Acts 13:22-23 says, “After removing [King Saul], He raised up David to be their king. He also testified about him and said, ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will.’ From this man’s seed, in keeping with His promise God brought to Israel a Savior – Yeshua.”[1]

[Read 1 Sam. 23]

The basic outline of the passage is as follows:

  1. David rescues Keilah. (23:1-12)
    1. Keilah is willing to give David up.
  2. David flees to the wilderness of Kiph. (23:13-24)
    1. Ziphites are willing to give David to Saul.
  3. David flees to wilderness of Moan. (23:25-27)
    1. Adonai protects David by the Philistines. (23:28-29)

David prayed to God about attacking the Philistines at Keilah, a city usually identified as modern day Khirbet Qila, about 18 miles SW of Jerusalem and 3 miles SE of Adullam. While this may have been a great idea when he was captain over a thousand of Saul’s best troupes, now all David commands is about 400, embittered, indebted, fearful men. (See 22:2 & 23:3) Maybe David is bored, maybe he is the sort of person who hates sitting still and doing nothing. I can say that I understand the feeling. But surely there is an easier way to vent steam than going up against entrenched, trained Philistine troupes.

David’s prayer in vs. 2 is proactive. He is not asking What, he is asking permission. The second prayer is prayed due to the fear that this attack provoked in his own men, but in the response, Adonai emphatically declares that He will grant them the victory over the Philistines. This encourages David’s men enough for them to rally their courage. This also become a pattern for David and his men: 1) David prays to Adonai. 2) Adonai answers and directs the attack. 3) All the men go up to battle. 4) They win the battle and take the spoil. 5) They share the spoil with the surrounding Israelite cities.

Unfortunately, at this point in David’s life his new-found career is a thankless one. Soon Adonai is warning David that the very people he just rescued are about to give him up to Saul. Notice that at this time, Saul is more interested in hunting down David than he is protecting his own kingdom? In vs. 6 we are reminded of Abiathar and told that he had brought an Ephod with him. The use of the Urim and Thumim were a typical way of understanding the will of Adonai at this time.

Look at vs. 7 and compare it with vs. 14. We need to remember that just because “positive” things are happening in our lives does not mean that we have Adonai’s favour, and just because “negative” circumstances  are in our lives does not mean that we are out of His favour. During times of wilderness, the most important lessons we can learn are to seek the L-rd during these hard times, and praise Him in spite of them. [Read Ps. 54, Phil. 4:10-10] Yeshua also encouraged Himself in the L-rd when going through the wilderness. [Mk. 6:27-32, 46; Lk. 4:1-13]

In vs. 15-18 we see the last time that David and Jonathan see each other before they died. Once again they reaffirmed the covenant. This time, however, Jonathan and David cut the covenant as equals. Jonathan affirms that David truly will be the next King of Israel. “In spite of God’s gracious and providential care (v. 14), David was afraid, because Saul came out to take his life . . . So Saul’s son Jonathan went to Horesh to remind David of the Lord’s concern for him and to encourage him (v. 16)[2]

When is a blessing not a blessing? “May you be blessed of Adonai.” Here in vs. 21 we have Saul “blessing” the Ziphites for betraying David’s location to him. The wilderness of Ziph was located in the hill country west of the Dead Sea. This is the kind of blessing that I could do without. [Prov. 26:24-26] Similar to the Proverb, I don’t even think that Saul meant it. Maybe it was just as shallow as when people say, “God bless you” when someone sneezes. Either way, this “blessing,” in no way blessed David, and was most assuredly not honoured by Adonai.

Notice the difference in the tactics between David and Saul? Saul relies entirely on human intel, whereas David is constantly coming to Adonai to determine what to do next. David and his “merry men” flee south to the wilderness of Maon in the Arabah (Southern end of the Dead Sea), and just about when all hope is gone, Adonai intervenes. Notice how Adonai delivers David? He stirs up the Philistines to attack Israel, and thus brings about His purposes. Adonai has not changed, and he still does the same thing. [Mal. 3:6 and Heb. 13:8]

How can we apply David’s prayer life to our lives?

  • David was proactive in his prayers. Even though in the wilderness, he continued to look out for the needs of others. We need to do the same.
  • We should be asking Adonai for permission to minister in His kingdom, not just ask what to do.
  • In the midst of hardship, we must continue to praise Adonai regardless of the circumstances.
  • We must remember that we will reap eventually, if we don’t give up (Gal. 6:9)
  • Circumstances do not always determine Adonai’s favour.
  • The way we must live is by constantly going to Adonai for direction and courage, not to people.

Let’s close with this Scripture: [Romans 11:1-6]

[1]Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[2]Frank E. Gaebelein, 1 Samuel. (12 Vols.; The EBC; Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1992), 3:741.