Turkey or Godly
Scripture: 1 Samuel 26:1–25
Turkey Or Godly1 Samuel 26:1-25
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith
This past Sunday after church we had some company at our house. With the sermon still fresh on our minds, I couldn't resist the comparison when I saw all the food placed on the table. I said, "Julie, with all the preparation you did, you remind me of Abigail!" Though I intended it as a compliment, our guests, working the roles out in their minds took offense. They said, "If she is Abigail, that makes us foolish David!" Everybody giggled, I probably more than the others, until my loving wife said, "Randy, I don't know why you find this so funny? If they are David and I am Abigail - that makes you Nabal!"
Last week we learned about Nabal. The translation of his name meant "foolish." Throughout the Bible he is the "poster-boy" of biblical folly.
In 25:17 his servants speak of his foolishness. Four verses later, David speaks of his foolishness (25:21). And another four verses later, his own wife speaks of his foolishness (25:25). Even the reader of this account draws the same conclusion when Nabal's life is compared with the identification of a fool found in Proverbs. He was arrogant and careless (Pr. 14:16). His ways were always right in his own eyes (Pr. 12:15). He did not care for understanding, but only for airing his own opinions (Pr. 18:2). He lost his temper (Pr. 29:11). And he destroyed his own home (Pr. 14:11). Clearly, Nabal followed the suit of all fools: He made his folly evident to all (Ecc. 10:3; 2 Tim. 3:9).
While Nabal played a prominent role in last week's chapter, second to God, the ultimate spotlight was on David. As He does for all of us in Christ, our Lord was seeking to transform David to greater degrees of godliness. And as I mentioned last week, oftentimes God's tool in this process of spiritual transformation is interpersonal conflict. Oh how much we will gain when we begin to view conflict as an opportunity for spiritual growth. So as God brought another test into David's life, personal adversity with Nabal, we sat back and wondered how the soon-to-be-king would respond.
In comparison to the surrounding cast from 1 Samuel, would he be a God-fearer like Samuel or a man-fearer like Eli? Would he be loyal like Jonathan or fickle like Saul? Would he be wise like Abigail or foolish like Nabal?
As we know from last week, David failed the test. On the one hand, we realize that David is a man of flesh, susceptible to temptation and sin like the rest of us. Yet on the other hand, we realize that David's actions were inexcusable. After being anointed king in chapter 16, it is hard to find excuses why the man after God's own heart assembled 400 men in preparation to annihilate a whole household in chapter 25 because he took offense at the homeowner's disposition (25:13)!
Yet despite David's sin, God is faithful to His children. He keeps His loving hand upon us at all times. The discipline and the tests He sends our way are the evidence we belong to Him. And our spiritual growth is the assurance that He is working in our hearts.
God granted David repentance by the end of chapter 25 (verses 32-35). And before David has a chance to take another breath, God thrusts David into another test - once again, interpersonal conflict. As we study this test, very similar to the one from chapter 24, I trust you will see that God's servants are not spared the flames of adversity, lest they be spared opportunities to mature in their faith and conform greater to the image of God. Again, we sit back and wonder how David will respond. Will he fail or will he pass? In light of Thanksgiving, I have entitled this sermon: "Turkey or Godly?"
We knew Saul's teary-eyed confession from chapter 24 seemed a little too good to be true (24:16-22). Throughout the book, the man has proved unreliable, untrustworthy and unstable. Saul has never been a model of godliness, but things went from bad to worse when "the Spirit of the Lord departed from (him)" in chapter 16 (verse 14). Therefore we shouldn't be surprised that as soon as Saul is reintroduced in chapter 26, again, he is relentlessly on the heels of David.
After the Ziphites ratted David out now for the second time (23:19; 26:1 - by the way, these were his own countrymen from Judah), verse 2 says, "Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having with him three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search for David in the wilderness of Ziph." Considering David's 600 troops (23:13; 27:2), that's a five-to-one ratio, my friends!
Well, as Saul had his informants, David had his spies. When the report came identifying Saul's whereabouts, David went to the disclosed location, positioned himself on higher ground and (verse 5) observed Saul's army, his commander, Abner, and Saul himself encamped in the middle of the entourage.
The stage is set.
As David is overlooking the camp of the man seeking to take his life, we have to wonder, how will God use this test to refine David's character? Sovereignly appropriated interpersonal conflict. Will David respond in a godly manner? Let's find out as we examine four marks of godliness this morning.
