<< 1 Samuel 30: David’s Victory over the Amalekites >>
“Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. “For who will hearken to you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike, -I SAM. xxx. 23, 24.
IT is one of the errors of inexperience to suppose that the work of religion is one struggle; that with a sharp bitter agony and effort of the soul the work of regeneration is accomplished, and full victory attained. This is only very partially true. There is a period, doubtless, when a soul decides to forsake sin and live for heaven. With more or less of struggle, with more or less of humiliation and of sorrow, and in some cases of deep ‘wretchedness of soul, a person determines to turn away from his wickedness and do that which is lawful and right, that he may save his soul alive, just as the Israelites suffered and marched out of Egypt. The step is a great one. It is virtually a stride from slavery to liberty, from hell to heaven. The Lord blesses it; angels rejoice over it; ~he person feels happy. The work, however, is only begun, it is not completed. Outward evils are reformed but inward ones are only concealed, and kept down by the Lord’s mercy until the penitent becomes stronger, and by little and little can overcome, and finally silence them for ever.
All this is represented in the Lord by the dealings with the Amalekites recorded there from time to time, Amalek represented that inward opposition to heavenly things that loves darkness rather than light. It is often conquered, but it appears again and again. It is that malicious vile self, which manifests its virulence in various ways, sometimes creeping, sometimes defiant, but always covertly or openly seeking to betray and ruin the soul. Amalek is always opposed to the throne of the Lord in the soul, and the Lord has war with Amalek from generation to generation (Exod. Xvii. 16).
When the Israelites had marched but a little way on their journey to Canaan, there was Amalek in the Valley of Rephidim determined to arrest and destroy them. This subtle and powerful people, which Balaam called “the head of the nations,” (Num. xxiv. 20), never seemed done with. They were powerful in the days of Saul, who spared the king when he ought to have exterminated him and all within his power; and here, in the chapter before us, we read that they had made another irruption, burnt Ziklag where David lived, and carried away captive the women and children.
When we think of the spiritual sense of these warlike transactions recorded in the Word, how surely they illustrate the fact that the struggle between good and evil, heaven and hell within us, is a life-and-death struggle. We must destroy sin our especial sin, the sin which most readily besets us, which is that in which our evil self-hood displays its malignity, or it will destroy us. Saul failed, because he was unfaithful against Amalek: David wept, until he had no more power to weep, when he saw what Amalek had done, and instantly sought help and counsel from the Lord, followed it out, and triumphed.
We ought not to enter with feeble and vacillating heart on the campaign against sin in ourselves, the holy war of bringing the whole of our being into purity and peace; but resolutely do he I:ord:s work~ithin us, subduing every affection, thought, imagination, habit, way and work to the spirit of the Lord Jesus, the benign sway of the Prince of Peace. We should joyously labour on in this holy work of self-conquest, taking rest when the Divine Mercy and Providence afford it, but always ready to resist every instigation and impulse to evil, saying with exulting courage, “Blessed be the Lord my strength, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: my Goodness, my High Tower, and my Deliverer; my Shield and He in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.”
But before we proceed further to contemplate this portion of the Word, in its bearing upon the individual warfare of the Christian against the sins which present themselves in the course of his regeneration, let us regard it in its more general and grander aspect, as the record of the Wars of Jehovah in His work of Redemption. The Lord Jesus was not only Jehovah the Creator, but Jehovah the Redeemer, “Jehovah mighty in battle” (Psa. xxiv. 8). “For thy Maker is thine Husband, Jehovah of hosts is His name: and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall He be called” (Isa. liv, 6). Redemption was the deliverance of mankind from the powers of darkness, and thus winning for mankind again the “glorious. liberty of the children of light.” Jesus, our Lord, Jehovah in the flesh, wrought out this Redemption by vanquishing, the infernal hosts again and again, until they were entirely subdued, and new power was given to men to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, but gratefully and resolutely, in all their daily walk. “I will ransom them from the power of hell (not the grave); I will redeem them from death: O death,T will be thy plagues! O hell, I will be thy destruction!” such was the promise of God the Redeemer when about to come into the world: and when He was in the world, and carrying out His glorious work, Jesus said, “I beheld Satan like lightning fall from heaven. Behold I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke x. 18, 19).
David was the type of the Lord Jesus, thus redeeming man from the direful slavery of evil spirits. In this respect, the Redeemer was like David, a Man of War. He the Prince of Peace, at first came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword. He was a Divine David in His redeeming work: He became a Divine Solomon in His Glorified Humanity; the King of kings an d Lord of lords.
