LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 28 July 2019
Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 30:1-31
Rev. Dr. Kwangho Song
I. Joy and trouble
II. Finding strength in God
III. Weakness and strength
Today’s message will be the second last sermon in the 1 Samuel sermon series. Usually, when studying a book is completed in school or university, students share a sense of joy. Sometimes they celebrate that achievement. But, such a joyful achievement is hardly likely, if anyone sees the end of this book from the world’s point of view, because it is a sad and gloomy ending. King of Israel, Saul, is going to die in the next chapter and before that, in this 30th chapter, David has just passed a moment with a deep sigh of relief.
However, once anyone reads these chapters through the eyes of faith in the Lord, he/she will know that this is a great ending with great moments of faith and victory in the Lord. This is how the story of the faithful in God ends; this is the victory all Christians have seen and will do continually. More than that, this story of David – like all other stories in the OT – does direct our eyes to Jesus, our Saviour and Defender, with a message of faith. So, let us listen to the word expounded to us by the Spirit of God the Father and the Son.
I. JOY AND TROUBLE
Firstly, I’d like you to know how joy and trouble come to believers like waves on the sea. David and his men are facing this wave.
Imagine how joyful they must’ve been when they were ordered to leave the formation of the Philistine army. They no longer needed to struggle with the possibility of fighting against their own flesh and blood. Now they’re going home. Their wives and families will be exceedingly joyful to see them again unharmed. It must be one of the happiest moments of their lives.
David and his 600 men are coming back home rejoicing greatly. When they get closer to their home at Ziklag, they have travelled close to 100 kms over three days. But I guess that would’ve not affected their joy. Rather, the closer they come to their homes, the greater their joy must be. Their legs must be tired but their hearts are merry.
But what welcomes them at Ziklag? A great trouble. Their homes have been raided and burnt down and all their families are taken away by the Amalekites. These 601 joyous men are welcomed by a trouble. And they weep and wail to their exhaustion.
Such is life in this world, isn’t it? A person with wisdom knows this and when he is joyful, he prepares his heart for the next wave, that is, a trouble. So says Eccl. 8:6-7, “For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?” The Lord Jesus rebukes a fool in His parable who contents with his great wealth collected, not knowing of the imminent trouble for his unsaved soul. This is the urgency of the gospel for sinners to hear and repent of their sins and come to the Lord Jesus in faith. Isaiah of the OT says in 55:6, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near,” meaning, ‘while joy of your life is still with you, come to Jesus in repentance and faith.’ Jesus so invites all sinners who thirst to “come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
What could be the result of being not prepared for such a trouble? Weeping and wailing to the point of exhaustion as we see in this case of David and his 600 men. Moreover, it would bring an ill and destructive effect for all people, like the case of David and his men. More specifically, all people are bitter in their soul, they talk about stoning David and David is greatly distressed. This is a snapshot of what being thrown outside, into the darkness, and ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ really is.
II. FINDING STRENGTH IN GOD
However, what follows all these amazes us – that is, David strengthens himself in the LORD God. In the midst of all bitterness and distress, while everyone is in deep sorrow and despair to the point of exhaustion, in a pitch darkness where no hope is found, David finds strength in his God!
This is the message of this story of David and his men and their deep sorrow. And this message directs our eyes to Jesus Christ who has shone His light of life to the sinners who are in deep sorrow, and has invited all to come to Him for His joy and hope and even His eternal life. The entire Bible testifies to it in one voice. For example, Ps. 42:5 delivers this message to us, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Ps. 56 is one of David’s psalms and agrees with Ps. 42, saying this in v. 3: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” In other words, ‘when I or you and anyone is in darkness of fear and hopelessness of sin, I as well as all others should put our trust in God!’ This resounds Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Christ is the only way for anyone to find strength and, finding strength, have rest in heart and mind and soul as the rest of David’s psalm, Ps. 56:4 continues, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” This is the ‘rest’ Jesus offers – ‘I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?’
I personally believe that picturing Christ’s ‘rest’ this way is brilliant and helpful. God knows what we are, so He explains us what kind of ‘rest’ He offers to us through His Son Jesus. And that is in this expression, ‘What can flesh do to me?’
I remember that when I was still in primary school, my father took me to fishing one day. We went to a water pool not too far from home, but it was in the middle of a night! No one was around except me and my dad. Although my dad carried a small torch, it wasn’t enough. Night birds were making creepy noises and, looking around, I could see nothing other than the silhouette of my dad and his fishing rod because he turned the torch off to attract fish. So, I sticked closely to him. Guess what; having him right next to me, my mind found rest from fear of all kinds and even the darkness didn’t scare me! ‘What can flesh (anyone/anything) do to me?’
The apostle Paul elaborates this rest and freedom in Rom. 8, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Once I stick closely to my dad, nothing in the world can harm me, let alone touch me!
