A Contrast Between Two Anointed Ones
Scripture: 1 Samuel 30:1– 31:13
A Contrast Between Two Anointed Ones
1 Samuel 30:1-31:13
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith
All of them are no longer at the church we attended. Scott, Clark, Don, Frank and Steve are pastors elsewhere. Ray is a missionary in Iraq. Mike moved to Oregon. Andrew moved to Alaska. Gordy found himself in northern Illinois. And Rich and Bill are home with the Lord.
What strikes me as I remember these men that God providentially put into my life was their tremendous commitment to Christ. When I consider human examples of godliness, though it has been many years, these are often the faces that come to mind. I can vividly remember hanging on their coattails as I studied their actions and probed their minds for insight. Yet I wanted more than learning from them; I wanted to be like them (1 Cor. 11:1)! They were the mature Christians that God has used to shape my life.
They were sound theologians; devoted to evangelism, service and worship. But what I remember the most about these men was their purposeful and loving commitment to discipleship. These were the guys who took me under their wing and tolerated my immaturity, misguided zeal and unrealistic expectations. And these were the guys God used to refine my character via their instruction, correction and lifestyle. And through their own selfless example of putting up with a knucklehead like me, they modeled that one of the greatest virtues of godliness is a love for the people of God by imparting to others your very lives (1 Thes. 2:8).
It is not often, but every once in a while God brings these men back into my life. Coincidently, or providentially, I received an e-mail this week from Gordy, an older man, one of the names I mentioned earlier. Listen to his heart for the Lord's people.
Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know I continue to pray for you as you asked me to when we met together (that was at least 7 years ago!).
We missed church last Sunday because the (snow) did not allow us to get there. We feel when we miss church for just one Sunday, that we have missed an opportunity to catch up with people and what's going on in their lives, but especially how to pray for them and their needs. Weather permitting, we hope to be there this weekend.
We thank God that He gives us wisdom for our daily lives. What we need to do is submit all of our plans to Him for direction. The bottom line in all of our lives is, "not what I want, but what (God) want(s)."
It is a tragedy that men and women like Gordy are becoming increasingly hard to find. Maybe it is an even greater tragedy that oftentimes we do not recognize, appreciate, or imitate these folks. Oftentimes we choose which church activities to attend solely for our own benefit rather than for the opportunity to minister to God's people. Oftentimes we fail to serve because we undervalue the need to bless others. Is it all about ourselves, or are we in it for the strength, unity, encouragement and maturity of the church? How far are we willing to extend ourselves, even suffer if necessary, if it means blessing the people of God?
I am convinced that this is our example from Jesus Christ. I am convinced that this is a command for all believers. And I am convinced that a sacrificial love for others is one of the greatest marks of godliness.
Though material in this sermon might be new for our ears and difficult for our actions, it is essential if we want a loving church and a God-honoring life.
As I have already said in past weeks, the latter chapters of 1 Samuel serve as a contrast between two anointed ones.
Saul has been spiraling downward on his path to self-destruction. The man, devoid of the Spirit of God has become jealous, paranoid, contentious and selfish. We observed last week that he hit an all-time low as he consulted a medium for advice. Most frightening about that account was not the old witch, the ghostly apparition or the dark night, but the chill of his terrifying words when he said, "God has departed from me" (28:15). And the inevitable for this out-of-control man will be witnessed today as Saul's life comes to a crashing end (31:6).
Yet while Saul is going in one direction, David, the other anointed one is going in another direction. He is growing in dependence on the Lord. He is learning from his mistakes. And most significantly this morning he is demonstrating his heart after God's heart in his love for the Lord's people. This morning I would like to highlight David's heart for the people of God from four different facets of chapter 30.
1. WEEPING WITH THE LORD'S PEOPLE
First, David shows his love for the Lord's people by identifying with their suffering.
