1 Samuel 23
-David was told that the Philistines were fighting against fellow Israelis in Keilah by plundering their threshing floors. So David inquired of the LORD asking Him if he and his men should go and attack these pagan and godless enemies. God granted his servant favor in this mission, so they went in deliverance of Keilah even in the face of fear from his men. God gave these into the hand of David as he and his men led away their livestock and struck them with a great slaughter so that Keilah was delivered (1 Samuel 23:1-5). Then it came about that Abiathar, son of Ahimelech (see 1 Samuel 22:9-23), after he had come to David for safety, presented the ephod in his hand (1 Samuel 23:6). This represented God’s favor in the human form of a priest, a go-between and mediator, for this on the run bunch of renegades that were doing the LORD’s will in the newly formed kingdom of Israel.
-When it was told to Saul that David had come to Keilah, the king thought that he had his enemy trapped and that God had delivered him into his hands for a killing. The double gates and bars of this city would entrap David and his cohorts. Therefore, Saul summoned all his people for war so that they would go down to Keilah to besiege the innocent patriot with all his men. However, David had knowledge that Saul was plotting evil against him, so he had Abiathar bring the linen ephod to him. He asked, through the priest, if the men of Keilah would surrender him into the hands of Saul and if indeed Saul was coming. The LORD informed him that Saul would come down and that the men of Keilah would surely surrender him before the king. This expedited David’s departure from Keilah. He and his 600 men by this point went wherever they could go. Upon hearing that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up his pursuit. Meanwhile, David stayed in the wilderness (or desert) strongholds and remained in the wilderness hill country of Ziph. Saul sought after him every day according to the text, “but God did not deliver him into his hand (1 Samuel 23:7-14).”
-David was by now fully aware that he was a hunted man and realized that Saul had plans on seeking his life while he was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. But something Divine and unexpected happened there. Saul’s son, Jonathan, came to David at Horesh and “encouraged (chazaq- made strong his hand, supported, prevailed upon) him in God.” What a friend! In dire circumstances, against his own father’s wishes, he visited the estranged fugitive. He told him not to be afraid. He assured him that his father would not find him. He let him know that indeed David would be the next king of Israel and that he would be next to him in support. He even told his buddy that his father knew these things would come to pass. So the two of them made a promise before the LORD once again in camaraderie. David stayed at Horesh, and Jonathan went back to his home after these unifying things transpired (1 Samuel 23:15-18).
-Then, the plot thickened some more when the Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah informing him that David was amongst them in the strongholds of Horesh on the hill of Hachilah, which was south of Jeshimon. They let the king know that he could come down and do all that was in his soul and that they would be happy to surrender him into Saul’s hand. Saul blessed them in the Name of the LORD for their compassion on him. Then he sent them away to investigate and make more and more sure of where his haunt was and who had seen him there. Saul knew that this David was very cunning and elusive. It would take skill to catch him, and the king wanted to cover all his bases in the quest. He wanted them to come back to him with certainty in their surveillance. If they had him penned down in the land of Judah, Saul would come with them. As the men of Ziph went, David and his men had moved to the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. David was pursued by Saul into the wilderness of Maon with Saul on one side of the mountain, and David with his men on the other side of the mountain. David was hurrying to get away from Saul, and the king was trying to surround the escape artist so that his men could seize him and his men. But, in a Divine twist of fate, a messenger showed up with news that the Philistines had made a raid on the land back closer to their homeland fortifications. So Saul returned from his pursuit of David to meet the Philistines in battle. The place where this occurred was thereafter known as the “Rock of Escape.” From there, David ventured down below sea level around the Dead Sea area and camped now in the strongholds of Engedi, a rugged and desolate place in the wilderness (or desert, 1 Samuel 23:19-29).
-*Application* Most of us cannot say we know the life of a fugitive in this manner. But we have all felt the sting of rejection, false accusation, and persecution if we have indeed followed Christ Jesus. It hurts to feel hunted, and David demonstrates valor in the throes of life. We can learn from him not to throw in the towel, not to lose our heads or composure, and not to ever forsake seeking the LORD in our times of distress from this episode. Valuable lessons continue to be learned in the difficult periods of life.
Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 23:16-17