Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 30:1-10. (ZIKLAG.)1 Chronicles 12:20) rendered him valuable service. But his hope was not in man; and instead of resigning himself to despair (like Saul), he was impelled by his distress and deprivation of human help to seek help in God alone. "The long misery of the first stage of his public career seems to have reached its culminating point. When things are at the worst, as the common proverb says, they must mend. And from that moment when he believingly cast all his dependence upon the Lord his God only, whom he had found faithful in all his promises, and whose providence had never failed him in his deepest dangers, from that moment he was safe, from that moment he was prosperous" (Kitto). Concerning the confidence in God which he exhibited (therein setting an eminent example to others), observe that -
I. IT SPRINGS OUT OF CONSCIOUS HELPLESSNESS. Few men have an adequate conviction of their own helplessness; and one aim of the Divine discipline is to produce it. "When I am weak," said Paul, "then am I strong" - when I feel my utter weakness under the pressure of trial, then I am constrained to depend on the Lord, and become imbued with his strength (2 Corinthians 12:10). In the exercise of "the same spirit of faith" others "out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens" (Hebrews 11:34). True faith and spiritual power have their foundation amidst the "dust and ashes" of self-abasement and self-distrust. Confidence in God began to revive in David when Ziklag was reduced to ashes. The same thing is often occasioned in others by means of -
1. Sudden and severe bereavement; wife and children, it may be, taken away with a stroke.
2. The failure of cherished plans and purposes; the loss of property through robbery by men or accidents by fire or flood, the breakdown of health, the disappointment of long expectation.
3. The falling away of friends; their unreasonable anger and bitter reproaches. It must have been peculiarly painful to David to bear the mutiny of his own men, to witness the selfishness of many of them (ver. 22), and to learn what little confidence could be put in man (Psalm 146:3). He was left almost alone.
4. The upbraiding of conscience for past sin. Trouble is a powerful means of bringing sin to remembrance (1 Kings 17:18).
5. The threatening of danger; the presence of "the king of terrors" (Job 18:14).
6. The lack of wisdom and power to deliver from distress. When we become fully aware of our utter helplessness, two courses lie open before us - either to sink into despair or to cast ourselves wholly upon God. That the latter may be taken trial is sent; it is taken by him whose heart is in the main right with God, and it is never taken in vain.
II. IT LAYS HOLD OF ALL-SUFFICIENT HELP. "When David could not comfort him self in his wives, nor his children, nor his goods, nor in anything under the sun, he could in something above the sun. And the reason is at hand: God is the God of all consolation, the spring of comfort; if any water, it is in the sea; if any light, it is in the sun; if any comfort, it is in God - there it rests, there it is when nowhere else. God is all-sufficient; there the heart finds every want supplied, every good thing lodged. As God is all-sufficient to furnish us with all necessaries, so infinite in power, wisdom, goodness to help us against all evils feared or felt" (R. Harris). Faith strengthens the soul by uniting it to God and making it partaker of his strength. It has respect to -
"Hope, said I,
2. His intimate relationship to his people. "Jehovah his God."
3. His past doings on their behalf. When David formerly fell into despondency (ch. 27.) he seems to have forgotten all these, and failed to receive the encouragement which they were adapted to impart. But now he remembered them and "took courage."
4. His faithful promises. "The free expressions of his goodness and beneficence," the unchangeable assurances of his almighty help in time of need. "The mistake we make is to look for a source of consolation in ourselves; self-contemplation instead of gazing upon God. He is not affected by our mutability, our changes do not alter him. When we are restless he remains serene and calm; when we are low, selfish, mean, or dispirited he is still the unalterable I AM. What God is in himself, not what we may chance to feel him in this or that moment to be, that is our hope" (Robertson).
III. IT MAKES USE OF APPROPRIATE MEANS. "He encouraged (strengthened) himself," etc. by -
1. Repressing fear and unbelief. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?"
2. Directing the thoughts toward God, the ever-present, invisible, eternal Protector of his servants, and stirring up the heart to renewed trust in him. "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?" (Psalm 118:6; Psalm 121:1).
