Ziklag; or, David Encouraging Himself in God
“And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, everyman for his sons and for his daughters: hut David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” “And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.”— 1 Samuel xxx. 6 and 8.
WE ought to be deeply grateful to God for the inspired history of the life of his servant David. It was a great life, a vigorous life, a life spent in many positions and conditions. I almost rejoice that it was not a faultless life, for its failings and errors are instructive. It is the life of a man after God’s own heart; but still, the life of one who went astray, like a lost sheep, and was recovered by the great Shepherd’s grace. By this fact he comes all the nearer to us poor, faulty men and women. I would venture to apply to David the description which has been applied to the world’s own poet—
“A man so various, that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind’s epitome.”
Each one may find something like himself in the long, eventful, and chequered life of the son of Jesse. Among other things we learn this, that where there is faith there is sure to be trial; for David, though he trusted God so heartily, had good need of all the faith he possessed. In his early days he was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains by Saul, and was constantly in jeopardy of his life. He had so choice a treasure of faith about him, that Satan was for ever trying to plunder him of it. Still, the worst trials that David suffered arose not out of his faith, but out of his want of it. That which he did to avoid trouble brought him into deeper distress than ordinary providences ever caused him. He left the country where he was so ill at ease, which was, nevertheless, thy land, O Emmanuel, and he went away into the land of the Philistines, expecting there to escape from further turmoil. In so doing he transgressed, and fresh trials came upon him, trials of a worse kind than those which had happened to him from the hand of Saul. Brethren, the poet said—
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown,”
and he spake truly; for “in the world ye shall have tribulation.” If you have faith it must be tried, and should that faith fail you must be tried still more. There is no discharge from this war: difficulties must be faced. This is the day of battle, and you must fight if you would reign. You are like men thrown into the sea, you must swim or drown. It is useless to expect ease where your Lord had none. If you adopt the paltry shifts suggested by unbelief, not even then shall you avoid affliction; the probabilities are that you will be taken among the thorns and scourged with the briars of the wilderness. However rough the king’s highway may be, the by-paths are far worse; therefore keep the way of the commandment, and bravely face its trials.
Another lesson is this:— though we shall be tried, yet faith in God is an available resource at all times. Faith is a shield which you may use for warding off every kind of arrow, yea, even the fiery darts of the great enemy; for this shield cannot be penetrated even by javelins of fire. You cannot be cast into a condition in which faith shall not help you. There is a promise of God suitable for every state, and God has wisdom and skill and love and faithfulness to deliver you out of every possible jeopardy; and therefore you have only to confide in God, and deliverance is sure to come. Mainly note this, that even when your trouble has been brought upon you by your own fault faith is still available. When your affliction is evidently a chastisement for grievous transgression, still trust in the Lord. The Lord Jesus prayed for erring Peter that his faith might not fail him: his hope of recovery lay there. Faith under a sense of guilt is one of those noble kinds of faith at which some are staggered. To my mind the faith of a saint is comparatively easy; it is the faith of a sinner that is hard. When you know that you have walked uprightly before God, and have not stained your garments, then you can trust him without difficulty: but, oh, when you have stepped aside, and when at last the heavenly Father makes you smart under his rod,— to cast yourself upon him then is faith indeed. Do not fail to exercise it, for this is the faith which saves. What faith is that which first of all brings men into possession of a good hope but the faith of a sinner? Often in life, when our sinnership becomes more manifest to us than usual, we shall be driven to that first sort of faith, in which, being unworthy, we trust entirely in pardoning grace. It would be wise always to live by this same faith. If any of you at this time are in great distress, and are conscious that you richly deserve all your troubles because of your folly, still trust in the mercy of the Lord. Do not doubt the Lord your Saviour, for he invites his backsliding children to return unto him. Though you have fallen by your iniquity, yet take with you words and return unto the Lord. May the Holy Spirit give you renewed trust in the Lord, who forgiveth iniquity, transgression, and sin, and retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Let this stand as our preface, and the whole of the sermon will tend to illustrate it.