How wonderful is the Word of God, which in the same narrative gives the history of David, the spiritual experience of the Christian, and a description of the Divine Work of the Lord Jesus in redeeming the world! Yet so it is. Every incident in the sacred narrative before us has Its proper place and bearing in all these respects. Hence it has been the conviction of the spiritually minded in all the Christian ages that not only in the well-known instances quoted in the gospels, where the words of David are quoted and said to be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, but everywhere the Psalms, though spoken of David, have their grandest application to Jesus, David’s acknowledged Lord.
This is taught clearly by the Lord Jesus Himself ” He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke xxiv. 44, 45). Let us pray, my beloved brethren, that the same gracious aid may be afforded to us, that our hearts may burn within us while the Lord speaks to us in His Word, and our eyes may be opened to behold wondrous things out of His law.
Ziklag which was a small town in the south of Judah, David’s dwelling-place and whose name signifies “a pressed measure,” represented the few truly good, called often in Scripture “a remnant ” who were faithful to the Lord and waiting for His coming, when the world was buried in sin and darkness..
The rush of the Amalekites on Ziklag and its destruction by fire, while they carried the women with their sons and daughters captive, including David’s two wives, represented the overflow of the powers of hell, enslaving the last of the good among the human race, and bringing into bondage the. church, internal and external figured by the two wives of David, In the fifty ninth chapter of Isaiah the state of mankind just before the Lord Jesus came into the world is vividly described, and it is represented here by Ziklag in flames, and the inhabitants a prey to the plunderers. “Yea, truth faileth, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey; and the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no judgment. And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His arm brought salvation, and His righteousness it sustained Him” (ver. 15, 16). Again,”when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (ver. 19). The infernals poured out their terrible influences upon and around the remaining good among the human race, and with inflamed passions those horrid fires of the soul seemed about to have everything their own way. But the eye of Divine Love was upon them.
“His creatures fell, no pitying eye,
No mighty arm to save was nigh,
Or aid our feeble powers:
He saw, He came, He fought alone,
And conquered evils not His own
That we might conquer ours.”
The grief of David and the men who were with him, at the devastation they beheld, represented the sorrow of the Lord and His angels at the calamities of mankind. “Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (ver 4). The sorrow of the Redeemer at human folly and its wretched results, is described in those affecting words of the prophet which seem the condensation of tender lamentation. “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.” Jesus wept at Lazarus dead and bound in grave clothes, the symbol of humanity then dead to all the purer joys, and holier virtues, bound in the grave clothes of narrow and corrupt superstitions. He wept again over Jerusalem, and gave expression to His divine sorrow in the tender words; “If thou hadst known; even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace.”
By David encouraging himself in the Lord his God, is meant that all the courage and impulse to redeem, in the Human Nature of the Lord, was derived from the Father within. “As the Father had life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John v. 26). David called for the ephod, the linen garment for the chest worn by the priesthood. “And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.” The ephod was the symbol of the heavenly truths of charity, of that charity which “hopeth all things, believeth all things, and endureth all things.” The inquiry by David from the Lord, “Shall I pursue and shall I partake them?” with its answer, is again an intimation that all things that the Redeemer did, He did from the Father within Him.
The six hundred men represented all things requisite for the labours of Redemption. Six is used in the spiritual sense when labour and toil are connected with the subject referred to, derived from the six days preceding the Sabbath.
They came to the brook Besor; the name of this brook signifies evangelization orgospel. When the Lord had commenced the work of redeeming man from the powers of darkness, those Amalekites of the soul, He also came to a fresh era in the progress of humanity, the era in which the glad tidings of great joy could be published for all people. This was coming to the brook Besor. Two hundred men were faint, and could not go over the brook, and four hundred passed on with David. Some have not the vigour to become internal men, They are good to a certain extent, but they have little desire for the deep truths of the gospel. They are faint, and cannot pass on. Four hundred, however, go forward, and are conducted to complete victory.
And now every singular incident occurred. They met an Egyptian in the field. David questioned him, and said; “To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me, because three days agone I fell sick.” This mention of a young Egyptian will remind us that Israel was in Egypt, the land of science, before going into Canaan, and the infant Redeemer was taken down into Egypt, and this because it was needful to fulfil the prophecy, “I called my son out of Egypt.” It is an interesting fact in the ways of Divine Providence, that whenever a new dispensation of religion is given, there is also a new outpouring of science. Grecian and Egyptian literature were opened out in the Roman world at the publication of the gospel, so as in this respect to offer a beautiful auxiliary to religion. The young Egyptian was in the field. At the present day, when the Lord is revealing a still larger amount of heavenly wisdom, a still deeper effulgence of the gospel, what a cornucopia of scientific truths has been poured into the world! Who that looks around and contemplates in this new age the wonders of astronomy, the marvels of steam, the discoveries in light, in printing, in improved roads, in navigation, in telegraphs, in all the departments of science, but must confess that the young Egyptian is again in the field?
