“Tender words to the tired heart” is how Max Lucado describes the story. After reading posts last week by Max Lucado and Eugene Peterson, (actually excerpts from previous books) I finally had time to look at this story of grace for the exhausted found in 1 Samuel 30.
Not a story of strength and power and training like in Men of Valor. It’s a story about broken men, weak and tired, unable to do what we (and their companions) expected of them. “As Lucado writes, How tired does a person have to be to abandon the hunt for his own family?”
But a story of grace for the exhausted. I know many of you understand this exhaustion. An exhaustion that I have much more experience with this year I would have chosen. An exhaustion that is no sparer of person nor of calling.
Two hundred men left at Brook Besor, too exhausted (stressed out ? to use a modern day term), to pursue the men (Amalekites) who had kidnapped their wives and children (30:10). While the 200 are reduced to being supply guards, David continues pursuit along with 400 others. David succeeded in recovering everything and everyone that had been taken (30:18) just as the Lord had promised success (30:10). David declared plunder was to be equally shared between those who fought in the battle and those who guarded the supplies (30:24, much to the disgust of evil men and trouble makes among his group (30:22). David’s reasoning–our victory was of grace, God has given it all to us (30:23), why not share?
Peterson comments about the final scene:
Just then David stepped in. His intervention is the climax to the story. David intervened at the Brook Besor, and his intervention is pure gospel. David ruled that everybody at the brook that day — the two hundred who had been unable to continue and had been given the undramatic, behind-the-scenes work of watching over the supplies at the brook 1 Sam. 30:24) and the four hundred who had fought for their lives — were equals and would share everything equally: “Everything we have is a gift from God; we share it with all who are saved by God” (1 Sam. 30:23-25).
The ringleaders of the “fairness” policy are called “wicked and base fellows” (1 Sam. 30:22). Strong words, it would seem, for what sounds like common sense and plain justice. Until we remember who these people are and where they are: these are the men of Ziklag with nothing in their backgrounds to be proud of, all of them picked up from a disreputable life and brought, through no merit of their own, into the net of God’s providence and salvation. And the Amalekite chase itself? They had started out wanting to kill David, and only through David’s prayer with Abiathar and their desert hospitality to the Egyptian had they gotten their families back
Everything they experienced was sheer grace. How could they talk about dividing things up fairly? God was treating them with marvellous and generous grace; David would see to it that they treated one another with marvellous and generous grace.
David at the Brook Besor anticipates Jesus: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28-30, The Message).
At the end of his post, Lucado writes about how in the church we have men (and women) who are exhausted like the men left behind at the Brook Besor.
The church has its quorum of such folks. Good people. Godly people. Only hours or years ago they marched with deep resolve. But now fatigue consumes them. They’re exhausted. So beat-up and worn down that they can’t summon the strength to save their own flesh and blood. Old age has sucked their oxygen. Or maybe it was a deflating string of defeats. Divorce can leave you at the brook. Addiction can as well. Whatever the reason, the church has its share of people who just sit and rest.
And the church must decide. What do we do with the Brook Besor people? Berate them? Shame them? Give them a rest but measure the minutes? Or do we do what David did? David let them stay.
Lucado provides life giving words to us all when we are exhausted.
If you are listed among them, here is what you need to know: it’s okay to rest. Jesus is your David. He fights when you cannot. He goes where you cannot. He’s not angry if you sit. Did he not invite, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest” (Mark 6:31 MSG)?
Brook Besor blesses rest.
Brook Besor also cautions against arrogance. David knew the victory was a gift. Let’s remember the same. Salvation comes like the Egyptian in the desert, a delightful surprise on the path. Unearned. Undeserved. Who are the strong to criticize the tired?
Are you weary? Catch your breath. We need your strength.
Are you strong? Reserve passing judgment on the tired. Odds are, you’ll need to plop down yourself. And when you do, Brook Besor is a good story to know.
In a most unusual post, Brett and Kate McKay write about how to lose with dignity and celebrate with grace. Beginning with the gracious way the American Civil War ended between Generals Grant and Lee, ending with the victory of Churchill over Chamberlain in 1940 and with American football in between, the Mckay’s come up with the following principles.
Accept responsibility for the loss.
Bow out gracefully.
Acknowledge the winner.
But a failure to acknowledge the victory of your fellow competitor shows a lack of respect for him; a man can be your rival, but you can still admire his courage and his fight, and the fact that on this day, he fought harder. Sulking away also shows a lack of discipline on your part—you are so overwhelmed with anger and grief at your loss that you cannot think of anything else but your own pity. Being able to control your feelings in that moment is the mark of strength and self-control, not to mention perspective.
And in some cases, even support the winner.
Learn from the loss and move on.
Grace is one of the things we should pray for, says Yancey in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference. Enjoy these words from page 280.
Grace descends as the gentle rain from heaven. It does not divide, does not rank. It floats like a cloud high in the sky, and the thirsty pray for it as desert nomads pray for rain.
Prayer for grace offers the chance for a deep healing, or at least a way to cope with what cannot be fixed.
According to John Fischer, “Thankfulness is so tied to grace that the absence of gratitude in a Christian’s life is an indication that legalism still rules the day.”
Since Romans 5:1-10 is such a rich passage, I am going to spend the week reflecting on it along with Psalm 139.
What struck me this morning is how much God has done–He has done it all. We stand in grace but only because he has put us there in the first place. The image I get is that we are floating on the sea of grace. We may swim in it but our strokes are almost effortless, free from any sense of struggle or tension. Need to find a picture of someone swimming in the dead sea to fit this.
Q: You and Chuck Swindoll, another well-known pastor and author, are very different in style, but you both base your ministries on grace. Why is grace so important to you, personally?
A: It’s the big surprise of the Bible. It’s the unique aspect of Christianity that we’re not saved by what we do, but by what Christ has done for us. It’s the command of Scripture over and over to be strong in the grace, let your roots grow down deep in the grace of God, and it’s the only reason we have for joy.
It’s the only story worth telling. Even victory over death is second to grace. I think victory over death is awesome, but who wants to live for eternity if they have to save themselves? So the Easter promise is subservient to the promise of Good Friday.
Couple of quotes that I liked–maybe if I write them here, I won’t forget them so easily. The first is supposedly from Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace but I don’t have the energy to look for it. The second one I had in my little notebook–who knows where it came from. But, not original with me!
Why is it that grace, the key unique characteristic of the Christian faith, “The notion of God’ love coming to us free of charge…”, is so rarely shared amongst those of us who profess to be it’s recipients?
Life has a way of exposing our personal vanities.
The longer I live, the more I understand my need for the following prayer by Thomas a Kempis
“Oh Lord Jesus, make possible to me by grace what is impossible to me by nature.” Book3:19 Imitation of Christ