Because of Who He Is
1 Timothy 6:15-16
One of the purposes of the Lord's Day is to turn our focus from all of the normal routines of life and things that occupy our time and energy. This will give us a chance to stop, think and focus on who we are and why we exist, to contemplate who God is, and how who He is changes our lives. When we are burdened down by the daily routine, trying to work through the problems that are part of life, it is sometimes difficult for us to attach to that who God is, what He wants and what our mindset should be. The better we are at that, the better we live our lives. God has graciously from the beginning set a cadence in creation where He says that one day in seven we should take time to come away to rest not only our body, but also our soul in Him, to figure out what life is all about and what we are living for. Our text in 1 Timothy 6 focuses on the Center of centers, God Himself.
The last time we were together in 1 Timothy we looked at the Supreme Motive. In context, the supreme motive for Timothy was to carry out the charge that Paul was giving to him. Timothy was sent to the city of Ephesus, and there in a well-established church to bring in line teachers who were teaching something different from what Paul had taught when he founded the church years earlier. Timothy, at age 35, was young in comparison to some of the men he was dealing with. It would be easy for them to look down on him. Timothy was to set the example of the believer in word and faith, in deed and charity, and to demonstrate that he was a man of God and to stick by the calling Paul had given to him.
As Paul finished his letter he gave Timothy what should be his supreme motive for what he was doing. It had to be more than just for Paul. Paul would one day die and Timothy would live on to carry out the charge. The supreme motive is God Himself. In the verses we looked at (1 Timothy 6:13,14) Paul talked about God as the Universal Lifegiver, then as the Incarnate Redeemer and also as the Returning King. He captured the whole essence of the existence of the world, where history is going, and what the center is--Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.
I want to remind you of what Paul said in verses 13 and 14 and then we will go on to verses 15 and 16 where we resume our study.
13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
This is not the end of the letter, but it is toward the end and is the motivation, the God-centeredness, that is necessary to living life well in this world. This focus on God Himself falls between two charges. The first is to Timothy, who is to keep the commandments, not teach a different Gospel, and to see that no one else does. The other is to those who are rich in this world and how they are to use their riches so they invest in what is really life and not just in this temporal world.
Think about what is going on here. It takes tremendous courage to do what Timothy is doing, and a willingness to live and die for that effort. Paul basically says, here's why--God. God is all the reason you need to do this. You are not living for yourself, or Paul or men, but for God. On the other side there is tremendous temptation for those who have done well in this world and have a lot of this world's goods to trust in those riches and use them for their own plans, rather than to use them for God's purposes and to pour them into other people to build for the next life.
It is very difficult when we are comfortable in this life to think about the next life. The more uncomfortable we are, the more we look forward to being out of the discomfort. When we are comfortable, like most of our culture is used to, it is easy for us to put our roots down deep and live for this time only. The reason we should not live that way is God. The reason we hold what we have loosely is because we have God and He is worth more than any mammon. We look at what we have as a means to an end or as a means to serve God.
What we are going to look at is really one of those subjects that starts to burn out the circuits of your mind. When you try to think about who God is, how infinite He is and what that even means, and the dimensions of it, it is like stepping off a cliff into the deepest part of the ocean. There is no way any of us can contain the ocean. Today we will go to the edge of the ocean, look at how vast it is, take the little cup of our lives, fill it up with the ocean so that as we live our lives they are full of the goodness of God.
We saw in the David series that it is the person whose mind and heart are set on God, whoever is God-conscious, who changes the course of the story. The same is true today. The more God-conscious you and I are, it changes our thinking in a way that changes our lives and the lives of every life that we touch. The degree to which you and I live in an intentional, God-conscious way, not just tonight, but tomorrow and in the workplace or in the home, the more we change the trajectory of our lives and the lives of those around us. That is what we are here to do.
What is the Church? It is the temple of the Holy Ghost, the body of Christ, the temple of God to be filled with the glory of God which holds high the truth of God so the world has a witness to see who God really is. When the time comes for judgment, because of us, the world has seen Him. Because they have seen Him, they have trusted in Him and are safe in Him forever. When they stand before the throne of God, they have cause for great rejoicing rather than fear because God has reached down through the lives of people like you and me and has touched their lives.
We are going to make an attempt at filling up our cups with the ocean of God so this week, as we pour ourselves out, people see Jesus in us. Who God really is makes all the difference. It keeps us true to the faith and keeps us using our resources in a way that pleases Him.
