I found this article from a pastor in Australia.  It was so good that I wanted to share it with you all.  May the Lord richly bless you with these words of encouragement.



The God Who Provides

12 July 2009

1 Samuel 23:1-29; Hebrews 4:14-16; 2 Timothy 4:9-18

David is a wandering outlaw on the run from King Saul, his life always at risk. The second half of verse 14 sums it up well, “Day after day Saul searched for [David]!” David needs assurance that God provides for his servants in their desolate, trying times. Verse 14 continues to tell us that God did so provide – “but God did not give David into his (Saul’s) hands.” And Psalm 54, written, it would appear, when the Ziphites offered to hand David over to Saul, seems to indicate that David received that assurance. For in the face of human treachery, David is able to bear witness: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.” (Psalm 54:4)

What resources does God make available to his servant in chapter 23 in his continuing trial? There are three things that God provides for David – Divine Access, Divine Encouragement and Divine Providence.

Divine Access (vv. 1-13)

There was trouble at Keilah, a fortified town in Judah just over eight miles northwest of Hebron and about three miles south of Adullam. The Philistines were raiding the threshing floors and making off with the grain. This was frustrating for the farmers of Keilah and could be a threat to the welfare of the town’s people (no food). 

Someone told David about the trouble at Keilah and David asks God whether he should “go and attack these Philistines.” And God provides clear guidance. How was it that David could “ask” direction from God and get such clear guidance? The answer is given to us in verse 6: Abiathar, the priest, “had brought the ephod down with him” when he fled to David. 

The ephod was part of the high priest’s clothing, a sleeveless tunic worn over his other garments. It was made of costly and colourful materials – gold, blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen. Attached to the ephod was a breastplate in which twelve precious stones (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) were set in four rows. There was a pocket or pouch in the breastplate, which contained the Urim and Thummim, objects used to discover God’s will on particular matters.

Everything hinges on Abiathar and the ephod. By such guidance David has success in both his attack on the Philistines and his escape. God’s guidance through the Urim and Thummim in Abiathar’s ephod directed David both to go to and to get out of Keilah. Verses 10-12 probably give us as close a look at ephod guidance as we will ever get. In a moving plea David asked God two specific questions in light of the fact that David has heard that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of David. The first question was, “Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard?” and the second was, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” The answer to both questions was “yes.” David didn’t need to ask any more questions; he knew what to do – they had to leave Keilah and keep moving from place to place.

What an incredible privilege and blessing David enjoyed in having access to God’s clear guidance! David’s advantage stands in stark contrast to Saul’s deficiency in this regard - Saul was very much a man on his own, a man without direction from God. David has access to God and God’s guidance through the appointed priest, Abiathar, whom, ironically, Saul had driven into David’s arms.

A modern day Christian might say, “I don’t receive the kind of precise, direct guidance that David did.” We don’t, do we, because we don’t need it? We are not the chosen king, like David was. His function in salvation history is far more crucial than yours or mine. The fortunes of God’s kingdom in this world rest far more on David’s deliverance and preservation than on yours or mine. What was essential for God’s chosen king to have, he received. 

For you and me, it is not so essential. But in principle there is no difference between this chosen king and you or me. In what context was God’s guidance given? Was it not in access to God through the appointed priest? And isn’t that the privilege you and I enjoy as Christian believers? Not through Abiathar but rather through a much greater One, namely our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t that what the writer of Hebrews is reminding us in 4:14-16? “Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,” we can approach the throne of grace and find grace “for help at just the right time.”

Divine Encouragement (vv.14-18)

David moves down to the wilderness of Ziph. The site of Ziph was about four miles southeast of Hebron, deep in the territory of Judah. David could not rely on the gratitude of the people of Keilah whom he had helped (although given what Saul had done to the town of Nob in chapter 22 we can understand their reluctance to help David). But it will also transpire that he cannot rely on his brethren in his own tribal territory of Judah (the Ziphites) who in vv.19-20 plot to betray him. Where can he find any loyalty, any faithfulness? Ironically, in the son of Saul, his enemy. Verse 16 tells us: “And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” What refreshment Jonathan must have provided in the wilderness of Ziph with such encouragement. We are not told how Jonathan knew where to find David or the risks that Jonathan took. We are only told that “he put David’s hand as it were into God’s hand.”

How did Jonathan so encourage David? By what he said in verse 17: "Don't be afraid. My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this." 

Jonathan simply reaffirms God’s promise to David, a promise nowhere directly stated to David in 1 Samuel but which everyone seems to know about. Of course, Jonathan’s presence itself would have been a great comfort and refreshment for David. Yet our personal presence to our brother or sister in need, important though it is, does not have the abiding encouragement that God’s sure Word does. The best encouragement we can give our brothers and sisters in Christ in their need is by reminding them of the promises of God. 