We notice:— First, David’s distress— “David was greatly distressed”; secondly, David’s encouragement— “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God”; thirdly, David’s enquiry— “And David enquired at the Lord”; and then, fourthly, David’s answer of peace: the Lord said, “Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.” distressed
I. First, then let us look at DAVID’S DISTRESS— “David was greatly distressed.” His city was burnt, his wives were gone, the sons and daughters of his comrades were all captive, and little Ziklag, where they had made a home, smoked before them in blackened ruins. The men of war, wounded in heart, mutinied against their leader, and were ready to stone him. David’s fortunes were at their lowest ebb. To understand his position we must go a little further back in his history.
David was greatly distressed for he had been acting without consulting his God. It was his general habit to wait upon the Lord for direction, for even as a shepherd lad it was his joy to sing, “He leadeth me”; but for once David had gone without leading, and had chosen a bad road. Worn out by the persecution of Saul, in an evil moment his heart failed him, and he said, “I shall surely fall one day by the hand of Saul.” This was a dangerous mood. Always be afraid of being afraid. Failing faith means failing strength. Do not regard despondency as merely a loss of joy, view it as draining away your spiritual life. Struggle against it, for it often happens that when faith ebbs sin comes to the flood. He who does not comfortably trust God will soon seek after comfort somewhere else, and David did so: without asking divine direction he fled to the court of the Philistine chieftain Achish, hoping to be quiet there. See what came of it! When he stood among the ashes of Ziklag he began to understand what an evil and bitter thing it is to lean to our own understanding, to forget God who guides us, and to become a law unto ourselves. Perhaps some of you are in distress in the same way: you have chosen your own path, and now you are caught in the tangled bushes which tear your flesh. You have carved for yourselves, and you have cut your own fingers; you have obtained your heart’s desire, and while the meat is yet in your mouth a curse has come with it. You say you “did it for the best;” ay, but it has turned out to be for the worst. David never made a heavier rod for himself than when he thought to avoid all further discomfort by leaving his true place.
Worse than this, if worse can be, David had also followed policy instead of truth. The Oriental mind was, and probably still is, given to lying. Easterns do not think it wrong to tell an untruth; many do it habitually. Just as an upright merchant m this country would not be suspected of a falsehood, so you would not in the olden time have suspected the average Oriental of ever speaking the truth if he could help it, because he felt that everybody else would deceive him and so he must practise great cunning. The golden rule in David’s day was, “Do others, for others will certainly do you.” David in his early days was not without the taint of his times. He became the commander of the bodyguard of Achish, king of Gath, and he lived in the royal city. As he found himself rather awkwardly situated in that idolatrous town he said to the king, “If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?” Achish appears to have been almost a convert to the worship of Jehovah, and certainly shines brilliantly in the narrative before us. At David’s request he gave him the town of Ziklag. David and his men warred with the various tribes of Canaanites who dwelt in the south of Palestine, and took from them great spoil; but he greatly erred in making Achish believe that he was fighting against Judah. We read, “And Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever.” This was the result of David’s acted and uttered lie, and lest the falsehood should be found out David spared none of those whom he conquered, saying, “Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David.” So that beginning with policy he went on to falsehood, and from one falsehood he was driven to another, and his course became far other than that which a man of God should have pursued. How different was such false conduct from the usual character of the man who said, “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” See the fruit of his falsehood! Ziklag is burned with fire: his wives are captives; and his men speak of stoning him. If you and I ever get away from living by straightforward truth we shall wander into a maze from which it will be hard to extricate ourselves. We should each feel that we can die but we cannot lie, we can starve but we cannot cheat, we can be ground into the dust but we cannot do an unrighteous thing. If it be so, we may count upon the help of God, and may go bravely on under every difficulty. David had left the highway of righteousness, and was stumbling among the dark mountains of craft and deceit. He was plotting and scheming like the worst of worldlings, and he must be made to see his error, and taught to abhor the way of lying; hence in one moment the Lord launches at him bereavement, plunder, mutiny, danger of life, that he might be driven to his God, and made to hate the way of cunning. What wonder that David was greatly distressed?
