Can We Really Assume God’s Action Every Time Something Good Happens To Us? A Sermon on 1 Samuel 23-24

This morning we tackle chapter 23-24. David has been fleeing from Saul in every direction and Saul has been making quite a mess in his tracks. So Saul just finished having his right hand man slaughter a city of priests in Nob and one of the priests has fled the scene and has joined the ranks with David fulfilling the prophecy that Eli’s house would end in destruction accept for one man. So we’ve just left a really bloody scene where Saul has had no problem completely demolishing his own people, God’s servants – despite having issues slaying his enemies under God’s command. So the scene we enter into this morning is the conversation between Abiathar and David just ends where David tells him to join his ranks and reassures him that he is safe with David. So let’s begin.

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.”Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And th eLord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand.

– It’s odd here that people are telling David that the Philistines are attacking. The king is supposed to save his people from the grip of the philistines. So either people trust David more or they don’t trust Saul at all.

– So for the first time we actually have David inquiring of the Lord, which is a unique time for him to do so considering who he now has in his ranks. The priest! It would be common for leaders to ‘inquire’ of the Lord through a priest and not on their own. So it is very likely that David now has the ability to gain information of the right thing to do and get answers to his questions because the priest is now with him able to speak on behalf of the Lord.

– And remember what Saul’s name actually means. Asked. Everyone is asking all the time for information and Saul never seems to get the right information when he asks, but David seems to always land on good information.

– Saul just destroyed the priests of Nob for ‘asking’ on David’s behalf and now we have here David is ‘asking’ if he should strike the philistines.

– Knowledge and control of knowledge is increasingly taking center stage in this narrative. Saul is always left out in the dark and despite all his asking can never know in time or the right information where David seem to constantly know what’s going on with or without asking.

– The last sentence here is an important one. So Abiathar is a priest, from the line of people that wore the ‘linen ephod,’ and in this case he brings an ephod. An ephod was a kind of clothing used as an instrument for ascertaining God’s will. So you would ask the ephod and priest a question and you would get a yes or no question back. So it’s very timely that as soon as David starts ‘asking’ anything, there is a priest with an ephod closeby to give him the answers he needs.

– It’s also important to note here that David gets more than a yes or no answer.

“whatever construction we may place on the events in chapter 22, Saul’s alienating of the last priest with his ephod conspicuously facilitates David’s communication with God. The ephod, brought by the priest whom Saul has alienated, helps David to anticipate the outcomes of his plans. It is an edge Saul has never had, not from the priests, not from his prophet Samuel, not from God, not from any.”

– Saul destroys a host of priests who wear the linen ephod but in so doing facilitates the escape of the priest with the ephod to the camp of David

Now 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.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.

– Here Saul is talking to himself and coming to conclusions and it hasn’t been the first time his internal discourse has been delusional. Saul is convinced that God has turned him over into his hands. This won’t be the first time in this story that people assume of God’s working in a situation.

– Saul is by far the most transparent of royal characters – the thoughts, inner musings and intents that are revealed more than any other monarch

– Saul doesn’t have advantage of priestly consultation but he still has a wide network of informants

– Instead of protecting Israelite towns from the Philistines, Saul is now attacking an Israelite town because of David

– This is the second time now that Keilah is on the brink of invasion, first from Philistines then from their own king

David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.

– Unlike saul, David cannot summon an entire army, but he can summon the priest

– David’s ranks have gotten larger 400-600, who are these new folks that have joined?

– The town who David just saved is now ready to turn him over to Saul. Why?

– The contrast of what God says (God did not surrender him to to Saul) to what Saul thought “that he has.”

David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

– Jonathan finds David right away, Saul can’t find him at all. Again notice the theme of knowledge and how crucial this knowledge is to the plot progressing.

– Jonathan starts by saying fear not – and david is in a state of fear constantly worried about his life.

– Remember that week we talked about ulterior motives? Maybe we were right that Jonathan has some – he wants to be number two? Did Jonathan really just show up on the scene to say what? Is this really an encouragement? Remember the whole reason David is fleeing in the first place is because Jonathan told him he better take off because Saul is out to get him.

Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart’s desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand.” And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord,for you have had compassion on me. Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, 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.” And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.

– Maybe Ziphites didn’t want all those freeloaders in the city? Remember David has 600 men with him that are probably depleting them of their resources pretty quick.

