Recovering what the enemy has taken
RECOVERING THE CAPTIVES
RECOVERING THE CAPTIVES
I have mentioned before and I will say again that I thank the Lord that He chronicles not only the great accomplishments of our heroes of faith but also the times that they slipped and struggled. I take encouragement from these instances because in this I see that they were normal people. David, one of the greatest of all and a man after the Lord’s own heart was not exempt from failures. While on the run from Saul, David even though he has been greatly blessed by God and has been kept absolutely safe becomes frightened for his life, has a time of backsliding and doubts the ability of the Lord to keep him safe.
It is in this time that David thinks it better to take matters into his own hands and seeks refuge with of all people Achish the Philistine king. For a time things seem to be doing okay, Achish gives David and his men the city of Ziklag so that they can settle down out of the way of Saul.
But sin seems good in the moment but catches up with us later and this is what happens to David, because after more than a year of living under the protection of Achish, Achish wants David to return the favour and fight alongside him in battle against Saul and Israel.
David is now in a predicament, because he cannot turn against his own people and fight for the Philistines but on the other hand if he refuses then he has not just one king out to get him but two kings, and his situation becomes twice what it was before he fled to the Philistines.
The Lord however takes pity on him and despite digging the hole himself, and right at the last moment, the night before the battle as the armies are all camped out the Lord fetches him out. The commanders in the Philistine army go to Achish and refuse to fight alongside David. Achish is therefore backed into a corner whereby he cannot allow David to join the battle and Achish sends David and his 600 men back home to Ziklag.
1 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. 7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”
While David and his men are off engaging in something they had no business in and his sin has taken him into a place that he did not belong. The town has been left unguarded, their enemies the Amalekites have come in ransacked the town. Burned the houses, stolen the goods and have taken captive the families.
With all the fighting men gone it was like foxes in a chicken coop, no one to stop them taking whatever they wanted.
David and all the men are so upset and distraught the the scripture says that they wept until they had no more strength to weep.
Pretty soon the men start looking for someone to blame, and who is the first person that people always look to blame in a crisis? The leader!
David’s loyal band of men, his close friends who gave up their own homes in Israel just to follow him are now talking about stoning him.
It’s fair to say that David has hit rock bottom!
You think that you have messed up bad at times, but when was the last time you made a bad decision that ended up with all your friends losing their homes and families?
Sometimes though, it’s only when we hit rock bottom that we get our eyes back on God.
In more that a year of David living under the Philistines we are told of many things that David has done but at no point do we see him consulting the Lord. But here when it all seems over, and all seems lost, David gets on his knees and turns to the Lord.
Verse 6 says “But David strengthened himself in the Lord”
There were priests there in that town, but David didn’t wait for the priests to come to him. David didn’t wait for his friends to change in their attitude. David didn’t wait for anyone else to pray for him.
David strengthened himself in the Lord.
But it took rock bottom before David got back on his knees before God.
We feel guilty sometimes about coming back to the Lord in a time of hardship, we like “why should the Lord take notice of me when I only come back to Him just as things get tough”
Well this was David, but look at what it says in verse 8.
David inquired of the Lord.... And He answered him
8 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
The best thing that we can do in a crisis is not waste any more time.
9 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. 11 Then they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David; and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water. 12 And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. So when he had eaten, his strength came back to him; for he had eaten no bread nor drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man from Egypt, servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind, because three days ago I fell sick. 14 We made an invasion of the southern area of the Cherethites, in the territory which belongs to Judah, and of the southern area of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.” 15 And David said to him, “Can you take me down to this troop?” So he said, “Swear to me by God that you will neither kill me nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this troop.”
So David having first sought direction from the Lord, takes his 600 men and they are not going to put up with the enemy taking what is theirs. Enough is enough and rather than fighting among themselves or blaming the leader, they grab their armour and weapons and march out into the desert to get their families back.
On their way they come across a man who is dying in the desert. Time was of the essence because who knew if the families were safe or not and every minute they delay the Amalekites get further away. So no one in David’s group would have thought less of him for leaving this man where he was and carrying on, I’m sure there would have been some who would argue that in saving one he risks the lives of hundreds.
