Doing Things God’s Way

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1 Samuel 30:1-31 (David fights the Amalekites)

INTRODUCTION: We are almost at the end of our series on David and Saul. Today is our last message on David, and then we finish the series next week with our last message on Saul. Today’s passage picks up where last week’s passage left off. Last week the Philistines sent David and his men back to Ziklag, and today we find out what happened when they got there. (Read 1 Samuel 30:1-4 and pray)


Throughout this series we have been noting the contrasts between David and Saul. And even though David is far from perfect – he certainly makes his fair share of mistakes – one thing that stands out is the different ways they approach life. David usually does things God’s way, while Saul continually does things his own way.

In fact, the whole reason God took the kingship away from Saul back in 1 Samuel 15 was because Saul refused to do things God’s way. God commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites, and Saul refused.

Now you might wonder why God would even command such a thing. What did the Amalekites ever do to the Israelites? Well, it goes all the way back to the Exodus when the Amalekites attacked the Israelites unprovoked while they were defenseless in the wilderness. (Exodus 17:8-16) Even though God gave the Israelites victory in that battle, God said that, as an act of judgment, he would remove the Amalekites from the face of the earth. (Exodus 17:14) The Amalekites were also part of the many ungodly nations in the area of Canaan that were under God’s judgment for all sorts of evil practices.

Saul failed to follow God’s directions when it came to the Amalekites. Now David is in the same position. What will David do? Actually, once David is done with the Amalekites, they will never be a threat to Israel again. In fact, they are never even mentioned in the Bible again until 1 Chronicles 4:43 when the few remaining Amalekites are finally wiped out during the reign of Hezekiah.

And so, there are some big contrasts in this chapter between David who does things God’s way, and Saul who does things his own way. It is also interesting to note that while David is attacking the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 30, Saul is preparing for battle against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31. It is even possible that both battles take place on different battlefields at the exact same time. If this were a movie, the director would probably keep flashing back and forth between the two battles, intercutting the scenes to demonstrate the contrast.

Today we want to talk about doing things God’s way. There are three principles we see in this chapter that will help us as we seek to do things God’s way in our own lives. I would summarize them as this: 1) Start with God. 2) Go with God. 3) Do as God. Doing things God’s way is the best way, and so we want to learn how we can incorporate these three principles into our own lives. So, let’s get started.

I. Start with God (1-10)

First of all, if you want to do things God’s way, you need to start with God. How many times do we attempt to do things without any thought of God, without any acknowledgement of God, without bringing God into it first? If you’re going to do things God’s way, you need to start with God, and our passage this morning shows us three ways you can do that.

   A. Find strength in God (1-6)
      – Psalm 28:7

First, starting with God means finding strength in God. David is faced with a horrific situation here, and the first thing he does before jumping into action is find strength in God. Look at 1 Samuel 30:1-6:

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, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives had been captured – Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 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. (1 Samuel 30:1-6)

And so, while David was away with the Philistines, the Amalekites attacked the city. When David and his men return, they find the city destroyed and all the women and children taken captive. David and his men have just left a difficult situation with the Philistines. They have marched three days to get home, and now they are faced with this. They all weep and weep until they have no strength left. The men are so bitter, they talk of stoning David. David is in a difficult situation here, perhaps the lowest situation of his life.

But David prevails because he does things God’s way. Before he does anything, he starts with God. He has no strength left of his own, so he finds strength in God. He turns to God in his distress, and he invites God into his situation.

You also need to find strength in God. This world is too hurtful and unpredictable to try and do it all in your own strength. In Psalm 28:7 we read these beautiful words of David: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” (Psalm 28:7) Hard times will either make you bitter or better. David’s men got bitter, but David got better because he found strength in God.

   B. Seek God’s will in prayer (7-8)
      – James 1:5

Starting with God also means seeking God’s will in prayer. We see this in our passage with Abiathar and the ephod. Look at the next verses in 1 Samuel 30:7-8:

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David inquired 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.” (1 Samuel 30:7-8)

We have seen Abiathar and the ephod before. Abiathar was the high priest. The ephod was a special garment that the priest used to seek guidance from the Lord. This was a specific way that God told the Israelites they could seek his will during this specific time of history.