Put yourself in David's shoes. You managed to depart unscathed from the Philistine territory. You have been traveling on foot roughly 25 miles a day (Aphek-Ziglag) for three consecutive days. You are tired and have survived on limited rations. But all of this is about to change because you are heading home - safety, comfort, loved ones. Pleasant thoughts enable you to persevere. And finally you've made it to the city limits but the moment you turn down Main Street you discover that both your town and your families are no longer there! You see, the opportunistic Amalekites took advantage and did a little raiding in lieu of the departed warriors.
Verse 3, "When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive" (cf. 30:1-2).
Words cannot describe the sorrow these men must have experienced!
Verse 4, "Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep."
There is no doubt that David's loss was as great as the other men, but what we see from David in this account was his willingness to suffer alongside those who were also suffering. He emulated the character of our compassionate God (Jon. 4:2). He followed Colossians 3:12 which calls us to "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Though suffering himself, David did not isolate himself from the suffering of others. The bold king wasn't too big to come alongside and tenderly share in their grief.
Like magnets, godly individuals are attracted to the pain of others. They are not masochists, but rather sensitive souls that desire to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). And often when it is impossible to know what to say in these situations, they are just present to absorb some of the sorrow.
The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 12. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15). As difficult as it is to rejoice with those who receive what we desire, it is equally difficult to weep with those who receive what we least desire.
British pastor, John Stott said: "Love never stands aloof from other people's joy or pains. Love identifies with them, sings with them and suffers with them. Love enters deeply into their experiences and their emotions, their laughter and their tears, and feels solidarity with them, whatever their mood" (Romans, p. 333).
It goes without saying that this is what makes for a strong family. We often need reminders that this also makes for a strong church. Life is difficult. We have a church full of hurting people. When is the last time you took the time from your own sorrow and absorbed yourself in the sorrow of another from this body? A hospital visit? An invitation over for dinner? An opportunity to listen to the burdens of another? A time to spend in prayer? A card, e-mail or phone call? Like any human body, when one part suffers, others in the body of Christ should suffer as well (1 Cor. 12:26).
Apart from the needs mentioned in the VINE, the only way we will get beyond the happy masks that hurting people wear to conceal a broken heart is to spend time together, build relationships and allow other people to trust us with their points of vulnerability. Are we aware of these needs and sympathetic to them?
2. SUFFERING FOR THE LORD'S PEOPLE
Second, a love for God's people also is seen in a willingness not only to suffer with them but also to suffer for them. Like the best of God's servants, David persevered through the sting inflicted by God's people.
Many suggestions can be offered as to why the people turned on their leader. "If you would have just killed Saul and assumed your throne like we told you our wives and kids would still be with us!" "If you didn't encourage us to cross into Philistia none of this would have ever happened!" The text does not provide the reason; it only reports the response of the men. Their tears of grief quickly turned to threats of bitterness. Verse 6, "Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters."
It is hard to believe. Just when you think David received the final straw to break the camel's back (the loss of his family and house), another straw falls. And just when you thought David had received the loyalty of these men he served so faithfully, the group spoke of stoning him to death!
There are many similar examples we can turn to in the Scriptures. I trust we are well aware of the faithfulness to minister to God's people demonstrated by Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Elijah and Moses. These men and many other men and women gave of their lives and often risked their lives (Rom. 16:3-4; Phil. 2:30) through faithful service and consistent love. Yet while they served, the Bible says they also suffered. And the majority of their suffering came from the very people they poured out their lives to serve!
A great case in point was the Apostle Paul. Repeatedly the Bible speaks of how much he did for the churches. He speaks of laboring to the point of exhaustion (Col. 1:29), loving the church as a mother tenderly cares for her children (1 Thes. 2:7) and even risking his own life if it meant serving God's people (Phil. 2:17).
You would think a person like this would receive the admiration and appreciation of the church? Think again! Paul suffered tremendously from those outside the church, but his greatest pain was inflicted by those within the household of faith (2 Cor. 11:28). If this were not the case why do we observe comments like these in all of his letters? 2 Corinthians 12:15, "I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?" Galatians 4:16, "So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Galatians 6:17, "From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus."
