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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-samuel-30.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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DAVID RESCUES HIS WIVES FROM THE AMALEKITES (1 Samuel 30:1-31).
DAVID UPON HIS RETURN FINDS ZIKLAG BURNT BY THE AMALEKITES (1 Samuel 30:1-6).
1 Samuel 30:1
On the third day. David evidently could not have gone with the Philistines As far as to Shunem; for, as noticed in the previous chapter, it would have been impossible to march back to Ziklag in so short a time. But as he had gone first to Gath, where no doubt Achish collected his vassals, and then marched northwards with the army for two days, he must altogether have been absent from Ziklag for some little time. The Amalelkites. Doubtless they were glad to retaliate upon David for his cruel treatment of them; but, besides, they lived by rapine, and when the fighting men of Philistia and of Judaea were marching away to war, it was just the opportunity which they wished of spoiling the defenceless country. The south. I.e. the Negeb, for which see 1 Samuel 27:10. It was the name especially given to the southern district of Judah, whence these freebooters turned westward towards Ziklag. They would probably not dare to penetrate far into either territory. The word for invaded is the same as in 1 Samuel 27:8, and implies that they spread themselves over the country to drive off cattle and booty, but with no intention of fighting battles.
1 Samuel 30:2-5
They slew not any. No resistance was made, as the men of war were all away. It was probably for thus leaving their wives and families absolutely defenceless that David's people were so angry with him. As we are told in 1 Samuel 27:3 that the refugees with David had brought each his household with him into the Philistine territory, the number of women must have been large. The Amalekites spared their lives, not because they were more merciful than David, but because women and children were valuable as slaves. All the best would be picked out, and sent probably to Egypt for sale.
1 Samuel 30:6
The soul of all the people was grieved. Hebrew, "was bitter." Their great sorrow is pathetically described in 1 Samuel 30:4. But, as is often the case with those in distress, from grief they turned to anger, and sought relief for their feelings by venting their rage upon the innocent. Possibly David had not taken precautions against a danger which he had not apprehended; but, left almost friendless in the angry crowd who were calling out to stone him, he encouraged himself in Jehovah, his God. Literally, "strengthened himself in Jehovah, and summoned the priest to ask counsel and guidance of God by the ephod.
DAVID'S PURSUIT OF THE AMALEKITES (1 Samuel 30:7-16).
1 Samuel 30:7, 1 Samuel 30:8
Looking only to Jehovah for aid, David sends for Abiathar, who seems to have remained constantly with him, and bids him consult Jehovah by the Urim. In strong contrast to the silence which surrounds Saul (1 Samuel 28:6), the answer is most encouraging. Literally it is, "Pursue; for overtaking thou shalt overtake, and delivering thou shalt deliver."
1 Samuel 30:9, 1 Samuel 30:10
Having obtained this favourable answer, David starts in pursuit with his old band of 600 men. So rapid was his march that one third of these dropped out of the ranks, so that the newcomers from Manasseh would have been useless, nor had they lost wives or children. The brook (or rather "torrent") Besor practically remains unidentified, as the site of Ziklag is unknown; but possibly it is the Wady-es-Sheriah, which runs into the sea a little to the south of Gaza. As there was water here, those that were left behind stayed. Hebrew, "the stragglers stayed." It seems also to have been wide enough to cause some difficulty in crossing, as it is said that these 200 were too faint, or tired, to go over the torrent Besor. From verse 24 we find that David also left with them as much as possible of his baggage. Stragglers had no doubt been falling out for some time, but would here be rallied, and obtain rest and refreshment.
1 Samuel 30:11, 1 Samuel 30:12
An Egyptian, the slave, as we read in 1 Samuel 30:13, of some Amalekite, left in the field, in the open common, to perish. He had become faint and could not travel as fast as they did, and so was left behind with no supplies of food, for he had eaten nothing for three days and three nights. The Amalekites had thus a start of at least this time, or even more, as this slave would probably have carried some food away with him from Ziklag.
1 Samuel 30:13
To whom belongest thou? As he was probably unarmed, and his garb that of a slave, David asks who is his owner and what his country. He learns from him besides that he was left behind three days ago because he fell sick. The word does not imply more than temporary faintness, and is that translated sorry in 1 Samuel 22:8. But his life was of too little value for them to mount him on a camel, or even to leave with him supplies of food, and so their inhumanity led to their destruction.