Yet was his distress the more severe on another account, for David had sided with the enemies of the Lord's people. He had gone to the Philistines, and their prince had said to him, “I will make thee keeper of mine head for ever.” Think of David keeping the head of a Philistine! When Achish gathered the Philistine army to battle with Israel, we read with shame, “And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish.” How dreadfully troubled David must have felt in this false position. Think of David, who was ordained to be king of Israel, marching his armed band to fight his own countrymen! How gracious was the Lord in bringing him out of that perilous position. The Philistine princes suspected him, as well they might, and said to Achish, “What do these Hebrews here?” They were jealous of the high office to which David had been promoted, and fearful of his turning against them during the fight. “And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with Achish; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us; for therewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?” Though the Philistine king, like the true man that he was, smoothed it down, he was forced to send David away. What a relief David must have felt! Well might he pen the words of the hundred and twenty-fourth Psalm, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.” What a horror would have been upon him if he had actually gone with the Philistines to the battle in which Saul and Jonathan were slain. It would have been a stain upon David all his life. The Lord delivered him, but he made him to feel his rod at the same time, for no sooner had David reached Ziklag, than he saw that the hand of the Lord was gone out against him, desolation smoked around him, and we do not marvel that David was greatly distressed.
Picture the position of David, in the centre of his band. He has been driven away by the Philistine lords with words of contempt; his men have been sneered at— “What do these Hebrews here? Is not this David?” When he walked with God he was like a prince, and no man dared to sneer at him, but now he has been flouted by the uncircumcised Philistine, and has been glad to sneak back to his little city, ashamed of himself. It is terrible when a man of God falls into such a position that he gives the enemy opportunity to blaspheme God, and to despise his servant. It is terrible when even worldlings scout the inconsistency of the professed follower of Jesus. “What do these Hebrews here?” is the sarcastic question of the world. “How comes a professing Christian to be acting as we do? Look, he is trying to cultivate our acquaintance, and pass for one of ourselves, and yet he calls himself a servant of God!” They begin to point, as they did at Peter— “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth, for thy speech betrayeth thee.” “What doest thou here, Elijah?” is the voice which comes from God’s mouth, and the lips of his adversaries repeat it. When the child of God feels that he is in that predicament, and in great trouble too, it is not strange that he is greatly distressed.
At the back of this came bereavement. His wives were gone. He was a man of a large, affectionate, tender heart, and what grief it must have been to him! Nor was he a solitary mourner; but all those brave fellows who were joined with him were bereaved too. Hark to the common chorus of grief! They weep, until they have no more power to weep. It must have been a dread day for their leader to feel his own personal sorrow merged and drowned in the flood of grief which swept over his companions. As for his worldly possessions, he was now as poor as he possibly could be; for all that he had was taken away, and his habitation was burnt with fire, and the rovers were gone he knew not whither. Worst of all, he was now forsaken by his followers. Those who had been with him in his worst fortunes now upbraided him with their calamity. Why did he leave the city to go off to help these enemies of the Lord, the uncircumcised Philistines? He might have known better; and they grew indignant, and one said, “Let us stone him;” to which others answered, “Let us do it at once.” They were evidently in a great rage. He stands there faint with weeping, a friendless, forsaken man, with his very life in danger from furious mutineers. Do you wonder that it is written, “And David was greatly distressed”? He is surrounded with sorrow; but he has no need to gather ashes as the emblems of his woe; for ashes are everywhere about him, the whole place is smoking. He mourns greatly for his wives, and his soldiers mourn for their children, for they are as if they were slain with the sword. It is a case of deep distress, with this added sting,— that he had brought it upon himself.
There is the picture before you; now let us see a fairer scene as we observe what David did under the circumstances. When he was at his worst he was seen at his best.
