We are going to be studying, this afternoon, beginning in I Samuel, Chapter 24. And as I begin this study, with you, I’d like for you to first think of this thought. Most of us, through most of our lives, have probably been members of different organizations. You may have been, at one time or another, a member of a political group. You may have been a member of a ski club or a local, basketball team. Many men, I suspect, were, once, on a football team. Then, I would like, for a moment, this afternoon, for you to remember the many times you had a big event coming up. Do you remember those times you may have had a big game that you had to play in? Do you remember that big speech you had to give or big demonstration you had to be part of? And do you remember how you were so frightened; but then, everything went along great? Perhaps you won the trophy with your team; perhaps you reversed a political decision; or perhaps you changed the public opinion on some point. And remember how you went out with joy in your heart. Your steps had that bounce in them. But then, another smaller event came your way and you lost. You know, it is the history, behind many famous teams, in the sport’s world. They win the big games; but then, they lose for less important competition. Well, this afternoon, that particular pattern of things reminds me of what took place in the life of David, in I Samuel 24-25. And if you want to stick with me, you will see what I mean by the time I am finished with this lesson!
So, if you have a Bible, please open it to I Samuel, Chapter 24. In Chapter 24, we have the second story of David that we have told many, many times. He is still running from Saul and now he is hiding in the back of a large cave, with all his soldiers. And we read, in verse 4, that Saul leaves his soldier behind, for a while, to go to the restroom in the cave where David is hiding. And David and his men can hardly believe it. Of all the people, Saul has come in where they are hiding. And you can begin to hear the whispers among the soldiers of David. They are saying, « It’s Saul! What an opportunity. Now we can kill Saul and solve most of our problems! » And they whisper this back and forth, attributing this great chance to God’s doing. Look at v. 4. « … » See how they want David to go! It’s kind of interesting. But when we see something, we want; almost all of us find a way to justify getting it. And I’ve even seen people go so far as taking the word of God and twisting it a little bit, to justify what they want in life. And these soldiers, of David, say, « David, what we want is for Saul to be dead and it must be what God has worked, here, for that to happen! » And David seems to believe it. But folks, Watch out when you ascribe things to God. Often, it is Satan’s doing to tempt us and not God working to help us. And yet, we seem to always think it’s God’s will. Even Saul felt that way when he went to kill David. Look back at I Samuel 23: 7. « … » And yet, here is a plain example of when it was not God’s will. So, I wonder. Do you ever say, in your life, this is God’s doing, I know! »? We like to see God behind us, don’t we? But folks, you know what we should say. Go to Philemon, verse 5 and let’s learn from the mouth of Paul. « … » See, we ought to use the providential “perhaps”. Perhaps it is the will of God. Don’t be presumptuous. God doesn’t put ideas in your mind through the Holy Spirit. You don’t know the truth. Even apostles, directly inspired, didn’t claim to know it all! Now, back to I Samuel, Chapter 24. David takes his dagger and goes forth. Now, think about this for a second! If any man needed to be killed, maybe it was Saul. Remember how he destroyed the entire city of Nob for no good reason? And look at all he has done to David. And from a worldly point of view, if any man ever had a right to kill a man, maybe, David has the right to kill Saul. He can’t go back home! He is now separated from his wife! He is separated from his good friend, Jonathan! So many things have happened to him, because of Saul, that he had to go out and lie. And now innocent people have been killed because of his lies. Saul has even forced his parents to have to hide in Moab. And David has done nothing to deserve this. So, looking at it from a worldly point of view, yes, we might say, « David, go forth and kill Saul! » And that is what the men are saying at the back of the cave. And so, now, David, with a dagger in his hand, is creeping up behind Saul. But then, something happened in his heart! David is stricken by guilt and his heart won’t allow him to do what he wants to do. So, instead of killing the king, he takes the knife and cuts off a little corner of the robe. And you know the rest of the story. He goes back, to the back of the cave, to tell his men and he says, in verses 6 and 7, « … » and now, Saul is marching out of the cave. And in I Samuel 26, verse 8, David calls, « Saul, my lord, the king! » And Saul recognizes that voice. He turns around and David is prostrating himself, before him. And he says, « Saul, my father, in verse 9, « … » And Saul, when he hears these words, asks, « is that you, David, my son? » And though Saul is a hard man, there is still a soft spot in his heart, for tears start to roll out of his eyes. And he says, in verse 17, “David” and then, at the end, he says, « I know, now, you are going to be the king of this nation. And Chapter 24 ends like that!
