We hear the word betrayal and think of Julius Caesar at the hands of Marcus Brutus, America at the hands of Benedict Arnold or Jesus at the hands of Judas Iscariot. The truth is we’ve all experienced betrayal in different ways. Maybe we did something nice for someone and the response was ingratitude, or maybe there’s a relationship we invested in only to receive cruelty in return.
There’s an individual in Scripture who experienced betrayal and I think we can really learn from his example. The story is in 1 Samuel 23 when David saved the city of Keilah, but they respond by turning him over to Saul…
1 David was told, “The Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the grain.”
Skipping to verse 4…
4 Then David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” 5 David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
It says David “saved”the people; it doesn’t say he helped them, or supported them, or assisted them. He saved them. David’s actions are even more admirable when we consider we have no knowledge of David having any friends or relatives in the city. He was motivated by nothing other than it being the right thing to do. Plus, he’s a fugitive on the run from Saul and the army of Israel, which would have provided him with an excuse nobody would fault; however, his choice looks to why he was The Man After God’s Own Heart: he esteemed others better than himself and looked out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4).
Skipping down to verse 12…
12 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.”
This was a perfect opportunity for the people of Keilah to show their appreciation and loyalty to David by protecting him, but instead of returning the favor and protecting David, they turned their backs on him. This must have been heartbreaking for David to learn after risking his life and the lives of his men, but back in verse four God only promised him victory. That’s it. He didn’t promise the people would be grateful or respond in kind.
And we should all notice thankfulness, loyalty and gratitude are not promised to us either. The reason? God knows on this side of heaven everyone who serves Him will experience betrayal, fickleness and ingratitude. When you serve the Lord you’re going out on a limb, because your kindness might be repaid with unkindness. This is why when you die you don’t hear, “Well done, good and APPRECIATED servant” but you will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” The important words are “great is your reward in heaven” as opposed to “great is your reward in this life.”
To David’s credit he doesn’t show a hint of bitterness toward the people of Keilah. It would have been very tempting for him to say, “I can’t believe these people. I wish I had let the Philistines take their food. Maybe starving would have taught them a lesson.”
David also doesn’t show any bitterness toward God. David could’ve said: “Lord, I did what You wanted, and now my life and the lives of my men are in danger! Why? Because YOU told me to save some ungrateful people.”
The question is: why did David respond so well to betrayal? I believe the answer provides a great lesson for us: David didn’t do all this for the citizens of Keilah. He didn’t do it for any recognition from them. He didn’t do it for any thanks from them. He did it for the Lord, and so the people’s response made no difference to him. This sets a wonderful example to follow, making sure that whatever we’re doing is being done for the Lord and not for man:
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.
Primarily Paul wrote these verses to make sure our service is being done for the Lord, but secondarily these verses can really help us deal with betrayal by reminding us Whom we’re serving.