What do you think of when you are told that God has shown mercy and love to someone? That God has not punished them? That God has given them something great that they don’t deserve? Perhaps that God has heard their pleading and granted a prayer?
How about that God said no to them? How about that God prevented them from carrying out their plans? Does that come to mind when thinking of God being good to His people?
How about God allowing a person’s enemies to stop their plans? Is our enemies blocking us the first thing that comes to mind when we think of God loving us?
Most of the time, not getting what we pray for results in us thinking He must be angry with us, right? Our enemies thwarting us can only be from Satan. God wants us to have what we want and for our plans to work…my favorite TV pastor told me so!
While opposition does come from the enemy at times, if we limit God to just expressing His love and mercy to only the “good” things in this life we are really missing out. Why?
God works through both the good and the bad in life to bless us. Yes, He uses the painful things, the things we see as hindrances and roadblocks to train us and even to express His love and His mercy. Sometimes we desperately need to be stopped from following the path we have laid out for ourselves and God drops a bid old roadblock in our way. He does it to save us from where we are leading ourselves.
There is a wonderful moment in the life of David that shows just this point. God shows great mercy on David, the future King of Israel whom He calls a man after His own heart by saying a big fat unequivocal “NO” to David. He shows his love for David by thwarting him, by dropping a roadblock directly in his path that not even David can overcome.
It takes place in 1 Samuel 29 towards the end of David’s time on the run from Saul. David had been anointed King of Israel by Samuel. Saul was a sore loser and therefore sought to kill David for the next approximately 20 years. In order to escape Saul, David left Israel and sought protection from the Phillistines, a sworn enemy of Israel. He lived with them for a period of time that followed and developed a good relationship with the Philistine King. The struggle to stay alive for so many years and the hardship appears to have weakened David and placed him in a vulnerable position. He was so grateful for safety and ease that he was willing to loyally serve an evil king. Misplaced loyalty always gets us in trouble. Yearning for the easy way often is the root of the problem.
As chapter 29 comes around, a climactic battle is brewing between the armies of the Philistines and the army of Israel. The Israelites were lead by King Saul with his son Jonathan at his side. We know from the account that Saul, Jonathan and his brothers are all killed in this battle.
As the Phillistines line up to make war on the Jewish people, who do you think lines up with them to kill the soldiers of Israel? David, the anointed King of Israel brings out his band of soldiers in alliance with the Philistines against his own nation. He is dead set on fighting against his own people. You wonder if any of his brothers were part of the army called out that day. Not that it mattered, if he was willing to fight Jonathan, he was likely willing to fight anyone.
It seems David’s sense of honor and loyalty to the Philistine King who gave him shelter had warped his sense of honor and loyalty to God. He was committed to doing a terrible act against his own people and take part in the battle that would cause the death of the King of Israel and his best friend, Jonathan. He was absolutely certain that this is what he should do. His plan was to go out and fight for his king – the Philistine..yikes! Have you ever reasoned yourself into a similarly ridiculous situation? Yeah, me neither;)
Then a funny thing happens. God steps in and shows mercy on David despite David’s best efforts. God does this act of love and mercy through the commanders of the Philistine army. They see David and his men lined up for battle with them and realize what David should have:
As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, 3the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle,4 lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? 5Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
They recognize that David has no business being there. They even see the only way David can honor God in the situation is by killing them and not the Israelites. If David was in his right mind here, it would have been obvious the only path forward should have been fighting the Philistines. Yet, he is intent on committing a great wrong by killing Israelites. It is the Philistines who call him on it. It is Bible backwards day for David – the sinful, pagan Philistines are right and David is totally wrong!
So who do we think really made the decision to keep David out of the battle? Who gave the Philistines the insight about the wrongness of David fighting on their side? Was it the Philistine’s who truly objected or God in His sovereignty objecting and showing His mercy and love for David?
God prevents David from doing something that he would regret terribly. But look how God does it. His lifelong enemies thwart his plans. The men who he has mainly battled his whole life win the argument and David’s plan is ruined…and it is for his good. Yes, they object out of their self interest, but God uses it. He protects protect David by defeating his plan even over his objection.
David is kicked out of the Philistine army. That army goes on and kills Saul, Jonathan and whole bunch of God’s people the next day. David is saved from making a horrible mistake by evil people foiling him.
Think about how David would have felt if he actually fought against his nation? If he won the battle that killed Saul and Jonathan?
David lost his personal struggle to take part in the battle, but God preserved him from a miserable heart ripping pain. His minor defeat to the argument of the Philistine commanders saved him from what likely would have been a lifetime of regret. God loved David so he stopped him from doing something terrible. God was merciful on David so He had David’s enemies prevent him from doing what he wanted. Sometimes what we want is really bad for us.
Have we ever been here? Have we lost in a personal struggle or had our life plans destroyed only to realize it was for the good? Has an enemy seemed victorious over us for a time and we later realize that it was God’s love that actually won the day? Are we realizing it now? God really does work all things for the good of those He loves! Do we believe it? Do we live it?
If we are only human, like David, there are going to be times where our plans are not God’s plans and our ways are not God’s ways. Do we pray for God to shut us down in those times like the Philistines rejected David? If we trust that His plans are always better than ours, we should. Even though it may sting in the moment, following God’s plan will always lead to sweetness and help us avoid regret.
David composed a lament for Saul and Jonathan recorded n 2 Samuel 1 called The Song of the Bow. Knowing what almost occurred during that battle where they died, how much worse would it have been for David had he taken up arms with the Philistines? God preserved David by saying no. God loved David well by refusing to carry out his plan. Do we trust God when He does the same with us?
2 Samuel 1:17-27
Then David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son, 18 and he told them to teach the children of Judah the Song of the Bow; indeed it is written in the Book of Jasher:
19 “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
20 Tell it not in Gath,
Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon—
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
21 “O mountains of Gilboa,
Let there be no dew nor rain upon you,
Nor fields of offerings.
For the shield of the mighty is cast away there!
The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
22 From the blood of the slain,
From the fat of the mighty,
The bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
And the sword of Saul did not return empty.
23 “Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives,
And in their death they were not divided;
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions.
24 “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
Who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury;
Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
25 “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan was slain in your high places.
26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
You have been very pleasant to me;
Your love to me was wonderful,
Surpassing the love of women.