In these last three chapters of 1 Samuel we have the conclusion to the story of the life of Saul, the first king of Israel. In chapter 29, we learn that David does not, in fact, fight with the Philistines against Israel as planned. The reason for this is that the Philistine fighting men do not trust him despite King Achish’s trust in him. Thus, Achish sends David home and David’s honor is protected before his own people for the future.
In chapter 30, when David arrives home, he finds that the Amalekites have raided his town and plundered it, taking his two wives and the wives and children of his men captive. As in every situation, David handles this tragic news by turning to the Lord. “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6)
David and his six hundred men go in pursuit of the Amalekites and win a battle against them, rescuing their wives and children in the process. Some of David’s men are not able to join him and so stay behind “with the baggage”. David’s fighting men protest when David wants to share the spoils with those who stayed behind. However, David says, “For the share of the one who goes down into the battle shall be the same as the share of the one who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:24)
Often those of us who “stay behind with the baggage” in life, those who play quiet, behind-the-scenes roles, those who stay home and support missionaries through prayer and financial giving, do not feel that we have done as much as those who have “gone to the front lines of battle”. However, as David makes clear here, sometimes the role of those who stay behind is just as important as those who go into battle, and so both should be rewarded. Certainly, all God’s people who have faithfully served his kingdom purposes will be rewarded at the end of time.
In chapter 31, we have the account of the deaths of Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, in battle on Mount Gilboa. Saul dies ignominiously by his own hand. The end of his life serves as quite a contrast to David, whose life, despite many battles, is on the upswing. A comparison of the lives of Saul and David reveals the truth of the statement, “It is not how you start, but how you finish that counts.”