Sermon preached on 1 Samuel 30 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 10/18/2015 in Novato, CA.
1 Samuel 30
“This is David’s Spoil”
What a contrast with the passage from two weeks ago, with Saul and the witch and Endor. There we saw Saul hit rock bottom because of his sin. Here David also hits a very real sort of rock bottom time in his life, though not one apparently because of any specific sin in his life. This is an important reminder that sometimes we face some really terrible times in our life, and it may not be because of any one particular sin that we committed, but may simply be part of the reality of living in a sin cursed world where there are lots of sinners here who do evil things to us. That’s certainly the situation here. And so this is a very difficult, low, point here in David’s life. How will David respond to this rock bottom situation in his life?
Well, we begin first by noting how David becomes distressed, but then strengthened. We pick up the story in verse 1. We see David and his men coming back from that battle between the Philistines and the Israelites. That was the battle that they almost got to fight in, but they got turned away at the last minute to go back to Ziklag. And so when they arrive back to their refuge at Ziklag they find that something terrible had happened. While they had been away, the Amalekites attacked the town, captured the women and the children, plundered the city, and set the town to fire. How utterly horrible. I can’t imagine what it would be like to come back to something like that. You know when you go off to war, you might wonder if you’ll be coming back, but you don’t expect to come back and find your family kidnapped and all your belongings stolen. And so we can understand verse 4. Here these strong men of war, break down and weep. And they weep and weep until they can weep no more. The things of greatest value to them had been taken.
How sad David was. But not only was he sad for his own loss, for his own wives had been taken, but surely he was sad for all his men’s families. I mean it’s bad enough to lose your own family, but to find that all your closest friends also lost their families when they were out helping you, would make you feel just absolutely awful in the greatest degree. And so look at verse 6. Not only is David weeping like everyone else, he suddenly becomes very distressed. Notice why he becomes so distressed. He’s distressed because people were starting to point the finger at him. Here’s a crises of his leadership. People are willing to follow strong leaders many places, but for everyone to suffer such loss like this would put to the test even the strongest loyalty. Notice in verse 6 they even start talking about possibly stoning David. You know, in a situation like this, you want someone to blame. Surely David couldn’t really be faulted here for the Amalekite’s evil, but you can appreciate why people want to be able to hold someone responsible for this. I would imagine this became a very lonely time for David. When you are a leader, and things go wrong, it tends becomes your fault in one way or another. And you can seem so alone. Especially here for David, because he doesn’t even have his family to console him in such loneliness and distress.
But David knew that he wasn’t ultimately alone, and that he did not need to remain distressed. How wonderful the end of verse 6 is. “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” We’re not told exactly what this entailed. Surely part of is what we’ll see in the next point, that he inquired of God through the priest. But we see that when David is faced with the legitimate emotions of fear and distress, that he looks to find strength and courage in the LORD. That’s the right place. And that’s where everything begins to change in terms of tone in this passage. It goes from describing the very real sorrow and distress because of what happened, to a tone where God is going to do a great thing through all of this.
And this is an application for us. We will face times of tremendous sorrow in life. There will be times of great distress in your life. But when we receive such powerful emotions, let us go to God for strength and renewal. Seek strength from him in prayer and by his Word and via the fellowship of the saints. May he be the reason why your sorrow doesn’t become life debilitating depression. May he be the reason why your distress doesn’t lead to something horrible like suicide or running away from your problems or something else bad, but that it leads to healing and renewed strength and courage.
Let’s turn next to our second point for today, to see the overtaking and the rescuing that God brings here through David. Picking up the story in verse 7, we see that David inquires of God via the priest. Again, what a contrast here with Saul. When Saul was at rock bottom, he tried to inquire of God and got no response. That was because Saul had set himself as an enemy to God. God refused to answer Saul. But here, David inquires of God, and God answers him. And not only is the answer a positive response, God answers him with even more than what he asked. In other words, David wanted to know if he should pursue the Amalekites and if he would overtake them. God not only says yes to both of those questions, but assures David that he will also recover everything. In other words, God is not only going to use David to avenge, but also to recover what was lost. God is essentially sending him on a rescue mission! Praise the Lord!
And so then David and his men set out for what would normally seem like an impossible task. How are they going to find this powerful marauding army of the Amalekites, and when they do, how are they going to not only overtake them, but safely recover their captured family members? But God said they would, so in faith they go after these Amalekites. Interestingly we see in verses 9-10 that along the way they leave behind 200 of David’s men to guard the supplies because they are already too exhausted at this point to continue. So that leaves only 400 of men of David to go and take on these Amalekites.
