The objective of this lesson: To emphasize that David was devoted to God in spite of danger and difficulty, not because of convenience and easy living.
Israelites whose homes and farms were in the "frontier" [the "no man's land" between the area controlled by the Philistines and the area controlled by Israel] were at the mercy of the circumstances created by the war. One day they might live in a city with an outlying farm in a "quiet zone." The next day they might be living might in the "battle zone" as the Philistines and Israelites fought or pursued through their area. If that was an area's situation, survival became the key consideration.
Living in an area of constant physical threat and uncertainty produces a different thought pattern and a different type of lifestyle.
Evidently the city of Keilah was in such an area. One of the primary objectives of armies at war is to control a growing amount of territory. The Philistines considered it in their military interest to control Keilah. They attacked Keilah at a vulnerable, critical time. The grain crops which guaranteed the survival of its families had been harvested. Survival required several steps when one's food supply depended primarily on grain crops. [1. There must be planting. 2. There must be harvesting. 3. There must be separation of the grain from the stalk. 4. There must be separation of the grain from the undesirable chaff. 5. Finally, there must be transformation of the grain into food.] The Philistines attacked at a time when the harvested grain must be separated from the stalk. If the Philistine army successfully plundered the threshing floors of Keilah, they virtually assured the inhabitants of Keilah a period of little or no food. The result would be significant weakness and disease or slow, agonizing deaths produced by starvation. For Keilah, the circumstances were grave! In time, a weakened populace at the walled city of Keilah easily might have to surrender itself to the Philistines.
The plundering of Keilah's threshing floors generated a grave survival threat to the city. Very much at issue was who would control the territory of Keilah. It was a survival situation.
David asked the Lord if he should take his forces to deliver the inhabitants of Keilah from the Philistines. The Lord said he should. However, the men in David's forces did not wish to attack the Philistines at Keilah. They felt exposed and uncomfortable in Judah. They had no desire to be the focus of the fury of the Philistines' army and of King Saul's army. Running from King Saul in the territory of Judah was enough risk!
Remember David supplied leadership to a small army of disgruntled men. Leaving a secure, defensible place to return to the territory of Judah is a tribute to David's leadership ability. Not every man in his army had a quality relationship with God! To attack the Philistines (who had lots of "backup" to call for if needed) did not make sense to these men (who had no "backup" regardless of the situation). Why increase their woes by having both the armies of the Philistines and of King Saul determined to capture them?
David asked the Lord a second time if he and his force should go deliver Keilah. The Lord told him to go, and He would give David victory over the Philistines. With this assurance from the Lord, David went, slaughtered the Philistines, and deliver the Israelites who lived at Keilah.
Evidently David's second inquiry convinced the men. Either that, or David exerted his influence and authority over them.
History never occurs in a nice, simple sequence in which a single thing happens at a specific moment. Verse 6 indicates that David's battle at Keilah and Abiathar's flight to David from Nob occurred in the same time frame. [One of the most challenging realities this writer dealt with while doing mission work involved understanding life in the world at home and life in the world of missions went on simultaneously. The rest of the world does not stop because of the events where you happen to be!]
Help your students grow in their grasp of historical perspective. In history, many things occur in the same time frame. The challenge of the historian true to the events that occurred must determine (1) what was a primary influence, what was a reaction to the primary influence, and what was unrelated to the occurrence, and (2) how to reveal in an understandable way what happened.
After the battle that slaughtered the Philistine forces attacking Keilah, David and his men took up residence in the walled city. Saul heard [it does not say how] that David was then at Keilah and was confident that he had David trapped. David heard [it does not say how] that Saul was planning to attack Keilah. Saul hated David so much that he would attack a city of Israelites in order to kill David!
This is a good illustration of the power of hatred. King Saul was quite comfortable killing other Israelites if he could kill David. Hate has a way of justifying anything it wishes to do.
David asked Abiathar to bring him the ephod Abiathar brought with him. David used the ephod to seek further answers from the Lord. The procedure of inquiring from the Lord seems to have involved asking "yes and no" questions. The question David asked: "When Saul attacks Keilah, will the people of this city surrender me to Saul?" The Lord informed David they would.
This ephod was part of the clothing a priest (likely the high priest) wore on worship occasions. There is not a lot of certain information to be shared on the ceremonial ephod. Such an ephod was not a part of priests' daily attire, but part of their attire when they approached the Lord. It had special sacred use on occasions when the priest (usually the high priest) sought God's will.
There was an appropriate way for a godly person to seek God's will in a matter, and an appropriate way for a priest to seek God's will in a matter.
David basically sought an answer from God to just one question.
The desire to physically survive the moment causes people to make strange decisions! Though the inhabitants of Keilah had been delivered from the Philistines by David and his men, for the sake of their own survival they would turn David over to Saul in full awareness of what Saul would do to David!
Amazingly, the people of Keilah would not feel a sense of loyalty and indebtedness to David in the time of crisis. However, it must be remembered that being loyal to the king was extremely important.
Upon hearing they were in danger, David and his men left Keilah. Upon hearing David left Keilah, Saul ceased his preparations to attack.
David's choice to leave Keilah ended the crisis. There is no mention of David's feelings or emotions on having to leave Keilah. Nor is there any indication that he was vindictive when he left.
Few things are as discouraging to unselfish men and women willing to make sacrifices for the good of others as to be unappreciated for their efforts. Rarely do unselfish Christians make sacrifices for others because they anticipate power, control, wealth, prestige, or glory. Most of the time they are encouraged by a genuine "Thanks!" produced by an awareness and appreciation of what was done and of the personal prices paid to do it. To have the beneficiaries of one's efforts criticize or be disloyal to the persons who produced their blessings is extremely discouraging!
A genuine "Thank you!" is one of the most encouraging things we can give unselfish, sacrificial people. However, it must be a genuine expression of appreciation, not an attempt to manipulate, not a perfunctory deed.
While David was in the wilderness of Ziph, Jonathan came to encourage David. These had to be discouraging, frustrating times for David. Jonathan knew it! Jonathan had a dream. Though he was the King's son, his dream was not becoming Israel's king! His dream: David would be king; and Jonathan would be beside David. Jonathan said even his father knew David would be king of Israel. Again, the two men made a covenant. Again, the two friends went separate ways.
It is the responsibility of godly friends to know when a friend needs to be encouraged.
The people who lived in the area reported David's presence to Saul. Saul instructed them to learn everything about David's habits and hiding places they could, then he would come capture David. Saul almost succeeded. David literally fled for his life on a daily basis. Only when Saul had to respond to a Philistine raid did David have opportunity to rest from the struggles of his escape.
Do not forget that Israelites who were loyal to King Saul existed. There was a known tension between those loyal to David and those loyal to King Saul.
The Lord did not allow Saul to capture David. However, the Lord's protection did not mean a life of ease!
Never should we assume that God is not active in a situation because inconveniences or hardships occur.
For Thought and Discussion:
They experienced the uncertainty of what the day would bring: a day of peace or a battle ground.
A primary objective is to expand and control territory.
A common threat was the threat of starvation.
The Lord said David should attack the Philistines at Keilah. David did not immediately attack because his troops felt it was an unwise thing to do.
In any given timeframe, many different things happen at the same moment. The challenge is to determine what is an influence and what is a reaction.
He and his men left Keilah.
It is discouraging to the unselfish, sacrificial people to be unappreciated by those who benefit from their efforts.
They informed King Saul that David was there.
The King had to leave the area in order to respond to a Philistine raid.
The Lord's protection did not mean a life of ease. David lived on the brink of capture in difficult circumstances in a region where people would betray him.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 7
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