I have been thinking a lot about these words of Jesus:
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.” (cf. John 10 and read the whole thing.)
We are once again in biblical times. It’s still the same old story. Things deteriorate until the bad guys seem to be storming the world. In fact, someone pointed at me today:
“The bad guys seem to go from strength and success to more strength and greater success. I grew up with black and white animations of the Axis powers spreading their shadow over the globe in what looked in 1941 to be an unstoppable tide. Four years later it was all over for the axis. Looking back we can easily see the mistakes and bad calculations, but in 1941 the built-in flaws were invisible.”
Well, one more time, we will get to that point. All will seem to be lost, we will be deprived of any means to save the day. Like straws going down the rapids we will lose one hundred percent of control and we will have to face an overwhelming disaster. But then, we are told over and over by saints and prophets: the Kingdom will shine upon us. Over the debris left by the ‘saviors of the people’ and the ruins of what we were sold as the beginning of the ‘Age of Progress’ a new and real golden age will begin. If we have faith as small as a mustard seed we can say to the great leaders of globalism: “Be uprooted and thrown into the sea!” and it will happen.
There was a time when all seemed lost to King David. Tired of running from Saul, David and his men took refuge with the enemies of Israel, the Philistines. They had been defeated by David over and over in many battles. Foolishly, King Saul did not want David by his side. Saul was jealous and envious of David. Seeing that, one of the Philistine kings quickly offered David a city to live in and some good will and protection. David was no fool. He had been anointed as the future King of Israel many decades earlier but he had to endure persecution since the day the prophet Samuel died. After several attempts on his life David saw there was no way to live in peace with Saul. He accepted the offer of the Philistines and moved on. They gave David and his men the city of Ziklag.
The time came when Saul had to go to war against a confederation of Philistine chieftains. When this story begins, the battle was about to take place near Mount Gilboa.
The Philistines did not want David to fight with them. They feared he could change sides in the middle of the battle. So David had to leave the theater of war and go back to his city.
Here we can observe certain things: the numbers in this story tell us that we are before a prophetic model. The phrases “three days” and “third day” are used several times. Try to discern the intention of the author when using numbers, especially numbers that are repeated several times in different contexts.
David finds Ziklag destroyed
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb and on Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag, burned it down, and taken captive the women and all [LXX: Hebrew Masoretic text lacks “and all”] who were in it, both small and great; they killed none of them, but carried them off, and went on their way.
When David and his men came to the city, they found it burnt down, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep.
David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was in great danger; for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in spirit for their sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30: 1-6)
We are living in a clear biblical scene in this year of 2022 A.D. If Jesus was to return today, he would have to face a situation not too different than the one David encountered after returning from Mount Gilboa.
The city of Ziklag can be used as a prophetic model of the Church, apparently defeated, destroyed and burned by the enemies of God. Notice that the deed is done by the Amalekites, the archenemies of Israel since the days of their entering the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) In the book of Queen Esther, Haman the Amalekite plans the extermination of the Jews but finds his own end and the end of his race instead. No more Amalekites appear in Scripture after the days of Queen Esther. Have those prophetic images connected and present in your mind. Any effort directed against the people of God will result in their benefit and will mark the end of their enemies. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The situation at Ziklag is dire when David and his men arrive. There is even talk of rebellion among David’s men, But David “found strength in his faith, in God” who protected him since he was a young lad and had to fight with a lion killing it with his bare hands. David was a tough Hebrew who had always walked with God. David was discouraged by long years of exile but he could still trust God in the most difficult circumstances.
I have been in the place of David’s men. Sometimes, after battling strong enemies, still reeling from the fight I have asked Jesus why he takes me so close to the edge, what’s the use! But no response is given to me other than:
Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. (Ecclesiasticus 2:4-5)
And I find strength in those words… every day.
The Spirit of Prophecy provides hope
David said to the priest Abiathar son of Ahimelech, ‘Bring me the ephod.’ So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?’ He answered him, ‘Pursue; for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.’ So David set out, he and the six hundred men who were with him. They came to the Wadi Besor, where those stayed who were left behind. But David went on with the pursuit, he and four hundred men; two hundred stayed behind, too exhausted to cross the Wadi Besor. (1 Samuel 30: 7-10)
When we are living in times like these, we want to know what is coming. God does not hide the future from us. He reveals all that can be safely revealed. The lights and shadows in prophecy are there to increase our faith and confidence in God. He will always be our Redeemer and he will never-ever fail us. We must trust him even when everything seems to go awry.