II. Secondly, let us consider DAVID’S ENCOURAGEMENT: “And David encouraged himself” That is well, David! He did not at first attempt to encourage anybody else; but he encouraged himself. Some of the best talks in the world are those which a man has with himself. He who speaks to everybody except himself is a great fool. I think I hear David say, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God; for I will yet praise him.” David encouraged himself. But he encouraged himself “in the Lord his God,” namely, in Jehovah. That is the surest way of encouraging yourself. David might have drawn, if he had pleased, a measure of encouragement from those valiant men who joined him just about this particular time; for it happened, according to 1 Chronicles xii. 19-20, that many united with his band at that hour. Let us read the passage. “And there fell some of Manasseh to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul to battle, but they helped them not: for the lords of the Philistines upon advisement sent him away, saying, He will fall to his master Saul to the jeopardy of our heads. As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozabad, and Jediael, and Michael, and Jozabad, and Elihu, and Zilthai, captains of the thousands that were of Manasseh. And they helped David against the band of the rovers: for they were all mighty men of valour, and were captains in the host. For at that time day by day there came to David to help him until it was a great host, like the host of God.” These new comers had not lost their wives and children, for they had not been in Ziklag; but David did not look round to them and beg them to stand by him, and put down the mutiny. No, he had by this time become sick of men, and weary of trusting to himself. God was beginning to cure his servant by a bitter dose of distress, and the evidence of the cure was that he did not encourage himself by his new friends, or by the hope of others coming; but he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. Do you not feel a wind from the hills? The air blows strong and fresh from the everlasting mountains, now that the man of God is looking to God alone. Before, David was down there in the valleys, with his policy and his craft, in the stagnant atmosphere of self-trust and worldliness; but now he stands in Ziklag, a friendless man, but free and true. How grand he is amid the ruins! He rises to his full height, while his fortunes fall! He reminds you of his youthful days when he said, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” He is no longer in bondage to craft, but he is a man again, strong in the strength of God; for he casts himself away from all earthly trusts, and encourages himself in the Lord.
He did not sit down in sullen despair, nor did he think, as Saul did, of resorting to wrong means for help; but he went, sinner as he was, confessing all his wrong doing, straight away to his God, and asked for the priest to come that he might speak with him in the name of the Most High. Brothers and sisters, if you are in trouble, and your trouble is mixed with sin, if you have afflicted yourselves by your backslidings and perversities, nevertheless I pray you look nowhere else for help but to the God whom you have offended. When he lifts his arm, as it were, to execute vengeance, lay hold upon it and he will spare you. Does he not himself say, “Let him lay hold on my strength”? I remember old Master Quarles has a strange picture of one trying to strike another with a flail, and how does the other escape? Why, he runs in and keeps close, and so he is not struck. It is the very thing to do. Close in with God. Cling to him by faith; hold fast by him in hope. Say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Resolve, “I will not let thee go.” Guilty as you are, it is good for you to draw nigh unto God.
Let us try to conceive of the way in which David would encourage himself in the Lord his God. Standing amidst those ruins he would say, “Yet the Lord does love me, and I love him. Though I have wandered, yet my heart cannot rest without him. Though I have had but little fellowship with him of late, yet he hath not forgotten to be gracious, nor hath he in anger shut up his bowels of compassion.” He would look back upon those happy days when he kept sheep, and sang psalms unto the Lord his God amid the pastures of the wilderness. He would recollect those peaceful hours of happiest communion, and long to have them o’er again. His own psalms would tend to comfort him as he saw how his heart had once been glad. He would say to himself: “My experience of divine love is not a dream, I know it is not a myth or a delusion. I have known the Lord, and I have had near and dear intercourse with him, and I know that he changes not, and therefore he will help me. His mercy endureth for ever. He will put away my transgression.” Thus he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
Then he went further, and argued, “Hath not the Lord chosen me? Has he not ordained me to be king in Israel? Did he not send his prophet Samuel, who poured oil upon my head, and said, ‘This is he’? Surely the Lord will not change his appointment, or suffer his word to fail. I have been separated from my kinsfolk, and hunted by Saul, and driven from rock to cave and from cave to wilderness, and I have known no rest, and all because I was ordained to be king in Saul’s place; surely the Lord will carry out his purpose, and will set me on the throne. He has not chosen, and ordained, and anointed me in mockery.”
