We lead with hope

We lead with Jesus

 

We lead with hope

We lead with Jesus

 

We lead with hope

We lead with Jesus

 

Author: admin

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;  but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”  James 2:8–10

Many years ago now I heard a modern parable about a wealthy investor that was having a shopping mall built and hired a project manager to over see the job while he was out of the country for several months. 

They toured the site and reviewed the work that had been done and then talked over the plans for the completed work and when the investor left he gave one final piece of instruction, “Build everything, and locate every business exactly where the plans I’ve made tell you to.”

Months later, as the work was nearing completion, the investor returned and with the project manager toured the now finished shopping mall.  Most of it looked just like he’d expected it to but there were a few business that weren’t where he’d thought they’d be and when he was able to look at the blueprints, sure enough, the location for these businesses had been changed. 

Turning to the project manager he said, “You didn’t do anything the way I wanted you to.”

“But I did,” protested the project manager, “I only changed the location of a few businesses because it made more sense considering the flow of business in the mall.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” responded the investor, “It made more sense to you. The few changes you made tell me that you’d have changed everything if it hadn’t matched what you thought the plans should have been. You didn’t do anything the way I want. You did everything the way you wanted.”

Obedience to God is an all or none proposition. You either obey him in everything or you’re guilty of disobeying him in everything. The reason for this is because it’s all a question of whether or not you’re willing to submit your sinful heart and will to his perfect and righteous one. Will you follow his commands or will you substitute your own?

Substituting your own will for one or more of his commands demonstrates that you’re willing to substitute your own for all of them. 

Our history as sinners means that we don’t think like God thinks. We don’t really understand what love and righteousness are, and we have a tendency to think that things are ok when God knows they’re not. 

Taking Jesus as our Lord and Savior means that we’re to submit to him in everything, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. 

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”  James 2:1

How do you think Jesus would be dressed if he came into church this Sabbath?

We have a tendency to estimate whether or not a person ought to be taken seriously, spiritually, by their outward appearance.  But consider this: Jesus came to his teaching and healing ministry from a working class background. He was a carpenter. On top of that he was poor.  By poor I mean that, like most manual laborers, the work of that day’s labor provided the income that would purchase the food for the next day. It was almost literally a hand to mouth existence. 

Most people in his circumstance possessed one outfit of clothes and that was what they worked, played, slept, and worshipped in. If they did possess two outfits they were usually of the same quality with one being newer and in better condition than the other. They might reserve the newer outfit for more formal occasions like feasts, celebrations and worship but eventually when their work clothes wore out that “good” outfit would become their work clothes. 

So Jesus if he were to come into our church, if he came from a working class background similar to the one he was born into two thousand years ago, would probably walk through the doors dressed as we would expect a clean and respectable carpenter to be dressed on a work day. 

Now here’s the real question. Dressed like that, would we take him seriously?  Would we recognize in him the quality of spiritual depth he actually possessed and give him the attention that spiritual depth deserves?

We do tend to be partial in our estimation of one another. James’ call to us is that we would extend to one another the highest level of respect and consideration regardless of appearance. 

It may be that God will communicate his presence to us in the most unlikely of forms. Jesus came in an appearance the Jewish elite did not expect, but appearances didn’t change the fact that he was was God the Son incarnate. 

You never know, the homeless man walking into your church might be an angel in disguise or that naive, sickly looking young woman might have just been chosen by God to communicate his messages of counsel and guidance to his church. Our God is known for doing things differently than we might expect. Because of that, it’s not just unloving, it’s dangerous to show partiality in church. 

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”  James 1:26

We all know people that seem to have the tendency of saying whatever thoughts that come in their minds. Maybe we, ourselves, are one of those people. 

I’ve heard people respond when it’s been suggested to them that perhaps they needed to be more careful in the things they said to others that they had the right to say whatever they wanted to say and if others didn’t like it they didn’t have to listen. 

Friends, such an attitude is not supported in scripture. James is going to elaborate on the capacity of our words to inflict great harm on others so I won’t delve deeply into it at this time. Suffice it to say, in this post, that there is a need for carefulness, and self control, when it comes to what we say. In fact, the apostle clearly states that if we’re not careful in how we exercise control of our words that our religion is useless. And that if we try and convince ourselves that this is not the case we’re deceiving ourselves. 

Pure religion, he goes on to say is “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Notice that he begins by citing selfless service for the vulnerable as the first of the criterion for pure religion. Christlikeness means that we will have thoughtful consideration in all our dealings with others. Whether it’s what we say or what we do we will exercise carefulness so that we can be the messengers of God’s love and salvation we’ve been called to be. 

But too much the influence of the world intrudes into our interactions with others. Selfishness, self satisfaction, and discourtesy too often mark the things that far to quickly come out of our mouths. This may be thought acceptable by people living by the world’s standards but it’s not to be thought correct by anyone seeking the approval of heaven. 

Social media communications and the the example of many prominent celebrities and politicians may seem to be giving license for thoughtlessness and hurtfulness but friends Christ is our example, his behavior is the standard by which we ought to pattern our lives and his love should be the lingering impact that follows others interactions with us. 

