Down through biblical history there have been some remarkable victories “against all odds”.

The case of David and his association with Ziklag and beyond is another case in point. 1 Samuel 29:1–2, 9–11 sets the scene. David would never have wished to fought with the Philistine army against Saul and the army of Israel. So the princes of the Philistines unknowingly did him a favour in totally refusing his support. No doubt the providence of Yahweh was behind this incident. When the Philistine army marched out from Aphek to confront Israel, David thus set out to return to Ziklag, the city given to him by Achish, and was no doubt greatly relieved by this favourable turn of events.

Perhaps he thought that at last better times were in store for him, but he was hardly expecting to see the utter desolation that confronted him and his men when they arrived back at Ziklag three days later. 1 Samuel 30:1–5 graphically paints the picture and the effect on David and his men.

What was David to do? He was greatly distressed, and his men were so bitter that they openly spoke of stoning him to death (v6)! Where was the providence of Yahweh now?

When things look hopeless in life, it does not mean that Yahweh has deserted us, and it is here in this tragic situation that the character of David now shines through. He did the only thing we can do when all hope seems lost: “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (v6).

When he enquired, Yahweh then responded with a great message of surety: “thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (v8). So David and his men set out in hot pursuit of the Amalekites, and exactly as predicted by Yahweh, and humanly speaking, “against all odds”, they did indeed recover all (v16–19).

When one considers how cruel and ruthless the Amalekites were, it is utterly amazing that David and his men should achieve such a remarkable victory, for “David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives” (v18). It must have been like a dream to David at the time, but perhaps he came to understand more fully than he had ever imagined that when Yahweh says “all” He means “all”; ‘no ifs or buts’.

From fugitive to king

This remarkable victory in fact did indeed turn out to be a turning point in David’s life. Better times were just around the corner for him, although he did not know it yet, and would never have dreamed it. After so many years as an outcast, David must have thought that he would never become king. Sadly the army of Israel was defeated by the Philistines on Mt Gilboa, and Saul the King of Israel and his sons were slain. And then suddenly after years of being a fugitive on the run from Saul with a price on his head, with death continually ever so near, David found himself proclaimed king by the men of Judah (2 Sam 2:1–4, 11).

When David had returned to Ziklag and saw the utter desolation with everything taken, who would ever have thought that within a very short time he would not only recover everything, and everyone, but shortly after would be proclaimed as King? Surely life doesn’t change that quickly does it? With Yahweh nothing is impossible and what would have seemed like a dream turned out to be true! In a moment David was changed from a fugitive to a king “against all odds”!

Hezekiah: when all hope seemed lost

Let us now turn our attention to another king, Hezekiah, and the defeat of Sennacherib. When Sennacherib and his Assyrian army laid siege to and surrounded Jerusalem after totally ravaging the surrounding country, the city was the last stronghold of Judah remaining in the land. Assyria was the greatest world power of the time and it seemed inevitable that Jerusalem would eventually fall as well. 2 Kings 18:17–25, 28–35 sets the scene. Humanly speaking Jerusalem was finished; her chances of surviving the Assyrian onslaught were nil! The odds were stacked against the city, and the inhabitants were no doubt terrified of what would happen to them should Sennacherib’s army breach the walls.

Yet faithful Hezekiah was their king, so perhaps the people still thought there was some hope that deliverance would come; but from where?

In the midst of this time of great trouble Hezekiah fell sick with a serious illness, and the message came to him from Isaiah to set his house in order for he was to die (Isa 38:1).

This news was devastating for the king and the city. Surely now the city would fall and the king would perish having no seed to continue the dynasty. Isaiah 38:9–14 gives us a very clear and personal insight of Hezekiah’s great sorrow at this time.

Confidence in a promise

But like David before him, Hezekiah in his greatest extremity turned to Yahweh and earnestly sought Him, not only for his own life, but no doubt also for the city. Yahweh heard his prayer, and he was given absolute reassurance that not only would his life be spared, but Jerusalem also would be saved (v4–8)! So confident was Hezekiah in Yahweh’s promise of deliverance that in words he later composed commemorating this time, he extolled the grace of his God and spoke of the promised salvation at the time as if it had already occurred (v9, 15–20 – note v15 “[he] hath done it”). The Easy to Read Version (ERV) of the Bible puts it this way: “What can I say? He told me what would happen, and he will make it happen. I have had these troubles in my soul, so now I will be humble all my life”. What wonderful words of confidence from a man who only shortly before was told to set his house in order for he was to die, while outside the walls of Jerusalem was the most powerful army on earth, ready to destroy the city of God and His people!

“Against all odds”, Jerusalem was saved in one of the most decisive victories of all time, just as Yahweh had promised; “it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they ( the inhabitants of Jerusalem) arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (2 Kings 19:35).

“When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, the LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us (i.e. the “it” of Hezekiah’s writing in Isaiah 38:15); whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psa 126).

What an impetus to the people’s faith at that time, and what an impetus to our faith today. What are the “its” in our life that Yahweh has done for us despite everything appearing to be hopeless? Surely we have all experienced remarkable blessings from our God when all seemed lost?

Against all human odds Yahweh can and does work in our lives.