“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
Like a precious jewel found in the quagmire of distresses is this instructive notation of God’s Word in the context which describes perhaps the darkest hour in David’s earthly experience!
Set as a beautiful contrast!
“And David was greatly distressed,” so we read in the first part of the verse. “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” so the verse concludes.
To see the beauty of this contrast, we would do well, first of all, to take note of the perplexing circumstances surrounding this child of God. Observe why David was so greatly distressed.
In his flight from king Saul, David with six hundred rough men sought refuge in the country of the Philistines. David had concluded that if it were known to Saul that he had abandoned his own country Saul would no longer pursue him. Consequently David and his men and all that he had came to Achish, the son of the king of Gath. And Achish gave to David the city of Ziklag to dwell in. Here for a year and four months David and those with him found grace in the eyes of Achish. This favorable attitude of Achish was especially confirmed when David, under the pretense that he was fighting against his own countrymen in the south of Judah, actually invaded the camp of the Amalekites to destroy them and others who dwelt in the land given to Judah by lot. David smote the land, leaving none to live, and carried away a great spoil. Returning from this raid, Achish inquired of David where he had been and what he had done. The answer that David gave left no doubt in the mind of Achish that David had made himself to be abhorred by his own people, and that, therefore, David would become servant to Achish forever.
Then we learn that the Philistines planned to make war against Israel. Achish informed David and his men that they would have to accompany him into battle. However, when the Philistines had gathered their armies at Aphek, the lords of the Philistines discovered that David and his men were with Achish in the rear. Therefore did they inquire of Achish how these Hebrews were here in the army of the Philistines. Achish sought to defend the presence of David and his men on the grounds that they had defected from the Israelites, and proved their allegiance to the Philistines when David and his men had conducted a raid in the land of Judah. But the princes of the Philistines would hear none of it, believing that David and his company could be their adversary in battle. They therefore demanded that Achish send David and his men back to Ziklag. Achish, having failed to persuade them concerning David, could only acquiese and bow to the wishes of the lords of the Philistines. David, therefore, was told to retreat to Ziklag.
Then the calamities began to fall on David!
Coming to Ziklag he and his men discovered that in the meantime the Amalekites had invaded the land of the Philistines in the south and completely destroyed Ziklag, burning the city and carrying off the women and children as captives, including David’s two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. It was a raid no doubt intended to be in retaliation for what David had done to the Amalekites as described above.
Then was David greatly distressed!
For not only were his dear ones missing and those of the men with him, but David’s distress became exceeding great when his own men rose up against him threatening to stone him because they considered him responsible for the grief they suffered at the hands of the Amalekites in the loss of their families. Mutiny broke loose—a dangerous situation among such a company of ruffians—and they had made up their mind to do away with David. The translation: “And David was greatly distressed,” hardly expresses the thought of the original Hebrew text, which uses a word which much more dramatically describes David’s plight. It means that David was so pressed in as it were in a vise that he could hardly breathe. His distress was so great that he hardly knew where to turn. The walls of his predicament were about to collapse upon him.
But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God!
Indeed, a beautiful contrast!
Here is one of the many eloquent “buts” of the Bible. On the one hand are the calamitous walls of loss, treachery, and apparently cruel death about to smash down upon him; and opposed to all this, the brief, contrasting, and spiritual clause: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
O, how awfully black and dismal, how hopelessly despairing the situation would have been were it to be viewed only with the eyes of carnal flesh. Viewing it from this prospect, would it not have been reasonable for him to have drawn his wits together, and to have called to his men to hear him out? Would we not, having been placed in a similar situation, have pleaded with these ruffians not to lose their senses, and to see that they as well as David were guilty of arousing the dander of the Amalekites? for they as well as David found delight in sacking their cities. Would it not defy all decency and order for these men to assess only their own loss and not see that David’s loss was as great? None of these, questions seem to have been raised. No discussion whatever followed the mean threat of David’s men. David, so we are informed, simply laid his case before the Lord his God, and left it there.
God, dear reader, has a way of bringing his child into such a place of utter despair that there is only one way of escape—that is, into His loving arms!
