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Getting Back on Track

1 Samuel: A Heart for God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:44
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While David is among the Philistines preparing for battle against Israel, the Lord providentially steers circumstances to deliver David and to get his attention. David responds attentively and appropriately to get back on track.

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Getting Back on Track - 1 Samuel 29-30

PRAY
Intro?
While David is among the Philistines preparing for battle against Israel, the Lord providentially steers circumstances to deliver David and to get his attention. David responds attentively and appropriately to get back on track.
The Lord delivers David from a no-win situation… a compromising circumstance that he has gotten himself into by moving to Philistia and aligning himself with Achish.
1 Samuel 29:1–11 ESV
Now the Philistines had gathered all their forces at Aphek. And the Israelites were encamped by the spring that is in Jezreel. As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” And Achish answered David and said, “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then rise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who came with you, and start early in the morning, and depart as soon as you have light.” So David set out with his men early in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. But the Philistines went up to Jezreel.
As ch. 29 begins, we are back in time to the same time as the beginning of chapter 28, before Saul’s consulting a medium in his desperation, when the Philistines are still mustering at Aphek (before they’ve gone up Shunem)...
Show map, map, & map
And as we said then, this is really awkward for David, faced with the prospect of displaying his loyalty to Achish by fighting against Israel. (and there’s no commentary from the narrator about David’s thoughts or plans… we are left to feel the tension of it)
But the sensitive reader (even the original audience of 1&2 Samuel) is undoubtedly meant to notice God’s merciful, providential care to rescue David from this mess… and shortly (as we’ll see in ch. 30) to get his attention and get him back on track.
So here we are, the Philistines going off to battle against Israel, and David and his men are with Achish at the back, and what’s more, they’re actually bringing up the year. Militarily, this was an important position bc opposing armies would often desire to “flank” their enemy (attacking them at the back while they’re focused on the front). So the team bringing up the flank must be extremely competent, trustworthy, and brave.
When the other Philistine lords (commanders) see that this is David (by Achish’s appointment), they respond in unison…

Philistines: We don’t want David’s “help.” (ch. 29)

Achish may trust him, but the rest of them don’t, and with good reason. Everything they say makes perfect sense. Again, the author makes no additional commentary (as he does other places to reveal thoughts and intentions), but one is left to agree with them, knowing that David has recently been attacking other enemies of Israel, leaving Achish none-the-wiser.
Either way, it’s four against one, so David must go home (to Ziklag).
Achish flatters David but sends him back.
In v. 6 and v. 9, where Achish essentially flatters David, it is interesting (even strange?) that he should be the one to mention Israel’s/David’s God. These Philistines were polytheistic, so he could simply be recognizing David’s own God in his attempt to accommodate David. Or had being around David had some impact on him? Who knows for sure… my guess is yes David openly speaks of his allegiance to the one true God, and that yes this is primarily Achish using David’s own terminology in his flattery.
David protests but complies.
Why does David protest (v. 8)? I have no idea. You’d almost expect him to be thinly veiling his sigh of relief, thinking, “Phew! Dodged that bullet!” So maybe this is an outward show but on the inside he’s breathing a sigh of relief?
As the narrative continues, however, we find that David has a much worse situation facing him as he returns home to Ziklag:
1 Samuel 30:1–6 ESV
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

A Harsh Reality at Home (30:1-6a)

So David returned home relieved but tired from the three-day trek… and there waiting for him was his family with excited smiles and warm embraces, a hot meal and a nice cozy fire in the fireplace. Nope! He and his men return to the horrific sight of the whole place having been burned to the ground. Everything they owned was either destroyed or missing. What’s worse, the enemies had carried off their wives and children (no doubt to make them their slaves).
These Amalekites, one of the groups whom David had raided while living in Ziklag, took advantage of the absence of David and the Philistine armies, and had apparently attacked not only Ziklag but other southern towns of Judah and Philistia.
Even for seasoned warriors like David and his men, nothing else could strike worry and misery into their hearts more than a circumstance like this (v.4). To add insult to injury, David’s distress is increased by the murmurings among the people that it might be time to hold their leader accountable for this catastrophe (v. 6 there’s talk of stoning him). - This is how it goes oftentimes for leaders: When things are great you’re the hero, when things fail miserably you’re the scapegoat. And while the Amalekites are outside David’s control, he is indeed responsible for them now living in Philistia.
Application:
The consequences of sin may be delayed, but they are inevitable.
The consequences of sin extend beyond us to impact others as well. (especially loved ones around us) - One of the hazards of leadership is that when you blow it, you hurt others. David’s men hold him responsible for this tragedy, and they are right.
1 Samuel 30:7–15 ESV
And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor. They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink, and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago. We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.” And David said to him, “Will you take me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band.”
“But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”… and David inquired of the Lord.

