JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – By God’s mercies, four Israeli hostages have been released in recent days.
But 220 Israelis – babies, children, young people, the elderly and even Holocaust survivors – are still being held captive in Gaza by the bloodthirsty and exceedingly wicked Hamas terrorists.
While it’s easy to lose hope, as Evangelical Christians, we need to be strong.
We need to remember that “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
We need to faithfully and unceasingly intercede on behalf of these hostages, praying for the Lord to grant them supernatural comfort and calm while they are held in Gaza.
And that the Lord will supernaturally rescue each and every captive and restore them to their families and friends – quickly and unharmed.
Over the past week or so, I've found myself reading and re-reading I Samuel chapter 30, meditating on this passage, and praying through it verse by verse.
Because it tells the hopeful and immensely encouraging story of Israelites going to war to get their hostages back.
And the Lord granting them tremendous favor and success.
THE AMALEKITES STRIKE ZIKLAG
The biblical account focuses on the ancient city of Ziklag.
At that time, Ziklag was the home of David and his “mighty men” and their immediate families and extended families.
Located right on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, we see that “they Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire.” (I Samuel 30:1)
What’s more, the Amalekites “took captive the women and all who were in” Ziklag, “both small and great” and “carried them off and went their way.”
When David and his men returned to the city after fighting other enemies of Israel, they found their home city “burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive.” (I Samuel 30:3).
The emotional toll on the men was real and devastating.
“Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep” any longer. (I Samuel 30:4)
This is how we in Israel are feeling right now.
We are grieving and exhausted from our grief.
It threatens to paralyze us, immobilize us, but we cannot let it.
What’s more, David’s men were not just grief-stricken.
They were also furious – and they blamed David.
The text indicates that “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.” (I Samuel 30:6)
This is also happening in Israel.
People are furious with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior government, military, and intelligence officials because they feel not just let down but betrayed.
WHAT DID DAVID DO NEXT? HE “STRENGTHENED HIMSELF IN THE LORD”
What makes the story so inspiring is what David – our hero and the future king of a unified Kingdom of Israel – does next.
Though he, too, has been personal affected and deeply grieved, he doesn’t let himself wallow in tears or self-pity.
Instead, the text tells us that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (I Samuel 30:6)
It doesn’t say how, but it’s not hard to figure out.
David turned to worship to get his focus off of himself onto the God, who does miracles.
David turned to prayer for wisdom to know what to do next.
And David began reading the Word of God – studying it, meditating on it, memorizing it, immersing himself in it – as he remembered all the truths he himself had written about in the Psalms.
“I will meditate in Your precepts and regard your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” (Psalm 119:15-16)
Because he knew that the word of God revives the heart, the soul, and the body.
“Revive me according to Your word,” David wrote in Psalm 119:25.
“This is my comfort in affliction, that Your word has revived me.” (Psalm 119:50)
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good and do good…It is good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:67, 71)
“Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous ordinances. Those who love Your law have great peace.” (Psalm 119:164-165)
NEXT, DAVID SOUGHT THE LORD FOR HOW TO DEAL WITH THE HOSTAGE CRISIS
Once David’s own body, mind, and soul was stronger because he had drawn close to the Lord and let the God of Israel supernaturally grant him revival and refreshment, David then began to ask God for wisdom on what to do next.
The text is clear: “David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this band [of Amalekite terrorists]? Shall I overtake them?’”
David didn’t just go race off consumed with blinding rage and immense grief.
That would have been foolish, and potentially disastrous.
Rather, David sought the Lord’s counsel.
David asked the Lord whether there was any point pursuing the enemy, or whether it was simply too late.
And the Lord answered.
“Pursue,” God commanded David. “For you will surely overtake them [the Amalekite enemy], and you will surely rescue all [of the Israelite hostages].”
So, David obeyed the command of the Lord.
The text tells us that “David went, he and the 600 men who were with him” and they pursued the enemy. (I Samuel 30:9)
GOD PROVIDED DAVID CRITICAL INTELLIGENCE AT A CRITICAL MOMENT
When they got to a brook called “Besor,” he realized that 200 of his men were simply too exhausted – emotionally and physically – to continue.
So, he and 400 men continued on, while the rest stayed by the brook and guarded the supplies and baggage.
Soon, they came across an Egyptian who providentially provided precise and critical intelligence at a critical moment in the operation.
He provided David information on where the enemy was hiding, and where the hostages actually were being held.
Immediately, David led his warriors to the place where the enemy was camped.
Then David and his men “slaughtered” the enemy throughout the morning to night, and, by the grace of God, “David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken.” (I Samuel 30:17-18)
Every single member of the Amalekite terrorist force was killed.
And every single Israelite that had been taken captive by the Amalekites was supernaturally rescued.
This is my prayer for Israel right now.
May our leaders strengthen themselves in the Lord – in worship, prayer, and the Holy Scriptures – and then seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction.
May the Lord hear those prayers and grant Israeli leaders critical intelligence at a critical time.
May the Lord grant us a massive and decisive victory over our enemies.
And bring back all the hostages to us, quickly and unharmed.
I refuse to surrender to thoughts filled with “What ifs” and “If onlys.”
Instead, I am looking to the life and example of David.
And praying to the same God to whom David appealed.
Lord, please be merciful to us.
Strengthen and revive us, according to Your Word.
And grant us success in rescuing every single hostage being held by Hamas in Gaza today, just as you did thousands of years ago.
In the great and mighty and merciful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I pray.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.