Thursday, January 05, 2012

But David strengthened himself in the Lord

The Women of Ziklag Taken into Captivity (James Tissot)
1 Samuel 30:6; Zechariah 10:12

While David and his 600 men were away from home,[1] the Amalekites had struck. They had raided the territory given to God’s people. The town of Ziklag where they lived was burned, and the Amalekites took captive their women and children (1 Sam 30:1-6). 

When David and his men returned exhausted after a 3-day march, they were devastated at what they found (1 Sam 30:4). The men were so upset and bitter at their loss and what they saw as David’s failure to protect their families, that there was talk of stoning him.

David, exhausted from a long march, having been rejected by Achish king of Gath (1 Sam 29:8) through no fault of his own, now finds total devastation of all he had and all he loved. David is at the end of himself. David was living among the Philistines out of a carnal decision to hide there from Saul (1 Sam 27:1-4).He has been living by his wits, using every trick of the energy of his flesh (1 Sam 27:10). Now he returns to Ziklag see the smoking ruins of all his possessions, his family lost, and the disaster of all his self-effort.

Now David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. David had a profound prayer life. He had written prayers and prophetic worship songs in the midst of difficulties whether they be betrayal (Psalm 52, 54), after capture by the Philistines (Psalm 56), in caves running from Saul (Psalm 57), when Saul had staked out his home to betray him (Psalm 59), or in the desert (Psalm 63). 

In those times he didn’t deny the stark realities around him, but he focused on God’s mighty works in the past and his promises of the future. David acknowledged his circumstances but proclaimed the truth and faithfulness of God, and he trusted himself to the Name and character of Christ. David’s first response in crisis is to worship. Is yours? Let David’s response stimulate you to worship. Worship focuses us on the Lord who alone is worthy of the praise and adoration and glory.

David sought God and asked Him what to do. He did not presume and act in the impulse of the moment. He was still before the Lord (Exod. 14:13-14; 33:21; 1 Sam 12:16; Job 37:14; 2 Chron 20:17; Psalm 37:7; 46:10; Zechariah 2:13). He inquired of the Lord. He did not move until the Lord directed him, but when he heard from the Lord, then he moved swiftly in obedience. Do you ask God first or last? Asking Him presupposes you will be committed to obeying him. Why would you expect God to speak to you if you are not going to obey whatever he directs?

David obeyed the Lord immediately and fully. David pursued the enemy with fury and impunity (1 Sam 30:9-10, 17). Despite human weakness and human reckoning (losing one-third his force to exhaustion at the brook Besor), he moved forward with the Lord of Hosts. David fought 24 straight hours, and he took no quarter. No one got away except some mistreated slaves. God restored everything to David (1 Sam 30:18), everything the enemy had taken. He was “strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10). Are you obeying instantly, fully, joyfully? Did you know it has a bearing on your prayer life?

David realized the Lord gave him the victory. With enormous spoils of war, David did not take the credit but acknowledged God’s great deliverance and victory without harm to any of the women or children (1 Sam 30:20-26). He was not impressed by his own successes, and he gave all glory to the Lord.

Are you more impressed with your problems or lack of resources, or with the abilities of your God? Have you gotten to the point that you are so desperate and distressed that you will tell God that you give up, you cannot do it, that He must take control? Now is the right time to do that. Or in the face of success, is it hard for you to avoid being impressed with yourself and your achievements? Do you pay lip service to God’s glory while getting a lot of mileage out of “our” accomplishment?  Touching glory that belongs to the Lord is very dangerous. It is best to give it all to him and praise him for his victory.[2]

When you are in a crisis, follow David's example and find your strength in the Lord.

[1] David and his men had fled from Saul to the Philistine country and had been living as mercenary servants of the king of Gath. They were joining the Philistine army as rear guard to fight King Saul of Israel in what would be Saul’s final battle. 
[2] Adapted from Sylvia Gunter, Prayer Essentials 2, p. 85-6.