1. GODLINESS IS OBEDIENCE (verses 6-12)
I am calling the first point: "Godliness is Obedience."
Possibly the greatest mark of godliness is obedience to the revealed will of God. Regardless of our profession, the evidence that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit is the desire and ability to obey the Word of God.
Martin Luther once said, "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ."
As David viewed Saul and all of his army, verse 6 informs us that he had an idea. "Who will go down with me to Saul in the camp?" If any overheard this private inquiry, they probably thought David was out of his mind! However, zealous Abishai (a nephew of David - 1 Ch. 2:13-16) offers his services thinking this is some type of a two-man commando raid. At night the two of them depart and they find the camp as they observed it earlier. Verse 7, "Saul lay sleeping inside the circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the people were lying around him" (cf. Judges 7).
As they picked their way through the sleeping troops, they came upon Saul. Abishai couldn't resist the thought. In verse 8 he whispered to David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hand; now therefore, please let me strike him with the spear to the ground with one stroke, and I will not strike him the second time."
In other words, "David, this is the man who has been seeking to kill you. Maybe the cave episode before was accidental (24:3), but this is definitely a special gift from the Lord. So even though you refuse to kill him (24:6), let me put an end to this man's life with the very spear he tossed at you numerous times in the past (18:11; 19:10). Just say the word. All I need is one shot and you will be finally sitting on the throne!"
Yet despite the convincing pleas from Abishai, David knew that it was not right to execute justice by wrongdoing. Regardless of what others said or what his feelings dictated, David knew that godly ends must be brought about by godly means.
David passed the test. He stood obedient to God's word.
Beginning in verse 9, "But David said to Abishai, 'Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD'S anointed and be without guilt?' David also said, 'As the LORD lives, surely the LORD will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down into battle and perish. The LORD forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the LORD'S anointed; but now please take the spear that is at his head and the jug of water, and let us go.' So David took the spear and the jug of water from beside Saul's head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a sound sleep from the LORD had fallen on them" (26:9-12).
A few notable observations regarding David's obedience in these verses:
First, obedience to God's word took priority over his personal safety. Though David could have been much safer by eliminating the man that was seeking to murder him, he submitted to God's word that forbid himself and Abishai from killing the Lord's anointed.
Second, obedience to God's word took priority over his emotional desires. There can be no doubt that David did not enjoy running around as a fugitive when he was already promised the kingship of Israel! Yet regardless of his personal desires, he trusted the Lord's timetable knowing that God would remove Saul (maybe by natural causes or maybe by battle - 26:10) how and when He desired.
Third, obedience to God's word took priority over the easy way out. David didn't have to kill Saul, personally. He had a willing hit-man in the person of Abishai ready and able to do his dirty work. I suppose a weaker man would have given in to the temptation, but David stood firm on his principles and took total responsibility of this situation and restrained Abishai.
Fourth, obedience to God's word took priority over the opinions of others. As it often happens, God smiles, but others scoff, mock and persecute those who pursue righteousness (Mt. 5:10). David probably took some flack from many when they returned to the camp. I can hear Abishai's own words to the others when they gathered around their brave hero for a report: "Saul was snoozing right at my feet - and David wouldn't let me do it! Risked my life tonight for a canteen and a spear!" (David, 1 Samuel, p. 272).
Through this episode as David demonstrated obedience, we see him maturing in his faith. We see him transferring the lessons he learned with Nabal regarding patience and self-control. He learned that God could deal with oppressors as easily as He can deal with fools. We see David putting into practice his faith, which knew that obedience, though oftentimes difficult, is always the right course of action.
"Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land," A nineteenth century industrial baron once said to Mark Twain. "I will climb to the top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud." Twain replied, "Why don't you (just) stay home and keep them?" (Source Unknown).
I am personally convinced that much of our disobedience is not due to a lack of knowledge as it is a lack of desire. As this man told Mark Twain, it is much easier to feel religious and talk religious, than actually act religious! I can talk about the timing of the Rapture until the cows come home and probably impress quite a few intellects, but get me going on the need to love my wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25) and it's a different story. That's convicting! That takes work! I am persuaded that our fight for obedience is not so much a battle for intelligence as it is a war on the turf of our hearts for humble submission to Christ's lordship.
