1 Samuel 29-30: Trust in God’s Purposes

The Philistines are almost ready to attack Israel – until they notice there are some soldiers who don’t quite fit in with the rest: David and his band of 600.

“What are these Hebrews doing here?” they demand to know, “We’re about to go fight their people, and you think they’re really going to help us?”

King Achish stands behind David, vouching for his new loyalties and faultless character. Ironic that Achish thinks he’s loyal when he really isn’t, while Saul found him guilty even when he wasn’t.

But the other Philistine lords will hear none of it: taking this rebel with them is too much of a liability.

So with much regret, Achish sends David back “home” to Ziklag.

I don’t know what David had hoped to accomplish in that battle. I imagine he probably would have turned on the Philistines. Maybe he dreamed of Saul seeing his hand in the battle’s success and finally welcoming him back in truth.

Whatever his hopes and feelings were, they didn’t play out. The door was shut, and he was sent back into Philistine territory – where, for all he knew, he’d be stuck for years and years.

But I think God had His reasons for closing that door. This was the battle in which Saul and Jonathan were to die. If David were there, maybe he would have died too! Or maybe he would have turned the tide of the battle so they didn’t die, contrary to what God willed. Or maybe if they had died and he had been there, he would have been overcome with remorse for not being able to save them. I can imagine all sorts of reasons. Whatever the case, God had other plans.

Chapter 30 lets us peep through the keyhole and understand why God may have shut that door.

The same day that David started trekking home, his city was ransacked by the Amalekites. All the women and children were captured, and all the possessions and livestock taken as spoil.

It wasn’t until three days later that David and his band got back to the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, and as can be imagined, just about everyone started to panic. Emotions were worked to a frenzy, and there was talk of revolt.

Dealing with personal grief over the capture of his own two wives, and hearing whispers of death threats against his own life, David was in great distress.

But unlike Saul, who turned to mediums in his distress, “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (30:6). What a beautiful statement.

David calls for the priest and asks of the LORD an extraordinary question: “Shall I go after the Amalekites? And will I defeat them if I do?”

Think for a moment about the weight of that question.

What if God had said “no”?

Would David have sat back and done nothing to save the captives?

I don’t know about you, but I find it amazing that in the midst of such a crisis, David stopped to ask God if he should do anything about it – opening himself to the possibility that he might get “no” for an answer. It is great trust that is willing to accept that possibility.

Thankfully for David, God didn’t say “no.” He said “go for it.”

Everyone packed up and headed out after the Amalekites. They were already exhausted from three days of traveling, and for all they knew, their loved ones might not even be alive anymore. In fact, they weren’t even quite sure where the Amalekites were! Their task seemed daunting indeed. It’s no wonder that before they had gotten too far, 200 men gave up in emotional and physical exhaustion. They camped out at the Brook Besor, while David and the remaining 400 kept on.

As they went, they found a young Egyptian sick in a field. The slave of one of the Amalekites, he had fallen ill and been left behind to die. Had David and his men been off fighting battles and not found him, perhaps he would have died. And had this young man not fallen sick and been left behind, perhaps the next part of the story wouldn’t have gone so well.

The young man, feeling no loyalty to his master, led David and his band to the Amalekites. David fought against them “from twilight until the evening of the next day” (30:17), all but wiping them out.

Every wife and child was restored to their husband and father, every possession was recovered, and even more spoils were taken on top of that, so that David and his men got back to Ziklag richer than ever before.

The shepherd had gone after his sheep, and not one was lost from his hand.

Grateful to God for his victory, David sent some of the spoil as gifts to all the cities and places where he and his band “were accustomed to rove” (30:31). Even to the 200 men who were too weary to continue, spoils were distributed – in spite of the protests of some “worthless” men who thought they deserved nothing.

 

This is the last time we see David in 1 Samuel. Apart from the fact that he’s still a double-agent outlaw in Philistine territory, it’s a rather happy ending for him. He has demonstrated himself a capable leader, a wise politician, and a God-fearing man. The LORD has preserved him and his family, protecting him for the purposes He has for him.

There may have been times when David wondered “Why?” After all, living as an outlaw was probably never on his mind when he dreamed about his future. He probably pictured himself living a comfortable life as a close associate of the king, until God saw fit to put him on the throne instead. And when that dream dissipated, I’m sure David had some questions. Why did God allow Saul to become jealous? Why didn’t God step in and bring justice quicker? Why couldn’t he go to the battle and soundly defeat those Philistines? Why did God allow the Amalekites to attack his city and carry away everything he owned and loved?

In spite of any or all of these questions, David continued to hold onto his faith in God. In good times and bad times, he trusted Him. When things weren’t going well, he surrendered to the LORD’s will, and when they were going well, he praised the LORD who had blessed him.

We may never know all of the “why’s” in David’s story, or in our own. But these chapters help to show us that there is a bigger picture than what we can immediately see. We can trust that God has a purpose and plan in everything, and we must be willing to surrender to His will – no matter what that will is.

I remember last year, as I stressed over whether I would find a job or not, this song came on the radio and was so encouraging, it nearly moved me to tears. It’s been in my mind again lately as I wonder what my future is going to look like – reminding me that God has always worked out everything for good, and so I can trust His will is always best.

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