Lighthouse Leader Study Guide Date: April 30, 2017 Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel 1 Samuel 23-24 This Week’s Printable Resources:

Overview of this Lesson

Sometimes life presents us with a dilemma–what is the providence of God and what is temptation? David finds himself in the midst of this kind of dilemma this week. Everything humanly speaking points to the fact that God has divinely delivered Saul into David’s hand. He’s right there for the taking…even a child could have killed him, much less a warrior with David’s skill and experience. But David didn’t kill Saul. Why? Was it fear? Was it a mistake? Was it a lack of faith on David’s part? No. None of the above.

David instinctively knew that to kill Saul was not only the wrong thing to do, it was sinful. How did he know this? How did God reveal this to David? More importantly, how can we know when what appears to be divine providence is really subtle temptation?

That’s the focus of this week’s lesson from 1 Samuel 23-24. We will see God’s hand protecting David. We will see David inquire of the Lord and the Lord give David clear direction. We will see David forced into a situation where he must make an on-the-spot decision that has life and death consequences. Through all of this, we will learn how to discern God’s will for our life and how to discern between providence and temptation.

Here are this week’s key questions covered in this lesson:

  • What is happening to David in 1 Samuel 23-24?
  • How does David discern the will of the Lord in 1 Samuel 23?
  • Should Christians today expect to receive divine direction from the Lord as David received in 1 Samuel 23?
  • What subtle sin tempts David in 1 Samuel 24?
  • How can we tell the difference between God’s providence and temptation?
  • How can we resist the subtly of presumptive sin?

Memory Verse for This Week

And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” – 1 Samuel 24:5-6

This Week’s Core Practice Authenticity(John 13:33-34): I know and understand biblical truths and transfer these truths into everyday life. Who I am on the inside and outside is a pure reflection of Christ and His Word.

This Week’s Take Home Truth

“Having a heart for the Lord does not guarantee perfect circumstances, but it does garner us opportunities to showcase humble submission to God’s character-building process.”

Introduction 1. How has someone encouraged or “strengthened you in the Lord” during a time of trials? 2. How do we often rationalize “little sins” that come across our path? 3. Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?

Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.

Read the Text (1 Samuel 21-22)

This is week two of our four-part miniseries we are calling “Man on the Run.” This summarizes David’s life for this 10-year period of time. David continues to stay one step ahead of King Saul and a large force of men seeking to kill him. This week we see God’s providential hand again protecting David while at the same time placing David in a potentially difficult-to-discern situation in which what appears to be God’s providence could in fact be a subtle temptation to sin. How David responds teaches us much about how to deal with temptation. 1 Samuel 23-24.

1 Samuel 23 (ESV)

David Saves the City of Keilah

1 Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2 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.” 3 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?” 4 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.” 5 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.

6 When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand.

7 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.” 8 And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. 9 David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 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. 11 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.” 12 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.” 13 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. 14 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.

Saul Pursues David

15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 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.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

19 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? 20 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.” 21 And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. 22 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. 23 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.” 24 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. 25 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. 26 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, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi.

1 Samuel 24 (ESV)

David Spares Saul’s Life

1 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. 3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’ ” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.

8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? 10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”

16 As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” 22 And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

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Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.

4. What is happening to David in 1 Samuel 23-24?

David continues to run from Saul, who is intent on killing him. To re-emphasize the serious situation David and those with him find themselves, 1 Samuel 23 follows directly the massacre of the priests of the Lord at Nob. Saul is intent on killing David, his family, and anyone he believes has helped David or is loyal to David.

In 1 Samuel 23-24, David diverts his soldiers to the city of Keilah to rescue the citizens from the Philistines. In doing so, David is fulfilling a primary responsibility that King Saul should be fulfilling–protecting the cities and citizens of Israel from foreign enemies. Saul is too concerned about finding and killing David to give any effort to the city of Keilah.

Unlike in previous chapters when David dealt with challenges by scheming and self-reliance, Chapters 23-24 show David inquiring of the Lord and following His clear direction, even when it proves to be unpopular.

In the midst of his flight from Saul, while hiding in the wilderness of Ziph, Jonathan finds David and encourages him in the Lord (1 Sam. 23:16-18). Jonathan assures David that he will be king over Israel, and that Jonathan will serve him. This truly is an amazing statement given that Jonathan is Saul’s oldest son and the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. Gaebelein underscores the emotion of this moment:

For the last time Jonathan and David met. He came to strengthen David’s hand in God. This is the true purpose of the fellowship of the Saints. What a noble character was Jonathan!

It is difficult to form an adequate conception of the courage, the spiritual faith, and the moral grandeur of this act. Never did man more completely clear himself from all complicity in guilt than Jonathan from that of his father. And yet not an undutiful word escaped the lips of this brave man. And how truly human is his fond hope that in the days to come, when David would be king, he should stand next to his throne, his trusted adviser, as in the days of sorrow he had been the true and steadfast friend of the outlaw! As we think of what it must have cost Jonathan to speak thus, or again of the sad fate which was so soon to overtake him, there is a deep pathos about this brief interview, almost unequalled in Holy Scripture, to which the ambitious hopes of the sons of Zebedee form not a parallel but a contrast.”[1]

In 1 Samuel 24 David is given the opportunity to kill Saul when he enters a cave to relieve himself not knowing that David and his men are hiding in the back of the cave. Even though his men strongly encourage David to put an end to their endless running by assassinating Saul right then and there, David refuses. He recognizes that Saul is the rightly appointed king of Israel, appointed by God, and that it would be wrong for David to presume to kill the Lord’s anointed.