Divine Mercy prefigured
In the open country they found an Egyptian, and brought him to David. They gave him bread and he ate; they gave him water to drink; they also gave him a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins. When he had eaten, his spirit revived; for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. Then David said to him, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you from?’ He said, ‘I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite. My master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago. We had made a raid on the Negeb of the Cherethites and on that which belongs to Judah and on the Negeb of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag down.’ David said to him, ‘Will you take me down to this raiding party?’ He said, ‘Swear to me by God that you will not kill me, or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.’ (1 Samuel 30: 11-15)
In this part of the story we can see salvation beginning to take shape. A slave, almost dead by the side of the road holds the key to save David’s family. Notice the allusion to the Eucharist and the Resurrection. (cf. Luke 18:32-33) When Christ visited Jerusalem he cursed a fig tree that had green leaves but no fruit. (Matthew 21:18-22) That was an image of the unfaithful Church of the last days. Salvation comes after David gives the sick slave (a figure of Christ) bread, water, some fig cake, and raisins. The man revives. The three day wait pays off: the man knows where the Amalekites are hiding. That information will save David some precious time. Remember that the Amalekites do not know that David is pursuing them. David will come upon them by surprise, another allusion to Jesus’ coming in the End Times when no one expects him.
The enemies are found
When he had taken him down, they were spread out all over the ground, eating and drinking and dancing, because of the great amount of spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. (cf. Luke 17: 26-30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:3) David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day. Not one of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken; and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken; David brought back everything. David also captured all the flocks and herds, which were driven ahead of the other cattle; people said, ‘This is David’s spoil.’ (1 Samuel 30: 16-20)
The criminals are happy. They were able to steal enough riches to start a new kingdom and they had servants and slaves kidnapped as well. The mood in the encampment is festive: they are safe, their loot is guarded, it’s time to celebrate. The image brings to mind the attitude of the wicked at the end of times: “When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
The warning of Christ also comes to mind:
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17: 26-30)
While they celebrate, David is quietly encircling the Amalekites during the night. In the morning, they will be too tired for combat and that is why David attacks with the first light of day. The Amalekites are many and the battle lasts many hours but in the end David’s men are victorious and they recover everything intact along with their families. The enemies of God fight for mere stolen goods but the people of God fight for what they truly love. David and their men left Ziklag crying but their tears are turned into laughter when they embrace their loved ones. As it is written in Psalm 126:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
From the spoil a kingdom and a new law of mercy are born
Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the Wadi Besor. They went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. When David drew near to the people he saluted them. Then all the corrupt 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 take his wife and children, and leave.’ But David said, ‘You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us; he has preserved us and handed over to us the raiding party that attacked us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For the share of the one who goes down into the battle shall be the same as the share of the one who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.’ From that day forward he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel; it continues to the present day. (1 Samuel 30: 21-25)
There are many moral lessons in this story. One of them is this one in vv. 21-25. One third of David’s men were simply too tired to continue and remain behind. Those were likely the troops that had no horses or camels to ride. They had been marching for the most part of the week. Some among the ones coming back from the battle don’t want to share the spoil with them. David knows better: he needs everyone motivated to fight but tired soldiers are a burden. He realizes that those who stayed behind did not love their families less! They were simply exhausted and would have slowed him down. Now, rested and reunited with their families, they are ready to guard those who come back battle-weary and loaded with the spoils.
David prefigures Our Lord of Mercy when he decides that all will share the spoils equally. One can see a model of the Resurrection there when all the servants of God will receive the gift of life as the Kingdom of God is established. No one will receive “less eternal life” but all will share in the glory of the Kingdom that comes as a gift from God and not as a result of anyone’s individual merits. Jesus has paid for it in full. Many will fight but their fight is a witness, not a special privilege. God is present in every detail.
Fidelity is rewarded
When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, ‘Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord’; it was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, in Racal, in the towns of the Jerahmeelites, in the towns of the Kenites, in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, in Hebron, all the places where David and his men had roamed. (1 Samuel 30: 26-31)
While all of those events were happening King Saul and his heir Jonathan were fighting and losing their lives at the battle of Gilboa where Saul cowardly took his own faithless life. The type of the false church and its destiny thus appears. Saul consorted with witches and demons before going to battle. His spiritual infidelity brought him his own death but gave David a kingdom and an inheritance that will never die. (Daniel 2:44, the Kingdom of the Messiah).
The elders of Israel (that were mourning for their sons routed at Gilboa) received from David their share of the spoils. Saul the loser is dead, David the winner is now their King. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Notice that the marauders were robbing cities from the Damascus area down to Ziklag in Philistia. They robbed only to end up enlarging David’s royal fortune. From that fortune, Solomon will one day build the Temple and even a greater kingdom.
The 400 young men escaping represent the souls that will be mercifully liberated at the end times: they equal in number the willing troops of David.