A Story of Deliverance
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A Story of Deliverance

1 Samuel 23:1-29  (ID: 3436)

In difficult times, those who seek God’s refuge enjoy His favor and protection. With sin-distorted thinking, Saul was fixated on eliminating the anointed king, but David sought the Lord and was rescued from fear and his enemies. Examining four stories of deliverance, Alistair Begg reminds us that while following Jesus entails challenges and suffering, we can be confident that He is beside us, giving us strength to endure, keeping us safe on the journey, and ultimately delivering us.


Sermon Transcript:

Well, I invite you to turn with me to the Old Testament, to 1 Samuel, and to chapter 23, and I’ll read from verse 1. First Samuel 23:

“Now they told David, ‘Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.’ Therefore David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ And the Lord said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, ‘Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?’ Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, ‘Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.’ And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

“When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, ‘God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.’ And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod here.’ Then David said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.’ And the Lord said, ‘He will come down.’ Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the Lord said, ‘They will surrender you.’ Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.

“David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, 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. Saul my father also knows this.’ And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

“Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart’s desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand.’ And Saul said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.’ And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.

“Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.’ So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi.”

Amen.

Well, a friend said to me last week, “You have already given forty-five talks on 1 Samuel.” And the inference, I think, was, “It might be time for you to pick up the pace a little.” It wasn’t said unkindly, and I think somewhat humorously. But I was struck by the fact that we have already looked into this book some forty-five times. And so I said to myself, “Well, I will endeavor to go through the twenty-nine verses here, as it were, in one bite this morning.”

I have entitled our study “A Story” or “A Song of Deliverance.” I suppose it could be “Stories”; it could be plural, “Stories of Deliverance,” because there are four deliverances here that we want to notice, and I hope that might be a help in guiding us along. When David reflected on the circumstances that are described here, he wrote a song, and we read part of it in Psalm 54. And he says there, reflecting on what we are now about to consider, “I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. … He has delivered me.”[1] “He has delivered me.”

Now, we come to chapter 23 with, as it were, our minds still at the end of chapter 22. And I hope you will recall that we ended with that striking contrast between Saul’s statement made to Ahimelech, “You shall surely die”—that’s in 22:16—and the promise of David in 22:23, “With me you will be safe.”[2] In the presence of the shepherd king there is safety. Because we have already discovered that David is the Lord’s anointed. He is, if you like, the messiah in process. One day, as we have sung, great David’s greater Son will fix his royal throne, but at the moment, he is the “Christ,” he is the anointed one. He is the one on whom God has set his heart to be his king. And as a result of that, those who find refuge in the king enjoy the same favor and the same protection that he himself enjoys.

Let me just fast-forward, parenthetically, as it comes to mind: that is why when we say that to be in Christ means everything, and to be, then, in Christ means that we ultimately cannot die—that we will face the physical transition from life into eternity, but in Christ, because we are in the framework, in union with the Shepherd King, we enjoy the same protection that he himself enjoys.

Now, in contrast to that, of course, Saul has been rejected. From him the Spirit of the Lord has departed. You need to go back to chapter 16 and read how those verbs sort of classify his experience: “rejected” as king;[3] the Spirit of God has “departed” from him, and now he is a “tormented” soul.[4] And in his torment he is fixated on killing God’s king. And that’s actually the whole story here: it is the rejected king in pursuit of God’s anointed king. And as we said last time, he really provides us—Saul does—with a picture of the antichrist, small a. Because to be antichrist is to be opposed to God’s king. And whether that opposition comes in a person, or whether it comes in an institution, or whether it comes in a worldview, that is what it is: setting itself up in opposition to the Lord.

And what we discover is that Saul by this point in his life has really no other purpose for his existence other than the elimination of David. That’s how he’s gonna spend the balance of his life: trying to get ahold of God’s anointed king. And one sentence that falls almost in the middle of this chapter, there at the end of the final sentence of verse 14, gives to us, really, an apt summary of what’s going on. You see it there: “And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.”

