Written by Paul J. Bucknell on June, 02, 2021
1 Samuel 30:1-6 Strengthen Oneself in the Lord
Learning how to come back from our failures, guilt, and shame.
The Bible Teaching Commentary
Discernment and appropriate decisions follow spiritual maturity. John 15 highlights the ‘abiding in Christ’ posture—keeping us focused on our dependence on the Lord. David shows us how to establish a healthy dependence on the Lord through his response to an extreme situation. In this case, the pain, grief, and threats poured in with such fierceness that David could only rightly respond because he already possessed the faith necessary, gained from past situations.
As we study David’s response, let’s ask ourselves: How would I respond in such situations? May all of us be further trained by David’s example and learn how to respond to God even during highly stressful times rightly. As we endure, like David, our depth of worship will grow deeper, being better able to see God’s gracious care for us.
I can’t imagine facing such distressful circumstances as David in 1 Samuel 29-30. Though the three trials—which I’ll call stages—were separate, they became wrapped up as one because of the short time sequence and the same people involved. David—the general, the anointed, the prophet, the harp player, the warrior—found it impossible to handle this independently. God finally broke him.
Have you ever been in such a state? Are you in a place now that you are supposed to handle, but it feels like you can’t? Or perhaps, the opposite is true, wishing you had a normal life, but don’t?
This past year has been so sad. Many people have committed suicide. That’s a situation where they gave in to the thought that they couldn’t handle it. I believe that what we find with this study of David will be most helpful here. David saw his awful situations, the loss of all that he had, including his family, the affection of his men, and murmurs about taking his life.
Please don’t think this extreme situation is irrelevant. Our age is most precarious; we might have unknowingly tipped over into the very end times. I know for my brothers in India, it seems like that now. In two cities, a pastor friend reported that over twenty pastors had died in each city. I’m getting similar reports like that due to Covid. For them, the plague is devastating.
Let’s learn how David entrusted himself to the Lord during these desperate circumstances. Although it works in extreme situations, it also helps us in less oppressive cases. I’ll first provide the three stages of David’s difficulty and then share how David handled it by God’s grace.
Did you ever discover that you were on the wrong side? King Saul of Israel pursued David for so long that David just ended up joining the Philistines—Israel’s enemy! You might think that this could never happen. I’m surprised it did. How is it that David became King Achish’s righthand man (personal bodyguard)? The Philistines tolerated this but only to a certain point. It got too much when the Philistines began fighting Israel and discovered David and his men at the rear of their forces. The Philistine generals got together and demanded that Achish send David and his men away.
Facing Life’s Distresses (1 Sam 29-30:6)
Stage 1: Public Failure (1 Sam 29)
To support their demand, they reminded King Achish who David was. Don’t you remember when they sang and danced?
“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands’?” (1 Sam 29:5)
David, in his innocence, proclaimed his allegiance to Achish. Achish restated that the “commanders of the Philistines insisted, “He must not go up with us to the battle””(9). “So David arose early, he and his men, to depart in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel” (29:11).
Was David offended that he could not fight Israel? Or was he desperately defending his disguise? David seems to have lapsed into a life of compromise, doing what he should not be doing. Sometimes brothers and sisters compromise dating and marrying an unbeliever. Others justify disobedience to parents. Are we indulging our eyes in scenes that do not please the Lord. We are spiritually dull—until we get a shock, but even that doesn’t always awaken us.
The Chronicler affirms David’s sin. David planned to go to battle against the Israelites. Even some Israelites joined David, spurring him on. Perhaps David had grown tired of King Saul’s many bad policies.
“From Manasseh also some defected to David when he was about to go to battle with the Philistines against Saul” (1 Chr 12:19).
David’s decision to support the Philistines, Israel’s enemy, was not just an individual decision. As we see above, it included all of his several hundred men and their families.
From the next stage, we know that some of David’s men were not as sure as David was, that he should have accepted being a bodyguard to King Achish. Yes, they were desperate refugees, men on the run, a people without a permanent place, an army without a general, and yet, what David did, and led many others to do, didn’t match God’s clear will.
David and his men returned home as requested, but his men were wondering, “Would David have fought Israel? Could we kill our people?” I find this a picture of David’s weakness, not his strength.
In summary, this event had them all wondering about the future. What would be their next step? As for David, God was beginning to wake him up to the fact that he had joined the wrong side. He was prepared to fight with the Philistines. But I don’t think David was fully awakened to the fact that he was on the wrong side yet. Stage two came.
Have you compromised in one or more areas of your life? Do you think something you do is right, even though it goes clearly against what God says? For David, he had to face public shame.