This is pure religion. This is what it means to be a Christian. 

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  James 1:21–22

For anything to be considered true or real there must be evidence that supports it. This is true in science and in legal matters. For a scientific hypothesis to be proven it has to be validated by experimentation, the method for that validation recorded and the process and the results repeatable. In a criminal court assertions of the prosecution and defense need to be upheld by actual evidence verifying that these assertions are true. 

We don’t have any problem with this standard of verification when it comes to science and the criminal justice system. In fact, we rely on these expectations as a kind of assurance that science and our courts are trustable. But some how when it comes to our personal spirituality and faith we have a tendency to expect that we shouldn’t have to have any proof, outside of our verbal testimony, to verify that we in fact believe in Jesus, love him, and take him as our Lord and Savior. 

James makes it clear that hearing the word of God proclaimed is not enough. Even hearing and giving a verbal agreement to what we’ve heard would fall short of meeting the required standard of authentication. To authentically demonstrate that we have heard, and accepted and believed requires that we actually become “doers” of the word that we’ve heard. 

You see verse twenty-one of our focus text makes it clear that the word needs to not be merely heard, it has to be implanted. Implanting is a process by which one thing becomes imbedded into another. Paul uses the metaphor of grafting to describe the implanting process illustrating that the result of the implanting is that the imbedded word will become part of the make up of the individual into which it is imbedded. 

Spiritual implanting is demonstrated by our obedience, our doing the works that are in harmony with the word we’ve heard and received. Anything less demonstrates that the hearing has not resulted in implanting. The message has just gone in one ear and out the other. This is understandable with low priority messages but we’re talking about the gospel. We’re talking about salvation from sin and death. It doesn’t get more important and there needs to be evidence that the message has been implanted in us. 

“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.”  James 1:9–11

None of us are as we may seem on the outside. 

Circumstances may dictate that a poor person dress and live in such a way that his or her status as a child of God is almost completely hidden from view. Looking at them you’d never imagine that their Heavenly Father is the Lord of the universe, the possessor of the wealth of countless worlds, and that they are heirs to an inheritance beyond reckoning. 

At the same time outward appearances may give the message that the wealthy person is blessed by God, and by their healthy glow, properly fitted clothing that’s not over worn, they could be the poster child for what we’d imagine that a child of God ought to look like. 

But in this world it’s not the outward appearances that accurately display the true wealth of the individual. It’s the condition of the heart combined with the promises and declarations of our Heavenly Father. 

Because of this a poor person, dressed in rags and emaciated by hunger, may because of their devotion to their Heavenly Father, rejoice in their status as children of the King of Kings. And in this they may take hold of joy and peace and hope that would have been unavailable had they had no assurance of the divine elevation afforded to them. 

The wealthy are instructed to exalt in their humiliation. For the poor life is perpetually difficult with only brief seasons of comfort. For the rich life is often comfortable with only brief seasons of hardship. Just as the comfort affords the poor with a taste of their connection with their Heavenly Father so trials give the wealthy evidence of their connection with their lowly, toiling, suffering Savior. 

For both the wealthy and the poor our present circumstances are temporary. In this life fortunes can change, poor can become rich and rich can become poor. Ultimately, when our redeemer comes to gather those who have chosen him as their savior, we’ll all be elevated to the position and situation we hope for. 

Until then let the poor rejoice in the elevation their hope in Christ gives them and let the rich rejoice that they have been invited to suffer with Christ in his labors in this world. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  James 1:5

Nearly thirty years ago I was a young man on my way to South Korea as a student missionary. During our orientation meetings, I can still remember Pastor Larry Stephenson talking to us about claiming God’s promise to give us wisdom and telling us that over the course of the next year we’d need to turn to God for wisdom and he’d fulfill his promise for us. 

Less than six months later I came into a small Bible Class I was teaching to find the four students in the class intensely working together, frequently consulting their dictionaries. I could tell that they had a question for me so I waited for them to finish. Finally they were ready and they asked me their question, “What is the Christian’s purpose in the world.”

Immediately, I knew that I needed wisdom beyond my twenty two years to answer their question. If we’d all spoken English it wouldn’t have been a problem, we could have had a discussion and together arrived at an answer, but these were level one students who had a very limited command of English. 

I remembered Pastor Larry’s counsel and silently sent up a prayer and almost immediately received an answer. A picture flashed through my mind of the sun’s rays shining down upon the moon and being reflected onto the dark side of the earth. 

Stepping to the chalk board, yes, we used chalk, I quickly drew a crude diagram of the sun, the moon, and the earth with lines illustrating the path of the light coming from sun to the moon, and from the moon to the earth. 

I then said that the sun was God, the moon was the Christians, and our job was to shine God’s love and wisdom into the lives of those living in darkness without it. 

It took less than a minute to draw this answer for them and as I drew the diagram for them I saw their faces light up with understanding. 

