1 Samuel 23 "The Portrait Hall": The Cat and The Mouse

What is real safety? Some people think hiding from trouble is what keeps you safe. Yet, for the believer safety and security are not a matter of what you withdraw from – but Who you withdraw to!

Key Principle: Safety for the Christian is not gained by isolation but by casting ourselves upon God for His guidance and care, as we seek to carry out His work and His will.

In this lesson, David learns he does not have to calculate his safety in terms of distance from danger; He calculates his safety in terms of the nearness to God.

Read 1 Samuel 23: Look at the lessons God taught David concerning SAFETY and TRUST:

  1. David learned to make wise choices: He found it was not safe in Gath with the Philistines. Hiding from one enemy in the clutches of another was a bad plan (21:10-13).
  1. David learned his safety was in God’s hand (22:3). Remember, David was God’s choice for king. Llike all of us, he was indestructible until God’s work for him was done. Though he needed to be wise, but he could not always play it safe – if it hindered carrying out his mission. David knew a believer cannot calculate his safety in terms of distance from danger; but rather in terms of the nearness to God. Remoteness is NOT safety!
  1. David learned not to rely on feelings: where he felt safe was less important than where God told him to be – when the prophet Gad instructed him to return to Judah’s villages (22:5). Note: God directed David to a place where he could be used to hold back the Philistines, and where God could teach David to “king” his future subjects.
  1. David learned he could not presume the outcome! Trusting God and doing right was no guarantee for physical safety (22:18-19). Ahimelech the priest was a noble, godly man, who stood up against Saul and was murdered (along with his family and his fellow-priests). Why? Because in the ultimate sense, Ahimelech and his fellow-martyrs could never have been safer than in the arms of God. They were as “safe” as David, but their mission was done, and David’s was not. Living a godly life is no guarantee of safety from suffering, troubles, and even death. Yet God will not allow these things to keep us from that for which He has called us. Until our work for Him is done, no one can be safer than the Christian who trusts and obeys, even in the most dangerous of circumstances.
  1. David learned that few knew how to trust God for security! He had to lead with God, not follow the consensus! David’s men felt safer in the forest of Hereth (22:5) but God directed them to go to Keilah through their leader (23:1-3). David had to learn to pass the truths God gave him to those around him, that they may share his confidence! David’s men initially thought the further they were from Saul – the safer they were. They felt that fear justified ignoring God’s Word (23:3).
  1. David learned to hear the cry of his people, and sought God for further assurance (23:4). When he was sure in God’s direction, he emerged with confidence. His people learned that he was not impulsive, but directed. David saw God deliver him yet again, and this time his men saw it too! (23:5).
  1. David learned the value of using others gifts and walk with God to make decisions that affected the group. This gave added confidence to the direction the leader would give, as well as gave more full understanding of the direction (23:6-12). When the decision was made to make a move, more joined and greater confidence resulted! (23:13-14).
  1. David learned that God can add more than we can see from places we don’t factor into the security “mix”. Note: God sent an encourager that helped David make it through this tough time! Jonathan came to STRENGTHEN HIS HANDS IN GOD (23:15-18).

Four Observations:

If you will allow me, I would like to take the remaining time to look more carefully at these few verses and draw a significant lesson for the people of God today! This text is a simple and profound illustration of what needs to happen in the ongoing fight of faith. I pick out four powerful thought from this encounter between Jonathan and David that I think are worthy of your attention:

1. The deepest saints and the strongest leaders need Christian comrades to strengthen their hands in God. David was deep, David was strong, and yet David needed Jonathan. David was a man after God’s own heart. He was a great warrior. He was no doubt superior to Jonathan in strength and intelligence and depth of theological understanding. But verse 16 says that Jonathan went and strengthened his hand in God. Don’t ever think that a man is so strong that he does not need to be strengthened in God. And don’t ever think that someone is so far above you that you can’t be God’s instrument to give strength. Christian camaraderie is not just for the new recruits. It is for every believer.

2. The second lesson is that strengthening a person’s hand in God involves conscious effort. It is intentional. You don’t just do it on the fly; you rise and go down to Horesh. What a difference it would make in our church if when all of us woke in the morning we would PLAN to strengthen someone’s hand in God! Jonathan PLANNED to go and strengthen him. The mark of Christian maturity is that you build into your life the intention and the occasions to strengthen someone’s hand in God.

3. The strength we are to give each other is strength in God, not in ourselves. Verse 16 does not say that Jonathan came all that way to Horesh to strengthen David’s self-confidence. He didn’t. This is the difference between Christian camaraderie and all other support groups and therapy groups and self-help groups. The whole point of Christian camaraderie is to point each other to Christ, not man for help and strength.

4. The strengthening process is accomplished by reminding a believer of God’s promises for his life! The way Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God was to remind him of a promise that God had made (1 Samuel 16:12). Saul could not succeed against David because God was for him. So Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God by reminding him of his destiny in the purposes of God. We strengthen each other’s hands in God by reminding each other about the promises of God that are especially suited for each other’s needs.

What would you need to hear from your friends if you were William Carey 15,000 miles from home fighting the fight of faith with one comrade surrounded by millions of unbelievers? How about the words of Samuel Pearce, a precious friend who knew how to strengthen Carey’s hand in God. Listen to how the promises of God saturate this letter from October 4, 1794.

Brother, I long to stand by your side, and participate in all the vicissitudes of the attack — an attack which nothing but cowardice can make unsuccessful. Yes, the Captain of our salvation marches at our head. Sometimes he may withdraw his presence (but not his power) to try our prowess with our spiritual arms and celestial armor. O, what cannot a lively faith do for the Christian soldier! It will bring the Deliverer from the skies; it will array him as with a vesture dipped in blood; it will place him in the front of the battle, and put a new song into our mouths –“These made war with the Lamb; but the Lamb shall overcome them.” Yes, he shall — the victory is sure before we enter the field; the crown is already prepared to adorn our brows, even that crown of glory which fadeth not away, and already we have resolved what to do with it — we will lay it at the conqueror’s feet, and say, “Not to us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory,” while all heaven unites in the chorus, “Worthy the Lamb.” (Memoir, p. 66)

Remember, safety for the Christian is not gained by isolation but by casting ourselves upon God for His guidance and care, as we seek to carry out His work and His will.