Do we limit God to just expressing His love and mercy to only the “good” things in life? Do we require God to work under our terms and conditions and if He doesn’t we are disappointed? If so, we are really missing out on a huge amount of what He does every day. God uses all things for the good of those who love Him, not just the things we approve of or that makes us comfortable. He even uses our defeats and losses in aid of His love and mercy.
God works through both the good and the bad in life to bless us. He uses the painful things and the things we see as hindrances to train us. He even uses what seems like the most difficult things to express His love and His mercy. He even says no to what we want out of love. We all desperately need to be stopped at times in our lives. A loving father steps in when he sees his children headed for a fall. When we are headed down a deadly path we have laid out for ourselves and God drops a big 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 in a way that not even David can overcome.
It takes place in 1 Samuel 29 towards the end of David’s time on the run from King 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 Philistines, a sworn enemy of Israel. He lived with them for a period of time that followed. He even developed a good relationship with the Philistine King. This is no small thing. The Philistines were the sworn enemy of the people of Israel. It would be like the Prime Minister of Israel today taking up residence with the head of Hamas. It makes no sense and shows a problem in David’s heart. The struggle to stay alive for so many years appears to have weakened David and placed him in a vulnerable position. He was so grateful for safety and ease that he had good feelings towards a very evil king. Misplaced loyalty always gets us in trouble. Yearning for the easy way often is the root of the problem.
Even worse than David becoming chummy with the evil is the fact that a climactic battle is brewing between the Philistines and Israel. As the Philistines 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 sets out to fight against Israel. He 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. He has made his choice and it is a really bad one.
It seems David’s sense of honor and loyalty to the Philistine King warped his sense of honor and loyalty to God. He was committed to doing a terrible act against his own people. He is determined to take part in a battle that we know will eventually cause the death of the King of Israel and his best friend, Jonathan. The material benefits that he received in a time of weakness makes him absolutely certain that this is what he should do.
The soon to be King David’s plan was fight his heart out for his king – the Philistine King..yikes!
Have you ever reasoned yourself into a similarly ridiculous situation? “I know this person I am romantically interested says that they are not a Christian and have no interest, but they are kind to me and funny.” “I know that these people who want to hire me are crooked but I can take care of my family…and, oh yeah, I can be a light.”
A funny thing happens. God steps in and shows mercy to David despite David’s best efforts. God does this act of love through the commanders of the Philistine army. Again, horrible evil men who are going to war against God’s people are used to protect one of God’s own. These commanders see David and his men lined up for battle with them. They then ironically say 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 and object strongly. They even see clearly the only way David can actually honor God in the situation is by killing them and not the Israelites. If David was in his right mind here, the only path forward should have been him fighting the Philistines. Yet, he is intent on committing a great wrong by killing Israelites. It is the Philistines who call him on it.
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? No, of course not, it was God in His sovereignty objecting and showing His mercy and love for David.
God prevents David from doing something that he would regret terribly. His lifelong enemies thwart his plans. David’s plan is ruined…and it is for his good.
David is kicked out of the Philistine army. That army goes on and kills Saul, Jonathan and a 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 Philistine commanders saved him from what likely would have been a lifetime of regret.
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 in 2 Samuel 1 called The Song of the Bow.
How much worse would it have been for David if had he taken up arms against God’s anointed King and his best friend? God preserved David, saved his plan for David and spared him great pain through saying no to David. 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.