3. Inquiring of the Lord. "And David said to Abiathar," etc. (vers. 7, 8). He sought him as he had not done on the previous occasion; sought him in a right spirit, and therefore (unlike Saul) received an answer: - "Pursue, for thou shalt surely overtake and deliver." He was thereby further strengthened. His confidence, moreover, was expressed and perfected in -
4. Obeying the will of the Lord (vers. 9, 10), and cooperating toward the fulfilment of his promise. Despondency led him to flee from difficulty and danger, but faith and hope incited him to go into their midst, and made him "as bold as a lion." "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
IV. IT IS CROWNED WITH COMPLETE SUCCESS. By the help obtained of God fear is removed, strength renewed, and confidence inspired (ver. 9). After a brief delay and some untoward events by which faith is still further tested (ver. 10) -
1. The object which is sought is providentially discovered (ver. 11).
2. The enemy is completely defeated (ver. 17).
3. That which has been lost is recovered (ver. 19).
4. Much more than has been expected is gained (ver. 20). A few days after David's own people were about to stone him on the ruins of Ziklag the royal crown was laid at his feet. Observations: -
1. When good men transgress they must expect to be "chastened of the Lord," and wicked men are sometimes used as a rod for the purpose.
2. The wickedness of the wicked is mercifully restrained (ver. 2), often turns to the benefit of those whom they seek to injure, and returns upon their own heads.
3. The chief purpose of chastisement is to bring men to God in humility, penitence, submission, and trust, and prepare them for future service and exaltation.
4. The difference in the effects of calamity upon men (as upon Saul and David) manifests the difference of their character.
5. The more heavily trouble presses upon men, the more closely should they cling to God, that it may be rightly borne and accomplish its intended moral end.
6. God never disappoints the confidence of his children, but fulfils his promises to them more richly than they dare to hope. - D.
I. CORRECTION. David, being a true but faulty child of God, was corrected by the rod. Quickly fell stroke after stroke. First he had to bear the galling scorn and suspicion of the Philistine lords. This was all he had gained by cajoling their king. Next he had to see Ziklag plundered and burnt. This was all he had gained by attacking the Amalekites and concealing the deed. Next, and in some respects most trying of all, he saw the loyalty of his own followers swept away in their passionate grief. "The people spake of stoning him." This was all he had gained by all his unworthy devices to save his own life. All refuge failed him. So God in loving kindness scourges his children now when they have faltered in faith, and, mistrusting his defence, have betaken themselves to some Ziklag, some position unworthy of them. Their new confidences reject them, and they have to sit like David in dust and ashes.
II. ITS HAPPY ISSUE. Faith revived. When all refuge failed him, David returned to his Divine stronghold. "He encouraged himself in Jehovah his God." Mark the contrast with Saul. When that unhappy king was stricken he departed from God more and more, hardened his heart in pride, found no place of repentance, and at last betook himself to unhallowed and forbidden arts. So we find Saul passing from gloom into thicker and blacker shadow, while David emerges into the sunshine. Such is the happy experience of many of the children of God. Faith revives in distress, and darkness turns to light. This, too, as the New Testament teaches us, always by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, reviving childlike trust rekindling holy courage. The way in which David's recovered faith wrought in him is full of instruction for us.
1. Revived faith rests on the Divine word of promise. David had let the promise of the kingdom made to him through Samuel slip from his mind when he began to despair of his life; and it is remarkable that he gave way to this fear at a time when there was a lull in the persecution directed against him. But when real danger was upon him, when he had lost all, and his own followers turned against him, his faith again caught hold of the Divine promise. He could not die then and there, for the purpose of the Lord must stand, the word of the Lord must be fulfilled. Now those who believe in Christ have the promise of eternal life in him. In hours of relaxed diligence they perhaps let it slip; but under real pressure faith revives and grasps the promise again. They shall not perish. They may be humbled and distressed, and they will acknowledge that they have brought this on themselves; but they are persuaded that he is faithful who promised, and so will not cast them off. He has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee;" so that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper."