And we always tell the story, about David and Saul, in that cave, and how David almost killed Saul. And then, how he caught himself and said, « I’ll do what God wants! » But very few times do we talk about Chapter 25. And, even less, do we tie those two chapters together. And at this point, I want you to think of what we talked about in our introduction. I want you to think of how, so many times, our sport team goes out and wins the big battle; but then, they go out and lose the lesser battle. Because when Chapter 25 begins, David is now in the Desert of Maon. And we read about a man, named Nobel, who had his headquarters around Mt. Carmel. He is a wealthy man. He has 1,000 goats and 3,000 sheep. He is from Caleb, mean and surly in his disposition. He is a hard man; but he has a wife, named Abigail, who is totally the opposite. She is very beautiful, on the outside, but more so on the inside. She is kind, sweet and gentle-spirited! And when I read this, I wonder, « How did a fellow, like Nobel, end up with a woman, like Abigail? » But then, you could say the same about many couples, today. You, often, have one harsh, hard and hateful and the other is as kind and sweet as can be! And you wonder, «How did they end up together? » Someday, I’ll have to ask God! But, verse 4 says, it is sheep shearing time in Carmel. You could say, it’s harvest time! And when harvest time is just finished, often, the farmer rejoices. Sometimes, he throws a party. And, Nobel, in this story, throws a party. Now it’s customary, when you have such a party, that the bigwigs go out and give favors to those who were kind through the year. And David knows that custom. And David has been very kind, through the years. When Nobel’s shepherds were out in the wilderness, David was there, beside them, and he protected them. Not only that, but he didn’t take anything that was not his, though he had 600 soldiers to feed. The text says, the shepherds became David’s friends. And now, it’s festival time; so David calls the men and he says to them, in verses 5-8, « … » So David wants some food. I can’t blame him. Can you imagine what it would take, not to feed a family of five, but 600 full-grown men, day, after day, after day? But Nobel is mean and harsh. Look what he answers, in verse 10. “…”. So he insults David, by calling him a runaway slave! And now, the ten servants, disappointed, go back to David. They tell him the story and David sees red! His feelings have been hurt. The anger is now burning in him! He had done such kindness to these men and the man returned evil for good! But, more than that, he dared insult David. So David now turns to his 600 soldiers and says, « Put on your swords. Let’s march. What good has it done for me to be kind to this man? » (Verse 21). And then, in verse 22, he makes this vow “…”
But while all of this is happening, a servant, of Nobel, runs to Abigail, his wife, and he starts telling her the entire story. Now, Abigail acts quickly. In verses 18-19, she does the following “…”. And she goes to meet David. When she finds him, she says, « my husband is exactly what his name implies. He is a fool! Then, in verses 26-28, she says, “…”. So, in other words, she says, « David, you can’t do this! I know you’ve been hurt. I know you were treated wrongly by Saul and my husband; but you can’t do this! You are the anointed of God. Don’t become a murderer! » And David, in all his anger, listened and, finally, he says, in verses 32-33, “…”. Then David turns to the 400 soldiers and says, « Let’s go back home! » And they do. But I am amazed, this afternoon, as I look at both stories, because I find David, in Chapter 24, in a dramatic moment. Saul is within his group. He has the opportunity to kill his greatest enemy. But he stops and says, « It wouldn’t be right, before God! I shouldn’t avenge myself before God like this! » And what a wonderful thing he does, that day! He puts away his sword! But only to turn around, in Chapter 25, with a far lesser offense, David is ready to take his sword and his 400 soldiers and kill an entire household. Can you imagine? At one moment, David is the champion of God. The next moment, he is the champion of Satan. His feelings are hurt and he wants to take things in his own hands. And life is so much like a football game! And our everyday road is so much like David’s road. Because we go out with God and we win in the big things, only to turn around and lose in the little, insignificant times. And you know, I suppose when you look at a text like this, you can get stuck talking, only, about retaliation. And I almost did. At first, I thought we’d spend a whole lesson on it; but then, I saw a total of three things that we need to pay attention to, from this text.
