By Brian Tubbs
Heavy smoke billowed from the smoldering remains of Ziklag as six hundred men wailed in agony. Their homes had been torched. Their families were gone. And their leader looked on with no words to comfort them.
That leader was David.
David never asked for any of this. A humble shepherd from a relatively obscure family in Bethlehem, David had actually been anointed king over Israel, though no one outside of his family and the deceased prophet Samuel knew it. When summoned by King Saul shortly afterward, David dutifully served as the king’s harp player and then armor-bearer, splitting his time between serving Saul and his own father, Jesse.
Then, he came face to face with a giant. And everything changed.
God gave him a great victory, but at times it probably seemed to David that answering God’s call and cooperating with God’s work only made him a target.
Following his victory over Goliath, David became a popular military leader and the son-in-law to the king. But Saul’s jealousy, paranoia, and hatred drove David into exile. Many followed. Soon, David led an army of about 600 men — the same men who were now sobbing and weeping over the loss of their families.
Where did things go so wrong?
David had sought sanctuary in the Negev region – in Philistine territory. But, tired of running from Saul, he eventually aligned himself with a prince of the Philistines. And he even decided to march with the Philistines against his own people!
The Bible never records an explicit realization on David’s part that his choices to first settle with (1 Samuel 27) and later march with the Philistines (1 Samuel 29) were wrong. Still, the Bible is clear that David made both decisions without consulting God and that he made those decisions in the context of worry and despair.
The Bible also records the Philistines themselves rejected David’s services and sent him home.
Home to Ziklag.
“So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam, the Jezreelitess, and Abigail, the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive” (I Samuel 30:3-5, NKJV).
Not only was David grieving for his men, but he was also despondent over the capture of his wives.
And things got even worse.
When the tears stopped and the men “had no more power to weep,” grief turned to anger. And soon, David himself was in danger.
“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (I Samuel 30:6, NKJV).
With his own heart grieved, his own life now in danger, and his back against the wall, David turned to the Lord. He “strengthened himself in the Lord.”
“Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, ‘Please bring the ephod here to me.’ And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?’ And He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all’ ” (I Samuel 30:7-8).
In obedience to God’s command and with faith in God’s promise, David and 400 of his men did just that. They caught up to the Amalekites, killed most of them, and recovered their families.
What are the lessons for us today?
There are times when people will come against you. Sometimes because of mistakes or bad choices you’ve made. Sometimes because of circumstances beyond your control. Indeed, sometimes people will come against you even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
Hard and challenging times, often full of enemies — that’s the price of ministry.
Serving God is rarely safe or comfortable.
But we always have the Lord. And when times are tough, we must strengthen ourselves in Him. We must seek His guidance, obey Him, and trust Him.
And even when we mess up, may our prayer always be as David’s prayer: “Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; you have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Psalm 27:9, NKJV).