Keilah Delivered from the Philistines

Now, with that we come to deliverance number one, which, in verses 1–5, is a deliverance for the inhabitants of Keilah.

Now, I take it that what is described here in these opening verses was taking place while Saul was wreaking havoc in Nob.[5] If you think, again, in movie terms, you’re watching the movie, and the events are unfolding. We’ve seen what has happened in Nob, and then the movie continues, and all of a sudden we are in Keilah—which in actual fact is to backtrack, is to fill in, because this, I take it, has been happening simultaneously. So here you have Saul in all of his aggravation, destroying the priesthood, while David, the anointed king, is dealing a blow to the Philistines.

Now, if we’ve been paying attention, we know that Saul was charged with the responsibility—the exercise of his kingship was explained in some measure in just a sentence: “He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines.”[6] You have to go all the way back to chapter 9 for that. So Samuel is told, “Set Saul apart. And one of the things that he will do is he’ll take care of the Philistines.” Well, in actual fact, he’s not taking care of the Philistines, but in this case, David is doing what Saul should be doing.

Now, how does he do it? Well, “Wise men say only fools rush in.”[7] And you can see here that David is not a fool. He inquires of the Lord. Now, sometime in your home Bible study you can have a discussion about how this is taking place. You may ponder the possibility that the prophet Gad, to whom we were introduced at the early part of chapter 22,[8] perhaps he is still around. However God communicated with David, he communicated clearly with him. And in verse 2, having inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack [the] Philistines?” the answer came back, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

Well, that’s all well and good, but he’s not there on his own, is he? He is in charge of this motley crew, this strange group of individuals, a bit like—a microcosm of it would be that Hoosiers team in the movie about the Indiana basketball team. I have such a vivid picture of that, and what a strange little group they looked, and how impossible it seemed that they would be able to do anything of any worth at all. And that’s exactly what this group looked like.

Well, what they had to say to him was, “Well, wait a minute, David…” Verse 3: “We’re scared enough right here where we are without getting into it with the armies of the Philistines.” They are really a strange group made up of, as we saw last time, those who were distressed and “in debt” and some “bitter in soul” and so on.[9] They just really didn’t look like much of a group at all. Neither did the followers of Jesus with his disciples, and frankly, neither do we.

The Lord delivers and enables those of us who serve to see salvation brought about.

And so, what does David do? Well, perhaps in gracious response to this pushback, he inquires of the Lord again, so that the Lord might give to them the answer. And the answer comes back: “Arise, [and] go down to Keilah.” And then there is, along with the previous answer, an assurance: “I will give the Philistines into your hand[s].”

Now, these fearful followers, then, have been responded to by God, and he has assured them that if they go in this way, then success will be their portion. And you will see there that the way in which this is explained, in a sentence at the end of verse 5, is that “David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.”

“Well,” you say, “well, that’s interesting. I thought it was God who gave them into his hand.” That’s exactly right. God gave them into David’s hand, and David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. He knew how this worked, because that is exactly the language that is used when he took on Goliath of Gath. You remember, he looked him—I was gonna say in the eye, but he kind of probably looked him in the chest, and he said to Goliath, “The Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down.”[10] That’s it. That is it! That’s it in Keilah, and that’s it in Cleveland: the Lord delivers and enables those of us who serve to see salvation brought about.

David Delivered from Saul

Well, then we go from verse 6 to verse 14, where we find a deliverance, this time for David—a deliverance from the hand of Saul.

Now, Abiathar, whom we had met at the end of chapter 22—apparently the sole survivor of the brutal destruction where, you see back in 22, “Doeg the Edomite … struck down the priests, [killing] on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod.”[11] This was a linen garment that was part of the priestly uniform, if you like. The high priest had a particular one which contained in it the Urim and the Thummim. I’m not gonna delay on this. You can deal with this just with a concordance on your own, and it will give you a profitable afternoon if you’re looking for something to do. The Urim and the Thummim was simply one of the means that was used at this point in history for the people of God to discern the direction of God.