Encouragement from God for the people of God comes above all from the Word of God – for it is something we can rely upon completely and hold on to always. Emanuel Christen and Elio Erriquez were Swiss Red Cross workers who were taken hostage by Lebanese militants in 1989. Despite spending 312 days locked in a small room, their faith helped bring them through the ordeal, as Emanuel Christen explained after their release: 

“From a spiritual angle the time I spent in captivity was a great gain. At 33 years old I believe I have just begun to understand what living the Christian life really means. One day, one of our jailers who used to give us bits of reading material from time to time left a cardboard box with various oddments in it. Rummaging around among the loose sheets we found what we recognised to be part of a Bible in English … It lacked a good deal of the Old Testament, but the New Testament was complete. What incredible joy we felt!

“With the help of an English-French dictionary, which stopped at the letter N, we were able to read the Bible every day and reflect on it, and because of this we began to change our attitude towards our jailers. It is wonderful to experience an about-turn in your feelings, and as we read the Bible we felt God working in our lives, and we responded to the message of the Bible. We were in the habit of referring to our jailers by nasty and abusive names. Now we decided to give them new, encouraging names – and this was no minor detail for us, shut up for weeks on end in that prison, with nothing to do.

“Everything about us began to change because of that Bible. No one in captivity can hold out without hope. And the Bible is full of hope – hope of what is not seen, hope in the reality of God. I began to understand that our temporary reality, our being hostages, was only a shadow of our true life, eternal life, and I knew that God had allowed us to be taken hostage so that we might understand this. Now that I am free, my aim is to discover what path God has chosen for me, and to follow it.”

How perfect God’s timing of the encouragement of his servants. Without Jonathan’s ministry to David who knows if the betrayal by the Ziphites would have been more than David could bear? Would the Ziphite treachery following so closely on the heels of the disillusionment at Keilah have proven too much? How important, how crucial that Jonathan should help David find strength in God! 

Perhaps we cannot help seeing here in Jonathan’s mission the shadow of the Lord Jesus. It was the presence of his friend, the Lord Jesus Christ that Paul cherished when others left him: “At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me… But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

The scene at Horesh closes on a solemn note. Neither David nor Jonathan could know at that time how solemn it was. “Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh” (v.18b), the writer tells us. It was the last time they ever saw each other. And so there is a heaviness in those words, “then Jonathan went home.” He went home but he had accomplished his mission: “he helped him find strength in God.” It is the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ that we need – through his Word and through his Spirit in our trials.

Divine Providence (vv.19-28)

Finally, God shows his providence to his hard-pressed servant in the face of a nearly fatal betrayal. 

Some of the people from around Ziph, probably hoping to find special favour with Saul, go up to Gibeah to disclose David’s whereabouts. If Saul will come down to Horesh they will be only too glad to hand David over. By the time Saul and his men arrive David and his men are in the Desert of Maon, south of Ziph. Saul goes into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David. The tension becomes nearly unbearable in verse 26. Saul and David are on opposite sides of the same mountain. Saul appears to be tightening the noose: “Now David and his men were hurrying to get away from Saul, and Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to seize them.” 

It seems that the chase is up. David is doomed! But wait – is that a rider with a message for the king? “A messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land,’” (v.27) and so we are told that “Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines.” You see it, don’t you? “Saul and his forces were closing in on David … but a messenger came …..”

Of course, you can read this with unbelieving eyes, saying that David can thank his lucky stars that he eluded Saul, or you can read it with the clear vision of faith. Through the eyes of faith we can rejoice in the endless variety of ways in which God delivers his servants, marvelling at his timing and praising God that even Philistines can be pressed into the Lord’s service. What a strange situation – David saved by the Philistines!

This episode brings to mind the prayer of Alexander Peder, a Scottish covenanter. Once Peder and some others were being pursued by soldiers. Peder and his friends gained some distance from their pursuers and stopped for a needed breather and desperate prayer. Peder prayed that the strength of he and his friends was gone and asked that the Lord might give their enemies some other work to do than chasing them. The Lord answered the prayer with a cloud of mist between them and their pursuers. In David’s case God had other work Saul could do – driving away Philistines raiders – and so a messenger came.

Verses 19-28 teach us what providence means – the strange ways God works to keep his people on their feet. Is this providence for David only? I am sure many of us have some stories to tell about God’s strange saviours and startling timing. It isn’t only in the pages of the Bible that God’s providence works.

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me,” testifies David (Psalm 54:4). Sure, Saul is not gone for good. David’s distress is not over. Final relief has not yet arrived. But, as 1 Samuel 23 shows, God gives his servants resources in the middle of their trials so that they can withstand the pressure of them – namely access to his guidance and help, his encouragement and his providence. As David said in Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (v.1)


Prepared by Rev Grant Lawry, Canterbury Presbyterian Church, Melbourne, Australia, for the use of the Canterbury congregation.