Because of Who He Is
· Because He is the only Sovereign, we serve one true King, not lesser powers.
· Because He is the only Immortal One, we have everlasting hope, not temporary joy.
· Because He is invisible, we live for spiritual realities, not temporal materialism.
· Because He is worthy forever, we direct glory to Him, not ourselves.
I. Because He is the only Sovereign, we serve one true King, not lesser powers.
Paul calls Him the blessed and only Sovereign. The word blessed is not what you might expect. It is not the word that means to confer a blessing on or one who is praiseworthy. This is makarios, the same as the in the Beatitudes. The equivalent of it is in Psalm 1. It is not referring to the one worthy of praise, but rather His status and experience as being happy and enviable. We cannot be blessed and happy on our own. It is our relationship to God that makes us so (Psalm 1, Beatitudes). But God has everything in Himself to be happy, satisfied, and complete. He is dependent on absolutely no one else to make Him that way. That makes Him different from every one of us. He is the only such being in the universe like that. Everyone else is dependent on others for their happiness and ultimately dependent upon Him. The man who is the blessed, happy man in Psalm 1 is the one who is delighting in the law of the Lord. It is his connection with God that makes him blessed, happy or having a life to be envied by others. The reason all the others described in the Beatitudes are happy and blessed is not because of themselves, but because they realize they have no happiness in themselves, and they have latched on to God.
That was the difference between David and Saul. Saul is trying to find his happiness in himself and David is finding his happiness in God. God is the One who is the blessed and only Sovereign. God is the only One who is complete in Himself. As MacArthur, 275, put it: “Those who enter into a relationship with God enter into His calm.” God is complete, there is nothing missing. It is those who have entered into a relationship with Him who find that they are complete as well.
That is why when you try to find your happiness anywhere else, you will find it disappointing. It doesn't matter what it is, it cannot sustain your happiness, your blessedness. Only God can do that. He is the only such being in the universe. All other gods are either fictions or lesser beings, created by Him for His glory. Man, as he doesn't give God the glory due Him, begins to worship the creature more than the Creator. He begins to look at things that are glorious: the sun, moon, stars, animals, other humans, and sees their majesty reflected and decides to worship them. All they are worshipping are reflections of the Creator-God, those that have come from the God who has created all things. To worship or serve anyone but God Himself is to neglect not only our best duty, but to neglect our highest good and our greatest reason for joy.
He is the blessed and only Sovereign. The word sovereign is the word we get dynasty from. It is related to the word for power—dunamis (dynamite). His sovereignty springs from His own innate ability and power. Miracles are business as usual for God. Whenever someone says they do not believe in miracles they must not believe in God because that is what God does. There is nothing extraordinary or miraculous for God. He can do anything He chooses to do. He is infinite in His power. What we call miracles are things that testify to the power of God. They are supernatural, not anti-natural. They are above what man can do in his natural ability. He is the blessed and only Sovereign. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Proverbs 21:1: The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. Do you believe that God has that level of control or that much ability? There is so much in our life we cannot control. We have wishes about how we would like things to happen, but we have no control. We can barely control ourselves, let alone other people or outcomes. But God has this absolute control. He is the Sovereign.
Paul says this at a time when Caesar considered himself ruler of the world, with all its nations and kings. Paul is making a bold, corrective statement. Caesar is nothing compared to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Anybody who has any kind of authority--human or angelic--has no authority equal to that of God. He rules over every one of them. We talk about “super powers” today. There are no "super powers" that are above His power. As nations threaten and intimidate, God is not worried. We know that Psalm 2 tells us that he laughs. You know, serve, and belong to that God and He has loved you with an everlasting love. He has proved that love by sending His Son for you. So why are you worried? Why do we fret when He is this King of kings and Lord of lords?
We are familiar with this phrase as a description of Jesus Christ in Revelation 17:14 (the Lamb) and Revelation 19:16 (The Word of God). He is God's Lamb provided to save us. He is God's Word that communicates with us and as such is King of kings and Lord of lords. God is still in charge. The phrase is also used in reference to God in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 10:17-22:
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
When we talk about King of kings and Lord of lords, this is not like some kind of musical fiction that makes for a great oratorio. Moses says that God is powerful and to look at what He does. Because He is that way, make sure you are not crooked in your business. He cares for the fatherless and widows and you should care for them, too. Why? Because God rules. God does not care what country a person is from. He rules. This calls for a certain kind of living.