1 Samuel 30:14
The Cherethites. The interest in this people arises from David's bodyguard having been composed of foreigners bearing the name of Cherethim and Pelethim. We here find the Cherethim inhabiting the southern portion of the land of the Philistines, and such was still the case in the days of Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:5, and compare Ezekiel 25:16). As David retained Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:6), he appears to have chosen the men who were to guard his person from this neighbourhood, having probably been struck by their stature and martial bearing when dwelling among them. Hence it is probable that the Pelethim were also a Philistine race. Whether the Cherethim and the Philistines generally came from Crete to Palestine is a very disputed question, but they were certainly not indigenous, but immigrants into Canaan. Caleb. Upon the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan, Hebron with a large district in the south of Judah was assigned to Caleb the Kenezite, who with his clan had been incorporated into the tribe of Judah. Though the town was afterwards assigned to the priests, the whole country round remained subject to Caleb (Joshua 21:11, Joshua 21:12), and continued to bear his name. Evidently the Amalekites, beginning on the east, had swept the whole southern district of Judah before entering the country of the Philistines, where they no doubt burnt Ziklag in revenge for David's cruel treatment of them.
1 Samuel 30:15
To this company. Better, "troop." The word signifies a band of soldiers, robbers, or the like. Required by David to act as his guide, the Egyptian consents upon condition that David bind himself neither to kill him, it being one of the unscrupulous customs of ancient warfare to put deserters, persons forced to act as guides, and even noncombatants, to death to save trouble; nor give him up to his master, who would treat him in the same way.
1 Samuel 30:16
When he had brought them down. Though left behind, the Egyptian knew the course which the Amalekites intended to take, and was thus able to bring David quickly up to them, as they would move slowly because of their large booty of cattle. On overtaking them David found them dispersed in scattered groups abroad upon all the earth (literally, "over the face of all the land"), eating and drinking, and dancing. More probably, "feasting." The word literally means keeping festival; but though they had solemn dances at festivals, yet, as is the case with our word feasting, good eating was probably the uppermost idea; still the word may have only the general sense of "enjoying themselves as on a festival."
DEFEAT OF THE AMALEKITES AND RECOVERY OF THE WOMEN AND SPOIL (1 Samuel 30:17-20).
1 Samuel 30:17
From the twilight. It has been debated whether this means the evening or the morning twilight; but the words which follow, "unto the evening of the next day," literally, "of (or for) their morrow," seem to prove that it was in the evening that David arrived. Moreover, in the morning they would not have been feasting, but sleeping. David probably attacked them at once, and slew all within reach until nightfall. The next morning the battle was renewed; but as David had but 400 men, and the Amalekites covered a large extent of country, and probably tried to defend themselves and their booty, it was not till towards the next evening that the combat and the pursuit were over. As they would need pasture and water for their cattle, they had evidently broken up into detachments, which had gone each into a different place with their herds. The pursuit must have been prolonged to a considerable distance, as no more than 400 young men escaped, and even they only by the aid of their camels.
1 Samuel 30:18, 1 Samuel 30:19
Recovered. Hebrew, "rescued," or "delivered." The word occurs again in the second clause of the verse, and is there translated "rescued." Had carried away. Hebrew, "had taken." In 1 Samuel 30:19 recovered is literally "caused to return," i.e. restored.
1 Samuel 30:20
This verse, which is made unintelligible in the A.V. by the insertion of the unauthorised word which, is really free from difficulty. After David, as related in 1 Samuel 30:18, 1 Samuel 30:19, had recovered the cattle carried oft by the Amalekites, he also took all the flocks and herds belonging to them; and his own men "made these go in front of that body of cattle, and said, This is David's spoil," i.e. they presented it to him by acclamation. It was this large booty which he distributed among his friends (1 Samuel 30:26-31).
DAVID ENACTS A LAW FOR THE DIVISION OF THE SPOIL (1 Samuel 30:21-25).
1 Samuel 30:21, 1 Samuel 30:22
On returning David finds the 200 stragglers, whom they had made to abide at the brook Besor. Rather, "whom he had, made to abide," as it was David's office to give such a command. The singular is supported by all the versions except the Chaldee, and by some MSS. David had made such men as were growing weary halt at the torrent, because it was a fit place where to collect the stragglers, and also, perhaps, because it would have required time and labour to get the baggage across. All the more wicked and worthless (see on 1 Samuel 1:16) members of the force now propose to give the 200, only their wives and children, and send them away with no share of the spoil. Besides the sheep and oxen given to David, there would be camels and other animals, arms, gold and silver, clothing, and other personal property.
1 Samuel 30:23, 1 Samuel 30:24
Ye shall not do so, my brethren. David rejects their unjust proposal kindly, but firmly. With that which. i.e. in respect of that which, etc. Who will hearken unto you in this matter? Literally, "this word," this proposal of yours. David then enacts that those left to guard the baggage are to share in the booty equally with the combatants. Patrick in his commentary quotes a similar rule enacted by Publius Scipio after the capture of New Carthage (Polybius, 10; 1 Samuel 15:5).
1 Samuel 30:25
That he made it. I.e. David. Having been thus enacted by him and practised during his life, no king henceforward would venture to change it. In the war with the Midianites Moses had ordered that half the spoil should belong to the combatants and half to the congregation who remained in the camp (Numbers 31:27). This enactment of David was in the same spirit.
