Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” (1 Samuel 30:13)
It’s a remarkable truth that our spiritual freedom rests, on a purely practical level, in our hands. The Son of God, through His sacrifice, has already broken, dealt with, destroyed and defeated anything that can prevent or hinder us living the fullness of life in Him. That’s an established fact. It cannot be changed, altered or diluted, and there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve it. But our walking in it is a matter of our own choice. We decide how far we’re willing to enter in, how much we’re willing to yield and how committed we are to the full Christian life.
Like the young man in today’s chapter, we are all confronted by the need to choose – and it’s not limited to the large moments that alter the course of our future path or have great impact on ourselves and others. It’s easy to become a little complacent and to assume that the ‘testing of our faith’ is limited to these larger-than-life situations in which the outcome determines the magnitude of the test. The truth, however, is a little simpler and a little deeper, and is easily overlooked.
There is a beautiful symbolism in this story that illustrates this in a simple and powerful way. Firstly, the setting is in the middle of a battle. Like the young man of the story, we’re in a war – an ongoing battle in which the forces of self, the world and the enemy consipire to bring down the people of God. The lines are clearly drawn. There is ‘of God’ and ‘not of God.’ The battle is real and the enemy is real, and as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, we’re automatically drafted. David does not give the option that his captive may be a conscientious objecter or a neutral party. Sitting on the fence is never an option.
Secondly, we can easily identify with this young man. He was previously in the army of the kingdom of darkness. Whether or not he entered it by choice is not relevant. He might have been unwittingly conscripted, drawn into the web of a subtle war without even realising what was happening – as many people are. David does not ask how he came to be with the amalekites, or whether he was there by choice or coercion. He simply recognises the truth that there is God’s side or the other side and that the man before Him was from the other side.
Thirdly, the captive meets the King. This is a sure and certain truth. Every single soldier will have the opportunity that this man had. Every single person will meet the King and have the chance to choose a side. These two things are utterly non-negotiable. Jesus will reveal Himself and we have free will to make our choice freely – for Him or against Him. There will always be a time in every life when the King is revealed and we have to make that choice.
Fourthly, the King is the way of redemption. This young man was a captive, a prisoner of war, and it’s very unlikely that the amalekites would have offered a ‘deal’ were the situation reversed. But David’s heart is a type of the heart of Christ. He is a prescursor to the full redemptive purposes perfected in Jesus. He offers his prisoner the way out, a possibility for restoration, a place of protection and safety. Meeting the King will always bring the opportunity for redemption. It’s more than confession and repentance. It’s the opportunity for a new life, for freedom from captivity and bondage, and for inclusion in the people of God.
David’s questions to this young man are telling. They highlight the absolute heart of the matter, avoiding equivocation or grey areas or excuses. To whom do you belong? It’s a question we should be asking ourselves daily, not just at the point of salvation where we choose the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of darkness. It’s a question we should be asking moment by moment – at work when the job seems to demand something not quite ethical, at home when we’re impatient with those close to us, among friends when the language and the slander is outside the guidelines of the Bible.
Each time we’re confronted by temptation or compromise or pressure to conform to the world, this is the question that can ground us and bring us back to being in Christ. To whom do I belong in this moment, this situation, this difficulty? If someone were to look at me right now, what allegience would my attitude and behaviour display? Would they see the true King, or something else? The popular ‘what would Jesus do?’ slogan is rooted in this, but David’s question is far deeper. What we say and do is what we are, and ultimately defines who we belong to. Jesus highlights this when He talks of them being children of Satan – your father the devil. Our choices define our real allegience.
The second question – where do you come from? – is a gentle reminder of where we were before we met the King. It’s a reminder of what He has done and what we were without Him. It’s a reminder of the reasons why we chose Him over the world, over self, over darkness and sin and bondage. It’s a reminder of the reason why we’re in the war, and what our being their entails. Our young man faced these questions and made his choice, and from that moment on his focus was only on what furthered the cause of the king.
That is our daily choice, but the beauty of it lies in the fact that it’s not a weight of religious duty. It’s not this heavy yoke we carry, a constant reminder that we’re sinners all and beyond a hope of redemption. We’re not meant to live in constant fear that we’re going to miss the mark, slide, fall, give in to our weaknesses. While the choice is real, and while it is relevant for every single moment in every single day, the abiding truth it contains is that, at the moment of choice, the King is there.
No matter what we face, no matter what the confrontation or temptation, the King is always there. He always offers us the choice, the opportunity that includes grace, the strength to make the right choice and to live with it. Our King goes with us into battle. He never expects us to do anything without Him, and provides all we need to do it. Where the King is, there is always a choice. Where there is a choice, there is always the King.
What I say and do reflects either my new master or my old. Jesus knows that ours is a journey, that we’re all ‘in training’ and will no doubt mess up many times along the way. Grace looks at the heart and helps to bring the rest in line with that. Like that young man, the moment we make our choice for Christ, we come under His protection. From then on, our King walks with us to remind and enable us to extend our commitment to His cause in our daily battles. When we choose Jesus there will always be victory, though it may take time and effort to complete the battle. Our spiritual choices will always define the outcome of the battle.
Thank You, Jesus, that You’re an ever-present King who is with us even the heart of every battle. Remind us, Lord, of these questions as we go through our moments of great choice and simple choice. Help us to always see You in praise and thanksgiving for Your faithfullness and grace. Help us to remember where we came from, and to know that we belong only to You.