David strengthened himself with this ‘rest’ in His God! His men are talking about stoning him; they are serious; their sorrow and despair have now turned into hatred and rage against him. Yet, he remembers His Lord and, by his remembrance of God, he gains strength. What an amazing blessing that is! Likewise, you and I are urged to come and remain closer to our Lord in times of trouble and despair. Then, staying next to Him, who and what can harm us?
Then, we read from vs. 7 and on about some specific actions David does to deepen his strength in God. He inquires of the Lord what to do. In other words, he refers to the very word of God as the standard of his life and direction for his way. Not only that, but also does he benefit all others with him. You remember David’s men conspiring a minute ago, but now attend their ears to God’s word and listen to its teaching and direction. Having recovered their senses, all people are again united with their leader, David, and prepare themselves for one unified goal – to pursue and fight against their enemy. What a blessing this is for all, not just for David!
In a word, a Christian’s finding strength in God will benefit many others around him/her, starting from family members and friends. A church’s finding strength in God, thus, inquiring of the Lord through His word benefits many other sister churches. When this takes place in history, we call it a ‘revival.’
III. WEAKNESS AND STRENGTH
Once a ‘revival’ in either perspective of individual Christian or of church takes place, then, our weakness turns into strength. If the ‘rest’ we heard a minute ago was internal peace and comfort, this is about what happens in real life. And what seems to be weakness to human eyes turns into strength God provides.
David and his men’s case illustrates this perfectly. All 600 men with David set out, pursuing after their enemy. Then, not too long after that, the number is down to 400 because 200 men are too exhausted to continue. They have walked almost 100 kms over three days and without a day’s rest, they are in pursuit of a great army of Amalekites. No wonder why a third of them can no longer move their feet, although their loving ones are in a great danger. Even having 400 men still capable of continuing their campaign is a miracle. Furthermore, a band of 400 men who are almost at the verge of exhaustion can hardly be counted in a military campaign. In the modern warfare where pulling triggers or pressing buttons can do the work, this number might make a difference, but not in the ancient battleground in David’s time. Only was man’s muscle power counted by then.
But what this number brings at the end? V. 17 tells us that these 400 men plus one, that’s David, defeat the Amalekite army and ‘only’ 400 men out of a full army escape. Not many Christians consider this victory David and his 400 men achieved as one of the great victories of the OT, but I think differently – this is as great and miraculous as the victory of Gideon and his 300 men and even that of Israel conquering Jericho under Joshua’s leadership. In all these victories, like this victory of David and his 400 men, weakness becomes strength!
There’s more evidence that testify to this truth. David lost 200 men by the brook called Besor, but not too long after passing that brook, he and his men find an Egyptian who used to be one of the Amalekite army. And this Egyptian slave abandoned by his master becomes a great asset for David. He leads them to where the Amalekites encamp. Most likely, that place could be the Amalekites’ field depot, a place for hideout and resupply away from their land. Instead of wasting their time and effort in trying to guess where the enemy might have gone, David’s men could move swiftly to the enemy’s depot and take an advantageous attack position with the help of this Egyptian slave. What a blessing this is! David spent some precious hours in his pursuit only for restoring this slave once exhausted in the field having no food or water for three days. But, that lost became gain, weakness turned into strength!
In addition, David has lost all things from Ziklag and furthermore, on the way of pursuit, he had to leave all luggage by the brook Besor. David and his 400 men have nothing other than weapons to fight against their enemy. But, when all things are over, their plunder is more than enough, in addition to recovering everyone’s families and belongings! Moreover, David is able to strengthen those 200 men left by the brook and unify all men with him. Moreover, he strengthens many others in the land of Judah by sending them presents from the plunder! What an amazing picture of our weakness turning into our strength! And this miracle is the result of finding strength in God and Christ Jesus!
Let me conclude with a challenge and a warning, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus. The challenge for you all is that you find strength in our God, remembering His love for us expressed in the coming and life and death of Jesus Christ. Hear what Rom. 8:32 reminds us: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen [that is, you and me]?” So, trust in God and so in Jesus our Lord! If anyone here hasn’t put his/her trust in Jesus, or hasn’t fully committed his/her life to the Lord, repent and come to Him who welcomes anyone despite his sin, and have His rest!
In addition to this challenge, let me give you a warning with what happened to David and his men after their victory. The battle is over and they’ve won; what a joyful moment! In addition, their families are all recovered and so are their belongings. More than that, their plunder is enormous. They’re joyful! Yet, a trouble threatens all again! This is what we’ve heard earlier in today’s message – about joy and trouble. When there’s joy and people’s heart is filled with joy, be ware of a trouble sneaking in. So, never should you and I depart from the Lord and His guidance. Inquire of Him for all things and remain humble before Him and His word.
V. 25 of our text passage reads: “[David] made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.” May we also, by God’s grace and strength, set God’s word as our only rule from now and always and finding our strength in God through Christ our only practice now and always! ***