Instead, David takes the opportunity to clip the hem of Saul’s robe and then confronts Saul with the reality that David could have killed Saul, but he refused to do so because he respects both Saul, his position, and the Lord who placed him in that position.

5. How does David discern the will of the Lord in 1 Samuel 23?

The text makes clear in verse 6 that the priest Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, fled to David following the massacre of the priests at Nob, and that he brought with him an ephod of the high priest. Woodhouse explains both the method the Lord used to convey His will to David and the providence God used in protecting David:

David, it seems, had various ways in which to receive God’s communication to him. Earlier the prophet Gad had instructed him to move from “the stronghold” (1 Samuel 22:5). David could, it seems, seek answers directly from God, as he did about Keilah (vs. 2-3). Now the surviving priest had arrived with an ephod.

This seems to have been the ephod that belonged to the high priest, Abiathar’s murdered father, Ahimelech. All priests wore an ephod, called a “linen ephod,” but the high priest’s ephod was a more elaborate affair (see Exodus 28:6–14; 39:2–7). Attached to this ephod was the breast-piece, which contained the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8), associated with receiving revelation from God (see Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65). We do not know the details of how this happened, probably because, once again, to the Bible writers the fact and the content of divine revelation were far more important than the mechanism.

The important point here is that Saul’s dreadful atrocity toward the priests of Nob had the unintended consequence of putting another means of consulting the Lord into the hands of David![2]

6. Should Christians today expect to receive divine direction from the Lord as David received in 1 Samuel 23?

God continues to give guidance to His people today, but it is different than how He directed His people in the Old Testament. Today’s Christians do not rely on priests, prophets, or judges to convey God’s will to us. To parallel the words of the Apostle Peter, we have “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).

The Lord gives divine guidance and direction to His people today primarily through three avenues:

  • We know God’s will through His word. The Bible is God’s direct and divine will for the lives of all believers. The Bible does not contradict itself and is clear in how we should live our lives and serve as witnesses of our Risen Lord in the world today.
  • We discern God’s will through the wisdom of others. God uses the godly counsel and truth spoken by men and women to help give us guidance and direction as we live our life. This may come through a sermon by Pastor Todd or Pastor Carlos, an insightful truth contained in a Lighthouse lesson such as this, or through conversation and interaction with other believers in a Lighthouse or casual conversation. God even uses the writings and teachings of his saints from previous generations to give direction to the Church today.
  • We know God’s will through the witness of the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit is God and indwells all believers. Through the power of Spirit, He gives witness and direction to believers. He guides us through our conscious and convicts us of sin and wrong-doing. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Counselor guiding and leading believers toward a holy and sanctified life as we walk in obedience to and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

7. What subtle sin tempts David in 1 Samuel 24?

1 Samuel 24 describes the scene where King Saul enters a cave to “relieve himself” unaware that David and his men are hiding in the back of the cave. This is the perfect set up for David to kill Saul. He will likely never be more unprotected and more vulnerable than he is at this moment. David could easily kill Saul.

Recognizing “the providence” of Saul’s entrance to the cave, David’s men excitedly reassure David, “This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you” (1 Samuel 24:4).

This is the day that the Lord has made, surely we should rejoice and be glad it in! God has placed David’s sworn enemy right at the very point of his sword. Even a child could have killed Saul in this situation. Chuck Swindoll calls this “the Lord’s will-incentive.” This is when we are presented with something we really want, and we quickly reason that “the Lord lead me to do this” to support our own desires.

Don’t miss the context of this episode. Throughout 1 Samuel 23, God has providentially protected David. He has divinely guided him and interceded on David’s behalf. For example, just when Saul was closing in for the kill in the Wilderness of Maon, a messenger runs up to Saul and alerts him that the Philistines have invaded the land! (1 Samuel 23:27). Saul immediately broke off his pursuit of David to deal with the Philistines.

Humanly speaking, it would be very easy for David to reason that God had indeed providentially given Saul into his hand. Yet, David chose not to kill Saul. Why? He had too much respect for human authority (Saul was king) and too much reverence for divine authority (God appointed Saul king). Far be it from David to take the life of God’s rightly appointed king!

What appeared to be the divine providence of God was in reality a subtle temptation to act in the place of God and strike and kill Saul. David took one look at the situation and said, no way. “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6).

8. How can we tell the difference between God’s providence and temptation?

This is a difficult question to answer. While it is perfectly true that we have the clarity of God’s Word, the counsel of godly men and women, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to guide us as we must discern between right and wrong, it is also true that we are sinful, imperfect people who are prone to make the wrong decision in the moment of crisis.