• Stage 2: Loss of All (1 Sam 30:1-6a)
The situation quickly deteriorated. David and his army returned home wondering whether God was saving or reproaching them—or both. They began to recognize that they had been going against the Lord. But now, it appears that the reproach has turned to judgment. It couldn’t have gotten worse—literally.
30:1 Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; 2 and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. 3 And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. 5 Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite” (1 Samuel 30:1-5).
David and his men, mulling over what had just happened, journeyed three days to get home to their city of Ziklag. But on their arrival, instead of greeting their families, they discovered that the Amalekites had raided their home, burned their city, and taken everyone captive. It’s important to remember that they were refugees, and though runaways, many had established families during this time. Nobody was left; they could only see smoldering rubble left from the raid. Their possessions, even their wives and children were gone. One can easily imagine David and all his men, running to find their homes in vain-no one there. Everybody and everything of value was gone.
What a rude awakening! If anyone hadn’t doubted David’s leadership before, they did now. David misled them, and they ended up losing everything because they joined up with David.
You can imagine everyone’s thoughts—everyone’s thoughts zeroed in on David. David, too, undoubtedly considered his delusion caused all his men to lose all they had. What is worse than displacement or losing one’s precious little ones? We can almost hear their despair.
“Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep” (1 Sam 30:4).
• Stage 3: Rejected and Blamed (1 Sam 30:6a-b)
When things go wrong, what do we do? We blame others. Bitterness accelerates this process and quickly turned to target David as the culprit.
“Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters” (1 Sam 30:6a-b).
David’s men discussed among themselves—probably in his hearing—plans to stone him. “All the people were embittered.” Every last one of them lost everything. The hope of life quickly sprinted away from them to where they only could see the cause—David. They reckoned that God would not have judged them like this if they refused to support the Philistines.
Some had openly questioned why they had joined the Philistines. But now, they had proof that it was a wrong decision, and they fiercely blamed their mad leader, David.
So where did that leave David? Where would it have left us? Did David think of taking his life? Probably. Did he blame himself? I’m sure. Did he make mistakes? Was he foolish and blind? Where were his family and possessions? Did it look like God had forsaken him and his trust in God? I think we know the answers to these questions.
David grieved over the loss of his own family and knew his foolishness and ‘overconfidence in God’ lost all, even the loyalty of his men whom he dearly loved.
David ruined everything. Past victories now seem as if they never existed—like breezes that come and go. What did it all matter now?
- Does one go on? Is there any hope left?
- Can one go on?
- What can one do now?
- What should he do about his relationship with God and his failures?
Has discouragement risen up into dismay and depression for you? Do you feel locked in, not just due to the virus lockdown but because of guilt, blame, and accusation? Your wrong decisions have crawled on top of each other, weighing you down to where you can’t move. You are suffocating from a lack of hope. Our circumstances are very different from David’s, but the same rehearsal of defeat, guilt, self-blame, and failure can be found among us as well, because the Accuser always will hound us into wrong conclusions. David, like Jonah, no doubt agreed with their sentence on stoning him to death.
Be honest. Evaluate your decisions and circumstances in light of God’s Word. Step back from your circumstances and see if you have somehow or someway compromised your allegiance to God. You might have found what seems a good reason, like David, who had to live among Israel’s enemies. Wake up, repent, and change before the disastrous end approaches. But maybe the end has come for you—bankruptcy, divorce, deserted, friendless, etc.
And if you are a leader, have you led others in the exact treacherous path. Even worse!
In the first stage, David faces public rebuke and reproach. He seems to have been caught off guard. David and his men see now that they had made the wrong decision.
The Lord could have stopped there by exposing them, for they were no longer working with God’s enemy. But the Lord had a different lesson that was extremely hard to take—they lost all. Just when they were away learning this lesson, they came back to God’s judgment.
We are not suggesting God always works in this way, but sometimes, He does. The Lord creates unique lessons for each of us. I believe most of us can largely avoid God’s reproof. We only need to repent and confess our sins and seek God’s will.
This judgment, however, extended the reproof by bringing a double whammy, crushing David by ripping out his life’s purpose—stripping himself of his pride over leading his men, etc. He lost everything in a flash. So what is life when the rug is pulled out from under you, and you end up falling flat on your face?
I hope we are sensitive to any sin that we need to repent from. Don’t be the fool, the insolent, the prideful, that ends up in the dirt. The Lord chastises those He loves (Heb 12:5-8).
However, in true Gospel glory, remember that all of this blame, guilt, evil, turns into a remarkable story in the third stage. Stay with me as we look closer at verse 6.
2. Resolving Life’s Struggles (1 Sam 30:6c-18)
“Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6)
Let’s review verse 6 and uncover its three parts.
(1) His distressed men spoke of stoning him.
(2) David’s bitter men lost their children.
(3) “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.”
