Expository Sermon on 1 Samuel 23, 24, 25
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 9/5/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch

(To watch the YouTube version of this entire service, click the link below. The sermon starts at the 54:53 mark.)

Please open your Bibles to first Samuel chapter 23.

If you tuned in to last week’s worship service, you might remember that the sermon was about David and some of the qualities he possessed which prepared him to go into exile.

Well, in today’s sermon we will actually see David in that first exile, and we’ll discover still another quality which can sustain us through our own exiles, like the pandemic one we’re going through. We’ll be covering just one quality today, just one sermon point, so you shouldn’t get writer’s cramp if you’re taking notes. And then next Sabbath we’ll cover two more of David’s exile-readiness qualities.

This week’s exile key (and next week’s two keys as well) all have the same theme – “staying power.”

What do I mean by that? To start with, let me quickly tell you about a food experience Shelley provided me with two or three weeks ago. She is constantly on the lookout for tasty, healthy food to feed us. A couple weeks ago she pulled out some large flour tortillas and made burritos. Into those burritos she wrapped rice, and beans, and sliced tomatoes, and avocado.

Now, I had been to Chipotle and places like that, but not recently, and I’ve tasted good burritos. But never in my life have I tasted a burrito as glorious as Shelley’s was. I opened my mouth, enclosed it on one end of that burrito, and I immediately decided that heaven will include burritos on the menu. Shelley’s burritos were perfect.

This week when I thought of the phrase “staying power,” I told myself that Shelley’s burrito had “staying power.” Once I’d eaten it – and I actually had two of them – I was satisfied. I went forth to the rest of the day with energy and tranquility.

Back when I was a kid in South Dakota, I don’t think we had burritos. I would read about them in books, and I knew that “burrito” means “little donkey.” And I even figured out that if somebody gave you a burrito to eat, they were not asking you to really eat a little donkey. But I never ate a burrito.

Of course in Mexico and other places, burritos have been on the menu for many, many years. Just the little online checking I did showed me that burritos in some form have been around for thousands of years.

But the reason the burrito is still with us today, the reason as “staying power,” is that (unless you add unhealthy stuff to it) it has just the right ingredients for good health, wrapped into a conveniently consumable package. And it’s delicious.

When I look at how David made it through his “Saul-imposed exile,” it’s very clear that he had staying-power. But the key thing to remember is that this staying-power wasn’t simply David’s willpower or fortitude or stubbornness. David’s staying power came from a connection with God.

Let’s take a look at today’s exile-readiness key which David uses, and see how we can use it as our pandemic exile goes along.

We enter the story of David today after a terrible event has happened. Saul and his troops have started harassing David, and David and the people who were following him go to the tabernacle to see if the priests can provide them something to eat.

The priests help them out, but there is a friend of Saul’s there, and he runs and tells Saul the whole story. Saul summons all the priests, accuses them of helping David, and has them all slaughtered, all but one who escaped to tell David about it.

So now, David knows for sure that he is in exile. And rather than just sending David away with a “Good riddance, get out of my sight,” Saul is actively trying to exterminate him.

But as we’ll see, David’s faith has staying power. Let’s find out what his new exile-readiness key is, and watch how he puts it to work.

1 Samuel 23:1 [NKJV]: Then they told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.”

Now if David had been an ordinary person, he might have said, “Well, hey, that’s too bad. My heart goes out to them. But what does Keilah’s crisis have to do with me? I’m in enough trouble already. Somebody else is going to have to help them out.”

But David isn’t an ordinary person. The town of Keilah is an Israelite town, and the Philistines are Israel’s enemy. And just as David didn’t stay safely on the sidelines when Goliath was on the loose, he doesn’t stay safely on the sidelines now.

But notice something very important, which is going to lead us toward David’s new key for exile readiness. Watch what happens.

Verse 2: Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.”

If you want to take down sermon notes, here comes Sermon Point One, and as I said, this will be the only sermon point today. Once David was actually in exile, what’s the first “staying power” key that he used?

David stayed in step with God.

If you think back on the career of King Saul, Saul seems to have always done the opposite – act first and then hope what he does is God’s will.

But David has learned from personal experience that you first of all check in with God. You first of all figure out as best you can from dependable sources what God wants to happen, and then you do your part to accomplish that.

How does David check with God? He most likely does not hear the direct voice of God, the way his mentor Samuel had. A few verses later we learn that Abiathar, the only priest who escaped King Saul’s slaughter, brought an ephod with him, which contained the Urim and Thummim, the two stones through which God communicated His will. David also had access to a prophet named Gad.

So one of the ways David had “staying power” was that he stayed in step with God. And this was important, because watch what happens next. He’s about to get some pushback.

Verse 3: But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?”

Have you ever had someone who meant well try to discourage you from doing what the Lord wanted you to do, using human logic? Human logic is great, and I don’t think we use near as much of it as we should, but sometimes God’s plans defy human logic.

David already discovered how God can overrule human logic. Human logic said that an armorless shepherd boy is no match for an armed giant. Human logic says that 300 barely armed Israelites are no match for multiple thousands of well-armed Midianites. And of course we could go on and on, all through the Bible.

So, how are you and I supposed to stay in step with God? We don’t have priests, and we don’t have the Urim and Thummim to “divine” with. We don’t have Ellen White living next door, to go visit or to call up on the phone or to write a letter to. Incidentally, when people would try to get her advice for every little detail, she would say to them firmly, “God has given you a mind. He wants you to use it.”

But we don’t have her, and we don’t have a successor to her. We have God, we have our minds. But we still need to ask God for His guidance. How can we do this?