DAVID PROPITIATES HIS FRIENDS BY SHARING WITH THEM HIS BOOTY (1 Samuel 30:26-31).
1 Samuel 30:26
The elders of Judah. The spoil taken from the Amalekites and assigned to David must have been very large, as it was worth distributing so widely. He did not, however, send to all the elders of Judah, but to such only as were his friends. A present. Hebrew, "a blessing" (see on 1 Samuel 25:27).
1 Samuel 30:27
Bethel cannot be the famous city of that name, but is probably the Bethul of Joshua 19:4, where it is mentioned as lying near Hormah and Ziklag. South Ramoth. Hebrew, "Ramoth-Negeb," called Ramath-Negeb in Joshua 19:8. Like Bethul, it was a Simeonite village. Jattir belonged to Judah (Joshua 15:48), and was one of the cities assigned to the priests (Joshua 21:14).
1 Samuel 30:28
Aroer, a different place from that on the eastern side of the Jordan, mentioned in Joshua 12:2, is probably the ruin 'Ar'arah, twelve miles east of Beer-sheba. Siphmoth. Some village in the Negeb, but unknown. Eshtemoa (Joshua 15:50), the present village Semu'ah, south of Hebron.
1 Samuel 30:29
Rachal. Rather Racal, unknown, The supposition that it may be Camel is untenable. The Jerahmeelites; see on 1 Samuel 27:10, as also for the Kenites.
1 Samuel 30:30
Hormah. Anciently called Zephath. For the reason of the change of name see Judges 1:17. Chor-ashan. More correctly Cor-ashan, the same place as Ashan (Joshua 15:42), a Simeonite town (1 Chronicles 4:32) assigned to the priests (Jos 6:1-27 :59). Athach, never mentioned elsewhere, may be a false reading for Ether (Joshua 19:7).
1 Samuel 30:31
Hebron, destined soon to become David's capital (2 Samuel 2:1), lay about fourteen miles south of Jerusalem. For an account of it see Conder, 'Tent Work,' 2.79, sqq. In comparing the list of David's heroes (1 Chronicles 11:26-47) with this catalogue of friendly towns, it will be found that several of them came from them, and had probably shared his exile at Ziklag. Such were Ira and Gareb, Ithrites from Jattir, Shama and Jehiel from Aroer; perhaps also Zabdi the Shiphmite (1 Chronicles 27:27) came from Siphmoth. We find David in this narrative acting justly as a soldier, generously to those who had been kind to him in his wanderings, and forming friendships which he retained and cherished long afterwards, when from being a fugitive he had become a king.
1 Samuel 30:1-10
The spiritual uses of calamity.
The facts are—
1. David, on returning to Ziklag with his men, discovers that the Amalekites had smitten it and carried off the families as captives.
2. In their deep distress David and his men weep bitterly.
3. On a mutiny arising among his men, threatening his life, David betakes himself to God for comfort and guidance.
4. Inquiring of God through the high priest, he receives assurance of success in pursuing the Amalekites, and therefore, leaving the faint at Besor, he presses on with the rest of his force. The sojourn of David in the country of the Philistines had thus far been conducive to his safety, and events had seemed to justify the step taken when, from fear of being slain by Saul, he without positive Divine direction left his native land. It is true the ambiguous position into which he had brought himself exposed him for a while to a danger of being treacherous to his protector or hostile to his countrymen, but this peril had at last been providentially obviated by the opening of a door of escape. It must, therefore, have been intensely mortifying, and, as the event proved, impressively instructive, to learn, just when the joy of escape was at its height, that his self-chosen course had issued in a terrible disaster. A great calamity had come, but religiously it proved a blessing, which fact may be generalised by saying that calamities brought on by the mistakes of good men have important religious uses.
I. THE AVOIDANCE OF ONE CALAMITY by the adoption of our own policy of distrust of God's care IS NO GUARANTEE FOR FREEDOM FROM ANOTHER. David, without good reason distrusting the care of God, thought he should one day perish by the hand of Saul (1 Samuel 27:1), and therefore, taking his own course, sought safety under the protection of Achish. We know how groundless was his fear; but, apart from that, events proved that though the dreaded evil was escaped, another most terrible one came. Nor is there much defence for the self-chosen policy in saying that his own life was secure, for escape from Saul gave no immunity from death by the hands of other men, and there are calamities even worse than death. We are too often influenced by present dangers, forgetful that though we avoid them we have no security in that avoidance from others equally fearful. The Israelites feared the giants reported to occupy the promised land, and escaped being, as they groundlessly thought, slain by them; but they saw not the physical miseries and the exclusion from the promised land consequent on choosing thus to escape. David ought to have profited by their example, as also should we from his. The application of this to common life is obvious.