Brethren, do you need an interpretation of this parable? Can you not see its application to yourselves? Are you not saying, “The Lord called me by his grace, brought me out from my love of the world, and made me a priest and a king unto himself, and can he leave me? Is not the oil of his Spirit still upon me? Can he cast me off? He separated me to himself, and gave me to know that my destiny was not like that of the ungodly world, but that he had ordained me and chosen me to be his servant for ever— will he leave me to perish? Shall his enemy rejoice over me?” Thus may you encourage yourself in God.
Then he would go over all the past deliverances which he had experienced. I see the picture which passed like a panorama before David’s eye. He saw himself when he slew the lion and the bear. Did God deliver him then, and will he not deliver him now? He pictured himself going out to meet the giant Goliath, with nothing but a sling and a stone, and coming back with the monster’s head in his hand; and he argued, “Will he not rescue me now?” He saw himself in the courts of Saul, when the mad king sought to pin him to the wall with a javelin, and he barely escaped. He saw himself let down by the kindness or Michal from the window, when her father sought to slay him in his bed. He saw himself in the cave of Engedi, and upon the tracks of the wild goats, pursued by his remorseless adversary, but always strangely guarded from his cruel hand. He cheers himself, as one had done before him, with the inference, “If the Lord had meant to destroy me, he would not have showed me such things as these.”
Come, now, dear children of God, take down your diaries and refer to the days when the Lord helped you again and again. How many times has he blessed you? You could not count them, for God has been so gracious and tender that he has aided you ten thousand times already. Has he changed in love, in faithfulness, in power? God forbid that we should indulge such a wicked thought. He is still the same, and so let us encourage ourselves in him.
“Alas,” say you, “I have done wrong.” I know you have; but HE has not. If your confidence were in yourself, that wrong of yours might crush your hope; but since your confidence is in God, and he has not changed, why should you fear? “Oh, but I am so sinful.” Yes; I know you are, and so you were when he first looked upon you in love. If his love had sought to come to you by the way of merit it never would have reached you; but it comes to you by way of free, rich, sovereign grace, and therefore it will come to you evermore. Do you not feel refreshed this morning as you think of what the Lord has done? and do you not feel that after doing so much it would be wrong now to distrust him? Will you not even now encourage yourself in your God?
Perhaps David at that moment perceived that this crushing blow was sent in infinite tenderness to clean him right out of the condition into which he had fallen. The Lord seems to say to David, “All that you have ever got of Achish is this village of Ziklag, and I have caused it to be burnt up, so that you have nothing left to be a tie between you and Philistia. The princes said, ‘Send this fellow away,’ and they have sent you away; and now the town that Achish gave you is utterly destroyed; there is no link left between you and the Philistines, and you have come back to your natural standing.” The hardest blow that our God ever strikes, if it puts us right and separates us from self and sin, and carnal policy, is a coup de grace, a blow of love. If it ends our life of selfishness, and brings us back into the life of trust, it is a blessed blow. When God blesses his people most it is by terrible things in righteousness. He smote David to heal him. He fetched him out from the snare of the Philistine fowler, and delivered him from the noisome pestilence of heathen association, by a way that brought the tears into his eyes till he had no more power to weep. Now the servant of the Lord begins to see the wonderful hand of God, and he shall yet say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word.”
I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my little witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest, tenderest love has been manifested towards me. I pray you, dear friends, if you are at this time very low, and greatly distressed, encourage yourselves in the abundant faithfulness of the God who hides himself. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. We may not ask for trouble, but if we were wise we should look upon it as the shadow of an unusually great blessing. Dread the calm, it is often treacherous, and beneath its wing the pestilence is lurking. Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven. Blessed be the Lord, whose way is in the whirlwind, and who makes the clouds to be the dust of his feet. May some such thoughts as these help you to encourage yourself in God as David did.
III. And now, thirdly, we have DAVID ENQUIRING OF GOD. “And David enquired at the Lord, saying, shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them?”
