1 Samuel 23:1-14
1Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2Therefore 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.” 3But 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?” 4Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” 5And 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. 6When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. 7Now 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.” 8And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. 9David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10Then 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. 11Will 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.” 12Then 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.” 13Then 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. 14And 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.
The rest of 1 Samuel will be a study in contrasts. Saul shows us what leadership looks like when it is devoid of God’s power and David will live as an example of what godly leaders do with and for their people. While Saul seeks to destroy his own people, David follows God’s lead in order to save them.
In this interesting little story, we find David defending God’s people first against the Philistines and then against Saul. Unlike Saul, David first inquires of the Lord as to what to do. God instructs David to go to Keilah and save the city from the Philistines. After he does that task, he is garrisoned inside the city walls and Saul decides to attack his own people in order to destroy David. Even though David has saved them from the Philistines, they are too afraid to defend David and will, if given the chance, turn him over to Saul.
Saul was a great king, chosen by God, and an upright man; but once he was secure on his throne and he let his heart depart from God, placing his confidence in his crown and power, he inevitably perished with all that he had; not one of his children remained. David, on the other hand, was a poor, despised man, hunted down and persecuted, his life nowhere secure, yet inevitably he remained safe from Saul and became king.… God will tolerate no presumption and no trust in any other object; he makes no greater demand of us than a hearty trust in him for all blessings.
Luther, Martin. LC I (First Commandment) 45–47.
Isn’t it interesting that the people of Keilah would turn on the one who saved them? Seems illogical, doesn’t it? But in order to save Keilah’s people again, David leaves the city and Saul loses interest. Keilah is twice saved. Before we think too poorly of Keilah’s people, we do well to examine our own responses to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Who among us hasn’t turned our back on the faith if it became inconvenient? How often has fear driven our decisions rather than trust in the Lord? Perhaps more often then we would like to admit. But because of God’s great love for us, He has never allowed fear or inconvenience to dictate His actions toward us. Jesus still went to the cross because of our sin, even though that was a terrible option. He did not back away from the task before Him, lose interest, or surrender to fear. Instead He died to forgive our sins; even our sins of neglect or our lack of trust.