Well, as they continue to hunt for the Amalekites, they receive providential help again from God. They run into an Egyptian slave who had been abandoned for dead by the very Amalekites that they were hunting. It’s interesting that evidently these pagan Amalekites, with all their spoil, didn’t bother to care enough for their own slave as to leave him with any food or supplies. They just left him for dead. I think it’s just a little observation we can make about the wickedness of these pagans. Well, that wickedness now comes to haunt these Amalekites because David saves this slave from death, and in turn the slave provides David with the information they needed to find the Amalekites.
So with this fresh intel, David and his men successfully find the evil Amalekites. And when they find them, they are in one big wild party. The sense I get here is that this was probably told as another example of their paganism. I think similar to how Nabal was making a huge party for himself back in chapter 25 when unbeknownst to him, David was on route to kill him. (Of course David was stopped by Abigail from doing that.) But the similarity here is telling. The Amalekites are lost in their wild partying and thus probably weren’t able to defend themselves very well when David attacks. I say that, because David has a huge victory against them. Interestingly we are told that the Amalekites soliders were all slaughtered except 400 who managed to escape. The sense you get is that far more died. Only this few amount of 400 of them were able to escape. But remember, David only had 400 men total. And so this really was a great victory over what surely seemed like a tremendous obstacle.
And we know how David got the victory. It was the Lord’s work. Victory is the Lord’s. God again shows that he would save his people. God so ordered things and so worked things so that David and his men could have this victory over the Amalekites. And again, we should be encouraged. Yes, God hasn’t promised us that we’ll win every battle in this life. But for what God has promised to us, there is nothing too difficult to stand in the way of his delivering on that promise. Trust in such promises of Scripture.
For example, when we are told in Philippians 4:7 that God grants a peace that transcends understanding when we surrender our anxiety to him in prayer, then we can rejoice knowing that there is no circumstance in our life that is too hard for God to give us peace despite it. Or when he says that he is coming back to bring us to glory, and vindicate our faith to the world, we can firmly believe that nothing will stop him from doing that. And so the point is simply that today’s message should encourage our faith in God’s ability. Isaiah 59:1, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” And Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” Amen! Nothing is too hard for God!
So then, let’s turn now to our third point and think about the sharing of the spoil from this victory over the Amalekites. Let’s start by noticing a few things about the spoil from this battle. Look at verses 18-20. First, notice, that they recovered all the people. All the women and children who had been captured, they all were safely returned. Praise the Lord! Surely that was the only thing really truly important there. But then it also says that they recovered everything, including the plunder that the Amalekites had taken. Verse 19, “Nothing was missing.” Again, praise the LORD! But then when you read verse 20, you find that they then in turn plundered the Amalekites. That they took flocks and herds, etc, from them. So in other words, the idea here is not only did David and his men get a complete recovering of every single thing that they lost, they then came away with even more than they had originally started with.
I love what they say in verse 20. They look at all this extra plunder and they say “This is David’s plunder.” What a wonderful full circle here. At the start of the chapter they want to blame David and maybe even stone him. Here, after such a great victory, they praise him and basically credit the victory to him! In other words, David is vindicated here. And we know it was God who vindicated him.
Well, after the dust clears from this battle, they go back with all the spoils of war to the 200 men who were left behind with the supplies. And a conflict arises. Some of the 400 men who went to fight, don’t want to share the spoil with the 200 who stayed behind with the supplies. They are fine with giving them their families back, but they don’t want to share the rest of the spoil with them. Now on the one hand, you might appreciate the logic of such people. They had risked their lives to go and fight. The 200 stayed back because they were exhausted, but surely everyone was exhausted. And yet we see here that this was a bad attitude. Notice in verse 22 who it was that was talking like this. It was the wicked and worthless men who said such things. And so David steps in, and essentially makes a rule that ultimately became the law in his kingdom going forward. Verse, 24 “But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.”
This makes sense in so many levels. First, these wicked and worthless men were not being generous. Second, David reminds them that it was the LORD who gave them such an amazing and marvelous victory. When God had so graciously given them beyond what they could have earned on their own strength, how could they act with such greed as if they had actually earned all this reward themselves. Third, this whole chapter shows that there is a great value to have some soldiers stay back and guard the supplies. Remember, it was when all of David’s men went off to battle, that Ziklag was attacked and such great loss happened. So, surely these 200 did play a vital role in not only safeguarding the supplies, but freeing up the rest of the army to move more quickly in pursuit of the Amalekites. And so all this caused David to decree, “they shall share alike.” Amen indeed!
