This is an interesting Chapter, and it contains some sweet practical instructions to the exercised believer, in his views of what is here recorded in the life of David. Saul is still pursuing him for slaughter; the Lord works deliverance by David for the men of Keilah; notwithstanding which the men of Keilah intended to deliver David into Saul's hand. David retreats to the wilderness of Ziph, and there has an interview with Jonathan; but upon the Ziphites treachery, in inviting Saul to come and take him, David escapes from thence, and retreats to the strong holds of En-gedi.
(1) ¶ Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors. (2) Therefore David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. (3) And David's men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines? (4) Then David enquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
If the Reader will consult the preceding chapter, at the fifth verse, where Gad the prophet bids David go into the land of Judah, he will then discover both the cause in this rescue the Lord intended him for Keilah, and that he might have a servant of the Lord in the person of Gad for his instructor in all doubtful cases. It is sweet in providences to trace the Lord's hand, and to connect one event with another, in order to observe the Lord's dealings with his people. But it is sweeter still to behold, in the outlines of the Lord's people's exercises, some resemblance, however faint they are, to Jesus. Amidst all David's own private distresses, the love of Israel was uppermost in his heart. But oh! how shrunk to nothing is this view of David compared to David's Lord, who, in all his agonies in the garden, and the path to the cross, would have restrained the tears of the daughters of Jerusalem, which they were shedding for him, to shed them over the beloved Jerusalem. Luke 23:28.
(5) So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
What a blessed testimony was this victory that the Lord was with David. Surely, Reader, the Lord doth give tokens, many love tokens by the way, amidst our sorrowful paths, did we but notice them, of his presence and favour.
(6) And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.
It was no inconsiderable token this neither of the same favour, in that the priest brought with him the ephod into the wilderness: for, as David was cut off from the house of the Lord, it was pleasing, and especially in those days, to have the symbols of his worship. The Urim and the Thummim were in the ephod: and David, no doubt, considered them as lights and perfections to instruct him. But, Reader, do not overlook our superior privileges. We need no more the Urim, nor the Thummim, the ephod, nor the altar, In Christ we have all: he is the sum and substance, of which those symbols were the shadow and figure. Oh! precious Jesus! be thou my High Priest, my Ephod, my Urim and Thummim, both Altar and Sacrifice. On thee would I offer up all my poor offerings; and from thee receive all I need.
(7) ¶ And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.
I beg the Reader, through the whole history of Saul, to mark with me the progress of sin. He is arrived to that degree of ripeness in iniquity, that now he hath not only thrown off the mask in openly persecuting David, but he dares to join God himself with him as engaged in his cause. Thus, Reader, the apostle tells us, that evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:13.
(8) And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. (9) And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
This furnisheth an interesting view of David. In his distress, what doth he do? He doth not take counsel of his friends: he doth not engage anything upon his own strength; but he flies to the Lord: bring hither the ephod. Reader, let us, in all our lesser trials, adopt the same. Whither shall the exercised go with their troubles, but to the Lord? Bring hither, I would say, God's word, and let me seek counsel there! Oh! it is a very high privilege to have a God in Christ to go to, who is engaged in covenant to deliver his people; and when more likely than when they call upon him?
(10) 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. (11) 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. And the LORD said, He will come down. (12) Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up. (13) Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.
The enquiry of David, and the Lord's answers, were suited to his present circumstances. It was not that Saul would come down, but that it was his intention to come down; and, therefore, it implied the necessity of David's departure. The Lord is graciously pleased to furnish out suitable providences, when such things wilt answer his blessed purpose, without stepping out of the ordinary way, to deliver his servants.
(14) ¶ And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand. (15) And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.
Every day Saul sought to accomplish his purposes, and every day, the Lord as often delivered his servant. Such are the Lord's deliverances to all his people. Oh! how precious would it be to the souls of the faithful, if they every day lived, kept house, and feasted upon this; for the truth is certain; the Lord himself saith, I, the Lord, do keep it; will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. Isaiah 27:3.
