David and the Amalekites

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If you are in need of encouragement, then this next chapter in 1 Samuel that we’re looking at this evening is for you.

Maybe in your life you are surveying a scene of devastation and loss. Perhaps your mind is full of what’s in the news, and you’re preoccupied with disastrous situations around the world like Syria. Or you look at the drastic decline of the church in the West and it seems as if it’s been laid waste by atheistic secularism and theological liberalism. Or perhaps your own family feels like it’s imploding. Or your own life is in freefall. Then 1 Samuel 30 is just what you need.

My title is simply ‘David and the Amalekites’. We’re going to move fast.

My introductory point is that David is related to Jesus and so are we. Lately in our travels through 1 Samuel we’ve seen a good deal of David’s failings. At times his faith has crashed, at times he’s had to be saved from his own folly. So it’s been easy to forget the powerful link in the Bible between David and Jesus.

David is God’s chosen and anointed King – ‘messiah’ is another way to put that – and as such he points to Jesus the eternal and perfect Messiah. Jesus is spoken of as the son of David – in his line, and fulfilling the promise to David of an eternal Kingdom. But Jesus is the Son of God so he’s also the root from whom David stems. The risen Jesus himself says: “I am the root and the offspring of David.”

David, the Bible says, is a man after God’s own heart. So the hymn is right to describe Jesus as ‘great David’s greater son’. When David is being who he was called to be by God and doing what he was called to do, then he points powerfully towards Jesus and gives us a picture of Christ to stir our hearts. And that’s rarely more true than in this chapter, 1 Samuel 30.

So we’re going to think about David, and about Jesus, and about how all this speaks to our situations too, as we work our way through the dramatic events related here. And each of my headings sums up what’s going on in David’s life and in his heart. So:

First, DAVID’S FAMILY HAVE BEEN TAKEN CAPTIVE BY THE ENEMIES OF GOD’S PEOPLE.

This is verses 1-3 and then 5. And you may remember that David’s been sent packing from the front line of the war between the Philistines and the Israelites. Note too that Ziklag was David’s base among the Philistines and his own personal territory. He was on his way back home to everything and everyone he held dear – as were his men around him. From verse 1:

Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive… [and verse 5:] David's two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. (v2,3,5)

By the way don’t be distracted by the fact that David has two wives at this point – and of course it gets even worse in that department. That’s a deeply flawed aspect of David’s life that’s highly relevant but not the focus of our concern today. Though let me be clear – that’s one aspect of David’s example we are not to follow!

Max Hastings’ timely new book about the origins of the First World War is simply called ‘Catastrophe’ – and that’s the right word for what faces David and his men when they return to the smouldering ashes of what used to be their homes and families.

Ever since the Israelites escaped from Egypt into the desert centuries before, the Amalekites had been attacking them at every opportunity. And now they’d struck again.

In New Testament terms the great implacable and relentless enemies of God’s people are sin and Satan and death. They attack God’s people, operate their scorched earth campaigns of destruction against the church and Christian lives, and take captive hearts and minds.

What’s the reaction?

Secondly, DAVID WEPT OVER THE PLIGHT OF HIS FAMILY

Just back up a little to the verse we jumped over – verse 4:

Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. (v4)

This is the kind of flood of anger and grief that leads to action. And I can’t help thinking of those occasions when Jesus looked on the ravages of sin, Satan and death and reacted similarly. When he came to Mary and saw her weeping over her dead brother Lazarus, John 11 records:

… he was deeply moved in spirit and greatly troubled … Jesus wept. (John 11.33)

And as Jesus approached Jerusalem on that fateful journey to the cross, Luke tells us in 19.41, …

… he wept over it, saying, … “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will … surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you.” (Luke 19.41)

He’s looking to the future, but he could almost have 1 Samuel 30 in his mind.

And what about us? Have we opened our hearts and minds to the Spirit of Jesus sufficiently that we too – whether inwardly or outwardly – weep for the captives of sin, Satan and death, for the lost, for the sorry state of the church in our land? Let’s pray that we’ll see through the eyes of Jesus and weep with him. Without these tears we will not be driven to action.

For David, things went from catastrophic to even worse. So:

Thirdly, DAVID’S LIFE WAS THREATENED

On to the start of verse 6:

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. (v6)

Whether we should make anything of the fact that David’s men were full of bitterness because of the loss of their children, but that their wives don’t get a mention, I’m not sure. Whatever its cause, the anger of the men around David was misdirected.

They wanted to lash out, and David as their leader became the target of their grief-stricken rage, to the point that his life was under serious threat, as they started planning to stone him to death. And, with his life in danger, for David distress was piling on distress, grief upon grief. Humanly speaking, all seemed lost.

Jesus also found his life being threatened by those whose bitterness and anger was wrongly directed against him. John 8.58-59:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8.58-59)

John 10.30-32 – Jesus said:

“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” (John 10.30-32)

And of course Jesus knew that in the end, unlike for David, these death threats would be carried out.

