1 Samuel 23:2
So David inquired of the LORD, "Should I go and attack these Philistines?" And the LORD said to David, "Go and attack the Philistines and deliver Keilah."
The Leadings of ProvidenceJohn Venn.1 Samuel 23:2
Public SpiritB. Dale 1 Samuel 23:1-6
Answers to PrayerD. Fraser 1 Samuel 23:1-12

1 Samuel 23:1-6. (HARETH, KEILAH.)
So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah (ver. 5). Another step in advance was now made by David. Whilst Saul (in addition to alienating the prophets, and well nigh exterminating the priests) failed to afford adequate protection to his subjects, David was called to defend them against the incursions of the Philistines. This was doubtless the chief purpose for which he was recalled from Moab to Judah. And he fulfilled it, in obedience to the direction of God, which he sought and received through Abiathar, who had come down to him "with an ephod in his hand." "For his conscience and his assurance of faith, as well as for the certainty and success of the whole undertaking, he needed the Divine authorisation; if he had not the sanction of the theocratic king, he must have that of God himself, since the question was of a matter important for the people of God and for the affairs of God's kingdom in Israel - war against Israel's hereditary foe" (Erdmann). His public spirit was -

I. INDICATIVE OF A NOBLE DISPOSITION. Some men are unduly concerned about their own convenience, safety, interest, and refuse to look beyond them. Others render public services from selfish motives. But the truly public spirited man, like David, possesses -

1. An intense desire for the welfare of the people, to whom by Divine providence he is united by special ties, not contrary to, but closer and more immediately affecting him than those which unite him to all mankind.

2. Genuine sympathy with the distresses of the weak, the injured, and the imperilled (ver. 1). Their condition fills his heart with generous impulses, and makes him forget his own troubles.

3. Supreme concern for "God's kingdom and righteousness," which inspires him with zeal against evil doers, and (along with his unselfish regard for his people) makes him willing to undergo labour, conflict, sacrifice, suffering, and death. "Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people," etc. (2 Samuel 10:12).


1. General principles, such as are contained in the commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18), and others of a similar nature (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 2:4). In order that our love to the whole human race (included in the commandment in its widest sense) may be real and effectual, it must begin by the exercise of love toward those who are nearest to us and have the first claim upon us (Psalm 122:6-9; Psalm 137:5, 6; Luke 13:34; Luke 24:47; Romans 9:3).

2. Particular precepts pertaining to the varied relationships, capabilities, and needs of men, as rulers, subjects, etc.

3. Joined with numerous promises and encouragements to the performance of duty. If public spirit in the form of patriotism is not expressly enjoined in the New Testament, it is not without reason. "It was worthy of the wisdom of our great Legislator to decline the express inculcation of a principle so liable to degenerate into excess, and to content himself with prescribing the virtues which are sure to develop it, as far as is consistent with the dictates of universal benevolence" (R. Hall).

III. OPPOSED BY PRUDENTIAL FEARS. "David's men said unto him, Behold, we are afraid here in Judah," etc. (ver. 3). They were not of the same mind as himself, had not a proper sense of their obligation, were unduly concerned about their own safety, and full of doubt and fear. But he was not disheartened nor deterred. And on a further revelation of the Divine will they were (as others often are) -

1. Persuaded that their opposition was wrong.

2. Convinced that their fears were groundless.

3. Induced to accompany their leader in a brave and generous enterprise (ver. 5). One man imbued with strong faith and public spirit thus overcomes the opposition of many, and converts them into zealous helpers.

IV. PRODUCTIVE OF IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES. The hand of God was with them, and -

1. Injustice was punished, the public enemy defeated, and the prey taken from the mighty.

2. Those who were in the utmost peril were saved.

3. All the people were taught where to look for their deliverer. In seeking the good of others David found his own honour, and received a Divine testimony to his royal destination. - D.

Shall I go?
David lived under the Mosaic dispensation. Now, that dispensation, as it was remarkable for many extraordinary circumstances, was so more especially for the particular revelation which God was pleased to make in it of Himself to mankind upon special occasions. The will of the Lord appears to have been made known in five several ways:(1) By voice, as when God conversed with Moses by an audible voice; and with Samuel, when he was yet a child.(2) By dreams.(3) By visions, in which a prophet in an ecstasy, without being asleep, saw some striking parabolic representation of what was about to take place.(4) By special revelation, in which was communicated to a prophet, probably by some remarkable impression on his mind, which clearly discovered its Divine origin, the will of God, or the notification of some future event. And(5) By Urim and Thummim. When the primitive Church had been some time established in the world, a practice prevailed amongst some of its members of consulting the Scriptures as a directory of conduct, — the Bible was opened at random, and the passage which first presented itself was considered as indicating the Divine will. By degrees this practice came to be generally disused, and men were contented to remain in ignorance concerning events before them, trusting only in the general superintendence of Providence. Another way by which many persons have in all ages endeavoured to discover the direction of God respecting their conduct, has been by observing what they have termed the landings of Providence; that is, by attentively considering those impressions on the mind, or those extraordinary circumstances, by which they suppose God may point out His will that they should act in this or that way. But it will be asked, Are not promises of direction and guidance given to us in Scripture? Are we not told that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and are we not bidden to acknowledge God in all our ways, and assured that He will then direct our paths?For our guide in temporal things, God has given us our understanding.

1. Let our first rule be, that we are chiefly solicitous to discharge Duty.

2. Beware of mistaking your own inclinations for the suggestions of Provident.

3. It may be laid down as a maxim that Providence never sanctions the neglect of any duty to point out other courses of action. There is a beautiful uniformity in the conduct which God prescribes for us. No duties over clash with each other.

4. We ought to beware of seeking for other directions than those which Providence has been pleased to appoint. Do not expect revelations where God has not promised them.

5. Let me also caution you against a partial use of the means which Providence has afforded us for our direction. You pray, perhaps, very sincerely; but do you also listen to the suggestions of prudence; do you take the advice of wise and faithful friends?

(John Venn.)

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