We last saw David being told by Achish, king of Gath, to stay home while the Philistines prepared to go to war against King Saul and the army of Israel. So David and his men returned to the town of Ziklag but when they arrived, they discovered that in their absence the town had been attacked, burned and their wives and children taken as hostages.
When they saw what had happened, the text records: “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.” I Sam. 30:4 Their grief turned to anger and some of the men started blaming David! They even discussed stoning him.
If you’ve ever been falsely accused, you know how David felt. Yet in the midst of this painful circumstance we see one of the greatest evidences of his heart toward God for it says: David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. I Sam. 30:6
There are a few things we can learn from this chapter.
First of all, it is common for people to look for someone to blame when they’ve been hurt. Didn’t the men realize that David also had lost his family, just as they had? He didn’t know, anymore than they did, whether he would ever see his children again. He cried like they did, yet in their grief, reason went out the window and they turned on their leader as if he was the one who had destroyed the village and caused the kidnapping of their families! Unbelievable! Yet, we sometimes do the same thing. Remember this: people who are hurt and/or angry, make irrational decisions. When we are hurt, our first recourse must be to do as David did: turn to the Lord Who is the only One who can help us. To point fingers and accuse others, often unjustly, only aggravates the grief we already bear.
Secondly, there is nothing that causes more pain than when our children are in danger. Matters involving our children can cause great bitterness to take root in our spirits and the damage that has been done when parents have ‘thrown stones’ in retaliation for something one of their children suffered is legendary and lasting. The sad thing is that taking one’s own revenge (which by the way is contrary to God’s word) feeds the bitterness taking root in us and damages our own souls even further.
Thankfully, David’s men came to their senses and chose not to act out of their emotions – a wise decision.
Thirdly, in any kind of pain, our first and most important response MUST be to turn to the LORD – first! Like David, we must find our strength in the LORD; we must rely on His grace to help us respond appropriately.
Once David’s men had calmed down, David asked the LORD for direction and was told, “Pursue them…you will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.” I Sam 30:8
David initially took six hundred men with him, but two hundred were so exhausted that he left them and went on with the remaining four hundred. They caught up with the Amalekites who were celebrating their conquest. The battle took nearly 24 hours but David and his men recaptured all that they had lost – families, possessions, etc. and even plunder from the Amalekites. At the end of the day, only 400 of the large Amalekite army managed to survive and escape.
When the victorious group returned home, some of them felt they were entitled to the plunder since they’d fought the battle and were disinclined to share anything with the 200 who had stayed behind. David made an important decision and taught them a principle: the share of the man who stays behind with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went to battle. All will share alike. I Sam. 30:24
Just because God assured David ahead of time that he and his men would be victorious didn’t make the battle any easier. It still took them 24 hours of hard fighting to realize the victory they were promised. We sometimes think that if God has promised us a victory then it should be easy and quick. Not so.
God is just as much interested in making you stronger spiritually as He is in giving you victory. Your part in the ‘fight’ is critical to your spiritual progress and there is no shortcut around it. Just think of an Olympic athlete. How many thousands of hours of hard training go into a victory lap and a gold medal?
We live in a self-serving society. It behooves us not to forget that discipline, effort and self-control are still virtues to be desired and acquired. God has no interest in lazy children!
Our modern world facilitates a certain ‘laziness’ compared to how our grandparents lived. We have machines that wash the clothes and dry them, other machines that wash the dishes, and countless other conveniences. I’m all for that but NOT at the expense of becoming spiritually lazy. Let us pull ourselves up by the proverbial ‘bootstraps’ and re-engage in deliberate effort to strengthen our spiritual life by discipline and self-control. The reward is worth far more than a ‘gold medal’.