Here’s some godly insight to this question from commentator Dale Ralph Davis:

Was this providence or temptation? And how does one discern the difference? It was a searching test for Yahweh’s servant. Only the principle of the sanctity of Yahweh’s anointed (v. 6) answers the dilemma. That was not so clear, seemingly, to David’s men (v. 7). For David, however, it was one thing to have the promise of the kingdom (20:13–16; 23:16–17); how the kingdom should come to him was another matter. Yahweh’s will must be achieved in Yahweh’s way; the end that God has ordained must be reached by the means that God approves. David’s men do not see this; they “claim to have God in their pocket and to know how he relates to the specific situation.” It is so obvious, so clear!

David’s Son faced the same test. The devil showed him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and said to him, ‘All these things I will give to you…’” (Matt. 4:8b–9a). What the devil offered him was the will of God for Jesus’ life. Jesus doubtless knew that God had promised him all these kingdoms and their splendor (Ps. 2:8–9). But God’s will must come to pass in God’s way—not via obeisance to the devil but through the humiliation of the cross.

This kind of test is not confined to David and Jesus; it comes again and again to most all Yahweh’s servants. It is the temptation of the short cut. How even in our thoughts we often hanker to take it. We sometimes long to find a “key” or a major “breakthrough” or a decisive “insight” that will place our Christian living on some kind of higher plane where we are most always above hindrance, frustration, and despair. Don’t some Christians claim they have found this secret? How we yearn for a short cut around the arduous, wearing, time-consuming labor of sanctification (Heb. 12:1–13). What discernment we need! No wonder the apostle left us his prayer: “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…” (Phil. 1:9–10a NIV; emphasis added).[3]

9. How can we resist the subtly of presumptive sin?

The picture we see of David in 1 Samuel 24 is one of absolute bed-rock faith in God and in His divine ways. As we have noted, any reasonable man could have quickly concluded that God had indeed delivered Saul into David’s hand and that David was perfectly within God’s will to kill Saul. But David didn’t think like a reasonable man. In this case, he thought like a righteous servant of God. “What would God have me do?” was the only question that mattered to David.

In Psalm 19, David declares,

12 Who can discern his errors?  Declare me innocent from hidden faults.  13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;  let them not have dominion over me!  Then I shall be blameless,  and innocent of great transgression. 

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart  be acceptable in your sight,  O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

Presumptuous sin happens when we begin to reason and contemplate something we know is wrong, but instead of doing what is right, we lean on “the Lord’s will-incentive” or on the grace of God to forgive us in the end. Whenever we begin thinking, Oh, I can do this and get away with it. If God hadn’t wanted me to do this, He wouldn’t have placed this right in front of me. If it isn’t God’s will, God will forgive me. After all, God is my Father and therefore my friend.

It’s when we rationalize our thoughts like this that we begin to yield to temptation. Perhaps they are small, subtle steps at first, but never-the-less they are steps on the road to destruction.

So how can we resist the subtle temptation of presumptuous sin? Here are some simple reminders from this week’s lesson:

  • Know what is right and wrong in God’s eyes by taking daily instruction and direction from God’s Word. The ways of the world will mislead you, especially in a time like ours when pragmatism reigns. Is it wrong to steal a small item from work? Is it wrong to glance at your classmates test once in a while? Is it wrong to watch a movie or television show that openly embraces immorality? What does God’s Word say? Does that matter to you or do you simply rely on God’s grace to forgive?
  • Recognize when you begin to reason and rationalize? This is the Devil’s snare. We see it in the garden when he asked Eve, “did God really say…” (Gen. 3:1), and we see it in the temptation of Jesus when he took Jesus to the top of a mountain and said, “all these kingdoms will be yours if you worship me” (Matt. 5:8-9). Pay attention when confronted with a choice. Your conscious is telling you it’s wrong, but your mind is started to reason, “well… one small step won’t hurt.” This kind of thinking should be a bright red warning flag that sin is crouching around the corner waiting to devour you.
  • Question the voices of the world, not the sure truth of God’s instructions. Just like David’s men quickly (and wrongly) assured him it was God’s will to kill Saul, so the world is quickly (and wrongly) eager to encourage us to “do what is best, not necessarily what is right.” If you plan to pay attention to the details with a strong desire to be obedient to the Lord, plan on entering into conflict with others who will think you are a prude or “miss goodie two shoes.” Standing for God and for His ways often means you will stand alone.

Concluding Thoughts

These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.

10. Looking back at this week’s teaching and study, what’s the most important thing to remember? 11. Is there an area in your life where you are convicted because you have allowed “little sins” to take root in your life? Write these down on a sheet of paper and ask the Lord to give you the conviction to begin doing what is right in the days ahead. 12. Is there a person you know is going through a tough time and they need encouragement? Follow the example of Jonathan in this week’s text and proactively reach out to this person and encourage them in the Lord.


  1.  Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible: Joshua to Second Chronicles, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 175.
  2. John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 449.
  3. Dale Ralph Davis, Focus on the Bible Commentary – 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 247-248.