Note well that as soon as David had come to be right with God he longed to know the Lord’s mind as to his next action. You and I would have said, “Let us hasten after these marauders; let us not stop an instant, we can pray as we march, or at some other time. Haste! haste! for the lives of our wives and children are at stake.” It was a time for hurry if ever there was; but, as the good proverb says, “Prayer and provender hinder no man’s journey.” David wisely stops. “Bring hither the ephod,” cries he, and he waits till the oracle answers his enquiries. He will not march till the Lord shall give the word of command. This is well. It is a sweet frame of mind to be in to be brought to feel that you must now wait the Lord’s bidding, that your strength is to sit still till God bids you go forward. Oh that we could always keep up this submission of heart! Oh that we never leaned to our own understanding, but trusted solely in God!
Observe, that David takes it for granted that his God is going to help him. He only wants to know how it is to be done. “Shall I pursue? shall I overtake?” When you, my brother, are enquiring of the Lord, do not approach him as if he would not help you, or could hardly be expected to aid you. You would not like your children to ask a favour of you as if they were afraid of their lives to speak to you. I am sure you would not like a dear child, whatever wrong he had been doing, to feel a suspicion of your love, and doubt your willingness to help; for whatever he has done he is your child still. David has encouraged himself in his God, and he is sure that God is ready to save him; all that he wants to know is how he is himself to act in the business.
It is to be remarked, however, that David does not expect that God is going to help him without his doing his best. He enquires, “Shall I pursue? shall I overtake?” He means to be up and doing. Sad as he is, and faint as he is, he is ready for action. Many who get into trouble seem to expect an angel to come and lift them up by the hair of their heads; but angels have other matters in hand. The Lord generally helps us by enabling us to help ourselves, and it is a way which does us double good. It was more for David’s benefit that he should himself smite the Amalekites than that God should hurl hailstones out of heaven upon them, and destroy them. David will have their spoil for the wage of battle, and be rewarded for the forced march and the fight. Brother, you will have to work and labour to extricate yourself from debt and difficulty, and so the Lord will hear your prayer. The rule is to trust in God to smite the Amalekites, and then to march after them, as if it all depended upon yourself. There is a God-reliance which arouses all our self-reliance and yokes it to the chariot of providence, making the man ready for action because God is with him.
It is instructive to notice that, although David was thus ready for action, trusting in God, he greatly distrusted his own wisdom; for he asked, “Shall I pursue them?” That man is wise who counts his own wisdom to be folly; and he who lays his judgment down at Jesus’ feet, is a man of soundest judgment. He who tarries till the divine wisdom shall guide him, he shall be expert and prudent in all things.
David also distrusted his own strength though quite ready to use what he had; for he said, “Shall I overtake?” Can my men march fast enough to overtake these robbers? And what a blessed state of heart that is when we have no strength of our own, but seek unto God! It is good to be insufficient, and to find God all-sufficient. I pause here a minute and pray God ever to keep you and me in just the condition into which he brought his servant David. I do not care so much about his overtaking the robbers, and all that: the glory was to have overtaken his God, and to be waiting at his feet. He could not be brought to this without his city being burnt, without his being bereaved, robbed, and ready to die by the hands of his own warriors; but it was worth all the cost to be brought to rest on the bare arm of God, and to wait in childlike dependence at the great Father’s door. Let the proud lift up their heads, but let me rest mine on Jesus’ bosom. Let the mighty raise their shields on high; as for me, the Lord is my shield and my defence, and he alone. When I am weak, then I am strong. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” The old song of Hannah is still true,— “He hath shewed strength with his arm ; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.”
IV. We close our sermon with the fourth note, which is a note of jubilate, and praise unto God, who helped his servants,— DAVID’S ANSWER OF PEACE. The Lord heard his supplication. He says, “In my distress I cried unto the Lord and he heard me.” But mark this, he was not delivered without further trial. David marched with his six hundred men on foot after the foe, with all speed, and the band became so worn and weary that one-third of them could not ford the brook Besor, which, though usually dry, was probably at that time flowing with a strong stream. Many a leader would have given up the chase with one out of three of his troop in hospital, but David pursued with his reduced force. When God means to bless us, he often takes away a part of the little strength we thought we had. We did not think our strength equal to the task, and the Lord takes away a portion even of the little power we had. Our God does not fill till he has emptied. Two hundred men must be rent away from David’s side before God could give him victory, for he meant to have David’s whole force to be exactly equal to the four hundred Amalekites who fled, that he might make the victory the more memorable and renowned. Expect then, O troubled one, that you will be delivered, but know that your sorrow may yet deepen, that you may have all the greater joy by-and-by.