The Amalekite takes possession of the young Egyptian, but he always falls sick in his hands. The emissaries of evil try to use science against religion; but it always becomes sick in their hands.
“The undevout astronomer is mad.”
Science is only in a healthy state when it is the servant of religion, and is carrying out the behests of benevolence and wisdom. David gave the young Egyptian bread and water, and he ate and drank; and this is mentioned in the Word to teach that Goodness and Truth, which are heavenly bread and the water of life, are as it were the soul and the support of all true scence. The figs and the raisins which were also given represent the outward virtues which proceed from goodness and truth within.
The Egyptian guiding David to the Amalekites, and making it a condition that he should not be delivered to his former master, is a sign that science is repugnant to evil, and in the hands of religion is one of the most effectual means to its overthrow. Science is from God equally with religion, and speaks with reverence of her Maker. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language in which their voice is not heard” (Ps. xix. 1-3). Whatever religion forbids, every breach of the divine commandments, science also brands as mischievous. Science in a thousand ways deplores an evil, but cannot put it down. Over-toil, violences of temper, unchastity with its myriad pollutions and degradations, science can point out, but she cannot cure. But when the young Egyptian shews them to David he will smite them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: or in other words, the divine Redeemer who broke down the power of hell, and instituted purity of heart and life as the law for Christians, was powerful to bruise the serpent’s head, to condemn and root out sin until night began to cover His Church again, until the evening of the next day.
The spoil that was recovered, and which is called David’s spoil his two wives, the sons and daughters of the people, the flock and herds, represented the good in the spiritual world who had been waiting for redemption to be completed before they could ascend to heaven: the captivity which the great Redeemer led captive when the everlasting doors were opened to receive Him. (Ps, xxiv.; Eph. iv. 8.) The presents which were sent by David to the inhabitants of the various cities of Judah represented the joys and blessings experienced by the angelic hosts when the Lord had finished His Divine Work. Heaven was happier, for men were saved. Glory to God was sung in the highest (heavens), while there was peace and good-will towards men. The glorious proclamation echoed through the eternal regions: ” Sing, ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, ye mountains, forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified Hjmself in Israel” (Isa, xliv. 23).
We have taken this general view of the Divine Work as shadowed forth in the history of David, when we view the Jewish hero as a type of the Divine Hero, the Lord Jesus, the Conqueror of death and hell. Let us now briefly notice the application to the Christian as a spiritual warrior, and in one of those temptations by which he is from time to time beset. Ziklag would represent the state of religion in the soul, when it is yet feeble and weak. The Amalekites would represent the crowd of evil impulses that at such times rush into the soul and inflame its lusts, and carry away for a season its good affections, so that they seem distant and in captivity. This state is described when it is written, ” My soul is among lions, and I lie among them that are set on fire” (Ps. 1vii. 4). Ziklag is burned, and the soul is in prison. The Lord’s truth comes into us and fills us with a sense of His sorrow for us, of His mercy towards us, and of His power. The Egyptian which in the quality of guide shews David where our foes are, represents scientific knowledge, which, under the name of common sense, rejects evil and denounces it equally as do the teachings of Divine Wisdom. We cry mightily to the Lord for help. The Lord lives in us, walks in us (2 Cor. vi. 16), fights in us, and conquers in us, David destroys our Amalekites, and sets free the church in us, and all our new-born better principles, which, like sons and daughters, have peopled the little kingdom of the soul. The hopes, joys, consolations, and blessings which are diffused throughout the soul, with the grateful confession that they are all from the Lord, are David’s spoil sent to all the places around. The whole soul is filled with delight. The divine joy is in our joy, and our joy is full. Our head is anointed with oil, and our cup runneth over.
Yet in our best states some imperfections appear. This is represented in the complaint of the wicked men adverted to in our text, and the words of the previous verse. They expressed disdain for their weaker brethren, and sought to have all the spoil for themselves. We are often so delighted with new acquisitions in religion, that we think lightly of the states which have gone before. But this is a serious error. Past good should be retained, as well as new excellences acquired. The men who stayed at the brook Besor guarded the stores of the host; or, as David said, tarried by the stuff. The virtues of everyday life, the common duties of home, the business and ministrations of this lower world, the moral obligations and courtesies of society, are neither to be forsaken nor despised by those who have conquered in spiritual warfare, and are triumphing in spiritual bliss. “As his part is that goeth down to the battle,” said the triumphant David, “so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff. They shall part alike.”
With perfect obedience to this divine law, more perfect Christian characters would be attained. The purest hearts are thoroughly compatible with the gentlest manners. The most delicate conscience may be surrounded by the greatest capacity for successful trade. The external man and the internal man should both be in true order, each in its own sphere; then the divine blessing will be upon both. They shall part alike. Only conquer the inner Amalekites, and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all other things will be added unto you.
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)