This week, we looked at how David handles an attack by the Amalekites on his people. 1 Samuel 30 opens with David and his men coming upon Ziklag, a Philistine outpost where he and his men have been hiding from Saul. When they get there, they discover that the city has been burned down and all of their families and possessions were gone, stolen by raiding Amalekites.
How could this happen? David is out trying to defeat Philistines, doing God’s work. Let’s look a little at what David was doing that kept him away from protecting his family. In chapter 29, we find David was in a year-long ploy to double-cross the Philistines. He had been hiding among them, and they were about to attack Saul. David offers to go into battle with them, all the while planning to double-cross them. The advisors to the Philistine leader express that they think it is a bad idea to bring David and his men with them, so David is sent away. It seemed like such a great plan, but it was all for naught. Why?
Remember that Saul is a type of the law, while David is a type of grace. There are also a few other important types to understand. In the Old Testament, Egypt is a type for the world, the Philistines a type for our sin, and the Amalekites a type for unprovoked attack. Law and grace do not mix. You cannot battle sin with a mix of law and grace. You can’t succeed in defeating sin with law, and you cannot do it mixing grace with some law.
David is prevented from going into battle against the Philistines in conjunction with Saul. That actually never happened in the story of these two kings, they never went into battle together against Philistines. While David was out trying to do something that was outside of his purpose – specifically attempting a futile battle against “sin,” the Amalekites attack. This was an unprovoked attack. Have you ever been cruising along and felt like you were attacked for no reason? I have always taught that there are three sources of trouble in life. There is certainly our sin that produces trouble. Sometimes the enemy is attacking. The third is “Amalekite” attacks, those troubles we face simply because the world is a mess, and other people do things that make a mess for us.
When David and his men see what has happened, it says that they wept until they could weep no more. All of their strength was gone. I know we have all been there before. The book of Psalms records David’s struggles in dealing with the troubles in life. He often asks God “what gives?” That is my paraphrase, of course. God knows we are human and that we get tired and frustrated with the things that happen in life sometimes. In the Psalms, we frequently see how David moves from that emotion to confidence and victory by reminding himself of how big God is and what He had done in the past.
David does the same here. His life was at a low point. Since he was anointed to be the next king, the current king sought to kill him and now he had lost his family. If that was not bad enough, now David’s men, in their frustration, want to kill him. Instead of doing what condemnation would do – which is recount all the ways in which he may have failed that caused this turn of events, he “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” That is the first step. After we’ve cried it all out and dealt with the emotion, we need to find strength in the Lord. That will only happen when we have a revelation of grace. We must know that, by the blood of Jesus, we deserve God to strengthen us.
David did not do what we so often do – make an emotional decision to take revenge on the Amalekites. It would have satisfied his emotions and might have appeased his men who wanted to kill him. Instead he found strength in God and then went right to God’s presence to inquire of God what to do next. He goes to the priest and says, “bring me the ephod.” The ephod was a priestly garment made of precious metals and gems. In its center was a breastplate that was used in seeking God’s direction for the people. David was not a priest. He had no business under the law being near the ephod, but he needed to talk to God and saw the law as no obstacle.
David took a breath, let the emotions cool down and asked God what to do. We would have so much less trouble if we would follow that model. God tells him that he will be successful if he attacks the Amalekites. Ultimately, David does successfully attack and recover all that was lost including all of their family members and all the plunder that the raiders had taken from other Philistine camps.
How powerful we can be in this world to redeem it for God’s kingdom if we will walk in the grace He has given us!