And actually, if you think about this for a moment here—this whole idea of God communicating with David—you realize that we really are not sure exactly how all this really works. And when we’re tempted to be sidetracked by that, a sentence like this from our good friend John Woodhouse is helpful, where he writes, “Bible writers” are interested in “the fact and the content of divine revelation,” seeing it “far more important than the mechanism”[12] by which the revelation was given. Now, that seems to make a lot of sense, doesn’t it? That the fact and the content of the revelation is more important than the mechanism by which it came.

But verse 6 is clearly important: “When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David in Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand.” I probably would imagine that it was the ephod that had been his father’s, and now he appears. It’s that important? Yes, it is important, because it is going to be by means of that Urim and Thummim that more of David’s questions are going to be answered.

Now, in verse 7, Saul knew that David had come to Keilah. And he does not rejoice in the victory over the Philistines. It doesn’t say, “And Saul discovered that David had come to Keilah and in Keilah he had dealt the Philistines a massive blow.” Saul is supposed to be the king who will deal with the Philistines. There’s not even a mention of the Philistines! Why? He can’t rejoice in that victory because he is consumed with murder.

We might just note in passing that sin distorts a man or a woman’s thinking. Sin distorts our thinking. Our actions are the product of our thinking. And if you look carefully at the text, you will realize that Saul, who is a murderous tyrant, is so messed up by this point that he can actually view the things that he’s doing and is about to do as coming from the hand of God. Do you see the irony in this? “And Saul said, ‘God has given him into my hand.’” “This is what God is doing. God wants me to kill his anointed king.” He’s going to find justification in his actions.

I resist the temptation to pause and give you a litany of such statements made to me as a pastor over the last forty years or so, as people have sat beside me and said, “Oh, but you don’t understand: God is very happy if I would do this. Surely God is at work in this. God wants me to do this,” and so on. No, no. Sin, you see, distorts the thinking.

“Oh, well, we’ve trapped him,” he says. And so, in verse 8, he summons “all the people to war.” And at the same time, David has been made aware of this plot. And so, what does he do? Well, he does what he does: he inquires of the Lord. “Bring the ephod here.” “You haven’t just come down here for nothing,” he says to Abiathar. “I’m sure in the purposes of God he has saved you, he has brought you here. You’re the man for the moment. Get that stuff out of your linen ephod here, and let’s ask God what we’re supposed to do. Bring it here.”

And “then David said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel…’” “The God of Israel.” God is the God of Abram, Isaac, and of Jacob. This is not some personal little skirmish between David and Saul. No, “You are the God of Israel. Your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city on my account. Therefore, let me ask you this: Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will they give me up? And will Saul show up?” That’s his twofold question: “Will they give me up, and will Saul show up?”

And you will notice that the Lord answers question number two at the end of verse 11: “And the Lord said, ‘Yeah, he’s gonna show up. He will come down.’” Then David asks the first part of the question again: “Will the men of Keilah surrender me”—notice—“and my men into the hand of Saul?” “You are the God of Israel. You are the God of your people. These people that I am now the commander of—a motley crew, I recognize,” David might have said, “but nevertheless, they’re the people that you’ve given me.”

You see, this is it for the leader at any point. The average pastor is an inadequate soul himself, and he is leading an inadequate bunch of people in his wake. “These are the people you’ve given me.” He must have said to himself, many a time as he looked at them in the wilderness there, “Are we really gonna do anything of substantial worth with this group?” And then perhaps he thought about himself. And the Lord answered, “Well, they will surrender to you. They are going to give you up.”

Now, no comment is actually made here by the writer on the morality of the matter. Because think about it: Who are these people that are about to give him up? They’re the people that he has saved by fighting against the Philistines. He can’t even trust the people he saved! That ought to make you think about Jesus as well.

Well, they could have protected David out of gratitude. But apparently, fear of Saul was a greater motivator. After all, in fairness to them, think about Nob. Think about them having a council meeting: “What do you think we ought to do about this? I mean, we don’t want to get on Saul’s bad side. Remember what happened in Nob.” Someone in the meeting says, “You mean to tell me he has a good side?” Someone says, “Good point. I think we’ll stick with the program.”

