1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV) … “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
When there is no strength left to grieve, there always seems to be some energy left for recrimination and revenge. There is a fickle mindlessness about this search for a scapegoat. And invariably the ‘stab in the back’ theory wins the day—the culprit is one of us, even our leader, whom we thought to be faithful all these years! The men turned on David and began to talk about stoning him! Was not the general responsible for what happened to his command? He must be to blame! After all, he brought us to this country and took us off to Aphek with the Philistine army!
Part of the burden of leadership, particularly in the aftermath of a set-back, is to face the criticism of people whose frustration has overwhelmed their rationality. People who can’t balance their cheque books become experts on the nation’s economy when they feel insecure and afraid. Public opinion polls chart perceptions and fears, not informed judgements. People flail around precisely because they cannot cope with the situation. They are ‘prisoners of the passions of the moment’.
David, therefore, had cause to be ‘greatly distressed’. And even though he was not to be blamed for the Amalekite raid, he certainly was responsible for responding to it in as effective a way as possible. It is no use if a leader—and in a church, that means a pastor—rolls over and gives up when his people complain. The reasonableness, or otherwise, of their complaint is irrelevant. This is, in the last analysis, why they are followers and he is the leader. They are only proving why they need a leader. His task is to prove he has the mettle to be their leader! That is why leadership demands real spiritual, moral and even physical fibre. Christian leadership requires the gifts and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
The crisis was, however, God’s means to concentrate David’s mind on the real issue—his relationship to and dependence upon the Lord. In spite of, or perhaps because of the problems he faced, David ‘found strength in the Lord his God’ (30:6). This pregnant expression reminds us of 23:16, where Jonathan helped David find ‘strength in God’. David, like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable, had come ‘to his senses’ (Luke 15:17). His deliverance from the Philistine service had not done this, but the disaster of Ziklag did—it rekindled in his soul a renewed devotion to the Lord. He immediately sought to discover the Lord’s will. To that end he called for Abiathar and the priestly ephod—the garment in which the priest officiated before the Lord. The Lord told him—how exactly, we are not informed—that he should pursue the Amalekites, and that he would overtake them and succeed in rescuing their captured families (30:7–8).
David had hit bottom, but in that hour, he turned to the Lord Who could help him as no other could help him. All may fail in times of trouble, but God will never fail us. We can always turn to the Lord our God for strength.