Notice—David encouraged himself! The word translated “encouraged” in our English version comes from a word which means originally: to tie fast, to bind bonds strongly, to hold fast, and thence: to strengthen, to confirm. And in the peculiar tense in which it is used here it means to establish oneself, to show oneself strong. In one word David made himself consciously to be tied to his God so that he was able to stand firmly, unmoveably in the present situation. Now that is exactly what faith does. We have said it often, and have heard it said again and again, that faith is a certain spiritual knowledge and a hearty confidence. These are faith’s chief elements. Faith knows its object with an assured spiritual knowledge, and ties itself to that object with hearty confidence and trust. And faith is a gracious gift of God. David did not possess it of himself, it was given to him of grace. But God gives this grace and causes it to become operative in his child in such a way that His child actively loses himself in his God. It expresses itself in the same way the Heidelberg Catechism answers the question: What is thy only comfort in life and death? I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, in life and death to my faithful Saviour. When the child of God is so convinced that he is so perfectly possessed by his Saviour, he no longer needs to fret what will happen to him. It is his Savior’s business to care for His own. And He does!
Encouraged himself in the Lord, that is, Jehovah his God! Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM, the Eternal, Independent, Unchangeable, Covenant God. Jehovah is God’s name in which He revealed Himself to His people as to none other. In that name He ties Himself to His covenant friends in an inseparable bond of friendship. And the bonds of this covenant relation wherewith He ties Himself to His people He draws them to Himself in such a way that they also consciously cleave unto Him. So that both in the words “encouraged” and “Jehovah” we see realistically tightened the bands of living friendship between God and His friend David. David may to all intents and purposes have lost all his friends, but there was for him in his God a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Jehovah his God!
The Almighty One Who had redeemed him from the devil and the power of eternal death. By whose power and providential direction even the present evils that threatened His servant were so controlled that the only refuge this child of God knew was his God. Thus taking inventory of the situation in quiet meditation, submitting it to his God in humble reliance, and laying hold on Jehovah’s precious promises, David could stand firmly, unmoved, in bold confidence while the shades of sudden cruel death appeared to be drawn about him. It would be one thing to dogmatically speak of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which is an indubitable, gospel truth, of course. But it is a wholly different thing to say: Jehovah, my God! It is one thing to repeat the words of the Saviour: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, etc.” But it is something else to say with Paul: “Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Or, again, “Whose I am, and Whom I serve.” The reference, therefore, in the expression: Jehovah his God, is not some dogmatic, divine object of worship peculiar to the children of Israel, though indeed Jehovah was the God of Israel. But the expression sets before us the personal, spiritual, experiential, worshipful, loving relation between God and His beloved child, and that between that loved one and his God. While David lost all his possessions, his wives, his children, his home, so that all that was left to him was the clothes that covered his body; he was rich in his God. While death stared him in the face, he could confidently exclaim; I will fear no evil, for I am hidden in Thee, the Lord my God.
Here, then, O child of God, who is faced with poverty, the loss of all things, the blasting of all earthly hopes, lying on the extremity of danger, caught as it were in the shades of death, is encouragement for the distressed: The Lord Jehovah is my God!
But David would not, nor would any child of God for that matter, encourage himself in Jehovah his God, were it not that God had first given him reason to believe that those confiding in Him shall not be put to shame.
Jehovah, a faithful God!
He is the God of our salvation!
He proved His faithfulness to His people by the giving of His only begotten unto death for them. In the Person of His Son in our nature, He delivered His own from eternal death and misery. He stood under the outpouring of His own wrath which was due to us until the vials of that wrath were emptied, until there was no more wrath remaining, and in its place beamed the holy sunlight of our justification. He received the Spirit without measure, and was enabled to apply unto us the benefits of His saving work, and that in such a way that we can taste His saving grace, and everlasting mercy. Also He received power to direct all things according to the counsel of the living God that all things work together for our good. And again and again in the experience of the child of God He makes the way so heavy for His child that he must roll it on Him. (Psalm 37:5).
Indeed, David would not have encouraged himself now in Jehovah his God if this had been the only time Jehovah had proved Himself a worthy object of trust. Witness the times when this child of God is distraught because of the knowledge of his sin, and how Jehovah comes to him through the prophet to call him to repentance. Witness when he is confronted with the giant, while Saul and the armies of Israel cower in fear, how God was his salvation. See him in the desert fleeing from his son Absalom, and his companions fearfully asking the question: Who shall show us any good? and David says: I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for Thou Jehovah makest me to lie down in safety. Surely Jehovah, the God of his salvation had proved Himself to be a sun and shield, his defense in the day of trouble.
In this light we can understand the calmness, the fearless spirit of this child of God in his darkest hour.
And the Holy Spirit Who saw to it that the words of our text should forever be preserved in the annals of Holy Writ, exhorts you and me whose way so often becomes exceeding dark to find our encouragement in an implicit trust in Him Who is the God of our salvation.