(16) And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. (17) 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. (18) And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
It must have been a very refreshing thing to the heart of David, this interview with Jonathan. And, no doubt, the Lord graciously brought it to pass for a relief to poor David, to bear him up under his trouble. But, Reader, I hope you will not need from me to be reminded, that if the visit of Jonathan was so sweet and seasonable to David, what must his visits be to his poor ones in distress, who is a Friend at all times, and a Brother born for adversity? Surely, dearest Jesus, if the kindness, and friendship, and love of Jonathan was so constant, well may I depend upon thee, whose love is from everlasting, and whose friendship is like thyself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. Do I see Jonathan, a poor creature like myself, and whose friendship, at the highest, could be but creature friendship, thus faithful to his David; and shall I ever more doubt thy love, thy friendship, dearest Jesus, when both are the result of Creator and Redeemer affections. Oh! for grace to behold thy frequent visits in the woods of this world, and the wilderness state, and as frequently to renew the covenant engagements before Jehovah, in which thou hast promised to be my portion, and I to be the purchase of thy blood forevermore.
(19) ¶ 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? (20) 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. (21) And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD for ye have compassion on me. (22) Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly. (23) 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. (24) And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon. (25) Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. (26) 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.
We have reason to bless God for these continued exercises of David, however painful to him, they prove profitable to us. Those two precious Psalms, Ps 54 and Ps 63, were written by him upon those occasions as the Reader will perceive by consulting them in the title page. And, Reader, depend upon it, that life in grace will be peculiarly honoured by the Lord, that is, peculiarly marked with situations for the exercise of grace and faith, and the display of God's faithfulness in carrying the believer through them. If the Lord hath promised his presence to his people in affliction, must they not be brought into trouble, in order to have that precious promise realized?
(27) But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. (28) Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth. (29) And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi.
The Hebrew word Sela-hammah-lekoth, means the rock of divisions. And is there not an everlasting division between the Sauls and Davids in all ages of the church? Reader, remark how, in the very moment of inevitable destruction, as it should appear to us, the Lord calls off the enemy from the pursuit: thus is the case of Saul from David. And in a yet more remarkable case, in the instance of another Saul, in gospel times, when he was threatening, and breathing out nothing but death and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. It is sweet to trace the Lord's hand in our deliverances. See those scriptures; Acts 9:1, and Isaiah 37:28-29.
READER, let us pause over the perusal of this chapter, if it be for no other purpose than to remark the gracious care of a covenant God over his people; and to observe, that though many be the afflictions of the righteous, yet the Lord delivereth out of them all. But let us further learn from the view of it, how graciously the same merciful Lord supports the trials of his people, and makes their back suited to their burden; that as their day is, so their strength shall be. Surely nothing but the Lord's grace could have been found sufficient to have borne up David's mind under such heavy afflictions. And who, thus supported, but must have been constrained to say as he did; It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes? if trouble, and the malice and persecution of our enemies, be made the means, in the hand of our most wise and gracious God, to bring our hearts to live on him; and if, (as is most probable) without these exercises, our hearts would not be found so closely cleaving to the Lord; oh! who would not wish to be driven out from all creature comfort, that we might experience such sweet and holy enjoyment as David did, in communion with God.
But chiefly, from the perusal of this chapter, let us, Reader, eye Jesus. Was not that precious Lamb of God represented in all David's troubles? Did Saul hunt David from city to city, and from one place to another; and can we forget, how strong bulls of Bashan beset him around, until his strength was poured out like water; and his heart, like wax, was melted in his bowels! Yes! thou dearest Jesus, David's Lord and Son! thou wast exposed to the wrath, both of devils and of wicked men, in the day of thy calamity. Thou didst endure such a contradiction of sinners against thyself; and wast brought under oppression and suffering, until that thy life was made an offering, and a sacrifice for sin. But here, blessed Jesus, in the view of thine unequalled sufferings, may I always connect with it the cause. All this was not for thyself, but thy people. In the midst of all, thou wast holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. And when I see thee in these situations of trial and suffering, and behold thee personating thy people, the heir of all things, and yet not where to lay thine head; the brightness of thy Father's glory, and yet thy visage marred more than any man: the wonder, the praise, the adoration of angels, and yet, as thou saidst thyself, a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and the outcast of the people! Oh! precious, precious Jesus, what love must have enflamed thy heart, that thou shouldest become all this, and infinitely more than this, even sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in thee. Hail! holy Saviour! gracious Lord God, Emmanuel! add one blessing more, and incline every heart to love thee, that every knee may bow before thee, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany