“Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way.” 1 Samuel 30:1–2
When David and his band of six hundred men returned to Ziklag they found that while they had been gone the Amalekites had attacked the region, looted and burned Ziklag, and carried away the women, children and anyone else who was there.
At first, in their grief, some of David’s men talked about stoning David because it was a result of his leadership that they had all been gone and unable to defend their families. Somehow they were convinced not to stone him.
After David’s initial grief he called for Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod that he might enquire of the Lord.
“Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” David asked.
“Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.” God answered.
So David and his men set off in pursuit. The Amalekites were at least three days ahead of David and his men but their group was larger and loaded down with captives and other spoils of war. David and his men were relatively unburdened and this combined with the incentive of rescuing their loved ones gave them the ability to set a much faster pace. Still the chase was long enough that two hundred of David’s men had to drop out, due to fatigue, so David left the supplies with them and continued the chase with four hundred men.
With the help of an Egyptian slave that had been abandoned by the Amalekites David was able to surprise the Amalekites and after an entire day of fighting they had succeeded in rescuing all their loved ones and had recaptured all the bounty the Amalekites had taken.
It’s difficult to say whether or not God was punishing David for so closely allying himself with the idolatrous Philistines by allowing the Amalekites to temporarily take his and his men’s families. Scripture doesn’t say that was why they suffered that trial. One thing we do know is that it was God’s providence in getting them sent away from battle that allowed them to discover the attack when they did and mount a rescue expedition in time to get everyone and everything back. God had not abandoned them.
It’s tempting to lose faith when tragedy strikes. Many have become discouraged and fallen away because they felt God had let them down. Friends, our lives in this sin filled world can be filled with trouble. The best thing we can do when tragedy hits is what David did. First Samuel chapter thirty, verse six, says he “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” And in God’s strength he victoriously met the challenge before him.