1 Samuel 23
The Hand of God

Sermon Discussion Questions:

  1. Saul uses his power to destroy, David to save. Saul assumes his power comes from himself, David knows it comes from God. What are ways you can use the position and capacities and authority you currently have in ways that reflect Saul and ways that reflect David?
  2. What is the paradox of strength illustrated by David and Saul? (The blessing of weakness and the curse of strength). Read Deut 8:11-18 together. How does this speak to you?
  3. What does it mean to take the name of the Lord in vain? See 2 Tim 2:16-19.
  4. How can we reconcile the claim that "we live in the best of all possible worlds" with the pain and suffering and sin we all experience?
  5. How is Jesus a better "Rock of Escape"? Look at 1 Sam 2:2 and 2 Sam 22:2-4. (Compare Exodus 17:6 and 1 Cor 10:4)

I am attempting something different with my sermon notes. Rather than writing a manuscript, I am trying to use an outline with bullet points. Below is my outline notes:

One year ago…

Hands can be used to hurt, and to heal; to destroy, and to build; to kill, and to save.

O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2 O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves. Selah
4 Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5 He will return the evil to my enemies;
in your faithfulness put an end to them.
6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7 For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
-       Ps 54

-       The theme of the “hand” in 1 Samuel 23-24 (used 18x)
o   The hand represents power and capacity
o   Why were Dagon’s hands cut off alongside his head? To demonstrate his weakness.
o   “But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him… The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.” (1 Sam 6:4, 6)
o   The theme is intended to reveal to us how godly and ungodly persons use power.
§  We should ask ourselves:
·      Where does this power come from?
·      What is the power used for?

The Hand of David
-       Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” 3 But David's men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” (1 Sam 23:1-3).
o   Keilah: an Israelite city that resides (currently) outside of Israel’s territory, behind enemy lines. The Philistines are taking advantage of this by plundering.
o   The men’s fear reveals just how precarious their situation is. They do not feel prepared to go fight the Philistines—they are barely surviving as is.

-       “Then David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah,” (1 Sam 23:4-5).
o   God is the one who gives the enemy into David’s hand.
o   Where does David’s power come from? The Lord.
o   What does David use his power for? Salvation.

-       “When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand,” (1 Sam 23:6).
o   What is the ephod?
o   Where does David’s power come from? The Lord.

-       “David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 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,” (1 Sam 23:9-11)
o   We will return to this in our next point, but notice David’s posture, his tone, his desperation: please tell your servant.
o   Where does David’s power come from? The Lord

-       “David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home,” (1 Sam 23:15-18).
o   What a great picture of Christian friendship!
§  Inconvenience yourself (even risk your life!) to go encourage a friend. A godly friend will remind you of God’s promises and strengthen your faith. 
·      Don’t you want to be that kind of friend?

o   David’s posture: prayerful dependence—it always has been.
§  “O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth,” (Ps 54:2)
§  How did Saul view prayer? Prayer, for Saul, was a religious act to codify what he had already planned (cf. 1 Sam 14:18-19; 36-37). Why? Because Saul fundamentally found his strength and guidance in himself. David, in the Lord.

§  The blessing of weakness: you can’t be deceived into thinking your power comes from yourself.

§  The danger of strength: you can forget where your power really comes from.

§  “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth,” (Deut 8:11-18)

o   Jonathan strengthens David’s hand in God, but also points out the weakness and malice of his father’s hand.

The Hand of Saul
-       “7 Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” 8 And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men,” (1 Sam 23:7-8).
o   The language of Saul’s statement mirrors the language we saw with David in verse 4. Both think that at the city of Keilah God will give their enemy into their hands, except God told David that He would give his enemy into his hands, while Saul just assumes this himself. 
§  Further the enemy really is the enemy (Philistines) and for Saul his enemy is no enemy at all (David). The only reason David is Saul’s enemy is because the Lord is with David. (1 Sam 18:28-29)
o   What does Saul use his power for? Destruction and death.
o   Where does Saul’s power come from? Himself. He doesn’t inquire of the Lord, but presumes.

-       10 Then David said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 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, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you,” (1 Sam 23:9-12).
o   David fears that Saul wants to create a Nob 2.0 (1 Sam 22:16-19)
§  David’s concerned for the life of his men and himself, but also concerned for the city.

