On David's Side

1 Chronicles 12:16-18.

In chapter 11 David is anointed king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord, by Samuel. The events which intervened between the death of Saul and David's accession to the throne are not here recorded, for the kingdom is looked at, in this book, as "ordained of God in blessing, rather than the historical account of all that took place, excepting so far as was necessary to furnish this picture. There is not perfection here; but there is the order which God appointed. The faults and the sufferings of David, whether before or after he was made king, are consequently passed over in silence." These sentences give, in fact, the key to the understanding of the Chronicles, and fully explain, at the same time, what has so often perplexed the natural mind, viz., the seeming want of agreement between the records in the Books of the Kings and of the Chronicles. The kingdom being established, the list and the feats of the mighty men are then narrated.

Coming now to our own chapter, we find that the Spirit of God leads us back to the time prior to David's exaltation to the throne, and expatiates with delight upon those who had identified themselves with him in his rejection, "while he yet kept himself close because of Saul, the son of Kish." Through grace, one can understand this, for it needed deeper convictions, and a greater energy of faith, to acknowledge David as the Lord's anointed, when he was hunted by Saul as a partridge upon the mountains, than when he was accepted as king by all the tribes of Israel. The same distinction is often made in the Scriptures, between the time of the Lord's rejection and that of His kingly rule and power. Thus, David himself, speaking prophetically (his own experiences, doubtless, giving the occasion), says, "Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of my people; Thou hast kept me to be head of the heathen: a people which I knew not shall serve me. Strangers shall submit themselves unto me; as soon as they hear, they shall be obedient unto me" (2 Samuel 22:44-45). Faith alone, indeed, could lead to the acceptance of the rejected king, whereas fear or self-interest might produce subjection to him when his kingdom is established in power. Thus, the dying malefactor confessed Christ, as Heir to all the royal rights of David, as God's Christ, when He was crucified in weakness; whereas, on the other hand, the time will come when, through the greatness of His power, His enemies will submit themselves unto Him, and yield Him "feigned obedience" (Psalm 66:3).

It is of great interest to observe that the Spirit of God first names, of those who ranged themselves under David's banner when he was cast out and rejected, Saul's brethren of Benjamin. The greater the natural obstacles, the greater the faith required. Every natural interest, every instinct of the flesh, their tribal pride and loyalty, would tempt the Benjamites to adhere to the house of Saul. To forsake Saul, and to follow the leadership of David, would bring down upon them the wrath of their brethren, as well as the enmity of the king in power. Nothing but faith - faith which viewed David according to God's thoughts, and Saul likewise, could have enabled them to break every tie which bound them up with the house of Benjamin. Hence it was that the Lord declared that "a man's foes shall be they of his own household," and, He added, "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me." These Benjamites did love David more than father or mother, son or daughter, and, under the power of his attractions, they were enabled to take up their cross and follow him.

After Saul's brethren, the Gadites are the next mentioned. The Gadites, it will be remembered, had received their inheritance (together with the Reubenites and half the tribe of Manasseh) on the other side of the Jordan. They had chosen what suited themselves and their flocks (Numbers 32), instead of the land flowing with milk and honey, a land on which the eyes of the Lord their God were resting always, from the beginning of the year unto the end of the year. They had thus sunk far below the height of their calling, and on this very account it is all the more remarkable to notice that God was still working in power in their midst. The very terms by which this company is described reveal the mighty effects of grace, according to the truth of the dispensation under which they lived. They were "men of might," who "separated themselves unto David into the hold to the wilderness," "men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains" (v. 8). Such were the men of this tribe, who were drawn to the man after God's own heart, men who were strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and thus qualified for conflict with the enemies of the Lord's anointed. For David's sake they had abandoned home and everything, and were ready to endure hardness, as good soldiers of the host of God.* It is of these that the record is given, that, like Joshua and Israel of old (Joshua 3:15), they went over Jordan when it had overflown all its banks, and were victorious over all the power of the enemy.

*The reader may be interested in searching out the meaning of the eleven names given. With the exception of the last, all tell of grace and the work of the Spirit. The last signifies a "cloak." In every company on earth, even as in the midst of the twelve disciples, there is imperfection, and, perhaps, a traitor.