Like David, we might not always know how God's providence works, but as we live in an age when everybody is trying to discern the will of the Lord for the future, we can be certain that it is God's will to obey His revealed word in the present. I suggest we would be wiser to talk less, rationalize less and complain less, and begin obeying more and do what we already know to be true.
2. GODLINESS IS BOLDNESS (verses 13-16)
Godliness is obedience, and as we move to the second point, godliness is also boldness (Pr. 14:26).
Verse 13, "Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the mountain at a distance with a large area between them."
After taking Saul's spear (a dominant symbol - 26:7, 8, 11, 12, 26, 22) and jug of water, David and Abishai wisely placed some safe distance between themselves and Saul's army. Being bold does not imply being foolish!
Beginning in verse 14, "David called to the people and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, 'Will you not answer, Abner?' Then Abner replied, 'Who are you who calls to the king?' So David said to Abner, 'Are you not a man? And who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not guarded your lord the king? For one of the people came to destroy the king your lord. This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, all of you must surely die, because you did not guard your lord, the LORD'S anointed. And now, see where the king's spear is and the jug of water that was at his head.'"
You will remember that Abner was the commander of Saul's army (26:5). No doubt Abner was initially disturbed by some vagabond shouting nonsense in the wee-hours of the morning. "Waking up the king! Who does this crazed lunatic on the top of a mountain think he is?" If Abner realized this was the man that he and 3,000 of his men were seeking to kill, no doubt his anger would have risen and his justification for the hunt increased.
But David, demonstrating tremendous boldness turns it all around. The innocent one accused begins to accuse those truly guilty of sin. David shifts the blame. As they sought to destroy David, David testifies to the fact that they are the ones that truly needed to be destroyed (verse 16 - "all of you"). Capital punishment was warranted for those who failed to protect the king. They were sound asleep, unaware of the present threat to the defenseless king as the enemy effortlessly danced in and out of their camp. And the enemy had two of Saul's most prized possessions to prove it (26:12, 16)! Understandably, Abner had nothing to say.
Godly individuals put God first in all that they do. And to put God first in a fallen world at enmity with God takes incredible boldness. It is a world that loves the darkness hates the light. And as we see throughout Scripture (2 Ti. 3:12), have confirmed from the words of Jesus (Jn. 15:20) and testify in the life of David (1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Psalms), those who boldly speak on behalf of King Yahweh will be persecuted (Psm. 37:12; Mk. 10:30; Lk. 21:12; Ac. 5:40; 1 Pet. 3:14; 1 Jn. 3:12; Rev. 2:10).
So, we have a choice. Will we act like Abner who was sleeping when he should have been vigilant for the king, or will we act like David and speak on behalf of the King boldly testifying for truth regardless of the cost? There are too many who profess to be children of King Jesus, yet are often found like Abner sleeping in His shadows, while His enemies are having a field day with His hallowed name and beloved bride. The church needs to wake up and rediscover the biblical call to guard the gospel and contend for the faith with great boldness (Jer. 1:7-8; Mt. 10:27-28; Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1:20: 2 Tim. 1:14; Ju. 1:3)!
3. GODLINESS IS HUMILITY (verses 17-20)
Third, godly individuals are humble.
As Proverbs calls "the righteous (to be as) bold as a lion" (Pr. 28:1), it also says, "A humble spirit will obtain honor" (Pr. 29:23). And in a book that extols wisdom, it takes tremendous wisdom to be both bold and humble at the same time. Having too much of one without the other produces a person who is either bold but arrogant or a person who is humble but soft.
David demonstrated both boldness (17:45-47) and humility (2 Sam. 7:18). Following immediately on the heels of his boldness in his speech to Abner comes tremendous humility in his speech to Saul.
Verse 17, "Then Saul recognized David's voice and said, 'Is this your voice, my son David?'"
As we continue in verse 17, listen to David's humble heart. "And David said, 'It is my voice, my lord the king.' He also said, 'Why then is my lord pursuing his servant?"
Respectful and affectionate acknowledgment of the king. Addressing him twice as "my lord." Referring to himself as the king's "servant." Let's remember that this is the man who gave David's wife to another (25:44) and thirsted for David's blood every day (23:14)!
Let's continue (halfway through verse 18), "For what have I done? Or what evil is in my hand? Now therefore, please let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If the LORD has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering; but if it is men, cursed are they before the LORD."