Are you in a situation – even if not so severe – that’s caused you to weep until you have no more strength to weep, and grief upon grief, and deep distress? We need to see how David reacted in such a time. What did David do?

Fourthly, DAVID STRENGTHENED HIMSELF IN THE LORD HIS GOD

This is the second part of verse 6. Here’s the whole verse:

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. (v6)

How did he do that? We’re not told directly. But there’s a clue in that phrase “the Lord his God”. “The Lord” is the sovereign creator of heaven and earth who rules all things from the throne of heaven. “His God” speaks of David’s long, tested, track-record of experiencing God’s faithfulness as he trusted him through thick and thin.

And the other great thing we know about David, of course, is the central importance of prayer in that relationship with the Lord his God. And we have a large chunk of a Bible book full of the results, in the book of Psalms.

So in other words what’s needed if we’re going to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God at times of crisis is that indestructible combination of profound theological conviction and lively personal faith. We need to know in our minds who God is – his power and his love. And we need to know God through tested personal experience. Then when the crisis hits, instead of falling into hopeless despair, we can draw on the inexhaustible well of the trustworthiness and love of the Lord our God.

Even Jesus, the Son of God himself, strengthened himself in the Lord his God – not least in Gethsemane as his death approached. How very much more do we need to do the same not only when the crisis strikes, but day by day in quieter times. Then we’ll find, as the apostle Paul describes in Philippians 4.13, that …

… [we] can do all things through him who strengthens [us]. (Philippians 4.13)

Then once strengthened:

Fifthly, DAVID SUBMITTED HIMSELF TO GOD’S WILL

This is in verses 7-8, and never mind the mechanics, but the heart of the matter is there at the start of verse 8:

And David enquired of the Lord …(v8)

Unlike King Saul, who as we’ve seen earlier in the series enquired of the Lord by illegitimate means and with no real intention of obedience, David’s enquiry is a genuine expression of the total surrender of his future into God’s hands.

So also Jesus submitted himself to God as the terrible climax of his earthly ministry drew near and he poured out his heart and soul to his heavenly Father under cover of night in the garden of Gethsemane:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26.39)

So also we cannot expect to experience either the strengthening of God or his guidance in times of trouble if we don’t lay our lives down before him. God guides those who are prepared to go where he tells them to go and do what he tells them to do. If we do that, then we’ll hear from God our equivalent of what God told David (this is verse 8):

“Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” (v8)

And what happens when David obeys?

Sixthly, DAVID RESCUED EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING THAT HAD BEEN TAKEN CAPTIVE

The account of this runs all the way from verse 9 down to verse 20. You can read the whole thing later – let me give you an edited version. From verse 9:

So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.
They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. (v9-11)

This proves to be God’s providence at work, because this Egyptian had been abandoned by the Amalekites, knew where they were, and agreed to lead David to them. That takes us down to verse 16:

And when [the Egyptian] had taken [David] down, behold, [the Amalekites] were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back everything. David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David's spoil.” (v16-20)

What an amazing Old Testament picture of New Testament salvation that is. Note that God in his mysterious wisdom didn’t prevent the original capture – but he did ensure the rescue through his anointed servant David. This rescue inevitably involved the defeat and destruction of the enemies of God’s people. But in New Testament terms those enemies are not people, but sin, Satan and death. And Christ will defeat and destroy them utterly.

And note the wonderfully comprehensive nature of this ultimate victory and rescue. Verse 19:

Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back everything. (v19)

So it will be with Jesus. He will lose no-one from those who are his. John 10.27-29 – Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. (John 10.27-29)

“This is David’s spoil,” they said. And the whole church, the bride of Christ, will belong to Jesus, bought with his own blood, the outpoured blood that rescues us from the clutches of sin, Satan and death. That is the wonderful assurance we have. No one is able to snatch us out of the hand of Jesus.

And then from verse 21 there’s the aftermath, with two further delightful messianic pointers to Jesus. So:

Seventhly, DAVID TAUGHT GOD’S GRACE TO THE UNGRACIOUS

This is verses 21-25, where David insists on the principle in perpetuity that those who were too exhausted by the pursuit to engage in the battle should share in the spoils in just the same way as the stronger men. From verse 22, edited:

Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil … But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us … For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day. (v22-25)

In other words, don’t you get it? It’s all grace. It’s all from God. And he is equally full of grace towards us all – weak or strong, we owe it all to God. The New Testament puts it like this, in 1 Corinthians 4.7:

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4.7)

Then finally and:

Eighthly (I’ve been looking forward to saying that!), DAVID GAVE GIFTS TO HIS FRIENDS

In verses 26-30 David distributes some of the spoils all around different places in Judah saying (verse 26):

“Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord.” (v26)

It’s like a distant echo of the lavish generosity of the Lord Jesus, who pours out his gifts on all the members of his body the church, for the good of all. Ephesians 4.7-8:

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4.7-8)

So in conclusion how are we to respond to this amazing picture of the messiah at work in the power of God’s Spirit?

Listen to David’s story.

Learn about Jesus.

And live to serve and glorify your rescuer and the destroyer of your deadly enemies – sin, Satan and death.

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