The Necessary Negative

David’s path to kingship included many twists and turns. In the early years, it seemed like the only thing that went well was the fact that he was able to stay alive, but was that all that was going on or was God working behind the scenes?


While being chased by Saul, David pretended to defect. He found refuge with the Philistines and, over the years, he clearly earned King Achish’s trust. It is good to remember that, at this moment in history, the Philistines were the only ones with the technology to make and sharpen metal tools and weapons (1 Samuel 13:19-21). Their control over blacksmithing was so complete that only Saul and Jonathan carried metal weapons into battle (1 Samuel 13:22). It is easy to imagine how this technological advantage was one of the reasons the Philistines dominated Israel for so long.


In just a few chapters, we will see the balance of power suddenly shift when David is enthroned as king. It makes me wonder, was David’s rule just simply blessed by God or did God’s blessing include something else, something that was gained during the negative years of exile among the Philistines?


For David, to take power over the Philistines required that there be blacksmiths in Israel. How did they gain this technology? Some suggest that, during this season of exile, David (more likely some of David’s men) was trained in metallurgy by the Philistines. Even while David felt oppressed, abandoned, misunderstood and was just trying to stay alive, God had a broader set of goals in mind. But God’s use of the negative to prepare for the positive doesn’t stop here.

When King Achish sent David away from the battle, David and his men were able to return home in time to rescue their families from the Amalekites. Had they remained with the Philistines, they would have returned home too late to make this kind of difference. After they beat and plundered those who had beaten and plundered them, David sent gifts to elders in Judah, thus strengthening friendships that would later come in very handy. This, too, could not have happened if David had not been publically humiliated by being asked to leave the army and go home.

David is not alone here. We see this “necessary negative” embedded in lives throughout the Bible. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, might He still do the same for His people today? When things go counter to the way I would have liked, do I grumble and complain or do I trust that the Lord is at work even when it seems like the work I want to do is no longer possible? What about you? How might God use the “negative” things in your past (or present) to prepare for a positive result in the future?

I am not saying that we will be able to connect the dots and see a reason for every bad thing that happens. But I am saying that God’s promise to use all things for our good (Romans 8:28, 29) and His command to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) can be trusted, even when we feel rejected, humiliated or are just wasting our time in exile.

By faith then, let us encourage one another to practice giving Him thanks, no matter what may have happened to us or be happening around us.