Speaking words of reason. Believing the best of Saul's motives. Attributing Saul's hostile actions to the gossip of jealous men (cf. 24:9). Even suggesting personal sin and the potential of Saul being a tool in God's hands to execute God's judgment on David (no different than Nebuchadnezzar against the Israelites). If this were the case, David was prepared to offer a sacrifice (verse 19 says) and get things right.
Let's continue (halfway through verse 19), "For they have driven me out today so that I would have no attachment with the inheritance of the LORD, saying, 'Go, serve other gods.' Now then, do not let my blood fall to the ground away from the presence of the LORD."
This possibly concerned David the most. In his constant need to run from Saul, David was being forced out of the Promised Land into pagan land (cf. 21:10-15; 27:1, 11). And although David knew God is everywhere, for the Jew to be cut from Yahweh's inheritance and the priestly sacrificial system in the tabernacle meant to be left with no possibility for public worship. This was David's greatest grief, and they are piercing words for us today who exalt flying solo and undervalue the privilege and responsibility of corporate worship. David wanted more than a Study Bible, prayer list and quiet cave. He knew that God saves us to be part of a body. Prideful people do not think that way. Humble people do!
Let's continue (halfway through verse 20), "For the king of Israel has come out to search for a single flea, just as one hunts a partridge in the mountains."
What began in addressing Saul as "my lord" and "the king," ends with David addressing himself as "a single flea" and "a partridge" (cf. 18:18; 24:14). In other words, it was beneath Saul's dignity to waste his time pursuing such a worthless fellow. What humility!
4. GODLINESS IS A LIFE OF FAITH (verses 21-25)
Godly people are obedient. Godly people are bold. Godly people are humble. And lastly, godly people pursue a life of faith.
Verse 21, "Then Saul said, 'I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.'"
Though Saul appears to give a great confession, invitation, promise and rationale for his behavior, David demonstrates that his ultimate confidence is in the One who ultimately sustains, protects, provides and delivers. David's faith in God is clearly seen in his final words.
Beginning in verse 22, "David replied, 'Behold the spear of the king! Now let one of the young men come over and take it. The LORD will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the LORD delivered you into my hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the LORD'S anointed. Now behold, as your life was highly valued in my sight this day, so may my life be highly valued in the sight of the LORD, and may He deliver me from all distress.'"
That's the faith of a godly man!
Verse 25, "Then Saul said to David, 'Blessed are you, my son David; you will both accomplish much and surely prevail.' So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place."
This is the last time both Saul and David will see each other. The text says they go their own way, but spiritually speaking, they are two men heading in opposite directions - one to godly maturity and the other to self-destruction
It becomes a rather tragic ending for Saul. The man of humble origins was given the greatest privilege in all Israel. But due to his (sermon outline!) lack of obedience, lack of courage, lack of humility and lack of faith, he lost it all. He lost the voice of God (soon we will see the desperate man consult a witch for guidance - 28:7). Eventually, the king in name only, lost his crown.
What a contrast that is from another Saul spoken of in the Bible. Saul of Tarsus, who eventually became known as the Apostle Paul, had it all from a worldly sense (Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5-6), but considered it all rubbish when compared to faith in Christ (Phil. 3:8). He in turn gained a heavenly crown. On his deathbed the man of faith said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:7-8a).
At the beginning we spoke about Nabal playing the fool. At the end we see Saul admitting that he too played the fool (26:21). In the Bible, the fool often represents the ungodly, the one who is disobedient, timid, proud and faithless. May we emulate godly David by displaying just the opposite - by being obedient, bold, humble and full of faith!
Better yet, may we emulate Jesus Christ, our ultimate model of godliness. In His boldness for the Father, He solemnly testified to the truth. In His humility from the Father, He cared not for His own life. In His obedience to the Father, He willingly went to the cross. And in His faith in the Father, He trusted God every step of the way.
That includes trusting His Father, when, as the Bible says, "The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief (piercing Him) through for our transgressions (Isa. 53:10, 5).
For as David said in this chapter, "Who can stretch out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be without guilt (26:9)? Then he immediately answered his question: "Surely the LORD will strike him" (26:10).
Though David was speaking of Saul, we must remember that Jesus is the ultimate Anointed One (Psm. 2). And God did strike Him so that we might be reconciled to our Creator. And with that restored relationship comes the desire and ability and responsibility, by grace, to live godly lives.