II. OUR SELF-CHOSEN POLICY MAY BE LONG BEFORE IT REVEALS ITS CHARACTER IN ANY POSITIVE DISASTER. The ambiguous position of David rendered the months during which he was with Achish a season for verifying the wisdom of his policy. Although slight inconveniences arose which necessitated minor expedientsi as when he sought a separate city and made raids apparently on the south of Judah (1 Samuel 27:5, 1 Samuel 27:10), yet no event transpired to awaken manifest regret for the course pursued. It was only toward the end of the sojourn in the land of the Philistines that his policy bore the bitter fruit referred to in this section. Trouble came at last in addition to the mental embarrassments which had been a secret in his own breast. So long as moral laws have force will every false policy tend to disaster, the form and degree of it being determined by the nature of the case. Men may go on hoping for exemption from trouble, concealing the occasional fears and embarrassments of their own heart, successful escape may be well nigh assured, there may be even joy at the thought of providential deliverance from impending perils; but just then, from unexpected quarters, a blow may fall which confirms the truth that it is better to trust in the Lord than to listen to the fears of a wayward heart. Lot's ungenerous policy toward Abraham, successful at first, issued in loss of all in Sodom. Jonah's timid policy avoided the scorn and stones of the Ninevites, and bid fair to secure life and peace; but the storm arose, and a trouble quite unforeseen sprang forth. In commerce, in Church action, and domestic arrangements, distrust of God and self-seeking cannot but issue in evil, though the evil seem to tarry and be beyond calculation.
III. THE FORM OF CALAMITY MAY PROVE TO BE A NEAR APPROACH TO THAT WHICH SELF-CHOSEN POLICY WAS DESIGNED TO AVOID. David lost his family and his property, the next best things to his own life, and also was put in as much danger of being slain by his own men as ever he had been by Saul. He virtually found himself as he was when the distrust of God's care suggested a flight from Judah. The same was true of the Israelites, who, avoiding the "giants" of the promised land, encountered the physical giants, famine and plague, and at last left their carcases in the wilderness. A merchant, by irreligious policy, may for a season avoid ruin, and yet by the means devised ultimately bring on an event equally disastrous.
IV. THE FIRST EFFECT ON A GOOD MAN OF THE PRESSURE OF CALAMITY IS TO REVEAL TO HIM THE FOLLY AND EVIL OF HIS SELF-CHOSEN POLICY. It often requires a heavy blow to awaken us from our complacent belief in our own wisdom. Such a blow fell on David in the desolation of his city, the loss of his wives, the injury to his adherents, and the mutiny of his own friends and admirers. The well woven veil of expediency which imagination and reason had fabricated during the past sixteen mouths was thus rudely rent, and he saw at once how much better it would have been for him and his people to have continued trusting to the care of God in Judah, till, at least, specific directions were given to depart. The reference to David encouraging himself in God (verse 6) implies the prostration of his spirit in the new light which had broken in upon him. He had not sought the Lord on leaving Judah, and now he sees the mistake. Here notice the diverse effect of calamity on men of real piety and men of no vital religion. David is humbled before God, sees his error, is bitterly penitent; whereas Saul in all his calamities persists in his self-will, and hardens his heart against God. The truly religious spirit may err, may become wretched in its wanderings from God, may for a long season cleave to its self-produced miseries, but when brought face to face with great calamity that bespeaks the judgment of God, at once bows in sorrow and shame, recognising what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from the living God. How many a backslider and erring man has had occasion to bless the disaster that rent the delusion of their life and revealed their sin!
V. THE SUBSEQUENT EFFECT OF SUCH CALAMITY IS TO THROW A GOOD MAN MORE ENTIRELY UPON GOD FOR HELP AND GUIDANCE. David, humiliated, self-condemned, looking on to the future not knowing what best to do, took heart by casting his burden on the Lord, and seeking through the appointed channel specific directions as to the future. Affliction worked the fruit of righteousness. This is the proper religious use of all calamity, whether in the nation, the Church, our business, our domestic affairs, or the unrecorded events of private life. Jacob's trouble consequent on his falsehood brought him nearer to God at Bethel. The sorrows that came on Israel in the days of Nehemiah developed a trust in God and earnest looking for his guidance not known in former days. There is good reason for all who are smitten with sorrow brought on by folly and sin to encourage themselves in God; for, as to David so to all his children, he is a covenant keeping God, having prepared for us a kingdom that cannot be moved. He it is who allows the trial to fall not for our injury, but for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness; the abandonment to ourselves and to the suffering of trouble is all in mercy, and specially intended to remind us of the security and rest to be found in him; and be is willing to hear our cry, and to cover all the sins of the past, as well as to vouchsafe the aid necessary to escape from the present anguish, and even to make it issue in some permanent spiritual advantage. We may therefore "hope in God" when all help fails (cf. Psalms 42:5; Psalms 56:13; Isaiah 54:8; Jeremiah 3:12; Hebrews 12:5-12).
1 Samuel 30:11-20
The consequences of kindness.
