Turning Back to God

David has run from God again. This time, his rebellion against God has caused him to betray his own moral convictions and stand as a traitor against Israel, the nation he was chosen to lead and through which God’s throne will be established within God’s creation. God worked together the fear of the Philistine commanders to deter David from committing a worse sin than he has already committed and from leading those who follow him into the same sin. David and his army are now returning to Ziklag in Philistia.

What are the results when God’s elect give-in to their self-interest or self-will, rebel against God, and oppose God’s plan and chosen people?

1 Samuel 30:1-20

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; 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.

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. Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. 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.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David.

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.

So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those left behind remained. But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor remained behind. Now they found an Egyptian in the field and brought him to David, and gave him bread and he ate, and they provided him water to drink. They gave him a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins, and he ate; then his spirit revived. For he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights.

David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man of Egypt, a servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind when I fell sick three days ago. We made a raid on the Negev of the Cherethites, and on that which belongs to Judah, and on the Negev of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.”

Then David said to him, “Will you bring me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring you down to this band.”

When he had brought him down, behold, they were spread over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing because of all the great spoil that they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives. But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back. So David had captured all the sheep and the cattle which the people drove ahead of the other livestock, and they said, “This is David’s spoil.”

Divine discipline (v. 1-6)

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; 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.

The plunder of David’s village in Philistia is the direct consequence of David’s, and his army’s, sin. We have seen what it means to base our actions on what we perceive the future may hold—to act in accordance with our worries and envy and by our own perceptions and assumptions. David and his people fled from Israel because they feared what the future might have held. Because they were seeking self-interest rather than God, they are in a worse circumstance than they probably would have been if they had simply followed after God’s interests. In trying to avoid a certain future possibility, David caused a similar reality to that which he was trying to avoid. It’s like those movies in which someone is made aware of how and when he will die. By trying to avoid his death, he causes it to come about in precisely the manner it was foretold.

Notice, also, that the Amalekites treated David’s people better than David treated the Amalekites he plundered earlier in the narrative (Cf. 27:8ff). While David killed every villager, the Amalekites did not. Sometimes God’s elect act more wretched than His enemies. We are reminded that neither our good works nor piety impress God. God is interested in revealing His righteousness and His kingdom, not ours. You might ask, “Why do some non-Christians seem to do so many more good things than some Christians?” First, we must wonder why we have defined goodness the way we have. Second, God does not build His kingdom upon our works but His. That is why He can have mercy on those He has mercy. For, if He built His kingdom upon our works, He would have no kingdom and we would all be damned.

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. Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. 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.

David’s men see and feel the consequences of their own sin and rebellion. They place all the blame on David. They are embittered and are about to stone David. David, seeing the consequences of his own sin and being blamed for everyone else’s, is greatly distressed. He can’t turn to the men who became his family for comfort because they all, in a moment, decided to stand against him. If David is to find any comfort, strength, or resolve, his only option is God. Doesn’t God have a funny way of working things together, even our sin, to focus our attention on Him? God sweeps everything David is standing upon for his own security out from under his feet. David, being made hopeless and helpless, can only find his strength in the God of his salvation. 

As people, we are fickle creatures. As soon as something goes wrong according to our perception and interpretation of things, we are quick to turn on others—especially our leaders and people we have called friends and brothers. After all, it is easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye and cast blame than it is to take responsibility and repent. If you don’t believe me, simply consider how quickly people turn to devour their presidents and governors and pastors as soon as they see anything they don’t like. How quickly do children act with hatred toward their parents when they are disciplined or don’t want to do something? How quickly do we pounce when someone else identifies with a different political party or does something some way other than we would? People are so people(ish); We are fickle creatures. Instead of being slow to speak and quick to listen (Cf. James 1:19), David’s men were quick to react to something and slow to seek understanding and guidance. God uses the fickle nature of David’s men to distress David; and David finds his breaking point. As a result, David will lead Israel to God as God establishes His own throne within His creation.

Divine direction (v. 7-15)

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David.
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.
So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those left behind remained. But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor remained behind. Now they found an Egyptian in the field and brought him to David, and gave him bread and he ate, and they provided him water to drink. They gave him a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins, and he ate; then his spirit revived. For he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights.
David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man of Egypt, a servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind when I fell sick three days ago. We made a raid on the Negev of the Cherethites, and on that which belongs to Judah, and on the Negev of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.”
Then David said to him, “Will you bring me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring you down to this band.”

David takes the priestly garment, the ephod, and finally seeks after God’s will instead of his own. God promises David victory and provides information about where the Amalekites are through an Egyptian—formerly a slave to the Amalekites. The Amalekites had not only plundered Ziklag, but several other villages as well.

David’s repentance is not recorded for us in the text. David does, however, bear the fruit of repentance. This is one of the differences we have seen between David and Saul; David turns to seek after God’s kingdom and righteousness, and Saul only ever seeks after his own. There are times when God will discipline us by handing us over to the consequences of our sin. In His divine providence, He removes His hand from holding back the wrath we have incurred for ourselves. Upon our repentance, He leads us again in His own righteousness instead of our own. God does not only discipline His children, He directs them according to His own plan for their good. Discipline without direction is punishment. Punishment could only achieve penance if there was such a thing. God does not desire penance (us paying for our wrongs by way of retribution). He desires repentance (our resting in His grace by faith).

Divine restoration (v. 16-20)

When he had brought him down, behold, they were spread over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing because of all the great spoil that they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives. But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back. So David had captured all the sheep and the cattle which the people drove ahead of the other livestock, and they said, “This is David’s spoil.”

The Amalekites enjoy the plenty they plundered on their campaign. With the men who are able, about 400 in number, David slaughters the Amalekites for almost two days—leaving only 400 alive, which means the Amalekites greatly outnumber David’s force. Admittedly, the Amalekite army is probably under the influence of the wine they plundered during their campaign. Everything the Amalekites took from David is restored in good condition, and David probably has more now than he had before.

After the pain of God’s discipline, He restores His favor and sanctifies His people for Himself—qualifying them for the roles He has for each one in His kingdom. For the elect, there are valleys of discipline and mountains of spiritual prosperity. Live in each season, being aware that God is perspicuously working both seasons together for the good of His chosen people.


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