We have no problem linking clauses one and two together; the author does it for us with the term ‘because.’ What he hears from his men, the loss of his wives and children, his faulty plans are at the root of it all. His own men were ready to stone him.
But something else here in clause three is difficult to grasp. It doesn’t make much sense. How did David go from extreme distress to “strengthening himself in the Lord”?
Let’s look at what we can learn from David. Though preceding the Apostle Paul, we see David renewing his mind.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).
(1) God is always present
“In the Lord His God”
God is still here during difficult times. David didn’t just run from life or from God during his colossal mistakes. We can imagine his shame and guilt, even his fear of what people would think of him, and yet, note the key words “in the Lord.” Instead of retreating from God, believing God was not real or didn’t help him, he turned to God.
Satan’s temptations always lead us to mistrust to doubt God. That is what many do and go from bad to worse. This is not the time to reject God! Like Job, David persisted in trusting God in his extreme difficulties.
“He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit,
And my life shall see the light” (Job 33:28).
Being spiritual doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes or enter a spiritual track of isolation. From David’s life, we can affirm that spiritual principle always work, wherever we are. Isn’t this the way we read about Jesus’ life at the cross? Despite being shipwrecked, the Apostle Paul could still hear God and minister comfort and advise to the fearful crew (Acts 28).
Why do believers think that God is not with them when things turn wrong? Isn’t this how we often think? But that is not God’s advice. That is Satan’s bait so he can make sure everything turns out horrible.
David, however, had learned from past mistakes—no matter how bad his circumstances were, turn to God and trust Him.
We think our faith is strong until we hit a hard place, and everything goes wrong. What if… we had a bad argument, my friend turned against me, my investments just dropped by 30%, we lost our baby, I broke a foot, our child can’t or doesn’t want to find a spouse, and on and on goes the list. We can add possible incidents from last year like losing a loved one due to Covid, having an aunt in a nursing home, not having a traditional wedding, not being able to have a graduation celebration, etc.
Theologically, David remembers that God is still his Father in heaven, or in pastoral terms—The good shepherd (cf. Psa 23).
Doesn’t that get to the heart of the issue? We often cut off the relationship with God who chastises us, but the Scriptures teach us that He chastises those He loves (Heb 12:3-9). God cares for us—even when we make mistakes. The cross similarly testifies that the Lord cares for us no matter how bad things might seem.
And from David’s example, we can admit people do some stupid things and make it worse by not admitting it early on!
(2) Discovering our Weaknesses
I remember how difficult it was to use a crutch and later a cane. I’m not that old, but I did break my foot. I had to get over my pride and get moving by receiving help from some sticks.
David found out his weakness. God exposed him, and it wasn’t easy. If he didn’t fully learn his lesson, the Lord had an extra lesson upon getting home.
When we link our identity to our gifting, position, and strengths, we tend to have difficulty appreciating our weaknesses. David was not quite thirty when all of this happened—full of life’s zeal. Our secular world doesn’t help us either, suggesting we can and should think great about our lives.
It’s God who is great. We can easily dismiss the importance of this when trying to impress others to gain their favor and congratulatory words. But that’s all a game—and untrue. I don’t mean that individuals are not talented, great business makers, or researchers. We just have such a shallow view of God and our lives. Do you tend to get offended if someone doesn’t compliment you? These are hard lessons to learn because we get very insecure when thinking about our weaknesses.
But we are weak, are we not? How fast did our plans change when they closed the oil pipeline? What is the West doing, now that they have no water? Early last year I remember, just trying to understand the fact that Covid-19 was a killer virus; I prayed realizing that I might die within a month.
The Lord undoubtedly used several situations to break David of his pride, false steps, and foolishly leading his men. I believe the more vocal of his men—maybe his wives too—hinted that working so close to the Philistines was a questionable thing. Lesser rebukes from people sometimes don’t work, but God did.
There was great embarrassment, shame, defeat, guilt, and sin. Who likes to face these things when you are a leader and everyone is watching? God didn’t just send David home, though. There was more, much more. They went back to discover to their shock their burnt-out city of Ziklag.
Why did David and the men grieve so much? The things that matter most are the people close to your heart; a huge void is left when they suddenly are gone. I can see each man going to his home and seeing burnt clothing, missing people, and fast-fading scenes of each one. Like the pop of a balloon, all of it was gone.
I remember learning an important discipleship lesson by Bill Gothard. He shared how God uses our circumstances to teach, reprove, and direct us. If a teen has a problem with his parents, check first if you honor them. If you have a problem with a co-worker, first investigate your attitudes and actions. Bad attitudes create lots of bad encounters.
God does get involved in our lives, first mildly, but later with strong action to restore us back to Himself and His plan. We all say we want God’s will, but that usually means that we want God to agree with the way we choose to do things.
