First Samuel 30 tells the story of David's battle against the Amalekites. The Amalekites had raided Ziklag, the town where David's and David's men's women and children were settled. The families had been taken, including Abigail, the widow of Nabal, and David and his men wanted them back. The story illustrates the importance of seeking God's guidance, the faithfulness of God, and the appropriate humble response to His faithfulness.
To begin, we learn the necessity of seeking God's instruction and wisdom (Proverbs 3:5; James 1:5). After discovering Ziklag burned and the people missing (1 Samuel 30:1-6), David inquires of the Lord. Rather than act hastily, we read:
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." 1 Samuel 30:7-8
King David was right to ask God for wisdom in the matter. And while this circumstance is extreme, we must take to heart the importance of seeking the Lord's counsel in all that we do (1 Kings 22:5; Psalm 25:12; Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 10:23).
After being told by God to pursue, David takes 600 men and begins his chase (1 Samuel 30:9). But upon coming to the brook Besor, 200 men choose to stay behind, being too exhausted to cross (1 Samuel 30:10). So David and the 400 continue on, soon finding an Egyptian servant who had been without food and water for three days (1 Samuel 30:11-12). After feeding him (Proverbs 25:21; Matthew 5:44), David asks him to take them to the band of robbers, promising to not deliver the Egyptian into their hands or kill him for taking part in the raid (1 Samuel 30:15). Just as promised, the Egyptian takes David to the men, and "David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled" (1 Samuel 30:17). What we can take from this is that the Lord is faithful, fulfilling His word and command to David (Deuteronomy 7:9; Isaiah 55:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:13). We then read:
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. So David had captured all the sheep and the cattle which the people drove ahead of the other livestock, and they said, "This is David's spoil." 1 Samuel 30:18-20
This is where it gets really interesting. After meeting back up with the 200 men who stayed at the brook with all the spoil, the 400 who went began to grumble and complain:
When David came to the two hundred men who were too exhausted to follow David, who had also been left at the brook Besor, and they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him, then David approached the people and greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless men among those who went with David said, "Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away and depart." 1 Samuel 30:21-22
"You must not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us. And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike." 1 Samuel 30:23-24
What's great here is that rather than glory in his own strength, David credits the Lord with the victory (Proverbs 21:31). He recognized that it was God who delivered the enemies into their hands and protected their women and children for rescue, not the 400 men who demanded payment.
The thing I found really cool also is the story is eerily similar to a parable Christ told in Matthew 20, and I'm sure it wasn't just coincidence!
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.' But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous? So the last shall be first, and the first last.'" Matthew 20:1-16
Interesting huh? The point is that like the recovery of Israel's women, children and the spoil (enemies' belongings), the glory belongs to God. The 400 claimed they deserved more than those who stayed at the brook, but David rightly gave glory to God alone. He points out that it was only through His guiding hand that they were given victory. Much like Christ's parable in Matthew 20. The workers who labored the longest believe they deserve more, even though they were paid exactly what they agreed upon. Aside from that, if it wasn't for the landowner they would have nothing, but yet they complain that His kindness is not enough. Whether they crossed the brook or not, and whether they worked the full day or not, nothing would have been gained in either situation apart from the Lord's mercy. It's the same with our salvation. One might be saved as a youth, and one might be just like the thief on the cross, saved moments before death. But regardless of how much time we spend "working," we are all saved by grace (Acts 15:1). We can't make the argument that we deserve it more than others because the truth is that no one deserves it at all (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:3; Titus 3:3-7).
The last thing this passage brought to mind is just how deep God's word is. It's really amazing that in one small chapter we could get so much! David was certainly a man after God's own heart, and we can see it here. We do well to remember how honest he was about his sinful state (Psalm 51:1-5), and how he set his heart on glorifying the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy (Psalm 103).