THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SEEKING GOD: The example of David
A characteristic feature of David’s biography is that he frequently sought the Lord’s counsel and direction. This feature is not seen in any other biography in the Old or New Testament. Whenever David faced a trial, especially with his enemies, he always asked to know God’s will. And each time he inquired, the Lord graciously gave him a clear and definite answer. Since all the Bible stories “were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11), they are full of instruction. In this conclusion to our series on David, a man after God’s own heart, we’ll look at nine times when he inquired of the Lord. They teach us that we always gain by seeking His counsel and guidance.
David’s 1st Request/Inquiry – 1 Samuel 23:1-3
“Then they told David, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.’” The Philistines had besieged Keilah, a fortified city within Judah’s borders (Josh. 15:21, 44). “Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’” As anointed king, David considered himself Israel’s protector. The apostate King Saul had neglected the public safety, but David loved his country and desired to free it from its enemies. Yet he would not act without first seeking the Lord’s counsel. Though he was busy hiding from Saul, he thought of Keilah’s welfare.
“And the LORD said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.’” The Lord responded immediately to David’s inquiry, and promised that David would save Keilah. But David’s 600 men said to him, “We are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” This presented a real problem to David: If his men were unwilling to follow him, how could he save the besieged city? His men were afraid of being caught between the Philistines and Saul’s army. Unlike David their eyes were not on God, but on their difficult circumstances.
David’s 2nd Request/Inquiry – 1 Samuel 23:4-5
“Then David inquired of the LORD once again.” David was not paralyzed by the fear of his men. He knew that God, who had said fight the Philistines and save Keilah, could easily make his men willing to follow him. David did not rebuke his warriors, but he turned once more to Jehovah. “And the LORD answered and said, ‘Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.’” The Lord did not ignore David’s second inquiry. He not only responded to David’s request, but gave an answer which was even more explicit than the first. Motivated by God’s divine promise, David and his followers conquered the Philistines, saved Keilah and took their cattle for much-needed food.
David’s 3rd Request/Inquiry – 1 Samuel 23:10-11
“Then David said, ‘O LORD God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD God of Israel, I pray, tell your servant.’ And the LORD said, ‘He will come down.’” Once more David cast all his care on God. Observe his words: He is more concerned for the welfare of others than for preserving his own life.
Observe also that David addressed God twice by the title “LORD God of Israel,” which was God’s covenant title. It is a blessing to recognize our covenant relationship to God; it is always an effectual plea to make before the throne of grace. The Lord graciously answered him saying, “He (Saul) will come down.”
David’s 4th Request/Inquiry – 1 Samuel 23:12-14
“Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the LORD said, ‘They will deliver you.’” David had good reason to conclude that after delivering Keilah from the Philistines, its citizens would be on his side. But he did not put any confidence in their loyalty. So he sought further counsel from the Lord. This should speak to our hearts: We should never depend on others, but should depend only on the Lord for our guidance and protection. Once more the Lord responded immediately to David’s inquiry saying, “They will deliver you.” This must have saddened David, as ingratitude wounds deeply. God answered according to His knowledge of man’s heart.
“So David and his men … departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition. And David stayed in strongholds … in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand.” This too is good to see: David was willing to endure further hardship rather than endanger the inhabitants of Keilah. They went “wherever they could go” and God continued to protect David.
David’s 5th Request/Inquiry – 1 Samuel 30:8-9
“So David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?’ And He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.’” The Amalekites had invaded Philistine country and destroyed Ziklag. They also took the women and the children captive. When David and his 600 men returned to Ziklag – the city which had become their home – expecting to be reunited to their families, they found the city burned and their loved ones missing. After being reassured by the Lord that he would overtake the enemy, David attacked them and recovered all that the Amalekites carried off, including his two wives. The Lord graciously answered David regardless of how many times he inquired. His response to David came without delay, and He even told more than David had asked – he would “recover all.” In a moment the black cloud of sorrow was replaced by joy.
Everything took place exactly as God had said. “So David went, he and the 600 men who were with him.” The force of this statement can only be appreciated by comparing it to an earlier one: “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him” (1 Sam. 30:6). What a change! The anger of his men was stilled; they were again ready to follow their leader. David sought God’s guidance and received an assuring response.
