Answers to Prayer
1 Samuel 23:1-12
Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing floors.…

Inquiry of the Lord by Urim and Thummim really meant prayer in which Divine direction was sought in a particular manner (see 1 Samuel 14:19, 36). It was made by David soon after the arrival of Abiathar, on three several occasions (vers. 2, 4, 10), - on the last of them by two separate questions, - and in each case a definite answer was received. "God shows great care for David, instructing him now by prophets (1 Samuel 22:5), and now by Urim and Thummim" (Grotius). "That which in the olden Jewish times was the prerogative of a few becomes in Christian days the privilege of the many. Christ makes all his faithful followers 'kings and priests unto God.' And much of the sacred symbolism that gathered around the ancient priesthood now gathers in another form around the believer in Christ. Mere symbols have given place to true spiritual power. The Spirit of God which once underlay the symbols, and spake through them to the devout mind, now communicates directly with the heart, and needs no material intervention" ('Bible Educ.,' 4:38). Those who seek guidance of God in a right spirit never fail to obtain it, especially in -

I. PERPLEXITY concerning the knowledge of duty. Asking, "Shall I go?" (ver. 9.) they receive, perchance, the definite answer, "Go;" not, indeed, by an audible voice, but by means of -

1. The elevating, calming, and enlightening of their minds through communion with God, and more particularly by the purifying of their moral nature from carnal and selfish affections by his indwelling Spirit, which enables them to see "what the will of the Lord is." "Our notions resemble the index and hand of the dial; our feelings are the hidden springs which impel the machine; with this difference, that notions and feelings react on each other reciprocally" (Coleridge). "The understanding resembles not a dry light, but admits a tincture of the will and the passions, which generate their own system of truth accordingly" (Bacon). And when the heart (which is the soul's eye) is pure we see God (Proverbs 28:5; Matthew 5:8; John 7:17).

2. A clear understanding of the meaning of the written word, and of its application to the circumstances in which they are placed. As by that word thoughts, impressions, and purposes are tried, in order that it may be proved whether they are of God, so by the same word they are formed and directed (Isaiah 8:20; John 16:13).

3. A correct judgment of what is right and most expedient, accompanied by an inward assurance of the Divine approbation. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God," etc. (James 1:5; Psalm 25:9).

II. DIFFICULTY arising from hindrances to the performance of duty. "David inquired of the Lord yet again" (ver. 4). The obstacles placed in the way of duty, especially by friends, ought to lead to renewed consideration and prayer, and these are often followed by -

1. Strong confirmation of the conviction previously entertained. "Arise, go down to Keilah."

2. Increased confidence of success. "I will give the Philistines into thine hand."

3. Entire removal of the difficulty. "David and his men went." It appears to have been chiefly for their satisfaction that the second inquiry was made. Whilst we should endeavour to persuade men to adopt a right course, we ought above all things to look to God to dispose them to walk therein.

III. DANGER, which sometimes occurs on the fulfilment of duty (vers. 7-12). "In the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new suffering." Saul misinterprets events (ver. 7), like other men blinded by sin and "using the name of God when God is farthest off from them," confidently calculates on seizing David, levies war, and openly devotes himself to the execution of his wicked purpose. But David is warned; he has also, probably, reason to suspect the fidelity of the citizens of Keilah, and again inquires of the Lord. He does so with much fervour, calling him the "Lord God of Israel," and humbly acknowledging himself to be his servant; and the answers he obtains afford him -

1. Foresight of the perilous events of the future. "He will come down."

2. Insight into the hidden purposes of men. "They will deliver thee up." We may often ascertain more of the secret thoughts of men by communion with God than by consultation with men themselves.

3. Guidance for the frustration of ungrateful and evil intentions, and escape from every danger. "David and his men, etc." (ver. 13). How perfect is the knowledge which God possesses of all things! How sure is the guidance which he affords to those who seek him! How safe are they who make him their Rock and their Fortress! In the midst of all his troubles David can sing of "his marvellous loving kindness in a fenced city;" as he does in Psalm 31.: "In thee, O Jehovah, have I found refuge."

"See Judah's promised king bereft of all;
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul.
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant's frown denies.

His soul exults; hope animates his lays;
The sense of mercy kindles into praise;
And wilds familiar with the lion's roar
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before"

(Cowper) = -D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.

WEB: David was told, "Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors."

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