– Saul is celebrating them because he is spared – just like he spared the king and the animals of the Amalekites.

– Crafty and naked which are wordplays on each other (genesis men and women are naked and the snake is crafty) then after we have david being crazy and rolling around naked but only to trick them, not in the sense that Saul means.

– Saul uses the word compassion. What an interesting choice of words.

Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi.

– This is an exciting scene that makes it seem that they are almost about ready to run into each other. But then out of nowhere Saul is interrupted and all of sudden now he goes and leaves to his kingly role. Bad timing for him.

When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him,”Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.'”

– What are david’s men encouraging him to do? Nowhere are we told that Saul is an enemy or that God would deliver him into his hand. David’s men are full of the same assumptions and liest that Saul is – men fabricating and believe things to be true about God that just aren’t. Remember these are the guys that are upset, in debt, mad – they have every reason to want and need Saul to be gone. David’s men here are acting a lot like Saul was acting when he assumed that God had delivered David into his hands. Now they think that God has delivered Saul into David’s hand.

– 3000 vs 600 now becomes 600 vs 1 Easy. How could this not be God really?
If all of them would have came in they would have been trapped, but only one comes in.
They think God used ‘nature’ to release Saul into his hands since he had to take a pee.

Q: When something so amazing happens, or something that perfectly lines up with what WE want, why are we so quick to attribute that to God’s doing or then assuming that God wanted it to happen? What does this mean about God? What does this mean about us?

(God punishing homosexuals, God providing a baby, God getting us a job, God punishing the evil doer like you knew he had it coming, God causing situations to happen to teach us a lesson)

Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.

– Just as Saul grabbed the corner of Samuel’s robe – David cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. Robes are a key image throughout this story that is tied to the leader of the kingdom.

– This line by David about not touching the Lord’s anointed is a line that we will see over and over again. It is fascinating to see it coming from David’s voice, who of course, has already been anointed. It’s one thing to say that. It has entirely different meaning the the anointed one is saying it.

– I’ve been told by a few leaders in my day that we should not ‘touch the Lord’s anointed’ as a type of threat that by coming against a leader, then I am coming against God himself. This is strong language meant to invoke fear that we better know what we are doing before doing it because he’s kind of a big deal.

Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”

– David asks why saul is listening to human urgings (that David wants evil to befall) since David has refused to listen to these urgings (and kill Saul) – Human urgings and God’s urgings are different but both sides feel them.

– Saul has only had the luxury of human urgings throughout this entire story as God doesn’t seem to give him much information. Where now David has the luxury of having a priest and a seemingly direct line to God for information. Where to go, who to attack, where to be safe.

As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

– Everyone is starting to swear oaths with David – Jonathan and now Saul. Does this mean that there is a lot of expectation and understand of what David is becoming and everyone wants to make sure that they get in as part of the royal change?

– I find Saul to be one of the most fascinating characters. He is so quick to admit his wrongs, and walk away and see the truth before him. Saul is utterly fascinated with David and his character. Who let’s his enemy go away safe? What is going on here? Saul is beginning to see that David really is quite a character and that he will indeed inherit the throne that Saul still has and he wants to cover his butt if it does all in fact come true.

– I’ll give a little away – this won’t be the only time that Saul comes after David, and this won’t be the only time David catches him off guard, and this won’t be the only time Saul will be shamed in front of his men as David refuses still to kill him. But we’ll save that for next week.

– Saul constantly is making the wrong moves and David is always making the right moves. David always seems to know what is going on and Saul always seems to be in the dark. It makes me wonder how we can be sure we are David’s and not Sauls.

Q: How do we determine what God is causing to what is just happening and us needing to make a good decisions? Afterall we don’t have an ephod and priest to inquire for perfect decisions.

– Both Saul and David’s men were convinced that ‘God had delivered’

– Do we have our own ephod?

END – I think the best place we can always be in is to be humble, never thinking that we have the corner on God and never assuming that just because something good happens to us that God is upstairs making everything happen for our happiness and our plans. This isn’t to say that we don’t thank-God and remain and thankful people, but it is to see the larger story at work and that usually when we are grateful for God moving, that can also mean that we are grateful that God moved AGAINST someone else. There has got to be a better way to approach it.

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