This blog post has been on my brain for months now. It is always better to write when ideas are fresh in your brain, but sometimes a shift occurs in your heart and mind so vital and substantial you can't share it for a while. You need to process it, feel it, live it. Run your fingers through it to make sure it's real.
This post is going to have to be broken into two parts, as it will be too long otherwise. So, here is part one...The Story:
I was sitting on Billy and Shanna's couch at 6am on the final morning of Desperation Conference, June 25, praying and reading my Bible. All the kids in the youth group were still sprawled out in sleeping bags and tents all over the Ramsdell's basement and backyard, and Billy and Shanna were getting much needed rest also. But Shelley Gambrell and I had gotten up early, feeling the need to spend some time with God. God had been doing stuff in my heart during the two days of the conference. But to be honest, I wasn't sure what exactly. I knew it was something big, I could FEEL that, but I couldn't figure it out. I needed answers. So I was on the couch, and she was outside on the back porch. Both of us with our Bibles and with God.
I honestly had no idea where to read in my Bible, so I did the classic: closed my eyes, prayed for God to let the Bible open to wherever He wanted me to read, and opened it. Yes, I know, very spiritual of me. Ha. It opened to I Samuel, Chapter 30. Worked for me, I adore the Old Testament. I know many people find it boring, but I love the history and poetry of it.
The story of chapter 30 is one of plunder, pain, anger, bad decisions, prayer, incomprehensible strength, and redemption. David, not yet KING David, had been out with his men, 600 soldiers, preparing to fight at Aphek. The backstory here is complicated, but please go read all of I Samuel if you want more specific details. David had taken all of his men to fight at Aphek, a town about 40 miles up the coast from his homebase of Ziklag. Bad decision- he left no men to guard the town, literally every single man was off fighting. Perhaps David didn't discern the situation well to perceive the danger, or maybe it was just a bad call. But it was the opportunity the Amalekites were looking for- they wanted plunder and revenge for David's past assaults on them. Let's call them "The Mallies", as it is more fun to say, and typing the word Amalekites repeatedly is just tedious.
The Mallies swept in like pirates. They plundered. But they didn't kill, as there were no men in town to put up a fight. So they carried off the women and children, cattle, spoils, all of it. Then they burned Ziklag to the ground. The women and children were to become their slaves.
When David and his men returned, they found their town in ashes and their families gone. It says in the Bible David and his men wept bitterly. Then the men got angry, needing someone to blame for their great grief. David had hauled them all off to fight, leaving their families defenseless against the pirates, so they grabbed stones as one and screamed for David's life. These were not David's close friends or countrymen, and he was afraid. Verse 6 says:
"David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God."
"Bitter" is a stronger word than grief, isn't it? Bitter says, I am distraught and need someone to be responsible. David was suffering with his own responsibility in the situation, as well as deep grief- his two wives were taken too. But David sought out God and found comfort and strength. Then he asked the Lord the big question- "What do we do now?"
David sought the priest, who brought the ephod...I am not going to be able to explain that procedure well, so you are free to do your own research. Point is, David inquired of the Lord. Here's how the conversation went:
"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.”
Ok...marching orders. David took his 600 exhausted, bitter men and immediately set out to pursue the Mallies. They made it as far as the Besor Ravine. At that point, two hundred of his men were too exhausted to go on. So David commanded them to stay and rest, and also to look after the supplies. Then he pressed on with his 400 remaining men.
They found a dying Egyptian slave in a field, and they shared food and water with him. He had been with the raiding party, but had become sick. So in typical, cruel Mallie fashion, he was left to die in the field because he was slowing them down. In a commentary I read this morning, the writer says that the Mallies' inhumanity led to their destruction. So true- God values each life more than our callous throw-away society can comprehend.
The slave knew where the raiders were, and agreed to lead David and his men there if they promised to spare his life and NOT return him to his master. Smart guy.
They found the Mallies, spread out over the countryside, feasting, partying, and reveling in the vast plunder they had amassed. Referring again to the commentary I read this morning, the writer says the Mallies had stolen so much cattle it was necessary for the raiders to spread out across vast areas of space just to accommodate for the needs of the herds.
David and his men immediately went into action. This part reminds me of the battle at Minis Tirith, near the end of The Return of the King- King Theoden speaking to his pitifully small assembly of men, encouraging them to fight valiantly, as a tear rolls down Eowyn's cheek, knowing death is eminent for them all. However, David and his men had a promise from God- they would overtake and rescue. Still, I think there had to be some fear in their hearts as they faced off against the Mallies, exhausted of all emotional and physical strength.
But they fought. And fought. Verse seventeen says David and his men fought from twilight to the next evening. Twenty four hours of fighting? Apparently so. Surely the men needed some frosted mini-wheats by the end. However, they were victorious. In fact, the numbers are astounding- only 400 Mallies escaped, on camelback. (Now I am picturing Bob Hope and Bing Crosby going across the desert singing, "Off on the road to Morocco". Maybe I need more coffee.)
But did you catch that? David and his 400 men killed all the Mallies except for the four hundred that escaped by camel. Talk about some odds. It doesn't even say how many they killed during battle.
Now here is the beautiful part, the part that captured my soul as I read it that morning:
"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.”
Wow. I just got chills. There is more to the story- returning to the men left behind at the ravine, David's wisdom in solving disputes and instituting a nationwide policy concerning the division of spoils of war- but I am going to stop here.
That is The Story. Part one done. Part two coming...The Epiphany.
*A big official thank you to my friend and fellow blogger, Donny Pauling, for answering a historical question I had this morning with pages of Biblical commentary which were immensely helpful in writing this blog post. Appreciate it!
Stay tuned for part two dear readers. :)