Why do some of us clearly understand what God is saying to us, while others don’t? Why is God so real to one, and yet not to another? This is not a casual intellectual exercise for me; it is the anguish of my life, driving me to pound on heaven’s door a thousand times with a broken heart, refusing to believe that some people are just special–more “spiritual”–or somehow gifted in this way.
Are we not all called to be in relationship with Him? Then tell me, how does a real relationship exist without intimacy, fellowship, communication, and the ongoing shared expression between hearts and minds? This is how we abide in Him and have our life in Him. Why do we succumb to the false persuasion that this is meant for only a rare and privileged few? When are we going to want it enough, that we are going to push back? He promised that He would come to us, that He would disclose Himself to us and that we would see Him even when the world could not.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.
For a very long time I have suspected
that those who experience God’s presence and power most intimately
are doing something that enables God to do what only He can do.
I have learned that there is something we do…. In this message I’ll identify what it is.
In my next message I’ll explain why God has set it up this way.
There is something we do that enables us to become strong in the LORD our God.
Never had David felt more powerless, than in that moment coming upon the smoking ruin of Ziklag, which had been his home. Not only had his wives and children been taken, but the families of all his men were gone as well. Battle weary and broken-hearted, David gave into the indescribable loss, weeping until he had no strength left to weep.
I Samuel 30: 4,6
Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep… Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
David was stripped of everything: wives, children, property, clothing, shelter. He had nothing. No food, no home, no comfort. And maybe worse, David found himself alone with the sickening realization of what his choices had cost others. He faced a brute power threatening to destroy almost everything he loved and had worked for. It was a moment of utter desolation, and he wept until he had no strength left. But then, what?
“But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”
DAVID strengthened HIMSELF.
Psalm 29:11 makes it very clear where our strength comes from: “The LORD gives strength to his people” This is what God does, what only He can do. He gives divine strength to His people.
So, why does Scripture credit David with strengthening himself?
There is a PLACE, a secret place, a hard to find mysterious place, but a real place where God accomplishes all that He can be and do for us.
He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…
Psalm 91 describes this PLACE where we experience the refuge, protection and strength of God. Scripture credits David with strengthening himself, because he got himself to THAT PLACE where GOD could strengthen him.
Those who experience God’s presence and power intimately
are doing something…
they are getting themselves to the PLACE
where God does what only He can do.
When David came upon the smoking embers of Ziklag, he was not in that PLACE.
He was a long way away from that PLACE.
Instead, he was in a PLACE of painful consequences: the result of an alliance he had made, thinking he needed it to survive. David had put his men and himself into a situation of desperate compromise–offering themselves as mercenaries–to fight for the king of the Philistines against their own people, Israel. They had left their families vulnerable. And in their absence, the Amalekites had come: burning Zigklag with fire, taking their wives and their children. David knew he was to blame.
What I have learned about this PLACE has revolutionized my understanding of everything Scripture is telling us. It is not what we do or how hard we work that makes any difference in the spiritual realm. If we are going to experience the power and presence of God in our life, we have simply got to get to THE PLACE where conditions come together to make God’s work possible.
Even as worldlings, we intuitively understand this idea of “A PLACE” where conditions come together, making something possible, when we say that
- Someone has yet to get to the place where they can forgive.
- Or a person has FINALLY gotten to the place where they can hear the truth.
We acknowledge a place that is characterized by
conditions coming together to make something possible.
What we see in Scripture is that David, when he did not even have strength left to weep, somehow got himself to that PLACE where conditions came together to make it possible for God to strengthen him, as God alone could.
THIS PLACE is intimately linked with The Person of God.
2 Samuel 22:1 (International Standard Version)
David composed the words of this song to the LORD the very day the LORD delivered him from the domination of all of his enemies, including from Saul’s hands. This is what he said: LORD, YOU are my stone stronghold and my fortified place…
In his Ziklag moment, when he was broken, weak and vulnerable against crushing sorrow, how did David find this PLACE where he would become strong in God?
“But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”
David found the PLACE, as he looked beyond charred Ziklag, and began to identify intimately and personally with the LORD his God.
Turn to Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold
How many times does he relate to the LORD with “my” or “I”?
The mindset of the LORD–being our own–brings us into the PLACE where He proves Himself to be our own..
We see this clearly in Psalm 91: 1, 2
He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.
This person describing the secret PLACE of the Most High has a strong, intimate, personal identification with God as his God.
And later in this same Psalm, God tells how/why He has determined to be and to do all that He can for the one intimately identifying with Him.
14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
There is a PLACE where God delivers, where God sets us securely on high. It is where a set of conditions come together to make it possible: God is loved, and His name is known. The one who finds this PLACE knows WHO GOD REALLY IS, and they love Him for Who He is, rather than what they want Him to be.
As he lifted his eyes from the ruin of Ziklag, David’s love for God took hold. And as he solemnly called upon THE NAME of God–WHO GOD ACTUALLY IS–he found the PLACE where God made him strong.
One of my favorite commentators, MacLaren, said this about David’s intense personal identification with God (my emphasis added):
It is not by accident, that we read ‘the Lord his God.’
Of all the Psalmists, David seizes most strongly upon the thought that he stood in a personal individual relation to God, and God to him.
And so it was his God that he laid hold of at that dark hour.
What strengthened David, in that supreme moment of desolation was grabbing onto God’s hand… as the conviction welled up in his heart that, in spite of everything, he was God’s and God was his. The One and only God ruling over all things, loved Him, and was HIS God.
We read of God as: ‘The God of Israel’, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Carrying our minds into the past, speaking of a historical relationship in ancient days. But is this our God?
Scripture tells us that, The God of Jacob is our Refuge, so very true…. But when the God of Jacob is my God, then the whole thing flashes up in new power.
