We must pick up again and finish the studies in 1 Samuel for there are still some important lessons to be observed
Meditations in 1 Samuel 46. Divine Guidance
1 Sam 23:1,2 When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The LORD answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”
When we look at the overall picture of David, we may start by desiring to be known in the way he ways known, as one after God’s own heart. That’s a good starting place, and as we go through his story there will be things that add content to that. There will be some thing we certainly should not want to copy but they just go to prove he was still very human. However in the verses we now have before us there is a simplicity of attitude and behaviour that we should indeed seek to emulate. Sometimes the Scriptures state things so simply that it leaves us both breathless and asking questions. This is one such time.
Look at this: “he inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The LORD answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” (v.2) How simple, David asks and the Lord answers! You can’t get more simple than that and it is so simple I would guess most of us read it and pass on without a further thought, but how did this interchange take place?
Some commentators pick up the ‘aside’ that the recording scribe inserts into the narrative, “(Now Abiathar son of Ahimelech had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)” (v.6) The ephod was a richly embroidered outer garment worn by the priests, which had a pocket in which were two dice-like pieces, the Urim and the Thummim, which appear to have been used to provide yes and no answers. We first see it in Exodus: “Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.” (Ex 28:30) I suspect that the priest prayed with a yes and no type of question and then dipped his hand into the pocket and pulled out an answer according to which one he pulled out.
No, without doubt that does appear to be at least part of the answer and clearly was used more than a few times in the history of the Old Testament. My only query, that this was all that was involved, is that the answers seem more complex here and in what follows. The answer is not merely “Go, attack the Philistines,” but it also added “and save Keilah.” Now admittedly the earlier verse mentions Keilah and so it may just be a natural extension of the question and answer, but I wonder if either in the priest or in David there is a prophetic or revelatory element as well. (I may be over-complicating it but see what follows.)
Now in response to this initial guidance we find, “But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (v.3) and so we then find, “Once again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” (v.4) Sorry for harping on about it but it seems a lot more than a simple yes or no answer. Maybe the ‘yes’ answer inspired the priest to expand prophetically the answer.
So they go to Keilah, and fought the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (v.5), all in accordance with the guidance of God. A problem then occurs: Saul hears that David is there and gathers his men to go after him (v.7,8) Somehow the word gets back to David that Saul is doing this so again David calls for Abiathar the priest, and says “Bring the ephod.” (v.9)
Now David asks of the Lord simple yes and no questions (v.10,11): David said, “O LORD, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant.” And gets a simple reply, “He will.”
But then David ponders on and wants clarity and reassurance and so asks again and gets a simple answer: “Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will.” (v.12) with the result: “So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.” (v.13) We also see David enquiring of the Lord again in 2 Sam 5 and when you look at that you will see an answer that is far more than a mere ‘yes’.
So what do we learn here? First of all there is the reminder that God is a communicating God who delights in hearing from His children and responding to them. Now I am sure more of my readers would be happy with the thought that it is good to pray and ask things of God, but experience suggests to me that far fewer will expect to hear direct answer responses! Let’s suppose you take James’ teaching to heart and you ask God for wisdom about a certain issue (see Jas 1). How many of us, I wonder, listen to our thoughts for an answer. All I can tell you is that the many times I pray this prayer I suddenly find a whole flow of thoughts (ideas) pertinent to the question which opens up a way for blessing – God answers, I am not afraid to attribute it to Him because it happens so many times and provides the answers I am looking for that I would not have seen otherwise!
Are we a people of faith? Well faith, the Bile says, comes from, hearing! Hearing means we hear God. Yes, it is that simple. Like David, when we enquire of the Lord and He gives an answer, faith is stepping out on that answer. Beautifully simple – and true! Go for it!