Once again, we don’t know the timeline for sure, but it is possible that at the very same time David is seeking God’s guidance here through the ephod, Saul is in Endor seeking guidance through the witch of Endor. David is going directly to God with his problem, while Saul is bypassing God and trying to use a medium to learn God’s will.

James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) We may not have a priest like Abiathar or an ephod. But we have something much better. We have Jesus as our high priest, and we have the completed word of God. Starting with God means seeking God’s will in prayer.

   C. Act on God’s word in faith (9-10)
      – James 1:22-24

And then starting with God means acting on God’s word in faith. Look at 1 Samuel 30:9-10:

David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Ravine, where some stayed behind, 10 for two hundred men were too exhausted to cross the ravine. But David and four hundred men continued the pursuit. (1 Samuel 30:9-10)

Once David knows God’s will in the situation, he doesn’t sit around waiting, but he immediately acts in faith. God tells David to pursue the Amalekites. David pursues the Amalekites. When they get to the Besor Ravine, sometimes also called the Brook of Besor, two hundred men are too tired to keep going. They stay behind at the brook, but once again, in faith, David continues his pursuit with the four hundred remaining. God told David to pursue the Amalekites, and David acts on God’s word in faith.

James 1 says this: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:22-24)

How do you start with God? Find strength in God. Seek God’s will in prayer. Act on God’s word in faith. Invite God into your situation. Every task, every trial, every day – make sure you start with God.

II. Go with God (11-20)

Doing things God’s way means you not only start with God. You also go with God. You don’t just ask God for help at the start and then proceed to do things your own way. No, you keep God front and center at all times. And when you are actively conscious of God going forward, everything changes. With God at the center, you will view things differently.

   A. Interruptions may be opportunities (11-15)
      – Mark 5:21-43; Luke 10:25-37

For example, we all get interrupted in our tasks. Nobody likes getting interrupted. But instead of getting frustrated with the interruptions, if you are focused on God as you go, you will understand that those interruptions may actually be opportunities. We see this with David and the Egyptian slave they find on the way. Look at 1 Samuel 30:11-15:

They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat— 12 part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights.

13 David asked him, “To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?” He said, “I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. 14 We raided the Negev of the Kerethites and the territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.”

15 David asked him, “Can you lead me down to this raiding party?” He answered, “Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.” (1 Samuel 30:11-15)

When David and his men find this Egyptian, instead of simply ignoring him because they are so intent on their task, they bring him into the camp. They provide him with food and water. They are not so busy that they forget God’s commands concerning love and concern and hospitality.

When the Egyptian revives, it turns out he is the slave of one of the Amalekite raiders. He agrees to lead David and his men to the raiding party. What looked like an interruption, in God’s providence was really God’s divine means of leading David and his men right to the Amalekites. If David had not stopped to love his neighbor in this situation, they may not have found the Amalekites in time!

We see other examples in Scripture of what look like interruptions really being divine opportunities from God. I think of Jesus and the woman who was bleeding. Jesus was on the way to help someone else, but he stopped what he was doing to help the woman in her need. (Mark 5:21-43) Or I think of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite were too busy to stop and help, but the Samaritan was focused on God and saw the interruption as an opportunity to minister to the poor man’s need. (Luke 10:25-37)

You should never be so busy that you can’t stop to love your neighbor. Loving your neighbor is part of the Great Commandment. Loving your neighbor is part of the way we love God. Interruptions may be opportunities to love and serve others.

Going with God means staying alert to the opportunities. God often uses interruptions in your life to accomplish his purposes. Sometime the interruption is the main purpose. When you go with God you look for opportunities along the way. What you view as a distraction may be a divine appointment. The interruption may just be an opportunity from God to love and to serve.

   B. Perseverance brings reward (16-20)
      – James 1:12

Going with God also means persevering. It is one thing to start out in faith. It is another to persevere through the difficulties and see things through to the end. We see this with David and his men when they finally reach the Amalekites. Look at 1 Samuel 30:16-20:

He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. 17 David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. 18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.” (1 Samuel 30:16-20)

So, the slave leads David to the Amalekites, and David and his men fight from dusk until evening of the next day. This is not an easy fight. They were already tired, but they persevere, they win the battle, and they recover everything the Amalekites had taken. They get their wives and children back as well as all their flocks and herds.

