The Return Brings Restoration!
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 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. 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. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. 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 David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.”
I Samuel 30:1-8 NASB
As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, it goes without question that the person we should turn to first when we are in trouble is God! Psalm 46 even reminds us that God is a “very present help in trouble”. However, what we should do as believers is not always what we end up doing! While seeking the Lord should be our immediate response to trouble, it is often a delayed response. Every believer can attest to a situation where he or she consulted the Lord’s counsel or pleaded for His intervention as a last or second-to-last resort! Sometimes, a dire situation has even had to happen before we finally relinquished our pride and stubbornness to finally seek the Lord!
For the past two weeks, we’ve been observing the life of a young David in a season filled with triumph and tension, specifically between himself and King Saul, whose extreme jealousy towards David fueled an intense pursuit to take his life (if you haven’t read either “The Pressure to Compromise, Part I” or “The Pressure to Compromise, Part II”, read them now!) After sparing King Saul’s life for a second time, David convinced himself to seek refuge in the land of the Philistines, one of the sworn enemies of his native land of Israel. David believed that Saul would stop searching for him if he fled to the land of the Philistines, which is exactly what Saul did once he received word that David, his army, and two wives had fled to Gath, a city located in the region of Philistia (cf. I Samuel 27:1-4).
Once he arrived in Gath, David asked Achish, the king of Gath, to provide him with his own territory within the city. By using flattery yet deceptive language in his exchanges with Achish, such as, “for why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”, David gave Achish the impression that he had renounced his allegiance to Israel and was now fighting on behalf of the Philistines. Having believed David’s false impressions, Achish happily granted David’s request and gave him the land of Ziklag (cf. I Samuel 27:5-6). Once he settled in Ziklag, David continued to feign allegiance to the Philistines; when King Achish would ask him which regions he’d raided, David would tell him that he had raided territories belonging to Israel when he was actually raiding territories belonging to the enemies of Israel.
David killed every individual inhabiting those territories so that no one would be able to inform Achish of what he was truly doing! As a result, Achish believed David’s lies and became convinced that he would serve him permanently (cf. I Samuel 27:8-12)! However, David’s charade did not deceive everyone! In I Samuel 29, the commanders of the Philistine army recognized David and his soldiers as Israelites among the Philistine armies. They commanded Achish to send David and his men back to Ziklag, fearing that David and his army would turn against them in battle. Despite his multiple pleas and vouches of David’s integrity, Achish commanded David and his army to return to Ziklag to appease the Philistine army commanders.
In I Samuel 30, David and his men returned to Ziklag to discover that the entire territory had been raided and set on fire. Their wives and children had also been captured. What David did not know upon returning to Ziklag was that their land had been raided by the Amalekites, the army of the region he previously raided (cf. I Samuel 27:8). If there was any consolation or evidence of God’s mercy upon David and his army, it was that all their wives and children had been captured, not killed, and left for dead, unlike the Amalekite residents whom David slaughtered during his raid of their land.
David and his army were extremely distraught upon returning to Ziklag (“Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep.”) They even threatened to stone David, presumably because his decision to settle in the land of the Philistines under false impressions ultimately resulted in this tragedy (“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.”). However, the next two decisions that David made demonstrated not only a change in direction, but a change of heart, a repentant heart!
First, David turned to the Lord for comfort (“But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”). It’s no question that David was not only exhausted from being on the run, but also distraught having realized that his decision to settle in the enemy’s camp under a false allegiance led to this tragedy! Yet, while in despair, he strengthened, or encouraged himself in the Lord his God! While these verses do not explicitly state how David strengthened himself in the Lord, it wouldn’t be wrong or far off to assume based on the Psalms that David worshipped the Lord in song or prayer during this moment! Worship was not solely what David did, but it was the essence of who he was as a man after God’s own heart!
More importantly, David departed from leaning to his own understanding and turned to the Lord for counsel. After he had strengthened himself in the Lord, David asked Abiathar the priest to bring him the ephod, a traditional priestly garment worn by the Levitical high priests of the Old Testament. Israelite leaders would use the ephod to ask the Lord for direction and instruction regarding a particular situation. Once David received the ephod from Abiathar, he asked the Lord whether he should pursue the band of raiders (“David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?”). In response, the Lord instructed David to pursue the band of raiders and assured him that he would recover all that was stolen from him (“And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.”) In obedience to and fulfillment of God’s Word, David and his army pursued the Amalekite raiders, defeated them, and recovered all that was stolen from them, including their wives and children (cf. I Samuel 30:16-18).
We’ve seen David deviate from seeking refuge in the Lord by seeking refuge in the enemy’s camp! We’ve seen him consciously decide to compromise his character and livelihood to resolve an immediate threat from King Saul! We’ve seen how his poor decisions at the beginning of I Samuel 27 ultimately led to the raid of his territory and the capturing of his wives in I Samuel 30. Now, we've seen David return to the Lord, not solely in pursuit of divine instruction, but ultimately in pursuit of the Lord Himself! The grief and distress he poured out over the destruction of his land and the capturing of his wives pushed David to seek strength, direction, and refuge in the One who continued to protect him even while he was living in the enemy’s territory!
Moreover, God displayed His unconditional love, grace, and mercy towards David! In His mercy, God spared the lives of the families of David and his army. In His grace, God allowed David to recover all that the Amalekites stole from him. In His unconditional love, God responded to David’s inquiry, when none of David’s prior actions warranted a response! No matter how far we’ve strayed away from God, we can never stray past or outside the realm of His grace, mercy, and unconditional love! It also does not matter how long it's been since you've sought the Lord for direction or even spoken with Him! Return to Him today! While we should not make a habit out of seeking the Lord as a last or second-to-last resort, we can rest knowing that if we ever veer off track, we can always return to Him and the constant availability of His counsel!