In many big Hollywood blockbusters, there’s often a bad guy and a good guy. From pantomime villains to gun-toting psychopaths, loads of films are based on the idea of baddies versus goodies.
In the Bible, the ‘baddies’ were a group known as the Amalekites.They pop up quite a lot and were known for their unrelenting brutality, for their fondness of killing children and for their tactic of picking off (and murdering) the weakest and most vulnerable, those who were struggling at the back of the line.The Amalekites were also descended from Esau. Remember him?
He and his twin brother Jacob had a pretty difficult relationship. Esau traded his birthright and inheritance to his brother, for a bowl of stew and later, Jacob tricked their father into giving him a blessing, which rightfully belonged to Esau.Genesis 27 says from that point on, ‘Esau hated Jacob’ and the two didn’t see each other for many years. Esau went on to become the grandfather of Amalek, from whom the Amalekites descended.
And that’s when the trouble really got started.
I was reading about them the other day in 1 Samuel 30. As it turns out, the evil Amalekites had attacked the camp of David and kidnapped not just his wife and children, but the wives and kids of all his men.
The Amalekites were known for their blood lust but on this occasion, it seems as though they decided to delay the sadistic gratification. Instead of instantly killing their hostages, they decided instead to carry them off and (presumably) mentally torture David and his men just a bit more.
Can you imagine the anguish?
The people you love most in the world have been kidnapped by people who love to torture and murder their victims?? What would you do? How would you respond?
1 Samuel 30 says that the men around David ‘wept until they had no more strength to weep’ (know the feeling??) and David himself, full of desperation, threw himself at God’s feet and then it says, ‘he strengthened himself in the Lord’.
He was facing the worst thing in the world and yet before he drew a sword or devised a battle plan, he ‘strengthened himself in the Lord’?
I read that this week, in the middle of my own personal battle and I realised that no matter what the circumstances, I too can ‘strengthen myself in the Lord’.
Reading the text I was aware that it didn’t say that ‘God strengthened him’. Instead it said that he actively, had to choose to do it.
Sometimes in life, when it feels like there’s an Amalekite around every corner, we have to stick a stake in the ground and like David, get strengthened and then, refuse to budge.
How did David strengthen himself? Was it through worship? Prayer? Something else?
We’re not told and to be honest, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is what God did through the circumstances. And if he did it then, he can do it now.
Interestingly, some scholars have said that the current ISIS regime descended from the Amalekites. Is that true? Some of the evidence seems to stack up, but it’s not really important.
The bottom line is, if you’re facing your own Amalekite battle right now, where it seems as though there’s no way out and the only way forward, is negotiation with a (metaphorical) bloodthirty enemy, then take heart.
Grab a Bible, a notebook, crank up the worship music, pray with a friend but do whatever it takes (like David) to strengthen yourself in God’s goodness and grace. Remind yourself of all he’s done in the past, how he’s saved you before, how he’s promised to look after you. As you do, you’ll get strength, you’ll get courage and you’ll also get a battle plan, a way forward.
It worked for David. It can work for you.