The facts are—
1. Pursuing the Amalekites, David finds an Egyptian slave in distress, and administers to him food and drink.
2. On being questioned, the man states that his master, who was one of the force destroying Ziklag, had left him there three days before.
3. On promise of not being delivered up to his master, he engages to act as guide to the rendezvous of the Amalekites.
4. On coming upon them in the midst of their revels, David smites them, and recovers all that his force had lost, and acquires also much spoil.
5. David keeps the captured flocks and herds as his portion of the spoil. The incidents of this section suggest—
I. THE UNKNOWN RESULTS OF KINDNESS. Here was a case of a sick, starving foreigner a poor waif nigh unto death; and the kind attentions of David and his men not only were appreciated by a fellow creature, but issued in important results which, prior to the act of kindness, were not, perhaps, deemed possible. The feeble man, well used, led on to victory. At the close of that eventful day David must have felt how useful as well as how holy a thing it is to act the part of a good Samaritan. Men are often under temptation to be indifferent to the sorrows of others; but good always comes out of an exhibition of the law of kindness. No man ever lost anything by binding up the wounds of another; and often the healer has obtained an inward blessing as a pledge of some still further good that is to flow from his deed. The blessing of those ready to perish is worth more than the applause and favour of the rich and strong. By single acts of kindness hard hearts have been touched, and a new and blessed course of life has been entered on. Many a waif, fed and nourished by Christian benevolence, has become an honourable and holy member of society, aiding to overthrow an evil power worse than that of the ancient Amalekites. Who can tell the vast and blissful consequences that may ensue if only Christians would care more constantly and wisely for the outcast and degraded?
II. THE VALUE OF DETAIL IN SCRIPTURE HISTORY. The historian is specific in the account of what was given to this poor slave—"bread," "water," "a piece of a cake of figs," and "two clusters of raisins." This occasional detail indicates the pure historic character of the Biblical narrative, and invests the Bible with a human interest. This circumstantial character of narrative is especially seen in the Gospel by St. Mark, and more or less in every writer. As a book designed for all degrees of culture, and in all ages and climes, the Bible wins its way to the heart and commends itself to the common sense of mankind by the air of reality with which its great facts are incorporated with an incidental setting of circumstances; and it is singular that its occasional detail is never contradicted by well established fact, but, on the other hand, is being constantly confirmed by discoveries concerning manners, customs, natural productions, and international relations.
III. THE BARBARITIES OF SLAVERY AND OF WAR. This unfortunate man had a master, but longed not to be restored to him. The barbarous manner in which he had been left to die justified his horror of his former owner. Slavery necessarily hardens the heart and debases the entire nature of all who promote it. The horrors that have been perpetrated under its influence more befit a hell than an earth like this. Christianity has proved its beneficent character in removing from many a fair region this accursed evil: and it enjoins on masters of the free to manifest towards their servants a kind, generous spirit, worthy of the Saviour they profess to follow. It is well when servants care to return to employers, and there is something wrong where there is aversion and reproach. The barbarities of war, which in this section and elsewhere are conspicuous, are among the foulest blots on human nature. In nothing as in war do the vilest passions of men break forth in wild licence. The ease and complacency with which many so called Christians speak and read of war is really shocking to one who enters deeply into the spirit of Christ. More care ought to be taken in preventing our children from imbibing a love of war and its literature, and in the Christian state its manifold, incipient, and actual evils ought to be removed or avoided by the most energetic measures. It is doubtful whether the Church rises to a due sense of its solemn obligations in this respect.
IV. THE RESTORATION SUBSEQUENT TO REPENTANCE AND OBEDIENCE. David had repented of the course to which he had committed himself, and, encouraging himself in God, he had followed the direction conveyed through the high priest. The result was a restoration of all he had lost by his folly and an acquisition of much besides. Of course this was a case of material loss, through misconduct, attended with much anguish of spirit, and the restoration was of the same character; but have we not here something analogous with the result of our repentance and renewal of life? The loss and damage occasioned by our sins are removed when we turn to God and follow the guidance of our High Priest. In due time we recover purity, peace with God, most blessed joys, varied spiritual treasures, and even convert the weapons of our great enemy into means of moral advancement. Much has been ruined by our sins, and the whole race has suffered from the curse; but the effect of our restoration of soul to God through Christ is a recovery of the lost position and blessedness, with also an attainment of a bliss surpassing anything known by our first parent in his state of innocence. The promise reads, "I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the canker worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm, my great army which I sent among you" (Joel 2:25).
