By Peter Davies
There are some places you don’t want to go. Ziklag is one of them.
As a kid, the story of David – the small young shepherd challenging the mighty Goliath was exciting and lingered with me for years. That was until I considered the depth of the story of Bathsheba. It was like being hit with an iron fist. Injustice! Murder most foul of a faithful and honourable man so he could sleep with his wife! How would Uriah’s parents feel? But worse was to come! Fast forward a number of years to David on the run from Saul. Together with 600 of his men and their families, you find David in a place called Ziklag. A town given by David’s supposed enemy, King Achish – as gratitude for mercenary services.
David could write such tender psalms; he was a musician after all, but there was a ‘dark’ side. On weekends – to keep his army in fine shape – he would sneak into a village and destroy it. Utterly. In 1 Samuel 27 you read that all were slaughtered – so there would be no one left to point the finger at them! Think about it. Imagine the orders he gave: “No one is to be left guys!” No mercy for anyone old, infirm, pregnant, young, babies… If it moves – kill it.”
My dislike for the ‘flawed’ David was brought to the surface while listening to a podcast recently. A sermon where the preacher mentioned the ‘barren’ periods of David’s life and attributed those to David’s lost connection with God. No longer was he listening to God – only himself, and according to the preacher, the proof was that he found himself in a place call “Ziklag”. He shouldn’t have been there (Whoa, never thought of that!) He had given up writing Psalms in this period. (Sobering! I wasn’t aware this was a ‘dry’ period for him). This message was a reframing of things for me, and it had an impact on how I make sense of David’s life.
I used to rail against God that he continued to support this guy and ‘love him’. I was almost as angry at God as I was at David. But, maybe I was wrong? David did terrible things. He was making his own decisions and God was seeking to redeem some good from a life which had a great beginning, resulted in some beautiful psalms, and which ended in mess! Even on David’s death bed (see 1 Kings 2), when he had the opportunity to show grace and kindness to those around him – he ordered the death of 2 men he had problems with during his life! I wonder how many of the horrible atrocities committed by David came from him falling out of touch with God’s presence? And how many of his inspiring moments flowed from connection to God’s love and goodness?
Here is an irony – in the constant ‘reconstructing’ of my faith – my prayer to God is to stay in connection to Him. I found some verses as my guide, and I committed them to memory. They are from one of David’s psalms!
Show me your ways, Lord
Teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth, and teach me. (Psalm 25:4,5)
As I explore and challenge the authenticity of my beliefs, I notice that often I dwell in my own thoughts and not in prayerful collaboration with God. Since the group of people I meet with are focused on Jesus – I decided to get to know the Jesus story better. I have taken myself through Mark – recording Jesus’ messages, and I found this gem:
24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given[c]—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” (Mark 4:24,25 NLT)
I believe the real story of David is that if God can forgive and redeem some good from the life of David, then we all have a chance. Even as we reconstruct our faith, may we seek to stay connected to the divine presence, listening deeply, and being wary not to find ourselves in ‘Ziklag’.