In spite of the present circumstances David takes time out to nurse this guy back to strength, gives him food and water.
When the man has recovered David asks him who he is and where he has come from.
The man answers that he is an Egyptian but was a slave to one of the Amalekites. When he got sick his master left him out in the desert to die. But the guy then tells David that he personally was one of the raiding party than burned Ziklag and took the families.
Well no one would have blamed David if he had become furious at this point, here this man has delayed their progress, taken their food and water and all the time this man is one of the very people that committed this terrible crime towards his people.
Why does David not through this man back out into the desert? Why does David not reach for his sword and end him right there? Why does David continue to show compassion on this man even in the light of his revelation?
Because David could see that this poor Egyptian man was a victim of the Amalekites just as they were!
The Amalekite slave owner kept hold of that man to commit his crimes for him but as soon as he got weak and ill that slave owner through him out into the desert to die.
The devil does that with people, he enslaves people to do his crimes and then thinks nothing of crushing them when they are weak.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
You might think to yourself that you can’t forgive such and such a person because of what they have done to you or your family but what we need to remember is that they are not the enemy.
This is why our Lord told us in the Sermon on the Mount to love those that do us evil, because they are not the enemy.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This is no minor point, it is vital that we don’t just talk forgiveness but we walk in it. How genuine would David’s forgiveness towards this Egyptian man have been if he had allowed the man to show them the way but then thrown back out in the desert after.
When we walk in forgiveness our perspective is changed to where we can then see someone, not as a perpetrator but as a fellow victim.
Well this young Egyptian turns out to be the most useful person in the whole of David’s army. Because this man knows exactly where the Amalekites are heading to, and he saves David weeks of wandering in the desert searching. Those weeks could of been the difference of life and death for the families.
Don’t look at people for what they did in their slavery to sin, think of what a joy it is to have them in the Lord’s army.
1 sam 30:
16 And when he had brought him down, there they were, spread out over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil which they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 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.”
David and his men were greatly outnumbered, verse 17 tells us that the number of Amalekites that escaped were as many as were in the whole of David’s army there in the battle. And just because they had a word from the Lord to go and get the families back didn’t make this this a pushover. Verse 17 also says that they fought from twilight until the evening of the following day. And this is no easy going stuff, it was brutal and physical.
It is fair to say that all the men would have been utterly exhausted and strained but such was their love for their families they kept fighting that battle until they got the victory.
But not just their own families but the families of the other men around them. These men didn’t head into the battle, find out their own wife and children and then clear off for the others to sought themselves out. They fought for each other and they kept going until all was recovered.
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.
The US Marine Corps have the motto “Nemo Resideo” which means “No One Left Behind”.
I think this ought to be the mindset of the church!
Our enemy the devil has taken families captive, those we love and care for. He wants to set them in shackles. But God forgive us that we should see them taken and then not weep like David wept.
The recovery could only start when the severity of what had happened broke their hearts.
Have we gotten down on our knees before the Lord like David did and asked “Lord how do I get them back” and then when we have an answer are we prepared to go grab that sword and armor and go get them.
Not everyone in David’s army fought in the battle, verses 9-10 tell us that 200 stayed back and manned a supply-line but David made sure that those that worked in the background got the same reward as the fighters on the front lines.
They played different roles in getting those families home, but they all had a job and worked together against the real enemy.
It wasn’t easy for the men, even with instruction from the Lord they had to fight hard but they wanted those people back so badly they fought through it.
21 Now David came to the two hundred men who had been so weary that they could not follow David, whom they also had made to stay at the Brook Besor. So they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near the people, he greeted them. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart.” 23 But David said, “My brethren, you shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us. 24 For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.” 25 So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.
Earlier on in the chapter (), we were told that on the journey when they got to Brook Besor 200 of the men were too exhausted to carry on. So David left them at the brook and went on with the remaining 400. However the men left behind were still doing a job, they were left to guard the supplies and to effectively be a supply line to the guys at the front of the battle.
Now that they have won the battle