Strength From The Ashes Of Our Ziklags

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.

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. Charles Spurgeon in a sermon delivered June 26, 1881

On The 3rd Day, David’s Resurrection Day

1 Samuel 30:1-6 Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, 2 and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. 3 So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. 5 And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. 6 Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Ever since I wrote the post “Deception & Truth” something from the Benson Commentary has stirred me to dig deeper into this event in David’s life. For a long time, when I’d read the passages of David, the man after God’s own heart, and how close he came to going to war against Israel to fight alongside of the Philistines it troubled me. But Benson brought clarity to how David got to this point.

Benson Commentary – … God, in a just judgment for their disobedience to his own laws, gave them up to a reprobate mind, and suffered them to walk after the idolatrous and impious customs of the heathen around them. And whereas, by obeying the laws and ordinances which he had given them, they might have lived happily, (Ezekiel 20:11,) …  in which texts God threatens them, as a punishment for their neglect of his worship, to disperse them into the heathen countries, and thereby deprive them of an opportunity of serving him in public, and expose them to the peril of being seduced to idols. Just as David complains to Saul of the hardship of his exile, that it laid him open to the temptation of serving the heathen gods, 1 Samuel 26:19.”

1 Samuel 26:  19 Now therefore, please, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the Lord has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering. But if it is the children of men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day from sharing in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’

Like the words of “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns so truthfully reveals, “And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, When you give yourself away, People never crumble in a day, Daddies never crumble in a day, Families never crumble in a day, it’s a Slow Fade.”

David’s “Slow Fade” began when he accepted the words of someone he loved as a brother, Jonathan the son of Saul. Jonathan may have had the best of intentions at heart but they were not words of Faith in God, David should have known that.  Always be afraid of being afraid.

For Some Resurrection Day Will Be Departure To Eternal Death, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”

1 Samuel 20: 19 And when you have stayed three days, go down quickly and come to the place where you hid on the day of the deed; and remain by the stone Ezel (H237 – departure). 20 Then I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target; 21 and there I will send a lad, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I expressly say to the lad, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come’—then, as the Lord lives, there is safety for you and no harm. 22 But if I say thus to the young man, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you’—go your way, for the Lord has sent you away. 23 And as for the matter which you and I have spoken of, indeed the Lord be between you and me forever.”

Ezel – H237 – “departure.”  Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition a.)  a memorial stone between Ramah and Nob; scene of final farewell between David and Jonathan.

This memorial stone where David and Jonathan arranged to meet meant “departure” and is fitting not only because they are departing each other not knowing if they will see the other alive again but it is the place David departed from his faith in God to deliver him from Saul. It’s here he decided to cross over into Philistine land and learn the hard lessons that come when you live too close to the enemy of your soul.

David’s “Slow Fade” began when he received Jonathan’s words, “go your way, for the Lord has sent you away, they took him into the enemy’s camp, to King Achish. David still had some discernment in him, so when the Philistines taunted him, David feigned being a “madman” and was able to escape to the cave of Adullam. But how crazy is it that, David would go to the hometown of Goliath in Gath, who he had beheaded years earlier, and is carrying Goliath’s sword.

1 Samuel 21:10-15 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying:

‘Saul has slain his thousands,  And David his ten thousands’?”

12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

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. C.H. Spurgeon

After this David seems to take a journey almost like that of the Israelites 40 year journey through the wilderness. Place after place is mentioned

Gath – winepress
Adullam – justice of the people
Mizpeh – watchtower
Hareth – forest
Keilah – fortress
Ziph – “flowing” battlement
David speaks to Jonathan again, “the last time”
Hachilah- “dark” a hill in Palestine, Jeshimon – “desolation” waste, desert, wilderness
Maon – a residence, habitation
The Philistines attack Israel, so Saul has to stop chasing David, he escapes at Sela–hammahlekoth – the clift of escape
En-gedi – fountain of a (the) kid
Sheepcotes – a cave, inclosure, wall, hedge
Chapter 25, Samuel dies, David flees to
Paran – “ornamental” “place of caverns” a desert in the Arabia. The 18 stops of the Exodus when through this area.
Nabal crosses David, dies of a hard heart and David marries Nabal’s wife Abigail at Carmel. Her name means “Father (that is source) of joy”  and marries Ahinoam of Jezreel; “my brother is delight” “God will sow” (1 Samuel 25:42-43)

Ziklag – H6860 – a place in Palestine. B-D-B Definition – “winding”

Etymology of “Ziklag” – meaning “a pint of liquid metal” From (1) the verb צוק (suq), to smelt copper, and (2) the noun לג (log), a pint. The verb צוק (suq) means to press someone into giving up something. It’s used to describe putting pressure on someone so that this person gives up certain information. Nouns צוק (soq), צוקה (suqa) and מצוקה (mesuqa) mean distress or oppression. Noun מצוק (musaq) means place or agent of pressure or distress. The verb צוק (suq II) also denotes the bringing forth of something contained internally, which is done either by applying pressure or by smelting.