We come now to our immediate scripture, from which we learn that some of the children of Benjamin and Judah came to the hold unto David. Saul's brethren (v. 2) were also of Benjamin; but they would seem to be more immediately connected with his family, whereas these are simply specified as belonging to the tribe. This company, composed of members of the two tribes, is distinguished moreover by the record of what passed between them and David when they went to offer themselves for his service. First, observe that "David went out to meet them." It was the response of his heart to their own desire. It is a foreshadowing (even if but faintly) of the welcome which our blessed Lord ever accords to those who, through grace, offer themselves as vessels for His will and service. The first step towards Him ever draws Him towards us, even as He turned and saw the two disciples of John following Him, and said, "What seek ye?" Then, in the next place, David said, "If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you." David's love should be their wages; and truly it is the devoted servant, the one who has no will but that of his Lord, who enjoys most of his Lord's affections. Lastly, David left his cause in God's hands. Should it be that treachery lurked in the hearts of his proffered helpers, conscious of his own integrity, he could leave his vindication with the God of his fathers. Truly David was governed by the Holy Spirit in this greeting.

Nor is the reply of this company, through the lips of Amasai, the chief of the captains, less beautiful. We are expressly told, indeed, that the Spirit came upon him and ordered his speech; and we may therefore call especial attention to the words which he uttered. "Thine are we, David," he said. Here it is where all true service commences - in the acknowledgment that we belong to Christ. There are many Christians who have never distinctly taken this ground. They have found relief for their consciences through the efficacy of the precious blood of Christ, but they have never really received Him as their LORD. It was the first thing which Saul of Tarsus did. Subdued by the grace of the One who had sought him, when in the full career of his enmity against Jesus of Nazareth, he bowed at His feet with the words, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And, though there were failures, this was the attitude he maintained throughout the whole of his devoted life. What then of ourselves? Suffer the question, dear reader, Have you definitely taken this place, owning the Lord's absolute claims upon and over you? If this has been done, let us remember, at the same time, that it needs constant watchfulness, and the realization of entire dependence, day by day, to continue in the place taken. We may say today, "Lord we are thine"; and tomorrow we may allow our own wills. But if we have accepted the yoke of Christ, and if our eyes are ever fastened upon His blessed example, as the meek and lowly One, we shall indeed find rest to our souls. Thine are we, Lord Jesus!

Amasai continued: "And on thy side, thou son of Jesse." This would mean that Amasai and his companions had ranged themselves on the side of David, as the true king, and against all his enemies. Henceforward they refused Saul, and were on David's side in all the conflicts he might have to wage on his way to the throne and the kingdom. They now had God's thoughts concerning both David and Saul, and they identified themselves with that son of Jesse whom Samuel had anointed as God's elect king. In the application to ourselves two meanings may be distinguished. If we are of the same spirit as Amasai and his company, we shall be on the side of Christ in all His controversies and conflicts; we shall be for Him and against all His adversaries. Like Paul, we shall seek to be "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Then we may advance a step further. Amasai and his companions had turned their backs upon the man in power, and had now taken their place outside of his world and its attractions, in becoming identified with the man of God's own choice. Have we, in like manner, turned our backs upon the man in power in the world, and assumed our true place on the side of God's accepted Man, the Lord Jesus Christ? To do so there is a journey to be taken - even as Amasai and his companions went out from the kingdom of Saul to take their place with David. May it be true of us that, in this sense, we are on the side of Christ.

Having thus declared themselves, Amasai added, "Peace, peace, be unto thee, and peace to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee." This was the language of faith, for Amasai's responsive salutation was grounded upon the assurance that God was David's helper. Outwardly, everything was at this time against David. Saul was on the throne, and he was using the whole power of his kingdom to destroy the one whom he knew had been chosen of God to reign over His people. But faith possesses God's thoughts, and hence looks onward to the sure and certain accomplishment of the word which He has spoken. These men of Judah and Benjamin, therefore, already realized the coming glory of David's reign; for faith is the "substantiating" of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In like manner, the believer now is not deluded by what he sees, by the glamour which the god of this world throws on all around him, because he knows that by God's immutable decree all things are put under Christ as the Son of man, and that He will soon assume His power and reign until all enemies are put under His feet. May we ever discern, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the true character of things around us, that we may never be deceived by appearances, and that, while waiting for the coming glory and kingdom of our blessed Lord and Saviour, we may be found unmistakably on His side!