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Paul J. Bucknell
Ever feel like giving up? David did, but he learned how to strengthen himself in the Lord. The Lord in a wonderful way pulled David from a colossal mistake he had made that impacted many around him.
For some people giving up is not an uncommon problem. Everything might be going so well but then suddenly all one’s efforts seem to be in vain. David faced many frustrations during his life. Although not all problems are due to our wrong decisions, some are. David quickly found out that God is able to correct a person. David faced this training in two ways. He discovered how rich God’s grace was.
We, however, should not think this is the end of the story. In the next chapter we see the training goes on.
The words, “Then it happened” (1 Samuel 30:1), provides the setting for perhaps David’s most difficult life testing.
It is important to link this chapter with the preceding chapter. The chapter division is artificial. The incidents are connected.
"30:1 Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; 2 and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way.
3 And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. 5 Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite” (1 Samuel 30:1-31).
Three days after David escaped a great disaster of having to fight the Israelites, he returned home to Ziglag and only to find something worse had happened.
While they were away, the Amalekites came, took what they wanted, burned the city to fire and went off. David and his men each had lost not only their homes and goods, but their wives and children. No one was left.
The people were deeply grieved. The scripture describes this intensive weeping, “wept until there was no strength in them to weep” (30:4). David did not escape the severity of the impact. He lost his two wives (30:5).
"6 Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters” (1 Samuel 30:6a).
A superficial look at this whole scene would allow us, as it did David’s men, conclude that God had simply judged David’s little army for their evil.
Verse 6 begins to show the release of all the men’s pent up anger and frustration from following David. They were embittered against David because of their lost. They had no doubt that this trouble was because of David.
Everyone turns to David and blames him. After all this scam was David’s. David’s own men started talking about stoning him. Remember that a number of these men were runaways from King Saul and the Israeli government. They were not wimps and would be willing to kill David.
It is helpful for us to see that though God had miraculously delivered David and his men from a tragic error, the Lord was not pleased with David irresponsible action. What did David deserve? He deserved this tragic end to his life. Things could not get worse.
What was David and his men tempted with during this surprising event? What makes the temptation so powerful?
"6 But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6b).
David was at a key point in his life. The Accuser no doubt was blaming David left and right. David had failed God and his people. He misled them and lost all.
In such desperate times we are tempted to give up all hope. Satan is just waiting for us to give him full reign in one’s mind with his temptations.
“You are no good.”
“God has left you!”
“You may as well end it now!”
“You are a failure.”
“Stop pretending to love God.”
Satan’s purpose is to drive David and us to distress, despair, depression and suicide. Step back from all that is going on and confess your failure but do not forget God’s grace. Seek His grace. Hold onto His mercy. God is still there. This is a special time of learning. The sooner one softens his heart, the sooner the Lord can relinquish His whip.
Remember David at this time could only see failure. He only knew of the lost. He could only hear the voices threatening to destroy his life. David, however, shows us the right way to respond. He strengthened himself in His Lord.
This phrase, ‘strengthens oneself in his Lord,’ is very important not only for Old Testament characters but also for New Testament believers. We use the word ‘trust’ instead of strengthen oneself in the Lord. The OT description is helpful because it shows how one strengthens oneself in the Lord through David’s example.
When one strengthens himself in the Lord, his faith becomes strong. His confidence in how God will take care of him and his concerns increases. He is able to handle the situation.
Having gained that stronger faith, he can take the next step as David did, though perhaps not knowing the result. David put his trust in God not his plan as he did not know what to expect.
Confidence enables us to move forward. Without this confidence, we give up or try to avoid a certain difficult situation. Avoidance is the opposite to what we should do and brings bad consequences. Procrastination sometimes occurs because we lack God’s strength. We do not want to face possible failure and so we avoid it.
Reflection: Describe what ‘strengthened oneself in the Lord his God’ means in your own words. Give an example in your life when you did this. Contrast this with a time when you did not strengthen yourself in the Lord.
"7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 And David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them, and you shall surely rescue all.” 9 So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those left behind remained.
Your trust is not in yourself. You are not strong enough. God is though. Approach the Lord and seek His help in some specific way. He does what you cannot do. This process describes how you would put your trust in the Lord rather than in some external or internal resources.
This step of seeking the Lord in verse 7 is not minor. This is what distinguishes David from others. During great crises, he would turn to the Lord. A sense of humbling seemed to clothe David. He was willing to admit his mistakes but hoped for God’s grace.
So instead of giving into all the many attacks, David persisted in his trust of God. He did this by getting Abiathar the priest to get out his ephod and seek God’s guidance. When confidence comes, then we can move forward and take the right step. Judgment does not mean that God has deserted us. We can turn back only because God is gracious.
Notice how God promised David and his men that all would be rescued (30:8). Discipline is for a purpose. When that purpose is over, God is there to comfort, encourage and even restore.
Application: Remember to look for the promises of God to encourage you in your next steps!
