1 Samuel 23:1-6
Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing floors.…
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).
II. DIRECTED BY THE DIVINE WORD (vers. 2, 4) in -
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.