(1 Samuel 30).
David had been chosen by the Lord to succeed Saul as king of Israel and had been anointed by the prophet Samuel when he was probably just a teenager (1 Samuel 16). But it would be several years until David would finally become king of all Israel. Though he became a mighty warrior and famous in Israel and the surrounding nations for the many victories the Lord gave him, for years he had to live as a fugitive on the run from king Saul. Saul was jealous of his popularity with the people and was determined to kill him.
David was the anointed of the Lord, the Lord was with him and gave him success in battle and honour among the people; he was destined to become the king of Israel and yet until Saul’s death he had to live as a fugitive moving from place to place, always trying to keep one step ahead. As disciples of Jesus Christ we too are the anointed of the Lord (1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27) but like David, that does not mean a life free from trouble. In fact Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33). Like David, our victory is assured in the end, (Psalm 112:8) but there are some lessons we can learn from the life of David to help us fight the battles we face and come out not just victorious but stronger than we were before!
God was with David; He kept him safe from Saul. Twice David was in a position to kill Saul (see 1 Samuel 24 and 1 Samuel 26) but he knew it was wrong to harm another anointed king (Saul had been anointed by the prophet Samuel, 1 Samuel 10:1); even though Saul was in rebellion against the Lord and God had chosen David to be king in his place, he recognised it was not up to him to take Saul’s life. Many years later David expressed this in a song of praise he wrote when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem:
1 Chronicles 16:22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” (see also Psalm 105:15)
We are also God’s anointed and God does not take it lightly when our enemies -which are not flesh and blood but demonic forces (Ephesians 6:12) - set out to harm us!
So David left Saul to God. But life for him was hard and eventually he became discouraged. Rather than reminding himself of God’s repeated deliverances and protection, David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” (1 Samuel 27:1). In his discouragement he made a decision that would later cause him and his men and all their families a great deal of distress. Rather than continue to live among God’s covenant people in Israel, he chose to live in the land of Israel’s enemies. And he lived in Philistine territory for sixteen months (1 Samuel 27:7).
A proverb written by Solomon, David’s son, tells us
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
David would learn from his mistakes and teach his son this important lesson never to make important decisions when discouraged, anxious or afraid. The consequences could be disastrous. And we also need to learn the same lesson. In the midst of difficulties we need to trust in God’s direction:
5Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
So at this time when his heart was unguarded, David offered himself to serve Achish, king of Gath, a Philistine ruler. Achish gave him the town of Ziklag to live in and David and his 600 men and their wives and families lived there (1 Samuel 27:6). Now back in Joshua’s day, Ziklag had been allotted to the tribe of Judah as part of their inheritance (Joshua 15:31). However at the time David went to live there it was Philistine territory. Yet even now God was gracious to David. Ziklag became his land without a battle and thereafter continued to belong to the kings of Judah. In our times of discouragement God remains faithful to us and to His promises.
So what was the disaster at Ziklag that left David and his men in such distress?
David had been called upon by Achish to fight with him and the other Philistine rulers against Israel, so leaving their wives and families behind in Ziklag, David and his men went with Achish, king of Gath, to a place named Aphek where the other Philistine rulers had assembled with their forces. However these other rulers didn’t trust that David, a Hebrew, wouldn’t turn against them in battle so they refused to let him join them against Israel and demanded that Achish send him back to Ziklag. Thank God that He can even use our enemies to keep us from entering battles that we were never meant to fight!
But when David and his men returned to Ziklag (a three day journey) they found it had been raided by the Amalekites and burned to the ground. All of their wives and families and livestock had been taken alive as plunder. David’s willingness to align himself and his men with the enemies of Israel had left their families unprotected and open to attack. But God had preserved them. Now David and his men wept till they had no strength left to weep. His men were so bitter against him that they even wanted to stone him. But now David did what he should have done sixteen months earlier: he found strength in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6)!
When discouragement takes root it can cause us to wander away from God. We may even live among His enemies for a while and leave ourselves open to attack but still God is with us; He preserves us and He is ready to strengthen us again as soon as we turn back to Him.
