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1 Samuel

Faith Under Fire
22:1 - 23:29

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Faith is indestructible if it is placed in the God Who is invincible.

related reading

Psalm 16

Psalm 31

Psalm 54

2 Timothy 2:1-14

2 Timothy 2:15-26


Leonardo da Vinci was one of the outstanding intellects of all history, for he was great as a draftsman, an engineer, and a thinker. Just before he commenced work on his “Last Supper” he had a violent quarrel with a fellow painter. So enraged and bitter was Leonardo that he determined to paint the face of his enemy, the other artist, into the face of Judas, and thus take his revenge and vent his spleen by handling the man down in infamy and scorn to succeeding generations. The face of Judas was therefore one of the first that he finished, and everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had quarreled.

But when he came to paint the face of Christ, he could make no progress. Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, frustrating his best efforts. At length he came to the conclusion that the thing which was checking and frustrating him was the fact that he had painted his enemy into the face of Judas. He therefore painted out the face of Judas and commenced anew on the face of Jesus, and this time with the success which the ages have acclaimed.


You cannot at one and the same time be painting the features of Christ into your own life, and painting another face with the colors of enmity and hatred.

—C. E. Macartney

More Fear [22:1 - 4]

How often does our life resemble the colors of Judas – we are gray or black when we should be bright and yellow. Here is David on the run casting forth a foreboding spell of darkness. Hiding in a cave near Adullam, ten miles southeast of Gath, David calls this place “home.” And not only David, for he is joined by some 400 other dissidents who have chosen to call David their leader rather than stay under Saul’s rule.

David’s fear of Saul extends to his family. He takes his parents off to Mizpeh in Moab. True, David’s great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite, but that is many years ago. At any rate, David leaves them behind and moves onto a new stronghold (22:4).


Mizpeh means “watchtower” and may have been the capital of Moab or merely one of its fortress towns. Many believe it to be the stronghold town Masada, a cliff top fortress 1,320 feet above the western shore of the dead sea. Tourists may still visit Masada today. It is a formidable stronghold.



How often do you place your trust in a man-made stronghold?

Where should your trust be placed?

It is possible that this new stronghold formed the background for parts of Psalms 18 (18:2) and 62 (62:2). Again, as mentioned in the last lesson, David wrote many of the Psalms we have been reading in this study during his time in the wilderness wanderings.

ole63.gif Using these two Psalms as a background, what can we glean about God by studying nature?


Reminders [22:5 - 23]


God does not forsake us, even when we try to forsake him, either intentionally or inadvertently. True he may leave us to our own devices until we cry out for help, but all the while, He will place people and events in our path to remind us of His presence. These symbols are an effort on the Master’s part to get us to want to return to Him of our own free will.

Here, God sends the prophet Gad to David. If David’s life is dark and foreboding, Gad is a splotch of bright yellow sunshine. Gad directs David to go home to Judah (22:5). David has the sense to follow these directions.

book2115.gif Gad reappears in other parts of David’s life and, along with Nathan, represents the chain of prophets active during David’s reign. Gad becomes the official court seer (2 Samuel 24:11), records the acts of David in a book (1 Chronicles 29:29), helped to rearrange the temple service (2 Chronicles 29:25), and brought God’s punishment to David after the king’s sin of numbering the people (2 Samuel 24:11-14).

Meanwhile, Saul is lonelier at home than David is on the road. David is living in caves and woods, Saul is at home in his palace. David has a faithful band of 400, Saul has the Benjamites (his family tribe), and, apparently, few others. Upon learning of David’s whereabouts, Saul lashes out in self-pity and wrath at his men. Should not his anger be directed at David? The problem with unsaved man is that he is irrational. His actions do not follow normal paths of logic. Why, then, should we be surprised at some of the courses of actions unsaved men choose? Saul even accuses Jonathan of being the mastermind behind a conspiracy to over-throw Saul in favor of David!

book2115.gif Up to this point David’s “revolt” and dispute with Saul has been as an individual. With the addition of followers, the revolt grows. David now has the responsibility to others for the consequences of his actions.

David trusts in the Lord. Psalm 18:2 submits this faith to paper.

How do you display your faith?

This is the location of the story of Doeg and the priests, discussed briefly in the last lesson. Doeg advises Saul of the help Ahimelech provided David. Saul immediately arraigns the priests, pronounces judgment, and demands that sentence be executed. Doeg is only too happy to comply when the Benjamites refuse to touch the hand of the priests. This will set the stage for another of those contrasts which has made First Samuel such an interesting book to study.

David is guilt stricken by the death of the priests, but in his dark cocoon, God sends Abiathar. Abiathar is the one priest to escape the sword of Doeg. With a priest in the camp, God has provided David with one more splash of yellow sunshine.


How often does God send a splash of sunshine your way to brighten an otherwise dark day?

