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1 Samuel 30:1–6

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (v. 6).

Saul, in his own words, is in “deep distress” (28:15). Now, as we skip ahead to 1 Samuel 30 to follow the sequence of unfolding events, we discover that distress also comes upon David.

Having been dismissed from participation in the Philistine attack on Israel, David and his men travel from the Philistine muster at Aphek back to their home in exile, the Philistine city of Ziklag, some 50 miles to the south. No doubt they are eager to return to their homes and families. But upon arriving in Ziklag, they find that the Amalekites have raided the unguarded city, burned it, and taken their wives, sons, and daughters captive. Matthew Henry suggests this raid was intended to avenge David’s attack upon Amalek (27:8), and that God allowed it to happen to chastise David for pretending to be an ally of Achish of Gath. However, God’s mercy to David continues, for whereas he killed all the Amalekites in the city or cities he attacked, the Amalekites kill none of David’s people, but only take them captive. “Whether they spared them to lead them in triumph, or to sell them, or to use them for slaves, God’s hand must be acknowledged, who designed to make use of the Amalekites for the correction, not for the destruction, of the house of David,” Henry writes.

Despite this mercy, David and his men are distraught by the loss of their loved ones, and they basically cry their eyes out. But then the grief of the men begins to turn to anger—and David is the focus. They actually begin to talk of stoning him, perhaps because he provoked Amalek, perhaps because he left Ziklag unguarded. Thus, in addition to his own grief over the capture of his wives, David must deal with the antipathy of his men. He is indeed “greatly distressed.”

But in this dark moment, David does the proper thing—he “strengthens himself in the Lord his God.” What does this mean? As Henry explains, David “believed, and considered with application to his present case, the power and providence of God, His justice and goodness, the method He commonly takes of bringing low and then raising up, His care of His people that serve Him and trust in Him, and the particular promises He had made to him of bringing him safely to the throne; with these considerations he supported himself.” And being thus encouraged, David is ready to take action.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

What do you when you are in distress? Do you rely on your own strength or look to God for His? Or, like David, does your response vary? Suffering and distress are a “school” that can drive us away from God or teach us to rely on Him. If God chooses to enroll you in this school, pray that He will help you learn the proper lessons.


For Further Study
  • Gen. 35:3
  • Deut. 4:30–31
  • 2 Chron. 28:22
  • Isa. 25:1–4

Saul in the Darkness

God’s “Obvious” Will

Keep Reading The Sanctity of Work: A Biblical Perspective on Labor

From the July 2003 Issue
Jul 2003 Issue