-       “Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. 14 And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand,” (1 Sam 23:13-14).
o   Saul’s hand is weak
o   The paradox of power: you can be strong/weak (Saul), or you can be weak/strong (David).
§  This is the theology of Hannah’s song (1 Sam 2:1-10)—it is not by might that man prevails. The Lord raises up, and the Lord casts down. It is the Yahweh who gives strength to the king (1 Sam 2:10).

-       “Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? 20 Now come down, O king, according to all your heart's desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king's hand.” 21 And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, for you have had compassion on me.” (1 Sam 23:19-21)
o   The Ziphites know how Saul uses his power and what the desires of his heart are: murder.
o   Saul’s blasphemy: May you be blessed by Yahweh!
§  What a perverse, Satanic use of religion.
o   Ironically, “Compassion” here is the same word (hamal) used in 1 Sam 15:
·      “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them,” (15:3)
·      “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep.” (15:9)
·      “Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep.” (15:15)
§  Showing a wicked king hamal is what led Saul to lose his kingship (15:28), and now Saul praises the Ziphites for showing him hamal. What is the author showing us? Saul is a wicked king, devoted to destruction, just like Agag was.

o   What does God think of Saul using Him like this? He believes God has given David into his hand back in vs. 7, and here he explicitly uses the name of the Lord to bless the Ziphites for informing him. What do the Ziphites think of Yahweh now?
o   “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain,” (Ex 20:7).
§  What does it mean to take God’s name in vain? 
§  “Take” (nasa) means “to take up, to lift, to bear”
o   God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex 3:14)
o   The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex 34:5-7)
o   God’s name = God’s character
§  When the Ziphites inform Saul of where David is, Psalm 54:1, “O God, save me by your name…”
·      “I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good,” (Ps 54:6)

o   “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Num 6:24-27; cf. Deut 28:10; 2 Chron 7:14; Dan 9:18-19)
o   “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads,” (Rev 14:1; cf. Rev 3:12, 2:17)
§  People should look at Israel and the Church and see what God is like.
o   So, taking God’s name in vain, is much more than using “God” as a curse word. It is claiming to represent God, to bear His name, but your life rejects that. This is Saul. He continues to speak and act as if he represents God, when his life is a gross rejection of God.

o   Paul, in speaking of false teachers who promote ungodliness, writes: “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Tim 2:19).
§  How do we guard God’s name from being misused today?
o   “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matt 28:19). 
You cannot baptize yourself—God has given the keys of the kingdom over to the Church, the heavenly embassy who has authority to say: “This person bears God’s name, this person doesn’t.”
§  If your brother sins against you…And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” (Matt 18:17)
§  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Cor 5:11)

The Hand of God
-       “Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. 25 And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi,” (1 Sam 23:24-29)
o   This is the only extended section in the chapter where we don’t see either David or Saul’s hand mentioned. No one’s hand is mentioned. So, whose hand is at work? God’s hand.

o   God’s Power
§  We were told specifically that God prevents Saul from capturing David back in 1 Sam 23:14, “God did not give him into his hand.” Here, we are not given that commentary, but the same reality is just as evident through God stirring up the Philistines to raid Israel and so cause Saul to retreat.
§  It doesn’t matter how strong Saul is or how weak David is because it is Yahweh who gives strength to the king (1 Sam 2:10).
§  “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them,” (Ps 54:4-5).
o   God’s Wisdom
§  Consider: “Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.” (1 Sam 23:11-2)
·      God’s knowledge is so complete that He not only knows everything that does/will happen, but also knows what would happen in any given set of circumstances (cf. Matt 11:21).
·      Take God’s power, God’s knowledge, and God’s goodness, roll them together, and what do you get? That we live in the best of all possible worlds.
·      Tim Keller’s Watergate illustration
·      This is crucial for us to remember—sometimes it doesn’t feel like this. Sometimes it feels like there are many different versions of reality that would be far superior. 
o   We know that the Philistine raid on the Israelites was a means God was using to deliver David. But the Israelites being raided didn’t know that. “God never does one thing only. In everything he does he is doing thousands of things. Of these we know perhaps half a dozen.” – John Piper

o   Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

§  God’s Deliverance
·      For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. (Ps 54:7)
·      “The Rock of Escape”
o   “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (2 Sam 22:2-4)
o   David’s salvific imagination—just as that rock was providentially placed there to be a barrier between him and Saul, so too did He see God as a greater Rock.
§  The cleft rock that Moses hides in
§  The split rock that gives water to Israel
·      Jesus is our greater Rock of Escape who stands between us and our great enemies: sin, death, and the devil.
·      Jesus is our substitute