It was not enough for David, in his Ziklag moment, to stay himself upon a vague universal goodness…. His burdened heart could only be strengthened as he clasped the intimate consolation that, ‘the LORD is my God.’
It seems like such a baby step… grabbing hold of God’s hand in our darkest hour… but it’s huge. Throughout Scripture, God holds Himself out to us, urging us to come into THE PLACE of intense personal identity with Him as the LORD our God.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
God only fulfills His promises for our lives in THAT PLACE
This revelation of A PLACE where we receive God’s power into our life has laid fierce hold of me.
Every scripture has suddenly begun to describe THIS PLACE. The conditions of every promise describe where we must be in order for the promise to be realized. We don’t get there on our own. He is beside us exerting grace on us every step of the way, but we have to respond to His initiatives to get there. It is not that God Almighty can’t do or be whatever He wants, wherever, whenever. But He self-limits Himself–for His own reasons–so that He will only do and be what He has promised in THAT PLACE.
When I look back on my life, I see a journey with places where I anguished and groaned, wondering where God’s presence and power were…. Only to learn, at the next turn, that I was just not at THE PLACE where He could bring it together for me.
It is a PLACE where conditions come together to make something possible, and one of those conditions is TRUTH.
We have to be operating in the truth, to find THIS PLACE
The lies we believe and perpetuate keep us from THAT PLACE. So, when we’re under the persuasion of a lie, God has to take strong measures to bring us out from under that persuasion, IN ORDER THAT WE CAN FIND THE PLACE WHERE HE BECOMES our refuge and our strength.
Ziklag was God’s strong measure to bring David out from under the power of a lie.
For years King Saul had been hunting David to kill him. Saul was insanely jealous, because he knew David was the better man, and Saul knew that God had chosen David to become king after him. Years before, the prophet Samuel had come to David’s family, singling out David out from among Jesse’ sons, anointing him as the future king of Israel. David had this word from God. But at times, Saul’s relentless persecution and the hardship of being a fugitive made God’s word hard for David to believe.
I Samuel 27:1-4
Then David said to himself, “Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines … So David arose and crossed over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath
That false persuasion drove David to join himself to the king of the Philistines, Israel’s mortal enemy, beginning a season of compromise that would only end in the smoking embers of Ziklag.
- The terrible irony is that David was the one who had slain Goliath, the giant from Gath, the capital where David now sought refuge.
- Once the king of Israel’s bodyguard, David now became the bodyguard of the king of the Philistines: living a life antithetical to the one he was called to.
- In I Samuel 27: 5-12, we learn that David was not only burning and looting villages, killing every man woman and child to cover up his activity, but he was living a life of constant lies to the king.
- At many levels, David was not operating in the truth… THE ONLY PLACE he would be strong in God… which is why God needed to intervene.
I wasn’t quite sure how to evaluate David’s alliance with the Philistines, who was I to judge? Then one morning the Lord took me to Isaiah 30.
Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, In order to add sin to sin; Who proceed down to Egypt Without consulting Me, To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame. And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.
Just as Israel’s fear drove her to Egypt in an attempt to save herself, where she did not trust God to meet her need, David’s fear drove him to the Philistines. David executed a plan, but not God’s. He made an alliance, but not of God’s Spirit. He sought safety and shelter in the shadow of the Philistines, which would be his humiliation and sorrow. It was a season when David was not operating from trust.
Trusting God is THE CONDITION that rings in us,
in THE PLACE where we are strong in God
Trusting God was the principle needing to rule the life of Israel’s future king, but David’s trust in God’s protection evaporated under the persuasion that he would die by Saul’s hand.
But in the smoking embers of Ziklag, God exposed the lie David believed, and the impotence of what he had trusted in.
Hebrews 12:17 speaks of Esau, telling tells us that there is of A PLACE for repentance.
For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
David found THE PLACE for repentance, with tears.
What happened at Ziklag was not the wrath of God, but God’s fierce love taking strong measures to bring David from a place antithetical to God’s purpose for his life to THE PLACE where he would be strong in God again.
This story has a wonderful ending.
- In the strength of God, with divine guidance restored to him, David set off after those who had burned and ransacked Ziklag, reclaiming not only everything stolen from them, but all the booty the Amalekites had taken from his kinsmen in Israel as well.
- While David was fighting the Amalekites, the Philistines were fighting Israel….in a battle that would take the lives of Saul and his sons. David would never have to grieve that he had a hand in taking the lives of those he loved
- God, in perfect timing, opened the way to David’s long awaited throne.
David’s Ziklag moment was the final crisis of his wilderness years, an awful moment, the intense darkness just before the dawn … of his kingdom.
We don’t know when, but our own Ziklag moments will come.
May we remember
- to cling to the Lord as our God, holding His hand in devastating moments, utterly trusting Him, to find THE PLACE where we are strong in Him.
- to see in the smoking embers, not God’s anger at us, but the strong measure He is willing to take to get us to THE ONLY PLACE where He can be and do all that He wants to for us.
- to allow consequences to show us THE LIE we have believed, so that the place of our great sorrow becomes the holy ground of repentance for having taken things into our own hands.
The Holy Ground of repentance is beautiful
It is THE PLACE where our alienation from God falls away, and we find our self exquisitely and deliciously one with Him.
It is THE PLACE where the power of the lie is broken and truth shines undaunted by our season of unfaithfulness.
It is THE PLACE where God eagerly awaits us, without condemnation.
It is THE PLACE where we walk fully, exultantly, humbly and gratefully in His strength
There is something we do, that makes all the difference.
Wanting God so badly, we refuse every last shabby excuse, every reason, every lie
that has kept us from running to that holy ground of repentance,
THE PLACE where all that God wants to do and be for us waits for us.