Oh, I’m like you and David. We don’t God to reveal our problems. Who states their weaknesses on their resumes? But isn’t that part of who we are? Unless we see ourselves as we are, then we hide our real selves and needs. We can’t get honest with God and others. No wonder so many people are surprised when they find their wives or husbands are not the people they thought! We are phonies not wanting to admit to our situation. A good disciple is honest about his life and mistakes (Gal 6:3-4).
God will do some tough things in our lives if we need to learn an important lesson. I’m glad that David could step beyond his reproof. God chastises us because He loves us. Reproof doesn’t mean that God (or our parent) doesn’t love us, but that He shapes us for His good and perfect will (Rom 12:1-2).
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB).
This verse and passage from 1 Corinthians show where the Lord leads us. He wants our sole trust to be in Him—in whom all strength, wisdom, wealth, righteousness…etc., comes. We might lack in one area, but He can help us. We might be strong in one area; that strength and giftedness come from the Lord. We have nothing to boast about, but like Paul, God has chosen to work in our lives to make us more like Christ. How amazing is the grace of God!
Theologically, I think David remembered that it’s not because he was strong or always right that God loved him but, according to the cross, because of grace. God wanted to share His goodness with him who did not deserve it.
Do you see how David could turn to the Lord despite his many failures? This is how God wants all of us to turn to Him.
(3) God’s Marvelous Person
The last few words of this last phrase of verse 6 remind us of a real person in time and history who chose to live by faith rather than by sight. David decided to strengthen himself in the Lord because of who God is. It was not just God’s strength, of course, but His marvelous grace—God’s love.
God is always strong. He is Sovereign, knitting together all sorts of impossible situations for His foolish and frail children. He is always loving and gracious.
And us? We are always weak, sinners, in need of grace, air, food, friends, and the like.
To intercept this setting for a moment. If you are wondering what a Christian is, this is a beautiful example of how God welcomes each sinner into His presence. We might have all our sins hung out on the line in front of us, but don’t let that keep you from believing and trusting God. No! Those are the weaknesses that the Lord brings to our minds so that we actually run to Him, our Savior, for help.
But you, like David, need to make that decision to trust God. It’s not a blind faith. David knew how God picked him up from his mistakes and therefore transferred that confidence to this most difficult set of circumstances.
A new believer does this for the first time. They wonder if God knows about their sin. Yes He does. They wonder if God wants to accept them despite their sin. Yes, He does. They wonder if God, as a holy God, can accept them with their unholy acts. Again, yes. God sent Jesus to die for us to take away our sins and make us His children forever!
This was David’s confidence. Once God’s sheep, He would lead. This was the dark valley, but yet the Lord was with him.
But David strengthened himself in the Lord; he trusted God. Despite his failures, God would be with him if he corrected his path. With God, there is an infinite amount of grace for all our sins. Hallelujah.
Read what happened.
“7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.” 9 So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those left behind remained. 10 But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor remained behind.11 Now they found an Egyptian in the field and brought him to David, and gave him bread and he ate, and they provided him water to drink. 12 They gave him a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins, and he ate; then his spirit revived” (1 Samuel 30:7-12).
In David’s case, he instantly sought God’s input through the priest (verses 7-8). When he gained insight into God’s will, he boldly followed through.
He only had 600 men; 200 dropped out because they were too exhausted, but in faith fought those who stole their goods and families. David did not force the 200 dropouts but trusted God to use a lesser band to accomplish His will.
By God’s magnificent grace, all was restored—including their families. What a lesson for everyone!
We can boldly depend on God’s grace even in times of distress. Be honest with God. Admit your sins and failures. As believers in Christ, we find complete forgiveness in Jesus’ work on the cross. No circumstance is ever so bad that we cannot trust God to lead us forward. It might be hard to admit to our failures and boldly go where God wants. But, being a timid person myself, let me say that there is no safer or better place than living out God’s will.
Bible Study Questions for 1 Samuel 30
- Why did King Achish ask David to go back with his men suddenly?
- Did David eagerly go back, thinking the Lord delivered him?
- Do you think any of David’s wives or men would have questioned the rightness of supporting King Achish the Philistine? Explain.
- Was it wrong for David and his men to support the Philistine king? Explain your answer.
- What did they discover upon their return back home to Ziklag?
- What did they first do?
- What did they do after they desperately grieved?
- Do you think it was right to blame David as being the cause of all the trouble? Explain.
- What did they want to do with David? Why?
- How do you deal with guilt, blame, and sin?
- Explain what the last line of 1 Samuel 30:6 means, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.”
- Can you admit your weaknesses? Give an example.
- How did David and his men find strength and renewal when they turned to the Lord for their desperate situation?
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