And “then David and his men,” who now number about six hundred, “arose and departed from Keilah.” I like that. I like it very much indeed. I like what is missing, and obviously missing. What’s missing? Well, apparently, no consultation. No committee meeting. No gathering to reflect on the circumstances. No, they arose and they left. Nobody sitting around saying, “Well, you know, why don’t we just see how things unfold?” No.

Dare I say it? No prayer meeting. No prayer meeting. You say, “Wait a minute, now…” No, I mean it entirely! You remember I’ve told you in the past about an elderly member of my congregation in Scotland called Mr. Collins, the one who had that stick, and who told me that if I ever said anything that was remotely heretical, he would come and take the stick to me. He was a very forthright man. And I remember him speaking to a group of young people, and someone was asking about something that was so clearly a violation of the purposes and plan of God; it was contrary to the law of God and to the tenor of Christian living. And I remember he said to him, “Listen, young fellow: don’t pray about it. Chuck it!” “Chuck it!” And there’s something of that here: “There’s no time for a prayer meeting. Let’s get outta here!” And out they go.

Saul then realizes that it’s not gonna come to fruition, and so his expedition is cancelled and the extermination is delayed. And so, out they go, back into the caves, the captain and his band on the run. And what is the explanation for the deliverance at this point? There you have it, the verse we mentioned earlier: “God did not give him into his hand.”

David Delivered from Fear

Well, the third deliverance, I suggest to you, in 15–18, is David being delivered from fear.

You read verse 15 and you find yourself saying, “Where is the good part in verse 15, that ‘David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life’?” So in other words, he’s living constantly under threat of his life. He’s “in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh.” It really doesn’t sound that good, does it? And I don’t think it is. The little study I did on it, it’s not the place that you want to go for your vacation. It certainly—I mean, if you like Mentor Headlands, you’re not going to like the wilderness of Ziph, and that’s where they were. It’s really a very sad-looking picture, isn’t it? An inhospitable place.

I don’t know, if David had had a soliloquy at this point—if we had heard him as he just got up in the morning and rubbed his eyes and looked out on the day—we might have heard him saying, “How did I get myself into this? It seemed at first, when Samuel came and anointed me, that life was filled with such promise. But this is just one disaster after another.”

Jonathan did what in Christian terms, at least, best friends seek to do: he ‘strengthened his hand in God.’

And then, into the darkness, the light shines, and Jonathan—Jonathan, whom we know from the past; Jonathan, remember, who had taken off his vestiture, his indication of his princely rule, and put it on David on a previous occasion[13]—“Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh.” You see, there was a decisiveness about this, a determination about this. He got up and he said, “I’m going to go and find David.”

It’s quite interesting, isn’t it, that hatred towards David had essentially blinded Saul, whereas love for David shone, as it were light, on the pathway, leading him to his bosom buddy? For Jonathan was David’s best friend in the world. And he did what in Christian terms, at least, best friends seek to do: he “strengthened his hand in God.”

Incidentally, I have chosen not to delay at this instance, but for yourself, there’s another study here, and that is just to look at every time hands are mentioned. It is, if you like, a “handy” study, because “the hand of God,” “the hand of the Philistines,” “the hand of Saul,” and so on, is worth considering.

Anyway, he “strengthened his hand in God.” How did he do this?

Well, he did it first of all by his presence. By his presence. That’s why the isolation of these days is so daunting: because the presence of one another really does matter.

He did it not only by his presence but also by his exhortation: “He said to him, ‘Do not fear’”—to which David might have been apt to say, “That’s easy for you to say, Jonathan. I mean, if you’d been with me for the last while, you would realize that I am filled with fear. I lie down at night hoping that I’m alive in the morning, and I get up in the morning, and I have to go and hide some place different from where I hid yesterday.”

