After centuries of division according to their tribal identities, the people of God in the Old Testament united to form a single nation called Israel. The New Testament describes the people of God as united members of the Body of Christ, otherwise known as the church. The similarity between these 2 unions is emphasized in the name of our sermon series “The United Church - A Study of Ancient Israel”.
King Saul’s reign over Israel was nearing its fateful end. The Philistine army had invaded the land, established a camp, and was preparing itself for war. Saul was unsettled and troubled. He sought God’s direction, but after decades of personal rebellion and disobedience the LORD chose not to answer him. In desperation, Saul turned to a medium in hopes of discerning how he should proceed. God was appalled by King Saul’s decision to participate in witchcraft. The spirit of Samuel foretold that Saul and his sons would be killed in the coming battle.
The timing of today’s message requires us to backtrack just a bit. As you might recall from our previous study, after nearly 10 years of running from Saul’s goons David finally found a home in Philistia. Over a period of several months, David earned the trust of the Philistine king and allied himself with their people. As the Philistines marched into Israel on this particular occasion, David wanted to come along with them to fight against King Saul and his army.
This morning’s sermon is called “David Conquers the Amalekites”. It describes what David and his men were doing in Philistia while Saul was consulting a medium in Israel. The events of these chapters (29 & 30) took place at roughly the same time as those we discussed last week (in chapter 28) and those we will discuss next week (in chapter 31).
I. MISTRUSTED (1 Samuel 29:1-11)
King Achish of Philistia liked David and had previously promised that he could accompany the Philistine camp into battle. As such, David and his men tagged along in the rear of the Philistine procession as they marched toward Israel. However, when the Philistine commanders realized that David was traveling with them they became angry. Fearing that David might turn against them when the conflict started, the Philistine leaders urged their king to send David back to Philistia.
King Achish did not share his lord’s concerns about David, but he didn’t want to upset them either so he told David and his men to return to Philistia. David had spent months fighting on behalf of the Philistines, but still none of them trusted him other than the king. Despite an initial protest, David and his men complied and returned to their home in Ziklag. Meanwhile the Philistine army continued on into Israel.
Some 15 to 20 years earlier, as a youth, David had defeated the Philistine giant Goliath with merely a sling and a stone. Though much had transpired since then and David had proven himself to be a reliable ally of the Philistines, still they didn’t trust him. Some people are always skeptical of others and lack the ability to place their trust in anyone. Sometimes perhaps their suspicions are justified, but not always. We as Christians are called to place our full trust in Jesus without any doubts or reservations.
II. VICTORIOUS (1 Samuel 30:1-20)
When David and his men reached their hometown of Ziklag they discovered that the city had been raided by the Amalekites sometime while they were gone. It had been burned and all of the women and children had been taken away as captives, including David’s 2 wives Ahinoam and Abigail. David and his men groaned in sorrow. The people were so upset about their missing children that they briefly considered stoning David for leaving the city so vulnerable.
After consulting with the priest, David and 600 men set out in pursuit of the Amalekites. David’s troop chased so feverishly that by the time they arrived at the brook Besor 200 of his men were too exhausted to continue. Leaving them behind, David and his 400 remaining troops continued their quest. They soon encountered one of the Amalekite’s servants, an Egyptian who had fallen ill and been left behind. In exchange for his safety, the servant led David and his men to the Amalekite camp.
David attacked and slaughtered almost all of the Amalekites, except for 400 who fled riding on camels. He recovered all of the women and children, including his own wives, as well as the rest of the spoil. Nothing was missing. He even recovered some things that the Amalekites had taken from other places besides Ziklag.
In the early part of his reign, God had instructed King Saul to completely annihilate the Amalekites as punishment for attacking the children of Israel during the days of the exodus. Saul failed to obey God’s command completely and the kingdom was stripped from him. Now God used David to inflict even more punishment upon the Amalekites. But again, the victory was incomplete as some of them escaped. Years later the descendents of Simeon eliminated the last of the Amalekites (1 Chronicles 4:43), thereby fulfilling God’s promise to totally annihilate them.
III. GRACIOUS (1 Samuel 30:21-31)
David gathered the animals and other spoil he’d recovered from the enemy and returned from the battle. On the way home he encountered those 200 men who‘d been left behind earlier at the brook called Besor. Some of the 400 soldiers who had actually gone and fought against the Amalekites thought that the others who’d stayed behind should not be allowed to share in the spoils of the victory. But David insisted that the spoils be divided and shared among all of his men, by both those who participated in the battle and those who did not. David’s generosity became the new standard by which spoils were apportioned in Israel.
When David and his men made it back to Ziklag, he sent the some of the surplus spoil to elders in various cities throughout southern Judah - including Hebron (which will become important a bit later in this study). In so doing, he endeared himself with his native people. We must remember that David was born and raised in Bethlehem of Judah, which belonged to the nation of Israel. The only reason he’d left Israel is because King Saul had driven him out. Though he had been living in Philistia for some time, it was clear that they didn’t trust him. David held a special place in his heart for the people of his homeland in Judah.
In some ways, this story is reminiscent of a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 20:1-16 commonly called “The Laborers in the Vineyard”. In this parable, Jesus describes a landowner who chooses to pay all of his workers equally even though they worked for different amounts of time. After his win over the Amalekites, David chose to share his spoil evenly with all of his men though some did not actually participate in the battle. Both passages picture the generous sharing of God’s saving grace to all of His people, regardless of the quality or quantity of their good works. Sadly, they also reveal the critical attitudes of some people who falsely believe themselves to be more worthy than others.
The message today includes lessons about 2 very important issues - trust and grace. Let’s review them briefly before we close.
David had proven himself to be trustworthy friend of the Philistines. King Achish believed in him, but the other leaders did not. In the same way, God has shown Himself to be faithful and reliable. He never forsakes those who love Him. However, some people still refuse to trust in Him. They choose instead to rely on themselves or others. Their unwillingness to trust in God through a relationship with Jesus Christ will eventually lead to eternal condemnation. Trust is a necessary component of salvation.
David captured all of the spoil previously held by the Amalekites. He graciously chose to share it evenly and unconditionally among all of his people. In the same way, God has distributed a portion of His saving grace to every repentant believer regardless of their good works. Salvation is not something that can be earned or even deserved, but rather is a gift made available to all who would receive it through faith in Jesus. Grace is also a necessary component of salvation.
Let’s consider these 2 words together. When we as lost sinners turn to the Lord and place our trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, God applies His saving grace to our souls securing us and granting to us eternal life. In other words, we are saved by God’s amazing grace as affected by our dependant faith (or trust) in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the wonderful means of salvation! If you’ve never received it, I urge you to do so today.