Friday, August 19, 2011

When in the Midst of Sheer Chaos and Crisis

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day.  Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag.  They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old.  They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.  So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.  David's two wives had been captured--Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel.  David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.  But David found strength in the LORD his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, "Bring me the epod."  Abiathar brought it to him, and David enquired of the Lord, "Shall I pursue this raiding party?  Will I overtake them?"  

"Pursue them," he answered.  "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue."  (I Samuel 30:1-8)

       David finally reached the pinnacle of his wilderness experience as the Lord had prepared him to assume kingship over Israel.  In I Samuel 16, the Prophet Samuel anointed him as king of Israel, a position that David would not assume for quite awhile since the Lord desired to test and refine him by placing David in numerous difficult situations, some even life-threatening!  Yet despite great persecution and betrayal that almost defies human imagination, David grew in his faith and remained steadfast. 

       King Saul had tried repeatedly to kill David because of profound jealousy, knowing full well that David would eventually replace him as the king of Israel.  Interestingly and significantly, David on two instances could have circumvented the process by killing Saul, yet he chose not to do so because he knew that Saul was still the anointed king of God's people.  David knew the scriptures of his forefathers.  "It is mine to avenge; I will repay.  In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."  (Deuteronomy 32:35)  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would avenge all wrongs committed against David and he rested in those promises although there were no doubt numerous times that he wondered if God had surely not forgotten him.

       David returned to Ziklag where he and his two wives had been living for several years.  Ziklag was in enemy territory, a place given to him by King Achish, a philistine king.  (David had decided to settle there because he felt that he would finally be out of the clutches of Saul if he were in the enemy's domain.)  The Amalekites, a vile enemy of God's people, had raided Ziklag, burned everything to the ground, looted the livestock, and had taken the woman and children.  Obviously, at that point, David and his men had no idea if even any of their loved ones had survived the merciless onslaught.

       Bleak as the whole scene presented itself, "fuel was added to the fire" when David's men decided to take their anger and frustration out on him:  they were ready to kill the poor guy!  After all, he was solely responsible for what happened, wasn't he?  Despite everything, the scripture teaches us that "David found strength in the LORD his God."  These are strong, powerful words that indicate to the reader the state of David's heart and how henceforth from that point he was prepared to assume the leadership of Israel, God's people.  No, David didn't immediately become the king, as the scriptures clearly indicate.  There was still a major battle to fight, because he chose to not only find strength in the LORD his God, but decisively sought the Lord to find out what God wanted him to do to rectify this horrific situation.  David and his men would enter the camp of the Amalekites, slaughter them and reclaim all that the enemy had stolen from them. 

       Unquestionably, there isn't a reader of this blog that would deny that life is not quite difficult at times.  In reality, for many it appears that life is unyieldingly complicated most of the time!  We find ourselves in one quagmire only to find out that after one situation is resolved, we're in the middle of another hardship.  Heaven forbid, sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of several dilemmas all at once!  Thus is life.  Though the difficulties we incur seemingly suggest that we do not have a choice regarding how we can respond, the truth cannot be denied.  Indeed, we do have choices!  We can choose to be like King Saul and become increasingly bitter toward the circumstances in which we find ourselves or we can choose to be like David and find strength in the Lord.  Moreover, as the scriptures teach in 1 Samuel 30, we can go beyond that and seek the Lord for what He would have us do.  His silence might suggest that we not do anything at any given point.  Or, He may give us specific instructions regarding how to handle an adversity.  Whatever the case, we can and must always trust His sovereignty.  His way is always best.

       There are two noteworthy things that David did when he returned to Ziklag only to find it completely decimated.  Firstly, David found strength in the Lord his God.  He didn't consult anyone or anything.  He didn't fret or raise "Cain."  He didn't express unspeakable doubts about his situation --there's nothing wrong with doing that-- nor did he blame God for his plight.  He found strength in the Lord his God.  What does that mean?

       Finding strength in the Lord is a reality that is not based on a one-time event.  Furthermore, it is not a mental ascension into the heavens by way of human endeavor.  Rather, finding strength in the Lord comes "by practice" when we daily seek His face and learn to enjoy His presence.  It is in the precious moments of intimacy with the Savior where we learn that certainly, we can trust Jesus in every situation of life --He becomes our strength, our solace, literally our everything!  He infuses His strength into our inner man as we bask in His glory for He ministers to the deepest part of our being when we're in that secret place.  The psalmist expresses this in God's Word.  "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."  (Psalm 42:7) 

       It cannot be overstated that enjoying God's presence takes practice on our part simply because our flesh doesn't want to submit to the presence of the Lord, and will resist Him all the way.  The Bible alludes to how the flesh opposes God.  "The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God."  (Romans 8:7-8)  Fortunately however, once we get into a consistent habit of seeking His face (presence), it becomes quite natural as the flesh is forced into submission again and again.  We'll then soon discover we cannot survive without regularly seeking the Lord!

       Secondly, David made a conscious decision to seek advice from the Lord regarding how he should handle his grave situation.  "Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, "Bring me the ephod."  Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party?  Will I overtake them?"  (I Samuel 30:7-8)  We see that the Lord instructed him to proceed and chase the enemy.  Noteworthy, David didn't just assume that he should pursue the Amalekites just because He had enjoyed the presence of the Lord.  He specifically asked the Lord if he should go ahead after his enemies.  (The Lord certainly reserved the right to prevent David and his men from perservering after their adversaries.)

       Dear friends, God is constantly refining his people, you included!  The Master Craftsman (Jeremiah 18:6) is always chiseling us not only for the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), but also for the intention of lovingly preparing us for bigger and better things in this life.  David was anointed to be the king of Israel and would subsequently become the greatest king in that nation's history.  Yet is was necessary for the Lord to realize a great work of preparation for the young man in order to prepare him for such an enormous task.  And so it is with us, His saints today.  God's Spirit, in accordance with the will of the Father (John 15:1-2), will surely take us to those places of life where utter destruction and decimation seem to be the ruling force, or even the norm.  It is the Lord's will we see and experience that aspect of life.  Why?  Because it's there that the Lord refines us as we begin to realize that we can't save ourselves and so we trust wholly in His salvation.   

       Thankfully, we will discover that in God's divineness He will gladly and lovingly deliver us from the utter ruin of the situation --our Ziklag if you will-- if we'll allow Him!  Throughout all the process the Lord desperately wants us to be acquainted with His presence and unfailing supremacy, that which will ultimately deliver us from the most utterly hopeless situation in which we could ever find ourselves.  The end of Jonah's prayer expresses God's deliverance from the most seemingly impossible situations.  ""When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.  But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.'"  And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:7-10) 

       Dear Father in Heaven, today so many of your loved ones find themselves in terrible situations, Ziklags.  Some are physically ill, some without jobs and adequate finances, some are experiencing the breakup of a marriage leaving them feeling rejected and hurt beyond words.  Lord, some of your saints feel as if You're a million miles away and care nothing about them.  The dryness of the soul is so profound that it feels as if one spark would ignite a devastating fire, one that would leave them completely whithered.  Father, I pray that God the Holy Spirit would bring to all of these precious souls the reality of the comfort of God given us in Christ Jesus our Messiah, the Savior.  May His peace flood us as we march through the pains of the experience You have us in.  May the Spirit remind us of your gracious presence that You so long to imbue, and may He further instruct us with that which You desire us to know.  Thank You Lord for conforming us into the image of Jesus.  We joyfully look forward to the other side of the heartache when we'll be that much more perfect and ready for every good and perfect work you have for us!  (James 1:1-2)  In Jesus' Mighty Name I pray.  Amen and amen.

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