But, you see, his exhortation is not simply a call, “Do not fear,” but it is accompanied by an explanation. And the explanation gives the foundation as the antidote to the fear itself. To say just “Do not fear” is not really any help to anybody at all: “Well, okay, I’ll try my best.” No. What does he say? “Do not fear,” number one, because “the hand of Saul won’t find you. He’s not gonna find you, I guarantee you.” Secondly, “You shall be king.” This is actually the first outright declaration on the part of Jonathan to David in this way. It has been by inference all the way along. And in the narrative story of 1 Samuel, different parts of the journey along the way are building the understanding that that which had taken place in a secret anointing was going to come to fruition. “I shall be next to you,” he says. “You’ll be the king, and I shall be next to you.” Sadly, that was not going to happen. But it is a wonderful expression of devotion. “Hey, ain’t it good to know … you’ve got a friend?”[14]

And fourthly, he says, strengthening his hand, “Saul my father also knows this.” “I know,” Jonathan may have said, “that he doesn’t want to admit it. He may not want to admit it, but he knows it.”

And then, strengthening his hand, strengthening his own, it says, “And [then] the two of them made a covenant before the Lord.” I take it that what happened was they simply reaffirmed what we saw quite wonderfully back in chapter 18.[15]

So, he reminded David of God’s promise: “You will be the king.” He encouraged David to let the facts overrule his feelings, so that in the deep, cloudy darkness, in the distressing, troublesome incidences of daily life, he’s saying essentially to David, “It’s going to be very important, David, that you fly by the instruments. Please don’t try and make sense of what’s happening here by looking out of the window. You are lost in turbulence, and you are lost in cloud.”

Neither of the two of them were to know that this was the last occasion this side of eternity that they would be together. It makes it very poignant, doesn’t it? Because there will be a last time when we’re in the presence of our friends. And that’s why all of our hellos and all of our goodbyes really matter—the way we walk from a situation.

You say, “Well, you’re sounding a little sentimental here, Alistair.” Well, careful. Careful. Because it’s not that sentimental coziness is what is expressed here—some kind of touchy-feely thing: “Oh, Jonathan and David…” No! No. Ralph Davis gets it beautifully: “Encouragement from God for the people of God comes from the word of God.”[16] “Encouragement from God for the people of God comes from the word of God.”

Delivered at the Eleventh Hour

And then, finally and quickly, deliverance that comes at the eleventh hour.

And this is the story of the Ziphites. And the wilderness of Ziph is where the Ziphites lived. They come to Saul, and they say, “We’ve got another chance for you to get your hands on David.” And you can see that there in verse 20: “Come down, O king. I know you want to come down. We’ll surrender him into the king’s hands.” And the response of the king there is actually pathetic, I think: “And Saul said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.’” I read it that way because that’s the way it comes across to me. What a big… Well, this is not good. This is not good. He casts himself as the victim! “I’m the victim!” David’s the fugitive! David’s the one you’re trying to kill! “Oh, thank you for taking pity on me. I’m sure you understand how difficult it is for me as the rejected, tormented king.” You know? You see how sin really distorts? You see how self-pity invades a soul, even in the darkness?

And so, verses 22 and 23, I don’t know what his great concern is here. Maybe it’s because he had to cancel his last expedition that he doesn’t want to have another one that results in nothing, and so he gives very detailed requirements: “See where his foot is. Ask if anybody’s seen him. I know that he is very cunning. Take note of all the places where he hides. Come back to me with sure information. Then I’ll go with you.”

Does this make you think of Herod at all? I just put in my notes, “Herod.” Remember that, to the wise men? “Go and search for him, and when you come back, then I’ll be able to worship him too.”[17] Well, that wasn’t the objective of Saul, but it’s the same mentality. It’s the spirit of the antichrist: both Herod and Saul, opposed to the one who is the anointed king. And so “they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.”