David’s 6th Request/Inquiry – 2 Samuel 2:1-2
“It happened after this that David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Go up.’ David said, ‘Where shall I go up?’ And He said, ‘To Hebron’” (2 Sam. 2:1). This inquiry took place after the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan. David would not take one step toward claiming his rights without consulting the Lord. With all his faults, he was in submission to the Lord, and in complete dependence on Him. God’s answer came at once: “Go up … to Hebron.” There he was anointed king.
As with all his previous inquiries, the Lord promptly answered and graciously guided His servant. This is recorded for our encouragement. The Lord never tires of our asking. The more we seek His counsel, the more He is honoured and pleased. His command to us is, “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). God’s ready response to David’s inquiry is a sign of His willingness to hear us.
The happy sequel to this inquiry is recorded for us: “So David went up there, and his two wives also … And David brought up the men who were with him, every man with his household. So they dwelt in the cities of Hebron. Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king.” Those who had been David’s companions in tribulation were not forgotten now that he was king. David had been privately anointed as Saul’s successor (1 Sam. 16:12-13). Now the princes of the tribe of Judah publicly owned him as their king.
David’s 7th Request/Inquiry – 2 Samuel 5:17-21
“So David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.’” The previous two verses read: “Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim.” The fact that David had ascended to the throne of Israel did not deter his enemies, but made them jealous to attack him.
Again this should speak to our hearts: The attack of the Philistines right after David’s coronation should warn us against finding security in prosperity. Opposition came with great force, as evidenced by the words “all the Philistines.” Little did they realise that they were rushing to their own destruction. They underestimated God’s power and were unaware that He was for David. David’s response to the Philistines was that instead of accepting their challenge and immediately engaging them in battle, he turned to the Lord.
And the Lord immediately responded, and assured David of a victory: “I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.” How encouraging for us! We too are called to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). God has promised that He will “bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). Such a promise ought to encourage us for the conflict.
“So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated the enemy … and he said ‘The LORD has broken through my enemies before me’” (2 Sam. 5:20). God made good on His word, kept His promise, and gave David the victory. And David gave the Lord all the glory.
David’s 8th Request/Inquiry – 2 Samuel 5:22-25
“Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. Therefore David inquired of the LORD, and He said, ‘You shall not go up: circle around behind them and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.’” The Philistines’ return did not discourage David, but summoned him to renewed waiting upon God and seeking fresh strength from Him. Again David sought divine guidance even though he had been successful in the first battle. He realized that each victory depended upon the Lord.
The circumstances were the same. David could have attacked the enemy just as he did before. Yet God’s answer now was the opposite of the previous one. Before it was “Go up.” But this time God said, “You shall not go up.” Everything seemed identical to human eyes, but God’s will must be sought each time, or victory is not insured. This was a real test of obedience, and David did not argue. Instead he waited upon the Lord and he was the gainer: “For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines. And David did so, as the LORD commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.” David’s obedience was rewarded. God kept His promise and smote the enemy. What encouragement for us!
David’s 9th Request/Inquiry – 2 Samuel 21:1
“Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years … and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, ‘It is because of Saul and his blood- thirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites’” (2 Sam. 21:1). In Genesis 12:5-10, we read that soon after Abraham arrived in Canaan, a famine arose in the land. Instead of consulting God and trusting Him to meet his needs, he turned for help to Egypt, a symbol of the world. By contrast, David conducted himself differently. He inquired of the Lord to make sure that the famine was not a divine punishment for some wrong he did. As with all other inquiries, the Lord immediately responded: “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house.”
The Lord did not turn a deaf ear to David’s inquiry. How many of us have been like David, smarting under the chastening hand of God, yet allowing a lengthy period of time, like three years, to pass before we inquire of the Lord as to its cause. God told David that Israel was suffering because of Saul. It is an unchanging principle of divine government that God deals with nations according to the conduct of their rulers. The Lord’s controversy with Israel at this time was not over some recent thing, but one which had been committed years before yet never corrected. God does not forget. Many afflictions, both of individuals and nations, are punishment for past sins.
Learning From David
David’s multiple inquiries of the Lord reveal that he was a man of prayer, who was always intent to know His will. This was the main reason why he was called a man after God’s own heart. God says, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13: 22). And David did!
May the Lord give us grace to emulate David’s example and to cultivate the habit of always inquiring of the Lord and waiting for His answer. The more we seek direction from God in prayer and the more we desire to know His will, the more He is honoured and the more we are blessed. May we cultivate David’s spirit more and more, for it is written, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:6).