When Saul heard, he completely ignored what David had done for Israel, what his own army should have done and considered the circumstances to be providential. David had inquired of God to see if saving Keiliah was God’s will. Saul assumed that God had made it so that he could murder David. Verses 7-8 put it this way,
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.
He had not been concerned about Philistia attacking Keilah, but he gathered his army to fight David who had just saved the city. Saul assumed he knew God’s will, he assumed the Lord was with him in his vindictive pursuit of David. David did not assume he knew God’s will. David prayed. And when he heard that Saul was coming after him, he used the ephod brought by Abiathar, the last remaining priest from Nob, and asked the Lord what would happen if he stayed in Keliah. The Lord told him that Saul was coming after him and that rather than let the king destroy their city the people would give David up to Saul. So David and his men left and hid in the surrounding country.
David was hiding in Horesh when Jonathan found him and encouraged his friend in the Lord. Verses 17-18 read,
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.
Jonathan knew David would be king and Saul knew it too. It was God’s will and He had not hidden His will from anyone. That is why Saul hated David so desperately. David was God’s chosen king, but Saul didn’t care for God’s will, he wanted his will. Saul’s will was for Jonathan to succeed him, even against his son’s wishes.
The Ziphites knew David and his men were hiding in the countryside and they told King Saul about it. Saul again assumed the Lord was on his side and even went so far as to bless the Ziphites in God’s name for the information they gave him. Saul chased David but had to call off the search when he learned the Philistines were attacking the land again. God would protect His plan to make David king. 1 Samuel 24 takes place after Saul finished dealing with Philistia. David was in the wilderness of Engedi with his 400 men. Saul took 3,000 men to capture him. Verses 3-4 take up the narrative,
And he [Saul] 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.’”
The LORD had given Saul into David’s hand but what seemed good David was God’s will, sovereignty and lordship, not what seemed to make sense to his men. David could kill Saul or not. Verses 4-7 read,
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.
David could easily have killed Saul. His men could easily have killed him. But he cut off a corner of Saul’s robe and even that hurt him. He knew then killing the king was not what God would want him to do. He had treated Saul with disrespect. David was tired of running from Saul. He wanted it to end. He could have ended it by killing the king, but he trusted God and refused to harm God’s anointed king. Verses 8-15 in The Message read,
Then David stood at the mouth of the cave and called to Saul, “My master! My king!” Saul looked back. David fell to his knees and bowed in reverence. He called out, “Why do you listen to those who say ‘David is out to get you’? This very day with your very own eyes you have seen that just now in the cave God put you in my hands. My men wanted me to kill you, but I wouldn’t do it. I told them that I won’t lift a finger against my master—he’s God’s anointed. Oh, my father, look at this, look at this piece that I cut from your robe. I could have cut you—killed you!—but I didn’t. Look at the evidence! I’m not against you. I’m no rebel. I haven’t sinned against you, and yet you’re hunting me down to kill me. Let’s decide which of us is in the right. God may avenge me, but it is in his hands, not mine. An old proverb says, ‘Evil deeds come from evil people.’ So be assured that my hand won’t touch you.
14-15 “What does the king of Israel think he’s doing? Who do you think you’re chasing? A dead dog? A flea? God is our judge. He’ll decide who is right. Oh, that he would look down right now, decide right now—and set me free of you!”
Now it was up to Saul what would happen. David waited for the king’s response. Verses 16-22 read,
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.
David stayed in his stronghold. He knew Saul too well to trust that he would remain penitent for long. I have a feeling that David wanted to inquire of God first before heading back to Saul’s place.
Every step of the way, David turned to God and asked God’s will. He knew Him well enough as well that the right thing, the good thing was what would please the Lord. That was to fight for a city, even if he wouldn’t win their loyalty. That was to spare the king even if it meant the king might kill him at long last. David was a man after God’s own heart. He wanted God’s will, not his own. He trusted God to take care of him and was not afraid to obey Him.
Believer, what about you? Do you concern yourself with seeking God’s will for each day of your life or do you assume God is great with all your choices because you know he loves you and chose you? God chose Saul and loved him, but Saul’s choices were not in God’s will but for his own satisfaction.