Responding to Adversity—
Base Burnt, Flocks and Families in Captivity
We discuss a biblical event to illustrate that God could use adversity to guide a person to greater purpose. The adversity of follower families taken captive from his base led David to an opportunity to enunciate principles of basic civil rights and responsibilities. To respond to the adversity, he sought and received direction from God, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a battle, and recovered everything and people taken from his base. Also, as he worked toward the rescue, he evaluated and disposed of issues as they arose; such as letting two hundred of his men that were exhausted return to base while four hundred continued in the pursuit. By so doing, he set the stage for resolving a dispute on sharing battle proceeds, which led to his ruling on civil rights and responsibilities.
An adversity could present opportunities for greater accomplishment. We discuss an example in David’s rescue of follower families captured from his base by a raiding party. The rescue led him to define basis for civil rights and responsibilities while settling a dispute on sharing battle proceeds among his people.
David and his men had left their base in Philistine territory to present themselves to fight alongside their Philistine host. However, the Philistines refused their offer and asked them to return to their base. On their return, they found their base raided, burnt, and plundered and their families taken captive by the raiders. David sought and received God’s direction, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a fierce battle, recovered all that was taken from his base including family members, and took additional plunder. Subsequently, the plunder opened an opportunity for David. To settle a dispute among his people on sharing the plunder, he made a ruling that became a lasting foundation for the interpretation of basic civil rights and responsibilities.
The study provides opportunity for increased understanding that God may use an adversity to guide a person toward greater purpose. Therefore, seek his direction in every adversity. He establishes a way to communicate with every person and will respond to guide you if you seek his direction. Recognizing potential opportunities in an adversity will motivate a person to respond positively by seeking direction from God to defeat the adversity and any temptation that it might represent.
Base Raided and Plundered, Families Taken Captive
David had taken refuge among Philistines, beyond Saul’s reach, after several close encounters as Saul sought opportunity to kill him: “But David thought to himself, ‘One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand’” [1 Samuel 27:1]. He negotiated with his host, Achish, king of Gath, and was assigned a base in Ziklag, where he settled with 600 followers and their families.
On one occasion, Achish demanded and got David and his men to join him, with intention to fight in his army against Israel. However, the other Philistine commanders rejected David and his men and insisted they depart: “But the Philistine commanders were angry with Achish and said, ‘Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men?’” [1 Samuel 29:4].
Therefore, David and his men returned to Ziklag. They found their base was raided while they were away. Amalekite raiders burnt Ziklag, plundered it, and took captive of the women and children and all other people (young and old) that David and his men left at the base. David wept bitterly. So did his men. Also, his men were disappointed with him and talked about stoning him. David was greatly distressed.
Seeking and Receiving Direction from God
David sought and found strength, comfort, and direction from God: “…But David found strength in the Lord his God” [1 Samuel 30:6]. He pondered potential actions to respond to the adversity and decided to take it to God in prayer. He inquired of the Lord [1 Samuel 30:8]: “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.” He sought direction from God and God answered him with clear instruction. In every adversity, remain calm, think about the event and what you can do to influence its direction. Don’t lash out in uncontrolled reaction. Seek direction from God. He will answer you in a way that you can understand.
COMMUNICATION WITH GOD He can respond to you with clear guidance just like he responded to David. He establishes a way to communicate effectively with every person. Here he tells us as he spoke to Miriam and Aaron [Numbers 12:6–8]: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.”
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Peter Visits Cornelius, God chooses how to communicate with any person. He can send a message through another human being, a vision, an angel in human form, a person’s thinking, the Holy Spirit with or without physical manifestation, or any other form of communication. For example, he sent an angel in human form to Cornelius and communicated with Peter through a vision and through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if you seek God’s direction with all your heart and intent to understand and obey, he will determine a way to communicate with you and direct you effectively.
Opportunity through Adversity
Having received direction from God to go after the raiders, David set out in pursuit with his six hundred men. However, after they arrived at a place of short rest, two hundred were too exhausted to continue. Therefore, David continued the pursuit with four hundred men while the two hundred returned to base. This occurrence, i.e., the return of two hundred to base while four hundred continued with David, set the stage for what, through the benefit of hindsight, we now can refer to as David’s opportunity through adversity.
David could not have recognized the opportunity at the time. It was simply an issue that arose as he worked toward the goal of recovering families and possessions that were taken from his base. He must have listened to the two hundred and decided to let them return. Several such issues of varying significance will likely arise in the process of responding to adversity but with no obvious way of determining their relative significance. Just focus on the overall goal as you know it, but evaluate and dispose of issues as they arise, using your best judgment based on the principles of living in the image of God. Recognize everything you do as potentially contributing incrementally toward accomplishing the ultimate purpose of the adversity. In the case of David, by allowing the two hundred to return to base while four hundred continued in pursuit, he set the stage for the civil rights ruling that would occur later.
Ruling on Civil Rights and Responsibilities
David caught up with the Amalekite raiders and defeated them after a fierce battle that lasted about 24 hours: “David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled” [1 Samuel 30:17]. He recovered everything they had taken from his base: “Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back” [1 Samuel 30:19]. Also, he took additional flocks and herds as plunder.
SHARING PLUNDER When they returned to their base, some troublemakers among the four hundred protested that the two hundred that did not go to battle were not entitled to any share of the plunder [1 Samuel 30:22]: “But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, ‘Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.’” Then David replied to them that every person contributed to the success of the mission either by guarding the base or going to battle and will share equally from the battle proceeds [1 Samuel 30:24]: “Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” He made the ruling a statute and ordinance for Israel.
The statute defined the basis for individual responsibilities to society and basic rights that society owes to every person.
INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITIES David enunciated individual responsibilities by recognizing that the party that returned to base had a role to play as did the party that went to battle. Several generations later, the apostle Paul expounded the principle in his teaching on “one body, many parts” [1 Corinthians 12:14–31]. He likened the relationship between society and a person to the relationship between a human body and its parts, such as nose, hands, eyes, etc. Each part has a role and benefits from the other parts playing their roles. No part can deride the other because every part has to play its role for the body to function. In the same way, God created every person as a member of society.
Each person owes responsibilities to society and derives rights from the collective effort of all members. To be an effective member of society, recognize and understand your responsibilities in order to make your contributions for society to function effectively.
BASIC CIVIL RIGHTS The other arm of David’s ruling enunciates basic principles of civil rights: “…The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” The ruling defines a principle that society owes basic civil rights to every person, independent of the nature or magnitude of the person’s contributions. The principle defines the basis for civil rights laws worldwide.
Summary of What We Learned
The adversity of follower families taken captive from his base provided David an opportunity to enunciate principles of basic civil rights and responsibilities. To respond to the adversity, he sought and received direction from God, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a battle, and recovered everything and people taken from his base. Also, as he worked toward the rescue, he evaluated and disposed of issues as they arose; such as letting two hundred of his men that were exhausted return to base while four hundred continued in the pursuit. By so doing, he set the stage for resolving a dispute on sharing battle proceeds, which led to his ruling on civil rights and responsibilities. The account provides a good illustration of God using an adversity to guide a person to greater purpose.