His Pursuit of the Amalekites
1 Samuel 30
We are now to be engaged with the blessed sequel to Davidís putting matters right between his soul and God, and his encouraging himself in the Lord. At the close of the preceding chapter we saw that the first result of his returning to God was that he summoned the high priest with his ephod, and "enquired of the Lord" whether or not he should pursue after those who had burned Ziklag and carried away his wives captive. This exemplifies a principle which is ever operative when there has been a true reformation of heart: our own wisdom and strength are disowned, and divine help and guidance are earnestly sought. Herein are we able to check up the state of our souls and discover whether or not we are really walking with the Lord. Backsliding and a spirit of independency ever go together; contrariwise, communion with God and dependence upon Him are never separated.
As we pointed out in our last, the Mosaic law required that Israelís ruler should stand before the priest, who would ask counsel for him as to whether he should go out or no (Num. 27:31). In like manner, the saint today is bidden to "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass" (Ps. 37:5). No step in life should be taken, be it great or small, without first waiting upon God for direction: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). To seek not wisdom from above, is to act in self-sufficiency and self-will; to honestly and earnestly apply for that wisdom, betokens a heart in subjection to God, desirous of doing that which is pleasing to Him.
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him": if this be faithfully done, then we may be fully assured that "and He shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:6). The serious trouble into which David fell when he sought refuge in the land of Gath, had arisen immediately from failure to enquire of the Lord; but now he consulted Him through the high priest: "Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?" (1 Sam. 30:8). Blessed indeed is this. Would that we might learn to imitate him, for our fleshly efforts to undo the consequences of our unbelief and folly only cause us to continue going on in the same path which brought Godís chastening upon us; and this is certain to end in further disappointment. "Be still, and know that I am God" is the word we need to heed at such a time: to unsparingly judge ourselves, and suffer the hand that has smitten to now lead in His path, is the only way to recovery. Only then do we give evidence that disappointment and sorrow have been blest to our souls.
Unspeakably precious is it to note the Lordís response to Davidís inquiry: "And He answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all" (v. 8). "See the goodness and perfectness of the grace of God. There was no delay in this answeróno reserveóno ambiguity; more even was told than David had asked. He was told not only that he might pursue, but that he should surely recover all. In a moment the black cloud of sorrow that had hung so darkly over Davidís soul was gone: agony gave place to joy: and he whom his companions had been dooming to death, stood suddenly before them as the honoured servant of the Lord his God, commissioned to pursue and to conquer. He did pursue, and all was as God had said" (B. W. Newton).
"So David went, he and the six hundred men that were with him" (1 Sam. 30:9). The force of this can only be perceived and appreciated by recalling what was before us in verse 6: "David was greatly distressed, for the people spake of stoning him"! What a change we behold now! The enmity of his men has been stilled, and they are again ready to follow their leader. Herein we see the third consequence of Davidís spiritual return and encouraging himself in the Lord. First, he had submitted to the divine order, and sought guidance from God. Second, he had promptly received a gracious response, the Lord granting the assurance he so much desired. And now the power of God fell upon the hearts of his men, entirely subduing their mutiny, and making them willing, weary and worn as they were, to follow David in a hurried march after the Amalekites. O how much do we lose, dear reader, when we fail to right matters with God!
"So David went, he and six hundred men that were with him." Here is Davidís response to the word he had received from God through the high priest. Without taking rest or refreshment, he at once set out in pursuit of the ravagers. Tired and weak as he well might be, David was now nerved to fresh endeavors. Ah, is it not written, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31)? So it ever is. If we truly desire spiritual guidance of the Lord, and humbly and trustfully seek it from Him, our inner man will be renewed, and we shall be empowered to follow the path of His ordering.
"And came to the brook Besor, where those that were left behind stayed" (v. 9). This teaches us that when we are in the current of the revealed will of God, all will not, necessarily, be plain sailing. We must be prepared to meet with difficulties and obstacles even in the path of obedience. It was by faith in the word that he had received from Jehovah that David turned from the ruins of Ziklag, and faith must be tested. A severe trial now confronted David: fatigued from their former journey and their spirits further depressed by the sad scene they had gazed upon, many of his men, though willing, were unable to proceed farther; and he left no less than two hundred behind at the brook of Besor.
"But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor" (v. 10). Considerate of the state of his men, David would not drive or force those who were faint to accompany him. Further proof was this that our hero was now again in communion with God, for "He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14)óalas, how often do those who profess His name seem to forget this. But though his company was now reduced by one third, and, as verse 17 plainly intimates, was far inferior to the Forces of the Amalekites, yet David relied implicitly on the Word of the Lord, and continued to push forward.
"And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins; and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire. And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to this company? And he said, Sware unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company" (vv. 11-15). We shall consider these verses from two angles: as they add to what has been before us above; as they contain a lovely gospel picture.
In the verses just quoted we may perceive the seventh consequence which followed Davidís righting things with God. First, he encouraged himself in the Lord: verse 6. Second, he submitted to the divine order and sought guidance from God: verse 7 and 8. Third, he obtained light for his path and assurance of Godís help: verse 8. Fourth, the power of God fell upon the hearts of his men, subduing their mutiny: verse 6 and making them willing to follow him on a difficult and daring enterprise: verse 9. Fifth, the renewing of Davidís strength, so that he was able to start out on a forced and swift march: verse 9. Sixth, grace granted him to overcome a sore trial of faith: verse 10. And now we are to observe how the Lord showed Himself strong on their behalf by ordering His providences to work in Davidís favor. Such are some of the divine mercies which we may confidently expect when the channel of blessing between our souls and God is no longer choked by unjudged and unconfessed sins.