V. PRUDENT FORESIGHT IN ANTICIPATION OF COMING EVENTS. David's consideration for his followers in allowing them a large share in the spoil was attended also with a wise prevision of what was soon to take place, and no doubt it was on this account that he kept for himself the cattle taken from the enemy. Having repented of his former self-choosing, and having drawn nearer to his God (verse 6), his soul rose to the old confidence in his call to the kingdom, and, calm in the fresh assurance of God's care, he saw from impending events that the end of Saul's reign was nigh at hand. Hence, to pave the way for an easy and prosperous return to Judah, he selected what would prove suitable gifts to elders and friends (verse 20; cf. verse 26). Them we see how recovery from backsliding tends to a healthy tone and balance of ordinary mental operations, and how prudent anticipation of requirements becomes one called to high service in the kingdom of God. Faith in God's purposes concerning us should be accompanied with wise effort to obviate difficulties in the realisation of that purpose. Our elevation in the service of Christ's kingdom is to be secured on our part by the vigorous use of our best powers in dependence on God.
1. Amidst the hurry and excitement of our life we, like David, should turn aside to care for the poor and destitute, and shall find in so doing a blessing for ourselves.
2. As slavery was put down by the energetic assertion of the principles and spirit of the gospel, so may not the Church, if in earnest, equally suppress the war spirit which too largely prevails in so called Christian lands?
3. After the pattern of David in temporal matters we ought to strive with all zeal and constancy to recover the blessed inheritance of good lost to us individually and as a race through sin.
4. In so far as men are convinced of the certainty and glory of Christ's kingdom will they exercise all their utmost powers to hasten it on and win men over to it. Indifferent action is a sure sign of spiritual decay.
1 Samuel 30:21-31
The law of service.
The facts are—
1. On returning to the men who had remained at Besor, some of David's followers oppose his intention to give them a share of the spoil, and are even desirous of sending them away.
2. David resists this spirit as being inconsistent with gratitude to God for his care and aid, and with strict justice to those who serve in humble form according to their strength.
3. David's decision becomes a standing ordinance in Israel's future national life.
4. He sends presents to the elders of cities that had befriended him during the days of his persecution. David's course all through was wonderfully chequered. He had good reason for saying, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." No sooner had he rejoiced in the triumph of victory, and was devising in his heart kind and generous deeds, than he has to experience the annoyance and pain of contending with a murmuring and mutinous spirit among his own followers. As we look at him, the "man after God's own heart," bent on a noble mission for Israel, generous in spirit to all around, rising high above others in integrity of purpose and spiritual aspiration, and surrounded by a motley group of men, hard to control, and often low in tendency, we cannot but think of One greater, who later on stood among wayward, ignorant men, the Holy One, intent on establishing a throne never to be shaken, and wearied and wounded by the incessant "contradiction of sinners." But God teaches mankind through lessons evolved from the varied and often painful experience of his servants, and it is a consolation to them that the fires which try them should also emit light for the benefit of coming generations. There are three truths practical in bearing brought out by this part of David's experience.
I. THE DIVERSE CHARACTER OF MEN IS SEEN IN THE EFFECT OF SUCCESS UPON THEIR SPIRIT AND CONDUCT. David and his men had achieved a great success, and were returning full of the joy of victory. The record tells us nothing of the bearing of the leader and of the men on the first flush of success; no doubt the wild excitement over the spoil of many of his followers was in striking contrast with the tremulous joy which found vent in his private thanksgiving to God. But on their return to Besor, the depraved, irreligious spirit of those termed "men of Belial" appeared in the love of greed and the cruel indifference to the wants of the weary which drew forth David's remonstrance. Success revealed the iniquity of their hearts, while it drew forth the grateful, tender qualities of David's character. Prosperity is as real a test of what men are as is adversity. It draws forth a different set of qualities, but is not the less a means of proving and intensifying a man's character, be it good or bad. When we say that sometimes success in commerce, literature, science, or military skill makes a man vain and scornful of others, or humble and considerate, we really mean that it has developed hidden weakness in the one case, and moral strength in the other. When the character deteriorates or improves under the influence of prosperity, it depends on casual circumstances as to bow the deterioration or improvement will manifest itself. Here the presence of feeble men unable to engage in conflict happened to be the occasion of an outburst of selfish feeling. The same occasion furnished a manifestation of kindly consideration and love of justice. While few things create in generous hearts more disgust and sorrow than the selfishness, luxurious indulgence, and purse proud bearing of men whose struggles in life have brought material success, few qualities are more admired than those of large hearted benevolence, simplicity of habit, compassion for the destitute, and the grateful, lowly spirit which ascribes all good to God, and proves the sincerity of the ascription by deeds of self-denial on behalf of others. He who can conquer prosperity is often a greater man than the conqueror of adversity. Only the spirit of him who "made himself of no reputation," who "became poor" that we "might be rich," will enable us to subdue all things to his glory.
