wipe his brow and do a little jig thinking he can finally get on with his life because this whole miscommunication and “jealousy thing” was over?
David knows better. He understands that Saul is not in his right mind and jealousy has a horrible habit of ebbing and flowing like the tide. Though David has forgiven Saul, he’s not naïve. He still takes precautions and waits for real evidence that the king has changed his focus from hunting down David, aiming his attention instead back on proper acts as the leader of Israel. Even bullies and abusers sometimes apologize and promise to change their ways. Unless a heart is truly motivated to repent by God, it’s just actually just breathing space until they strike again.
Samuel coming to anoint David occurred years prior, when he was seen as no more a shepherd boy, and there’s no evidence the old priest shared what he was actually anointed for. Because there is no indication that David had any idea he would become king one day, I’m sure he wondered for what purpose he was set apart.
God certainly could have fashioned an easier course for David. One that didn’t require so much fear and living in survival mode. But God needed to strip everything away from David to strengthen his character.
He wouldn’t come out of this season the same boy who watched his father’s sheep. In fact, he was no longer even the young man who lived in Saul’s kingdom as the praised warrior and talented harpist. Through all the difficulty, he was becoming a man who clung tightly to God. A man full of perseverance, grit, and courage. David was far from perfect, but he always came back to God with a heart full of sorrow when he did wrong. Like us, David is fiercely imperfect, but trying to be the person the Lord created him to be.
God had not forgotten David in the wilderness and he hasn’t forgotten us, either. God was preparing him for what was to come. He was allowing him to go through it for a purpose and was teaching him to fight through the hard and through opposition.
But God wasn’t simply using David, He was also using his men to experience His faithfulness. These outcasts, these unaccepted men who had been discarded by society or as recompense of past decisions would be used for the glory of God as they fought alongside the “man after God’s own heart”.
David may not have known exactly what his calling was yet, but the battle had already begun to try and throw him off course so he wouldn’t reach the fruition of his anointing. When he begun to lie and deceive (last week’s study) thinking it was his only way out, he gave in to the battle. Satan won that one because of his lack of trust. Whenever God gives us a calling, whether it seems little or massive, we will face opposition Every. Single. Time. During his time of running from Saul, he could have begun blaming God. He could have wavered in his faith as fear and doubt crept in like it did in the minds of his men.
He could have said, “But I thought You were with me, Father! I thought you were good. I thought You would never forsake me. I must have heard You wrong. This is too much. Maybe You’re gone, maybe You walked away… because this?? THIS, GOD?! This is too hard.”
But he didn’t. He continued to grasp tightly to his Father and fight. The Lord was teaching him to fight for his faith, for his men, and for his future. He learned how to do it honorably, with the Lord by his side. And because of this, he became a man of incredible spiritual strength.
Psalm 57-58 were written by David during this time of hiding from Saul in the cave. The passage begins like this (see below), and I am reminded how we must do more than simply take joy in difficult seasons…but grasp it tightly with both hands.
Though our struggles are real, His faithfulness is more real.
Be good to me, God—and now!
I’ve run to you for dear life.
I’m hiding out under your wings
until the hurricane blows over.
I call out to High God,
the God who holds me together.
He sends orders from heaven and saves me,
he humiliates those who kick me around.
God delivers generous love,
he makes good on his word.
(Psalm 57:1-3 . The Message)
Don't forget to head to The Library to print out your Study Guide to use for your personal Quiet Time (you must subscribe to the blog via email to receive the password).
I can't wait to continue on next week!