1 Samuel 30 : “Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.”…. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives. But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back.”
Imagine being one of David’s children. Your father has gone out to fight, and the Amalekites have seized the opportunity to make a raid on his camp, and his wives and children – including you – have been taken captive, and all your possessions stolen. You sit there, not knowing what is going on. You don’t know where your father is. You don’t know if he’s even aware you’ve been captured, but there’s no reason to suppose he knows. You’re cold, tired, hungry, frightened, disorientated. You have no idea what’s going to happen to you.
What you don’t know is what’s going on back at the camp. Your father has arrived back and discovered what’s happened. He is so distraught that he cries aloud until he is exhausted by emotion and has no strength left to weep – that’s how much he cares about you. Everyone else is blaming him for what’s happened, which greatly increases his distress. But he turns to God and recovers his strength in Him. Then he seeks God’s counsel as to how to proceed, and God tells him how to pursue the enemy and rescue everyone.
But chained up in the enemy camp, you have no idea of all this. You sit there as hour after hour ticks by. You see no change in your situation. You have no way of knowing what the outcome will be, except that based on past experience you have every reason to expect that the Amalekites will kill their captives.
Meantime, your captors are eating, drinking and dancing – celebrating the trauma they’ve inflicted on you. All you can do is sit there in despair and fear, listening to the sound of their celebrations.
Suddenly you begin to hear a different sound, dimly in the distance at first, but rapidly growing nearer and clearer. It’s the roar and thunder of an advancing army. And as they arrive where you are, one voice is distinctly heard above the tumult, giving orders to the army. It’s your father’s voice! He knows what’s happened to you, he knows where you are, and he’s come to rescue you. As night falls, and for the rest of the night, the sounds you hear are the sounds of battle, the sounds of your enemy being overpowered and slaughtered, the sounds of your freedom being won!
There’s nothing you can contribute to this process. You’re tied up with the other captives, and the only possible role for you is to sit passively while your father deals with the enemy and secures your freedom. But even though you are still cold, tired, hungry, disorientated, bound, you’re no longer frightened. Because your dad is on the case, and he always wins. As day breaks, your dad and his victorious army appear among you, cutting bonds and setting prisoners free. You run into your father’s arms and he says, “I missed you so much! You wouldn’t believe how much I cried! But it’s all right now – I’ve got you.”
What can I learn from this? In the darkness of captivity, when it seems the enemy of my soul has overwhelmed me, as I wrestle futilely with a powerful foe, battering my puny fists ineffectually against his armour, all that happens is that I exhaust myself, and am no nearer to winning my freedom. In the fear and disorientation I can’t see what my Father is doing behind the scenes, and sometimes I may wonder if He even cares.
The reality is that He is breaking His heart over my plight – lifting up His voice and weeping until He has no tears left to cry. And even as He does so He is being unfairly blamed and accused for all the world’s wrongs. Then He gathers up all His divine strength and sets out to overpower the enemy.
David saw this parallel between how he as a warrior-father had acted and how God would act on his behalf. That’s why he wrote, “My enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him’ and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (Psalm 13.4-5) He knew that what he, as a warrior-father, did to rescue his family, God, as his Warrior-Father, would do no less.
So even now, as the sound of my enemy’s gloating and rejoicing rings in my ears, my role is to be that of a little child, and do – nothing. There’s nothing effective I can do! My only role right now is to be passive and to wait and trust while my Father overpowers the enemy, wins the victory and secures my freedom. Any action on my part is futile and a waste of energy.
And yet this perspective transforms my captivity. The cold, the dark, the hunger, the tiredness, the disorientation remain as real, as present and as unchanged as ever. And yet… and yet.
My Father, moved to the very core of His being by my situation, is riding out to my rescue. And so the fear and hopelessness evaporate, and instead of waiting for the enemy to finish the job and execute the prisoner, I’m waiting in quiet anticipation for the victory to be completed. And there’s absolutely nothing I can contribute to that process, except, as a child, to wait patiently and trustingly for my Father to accomplish the task, joyful in the knowledge that He never fails, and it’s only a matter of time – His time, in His purposes.
“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.” (Micah 7.8)