2. Revived faith takes to prayer and to diligent effort. The first thing which David did was to inquire of God. Faith restored always acts thus. Rising against discouragement, it is sure that God can turn darkness into light, loss into gain, death into life, and simply asks for direction. "What shall I do? Shall I sit still, or shall I move? Shall I pursue?" There are trials and dangers in which the only wise course is to be quite patient and passive; the "strength is to sit still." When Daniel was cast to the lions his faith was shown in not struggling with the wild beasts, but sitting among them calm and still till rescue came at break of day. So may a Christian fall into a den of troubles out of which no effort of his own can bring him up; and his faith is shown in prayer and waiting on God, who is able to send his angel to minister to the weak and protect the helpless. Those whose faith has not failed at all may do more than pray - may sing praises, as Paul and Silas did in the dark dungeon. Other cases there are, and more frequent, in which prayer should be promptly followed by active exertion. David did not ask the Lord to work a miracle, or send angels, to restore to him what the Amalekites had taken. It was possible for him and his men to pursue, overtake, and defeat the spoilers. So he asked the Lord whether he should pursue; and receiving the Divine command to do so, he addressed himself at once to the pursuit, and obtained a splendid success. Such is the energetic action of revived faith. Difficulties go down before its resolutions, and lost things come back to him who boldly pursues. Tears of defeat are turned into songs of victory. The troubles that afflict the people of God are to a large extent chastisements for unbelief or unfaithfulness. At the time they are not joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward they yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby. Such are sufferings in sympathy with David. But to some extent those troubles are in sympathy with and for the sake of the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. In such a case we have the comfort that
"Christ leads us through no darker rooms
1 Samuel 30:11-20. (SOUTH OF THE BROOK BESOR.)
I. ABANDONED BY HIS MASTER with -
1. Indifference and contempt. His worth as a man created in the image of God was disregarded (as is generally the case in the odious institution of slavery). He was treated as the absolute property of his master, "an animated tool" (Aristotle), and when deemed no longer useful, thrown away.
2. Injustice. Every claim in return for his services was ignored. He was entirely at the mercy of his master, and unprotected by any law (such as existed among the Hebrews).
3. Inhumanity. "My master left me three days agone because I fell sick" (ver. 13). He might have been easily carried forward on one of the camels (ver. 17), but the Amalekites were hard and cruel, and he was left to perish with hunger or to be devoured by wild beasts. "He that is higher than the highest regardeth" (Ecclesiastes 5:8), and the meanest slave cannot be despised and neglected with impunity.
II. BEFRIENDED BY STRANGERS (vers. 11, 12).
1. Out of compassion and desire to save his life by every means in their power.
2. In fulfilment of the law of God, which required that kindness should be shown to the poor, the stranger, and the slave. "Love ye therefore the stranger, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:19; Deuteronomy 23:7, 15, 16).
3. With appreciation of the service he might render (ver. 15). The more helpless any one is, the more urgent his claim to assistance; yet no one is so helpless but that he may be capable of requiting the kindness shown to him. Slavery among the Hebrews differed widely from slavery among other ancient and modern peoples (1 Samuel 25:10; Ewald, Ginsburg, 'Ecclesiastes,' p. 283; 'Ecce Homo'). "By Christianising the master the gospel enfranchised the slave. It did not legislate about mere names and forms, but it went to the root of the evil, it spoke to the heart of man. When the heart of the master was filled with Divine grace and was warmed with the love of Christ the rest would soon follow. The lips would speak kind words, the hands would do liberal things" (Wordsworth, 'Com. on Philemon').
III. SERVICEABLE TO HIS BENEFACTORS.
1. From gratitude for the benefit received. No human heart is wholly insensible to the power of kindness.
2. Under a solemn assurance of protection. After his abandonment by his master he could have no scruple concerning his right to his continued service, if any such right ever existed; but experience had made him fearful and suspicious of men, and therefore he said, "Swear unto me by God," etc. (ver. 15). He had a sense of religion, and believed that Divine justice would avenge the violation of an oath, though it should be taken to a slave.