They never knew that we all came away having learned something important. It must have seemed to them that I was just ready to give them the answer they sought when the truth was God had dramatically proved his presence in my life by hearing my silent cry for wisdom and immediately supplying me with his answer. 

Over the years I’ve had numerous occasions when I needed to repeat that call for wisdom and I’ve never had God fail to send an answer. Most often a bit of work is required on my part, God doesn’t encourage laziness in our dependence on him, but I’ve never had him fail to provide the wisdom I asked for.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”  James 1:2–3

James begins his letter by referring to himself as a bond servant of God and Jesus Christ. A bond servant is a person that is bound to another because of debt. Either they, or another, usually a family member, has accumulated a debt they were unable to pay so they satisfy the demand for payment by submitting to serving as a slave to the one they owe. In James case he feels they he is indebted to God and Jesus. And indeed, we all are.  Our sin and heavens choice to save us have indebted us beyond any reckoning. 

Abruptly James abandons his greeting and makes his first assertion, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

James isn’t the first to counsel Christians that the presence of trials and difficulties in the life is a blessing rather than a curse. And it’s easy to imagine the need for such counsel. It was a constant possibility that the tranquility of life would be interrupted by persecution merely because of their faith Jesus Christ. This might be merely needing to endure insults and other comparatively minor injustices, but it could also mean that life as totally disrupted. Property could be vandalized or confiscated. They could suffer imprisonment, exile and death. And these were realities suffered in addition to the ones every person experiences as result of the clash between our sinful nature and the workings of the Holy Spirit as he brings us into conformity with the claims of the kingdom of God. 

Trials and difficulties have hidden within their painful exterior the opportunity for us to grow in the spiritual graces of patience and faith. Truthfully, long suffering, patience, and faith cannot grow without the testing of difficulty. Anyone might be able to maintain a peaceful demeanor while life is tranquil.  Remaining faithful, loving and kind under such conditions might be expected. But continuing to possess the Christlike graces of love, joy, peace and patience when injustice tears into the life, and life itself is in jeopardy, this shows positively that we are recipients of the workings of God’s goodness in our hearts. 

We want life to be smooth and easy but if we’re to become perfect we need to learn to hold fast to faith, and joy, and patience whether life is as we think it ought to be or whether it feels like our lives have been turned upside down. 

As the apostle says, “the testing of your faith produces patience.”

“And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him.  So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men died together that same day.”  1 Samuel 31:5–6

The last chapter of first Samuel records the sad end to what could have been a beautiful story had Saul chosen faithfulness to God over satisfaction of self. 

The Philistine army over ran the Israelites and the Israelite army fled. In their pursuit of the Israelites the Philistines focused on overtaking Saul and his sons and that day all of them were killed; first Saul’s three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, and later Saul. 

But Saul didn’t died at the hands of the Philistines. Saul had been badly injured by an archer, which was no doubt slowing his retreat, and when he saw that his sons were slain and that the Philistines were fiercely pursuing him he commanded his armor bearer to kill him so that the Philistines wouldn’t be able to capture and torture him. But his armor bearer was afraid and wouldn’t do it, so Saul took his own sword and fell on it taking his own life. After that his armor bearer fell on his sword and he died as well. 

The next day the Philistines, as they were looting the battle field, found the bodies of Saul and his sons. So they stripped the armor off them and placed it as a trophy in the temple of their God and hung their bodies on the wall of Beth Shan, proclaiming to the land that they had defeated Israel and slain their king and his sons. 

There is one touching part to this sad story.  When the people of Jabesh Gilead, whom Saul had saved from defeat and disfigurement at the beginning of his reign, heard that Saul and his sons were slain and that their bodies were hanging on the wall of Beth Shan, all their valiant men went to Beth Shan at night, retrieved their bodies and took them to Jabesh Gilead and gave them a proper burial. 

Just as Samuel had prophesied years before the kingdom had been torn away from Saul and his family. Saul’s death and Israel’s defeat was a bitter blow for Israel but it was not the end of the story. Through the prophet God had prepared for this day when he had had a shepherd boy named David anointed as king. 

The transition from Saul to David was never going to be an easy change; one doesn’t change ruling families without strife, but God made a way for David to ascend to the throne without having to raise himself up against Saul and his good friend Jonathan. 

If we will give God the chance he will do the most difficult things for us as well. Many times we think we need to compromise our principles and convictions to make God’s plan come to pass. But God doesn’t need our cleverness or deviousness to accomplish his will. If we will be patient and wait God will make a way. 

“Then Achish called David and said to him, ‘Surely, as the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight. For to this day I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me. Nevertheless the lords do not favor you. Therefore return now, and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.’”  1 Samuel 29:6–7

All the cities of the Philistines have gathered to make war against the Israelites. Achish, King of Gath, has asked David and his men to fight with them in this great battle, and David has gone up to fight. 

Shortly before the battle the lords of the Philistines, together with their armies, presented themselves in review. David and his men passed in review with the troops of Achish toward the end of the review, and when the princes of the Philistines saw David and his men they became angry. 

