During a turbulent period in David‟s life, the future king of Israel briefly found himself in the employ of Achish, a warrior chieftain of the Philistines (1 Samuel 27-29). Though the Israelites were longtime enemies of the Philistines—and though his allegiance to Achish left David in some difficult positions—David and his band of soldiers apparently delivered admirable service. Early in their relationship, Achish gave the city of Ziklag to David (27:6) as a symbol of favor or appreciation for David‟s service up to that point. And although David wasn‟t raiding Israelites when he went out to battle—as Achish thought (27:10-12)—he nevertheless delivered many spoils to his patron. In fact, he was in line to receive a promotion (28:2) when things soured; the other Philistine warlords, skeptical of David‟s sincerity and fully aware of his reputation as a ferocious slayer of Israel‟s enemies (that is, Philistines), rejected him from their numbers on the eve of war (29:9). Though frustrated by his kinsmen‟s decision, Achish reluctantly sent David and his troops back home.
The return to Ziklag ended in a horrible discovery, however—Amalekites from the south had raided the territory while David and his warriors were away. “So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive” (30:3).
Never one to accept defeat, David acted quickly, tracking down the Amalekite raiders, destroying most of their force, and recovering everything that had been taken. In the aftermath of the victory, however, there arose a dispute between those who had seen the ordeal through to the end and those who had to stay behind during the rabid pursuit of the marauding Amalekites. “Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said, „Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart‟” (30:22).
In the record of this quarrel and David‟s settlement of it, we find:
A sad reminder of human nature. It is rather shocking that these “worthless men” weren‟t more forgiving, given the circumstances. Consider the reaction when David and his host first came back to the ruins of their home place: “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (30:4). Having so recently known such abyssal despair, we might expect the party to simply be grateful that they had reclaimed their property and saved the lives of their loved ones.
Instead, they were beset by greed over the spoil, arrogance over their own achievements, and a burning desire to (harshly) judge those who had not fought the exact same battles they had fought. Their petty behavior is unfortunate, but all too common. Do we bicker over position, prestige, and prominence, when we should be more focused on giving thanks for the countless blessings we enjoy (blessings which can be enjoyed just as fully, or even more so, when they are not enjoyed in solitude)? Do we disregard others‟ contributions in the kingdom because they aren‟t as talented, as hardworking, or as capable as we are?
A worthy example of how to view our fellow workers. David was unwilling to hear such surly, pompous posturing, instead decreeing that the spoil would be shared evenly among all his men. A couple of things are notable about David‟s reasoning for his solution; first, it is clear that David, unlike some of the miserly malcontents in his company, remembered why they had anything to divide up in the first place. “My brethren,” David said, “you shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us” (30:23). Indeed, the Lord had advised David to give chase to the Amalekites in the first place, and promised total victory (30:8). So according to David, even the men who had done the fighting hadn‟t really won the battle—that honor was the Lord‟s alone to claim.
Notice also that David explained what the group who had stayed behind was actually doing. “As his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike” (30:24). Earlier in the text, we are simply told that they stayed behind due to weariness, and were apparently unfit to continue pursuing their quarry (30:10). Rather than zeroing in on what these 200 soldiers were unable to do, David commended them for what they had done.
What an exemplary outlook on the abilities and contributions of others! And what a Scriptural outlook on the efforts of our brethren! David never set foot in Corinth, but could‟ve seconded Paul‟s teaching to the Christians in that city—“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). Further, “there are many members, yet one body […] those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:20, 22). Encourage others to serve in whatever way they can, and remember that all of our victories and successes, great or small, are granted by God.
An encouragement for those of us who aren’t on the front lines. I‟m sure glad David had such a gracious attitude towards the noncombatants in his army. There is a great wealth of good being done today by those who are „staying by the supplies‟, so to speak, and I believe that they are held in similar estimation by our God. There are those who provide funds, livelihood, for men and women who labor in extremely difficult situations. There are those who pray—always pray—that “the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). There are those who strengthen, comfort, exhort, uphold, admonish, and understand those who are in the thickest, hottest parts of the battle. In short, there are folks who contribute to the Lord‟s army in humble, unassuming ways—and they will receive a great reward for their service.
Whatever your role might be—whether you‟re constantly jumping into spiritual warzones, or whether you‟re more suited to a support role—see that you fulfill it to the best of your abilities.