Ziklag

1 Samuel 27‑30  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1 Sam. 27-30
In no place, save in the matter of Bathsheba, is David so morally low as in 1 Sam. 27 His loss of confidence in the Lord, and his consequent lies and artifices in the court of the king of Gath, are sad indeed. His heart, it is true, was not turned away from Israel. He was Israel's champion still, in all the desires and purposes of his soul, and had his eye toward Israel's prosperity and honor. But for present circumstances he had lost all faith in God.
It is not at once or speedily that the Lord begins the discipline of His saints. At least it is not commonly so. Our sin may find us out years and years after it is committed. The Lord may call our ways to remembrance long after we have left those ways and turned to better. The sin of Saul against the Gibeonites, which was visited in the distant, closing days of David, may illustrate this for us (2 Sam. 21). "God moves in a mysterious way." He takes methods which are all His own in the exercise of His hand with His people. But He "is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain." We have to bow now; we shall justify Him forever.
At the water of Meribah Moses and Aaron grievously sinned. They committed a very high offense in smiting the rock and challenging the congregation. But the water came forth, and this at once and abundantly, as though all were right. The whole congregation and their cattle drank of it, and to all present or immediate appearances the Lord had no controversy with anyone. But afterward the Lord lets them know that their offense had not been overlooked, for by reason of it they should come short of the land of Canaan and die on the wilderness side of Jordan.
And how did the Lord Jesus in the day of His ministry here quiet the fears of unbelief before rebuked them? "Peace, be still" was said to the waves of the sea before "How is it that ye have no faith?" was said to the fears of the disciples.
We find another sample of this way of God in this scripture on which we are now meditating. David, as we have said, was morally very low in 1 Sam. 27 But he meets with no present resentment. He goes with his 600 men against the people of the south, and victory and spoils are his; and he returns to the king of Gath, and at Ziklag enriches and secures himself.
What shall we say to all this? We may well remember, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." And we may also remember, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
David, however, is loved-surely he is and, in the great sense, as dearly as ever-but his sin has not been slighted by the Lord. He is loved, and a gracious witness of this is shortly afterward given him, for the Lord interposes to save him from the tremendous results of his unbelief and lies. Through the jealousy of the princes he is hindered from being found in the Philistine army which was then gathering at Aphek to march against Israel. It was the Lord who put that into their hearts to preserve His child and servant from this terrible catastrophe. He once gave Joseph favor in the eyes of his master; He now gives David disfavor in the eyes of the princes of the Philistines. This was a most gracious interference. But the burning of Ziklag and the captivity of all that was in it are before him to let him know, and know it with a vengeance, too, that the Lord had not overlooked his sin.
But again the grace of God is very marked toward him in withholding him from the battle which was soon to be fought between Israel and the Philistines in Mount Gilboa. What would he have done had he been there? How could he have escaped the snare and mischief which his unbelief and sin had so awfully prepared for him? But God can turn the hearts of the children of men as seems best to His wisdom, and now the envy of the Philistine princes is used for David to keep him back from the slaughter on Gilboa, as Abigail had been used before to keep him back from the blood of Nabal.
But how low had David fallen! He was another man when his own spirit had told him not to touch the Lord's anointed, and when his heart smote him because he had done even so little as to cut off the skirt of the king. Such moral or spiritual changes we find in the progress of Christian life, and they warn us to draw upon the Lord, and not to think that we shall stand tomorrow because we have not fallen today. But though the Lord pardons, He chastens. He forgives the sin, but the believer still comes under His governmental dealings.
David had received Ziklag as his wages for going over to the uncircumcised. Was it not "the wages of unrighteousness"? But the Lord can cut holes in the bags (Hag. 1:66Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (Haggai 1:6)) where we put such money as this. And so He does here. Ziklag had been visited while David was in the camp of the Philistines, and Ziklag had been burned, and all therein had been taken captive-wives, children, cattle and all-by the people of the south whom David had beaten and slaughtered before. (And to add to his affliction, his own men blame him for their loss, and even speak of stoning him.)
Terrible! Nothing could exceed this but death. That, however, the good hand of God had hindered, as we read on this occasion, "They slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away." But life was spared because of God's purpose of goodness toward the offending culprit, David. And so indeed in all the chastisement of the saints. That is always spared and preserved which is needed for God's abounding grace at the last.
And now we find moral recovery leading the way to another piece of history altogether. How right! It is a bitter thing to depart from Him-a blessed thing to return to Him.
David is enabled, as we read, after all this terrible catastrophe, to encourage himself in the Lord his God (30:6). What can be more blessed? save indeed the answer which grace gives to his faith. Jonah looked afresh to the temple when he was in the whale's belly; David encouraged himself in God in the sight of the ruins of Ziklag. This was all the bitterness of his own way, but he was "strong in faith," and I know not that faith was ever more bold, and the God of all grace vindicates its boldness to the full.
If the former sight were terrible, this is precious. David now begins in faith, as he had begun in unbelief in chapter 27. Ziklag in flames was the end of that course; trophies, and spoils, the honor and the wealth of victory, crown this.
After encouraging himself in God, he acts with bravery and earnestness. The Lord puts helps and opportunities in his way, and makes circumstances to favor him, and at the end crowns him with success, giving him not only to regain all that he had lost, but to enrich himself with the spoils of the enemy.
What a witness is all this of the pleasure the Lord takes in the bold faith of His saints! David was under sore displeasure for a high-handed offense. But in spite of all that (enough to make a coward of any man) his encouraging of himself in God is thus crowned and honored of God.
Now let us go further in this fruitful scripture. The heart of man, we know, is a deceiver-"deceitful above all things"-so that "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." But it is a vagrant likewise. It is as famous for its wanderings and uncertainties as it is for its deceits. And happy indeed is the prospect of its being delivered from its wretched condition, when in the presence of His glory we are free, as I may say, from ourselves.
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