“What are these Hebrews doing here?  Make them go back to the place you’ve made for them. Who knows whether or not they will turn on us in battle believing that they can buy favor with Saul by their treachery against us.”

Achish tried to defend David and convince the other princes that they could trust but but he was unable. 

Scripture doesn’t tell us what David’s intentions were regarding the approaching battle but I’m confident, given David’s previous refusal to harm king Saul and his intentional choice to not raid border cities of Israel, that David and his men would not have helped the Philistines fight against Israel, God’s chosen people. No doubt David had been feeling like he’d been caught between a rock and a hard place. How was he to maintain his fidelity with Israel and still demonstrate his loyalty to his Philistine benefactor.  

Truthfully, David was in this situation because he had trusted in his own maneuvering, and planning more than he had in the leading of God. I don’t believe it was God’s plan for David to seek refuge with the Philistines, and if David had held to faith longer God would have revealed his providence without David having to resort to currying favor with idolators and enemies of Israel. 

But God’s sovereignty isn’t limited or thwarted by our faithless missteps. God had David’s back even when David had been compromising himself. In the rejection of the Philistine princes we see God stepping in and providing his chosen with the way out he needed. 

God’s like that with all of us. His grace and forgiveness covers our missteps and mistakes. His redemption covers our rebellion, and his providence recovers the lost time and opportunities. Sometimes miracles are required and he’s more than up to the task. 

Thank you God for being everything we need. You take care of what’s out of our control, make up for errors regarding for what should have been in our control and generally cover us with your grace. Your love is boundless and we’re so very thankful. 

“And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.  Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.’  And his servants said to him, ‘In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.’”  1 Samuel 28:6–7

Saul is desperate. The Philistines kings have gathered themselves into a massive army and Saul is afraid. 

In the past he would have consulted with Samuel, but Samuel has died.  In his place Saul called for a priest to make inquiry for him, but God has not answered. 

Saul has spent his reign primarily pursuing his own goals and ambitions. He’s made a pretense of loyalty to God, offering sacrifices and prayers, obeying the ceremonial and health laws, persecuting idolators and spiritualists, etc. but all of this has been a smoke screen hiding a disobedient heart bent of its own ambition and glory.

Even now Saul isn’t repentant or submitted. He’s unsure of himself as he faces the Philistine forces. He’s afraid of defeat, of losing all he’s worked for, of dying. 

God won’t answer but maybe he can get an answer another way. He’ll go to a spirit medium and in a seance have her being up Samuel. 

His servants find one not far away in En Dor, and, in disguise, Saul goes and asks her to bring Samuel. The witch does as she’s asked and they are joined by a spirit, they believe to be Samuel, who rebukes Saul for his disobedience and tells him that Israel will be defeated and he and his sons will die. 

Some have wondered how this demon, disguised to look like Samuel, could know so precisely what would happen. Friends, sometimes it doesn’t take supernatural power to see how things are going to work out. The Philistine forces were too strong, God was not with them, Saul and his sons were not going to run away; add all that together and you get a clear picture of Israel’s defeat and Saul’s death. 

What saddens me most is that Saul, even though he obviously knew how things were going to end up still pursued a path of selfish disobedience rather than repentance and submission. 

Saul’s life stands as a warning to all of us regarding the danger of each day choosing to live for self instead of for God. There will come a time when all is on the line and it’s either rely on God and accept his will, even though it’s completely different than what we’d chose for ourselves, or die, and the momentum of all the habits forged by all the decisions we’ve made will push us to once again choose disobedience rather than God.

That’s why today is the day of salvation. It will never be easier than right now to choose to submit to God and begin a life of obedience to him. Every day delayed only strengthens the impulse to choose to disobey and live for self. Saul chose defeat instead of God. We can make a different choice today. 

“And David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.’”  1 Samuel 27:1

David had been running from Saul for a long time. Sometimes when we’ve been struggling with the same situation and there’s no change and there’s no assurance that there will ever be any change in the near future it’s easy to give up hope and start looking for solutions that are not part of God’s plan for us. And that’s what David did. 

What he did wasn’t a new idea for David, in fact, David first had this idea right at the beginning of when he had begun running from Saul. He would go and obtain asylum for himself among the Philistines and live with them. 

At first he got permission from Achish, the king of Gath, for he, his two wives, his six hundred men and their families to live in Gath, but later he sought and received permission to live in the country away from Gath and he and his band moved to the village of Ziklag. All total, scripture tells us that David lived with the Philistines for one year and four months. 

During the time of his exile David must have needed to prove his loyalty to the Philistines and he did so by raiding the Canaanite people living to the south toward Egypt. When he and his men would make a raid they made sure to leave no survivors that could report their activities back to the Philistines. Then when Achish would ask David what he and his men had been doing they would say that they had raided a town or village in Judah, and Achish would think to himself that David was loyal to him and hated by the Israelites. 

