by Allan Knapp
1 Samuel 30:1–6
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
This is one of the darkest periods of David’s life. One of the clues of this is that none of his Psalms were written during this time. In the prior chapters of 1 Samuel, David and his outlaw band had found a location where King Saul would not chase him – he had become a lying semi-vassal of the Philistine king Achish, quartered in the town of Ziklag. He and his men would destroy enemies of Israel and convince Achish that all the plunder had come from attacks on Israelite settlements. He had lived the lie long enough that he seemed to want to join the Philistine army in their battle with Saul’s troops. He was disappointed when the other Philistine commanders would not allow him to join the conflict on their side. From our view of history, we see that it was a great mercy to David that the Philistines sent him away – how could he have become King of Israel if he had fought against Saul, when several times David had refused to harm the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:6, 9, 11).
David and his men returned to Ziklag and were chagrined to find it destroyed and all their people and possessions stolen. Just imagine what David was facing. He had cried his eyes out and his “friends” were speaking of throwing rocks at him. Big rocks. Killing rocks. The future king had hit rock bottom (so to speak). The stoners were “bitter in soul,” but David, although greatly distressed, reacted differently. The turning point is there in verse 6 – “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” At that moment, David sought the LORD (literally, using the Ephod). His God had him rally his troops to pursue the attackers, defeat the enemy, recapture all the people and possessions, and then share the extra bounty with all, even those whose fatigue had kept them from the battle. From that turning point on, he acted much more like a future king.
David’s situation upon returning to Ziklag is not unlike the mournful monologue in Lamentations 3. Therein, Jeremiah says he has experienced affliction, darkness, wasting skin, bitterness, tribulation, chains, desolation, wounds, and worst of all, he had to grind his teeth on gravel. Nevertheless, he famously remembers in verse 21, “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: ‘The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’”
You may have had, maybe are in, or maybe will have a season of despair or discouragement. You may have been overcome with malaise. Hold on to David’s and Jeremiah’s examples – turn to the Lord, strengthen yourself in the Lord, call to mind who the Lord is. And maybe sing this simple familiar tune to help you remember:
♪Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glorious grace. ♬