David, future king of Israel, is on the run.
He has hastily deposited his parents with the King of Moab, a trusted ally, and is now living in the forest of Hereth with his brothers, all of his father’s house and his men.
600 in all.
There is no grace in these climes, my friend, and a paranoid King Saul means certain death for David, and quite possibly all of his family.
Not to mention anyone who has been remotely sympathetic to the man.
Recall Ahimelech son of Ahitub, the priest, who recently met his tragic end at the murderous hands of King Saul. He and over 80 others who had the temerity to minister to David, as he fled from the king.
Makes one appreciate the age of grace, Brethren.
Now, while still in the forest, word comes to David that the people of Keilah, at the southern end of Judah, have come under attack.
It’s the Philistines again.
And as is his custom, David is quick to seek the Lord.
“Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” he asks.
And the Lord promptly replies:
“Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah,” He instructs.
But David’s scraggly band of soldiers are too afraid to move, and their fear seemingly causes him to doubt.
So he asks again.
And the Lord confirms His answer:
“Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.”
Thusly emboldened, David and his men move with speed, and strike Keilah “with a mighty blow.”
And of course, victory is theirs.
But then Abiathar, son of the slain priest Ahimelech, comes running with some news.
Saul is at it again. He’s hot on the heels of David, utter annihilation on his mind.
A worried David grabs hold of the priest’s ephod, and takes some urgent questions before the Lord.
Lives are desparately at stake, Brethren.
“O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.”
And, terrifyingly, the answer is yes. On both counts.
Saul is coming, and with him, certain betrayal by the men of Keilah.
Oh, the treachery of it! Hasn’t David just delivered them from the wrath of the Philistines?
But he is quick to take the Lord’s counsel, and quietly melts into the wilderness, together with his men.
David certainly understands the power of this word – ask.
Before he moves, he asks; before he strikes, he asks; before he takes any action at all, he asks.
But not so for Saul.
Presuming that the Lord will deliver David to him, we are told, Saul continues his hot pursuit of the future king. He calls all the people together for war and prepares to go to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
But by then, we are told, no hide nor hair is to be found in these parts, for David and his men are long gone, leaving nary a trace of their whereabouts behind.
And what a colossal waste of time this turns out to be for King Saul and his men, who are forced turn back, empty-handed, and make the long trek back to Gibeah, from whence they came.
The story of King Saul’s attempted capture of David in the city of Keilah, and David’s remarkable response, is wonderfully documented in 1 Samuel 23:1-13.