Of course this was all a lie. David didn’t want to live among the Philistines, he was not attacking the Israelites, and he was not loyal to Achish. What he was, was tired of running from king Saul but what he chose as a solution was just a different kind of running and hiding.  That’s often the way it works for us when we make decisions based on faithlessness and fatigue. Far better to follow Solomon’s advice in Proverbs chapter three, verses five and six, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

It’s not easy to learn to walk by faith. Often times its not the big or sudden things that pose the biggest challenge. It’s the everyday grind, the long, slow, relentless slog that puts our faith to the greatest test. That’s why everyday we have to renew our choice to trust in him, every hour renew our decision to rely on his wisdom, and every moment to turn to him to point us in the right direction. 

As we learn to live by faith its good to also remember that David’s mistakes didn’t cause God to reject him. God doesn’t cast us aside for imperfect decisions. His love and grace is great enough for him to patiently forgive us, bring us back and set us once again on the path that’s best for us.

“May the Lord repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord delivered you into my hand today, but I would not stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.  And indeed, as your life was valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.”  1 Samuel 26:23–24

Shortly after David’s insult by Nabal and appeasement by Nabal’s wife Abigail, Nabal died of a stroke. Not long later David asked Abigail to become his wife and they were married. 

The next event recorded in first Samuel is another encounter between David and Saul. 

Once again Saul has taken to hunting David but this time David doesn’t run away. Instead one night David and some of his men actually go out to spy on Saul’s camp and David notices the camp is not very well guarded so he takes one of his men with him and they sneak into camp and go right up to where Saul is sleeping. 

David’s man, Abishai, thought that God must have given Saul into David’s hand and that he should take the spear next to Saul and kill him with it, but David refused to let him. Saul was God’s anointed and if he was to be removed God would have to be the one to remove him. Saul might die of natural causes or in battle but neither David nor one of his men would ever kill him. 

Instead, David took the spear and a jug of water lying next to Saul and then left camp. When they were on another hill a safe distance away David called out to Abner, Saul’s cousin and the general of Saul’s army. David teased him about how poorly he had been guarding Saul and asked him if he knew where Saul’s spear and water jug were. 

Saul recognized David’s voice and cried out, “Is that your voice, David, my son?”

“Yes it is,” David answered.  “Why are you hunting me?  What have I done?  If God has stirred you up against me let me make an offering of repentance to him. If someone else has turned you against me let him be accursed. O king don’t let my blood be shed.”

“I have sinned,” Saul confessed. “I have played the fool. Come home David I won’t try to harm you any more.”

At this David told Saul to send a man to retrieve the spear and jug he had taken and then he spoke the words quoted in our focus text, but David did not go back to Saul. David had learned that Saul could thoroughly admit to his wrong doing and still not be truly repentant. Saul would never give up his claim on the throne God had taken from him nor his dream that his son would have it after him. Because of that David would never be safe from Saul no mater what Saul said. 

Repentance is more than just words it’s a change of heart. That’s what David needed from Saul and that’s what God needs from us. David never experienced repentance from Saul. Will God find repentance from you. He loves you. Jesus came and died to purchase forgiveness and to prove God’s love but repentance is required if you’re going to be able to accept it. The Holy Spirit will give you repentance, he’ll change your heart, if you’ll ask him to. Will you ask?

“The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings. He was of the house of Caleb.”  1 Samuel 25:3

For a time at a short least Saul had stopped hunting David, but it appears that David had learned that he couldn’t trust in the good will of Saul, so he and his men had been hiding in the wilderness of Paran, another stretch of rugged Judea frontier. 

In the region where they were hiding there lived a very wealthy man named Nabal and his wife Abigail.

In Israel at that time what a name meant was important and from time to time it’s instructive for us to understand the meaning of the people’s names as we follow their story. In this case the name Nabal meant “fool, or senseless,” and the name Abigail meant “father’s joy,”man’s we’ll see that these names were very fitting to their owners. 

While they were dwelling in the region David had instructed his men to protect the shepherds and herds men pasturing their flocks and herds in the area, and when David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, knowing that this was a time of feasting for Nabal, he sent ten young men to Nabal to tell him of the protection they had provided and to request a gift to acknowledge the value of that protection. 

Nabal’s answer demonstrates the accuracy of the meaning of the name he had been given. He basically called David a run away slave and called his men liars. 

Not long after David’s men had left one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her about 

David’s request and Nabal’s answer and about how David and his men had protected their flocks and herds. Abigail realizing how severely her husband had insulted David quickly gathered and loaded several donkeys with food and set out to find David.

It’s a good thing that she did because David, when he heard Nabal’s answer, was furious and at that moment he was on his way with four hundred men to avenge himself on Nabal for his insult. But when Abigail met David he gift of food and her apology turned away David’s anger and he blessed her and left her and Nabal in peace. 

Not everyone in the Bible lives a life that fits with their name. Some with beautiful names chose to live lives completely contradictory to what their names meant and still others that had bad names decided that they would earn for themselves new names that were good and noble. 

Like Abigail we get to chose whether our lives bring joy to our father in heaven or sorrow. Abigail chose well and added to the beauty of her name. How will we choose to live today?

“Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats. So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave.)”  1 Samuel 24:2–3

After Saul and the army had finished fighting with the Philistines they returned to their efforts to track down David, this time in the Wilderness of En Gedi. The place David had chosen to hide was mountainous, very rocky, with numerous caves. 

At some point in their cat and mouse pursuit scripture records that Saul went into one of the caves to “attend to his needs.”  What were those needs?  No one knows exactly though, given what happens while Saul’s in the cave, most believe that Saul must have gone to sleep. 

Saul is much closer to David that he realizes. In fact, the recesses of the cave he has chosen is hiding David and some of his men. 

David’s men, seeing that their pursuer has neatly placed himself at their mercy, believe that God has given them this opportunity and urge David to quietly move in and kill Saul.  So David slips up to Saul and draws his knife out of its sheath, but he doesn’t use it to harm Saul. Instead he carefully cuts the corner off of the robe that Saul’s wearing and then returns to the shadows.

Now David felt ashamed that he had even cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.”

A while later Saul got up from the cave and rejoined his men and when he had gotten a little ways away from the cave David came out, called out to him and showed him the corner of his robe that he had cut off. 

“My Lord the King. Why do you listen to people who tell you that I’m trying to harm you. Today you put yourself in my power.  Some of my men urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I told them that you are the Lords anointed and I will not harm you. My father, look, you were so close that I was able to cut off a corner of your robe, but I refused to kill you. Doesn’t this prove that I’m innocent of any sin or rebellion against you. Yet still you hunt me. But I’ll let God judge between us. I’ll let God avenge any wrongs you’ve done to me. I’ll never raise my hand against you.”

At David’s words, and seeing the corner of his robe in his hand, Saul admitted that David was innocent of any crime against him and also revealed that he knew that God had chosen David to be king after him. Then he left David and went home. 

Friends, we need to trust God like David did and allow him to right the wrongs others do against us. God knows the whole story and he knows the best way to make things right. Our actions are often at best merely vengeance but God will accomplish true justice. 

“So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a forest.  Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.”  1 Samuel 23:15–16

David is hiding in the wilderness of Ziph, and everyday Saul is hunting David, . 

But in the middle of all the hiding and hunting David received a visitor. Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s friend. Jonathan must have noticed that David was becoming discouraged because what he had to say was specifically calculated to encourage David. 

“Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.”  1 Samuel 23:17

Now Ziph is a village in Judah, south of Bethlehem about thirty miles, and David is from Bethlehem, also a village in Judah, and you’d think that he might have been able to count on a little loyalty from others of the tribe of Judah when it came to helping him stay hidden from Saul. But this was not the case.  In fact, the people of Ziph sent a message to Saul telling him that David was hiding among them. 

Saul was thrilled but knowing that David wouldn’t be easy to find asked them to discover exactly where David was before he came down to try and capture him.

But David had heard that the Ziphites had sent messengers to Saul and had moved his men from the hill of Hachilah, where they’d been hiding, to the wilderness of Maon. Word of this was sent to Saul and the hunt was on. Saul’s army tracked David trying to surround him and David and his band were kept continuously on the move to avoid capture. Then came the day when Saul and his army were on one side of a mountain and David and his men were on the other. David must have felt like he was about to be caught when suddenly Saul and his army packed up and left. 

They’d received an urgent message that the Philistines were once again attacking and they had to stop chasing David and go and fight a real enemy. 

After that David and his men began calling that mountain “The Rock Of Escape.”

The Bible tells us that we all have a Rock Of Escape. Jesus is our rock. We’ve all been infected by sin and have rebelled against God. The consequence of our rebellion is death but Jesus came and took our place and now God is chasing us trying to assure us of the good news that we are saved. 

Thank you Jesus for coming and being our Rock Of Escape. 

“And the Lord answered him and said, ‘Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.’  And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.”  1 Samuel 23:4–5

When Saul had commanded that the priests of God be murdered not all of them were slain. One of the sons of Ahimelech the High Priest escaped with the high priest’s ephod and sought refuge with David, and David, feeling responsible for the death of the priests because it was his lies that had brought them to Saul’s attention, welcomed Abiathar the son of Ahimelech to his growing band of men. 

At about this time a report came to David that the Philistines were attacking a village along the the border of Israelite and Philistine territory and robbing their threshing floor. So David inquired of God, through Abiathar the priest, asking if he should go down and attack the Philistines and God todd him to go down and save the village of Keilah . 

The men with David, however, were afraid to go down and fight the Philistines. It was one thing to have Saul chasing them but to have the Philistines and Saul hunting them was more than they thought they could handle. 

So David inquired of God again and God again answered, “Go down. Attack the Philistines. I will give them to you.”

So they went down and struck the Philistines at Keilah, defeated them, took their livestock and saved the people of Keilah. 

Then Saul heard that David was in Keilah and prepared to attack him there and David inquired of God as to whether Saul would come down and whether or not the people of Keilah would deliver him to King Saul and God answered, “He will come down. They will deliver you up.”

So David and his men left Keilah. It appears that they may have split up at this point because the accounts record that they “went wherever they could go.”  It makes sense that this may have been necessary because David’s band had grown to more than six hundred men. 

