Despite all of his troubles with Saul, David listened to God. He fought the Philistines and saved the city of Keilah. When Saul finds out his whereabouts, David is the one who needs saved, though. The text says that “David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him.” He knew. So let’s see what he does:
When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. 7 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.” 8 And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. 9 David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest,“Bring the ephod here.” 10 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. 11 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.” 12 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.” 13 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.14 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. ~ Samuel 23:6-14
Abiathar, the needy young man whom David had welcomed, had brought with him an ephod. An ephod was used to inquire of God. So, David prays about what to do. He asks God whether the dudes he just saved would rat him out when Saul came to kill him. And God says, yeah, even if they are being nice to you now, you’re toast if you trust them.
Come on! Can this soldier boy just get a break?! He’s doing everything right. He’s obeying God, he’s taking care of his family, he’s watching out for others, leading an army of wayward men in the cause of God, and he’s fighting the fiercest enemy at every turn. Where is the booty for this obedient beau?
I mean, you’d think King Saul would have reconsidered his death sentence for David when he heard about his honorable quest for Keilah – a town under his jurisdiction. David was making him look good. He was doing what Saul should have been doing for his country. But not Saul. No act, no matter how good or noble it was, would avert his heart from homicide.
Or how about the people of Keilah? Couldn’t they have been a bit more helpful considering how David had just saved them from their enemy, interceded their death sentences, and kept them from starvation? Last I checked, those we no small kindnesses. But when push comes to shove, they’re going to turn on him? Is this the thanks he gets? What a crock!
The fact is, although he had every earthly reason to, David isn’t wallowing in self-pity. He finds his strength in God alone. He has wisdom enough to know that Saul’s recklessness towards him is not because of anything he’s done wrong. It’s just who Saul is. Saul is an ugly, hateful man who, by the way, still seems to think that God is siding with him. What a joke. What a sad, sad leader.
Furthermore, David has been running long enough to know not to take the people’s refusal to stand up for him personally. It isn’t really ingratitude that keeps them from supporting and standing up for him, it’s fear. They know what Saul did to all the priests as well as all the people of Nob and they are quaking in their boots. David knows better than to rage at them for their utter cowardice. It would do no good anyway. Instead, he accepts God’s warning and he leaves quietly.
When David left and went out into the wilderness, Saul gave up. He left Keilah alone. Again, David’s obedience to God’s voice saved people. Whether David comes or goes, he saves…just like Jesus.
Sometimes, when we obey God most, the world offers us least advantages. It may feel like obedience to God is a one-way ticket to suffering. But, like my favorite bible teacher always says, we are never given the liberty to become a victim wallowing in self-pity. Instead, we must consider our examples. Look at David. Look at Paul. Look at Jesus. Their lives weren’t exactly roses. And we will never say we obeyed like Jesus did. We will never say we suffered as greatly as he did. So take heart, soldiers. If you obey God, life may not be easy, but one thing is for sure. Whether you come or go, God will use you to save his people.