June 6, 2021

In God Alone, We Find Encouragement

Passage: 1 Samuel 30:1-25

A young couple, very much in love, were getting married in church.  However, the bride was very nervous about the big occasion and so the pastor chose one verse that he felt would be a great encouragement to them. The verse was 1 John 4:18 which says: "There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear."  The pastor asked the best man to read it during the ceremony.  What he didn't know was that the best man wasn't a regular church attender  and didn't know the difference between the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John.

During the service the best man introduced the reading by saying that the pastor felt this was a very good verse for the bride.  And then he read John 4:18, which says: "The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband."  Isn't it true? Quite often we have the best intentions to give encouragement and then we fail.  We all need encouragement, especially in a time of a world pandemic.  We need encouragement when our plans don't come into realization.  And then, we as a denomination need all the encouragement we can get.  Today General Assembly began and there are decisions to be made that can affect our church far beyond human comprehension.  Can you agree with me...it's not about who's right and who's wrong?  It's only about the precepts God gives in His Word.  His precepts will never change.  And we have to acknowledge – In God Alone, We Find Encouragement.  Our passage from 1 Samuel 30 tells us of a time when David needed encouragement and only God could give it to him.  Only God had a comprehension of what David had before him.  He and 600 of his men were away serving in the army of King Achish of Gath in Philistine, one of the enemies of Israel.  David was forced to go to Gath, because Saul threatened to take his life and to ensure that he and his men had the favour of Achish they had to fight in his army.  But when David and his men returned to Ziklag, the place where their women and children stayed, they found it plundered and burned down by the Amalekites and their families were taken captive.  Listen to how they reacted when they faced their reality.  We read in verse 4, “So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”   The men even took their emotions about losing their wives and children to the next level – they blamed David and talked about stoning him.  You will agree with me – the man after God's own heart, was in a position none of us had ever been in and never will be.  He needed someone to encourage him.  To him there was no doubt about who it was going to be.  He didn't sit down and think like we do from time to time - “Who should I go and consult with?”  No, it was only God who came into his mind.

From the events in 1 Samuel 30 we learn two essential principles about In God Alone, We Find Encouragement.  First – 1 Seek Guidance And Direction From God.  We read that David requested from Abiathar, the priest, to bring him 2 The Ephod.  It was the attire worn by priests, because constantly they came before God in prayer.  David was going to seek God's guidance and direction.  He asked in verse 8, “Shall I pursue this raiding party?  Will I overtake them?”  You see, when David fled from Saul, he didn't consult with God – he just went to Gath to “save” his own skin.  In fact, he did something more, that could have brought God's wrath over him.  He violated God's explicit instructions not to form alliances with pagan peoples.  This time before making any move, he first sought to determine what the will of God was!  This time David deliberately stopped to ask the Lord if he should pursue the Amalekites and try to recover what had been taken.  If David had gone to God the first time, things would have been so different.  Isn't that true of most of God's children?  They first go after their own agendas and when it turn out to be one great mess, they come back to God to fix their lives.  Psalm 32: 8 should become the guideline we live by every single day of our lives - “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”   Those words came from the same David.  Perhaps it was after the situation of returning from Gath and dealing with the Amalekites that he wrote Psalm 32.  He affirmed what he heard so vividly from His God – “I will instruct you...teach you...counsel you.”  He made a deliberate decision – “from now on God will be the One Who says where we go from here.”  Friends, we have to pray that General Assembly will function in the same way – “What is the way God wants us to follow?  We have to follow His Word; we have to listen to the Holy Spirit.  It's not about our decisions, our remits; it's about God's direction.”  In 1 Samuel 30: 8 David received clear instructions from the Lord, “Pursue them,” He answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”   What was David's response to God's instruction?  Did he sit down in the ruins of Ziklag and pitied himself for what happened?  Did he throw himself before his men and cry out, “Stone me now, for I deserve it”?  No, he believed God and acted.  He took his 600 men all the way to the Besor Valley.  There 200 of them stayed behind, because they were too exhausted to continue on.  The excursion in Achish's army took its toll.  But David and the 400 remaining pressed on.  Perseverance is a wonderful gift from God.

That brings us to the second principle in 1 Samuel 30 – 3 Wherever God Leads Us, He Will Provide.  David and the remaining four hundred men crossed over the brook and pushed on into the desolate desert in pursuit of the Amalekites.  But they weren't able to find any trace of their families' captors.  With each passing hour it seemed more and more hopeless.  But then we see God’s sovereignty in a small incident of this story.  They came across a sick Egyptian captive who had been left behind by the Amalekites.  After David revived this man who was close to the point of death, by giving him food and drink, he listened to his story.  Then he requested to be taken to where the Amalekites were.  Can we appreciate in what great mysterious ways God always works?  Here was a man left for dead by the Amalekites, because he was useless and sick.  But because David and his men were kind and humane to a dying man, they allowed God's provision to come into reality.  You see my friends, where people of the world are always on the lookout for the big things to happen, God would sometimes place the little things right under their noses and they miss it.  Can you and I even recall the little things God used in our lives to bring His provisions into reality?  A renown scientist was honoured at a recognition function, and as the room was packed with colleagues, University professors and his family and friends, he went to give his speech.  He started by saying, “There is one person in particular who was very instrumental in my success, I want to thank.  A person other than my family, professors, friends or colleagues.  I invited this person earlier tonight to come to the podium.”  From the back of the room came a bent-over elderly lady.  People looked at each other and asked, “What could she have contributed?”   When she reached the front, the scientist said, “She took me into her home when I went to school and couldn't afford to rent a room; she fed me; she brought me a hot drink late at night; but most important of all – I heard her pray out loud for me at night.”  Because David and his men trusted God with His provision in this story, they were taken all the way to the camp of the Amalekites.   The operation ended well for the Israelites.  Everything that was plundered was recovered, including the women and children.  We read in this passage that nothing was missing.  What was the secret of David's success?  We find it in verse 6b, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”  We too have the strength of the Lord.  If only we will embrace it – as individuals and as a people of God.  May God bless and encourage us.  Let's not lean on our own understanding, but let God be our Guide.