Just like with David so it is for you and me; blessings and trials come to us at the same time. God uses us to fight injustice and we’re happy and at the same time injustice falls upon us causing us to have to retreat from the place of our success. 

It’s tempting at times like this to think that God expects too much and provides too little. The truth is we’re not unreasonable for thinking this way, but we are wrong. We don’t know what God is preparing us to do in the future. We don’t know what challenges we’ll have to face and the kind of strength and abilities those challenges will demand of us. But God does, and the path he leads us down will prepare us to meet them with all the faith, courage, and knowledge necessary to be victorious over them. 

We need to learn to see that in the trials we face today God is preparing us for great victory in the battles we’ll face tomorrow. 

“So David said to Ahimelech the priest, ‘The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place.  Now therefore, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found.’”  1 Samuel 21:2–3

As David begins his life as a fugitive from King Saul he decided to attempt to take refuge among the Philistines no doubt thinking that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and while certainly David has not made himself an enemy of King Saul, Saul has decided that David and he are enemies. 

However, before he leaves Israel and enters Philistine territory David goes to Nob and inquires of the Lord through the High Priest there. 

The High Priest, knowing that David is a son-in-law of King Saul, and a commander in Israel’s army, becomes suspicious and fearful of David when he sees him traveling without the usual royal guard. When he expressed his confusion to David, David lied to him and told him that he was on urgent business for the king and had been compelled by the king to leave immediately, without the usual preparations. 

After this David asked for bread and a weapon, if anything was to be had, and the High Priest gave him of the bread that had been in the temple, usually eaten only by the priests, and the only weapon available, the sword of Goliath. 

David then went to Gath to present himself to Achish, one of the kings of the Philistines, but he was recognized and became fearful that he would be killed because he had killed Goliath, and because of his many other victories over the Philistines, so he began to act as if he was mad; babbling, clawing at the gate and drooling. Another lie. 

Friends, whenever trouble rises up and threatens us it’s tempting to turn to a lie to escape from it. But here’s the thing, lies may get you freedom from your immediate trouble but far too often they buy trouble far greater down the road often involving far more people than the original trouble every would have. 

In David’s case his conversation with the High Priest at Nob had been witnessed by a loyal servant of King Saul and it was told to him. Saul became angry and wouldn’t believe the High Priest when he explained what had happened and Saul had the priests and their families murdered that day. 

David himself realized that it was he and his lies that had brought this terrible violence to the priests. 

In John chapter eight verse thirty-two Jesus says that the truth shall set you free. While Jesus was specifically talking about the truth about him and his salvation it’s also true that hiding behind lies, any lies, traps a person. Only living and speaking truth gives freedom in life. 

“When the lad had come to the place where the arrow was which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried out after the lad and said, ‘Is not the arrow beyond you?’  And Jonathan cried out after the lad, ‘Make haste, hurry, do not delay!’ So Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows and came back to his master.”  1 Samuel 20:37–38

While King Saul was prophesying at Naioth in Rama David and Jonathan met to discuss what was to be done about his anger toward David. Jonathan attempted to assure David that he was reasonably safe because he felt sure that his father would discuss any plans he made against David with him before he did anything. But David felt that Saul would probably hide his plans from Jonathan because he knew that he and Jonathan were friends. So they devised a test to find out Saul’s attitude forward David and a signal for letting David know the results. 

The test was this:  the next day was the beginning of the feast of the new moon and David would not attend. When Saul noticed David’s absence and asked about it Jonathan would say that David’s eldest brother had commanded that he attend the new moon celebration in Bethlehem and that he, Jonathan, had given him permission to go to Bethlehem. If Saul’s response was that that was ok then this meant that he had no evil intent toward David and David was safe, however, if Saul became angry then they would know that Saul wanted to kill him. 

The signal to tell David the result was this:  David was to hide at a certain field and Jonathan and an arrow boy would go to that field to practice archery. After Jonathan had shot a few arrows he would send his boy to collect them and when the boy got to where the arrows were, if all was well, Jonathan would call to him that the arrows were closer and that he should come back toward him, but if Saul was angry and all was not well Jonathan would call out that the arrows were further away and that the boy should go farther. 

The next day everyone but David met for the new moon and Saul, assuming that David had become ceremonially unclean and was purifying himself, didn’t ask about it, but on the second day when David was absent he did inquire as to why David was missing. At this Jonathan gave the answer that he and David had planned and Saul blew up, called Jonathan terrible names, accused David of trying to take Jonathan’s rightful place as king and promising to kill him if he gets the chance. 

Jonathan tried to intercede for David and for his efforts Saul threw a spear at him. 

The next day Jonathan and an arrow boy went out to the field he and David had chosen for the signal and Jonathan gave the sign that told about Saul’s anger toward David. 

David and Jonathan would always love one another like brothers but they would never again be able to spend any time together and they would only see each other once after this. 