Leaving the two hundred men behind, David dashes ahead, and by forced marches overtakes the enemy; finds them feasting; smites them hip and thigh, and destroys them, and takes the spoil, but in such a way that manifestly it was the gift of God. He speaks of the spoil as “That which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.” God will help his servants who trust him, but he will have all the honour of the victory. He will deliver them in such a way that they shall lift their psalms and hymns unto God alone, and this shall be the strain: “Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously. We were unworthy, we were faint, we were distressed, but God has made us more than conquerors through his great love.”
David’s victory was perfect. We are told over and over again that “David recovered all.” Nothing was lost: not a piece of money nor a garment, not an ox nor a sheep, much less a child, or one of woman kind,— “David recovered all.” How well the Lord works when he once lays his hand to it “He will perfect that which concerneth me.” Salvation is of the Lord, and it is an everlastingly complete salvation. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength. He will work, and work perfectly, till he shall say, “It is finished.” The battle is the Lord’s, and his saints shall be more than conquerors.
Not only did God give David complete rescue, but he awarded him great spoil. “And they said, This is David’s spoil.” David became rich and able to send presents to his friends; but he was also the better man, the holier man, the stronger man, the more fit to wear that crown which was so soon to adorn his brow. Oh, brothers and sisters, the deeper your trouble the louder will be your song, if you can but trust in God and walk in fellowship with Jesus. Little skiffs that keep near the land carry but small cargoes, and their masters see little save the shore; but they that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. It is something to be out on the wide main in a terrific storm, when the ship is tossed to and fro like a ball, when the heavens are mixed up with the ocean, and all is uproar. Then great thunder contends with the roaring of the sea, and the lightning flames are quenched by the boiling of the mighty waves. When you reach the shore again, you know a gladness which the landsman cannot feel, and you have a tale to tell to your children, and your children’s children, of what you have seen in the deep, such as lubberly landsmen scarce can understand. As for those who dwell at ease, what do they see? You who have been in the battle can sing of victory, and, pointing to your experience, can exclaim, “This is David’s spoil.”
Trust in the Lord your God. Believe also in his Son Jesus. Get rid of sham faith, and really believe. Get rid of a professional faith, and trust in the Lord at all times, about everything. “What, trust him about pounds, shillings, and pence?” Assuredly. I dread the faith that cannot trust God about bread and garments,— it is a lying faith. Depend upon it, that is not the solid, practical faith of Abraham, who trusted God about his tent and his cattle, and about a wife for his son. That faith which made David trust God about the sons and daughters and the spoil, that is the sort of faith for you and for me. If God cannot be trusted about loaves and fishes how shall he be trusted about the things of eternity and the glories which are yet to be revealed? Stay yourself on God with an everyday faith. Faith in God is the exercise of sanctified common sense. Somebody called me “superstitious” for trusting God as to his answering prayer, but I reply that he is superstitious who does not trust the living God. He who believes in the power of the greatest of all forces, and trusts in the surest of all truths, is but acting rationally. The purest reason approves reliance upon God. The end shall declare the wisdom of believing God. At the last, when we with all believers shall lift up the great hallelujah unto the Lord God of Israel who reigneth over all things for his people, it shall be known by all that faith is honourable and unbelief contemptible.
God bless you, brethren, and if any of you have never trusted God at all, nor rested in his dear Son, may you be brought to do so at once. May you see your self-righteousness burned like Ziklag, and all your carnal hopes carried away captive, and may you then encourage yourselves in Christ, for he will recover all for you, and give you spoil besides, and there shall be joy and rejoicing. The Lord be with you. Amen.