But, from I Samuel 30:3-5: “… 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… 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.”
Later, of course, David sins in grave ways against the Lord and against his people (1 Chronicles 21:1-17). Here, though, we see David as a pale foreshadow of Christ, who is to come. As David’s friends turn on him in their distress and bitterness, they, 600 strong, consider killing David themselves. What does David do?
“But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (I Sam. 30:6)
He seeks God in his distress. He strengthens himself in the Lord when peers hate and blame him for their pain. We see no plummet into emotional free fall. We see no self-pity or self-deprecation. Rather, in a time of conscious turning to God for strength, David strengthens himself in the Lord.
And then this: He asks before he acts.
He consults the Lord about whether he should go after the captured women and children. Whether? Surely that’s a no-brainer. Loved ones have been captured. David should pursue, and quickly. On rescue’s trail he could pray that God would bless his endeavor. He could pray to know where the women and children have been taken. He could ask for power to overcome the army of captors. But surely not this? David stops to pray about whether to even go!
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… (I Samuel 30: 8-9)
But as they pursue the raiders, 200 of David’s men become too exhausted to continue. David and the strongest 400 push on, with the guidance of one of the raider’s slaves who’d been left behind. They find the encampment of the Amalekites, and:
David got back everything the Amalekites had taken, and he rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back.”(I Samuel 30:18-20)
At this point, trouble brews among the 400 who’d gone the whole way. Some of those who’d fought in the rescue mission begin to declare that David should be rid of the weaker 200 who’d stayed behind. “Give them their families, but none of the wealth recovered. And send them away from us!” they declare. David’s wise and loving response:
“No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the Lord has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike…“ (I Samuel 30:23-24)
Compassion. Wise, true compassion is shed upon those who stayed behind. David doesn’t exhibit the pride and disdain of his men (“We 400 are better because we did more — they’re weak and useless. We deserve more than them.”) David, instead, remembers and recognizes that all power and success comes from the Lord alone. David shares with generosity and kindness (Colossians 3:12, Philemon 1:6, 2 Cor. 8:1-3).
So this: When David is seen as a foreshadow of Jesus, the ultimate King, who came a thousand years later to set captives permanently free from bondage to sin and death, and to share the bounty of God’s good with each, whether weak or strong, I glean three lessons.
I’m reminded that nothing can ever be done alone, in my own measly power (2 Cor. 12:9):
I’m to strengthen myself in the Lord my God.
And even if a situation’s solution seems obvious, I’m to ask God first. I don’t launch off into plans for any event or seek any result, no matter the circumstances, without first asking:
Shall I do this Lord?
If God says, “go” and I go, being used of Him, Him guiding me and accomplishing His planned purpose through me, I’m not allowed to look around at those who didn’t help with derision:
I have compassion on those around me, whether they perform well or not.
Because none of the greatness is mine anyway. From start to finish, the strength is from the Lord; the permission and commission and plan are from the Lord; and kind and generous compassion is required toward all.
Artwork: Saul Attempts to Kill David, Gustave Dore, 1866