1 Samuel 23:1-14 Serving God through Serving Others

1 Samuel 23:1-14

1 One day news came to David that the Philistines were at Keilah stealing grain from the threshing floors. 2 David asked the LORD, “Should I go and attack them?” “Yes, go and save Keilah,” the LORD told him. 3 But David’s men said, “We’re afraid even here in Judah. We certainly don’t want to go to Keilah to fight the whole Philistine army!” 4 So David asked the LORD again, and again the LORD replied, “Go down to Keilah, for I will help you conquer the Philistines.” 5 So David and his men went to Keilah. They slaughtered the Philistines and took all their livestock and rescued the people of Keilah. 6 Now when Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he brought the ephod with him.

7 Saul soon learned that David was at Keilah. “Good!” he exclaimed. “We’ve got him now! God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!” 8 So Saul mobilized his entire army to march to Keilah and besiege David and his men. 9 But David learned of Saul’s plan and told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and ask the LORD what he should do. 10 Then David prayed, “O LORD, God of Israel, I have heard that Saul is planning to come and destroy Keilah because I am here. 11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him? And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O LORD, God of Israel, please tell me.”

And the LORD said, “He will come.” 12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?” And the LORD replied, “Yes, they will betray you.” 13 So David and his men- about 600 of them now- left Keilah and began roaming the countryside. Word soon reached Saul that David had escaped, so he didn’t go to Keilah after all. 14 David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.


David, having caught wind of the Philistine aggression reaches out to God for a divine mandate to save the people of Keilah. Their victory in Keilah is suddenly met with a threat from Saul who plans to besiege them in the walled town. By oracular consultation of the ephod, and being made aware of their eventual betrayal, David and his men left for the hill country of Ziph protected by God. Even after David obeyed a divine directive to save Keilah, God did not immediately remove the threat of Saul and he had to continue to run for his life. Today, we learn from the mindset of David that kept him serving God and increasing in favor despite dire circumstances.


Should I go and attack them? – David has now grown accustomed to making decisions based on God’s express directives. When news of the Philistine aggression at Keilah comes to him, he is shown to defend the people of Keilah. Feeling hesitant because his men are afraid of the Philistines, he enquires of God and receives assurance of victory. David and his men, mustered by the promise of God advance towards the Philistine and slaughtered the Philistines and took all their livestock and rescued the people of Keilah. What looks like the first major battle for David’s men becomes for them a lesson of trust, provision and nobility.

We’ve got him now! God has handed him over to me – Saul, having caught wind of David’s whereabouts in Keilah claimed that God has this time worked in his favor. And he immediately mobilizes his army to march towards Keilah to destroy it. David, having now in his possession the priestly service of Abiathar enquires of God concerning his next move. As the oracles of the ephod indicates, the people of Keilah will give him up because the recent massacre of the priestly family at Nob would have dissuaded any community from playing host to an opponent of Saul. The 600 men of David set off for the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph.

Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him – Now, David’s band has added another 200 men, while Saul’s pursuit of David proves frustrating as it is not the will of God that he should succeed in it.


  1. When we serve people, we must understand it is God that we serve. Hence, even though people may show ingratitude towards us, we are blessed because our service is an act of obedience towards God. But if people is the object of our service, then the nature of their response will affect us accordingly. David and his men is sent by a divine directive to save Keilah; they risk their lives fighting the Philistines even though the residence of Keilah will eventual betray them when threatened by Saul. Therefore, our service to others must stem purely from our obedience towards God. That way, our praise and satisfaction would come from God and not from people. Having said, believers must be careful to serve by divine directive and not attend to every need that presents itself. In Luke 4:42-43, Jesus, having the power to heal and forgive sins serves not by need, but by obedience to God’s instructions,

The crowds searched everywhere for Jesus, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4:42-43

  1. When we serve out of the love of the Spirit, we will not grow tired or discouraged. On the other hand, serving with the human spirit can be draining and discouraging. The human spirit thrives on reciprocity and justice; we will feel injustice unless our service is reciprocated or acknowledged. However, the love of the Spirit is infinite in capacity, it is able to keep giving and keep on giving. How do we serve with the love of the Spirit? First, we must be ministered and be continually ministered by the love of the Spirit. This is different from filling our minds with imaginations of answered prayers and the romantic emotions of being loved by God. It is an impartation of the passion of Christ, which is His love for the Father and for humanity; it is an amalgamation of God’s Spirit and ours becoming one spirit. David is not visibly discouraged by the ungrateful attitude of the Keilah residence, because his desire is to serve God and being found pleasing to Him.
  2. The more we serve others out of divine directive, the more we increase in God’s mandate and favor. When we serve out of love and divine directive despite being unjustly treated, God sees our heart and increase our mandate and favor. God send David on a mission to save Keilah without the promise of recognition, reward or kickback. David and his men learn to show magnanimity and that becomes their kingdom culture. Jesus came to save the world through divine mandate; His mandate and favor will come from God. Therefore, in the context of our work place, we must endeavor to become a light and blessing to the company we work for. We work not for pay or for promotion, but out of divine directive and obedience to God and He will increase our favor and mandate.


  1. Are you discouraged when people do not remember your good deeds? Even when people do not take an account of your service, God sees and will reward you. Proverbs 19:17 say,

If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD – and he will repay you. Proverbs 19:17

  1. When you serve others, do you serve out of a divine purpose? Or are you responding to their needs out of human sympathy? Perhaps, you should first seek to understand God’s plans so that you could serve not by human compassion alone but by God’s mandate and resources. In so doing, you are fulfilling God’s will, not just the need of man.
  2. Do you feel that your work of love is not providing significant enough results and you are becoming tired? The fruit of your work may not be visible in your lifetime, but God evaluates you base on the tasks that He has given you and not on your results. Abraham could only see Isaac, who is the evidence of promise fulfilled; Moses could not step foot into the promised land but could only see it from a distance; David could not see the temple, but could only prepare the material for his son who would build it; Jesus could not see the church, but could only pray for the disciples who would build the church. Therefore, be encouraged that you are one of the instruments through which God will build His kingdom.


Dear Lord, I am encouraged because you see all my deeds and have written them in your book. Help me to be more sensitive to your guidance so that I can be an effective instrument for your kingdom’s work. Use me to lift up the poor, heal the sick, and preach the truth. I pray that you keep those that I have ministered to from the attacks of the evil one. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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