Have you woken up this morning in fear, alarmed or anxious? Have dire straits hemmed you in or do you wonder if you're safe? Are the pressures so enormous that you struggle to go on? Are you slandered or maligned when you believe you're in the right?
In 1 Samuel 23 King Saul is still in hot pursuit. Up to this point in his life David has managed to duck the bullets (not to mention hurtling spears). Dodgey 'Mad-Dog' Doeg the Edomite lied and then slaughtered priests at Nob. Jesse's son is on the run in deserts, dens, forests and cities like Hereth, Adullum and Gath. The noose begins to tighten inside the walls of Keilah. Saul closes in for the kill with the help of Ziphite informants.
Providence and persecution has placed David in mortal danger: he is dependent on urgent deliverance. Any fears the Anointed of the LORD may have would be shown to be groundless. By showing how God delivered David from close shaves in various and remarkable ways, this passage has the effect of giving tried and test believers immense encouragement. Though you cannot possibly see it yet while the LORD still hides his hand, Samuel effectively urges: "Believe in faith, child of God, that your safety is in sight!"
Reasons to Believe
First this circumstance is not of your own design but God's providential making - see 1 Samuel 23:1-5.
It is true David went to Keilah in response to news of Philistine invasion. Yet, the account makes clear, his decision to step in and offer military assistance was far from hasty or impulsive. Twice Samuel notes that the Giant Slayer sought God's face, first in v2 and then again in v4:
Then David again enquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, "Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand."
While it is by no means vital that your trouble originates solely from sovereignly ordered circumstances while in the course of faithful service (and not from your own folly) - after all David later found himself on many a sticky wicket, it does comfort the heart to know that the reason you're in this pickle is because you've done God's will or work (let's try to make sure that we continually seek God's grace to walk in the path of duty).
Second you may be warned from unspecified sources of impending serious doom in order to avert it - see 1 Samuel 23:7.
We don't know how David learned that Saul was trying to plan his downfall. We are simply told:
David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him
Again, this poet and prophet avails of fervent prayer as the necessary God-given means to guide his steps in spiritual war in 1 Samuel 23:10-12:
"O LORD, the God of Israel ...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 "They will surrender you."
Armed with Gospel defenses we must wage the warfare valiantly with the offensive weapon of prayer! Inquire of the Lord and seek His clear will from His Word. You may be scared, tired and drained but heavenly wisdom sought on knees will be torchlight in the gloom.
Third remember you have companions to join you in the fight - see 1 Samuel 23:13a.
David rose at once and departed where he could, accompanied by 600 men: God provided help and security from this cohort.
Fourth when assailants see God helping you they will get discouraged in their plots and grant you welcome respite - see 1 Samuel 23:13b.
We can almost sense Saul's frustration as he sinks back in his chair. "You cannot be serious? Surely not again! David escaped? That cunning little fox! He's as slippery as an eel. Thwarted in my plan! Will I never get my man? Perhaps I'm just getting to old for this? Perhaps I should give up? Let's at very least take some time out to reflect!"
When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up his expedition.
You can be confident that when the enemy sees God guard your ways, he'll be paused in his tracks to give you temporary breathing space.
Fifth you won't fall into enemy hands unless it is God's will - see 1 Samuel 23:14.
If the battle dragged on it proved remarkably uneventful. Day by day, Saul made attempts on the fugitive shepherd's life, but in the sands or hills the LORD's faithful servant was safe.
God (of majestic might and glorious potentate) did not give him into His hand
Don't let continued, incessant, pressures cause your heart to be racked with doubt. You will be preserved intact by God's unfailing, matchless, power.
Sixth repeatedly covenanting friends will often appear to bring you words of hope, reassurance, comfort and solidarity - 1 Samuel 23:18.
Is it not amazing that there was one friend in the royal household who put the servant of the LORD before family, friends and fame - who was prepared to jeopardize all he had to stand on the side of truth? Jonathan, son of Saul, had been groomed as his father's dynastic heir. Here he prefers David's cause, as a loyal second-in-command. This is not the first time that the close confidente of the Son of Jesse decided to take vows. For the second time he cuts a covenant with God:
"Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be the King over Israel, and I shall be next to you. And the two of them made a covenant before the LORD."
Look at the remarkable effect this sovereignly ordered covenanting was designed to have upon the hard-pressed fugitive's heart, for "Jonathan went to David ...and strengthened his hand in God." Blessed be the LORD! There are many covenanting friends, ready to offer counsel, ready to bring the Word, who will brighten our dark hours and refresh our slacking grip. How timely such intervention, for Saul was on the warpath again, and Ziphite espionage intervention was just around the corner. So, no doubt, it will also prove in your own case!
Seventh protection will be provided by small but essential barriers - 1 Samuel 23:26.
If it had not been so serious and threatening the scene would almost be comedic - only a ridge of rock stands between the quickening steps of David, on one side of the mountain, and Saul in hot pursuit who is now closing in for the kill.
Saul went on one side of the mountain and David and his men on the other side of the mountain.
Trouble may be near, danger within a hair's breadth, with only a sheet of paper standing as a buffer-zone between yourself and ruin - this is not a cause for discouragement or dread but delight and trust, for from God's point of view 'A miss is as good as a mile!' Small gaps give great heart! Close shaves breed prayerful dependence on God and a mouth of grateful praise! Be thankful for small mercies!
Eighth experience of the saints teaches us that the most sudden, remarkable and inexplicable deliverance may be at hand - 1 Samuel 23:27.
Just in the nick of time a postman came to Saul. This was rather shocking and unexpected news: the nation was at war with Philistia again. Heaven stirred the earth and roused enemies by God's hand. This was no time for petty machinations of personal intrigue. The King must act at once as defender of the realm.
So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines.
Now was the moment to name that limestone cliff! 'Rock of Escape!' Don't you think that's rather apt. Looking back it's good to recall those ridges or rocks (or whatever) that separated us from harm. In they end deliverances from close shaves boil down to God's elective love in Christ from which nothing can separate. Finally Calvary is our 'Heart-Mend Ridge'.
There were many days, you'll know, when David's Greater Son was harrassed by His foes: tempted by the Devil, assaulted by His legions, hated by the authorities and closed in upon by Romans. Three years of break-neck ministry with opponents never far away and frequently breathing down his neck! In the end, they closed in on their prey, and after bloody sweat, he surrendered to their schemes. Gladly, and resolutely, He offered up Himself and did not seek escape. The place of the Skull was the Rock on which Jesus perished that we might be delivered!
Crucified, risen, ascended and now exalted in glory, our Head orders all the circumstances of, and supplies assistance to, His Body. The namesake of David's hunter was taught a vital lesson near Damascus from Jesus - that such vehement, violent, vitriolic attacks on Christians were all heard sympathetically in Christ's personal injuries claim court. The LORD always has his ways and means of stopping saint-killers in their tracks. In this case the hater became helper and the greatest assistant to the assailed.
Harangued, harassed, hated, hunted, helpless? If that describes you, brother or sister, I pray you'll take heart, and seek the Saviour's, marvelous, multifaceted, merciful help.