There was a period in the life of David, before he was in place as the great God-fearing king of the nation of Israel in 1000 B.C., when he was running for his life from the jealousy of King Saul. David was hiding out in the wilderness in the Negev desert. Over a period of a few years, David had taken leadership of some 600 men. David had been anointed years earlier by the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel, but at that point in his life, that crowning felt like a distant and unrealistic dream. David was idling in neutral and his focus was not on his God, but on himself.
David hid among the enemies of Israel to gain some separation from Saul. He settled at Ziklag in Philistine country. On one mission, David led all his men away to join up with the Philistine army that was going to attack the Israelites. When David met with them, his services were rejected, and he and his men slunk back home. When they returned, they arrived to find Ziklag in ruins. A raiding band of Amalekites had destroyed the place, taken everything of value, including all of the women and children.
David's men turned on him and were preparing to stone him when David finally turned to the Lord for strength. David rallied his troops to set out to reclaim their families. After a long search with few clues as to where the Amalekites had gone, David and his men stopped for a rest at a place called Brook Besor. When it was time to go, 200 of David's men made the decision to stay behind, to give up on the pursuit. They were bone weary, discouraged, and broken. David and the remaining 400 continued on their way. Ultimately, they caught up with the raiders and wiped them out. Every last person taken from their village was rescued. They also not only reclaimed the goods and valuables that had been taken from them, they took in all of the plunder the Amalekites were transporting.
Upon return to Brook Besor, the sentiment of the 400 men was to keep the booty for themselves. Yet David, in his wisdom, divided it up equally among all of the 600. David understood that God had delivered the Amalekites to him. He understood that his muddied thinking and self focus were what led to the whole situation in the first place. He had reached his low point and knew what it was to lose all hope and not be able to look up and move on. Instead of putting his men down, he moved to build them up. "Everything we have is a gift from God; we share it with all who are saved by God." (1 Samuel 30:23-25) In dividing the spoils among the 400 who went into the battle to recover their loved ones and the 200 who stayed behind at the brook, David served as an ideal model of grace and compassion. He showed us how to build up instead of tearing down.
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