Sometimes being God’s chosen means that you have to make sacrifices. God’s plans don’t always harmonize with the plans of others. But God will make a way for his chosen to fulfill his purpose.  Are we willing to do our part?  Jonathan fulfilled his chosen task which helped David begin the next part of God’s preparation for him to become the next King of Israel. 

“So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.  Now it was told Saul, saying, ‘Take note, David is at Naioth in Ramah!’”  1 Samuel 19:18–19

After David had been helped by Michal to escape from his house through a window he ran from Gibeah to Rama, a village approximately five miles away, to report what had happened to the prophet Samuel. After he had told Samuel what Saul had done to him he and Samuel then left Samuel’s home and stayed at Naioth. Naioth’s location is uncertain but the Bible seems to suggest that it was a place where Samuel conducted a school of the prophets not far from his home in Rama. 

Saul was determined to take David and eventually got word that he was with Samuel at Naioth and sent messengers, that’s code for soldiers, to get David and bring him back to Saul. When the messengers got to Naioth and saw Samuel standing with a group of the prophets prophesying they too began to prophesy. 

It didn’t take long for the news to reach Saul that his soldiers had failed to take David because the Spirit of God had come upon them and they had begun to prophesy, but Saul’s determination was us altered and he sent a second group of soldiers. These also began to prophesy as soon as they saw Samuel. So Saul sent a third group and they too began to prophesy. After that Saul himself led a fourth contingent of soldiers and before they arrived at a Naioth Saul began to prophesy and he continued prophesying all the way to Naioth and when he got to the prophet Samuel he stripped off his robe and prophesied naked and lay naked on the ground all day and all night. 

God’s intervention, of course, allowed David to escape once again, but Saul’s determination to take David and kill him was undiminished. 

We marvel that Saul was undeterred in his attacks on David in spite of God directly intervening four times in a single day. It’s obvious that Saul is not merely fighting against David he’s fighting against God. But friends, that’s the nature and the power of sin. Sin is enmity and warfare against God. We may have convinced ourselves that we’re moral, logical, and peaceful people but if we hold to sin in our lives and refuse to submit to God’s leading we have the same capacity for determined injustice and violence as Saul had. 

In fact, a day is coming, and I believe it’s closer that most of us think it is, when laws will be passed to compel God’s loyal followers to accept and obey commandments directly opposed to commandments God has given. The right to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience will be removed. Those making and supporting these laws, many of whom have called themselves friends of God’s loyal followers, will receive clear warning that the course they’re following is directly opposed to God and still they’ll press forward. 

Friends our only help is God. Now is the time to learn to submit to him and obey him. The apostle James tells us that if we submit to God he will draw near to us and the devil will run away. All it’s takes is submission. Humbly accepting God and his commandments and directions for your life and obeying him. Now is the time to receive salvation. Now is the time to draw near to God and learn from him that we may be prepared to stand in the day of trial and then prepared to be with God in the day of his triumph. 

“Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you.’”  1 Samuel 19:4

Saul’s hope that David would die at the hands of the Philistines in the process of raising the dowry for winning Michal’s hand in marriage was disappointed. David was successful to the point that he was able to raise twice the dowry. So he and Michal were married and on the outside it must have looked like everything was going to be ok between Saul and David. But it wasn’t. 

You see Saul’s problem really wasn’t with David. It was with God. God had rejected Saul because of his disobedience and it was this rejection that Saul was fighting against.  Saul couldn’t have known for sure that David was God’s chosen replacement for him as king but it’s obvious that he’s jealous of David’s accomplishments and popularity and it’s also apparent that Saul suspects that God has chosen David. Because Saul is fighting against God’s rejection he’s also going to fight against any replacement God raises up. 

Shortly after David and Michal’s marriage Saul orders his servants that David is to be killed. Our focus text is part of Jonathan’s intervention on David’s behalf and to some measure he’s successful. Saul recalls his order and David is saved. But Saul is still rejected and David is still the hero and the obvious replacement so Saul’s enmity against David hasn’t really gone away. 

David continues to be victorious over the Philistines, garnering for himself more praise, and Saul once again begins to be tormented by a distressing spirit. David is called to play his harp once again. But David’s playing doesn’t soothe Saul instead Saul’s anger is roused and he hurls a spear at David attempting to pin him to the wall and once again David evades the spear and escapes. 

But Saul wasn’t done trying to kill David. He sent to David and Michal’s house to arrest David but Michal helped David escape out a window and he fled into the night. Additionally, Michal put an image into David’s bed and told Saul’s officers that David has suddenly become very sick and won’t wake up. So they carried David in his bed to Saul where the trick was discovered. At this point Michal evaded Saul’s anger by lying and saying that David had threatened her forcing her to help him escape. 

Many times when we’re suffering it’s easy to feel like we’re all alone, rarely is that actually the case. Most of the time we do have friends; there are people that will help us. In David’s case, two of his friends were Saul’s own children. Additionally, we’ll always have the assurance the God is with us. In him we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He’ll never abandon us or fail to be there to help us. David’s about to have enter a long period in his life where he’s on the run but right from the start he has the assurance that he’s never alone.

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