The Lord is our refuge and strength

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

1 Samuel 29 & 30

 

Let off the hook

Have you been let off the hook?

We use this expression for when someone who looks like they are in trouble with no way out of it but who then finds themselves somehow being released from that that trouble or difficulty at the last moment. The origin of this expression probably came from a fish managing to get off a hook. This occasionally has happened to me. After hours of catching nothing you finally have a fish on your hook. You manage reel him in so close that you can even see him in the water. But, just as you are reaching over to get him into the boat, the fish wriggles and gets off the hook and falls back into the water and swims away. It’s a narrow escape for the fish who has been let off the hook.

Having you ever been let off the hook? Maybe you were going to have to present something at work that you just weren’t prepared for and at the last minute the client rang up and postponed the meeting? Maybe there was something that you didn’t want to have to put your hand up to do and the boss starts looking at you and you know that he wants you to volunteer to do it but just before you were about to raise your hand somebody beats you to it. We sometimes find ourselves being let off the hook right at the last moment.

David is let off the hook

I think this is what we see happening in the story of David today in chapter 29 of 1 Samuel. Over the last few months we have been following the story of David, the king that God had chosen to replace Saul, Israel’s first king. A few weeks ago, in chapter 28 we saw that David grow tired of running away from Saul who was trying to kill him. David decided to take things into his own hands and came up with his own very dubious plan to ensure the safety and the security of himself, his men and their families. David had decided to go over to Achish, the king of Gath and settled there among the enemies of God’s people. He believed that somehow that he would be safer there in that place than he would have been if he had remained in Israel with the Lord watching over him. It seems to have been a moment when David let his fears get the better of him.

  • David was on the king of Gath’s hook

But as with all our plans that don’t come from faith but from our fear it wasn’t the solution that he thought it would be. As it often happens one bad/wrong decision led to another. In Gath David found himself in difficult situation because the king of Gath expected his loyalty and he and his men were expected to fight with the Philistines against his own people. For over a year David had managed to get around this by acting deceitfully and ruthlessly but the time came when the king of Gath started to wind in the line and pull David closer.

  • The king of Gath started to reel him in

A few weeks ago, in chapter 28 we saw that David and his men were not going to keep getting away with their lies and deceit. David might have thought he was getting away with it, but he was on the hook of this king and the king of Gath was now reeling him in.

1 Samuel 28:1

 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.”[1]

King Achish had been so taken in by David deceit that he now expected David to fight by his side against David’s own people. David and his men found themselves conscripted into the Philistine army and were expected to fight alongside them. It was in the throes of this dilemma that we left David a few weeks ago. The rest of chapter 28 told the story of King Saul and how hopeless those without God become when facing their end. Today were return to the story of David and the dilemma that David found himself in at the rear of the Philistines forces that were gathering at Aphek to fight against the Israelites.

1 Samuel 29:1-2

The Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, and Israel camped by the spring in Jezreel. As the Philistine rulers marched with their units of hundreds and thousands, David and his men were marching at the rear with Achish.

 

  • The Lord let David off the hook

In chapter 29 David and his men found themselves as part of the massive built up of troops gathering at Aphek. David had done such a great job at deceiving the king of Gath that he had brought David with him to fight against David’s own people. At this point in the story it is no longer clear what David can do to keep himself out of the fight and at the same time keep his family safe who were still living in Gath. But fortunately for David the Lord lets David off the hook and he used the Philistines commanders to do it.

 

  • He used the commanders of the Philistines to do it

While Achish foolishly had complete confidence in David, the other Philistine kings and particularly their commanders didn’t. They objected to David and his men being there among them so much so that the king of Achish was forced to send David back home to Ziklag.

1 Samuel 29:4

But the Philistine commanders were angry with him and said, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favour than by taking the heads of our own men? Isn’t this the David they sang about in their dances:

“ ‘Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his tens of thousands’?”

 

Surely the Philistines commanders were right. When it came down to it, David wouldn’t have fought against his own people. But David never had to face this possibility because he was let off the hook at the last minute. He didn’t have to go into battle. He wouldn’t be there when Saul would be defeated and killed, and I think that we are to understand that it was the Lord who let David off the hook.