God's servants must be prepared to suffer, and God's servants must be prepared to suffer from the hands of God's people. Wrong and preposterous but nevertheless a reality. And until we are willing to love people enough to suffer their mistreatment, we will never join the ranks of the biblical heroes and succeed as a servant of God Almighty. Think of it this way: when we can overcome the deep emotional sting of being bit by the very mouths we are feeding, we have proven to ourselves and to others that our ministry is selfless and our motives are solely aimed at the Lord's approval.
When I consider ministering to the Lord's people, I believe there are four obstacles we need to overcome to be considered successful servants. First, we must overcome the obstacle of complacency. We need to realize that God has called each of us to serve. Second, we must overcome the obstacle of ignorance. Once we realize that we need to serve, we need to discover our gifts and the ministry to which the Lord is calling us. Third, we need to overcome the obstacle of fear. In different ways, serving faithfully calls us to leave our comfort zones. And fourth (here we go), we need to overcome the obstacle of frustration. This is often the hurdle that few Christians are able to get over.
Despite all of your efforts, the very ones you serve will cause emotional heartache. They will ignore your deadlines, relentlessly critique your thoughts, misunderstand your intentions and under appreciate your efforts. Though I am not excusing this behavior, this behavior is a reality which all of God's servants must be prepared to face. Many quit at this point out of frustration. "I don't need this!" is the common expression. But the ones who truly love the people patiently endure and persevere in the pain. Like Jesus, persevering on the cross, yet saying, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk. 23:34).
3. SEEKING WISDOM FOR THE LORD'S PEOPLE
We need to move on. Those who love God's people suffer with them and suffer for them. Point number three, those who love God's people also seek God's wisdom for the people.
With their town destroyed and their families kidnapped, there was no doubt that the people needed to respond. And while the troops were talking about stoning David, I am sure many were also looking to David for guidance. Yet rather than give a hasty or worldly response and bring more pain upon the people, David wisely sought wisdom from the Lord.
Verses 7-8, "Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, 'Please bring me the ephod.' So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. David inquired of the LORD, saying, 'Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?' And He said to him, 'Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all'"
When we really love the people of God we will desire nothing but their very best. And the best for them is always God's will for their lives. And God's will for their lives is determined by seeking the Lord in prayer. We must allow God and not our own intuition to chart our course of direction.
Once David received direction from the Lord, he never looked back. Immediately verse 9 informs us that David and his 600 men departed to pursue the Amalekites. David did not know the location of these nomadic raiders. He did not complain about the superior numbers of his enemy. And he did not make excuses for the physical exhaustion they were all experiencing. Out of love for the people, David sought the Lord. And once confident of the Lord's direction, David pursued the vision with determination.
4. LOVING ALL THE LORD'S PEOPLE
So those who love the Lord's people weep with them, suffer and seek wisdom for them and lastly, love all of them.
Verses 10-20 record Israel's triumphant attack on the Amalekites. The men recovered everything that was taken (30:18-19) including the spoil from the enemy (30:22). It was a festive time for the Israelites, that is until it came time to divide all the recovered goods.
You see, verse 10 informs us that 200 of the 600 men were too tired to continue the pursuit and stayed behind with the baggage (30:24). So when it came time to divide the goods you can naturally imagine the conflict regarding the issue of fairness. Maybe a guise of justice to hide their greed. Verse 22, "Then all the wicked and worthless men among those who went with David said, 'Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away and depart.'" Simply put: "Take your families, keep your hands off the spoil and get lost!"
How would David handle this one?
Verses 23-24, "Then David said, 'You must not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us. And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.'"
So there is David. Going through his mind are the people who suggested stoning him. Going through his mind are the people who wimped-out and left the battle for others. What an opportunity to get some sweet revenge. What a chance to stick it to those who caused him so much grief. In the name of justice possibly David's ill intent could be excused. But without much thought, David immediately rejected the idea. He put aside his own problems to help with the people's problems. He realized that the Lord granted the victory, the Lord provided the spoil (30:23) and therefore all from the Lord's hands must be freely shared with all of the Lord's people (30:24).
It is very common when we minister to have some who bless our socks off and others who make our lives very difficult. Are we able to love all these people unconditionally and without partiality?