Are you perceptive enough to notice the color changes when they arrive?


Or do you quickly throw a wet blanket on those bright colors because you want, indeed, desire to remain in your colorless shell?


book2117.gif Saul’s brutal treatment of God’s priests severs all contact between Saul and God. Samuel no longer deals with Saul. Now there are no priests to act as an intercessor on Saul’s behalf. Ironically, the only living priest, Abiathar, fled to David. Saul’s actions have further driven God away from him. David now has the priestly contact with God. Saul is left stranded. This fact becomes more apparent as we work our way through the remainder of First Samuel.


Turn to God, Then Flee? [23:1 - 15]

A contrast to note is that people are fickle. First the citizens of Keilah call upon David, rather than King Saul for help. Then after David successfully defends them from the Philistines, David is assured these same citizens will turn him over to Saul, once Saul arrives on the scene. The importance of the lesson is not the double-mindedness of Keilah, but the actions of David throughout this entire episode. It is easy to say, “I trust in God.” It is much more difficult to allow one’s actions to testify to this fact.

Rather than rushing off to defend Keilah, David first turns to God. Being assured of victory, David conveys this news to his men, only to be rebuffed. The men were afraid to go. So, in front of the men, David once again turns to the Lord. Assurance is given, and all the men dash off to defend the city.

ole65.gif If you know you are following God’s will, how do you react to obstacles and criticism?

Saul learns of David’s presence at Keilah and assembles a large army to take the city. David again turns to the Lord for advice. This time the answer is to get out of town!


One of those rays of yellow sunshine God sent to David during this period is critical for an understanding of how David consulted with God. Abiathar the priest both accompanied David during this journey and had the ephod (23:6). The ephod is the breastplate of the high priest. It contains the Urim and Thummin. While no one today knows exactly what these are or how they worked, they were most likely two stones marked differently so that a “yes / no” answer could be obtained by the High Priest from God. The Urim and Thummin are a little like the casting of lots discussed in Lesson 5. The key here is that David had a priest – and used him to consult with the Lord.



Compare Saul. Verse 23:7 records Saul’s words about David. “For God hath delivered him into mine hand.” Saul still “believed” in God, but his understanding of God and how God acts was clouded by the king’s disobedience. Today, many are like Saul and understand the existence of God, attributing many events to Him. But they fail to understand who God is and how He operates. Without this understanding, such people own warped views about God.



God has provided to us the perfect mechanism for determining the will of God. The ephod and its stones are gone, but God has given us something much better. God has preserved for all of us His written Word. We may daily, continually turn to Scripture to inquire of the Lord how we are to handle events of our lives. By means of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s written Word comes alive for us revealing His will to us. This is what makes daily devotional time so vitally important to our Christian growth and the condition of our hearts.


ole66.gif Do you spend daily time in devotional study and prayer?

David and his men flew to the wilderness of Ziph, a barren patch of ground between Judah’s hill country and the Dead Sea. Saul chases but cannot catch them, for “God delivered him not into his hand” (23:14). The chase is on. Saul pursues, David and his band, now grown to 600 men, moves on, always one step ahead. The Ziphites disclose David’s location to Saul. David moves on as Saul moves in. From one location to another the game is played. And just as it appears Saul might catch David, God sends a message to Saul that the Philistines are afoot, invading the land. Saul retreats to protect his kingdom.

A Final Meeting [23:16 - 29]

In the midst of all this, while David is still in the wilderness of Ziph, Jonathan visits for the last time. The purpose of the visit is to strength David’s hand in the Lord (23:16). This is the last recorded meeting of these two, and the yellow rays of hope which Jonathan paints are words of encouragement in God. Jonathan speaks of what God will do for David, not about what David might accomplish for himself.

How often are each of us called upon to give strength to someone ill or dying or suffering from a death or other similar calamity? Our words of comfort lie not in our own hearts, but in the heart of God. Our task is to encourage each other spiritually, “in God.” The author of Hebrews writes, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12). Like everything else in this life, such action can only be taken in the power and for the purposes of God. How often do we forget this?


Comfort comes from the Lord. But true comfort only comes to those walking in His light and on His path. Note again, the double-mindedness of Saul. The Ziphites report David’s presence to the king. Saul’s response mouths the right words, but the knowledge of their meaning and the truth of their statement is lost in a human view. Saul says to them, “Blessed be ye of the Lord; for ye have compassion on me” (23:21). True compassion comes only from God. One not walking with God cannot understand the workings of God in His life. Paul writes to the Corinthians:



3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

2 Corinthians 1:3-6


When was the last time God comforted you?

When was the last time you passed this comfort on to someone else in need?


book2124.gif How frequently do you encounter others passing out spiritual values in the manner of Saul. Consider James 3:8-10.

Do spiritual words necessitate a spiritual heart?

How do we tell the difference?




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