A most remarkable intervention of divine providence is here before us. David was pursuing the Amalekites, and from this incident we gather that he knew not in which direction they had gone, nor how far ahead they were. God did not work a miracle for them, but by natural means provided him with a needed guide. The men of David came across one, who was sick and famished, in a field. He turned out to be an Egyptian slave, whom his master had barbarously abandoned. Upon being brought to David, he furnished full particulars, and after receiving assurance that his life should be spared, agreed to conduct David and his men to the place where the Amalekites were encamped. Let us admire the various details in this wondrous secret provision which God now made for David, and the combined factors which entered into it.
First, stand in awe of the high sovereignty of God which suffered this Egyptian slave to fall sick: verse 13. Second, in permitting his master to act so inhumanly, by leaving him to perish by the wayside: verse 13. Third, in moving Davidís men to spare his life: verse 11, when they had every reason to believe he had taken part in the burning of Ziklag. Fourth, in the fact that he was himself an Egyptian and not an Amalekite: verse 11ó had he been the latter, they were bound to kill him (Deut. 25:19). Fifth, in moving David to show him kindness: verse 11. Sixth, in causing the food given to so quickly revive him: verse 12. Seventh, in inclining him to freely answer Davidís inquiries and be willing to lead him to the camp of the Amalekites. Each of these seven factors had to combine, or the result had never been reached: God made "all things work together" for Davidís good. So He does for us: His providences, day by day, work just as wondrously on our behalf.
Approaching these verses (11-15) now from another angle, let us see portrayed in them a beautiful type of a lost sinner being saved by Christ. There are so many distinct lines in this lovely gospel picture that we can here do little more than point out each one separately.
1. His citizenship: "And they found an Egyptian in the field" (v. 11). In Scripture Egypt is a symbol of the world: the moral world to which the unregenerate belong and in which they seek their satisfaction. As another has said, "It had its beginning in Cainís day, when he Ďwent out from the presence of the Lord,í and he and his descendants builded cities, sought out witty inventions of brass and iron, manufactured musical instruments, and went in for a good time generally, in forgetfulness of God. And that continues to this day. The land of Egypt figures this. There Pharaoh, type of Satan, ruled and tyrannized."
2. His woeful condition: "I fell sick" (v. 13). Such is the state of every descendant of fallen Adam. An awful disease is at work in the unregenerate: that disease is sin, and "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15). It is sin which has robbed the soul of its original beauty: darkening the understanding, corrupting the heart, perverting the will, and paralyzing all our faculties so far as their exercise Godward is concerned. But not only was this Egyptian desperately sick, he was starving: he had had nothing to eat or drink for three days. Well might he cry, "I perish with hunger" (Luke 15:17).
3. His sad plight: "my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick" (v; 13). He was a slave, and now that his master thought he would be of no further use to him, he heartlessly abandoned him and left him to perish. "And that is the way the devil treats his servants. he uses them as his tools as long as he can. Then, when he cannot use them any more, he leaves them to their folly. Thus he treated Judas, and hosts of others before and since" (C. Knapp).
4. His deliverance: "And brought him to David" (v. 11). No doubt he was too weak and ill to come of himself; and even had he the ability, he had never used it thus, for David was an utter stranger to him! Thus it is with the unregenerate sinner and that blessed One whom David foreshadowed. Therefore did Christ say, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him" (John 6:44). Each of Godís elect is "brought" to Christ by the Holy Spirit.
5. His deliverer: No doubt this half-dead Egyptian presented a woe-begone spectacle, as he was led or carried into the presence of the man after Godís own heart. But his very ruin and wretchedness drew out the compassion of David toward him. Thus it is with the Saviour: no matter what ravages sin has wrought, nor how morally repulsive it has made its victim, Christ never refuses to receive and befriend one whom the Father draws to Him.
6. His entertainment: "And gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins" (vv. 11, 12). Precious line in our picture is this of the divine grace which is stored up in Christ. None brought to Him by the Spirit are ever sent empty away. How this reminds us of the royal welcome which the prodigal received and the rich fare that was set before him.
7. His confession: When David asked him to whom he belonged and whence he came, he gave an honest and straightforward reply: "He said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite" (v. 13). Strikingly did this adumbrate the fact that when an elect sinner has been brought to Christ, and been given the bread and water of life, he takes his proper place, and candidly acknowledges what he was and is by nature. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9).
8. His obligation: "And David said, Canst thou bring me down to this company?" (v. 15). In this we may see how David pressed his claims upon the one whom he had befriended, though it is blessed to mark that it was more in the form of an appeal than a direct command. In like manner, the word to the believer is, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).
9. His desire for assurance: "And he said, Sware unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company" (v. 15). There could be no joy in the service of his new master until assured that he should not be returned unto the power of his old one. Blessed is it to know that Christ delivers His people not only from the wrath to come, but also from the dominion of sin.
10. His gratitude: "And when he had brought him down" (v. 16). He was now devoted to the interests of David, and did as he requested. So Christians are told, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10). O for grace to serve Christ as ardently as we did sin and Satan in our unregenerate days.