We have moved to www.martinamcgowan.com

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What are we doing in Ziklag? (part 3)

As David and his men begin their march back to Ziklag, I’m sure they were feeling pretty lucky. They have dodged a major bullet. Only a last-minute intervention saved them from joining the attack on Israel. They are almost home now, only one more hill to cross. Suddenly one of the men says, “I smell smoke.” Another says, “I do, too.” Someone shouts, “It’s Ziklag.” In a moment, 600 men break ranks and run for the village. Their eyes are not prepared for what they see. While they were gone, the Amalekites came and took their wives, took their children, took all their possessions, and burned the village to the ground. There is nothing is left.

You see, the Amalekites were among the villages David used to raid when he was playing his little game of pretending to attack Judah. But, look back at the story. Remember that David not only raided those villages, he also killed the people to keep them from talking. Now his tab with the Amalekites has come due.

David has been flirting with disaster for a long, long time. What started out as a simple case of discouragement has now led to something totally unthinkable. When he first came to the Philistines, he only meant to relieve the pressure on himself. He never meant for anything like this to happen. And all this time, God has been trying to get his attention, but David has been too busy and self-absorbed to listen. Finally, disaster strikes and David is totally unprepared.

The text says that David and his men wept until they could not weep anymore. It also says David’s men were so bitter that they talked about stoning David. And who could blame them? Ziklag is burning, their families are gone and it’s all David’s fault. What started with discouragement led to desperation, and this led to defection which led to disobedience and ended in disaster.

Now God is finally beginning to get David’s attention. Sometimes the Lord has to slow us down, let us fall in order to get through to us. Disaster comes and we stand in the blackened and smoking ruins of a part of our life. And at last we come to our senses. After 16 months of compromise and disobedience, David finally begins to look up. The tragedy is that it took so long and hurt so many people.

We have finally reached the turning point of this story, but it comes so quickly that we almost miss it. First Samuel 30:6 says that “David found strength in the LORD his God.” David found strength. That means he is no longer relying on his own strength, but God’s strength.

David’s number one problem from the beginning was that he was so gifted that he could operate very effectively, even apart from God. What do we know about David? We know he was handsome and strong. We know he was a gifted musician and a mighty warrior. We know that women were attracted to him. We know he was a born leader. David had everything. He was every woman’s dream and every man’s hero. In later years, those qualities would make him Israel’s greatest king. But, I think that one of the reasons God allowed David to go through ten years of obscurity in the desert was to teach him not to rely on his own abilities, but on the Lord alone. That’s a hard lesson for all of us to learn and doubly hard for those who possess great natural gifts.

As long as David leaned on the Lord, those enormous gifts could be used to accomplish great things. We have seen it already and we will see it again as he leads his people to the greatest era of prosperity they will ever know. But every time David leaned on his own strength to get a job done, he got in trouble. And he hurt a lot of people in the process.

What lesson should we take from this story?
  1. Discouragement is inevitable when we attempt to face the problems of life in our own strength.
  2. Compromise with the world offers only a temporary solution to our problems.
  3. God’s punishment is usually to let us face the consequence s of our own wrong decisions.
  4. Discouragement is not meant to throw us on our back, but to bring us to our knees.
Where is God's grace in this story? God loves us too much to let us stay forever in our sin. The Lord knows His own. He has put his seal upon us, and he watches every move we make. When we decide to live in our own strength, and exercise our own free will, God lets us go our own way. But, when we fail, and we will fail eventually, we will turn to him with a new resolve and a firm commitment to walk in the light. Because we are as little children, we have to fall in order to learn how to walk. There is a warning here and also great hope based on a God whose love is so strong that even when we sin, that same love keeps calling us back home.

Some of us have done exactly what David did. Some of us are still doing it. There’s a lesson to be learned and a warning to be taken. But there is good news is this—whenever we’re ready, truly ready, we can turn things around. That’s what the grace of God is all about. The question is, how far will we have to go before we make that choice?


No comments: