Summary: David is led by God from tragedy to triumph.
George Sweeting, a former president and chancellor of the Moody Bible Institute, once observed that there are three things to remember concerning trials we encounter in life:
1. Trials are a common experience of all of us. No one is immune. Trials are a part of living.
2. Trials are transitory.
“In such a hope keep on rejoicing, although for a little while you must be sorrow-stricken with various trials.” - 1 Peter 1:6
Trials, though difficult, are for a “little while.”
3. Trials are lessons that shouldn’t be wasted. Though not enjoyable or necessarily good in themselves, trials constitute a divine work for our ultimate good. Jesus never promised an easy journey, but He did promise a safe landing.
Now, sometimes, the lessons we learn from trials are lessons we can learn from someone else’s trial. Such is the case today. We read in our passage for today about a trial David went through and some wonderful lessons for us to apply when we go through difficult times on how to go from tragedy to triumph.
1. The Tragedy - vs. 1-6
In chapters 28 and 29, we read how David and his men were asked by Achish, the king of the Philistines to go with them to war. But the army commanders did not trust David. Therefore, Achish sent David and his men back to the city he had given to them to live in - Ziklag.
Now, since the men of fighting age had all gone to war, few or none were left behind to defend Philistine cities, including Ziklag. So while David and his men are passing in review with the Philistine army, the Amalekites plundered the city.
When David and his men approach the city, they are horrified to find that the Amalekites had taken all the cattle and possessions, kidnapped all the women and children, and burned the city to the ground. No doubt, each man imagined how his wife and children would become slaves, to be worked hard and cruelly treated. And that would be a best case scenario.
These tough, fighting men wept until there were no tears left. Then they thought about how this came to pass. It had been David’s plan to bring them to the land of the Philistines (27:1-4); it was at David’s request that they were permitted to live in the city of Ziklag (27:5-6); and it was David who led them off to fight with the Philistines, leaving their families vulnerable. Some were so angry, they talked of stoning David.
Two thoughts are illustrated here about the tragedies of life we all face.
A. Some tragedies are due to circumstances beyond our control.
Such was partly the case here. The spring was a time when kings would go off to war against their enemies (2 Samuel 11:1). It was, therefore, a time when an enemy might carry out a strategy to hit their opponent when they weren’t watching or were preoccupied with battle somewhere else. The tactics employed by the Amalekites here were common in the ancient world. David himself had employed these same tactics against his enemies.
Likewise, we need to understand that there are certain things that we should expect to face in this world because of the way life in this world is. People get sick; they lose their jobs; folks die; parents age. There are some things about life in this world that are inevitable.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 (NIV)
Yes, in this world, we can expect to face tragedies. But Jesus has won victory for us over the difficulties of this world, which is what I want us to spend to lion’s share of our time together thinking about. But first, we must also observe that . . .
B. Some tragedies are due to choices we have made.
David’s men had every right to be angry with their leader. As we read through 1 Samuel, we discover that it has not been since chapter 23 that David has sought the Lord for guidance. Consequently, he has “flown by the seat of his pants” in the decisions he has made, which led him to make compromises, to lie, and be deceptive. The intervening chapters between chapter 23 and chapter 30 have not shown David at his best. He has made mistakes that have led up to making this tragedy possible.
Likewise, if we are not careful, we too, can “coast” through life, not seeking God’s guidance, and as a a result, make mistakes which can make us even more vulnerable to experiencing tragedy.
It is often at such times, that we decide we need to seek God. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes we never think to look up until we are knocked flat on our back.” David has been knocked flat on his back; and he decides it is time to look up. “But David found strength in the Lord his God,” (v. 6). Consequently, he is led to make decisions which led him from tragedy to triumph; and which provide us with some valuable lessons on how we can do the same.