Now, at this point, there is no further dialogue. At this point, it’s simply descriptive. So, if you imagine, here’s where the musicians really come into their own, where all that we’re doing is we’re seeing this scene unfold. And the mastery of people who write movie scores is seen in something like this, so that we’re helped by the way in which the music underlying the visual creates this sense of anxiety and pressure that we may not get unless we bow ourselves underneath it, unless we enjoy the story.

“Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon in the Arabah to the South of Jeshimon. Saul and his men went to seek him.” Ba-dum-bum. “And David was told, so he went down to the rock and he lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he said, ‘Let’s go to the wilderness of Maon.’” Da-dun-dum. “And Saul was on one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side of the mountain, and maybe Saul was trying a pincer move, and David said to his guys, ‘Retreat!’ and was hurrying to get away from Saul. And Saul and his men were closing in on David”—da-da-dum, da-da-dum, da-da-dum-dum-dum—“and his men to capture them.” And now, just when the whole thing is gonna end at chapter 23, somebody comes onto the battlefield and says, “Hey, we got a problem with a Philistine raid, and if you don’t get out here now, Saul, and do what you’re supposed to do, we’re all dead men.”

“So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. [And] therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape,” or it was called the Narrow Escape. The people would have picnics there in later years, and grandchildren would ask their grandparents, “Why is this called Narrow Escape?” And they would say, “Oh, let me tell you, son. Let me tell you, a great thing happened here.”

In laying down our lives to serve and follow the King, we join him on the path of suffering, knowing that he will keep us safe on the journey.

What a terrific story! Stranger almost than fiction. And that’s why David, when he reflected on it, as we read together, wrote, “Strangers have arisen against me; ruthless men seek my life; … God is my helper; … he has delivered me.”[18] And then it simply says, “And David went up from there,” and he now moved into the region of Engedi.

Now, let me just finish in a sentence or two in this way. Imagine yourself as part of that group—the motley crew, as we’ve referred to it, which perhaps is rather unkind, but they’re described as not a particularly attractive bunch. You imagine that you’re part of that, and now the eleventh-hour deliverance has come, and so we say, “Captain David, Commander David, where are we going now?”

And David says, “We’re going wherever.”

“‘Wherever’? Where is ‘wherever’?”

“Follow me. You’ll find out.”

Someone else in the group says, “Hey, Captain David? You know, when I joined this group, I never bargained for any of this.”

David says, “Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.”

Someone else says, “How in the world are we possibly gonna get through this?”

Now, that’s just the way that some of us may be feeling: “Jesus, where are we going now?”

“Follow me.”

“Jesus, I didn’t realize that it would be rough like this. Jesus, how can we possibly get through this?”

You see, because here’s what we’re learning, or learn—I hope we learn: in laying down our lives to serve and follow the King, we join him on the path of suffering, knowing that he will keep us safe on the journey. You see, none of us have the strength or the ability to get through it.

The night is dark, but I[’m] not forsaken.
For by my side, my Savior … will stay. …
To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me.
Through the deepest valley, he will lead.[19]

Lord, meet us where we are today.

And now, unto him who is able to keep us from falling, to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and forevermore. Amen.


[1] Psalm 54:6–7 (ESV).

[2] 1 Samuel 22:23 (paraphrased).

[3] 1 Samuel 16:1, 7 (ESV).

[4] 1 Samuel 16:14 (ESV).

[5] See 1 Samuel 22:6–19.

[6] 1 Samuel 9:16 (ESV).

[7] Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, and George David Weiss, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (1961).

[8] See 1 Samuel 22:5.

[9] 1 Samuel 22:2 (ESV).

[10] 1 Samuel 17:46 (ESV).

[11] 1 Samuel 22:18 (ESV).

[12] John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 449.

[13] See 1 Samuel 18:4.

[14] Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend” (1971).

[15] See 1 Samuel 18:3.

[16] Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (1988; repr., Fearn: Christian Focus, 2000), 193.

[17] Matthew 2:8 (paraphrased).

[18] Psalm 54:3–4, 7 (ESV).

[19] Jonny Robinson, Michael Farren, and Rich Thompson, “Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me” (2018).

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.