David Returns His Attention to God (30:6b-8a)

&

God Provides Direction (30:8b-15)

God gives direct answer through the priest using the ephod. (It’s been a while since David did this, but the Lord has his attention now. God often uses suffering to get our attention and return our focus and dependency back to him.)
Without any extra commentary from the author, we are left to marvel at God’s providential working to give them the next direction for how to track down their enemies. The trail has gone cold, but an Egyptian servant who had taken ill and was left for dead by the Amalekites becomes the instrument to lead David to them. - This so great I can hardly stand it! God’s ways are so much higher and better than ours. It’s amazing that we so often foolishly return to trusting ourselves and our own strength when we can entrust ourselves to an almighty and merciful Father, even when we suffer (like David and his men here):
1 Peter 2:23 ESV
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
1 Peter 4:19 ESV
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
More Application:
The contrast between David and Saul is that David does in fact seek God when he realizes his failure. (v. 6b) - Remind yourself of the character of God and the promises of God. Seek him and submit to Him.
1 Samuel 2:2 ESV
“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
David also sought the Lord’s direction. - On whom do you depend? In this regard, your prayer life is telling. - And to whom do you turn when you don’t know where to turn? And David listens and obeys and doesn’t worry or waiver. - James reminds us that if we ask for wisdom from God according to his will, he will give it. And when he does give us direction, we must listen and act in faith.
James 1:5–6 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
Let’s finish out this chapter and see how God prevails against the enemy and in David’s heart.
1 Samuel 30:16–31 ESV
And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.” Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day. When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord.” It was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, in Racal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenites, in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, in Hebron, for all the places where David and his men had roamed.

The LORD Returns Their Families & Possessions (3:16-20)

&

David Spreads the Kindness God Has Shown (3:21-31)

The Lord prevails against the enemy, and David prevails in promoting unity and in showing kindness (also diplomacy - managing well and sensitively handling people well)
Notice how David corrects the worthless fellows who seem to think that they are justified in their selfishness.
Application:
God is soooo merciful to David in these chapters to provide him with a way of escape from the compromising situation he got himself in with the Philistines, and to get his attention without any real harm coming to their families. - Why? Because God has a specific plan that he intends for David. Can you trust God’s sovereign goodness such that you will let him providentially lead in the way that he knows best?
Philippians 1:6 ESV
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 1:12 ESV
which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.
God’s faithfulness (and grace) extends beyond our failures. God’s purposes and promises are sure.
2 Timothy 2:13 ESV
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
Again, God is not just faithful, he’s also merciful. - David has gotten them into this mess, but God shows David (and all his men and their families such great mercy)! - When you are foolish, flailing, or fainting… that is still no match for a sovereign God. Who among us can fail beyond the reach of God’s mercy?
And pay attention to God’s work no matter whom he uses to straighten you out! - God uses the Philistines (as a sovereign means of his mercy), and he uses adverse circumstances (as a sovereign means of his mercy) to get David’s attention. (Don’t waste your suffering! - We can simply suffer, or we can let suffering drive us to dependent intimacy with God.)
Finally … Responding inappropriately to God’s mercy:
Romans 2:4–5 ESV
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Instead, repent and return to your first love. Do the works you did at first. (see Rev. 2:4-5)

Conclusion: Let the Lord prevail.

Trust the Lord as he providentially works in the world and in our circumstances. In other words, let the Lord prevail in your heart.
The Lord’s Table is one of God’s means to keep us on track, reminding us of our need and his sufficiency until we reach the finish line.
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