I. Don’t retaliate.
Yes, we need to pay attention and not strike back when someone hurts us. We need to return with kindness, when evil comes to us. We need to be different than the world. Because, pretend, for a second, that you get your way! Pretend David is standing by Saul’s corpse or you are standing next to the wounded person, whom you are really angry with. Would you really feel better? Would you be able to sleep and live with yourself, knowing you were not any better? Folks, guilt lives for a long time and it robs us of the joy of life. So we need to let God handle things because God is righteous. He doesn’t operate out of wounded feelings. He operates, based on righteousness. And righteousness is needed for any fair judgment.
II. Submit to Authorities.
But, in our text, there is a second lesson that we learn. That lesson has to do with submission. See, God has always wanted his people to be submissive. And each of us, without exception, has one, two or more people we ought to submit to. I used to think, as a child, that an adult was free to do what he pleased. But, I’ve learned, since, that there is no such thing as being totally free. You have people you have to submit to at work, on the road, in Paris, at home and, if nothing else, in heaven. So as God’s people, we ought to learn to obey and respect the authorities - whether you are talking about authorities inside the body or outside the body. Do you remember what Paul said, in Romans 13: 1-2? “…”
But you know submission is not easy! It is not easy when the authorities are good and it is even worse when the authorities over us are evil. And yet, God calls us to submission. See, the Roman authorities were not good! They persecuted Christians and they killed and buried many nations. And yet, the Christians couldn’t enroll in resistance and fight. They were told to submit, to respect Caesar and to pay taxes. You mean they had to pay taxes, even if the taxes were used to support wars? Yes, I mean that. You mean they had to submit even if Caesar lived in immorality? Yes, I mean that. Do you mean they had to submit, even if Caesar was killing their family and persecuting their brothers? Yes, I mean that! Submit, like David, for this is the will of God. God had a purpose in establishing a certain man, as a king. I may not like it; but this man may be the one God needs to punish the nation. Maybe he needs an evil man to accomplish His will, as He needed one to punish Israel, 2,00 years ago. Now does that mean that when my life is in danger, I cannot run? No. Even Jesus’ parents ran, with Jesus, when Herod killed babies. David ran, also, from Saul. But he didn’t fight him. He let God handle the problem. And I need to let God take care of my problems. You know, thinking like that is scary because how will I react when another Hitler comes to power? But you know Hitler was not worse than the Caesars of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries. Their works equaled the works of Hitler. And so, I think what God would want is for me to leave it up to Him. Not to pick up my gun and become a sharp shooter.
Now, before I move on, let me be clear. Does it mean that if I am in submission to the government and they tell me I can’t speak about Jesus, I can’t speak about him freely? No. Submission has limits. I submit as long as the one in authority does not ask me to compromise my belief system and become displeasing to God! There are higher authorities, than the ones of this earth, that I owe my allegiance to, first.
So, #1. Don’t retaliate. #2. Submit to the authorities. And now #3.
III. Don’t relax your guard, in smaller battles.
Don’t relax your guard for the small battles. Win, in big things and in small things. You know what we do, too often, is what David did. Maybe, it’s like a preacher! Big challenge time! Unusually big audience! Important subject! And he works and he works and he rises to the challenge. He delivers the sermon he needs to deliver and he does a wonderful job. But then he turns around and goes home and does not act the way God would want him to act, in some little thing. Or, maybe it’s like the Christian, trying to be a servant, in a big thing. And the Christian just about kills himself rising to the occasion. But, the next day, he goes to work and fails in a small thing that God has asked him to do. But God wanted David to be his man, in his relationship with Nobel, just as He wanted David to be His man in his relationship with God! And you know, this afternoon, that God wants you to do well in small things as well as in big things. So, don’t relax your guard!
Let me finish by saying this. These lessons, we talked about, take a lifetime to master. You don’t learn, in one day, not to retaliate, to submit to authorities or to keep your guard up, at all times. Those things come with maturity. And so, if these things take a lifetime to master, we need to be willing to spend a lifetime to learn them! We need perseverance because, time after time, you and I will fall short. And what I would urge, this afternoon, is that all of you be willing to keep on going with perseverance when you fall short of where you should be. That’s the secret of Christianity.
If, today, you need Jesus, why don’t you let us know? Why don’t you come forth and we’ll talk with you to see how we can establish or reestablish a link, while we stand and sing.