3. With efficient and faithful performance of his engagements. He not only gave David the information he sought, but guided him to the camp of the enemy, and contributed to a result which repaid him a hundredfold (ver. 18).
IV. PRESERVED AND EMPLOYED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE, which -
2. Often makes use of the feeblest instrumentality for the chastisement of the "wicked in great power."
3. And for the promotion of the welfare of the people of God, and the establishment of his kingdom. What a rich harvest may spring from a single act of kindness toward even the most despised!
"He prayeth well who loveth well
1 Samuel 30:21-31. (THE BROOK BESOR, ZIKLAG.)
1. Considerate sympathy with the faint and weary who had been disabled from taking an active part in the conflict. "He saluted them" (ver. 21). As he had not previously urged them beyond their strength, so now he exhibited a kindly interest in them, and a marked respect toward them. His heart was not lifted up by success. They had "done what they could," and formed part of his following. "They also serve who only stand and wait."
2. Strenuous resistance to the arrogant, selfish, and unjust procedure of some of his followers (ver. 22). "Rough, wild men were many among them, equally depressed in the day of adversity, and recklessly elated and insolent in prosperity. Nor is it merely the discipline which David knew how to maintain in such a band that shows us 'the skilfulness of his hands' in guiding them, but the gentleness with which he dealt with them, and above all the earnest piety with which he knew how to tame their wild passions, prove the spiritual 'integrity' or 'perfectness of his heart'" (Edersheim). The spirit which these "wicked and worthless men" displayed is sometimes found even in the Church of Christ, and requires to be met with firm and uncompromising opposition (1 Peter 5:9).
3. Devout recognition of the hand of God, in bestowing whatever good is possessed, preserving from harm, and delivering from dangerous adversaries. "Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us," etc. (ver. 23). "Man could not boast of his own merit in obtaining these possessions" (Ewald). They were a gift of God, and should be used for his honour and the good of all. There is a higher law than that of self-interest. Men are only "stewards" (not absolute owners) of property, ability, time, influence, etc., and as such it behove, them to "be found faithful." "Freely ye have received, freely give."
4. Equitable distribution. "And who will hearken unto you in this matter?" etc. (vers. 24, 25). The course proposed was as contrary to the common convictions of men concerning what is reasonable and just as to the benevolent purpose of God. "The equity of this law appears from hence - that by common consent these 200 men were left behind to look after the baggage; were part of the same body of men, linked together in the same common society; hindered by mere weariness from going to fight, which otherwise they would have done; their will was accepted for the deed; and they were in the same common danger, for if the 400 had been routed their enemies would have soon cut them off" (Patrick). "The members should have the same care one for another" (1 Corinthians 12:25).
5. Grateful acknowledgment of friendly aid during his "wanderings in the wilderness." "He sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, his friends," etc. (vers. 26-31). They had suffered from Amalekite raids, but it was not to make restitution for their losses so much as to testify his gratitude and strengthen their attachment. His victory enabled him to display a princely munificence. It is a remarkable proof of the grateful nature of David, and his fidelity to his early friendships, as well as a curious instance of undesigned coincidence, that we find among those employed by David in offices of trust in the height of his power so many inhabitants of those obscure places where he found friends in the days of his early difficulties" ('Sp. Com.').
6. Commendable policy - wise, generous, patriotic, and religious. "Behold a present" (blessing, gift) "for you of the spoil of the enemies of Jehovah." The elders of Judah and others looked to him as their future theocratic ruler. He himself felt that the time of patient waiting was nearly gone, and the time of active effort for the fulfilment of the Divine purpose concerning him well nigh come, if, indeed, the tidings of the death of Saul had not already reached him. He also foresaw that he must look for his chief support in his own tribe, and adopted the best method of securing it. "Piety without policy is too simple to be safe; policy without piety is too subtle to be good." "This was already a royal act in vivid anticipation of his impending accession to the throne. Already the crown of Israel was unmistakably though dimly visible above his head" (Krummacher). "Whilst Saul's star sinks in the north, the star of David rises in the south, and there begins the long line of fulfilments of the prophecy concerning the Star that should come out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17) (Erdmann). - D.