The Philistines had attacked the Israelite city of Keilah at harvest time. News came to David of the attack and in his response we see growing evidence of him becoming the leader that God wanted over his people. An evidence of this development is his desire to know whether or not God wanted him to go and save Keilah from the Philistines.
The method David used was the ephod that Abiather the priest had taken with him when he joined David’s band. On the ephod was a breastplate containing stones called the Urim and Thummim, and through using them the priest obtained direct guidance from the Lord. The answer from God was that David should save Keilah.
Strangely, his followers were reluctant to accept that this was God’s will. So David had to go through the process again and he received the same divine response. This situation would have told David the leader that sometimes those he led would be reluctant to follow God’s clearly revealed will. The same problem happens today when a pastor teaches accurately a command from the Bible and for one reason or another the believers he leads refuse to obey it. What should he do in that situation? He should keep on teaching what God requires until it is obeyed.
The reason why David’s men were reluctant was fear. In general they were afraid that Saul would find them and now they were afraid that the Philistine band would be too powerful for them. Fear of men was incapacitating them and it incapacitates many believers still. The Lord in his kindness gave David a specific promise of victory (v. 4), and this promise would have encouraged his men. Thinking about the promises of God is one effective way of dealing with fear.
David and his men won a victory over the Philistines at Keilah. Yet their victory had the potential of trouble. Saul heard about where David was and realised that in a military sense that David would be an easy target if he stayed there. So the king made plans to attack the town. David heard about Saul’s intentions, and again David’s response was to bring the matter to God. Using the ephod, he asked several questions of God.
Although it was right for David to pray, did he ask the right petitions initially? When he spoke to God, David asked about two details: (a) would Saul come and (b) would the city of Keilah deliver David into Saul’s hands? God only answered (a), but did not answer (b) until David extended the request to include his men as well. Perhaps David was only focussing on his needs rather than also focussing on the needs of his men. The prayers of a leader have to include those he leads.
So David was now following God's revealed will, and so should we. We don't need the method that David used because we have God's revealed will in his Word.