  • It was God’s providential care

While there is no mention of the Lord in these events, God rescued David through guiding the course of events that day. In the case of David, the Lord even used the scepticism of these enemy commanders to get David out of the trouble that he had gotten himself in to. Christians sometimes refer to this as God’s providential care of his people. God guides and governs all the events and circumstances of our lives in such a way that he can work out his good will for his people. In this case he even used the objections of these Philistine commanders to deliver David from the dilemma that he had gotten himself into through his deceit and lies.

 

Dale Davis, an OT scholar says that the Lord can even “make the enemy serve us a as a friend. He not only prepares a table in the presence of our enemies but also has the knack of making the enemies prepare the table.” In his book, he uses a story to highlight what he means. He writes:

I remember reading a children’s story in which a Christian woman, alone and out of food, was telling her plight to her heavenly Father and asking for her daily bread. Somehow a neighbor, an agnostic or an atheist, overheard the woman praying and decided it was time for a little divine fun. He went and purchased two loaves of bread and left them at her door. Upon discovering them, the woman burst into a devout and grateful prayer of praise. But her neighbor accosted her to demythologize the incident, informing her that he had happened to hear her praying, that he bought the bread, and he had placed it on her step. It was not, then, God who had answered her prayer. But the lady was “armed”: “Oh, yes, it was the Lord who answered my prayer—even though he used the devil to do it.”[2]

 

Although it might seem that it was the Philistine commanders who were the ones that had let David off the hook that day, I think that we are meant to see that it was the Lord at work in these circumstances. He was working out his good purposes according to his promises that he had given David. What we see in Scripture again and again is the fact that the Lord can use whatever and whoever he wants to bring about his purposes. He can even use people who we wouldn’t expect him to use to bring about the good that he is working out in this world for his people. We see this time and time again in the story of the Bible and it perhaps can be most clearly seen in the story of the Lord Jesus. While his enemies thought by crucifying him they were getting rid of him, they were just fulfilling the Lord’s plans and purposes to make Jesus the saviour and ruler of our world. As believers we are not to forget that God can do more than we can ask or imagine. We are to never give up trusting him for no matter what we face he never gives up on us and even in the most difficult situation he has this knack, this ability to work all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). He will not fail to deliver on his promises..

The Lord is our refuge and strength

I think that what David learns while sojourning in the land of the Philistines is the truth of Psalm 46 verses 1. The psalmist writes that the Lord is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in times of trouble. This become clear to David in chapter 30 which we want to briefly look at now.

  • David found that no place could provide security

In this chapter David discovered that the land that he had fled to didn’t offer him the protection and safety he thought or hoped that it would have. On returning to Ziklag David discovered that he wasn’t any more secure in that land than he had been back in the land of Israel. While David had been away on the Philistine muster in Aphek, the Amalekites had attacked Ziklag and had burnt it to the ground and had taken the families of David and his men as captives.

1 Samuel 30:1-5

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.

Any illusion that David had that the land of the Philistines could provide him the security and safety that he was looking for had now been completely shattered. On returning home and finding their homes burnt and everything gone David and his men became so distraught that they wept until they didn’t have the strength to weep any more.  Things were so bad and the men so grief stricken that David’s men were talking about even stoning David. They needed someone to blame and David was in the firing line for after all it had probably been his idea to settle in Philistia in the first place. But, it was at this low point that we read that David found strength in the Lord his God (verse6).

 

  • David found his strength in the Lord

David had gone to Philistia because he thought he would be safe there. But he was no safer there than he had been back in Israel with Saul chasing him. What David came to realise was that the sort of security that he wanted didn’t rely on where he happened to be at the time, but rather who was with him wherever he found himself. It seems to have taken this disaster for David to rediscover that the Lord, his God was his strength and his shield.  It seems to have taken hitting rock bottom for David to have realised this. David in his distress turned back to the Lord and found the strength that he needed in the Lord his God. This was probably a matter of reminding himself of who God is and what he had promised him. Having remembered the Lord David turned to the Lord for help and he asked for the ephod to be brought to him so that he could inquire of the Lord.

1 Samuel 30:7-8

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, and David enquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

 

  • David found the Lord to be his ever-present help

 

The Lord reassured David and David and his men pursued the Amalekites. After a long three-day march from Aphek to Ziklag which was at least around 96 km and after having wept to the point of exhaustion by the time they came Besor Ravine at least two hundred of them were too exhausted to go on any further. But this didn’t stop David for the Lord had strengthened him and he knew the Lord was with him. He left the two hundred and kept going with the rest.