II. THE LAW OF SERVICE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The selfish spirit of some of David's men gave occasion for the exercise of his authority in a fight royal manner, and issued in the establishment of an ordinance in relation to service in his cause which became a law in Israel, and fitly foreshadows the principle on which all service in Messiah's kingdom is based. David would not allow the men who, through exhaustion in the hasty march, had remained at Besor to care for the bag gage to be deprived of their share of the spoil through the greed of the actual combatants. His principle was that they were all engaged in one enterprise, that their position had been determined by the circumstances of the case, and that all honour should be done them. The ruling faculty in David was beginning to bear good fruit for the poor and needy—beautifully typical of One who is the Refuge and Defender of the oppressed! Considering the passage in its bearing on service in Christ's kingdom, we may notice—
1. That all his people aye equally his servants, and have their proper work. The equality in Christ's kingdom is that of oneness of spirit, aim, and relationship to him. All true Christians are zealous for his supremacy, eager to see him triumph over powers of evil, and on the same level as servants of one Lord and Leader. They are all workers, warriors, contending in accordance with their power and position for a common issue. Every member of the body has its function in securing the purposes of the head (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
2. That diversity of employment is necessary to the execution of his purposes. The care of the "stuff" was as necessary in so dangerous a country as the pursuit and attack on the foe. In accomplishing the purposes of Christ on earth there are diversities of operations. The analogy of the body is used by the Apostle Paul to enforce this truth on the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). It is an instructive study to notice how the manifold agencies and gifts of the Church and of individual Christians have worked together in producing the complex result we witness in the present advanced position of Christ's kingdom. The recognition of diversity should stimulate and encourage all, whatever their powers and opportunities.
3. That incapacity for rendering conspicuous service is compatible with quiet yet important service. Those who by Providence are hindered from fighting in the high places of the field have good work to do in a quieter form. Missionaries, popular preachers, diligent pastors, and men of high literary culture may be in the forefront; but the mothers who train children in the fear of God, fathers who live godly lives in the world, quiet, wise men who conduct religious movements, widows who east in their mite, and even sick and weary ones who in the solitude of their chamber offer daily prayers for the hosts of God—render most valuable service in the common enterprise.
4. Where thee is loyalty in service, whatever its lowly form, there is to be honourable recognition. David would not overlook the claims of the feeble men in charge of the" stuff." In this he was true to the principles and precedents of Israel's greatest leaders (Numbers 31:27; Joshua 22:8). In Christ's kingdom there is to be, after his great example in the case of the widow's mite and the hosannas of children, a recognition by all of the need and value of services apparently insignificant. This is further taught in the blessing pronounced on the giver of a cup of cold water, the mention in the day of judgment of the care bestowed on the sick and needy, and also in the equal welcome which the Lord declares he will give to the gainer of ten and two talents. The rewards of the advancing kingdom are shared in the joy and satisfaction which all true workers experience, and in the material improvement of the world consequent on its advance; and while he makes all "kings and priests" now, he will at last honour them with a vision of the glory he had with the Father before the world was (John 17:24).
III. THERE IS A WISE POLICY IN THE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE. The tenor of David's life shows that the sending presents from the spoil taken to those who had befriended him in his time of need was the genuine expression of a grateful heart. At the same time this was coincident with a wise policy, and, in his mind, distinctly blended with it. Had the gifts been the product of a mere calculation of results, the act would only command the respect due to expediency, but having its root in feeling, it rises to a higher value. The recompense of kindnesses when occasion offers is the suggestion of a true heart, and though utilitarian ideas may not enter into the recompense, yet it is always useful in view of future contingencies. A prudent man called to a great work, is bound to prepare the way for its realisation by securing as far as possible the good will and cooperation of others.
1. It behoves us to be on our guard against the perils of success, and to remember that as God is a refuge from the storm, so he is a shade upon our right hand to tone down the fight of prosperity (Psalms 121:5, Psalms 121:6).
2. A degree of suspicion is always proper concerning ourselves, as there are latent evils which events may draw forth.
3. We should be careful not to disparage the services of persons seeking in a humble way to promote the glory of Christ (Matthew 18:6).
4. The chief question for each is the existence within of a spirit of loyalty to Christ; the form of service is a matter of opportunity (John 21:15-17).
5. Those who render aid to the people of God in their time of distress are sure to be recompensed on earth as in heaven (Luke 6:31-38; Luke 14:13, Luke 14:14).
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 30:1-10. (ZIKLAG.)
Confidence in God.
"But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). Delivered from their embarrassing position in the Philistine army, David and his men set out early in the morning, and by forced marches (evident from the exhaustion of one third of them, 1 Samuel 30:10) arrived at Ziklag on the third day. Instead of being welcomed by their wives and children, they found the city a smoking and desolate ruin. "When we go abroad we cannot foresee what evil tidings may meet us when we come home again. The going out may be very cheerful, and yet the coming in very doleful" (M. Henry). The Amalekites (whom Saul had failed to exterminate, and David often attacked) had been there, and, in revenge for what they had suffered, had carried off the undefended people and property, and given the place to the flames. Deeming their recovery hopeless, the strong men wept like children "until they had no more power to weep." Then their grief turned to exasperation, and seeking a victim on which to expend their wrath, they fixed on David, and "spake of stoning him" as the cause of all their misery. He was reduced to the utmost extremity, and could not fail to see in his trouble a just chastisement for his unbelief, prevarication, and cruelty. Possibly the reinforcements that "fell to him as he went to 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 (1 Samuel 30:22), and to learn what little confidence could be put in man (Psalms 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—
1. His great name (see 1 Samuel 1:3). "Hope thou in God" (Psalms 42:5; Psalms 9:10; Psalms 124:8).
"Hope, said I,
Is of the joy to come a sure expectance,
The effect of grace Divine and merit preceding.