The Bible tells us that perseverance brings reward. We read in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

Going with God means you bring God along in everything you do. When you do that, you will view things differently. You will understand that interruptions may be opportunities, and you will persevere through trials knowing that perseverance brings reward.

III. Do as God (21-31)

Doing things God’s way means you start with God. You go with God. And then finally, you do as God. That’s what David does in our passage today. David starts with God. He goes with God. And then finally David does as God does. He shows grace to others, and he is generous to others.

   A. Show grace to others (21-25)
      – Ephesians 4:32

First, he shows grace to others. Look at 1 Samuel 30:21-25:

Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Ravine. They came out to meet David and the people with him. As David and his men approached, he greeted them. 22 But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”

23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this. (1 Samuel 30:21-25)

So, David has a problem. They return from the battle and come to the two hundred men who were too exhausted to go any further. Some troublemakers among David’s men don’t want to share any of the plunder with them. Their position is clear. If you didn’t fight, you don’t get to share in the spoils.

David says no way. He reminds them it’s not their plunder anyways. God is the one who gave the plunder to them. God is the one who watched over them and protected them in battle. If God has been good to us, shouldn’t we be good to others?

David makes it a statute and an ordinance for Israel for the days to come: “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” It’s like the Super Bowl ring. All the players on the team get it, not just the players on the field, but even those who are injured, even those who just sat on the bench ready to play.

Everything you have is a gift from God. God has shown grace to you. You should show grace to others. This is especially true when it comes to forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) But what if they don’t deserve it? It doesn’t matter. Did you deserve God’s grace to you? If you deserve it, it’s not grace. God forgave you, so you should forgive others. We should do as God does.

Maybe you feel like one of the soldiers sidelined at the Brook of Besor today – tired, weary, unable to go on. God knows your weakness. And he loves you anyways. By God’s grace you are part of the team, and we will share in the victory together.

   B. Be generous to others (26-31)
      – 2 Corinthians 8:9

We should not only show grace to others. We should also be generous to others. We see this with David and his generosity with the plunder from the battle. Look at 1 Samuel 30:26-31:

When David arrived in Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a present for you from the plunder of the Lord’s enemies.” 27 He sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; 28 to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa 29 and Racal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; 30 to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athach 31 and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where David and his men had roamed. (1 Samuel 30:26-31)

God has been generous to David, and so David is generous to others. He shares his personal share of the plunder with the various cities in Judah. Now some of this plunder was originally taken from these cities by the Amalekites, but it still belonged to David by right of conquest. No one from Judah risked their lives to go after it. David did, and so it rightfully belongs to him now. David doesn’t have to return the plunder to these cities in Judah. But he does anyways. God has been generous to him, and so he is generous to others.

It’s the same way with us. When Paul encouraged the Corinthians to be generous, he reminded them first of God’s generosity to them. He writes in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus gave himself for you at the cross. God has been generous to us, and so we should be generous to others.

This final paragraph in 1 Samuel 30 starts with the city of Ziklag, and then lists fourteen cities of Judah ending with the city of Hebron. Ziklag was where David lived among the enemy. Hebron is where David will be crowned as king of Judah. And so, in this final paragraph we move from Ziklag to Hebron, from David living with the enemy to David being crowned king over God’s people. As Dale Ralph Davis says about this chapter: “1 Samuel 30 … begins in tragedy and ends in triumph. Yahweh has a way of doing that.” (Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel, p. 321)

When you do things God’s way, you not only start with God and go with God. You also do as God. God shows grace to you, so you show grace to others. God has been generous to you, so you are generous to others. You do as God does.

CONCLUSION: Doing things God’s ways means you start with God, you go with God, and you do as God. If you don’t start with God, then you will be operating out of your own strength and wisdom, and you will surely fail. If you don’t go with God, you will miss opportunities to love and serve others. You will lack the strength to persevere and you will miss out on the reward God has waiting for you. And if you don’t do as God does, you will be doomed to a life of selfishness, and you will present a poor testimony to God’s love and grace in your own life.

David’s actions in this chapter present to us a model for doing things God’s way. In doing so, David once again foreshadows Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Everything Jesus did, he did things God’s way.

So, you have a choice this morning. Will you be like Saul who did things his own way? Or will you be like David who foreshadows Jesus who did things God’s way? God’s way is always the best way. Let’s learn to do things God’s way.

© Ray Fowler

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