And yet David’s sharing did not stop there! As we read on, he continued to spread the love around not just to the 600 men in his army, but also with several of the towns from his tribe of Judah. Verses 26-31 spend quite a number of verses to record all the cities that David sent some of the spoil. I love what he says in verse 26. Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD! You know, from a practical stand point we can appreciate how this will especially ingratiate David to these elders of Judah. This is especially timely because while the events of this chapter are going on, King Saul has just been killed. Soon enough David will be anointed king, first over the tribe of Judah. And so practically speaking, this gift giving helps that cause. But we should see something more than that. From a bigger perspective, David is again acting very messianically. He is the Lord’s Anointed, again destroying an enemy of God’s people, who not only recovers captives and sets them free, but as a generous leader shares bountifully with God’s people of the fruit of these battles. And so again, we see David as a king after God’s own heart, and one who looks forward to the ultimate Christ to come.
And what a picture indeed, along those lines. Think of what God does through David in this messianic type role. In this passage, the people go from losing everything, including their loved ones, to not only receiving everything back, but actually receiving back more than what they started with. It’s almost like they even received their loved ones back from the dead. David led them as this a messiah figure to bring this all about. If you stop and think about it, it’s almost like a little picture of heaven at the resurrection.
And so when we think of David being messianic, we remember the words of Jesus. He quoted Isaiah 61 that said things like this of himself:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast.
There are such similar themes there in that prophecy from Isaiah. But when Jesus read that passage, he said it was fulfilled in his reading. In other words, Jesus came to bring what was promised there; the freedom from captives; the healing for those who mourn; comfort; even vengeance over enemies, rebuilding, enjoying the riches plundered from the nations, etc, etc. This is what Jesus has brought. This is what we’ve come to know in Christ.
For all who have turned to Jesus in faith and repentance had been set free from sin and death. And if Jesus has set you free, then you are free indeed! And all who are in Christ now possess an eternal inheritance of heavenly treasure. We are like those who have come back from the dead. We have every tear wiped away as we are no longer enemies of God. Jesus has brought such a great reversal to us and set us in such a wonderful place.
And so brothers and sisters, what is interesting for us at this point, is this is what we already have in Christ, but we know that we do not yet have it in the full. That will come at Christ’s return. Right now we are in the already and the not yet time, that time in between the first and second comings of Christ. What this means is that in this life you will find afflictions and troubles and trials. Jesus told us this ahead of time, so we would not be surprised when it does happen. We may have the rock bottom experiences of life, like David had here. They may come to us in ways that are completely out of our control. They can hit us hard; they can floor us emotionally; drive us to great sorrow and great distress. Face with this, what can we do? Well, remember what we talked about today.
Point one for today: find your strengthening in the Lord. Seek such in his Word, in his sacraments, and in prayer, and in the fellowship of the saints. Point two remember, that in the end God will ultimately bring us victory. No obstacle is too great. Point three, that final victory will ultimately leave us in a far better place. And we know in points two and three that ultimate victory which is far better, is ultimately the victory we have in Christ’s return when we go to that place he has prepared for us. Yes, that means that right now we may have trials and troubles, but the victory is ultimately the Lord’s. Be strengthened with this perspective. Be strengthened with this hope.
And yet, even now, God is with us. And even now he provides strength. I’ve mentioned now a couple times that strength that comes from the fellowship of the saints. I think of how we see that here. Though God provided the ultimate victory here, he did it through David and his men. And his men clearly were divided up into two parts that each played a different role. But together they complemented each other.
And so I encourage us in this too. In this life, while we have trials and troubles, God has given us the body of Christ to be a help to us all. But we are each different, with different gifts and different roles. Beware of the temptation to look down on others because their gift isn’t yours. But also look to see how you can do your part to bless and serve one another.
Because the difficult times will come. It came recently for Middletown and Lake County with the fires. It’s come recently for South Carolina with the floods. It came recently in that Oregon campus when several of our brothers and sisters were killed for their faith. Now in the rebuilding, the Christians in the aftermath affected by such things will greatly need each other. That’s a gift from God.
Yet it’s not just in the big tragedies like that. But in the everyday and in between moments of life. Let us serve Christ by serving one another with the different kinds of gifts God has given each of us. Let us be about this until the day of Christ’s return when the Lord’s victory is complete. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.