This light from many a star visits my heart;
But flow'd to me, the first, from him who sang
The songs of the Supreme; himself supreme
Among his tuneful brethren. 'Let all hope
In thee,' so spake his anthem, 'who have known
Thy name'" (Dante, 'Par.' 25.).
2. His intimate relationship to his people. "Jehovah his God."
3. His past doings on their behalf. When David formerly fell into despondency (1 Samuel 27:1-12.) 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?" (Psalms 118:6; Psalms 121:1).
3. Inquiring of the Lord. "And David said to Abiathar," etc. (1 Samuel 30:7, 1 Samuel 30:8). 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 (1 Samuel 30:9, 1 Samuel 30:10), 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 (1 Samuel 30:9). After a brief delay and some untoward events by which faith is still further tested (1 Samuel 30:10)—
1. The object which is sought is providentially discovered (1 Samuel 30:11).
2. The enemy is completely defeated (1 Samuel 30:17).
3. That which has been lost is recovered (1 Samuel 30:19).
4. Much more than has been expected is gained (1 Samuel 30:20).
"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."
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 (1 Samuel 30:2), 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.
1 Samuel 30:11-20. (SOUTH OF THE BROOK BESOR.)
An Egyptian slave.
"I was reminded of the poor Egyptian whom David found half dead, and brought to life again by giving him 'a piece of cake of figs and two clusters of raisins' to eat, and water to drink, by an incident which occurred to me when crossing the plain of Askelon. Far from any village, a sick Egyptian was lying by the road side in the burning sun, and apparently almost dead with a terrible fever. He wanted nothing but 'water! water!' which we were fortunately able to give him from our traveling bottle; but we were obliged to pass on and leave him to his fate, whatever that might be" (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book'). How the "young man of Egypt" became "slave to an Amalekite" is not stated, but it is probable that he fell into his hands in some marauding expedition, like the Hebrew women and children in the raid on Ziklag. His condition was an involuntary, hard, and degrading one. He was—
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" (1 Samuel 30:13). He might have been easily carried forward on one of the camels (1 Samuel 30:17), 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 (1 Samuel 30:11, 1 Samuel 30:12).
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, Deuteronomy 23:15, Deuteronomy 23:16).
3. With appreciation of the service he might render (1 Samuel 30:15). 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. "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. (1 Samuel 30:15). 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 (1 Samuel 30:18).
IV. PRESERVED AND EMPLOYED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE, which—
1. Cares for the lowliest. "Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any" (Job 36:5). "Neither doth God respect any person" (2 Samuel 14:14).
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
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small:
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all" (Coleridge).—D.
1 Samuel 30:21-31. (THE BROOK BESOR, ZIKLAG.)
The fruits of victory.
When David overtook the Amalekites in the evening twilight he found them given up to riotous indulgence, undefended, and little thinking how near they were to destruction. He forthwith fell upon them, and after a severe conflict, which lasted till the evening of the next day, gained a complete victory. He "recovered all" that had been carried away. In addition he obtained much spoil, consisting of flocks and herds, and of "arms, ornaments, jewels, money, clothes, camels, accoutrements, and so on." The former were assigned to David (according to his wish, and as better adapted to the end he had in view), and driven in front of the recovered flock with the exclamation, "This is David's spoil." The latter were carried away for distribution among his men. By his victory a crushing blow was inflicted on a bitter enemy of the people of Israel, and a great deliverance wrought for them. He evidently regarded himself as (not merely engaged in a private enterprise, but as) acting on their behalf, and carrying out God's purpose; and his conduct after the battle was marked by—
1. Considerate sympathy with the faint and weary who had been disabled from taking an active part in the conflict. "He saluted them" (1 Samuel 30:21). 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 (1 Samuel 30:22). "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. (1 Samuel 30:23). "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. (1 Samuel 30:24, 1 Samuel 30:25). 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. (1 Samuel 30:26-31). 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.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 30:6
Faith reviving in distress.
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
Than he went through before."
He is touched with a feeling of our infirmities. He has wept and he has loved. So if we are despoiled, he is our present help, and through him we may do valiantly and recover all. If messengers of Satan buffet us, his grace is sufficient for us, for his "strength is made perfect in weakness."—F.