If you are like I was this week when I meditated on these four principles of loving the Lord's people, you are probably realizing how difficult these expectations are. We are not naturally wired to pursue this extent of love for other people. And if we do, it rarely extends beyond the walls of our home (Mt. 5:46; Lk. 6:32). Or maybe we have tried to love people this way and have only walked away drained, angry, frustrated and blaming others. So how can we fulfill these four principles like David did and do it with strength and joy and direction?
The answer, though often overlooked is very simple and found right here in chapter 30. God wants us to love other people (the second greatest commandment - Mt. 22:39). But more than anything, God wants us to love Him (the greatest commandment - Mt. 22:37-38). And as we love Him and seek Him and depend on Him, then and only then does God give us the tools to love His people in this sacrificial way. Put another way, if we lack the desire and the strength to fulfill these principles, there is good reason to believe we are not seeking His face and walking in the Spirit on a daily basis.
How did David do it? When he was facing the loss of his family and the threats of being stoned by his own people, the very end of verse 6 says, "But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God."
He did not blame nor did he complain. He went to God and "strengthened himself." There is nothing passive about that. God promises to provide the grace we need when we draw unto Him (Heb. 4:16). David drew grace from God and then responded by grace to what needed to be done (Phil 2:12-13). And we must not miss the intimate relationship that David had with Yahweh. As the verse states, "(He turned to) the LORD his God." In Psalm 23 he wrote, "The LORD is my shepherd" (verse 1). An intimate relationship with the Lord is where the vision and the strengthening must begin.
Additionally, the more David went to God, the more he understood the love and grace and mercy and forgiveness and patience that God had for him. And the more he understood how a sinless divine Being could love him, the more he was able and desirous and obligated to love fallen beings like himself. To accept these graces from God and then refuse to extend them to others as commanded is nothing less than hypocritical at best and self-worship at worse.
We saw all four aspects of loving others from David. All four aspects were seen in the guys who discipled me. All four aspects were also mentioned in the e-mail I received from Gordy. And all four aspects are best witnessed from the life of Jesus Christ.
While Jesus Christ was always in fellowship with His Father, we have it testified all over the Bible how He wept with those who wept and even those who should have been weeping (Mt. 23:37)! We see how He was the prophesized Suffering Servant - "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3) - for the very people like you and I who sin against Him continually. We see how He sought wisdom daily from His Father in prayer, at times praying all night for direction (Lk. 6:12). And we see how He loved all of God's sheep by providing for them a common salvation regardless of the degrees of vile deeds they bring to the cross (Lk. 18:13).
I have usually been ending my sermons in 1 Samuel with Jesus Christ. But today I will make an exception by joining the writer and ending this book together with him. We cannot postpone the inevitable. The disappointing life of Saul comes to a tragic end in chapter 31 just as it was foretold by the prophet Samuel (28:19).
Chapter 31, verses 3-6, "The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, 'Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.' But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together.'"
Ironically, the very people, the Philistines, that Saul was appointed to defeat (9:16) were the very people who defeat him and end his life.
So as we contrast the anointed ones, both David and Saul, it is a contrast between self-love and a love for others, between God-reliance and self-reliance. We see one who strengthened himself in the Lord (30:6) and the other who sought guidance from a witch (28:7). We see God guiding one and providing the promise of life (30:8), and we see God refusing the other except through the promise of death (28:19). We see one faithfully deal with the Amalekites (30:17), and we see the other fail his divine assignment with the Amalekites (15:17-19; 28:18). We see one victorious in spiritual and military battles, and we see the other fail spiritually and eventually die in battle (see 1 Chron. 10:23-24).
Though these words are not used, we cannot miss the text silently asking us: "Who do you want to be?"
With the death of Saul and his sons (31:6), the territory evacuated (31:7), dead bodies littered all over the slopes of Mount Gilboa (31:1) and the pagan idols exalted over Yahweh (31:9), no doubt it was a dark time for the nation Israel. But one thing we have learned is that the darkness is not outside God's purposes. Is all hope lost? If you have been with us the past eight months, I think you know the answer!