Sunday School Lesson/Baggage handlers
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 1:00 PM
"Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him, and who had been left at the brook Besor. . . . Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, "Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart." But David said, "You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hands the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike." And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day." (1 Samuel 30: 21-25)
Has it ever bothered you that perhaps the contribution you make to the cause of Christ is not viewed with the same esteem as effort of others? Have you ever, mistakenly, judged that someone else's tiny work is insignificant in comparison with your own more visible and acclaimed offering? Then take note of today's lesson.
This chapter begins with a sudden attack upon the community of Ziklag by the Amalekites. Their timing was perfect because it coincided with the absence of David and his fighting men. Perhaps spies had informed them that David (the protector of Ziklag) as away attending to other duties. We only know that the Amalekites attacked viciously and the entire town was burned to the ground and all the women and children were taken away as captives, along with two of David's wives (including his beloved Abigail).
Now, when David and his men returned and discovered the destruction, we're told they "lifted up their voices and wept until there was no strength within them to weep" (v.4). But we also read that "David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." I take this to mean several things. David took comfort in the Lord when all else had been stripped away. He sought out the one abiding constant in his life - God. Even when his life was crumbling he knew that he still could rely upon God.
Also, he sought out God's Wisdom and Guidance. Making use of the ephod, he inquired of the Lord as to what he should do. Now, another individual, perhaps, might have set out immediately in a blood-thirsty quest for vengeance, but not David. His faith rested in the Lord who reigned sovereign over all things - all events. Therefore, he looked to the Lord to make sense of what had happened even as he trusted His promises. David is told to pursue the Amalekites and is assured that they will be overtaken and the captives recovered.
Now, along the way, some of his fighting men grew too weary to continue. Perhaps they were nursing injuries. In any event, we're told that David left 200 of his men behind at the brook Besor to keep guard over the baggage. This enabled the remaining portion of the army to travel lighter and faster. Thusly, the Amalekites were caught and God gave them over into David's hands and all the captives were rescued.
And then we come to the trip back home and the meeting up once again with the 200 baggage handlers. Some of those who had gone to war were dead set against sharing any of the spoils of battle with these men who had remained behind. Their selfish attitude was: "You don't fight. You don't get the reward." And so we come to another of those special moments where we are privileged to see something of the godliness of David. Two things are worth noting.
First, David reminded them that their victory and all their gains was the Lord's doing. It was God who had graciously enabled them to defeat their enemies and rescue their loved ones. Therefore, for any of them to act as if they were responsible for their success was not only foolish, but wrong. Now, catch this - David's reaction was guided by his firm understanding of Divine Grace which enabled him to react much as we later on see in the Apostle Paul who asked the Corinthians: "What do you have that you first have not been given?" (1 Cor 4:7) In other words, all that we have is of God. The fruit of our labor is still of grace for it is God who gives us strength and sustains us in our work. There is nothing that we can point to as a product of our own effort apart from God's grace. David understood that.
Secondly, (and because of the first) David saw no difference between those men who carried the sword and those who sat by the baggage back by the brook Besor. In his mind, each one was given a different and yet important task to perform and his faithfulness to that task was what mattered. Therefore, it was David's decision that the spoils of battle be shared equally.
Now, what can we take from this? Just this - that in God's grand scheme of things, small jobs and tiny responsibilities are just as important as those more glamorous assignments. Hudson Taylor once said, "A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in a little thing is a great thing." What little thing have you been called to do? Perhaps your contribution is to fold church bulletins, send our sympathy cards, serve in the church nursery, wash dishes following a church meal, mow grass, take out the trash, visit the sick, comfort the discouraged, rake the leaves of the elderly. It doesn't matter what the assignment is or how insignificant it may be viewed by the world. Your faithful and cheerful labor in that field of service is joyfully acknowledged by God and your reward will be great!
The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.