After he strengthened himself in the Lord, David inquired of the Lord. When we come under attack and the enemy has stolen from us, even if it is our own fault because we have wandered from God and given the enemy the opportunity, we need to do what David did and strengthen ourselves in the Lord. Then we need to ask Him what we should do. God never, ever withdraws from us and is always ready to strengthen us and speak to us (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is always the enemy that takes the opportunity to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus wants to give us life to the full (John 10:10).
In this case, God told David to pursue the raiding party and rescue their families. There are different ways God instructs us to fight battles. Sometimes it is purely by resting in Him and praising Him (see how Jehoshaphat faced his battle, 2 Chronicles 20). At other times we need to pursue our enemy and take back what’s ours! Either way, God will give us success so we fight from a position of victory rather than uncertainty.
David and his 600 men went in pursuit of the Amalekite raiders but when they came to the Besor Valley, 200 of his men were too exhausted to go on so they stayed behind while David and the rest of the 400 crossed the valley. Besor comes from the Hebrew word “basar”, which means “good news”. David and his men had to go through the Valley of “Good News” to face their enemy and get back their families. The men who were too exhausted to go on stayed at the valley. Jesus is our “good news” and whatever battles we face, we will be victorious when we “go through” Jesus and the victory He won for us at the cross. But as we will see, even those men who stayed behind at the Valley of Good News also shared in the victory. Today if you are too tired to fight, make camp in the good news of what Jesus has done for you!
So David and the 400 remaining men crossed over the Besor Valley and found an Egyptian, who was an Amalekite slave who had taken part in the raid on Ziklag. His master had abandoned him when he’d become ill. This slave hadn’t eaten or drunk for three days but David gave him food and water and he was revived. God will have mercy, receive and revive even those who have been slaves of His enemies. God used this Egyptian slave to lead David right to the enemy camp. Sometimes those who have attacked us become a part of our future success.
When David found the Amalekites, they were partying and revelling in their success: in their raids upon the Philistines and Judah they had taken a great deal of plunder. David and his men fought them for over 24 hours. Not one of them escaped except 400 young men who rode off on camels- David’s men had been clearly outnumbered but yet God gave them victory. Not only did they recover all of their families unharmed but also all the rest of the plunder the Amalekites had stolen. When we go against our enemies in the way God instructs, we will always come out of the battle stronger than we started!
As they returned to Ziklag with their families and all the flocks and herds they had recovered they came back to the Besor Valley. Once again, David reflected the heart of Jesus when he asked the men who had stayed behind how they were! Whilst some of the 400 fighting men (who were described as the evil men and troublemakers) didn’t want these 200 to share in the plunder, David knew the victory had come from the Lord and the blessings were to be shared by everyone, even those who had been too tired to fight. So David made it a rule that “the share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” This is the heart of God.
Today if the enemy has stolen from you and you are facing a battle to take back what’s yours, strengthen yourself in the Lord, inquire of Him as to the winning strategy and through the good news of Jesus’ victory on the cross, you will be able to fight and win the battle ahead. The weapons we fight with however are not the weapons of the world; our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds, (2 Corinthians 10:4). No, we fight with the power of God, with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left (2 Corinthians 6:7), with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God and by praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17-18)! Our righteousness is a free gift that we receive from Jesus (Romans 5:17), not something we have earned and we use this gift as a weapon against our enemy Satan when he tries to accuse us, condemn us and make us feel guilty for our past mistakes or when he tells us we don’t deserve God’s deliverance!
But even if you are too exhausted to fight, remain in the good news of Jesus and you WILL share in the fruits of victory. David, the anointed shepherd king, represents Jesus, our true Shepherd King; just as David and his 400 men fought on behalf of themselves and the exhausted 200 who stayed at the Besor Valley, ask Jesus to fight on your behalf and you will share in the spoils of battle and come out better off than you were before!
Finally David was generous with his plunder and he sent gifts to the elders of Judah who were his friends. Anywhere he and his men had roamed, he sent gifts. In the same way it is wise for us to be generous and bless those in our lives who have been a blessing to us.
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You won the victory for us when you went to the cross and defeated all the forces of darkness. Thank You that You strengthen us for the battles we face and that You equip us with weapons of righteousness and the Word of God. And thank You that if we are too tired to fight today, You will go out and fight on our behalf.
Thank You that victory is certain and in You, we are more than conquerors. Amen.