Ziklag would seem to me to be a type of God’s Refining Fire. After some close encounters with Saul and being betrayed by some Israelites, David returns to Gath and King Achish and a burning Ziklag now lay on David’s distant horizon.

1 Samuel 27:1 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.

David said in his heart. He may have never said it out loud; he may have never said it to anyone else; he may have never said it to God. But David said it in his heart. What we say in our heart has a tremendous power to shape our thinking, our actions, even our whole destiny.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

A lot of stock has been put in the “Word of Faith” doctrine of declaring and decreeing a thing so that it will bring it to past. NOT enough is said about the attitude of our heart towards God, ourselves and everyone else around us and the impact it has on how we end up walking out our walk of faith.

Hannah was accused of being drunk by Eli when she prayed for God to Give her a child, “in her heart.” Eleazer prayed in his heart for God to reveal the wife of Isaac.

Genesis 24:42-45  And I came this day unto the well, and said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: 43 Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink; 44 And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master’s son.

45 And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.

David became very close to King Achish during the year and four months he lived there. Achish gave him a town and  entrusted David even to be his personal bodyguard,

1 Samuel 27:5 Then David said to Achish, “If I have now found favor in your eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?”

Over those 16 months living with the Philistines David became more and more comfortable with lying to cover up where he was conducting raids on villages. He was telling Achish that he had been attacking villages in southern Judah but was wiping out every living thing in villages of other neighboring villages. This gave a false picture of David’s relationship with the people of Israel to King Achish and caused him to enlist David and his men into the Philistine army. Sin will drag you deeper into sin. Satans 3 goals, to kill, steal and destroy.

James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

1 Samuel 28:1-2 Now it happened in those days that the Philistines gathered their armies together for war, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, “You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men.” 2 So David said to Achish, “Surely you know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Therefore I will make you one of my chief guardians forever.

The Philistines decide to fight a huge battle against Israel and David is drawn into the conflict to fight against Israel, alongside the Philistines. I believe that during this point, God has been arranging things so that His purpose for David will be accomplished. Samuel had anointed David King over Israel many years before. God can not lie, He will bring it to pass if it’s His Will. The Sovereignty of God overrules the schemes and plans of men, Every Time.

1 Samuel 29:6-10 Then Achish called David and said to him, “Surely, as the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight. For to this day I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me. Nevertheless the lords do not favor you. 7 Therefore return now, and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.”

8 So David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And to this day what have you found in your servant as long as I have been with you, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”

9 Then Achish answered and said to David, “I know that you are as good in my sight as an angel of God; nevertheless the princes of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ 10 Now therefore, rise early in the morning with your master’s servants who have come with you. And as soon as you are up early in the morning and have light, depart.”

From the initial looks of things it seems that God has caused David and his 600 men to be excused from fighting against their own people but God didn’t let him off the hook that easily. When they return to Ziklag they find it burning and all its people and everything of value gone. David’s own men now want to stone him to death but he turns to God and asks if they should pursue the captives and God says Go. God has brought David to a place where his faith in God is tested and will be tested even harder. God will allow even more difficulty in their pursuit.

1 Samuel 30:So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the Brook Besor, where those stayed who were left behind. 10 But David pursued, he and four hundred men; for two hundred stayed behind, who were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor.

David’s 600 men are now down to 400 and his faith in God has no place to go but up as the challenge gets even harder. When David and his army catch up with the Amalekites it says this,

1 Samuel 30:17-20 Then David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day. Not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. 18 So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. 19 And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all. 20 Then David took all the flocks and herds they had driven before those other livestock, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”

I believe that from the time David accepted the words of Jonathan, go your way, for the Lord has sent you away,he began the spiral of heading towards a reprobate mind. 

Charles Spurgeon preached a message about David and his encounter with King Achish and the burning of Ziklag, he says,

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 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.”

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.

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.

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?”

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.

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 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.

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.

One thought on “Strength From The Ashes Of Our Ziklags

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