Ziklag

1 Samuel 27‑30  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1 Samuel 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 towards Israel's prosperity and honor. But for present circumstances he has lost all faith in God.
It is not at once or speedily that the Lord begins the discipline of His saints. At the 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 widow of Sarepta, in her experience, may illustrate this for us. (1 Kings 17) The sin of Saul against the Gibeonites was visited in the distant, closing days of David. (2 Sam. 21) " God moves in a mysterious way." He takes methods which are all His own, in the exercises 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 that 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 any one. But afterward the Lord lets them know that their offense had not been overlooked, for that, 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 He rebuked them? " Peace, be still" was said to the waves of the sea, ere " 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. bavid, 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 speedily executed, 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 that 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 be 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 has not overlooked his sin.
But again I may say, very marked indeed is the grace of God towards him in thus withholding him from the battle which was soon to he fought between Israel and the Philistines at 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 amen, as seemeth best to His godly 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 before been used 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 do we find in the progress of Christian life, and They warn us to draw upon Jesus for "exigence of every hour," and not to think that we shall stand to-morrow because we have not fallen to-day. But though the Lord pardons, He chastens. He forgives the sin, but He takes vengeance of the inventions.
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 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 burnt, and all therein had been taken captive, wives, children, cattle and all, by the people of the south, whom David had afore beaten and slaughtered.
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 small or great, but carried them away captive." And it was thus in the case of Job. All was touched by the hand of the enemy but life. But life was spared then and now, because of God's purpose of goodness for Job's latter end, and because of like purpose towards the offending culprit, David. And so indeed in all the chastisements 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 this faith. Jonah looked afresh to the temple, when he was in the whale's belly; David encourages himself in God in the sight of the ruins of Ziklag. This was all the bitterness of his own way; but he is " 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 chap. 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, be 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 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.
But still further, in this fruitful scripture.
The heart of man, we know, is a deceiver,-"deceitful above all things," -so that "he that trusteth it is a fool." But it is a vagrant likewise. It is famous for its wanderings and uncertainties, as it is for its deceits. And happy indeed is the prospect of its being delivered from these its wretched conditions, when the presence of the glory of Jesus, and the atmosphere of the kingdom, free us, as I may say, from ourselves.
We get now and again some pledges or expressions of this-and the heart of David furnishes us with two of them. I mean on this occasion of the spoils of the Amalekites, in 1 Sam. 30. And at the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, in 1 Chron. 21.
A time of conviction of sin, of anxiety of conscience, of the early strugglings of the soul awakened to its condition before God, is necessarily a time for the enlarging of the heart. The sinner is then so occupied with his question in God's presence, that he cannot be following his nature in pride or selfishness. It was thus with David, and with Oman too, in the day of 1 Chron. 21. A great public calamity was then hanging over them, and relief from that was the one commanding care and question that filled every bosom. All must have been ready, at such a moment, to forego their own personal private advantages-and David and Ornan, the king and the Jebusite, represent this, the one insisting on giving his threshing-floor, the other insisting on paying for it.
A time of gladness is also, by a kind of moral necessity, a time of largeness of heart. If we eat the fat and drink the sweet ourselves, we shall be ready to send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. (Neh. 8) Such is the day of 1 Sam. 30. Fears have all been quieted, anxieties relieved and answered. The spoils of the Amalekites bespeak a day of triumph. David is full of generous, large-hearted thoughts. He will not brook the suggestion that the feeble ones who had tarried at the brook should not share the spoils with those that had gone down to the fight. And he himself sends round to all his friends, portions of what may be understood to have been his share of the profits of that joyous day.
Such was the heart of David, taken up by the hand of God on these two occasions. Different the occasions were, but David's heart in such a hand enters into the power of each. And how blessed if communion had in our souls its proper separating and realizing power: separating us from present attractions, realizing before us future, eternal glories!
We need to put the heart near to Jesus-to have it kept steady amid the changing scenes of Christian life-to have it enlarged by reason of spiritual joy.
David rebukes the Amalekite master here. He had left his servant behind him because he had fallen sick; David, returning to his comrades at the brook inquires after their health, and then gives them a full share of all that had been gathered by the victory.
And how should we, in the joy of the Lord, rebuke the world and nature! But, "what do we more than others?" may well be the whisper and the inquiry of our hearts.
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