"16 And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing because of all the great spoil that they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 And David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. 18 So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives. 19 But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back. 20 So David had captured all the sheep and the cattle which the people drove ahead of the other livestock, and they said, “This is David’s spoil” (1 Samuel 30:16-20).
An Egyptian servant got sick and so the Amalekites left him to die in the desert. After all, they figured they now have a slew of new slaves from the Israelites. Again this looks incidental, but it is all part of God’s strategy. The slave, once strengthened, could lead them straight to the Amalekites to minimize the evil that might come upon the captives from Ziglag by the drunken Amalekites.
The Amalekites had done so well that they were intense on celebration. They were not ready to face David and his men. David’s men fought well and recovered everything just as God promised. “But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves” (30:19). This was a grand miracle. Only God could have done this.
God does not simply judge. He disciplines His children (see Hebrews 12). The discipline will sting. It serves to change one’s ways and thoughts about certain behavior. God never means for us to conclude that He has left us or rejected us. Parents have so much to learn from this.
Application: No matter what a child does, he should never be able to conclude through his parents’ actions and attitudes that they have rejected him. After disciplining our children, we hug them. Forgiveness is provided and the relationship is healed. This has everything to do with God’s training of our lives.
Notice what happens here. David and his men are miraculously delivered from this moral dilemma only to find their family and goods stolen away.
Reflection: Why would God allow this situation to happen if He was going to help David get out of it?
God’s purpose is not just to bring judgment. That would have been far easier than to plan these ‘close calls.’ God is exposing and rebuking David so that he could become a greater man, even a greater king.
God was revealing His ultimate touch of grace. David did not deserve this. One can ponder on why Saul was not given more grace. But God did give much grace to Saul, but he would again and again reject God’s counsel and act more wicked than before. David was broken. This strengthening in the Lord showed that he was ready to give up his small plans and instead trust God who could devise special plans.
Application: We might also be brought into situations where we face impossible situations where everyone, even our friends and colleagues, turn against us. It might be because of our own sin as in David’s case or it might not. In either case, treat these times as the Lord being fully in control of our training.
We can trust Him. Call upon the Lord and then step by step work through what can be done. This usually includes drawing near in His Word. It helps to remember that the Lord wants to glorify Himself through that situation and draw you close to Him.
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. [Selah. God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death” (Psalms 68:19-20).
There are two closing insights with regards to the spoils from the Amalekites that they gained.
21 ¶ When David came to the two hundred men who were too exhausted to follow David, who had also been left at the brook Besor, and they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him, then David approached the people and greeted them. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless men among those who went with David answered and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away and depart.” 23 Then David said, “You must not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us.
24 “And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:21-24).
Share and share alike. David insisted on rewarding equally those out on the front lines with those staying back at the camp. Those who differed with David were called ‘wicked and worthless’ men (20:21). David was dealing with greed among the people (Saul earlier refused to rebuke the people’s greed - 1 Samuel 15:19). They were willing for the spouses and children to be returned but wanted their goods.
David recognized that the real deliverance came from God (30:23). And so David established a new rule in the army - everyone shares alike. This has several helpful applications to daily life and attitudes.
Application: Think of a couple. The mom is home nursing a child while the husband is visiting visitors. God will reward them both. When I travel or write, I am glad that God will equally reward us. This is true in a church too. Some might have seemingly more significant ministries while it is easy to underrate the prayers of a sick elderly widow. God knows we live as a body, serve together and be rewarded together.
"26 Now when David came to Ziklag, he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah, to his friends, saying, “Behold, a gift for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD: 27 to those who were in Bethel, and to those who were in Ramoth of the Negev, and to those who were in Jattir, 28 and to those who were in Aroer, and to those who were in Siphmoth, and to those who were in Eshtemoa, 29 and to those who were in Racal, and to those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to those who were in the cities of the Kenites, 30 and to those who were in Hormah, and to those who were in Bor-ashan, and to those who were in Athach, 31 and to those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to go.”
On the one hand, we see that David was not going to take any spoil for himself. He had done wrong and was not going to reward himself from his wrongdoing even though the Lord made things turn out okay in the end. We see David doing similar things when he would not accept the offer of free property for an altar of God (2 Samuel 24).
Secondly, we see how David took the spoils that he had and formed them into gifts for elders in various Israelite cities. He could see that he was no longer going to play the game of deceit he had been doing so for the last couple of years. That was the end. So he cleverly began to establish good relationships with those back in Israel. He could foresee that things might not go well with Saul as they didn’t. He wanted to pave a nice road back into leadership if this would be that time.
1 & 2 Samuel paint a beautiful picture of God’s amazing grace. These testings that David faced were largely because of his sin. They were, however, closely overseen by the Almighty God.
The Lord delivered David and his men from the moral quagmire. The Lord perfectly timed their return to see the devastation and be humbled. The Lord made sure that the Amalekites did not kill the people but took them alive. The Lord made sure there was an Egyptian on the road that could show them where the Amalekites were. God disciplines. He is not concerned with a blanket judgment upon our lives but effective training so that we ourselves can better reflect that wonderful mercy of God.