There are several ways. First of all, it’s very important that we get an instinct for how God normally does things. We do that by reading widely in the Bible. A few weeks back, Shelley wanted to know if I could read her a chapter of the Bible while she was fixing breakfast. So I ended up reading a chapter every morning, off my iPad. And over the next few days I got a lot of Bible reading done.

And this was a really powerful thing for me to do. A lot of times I think we use the Bible in little bits, little verses, and don’t sense the wider thrust of the passage. But as I’m reading along, reading aloud, I’m hearing the familiar verses again, but suddenly I catch something new, a new insight or connection of some kind, which I never would have discovered if I’d read a verse here and a verse there.

Another thing we do need to do to stay in step with God is to read what Paul has to say about avoiding speculation. Back in his day they didn’t have the internet, but there were just as many crazy ideas, and crazy-idea-generating minds, as there are right now.

These days a lot of these ideas come through our computers, and many of these ideas are useless, and some are dangerous. And along with the ideas come the attitudes. We need to be aware of what voices we are allowing into our heads. What are we listening to? Are we reading widely but reading cautiously and thoughtfully? Or are we allowing our emotional chains to be yanked this way and that way?

A perfect example of this is described in the September 3 Seattle Times, in an article by columnist Danny Westneat. Part of the headline has the following crucially important comment: “Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

According to the story, a female Woodinville chiropractor put out the claim a week ago that there have actually been only about 9,000 deaths from COVID-19. She was claiming that since death certificates often list other causes of death for a patient who had COVID, then maybe COVID isn’t as widespread as it seems.

What this woman didn’t think through—either deliberately or innocently—is that people who die after having COVID might die from heart failure or respiratory failure, and these would be listed on the death records, but COVID was the triggering cause.

So in other words, this chiropractor’s story was false and fallacious. But that didn’t stop its rapid and humongous spread on social media. The same day the woman posted it, it eventually got millions of views, even at the highest levels of government. This is a horrifying example of how dangerous an idea can be. I wonder how many people are discarding their masks because of ideas like this that they have allowed into their heads without checking them out.

And in verse 3, we see that David’s followers are putting ideas into his head. They’re using human logic. They say, “If we’re scared of King Saul’s forces, don’t we need to be even more scared of the Philistines?” But notice what David does.

Verse 4: Then David inquired of the LORD once again. And the LORD answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.”

And because he’s staying in step with God, David’s courage increases, and he leads his troops out to rescue Keilah. Here’s what happens:

Verse 5: And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

And in the next verses, David keeps consulting the Lord, staying in step with God. Once David defeats the Philistines in Keilah, Saul gets word that that’s where he is. And David inquires of the Lord again, in verse 12. In the Lord warns him what will happen if he doesn’t get on the move. So, to stay in step with God, David moves on.

Now let’s look at another way we can stay in step with God. Verse 16.

Verses 14 – 18: And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a forest. Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. 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. Even my father Saul knows that.” So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.

Jonathan came to help David stay in step with God. This is why Christian friendship and fellowship are so important. We can encourage one another.

Back when I was feeling uncertain about what the Lord wanted me to do with my life, when He seemed to be calling me away from being an English teacher. I went to the man who had married Shelley and me, Dr. Chuck Felton, and got his opinion. He was a very experienced servant of the Lord, a pastor and teacher, and cautiously talked me through some options. It was not only comforting but very helpful to get his counsel. If I hadn’t talked to him, I don’t know whether I would have known the next step to take. And that’s the role Jonathan must have played for David at that moment.

By the way, before we leave chapter 23, I want us to listen in on a conversation some people had with King Saul. Now the Bible very clearly says that the spirit of the Lord had departed from King Saul, but watch what happens when some people called the Ziphites come to him and tell him where David is. Let’s listen to Saul very carefully.

Verses 19 – 21: Then the Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is David not hiding with us in strongholds in the woods, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon? Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of your soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand.” And Saul said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, for you have compassion on me.

Whoa. It kind of makes me blink my eyes a bit. God’s spirit is no longer with Saul, yet here is Saul, fluently making religious-sounding noises. And throughout the next few chapters, Saul does this again and again. He talks as though he is on God’s side, when he’s actually not.

He makes the right noises, and probably deceives a lot of people along the way, but he is not truly seeking God’s will. He’s not doing what David did. Instead, he’s just going right on doing what he wants, and either assuming or hoping or deceiving others into believing that he’s doing what God wants him to do. He’s putting up a Pharisaical front.
So why do I bring this up? Because there are a lot of people nowadays who can pray with the right intonation, speak with seemingly spiritual depth, or sing with appealing earnestness, but if they’re not staying in step with God, they’re on the wrong side. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus warned against such people when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Well, if that’s the case, how can we be safe? How can we know that someone who speaks familiarly about God and the things of God is really His true follower? Jesus answers this question in the last half of that verse. I’m going to start with the first part of the verse again.

Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

So how do you know if someone who frequently, and apparently reverently, uses the name of God is truly a follower of His? You watch and see if that person truly does the will of God. And how do you know what the will of God is?

You make the Bible your only rule of faith and practice, and you get familiar with what it says.

You follow the suggestions of the Sermon on the Mount and dig down beneath the surface of each of the Ten Commandments and discover their spiritual meanings, and add that to physically keeping them.

And you watch this person carefully, and notice whether they are leading their followers into loving unity with Jesus, or whether they’re leading them away into dubious ideas there is no solid Biblical proof for.

In other words, is this person a David, or is this person a Saul?

Because David knew that God loved him, and cared for him, and so David stayed in step with Him.