Rest for the Distressed, Weary and Poor
What are you struggling with today? Bibianna meditates on 1 Samuel 22 and encourages us to lay all our needs before the Lord of Sabbath and He will grant us rest.
Did you ever have to pick teams? As students, many would have had the chance to choose their group mates for projects. The logical step would be to pick friends (so the process is fun), those who are responsible (so the work gets done) or those who are well-versed in the subject (so that difficulties can be averted). This often gets carried over to the workplace where usually those who have the power and experience to hire will hire people who fit their criteria. On a fun note, some also have the experience of playing fantasy football or basketball, where they’ll experience drafting and picking players for a league. Again, the picks are often based on skills and performance.
Who are the people who are in God’s “team”? Step into the sanctuary on a Sunday morning and we are reminded on a weekly basis that the church, God’s church, is a mix of people of different ages, nationalities, backgrounds, job experiences etc. What brings us together? It doesn’t always seem immediately evident, but we gather because of our need, our need for a Saviour.
The king’s army
Do you occasionally feel overwhelmed by your own struggles and the needs of those around you? I was thinking about this lately and found encouragement in God's word. I chanced upon 1 Samuel 22:1-2 in my Bible reading recently, and found a wonderful picture of the kinds of people who are God’s people. In 1 Samuel 22, David had fled and took refuge in the cave of Adullam. There were those who came to him and followed him there and it was quite a mixed bag that had gathered—"And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men." (1 Sam 22:2)
These are not impressive descriptions of his crew. Would you expect this of the king’s army? I wondered what kind of an army it must have been. Would the morale have been low with a king hiding in a cave, and with his followers all in distress and being poor in spirit and materially lacking? In fact, it seems to make us wonder if this was effective at all. There’s no mention of their ability to fight nor their strategic sense. We are not told if they eventually went to war. All we see in these verses seem to be their need and David’s authority over them.
Yet there’s something worth pausing to consider here.
God's king draws followers who are needy. These are often the people whom He uses too. In Exodus, we see how Israel were slaves under the hand of mighty Egypt, distressed and oppressed. In Deuteronomy 7:7–8, we learn that “it was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” There was nothing in Israel that warranted His saving, but His love compelled Him.
Later, in Jesus’ ministry, His disciples came from all walks of life. He did not call great scholars and rulers, but began by calling the average fishermen to leave all to follow Him (Matt 4:18-22). In the Beatitudes, He also teaches on the characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom. They are poor in spirit, but they are blessed because they receive the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3). The blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4). The blessed are also the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matt 5:4-5). The rest of the Beatitudes also pick up on similar descriptions of the people of the kingdom.
Just as how David attracted those with need, in God’s kingdom, with Christ as King, He calls not those who are “ok” but those who are in need. Those who are well have no need for a physician, thus Jesus came to call not the righteous but the sinners (Lk 5:31-32). As the hymn goes,
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore,
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love, and pow’r.
As we gather weekly for our corporate services, or even in the week with fellow Christians, we gather not as those who have everything all put together. We gather in our need and with our need. What are you struggling with today? Let us turn to God with our bitterness, debt and distress and bring it to our King who is worth following.
The king worth following
In 1 Samuel, the people followed and trusted David enough to head down to the cave, all four hundred of them. And he did not reject them.
This is a king who knows what it is like to be rejected and also struggled with this. He was the anointed king but his path to the palace took him through many dangers, toils and snares. He knows what it is like to not just live in the comfort of a palace, but to be rejected and to rough it out.
It is not hard to see how David foreshadows Jesus, who years later, though rightfully king, was rejected and despised. He came and calls all who labour and are heavy laden to come to Him, for He promises rest (Matt 11:28). This is the same God who called His people in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Many were drawn to Him and He did not turn away those who were struggling and in need.
Spurgeon helps us see more of Christ in the verses in 1 Samuel 22: “They went to Him for three reasons—because they were distressed, because they were in debt and because they were discontented. Those who have no power should take heart because Christ is the power of God. There is ability in him to make up for all our impotency. We may come and cast ourselves with all our weaknesses on His irresistible might, and we will have a full supply of all our souls need. Come to Jesus, all who are lost, ruined, undone, poverty stricken.”
Jesus welcomed them and continues to do so today. This is how you and I were drawn out of darkness into His marvellous light, where our old selves were put to death and given new selves. He calls us who are lost, undone, ruined, poverty stricken and promises us the riches of His abundant grace. He continues to call those who are needy to Him.
These are the people in His church—once needy, now drawing from the riches of His grace. There will be times when we feel discouraged and overwhelmed by our needs and the needs of others. The gatherings on Sundays serve as wonderful opportunities for us to find rest for our souls—Sabbath rest that the Lord of the Sabbath promises to grant us. We bring our needs to Him and lay them before Him, trusting that our sins have been paid in full by Jesus on that cross, and now the resurrected Christ enables us to live new lives.
I will arise and go to Jesus;
He will embrace me in His arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
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