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.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 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. 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.” 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.” 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. (1 Samuel 23:7-13)
1. What we have here is David, in the midst of great trials, consulting the Lord, and the Lord helping him directly. Why does David need the ephod that Abiathar brought with him? Because in the breastplate of the priestly garment are the Urim and Thummim. What are they? They are precious stones that are used to cast lots for yes/no answers from the Lord. They are not used many times in the Bible, only when necessary.
2. Notice that what the Lord directly tells David will happen ACTUALLY DOES NOT HAPPEN. God knows the conditional future as well as the actual future. He tells what will happen to David if he remains in Keilah--a disaster! So, David leaves Keilah, and the horrible occurrence does not take place. God is not only omniscient in the past, present, and future, but he knows what would have happened in certain cases. David has free will, and the Lord knows each avenue that David's free will will take. However, what actually happens is what is foreordained by God, in order to advance his purposes in the salvation of the world.
3. This practice of casting lots for yes/no answers from the Lord was reserved for the high priest and even then was not used often. In 1 Samuel, we have a couple of instances where the king uses the ephod, but the average believer is not to do so. Also, priests today are not to do so. Not only do we have passages of scripture prohibiting consulting oracles, but looking at Exodus 28 will show us something important:
So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly. (Exodus 28:29-30)
4. The high priest has the burden of his people upon his heart. Their names are literally upon his heart in the ephod. Also, the Urim and Thummim are in the breastplate over his heart. As the text says, "Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord." At the time of Exodus, the Israelites had begun their wandering in the wilderness. Like David, this was a time of great trial upon the people. Aaron, the high priest, had the burden of their judgment upon him. In the midst of trial, Israel can consult with the Lord directly through the high priest.
5. Things have changed since Christ. The ceremonial law of the priesthood is gone, because we do not need Aaron and his ephod and the Urim and Thummim. We have a great high priest in heaven, who is interceding for us in the midst of our trials. We don't have the Urim and Thummim, because we have the Word of God, the scriptures that show us the living Word of God, Jesus. Everything we need to know about living in God's will can be found within its pages. Let's look at 1 Peter 4:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19)
6. As Israel entrusted its souls to Aaron, so we entrust our souls to the one who is always faithful and will save our lives eternally--Jesus, the great high priest. The burden of our judgment is upon him and him alone.
7. As Christians, we are to go through fiery trials that test us and sanctify us before the Lord. This is a good thing. We are lied to when we are told that we need to have our best life now. I'd be very worried if I were having my best life now, because that means that the life to come will be tremendously horrid. As Christians, we do not suffer for unrepentant sin. We do not suffer as haters and time-wasters and busybodies. No, as Christians we are set upon by the world. The Lord allows the world to persecute us and the devil to tempt us, so that his glory is revealed in us and we will repent and rejoice. We are in the wilderness. We are on the run from Saul, and we don't have an ephod with Urim and Thummim, but we do have the Bible for comfort and encouragement. Peter says we share in Christ's sufferings, and it is easy to forget that, so we go to the scriptures and we read...
And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31)
8. Christ suffered. He was persecuted without cause. But the persecutors will suffer a worse fate. Ours is only suffered in this life, but in the life to come, we have life everlasting in Christ, where there is no more pain and no more tears. Today, there is mourning. We need to pray and weep for our children, that the Lord will spare us and them from eternal destruction. When we are persecuted by the world, we have a great testimony to God's grace upon us, because Christ suffered likewise, and when the world commits such atrocities against a "green tree", what will the world of dry trees suffer when the end comes? They will wish they and their children had never been born, and they will desire to have the mountains cover them, in order to hide from the Lord.
9. What does the Lord want of you? Consult the scriptures. In the midst of trials, we can turn to the Word of God for guidance. Ignore the new church of prosperity that tells you that suffering is a result of your failure to love God. The world hates God, and so suffers from his wrath. If you have a penitent faith in Christ, you will suffer, too, but yours will be the suffering of Christ, partaking in his righteousness and experiencing great joy at his glory. The Urim and Thummim can be found on the cross.