Along the way they came upon and Egyptian slave who had be left behind by the raiding party.  The fact that they found him at all and that he revived after going without food or water for three days was a matter of God’s provision for David and his men had no idea of where they were heading. The desert was a big place. But the fact that they had found this man left to die and that he had revived and that he then agreed to lead them to the place where the raiding party had headed was again a matter of God’s providential care of David and his men. God was present with them in their time of trouble leading and guiding them and eventually he restored everything that they had lost.

1 Samuel 30:18-20

18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”

  • Again, God’s providential care

These things that others might have just thought of as a matter of good luck or a series of very fortunate events were really an outworking of God’s providential care of his people. The fact that this Egyptian slave led them to the raiding party and the Amalekites were partying at the time and were totally unprepared for David and his men and that David recovered everyone and everything so that NOTHING was missing was not just an amazing stroke of good luck but the work of God.

David knew this to be true for when he came back to the 200 he told everyone that it was the Lord who had given them everything. There were some among David’s men who didn’t want to share the plunder with the 200, but David explained that they had to because it had been the Lord who had given them these things. It was the Lord who had helped them and who had delivered their enemies into their hands.

1 Samuel 30:23-25

23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All shall share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.

David knew that it was the Lord who had been with them. He had guided them. He had protected them. He had handed over their enemies into their hands. He had given them back everything that they had lost and even more.  David knew that this had not been due to his brilliant leadership or his men’s great skill with their swords, but the fact that hand of the Lord had been on these events guiding them. David had to lose everything to discover that the Lord was his ever-present help in times of trouble. Sometimes this is the only way for us to learn this lesson. It’s often when we are out of hope that we turn to the one who is hope. What David learnt was that his security didn’t depend on where he was or how many men he had on his side, but on the fact, that the Lord was with him protecting him and delivering his enemies into his hands.

The Lord is with us

I believe that this is the lesson that we are meant to learn. We often look for hope in the wrong things, but what we are to remember is that the Lord is with us and he will never leave or forsake us. Even when things seem bad and the obstacles insurmountable and the situation hopeless God is still there with us and he will deliver his people. He will strengthen us for what we need to bare, and nothing can separate us from his love for us in Christ Jesus – not trouble or hardship or death or life (see Romans 8:37-39).

 

It is when we realise that the Lord is with us that we can take steps of faith without fear of what others might think of us or do to us or what we might lose or suffer. It’s when we realise that the Lord is with us and that he has promised to protect us from the evil one and deliver us from our enemies that we can do what we know is right in life despite the opposition that we might face from those around us. Wherever you are -whether at work, at home, at uni or school don’t be afraid to walk by faith because you know that Lord is right there alongside you. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and be different to those around you. You must realise that wherever you go the Lord is there and he can do far more than you can ever imagine or ask for using people you would never have expected..

 

It is when we realise that the Lord is with us that we can stop looking to the wrong things to make our lives secure. It’s isn’t our jobs or our work which makes our lives secure and safe. It isn’t the income that we bring in with our job or our business or our ability to pay our bills or amass investments. It isn’t the number of nice things that we have managed to collect and surround ourselves with that makes our lives secure and it isn’t the beautiful home that we live in. It isn’t even the people that we love and have around us. It is the Lord our God who is our refuge and strength. We need to remember this and remind one another of the truth of this.

What makes the difference is the fact that the Lord has promised to be with us always. It is the Lord Jesus who has made this possible for all of us. He has made it possible for us to know God the Father so that he might be always with us through the Spirit of God dwelling in us. Through his death he brought forgiveness and life so that we might live a new life with God as part of our story. The Lord Jesus promised his disciples that he would be with us always even unto the end of the age (Matt 28). He will never leave us or forsake us no matter where we go or what we do or what we find ourselves up against in this world. He is with us always. It took losing everything for David to remember that the Lord was with him and that was the only thing that truly mattered. What will it take for us to learn this lesson? The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in those times of trouble. Brothers and sisters let’s be people who find our strength in the Lord our God.

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[1] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

 

[2] Davis, D. R. (2000). 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (p. 306). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.