Psalm 136:3: Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. One of the places in the Old Testament that uses this terminology about God shows that you should be grateful because that One loves you, is loyal to you, is kind to you, and He never quits. How many important people do you know? Maybe a few, but they are not important for long. This person is important forever. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. To belong to the One who exercises such complete power and control provides tremendous security and amazing confidence. It ends our fretful worries and crucifies our self-dependence. We serve Him.
II. Because He is the only Immortal One, we have everlasting hope, not temporary joy.
He alone (the Scripture says) has immortality. Literally, He is undying, He is unable to die. The reason Jesus could die is because He became man. He had to become completely man as well as completely God so that He could die and bear our sin. God is not dead, nor does He sleep.
Every person we ever love and depend on eventually dies, unless we die first. The parents of my best friends growing up are now dead or have diseases. It is hard to live in a world where the pillars of your community keep falling over. This pillar is immortal. God alone, the great Lover of our souls and the love of our lives never dies and possesses in Himself the power to give eternal life to whomever He wants to.
Jesus says in John 5:25-29: Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Christ says elsewhere that the Father has given Him life and has also given life to all whom the Son wants to give life to. Because He is the immortal One, those that are connected with Him can become immortal as well. The only way we can become immortal is through Him. 1 Corinthians 15:53, 58: For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. . . . 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
We know what it feels like to toil to the point of exhaustion or to think our work is in vain, but God gives us a reason to keep serving because He is the immortal One. Even though we may not get credit or reach the goal here, we know we will reach the goal. We know we have in Him what is eternal and that He gives eternal life to those who put faith in Him the moment they do.
III. Because He is invisible, we live for spiritual realities, not temporal materialism.
We are told, Who dwells in inapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. His shining splendor is too bright to look upon.
Psalm 104:1-2: You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment. You've seen light that is so blinding you can't look at it. That is God. In fact Christ is called the Sun of Righteousness. You dare not look at the sun if you want to be looking at anything after that.
In the Beatitudes Christ says the pure in heart shall see God. What does that mean? John Kitchen, 284, says: “As finite creatures we will never be able to look completely upon and comprehend the essence of Him who alone is infinite.”
God says in Exodus 33:20: No man can see Me and live.
Paul tells us in John 1:18: No one has seen God at any time. The only God, who is at the Father’s side, he (Jesus) has made him known.
Colossians 1:15: He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.
Jesus says in John 14:9: He who has seen me has seen the Father.
Jesus Christ made God visible by the infinite becoming finite. What you see there is not the infiniteness of God, but God emptied so that we could see. Had He not chosen to reveal Himself for Who He is, we never could have come to know Him personally. He has given us natural revelation. When we see the splendor of a sunrise or a sunset or hear a mighty storm roll through, when we see the change of seasons, the moon and the stars, we get some sense of His power and greatness. When we feel the tug of our conscience we know that He is the eternal judge. When He gives us His Word we have written for us who He is, explaining what we are seeing and making sense of it all. In His Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, we have displayed for us, as a human being, who God is and what He is like. That is how we know Him. If He had not revealed Himself in that way, that inapproachable light would be too blinding for us. It would be a consuming fire that we could not approach. God has reduced Himself in a way to make Himself known. Remember that He is infinite and invisible. We live for a world and believe in realities that we cannot see. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We don't live for just what we see and touch. Those things are passing away, they are temporal. The things that are eternal are the things you cannot see. You cannot see God and yet He is the Ultimate reality.
IV. Because He is worthy forever, we direct glory to Him, not ourselves.
To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
Honor is a common word, used for how a husband is to treat his wife. He is to treat her as one who has high worth or value. When we consider or look at God He is the most worthy and valuable Person in the universe. His worth is forever.
Eternal dominion—eternal (ages) kratos is the strength to exercise complete control and supremacy. He has that eternally. Think of all the great ones of the earth. They will all be dead bodies in a casket, able to do nothing and will be forgotten. Time goes on, but as the ages roll on, God's supremacy, His supreme strength will continue. If that is true, He deserves our praise and glory and our life. We have nothing to worry about. A billion years from now, He will still be in control. If I bank my life on him, I cannot lose. Even a hundred or a thousand years from now, where will most of the things be that people give their lives to? What if you give your life to the Person that a billion-billion years from now will still be ruling and reigning with complete control over everything? The God who loves you with an everlasting love has everlasting strength to back that love.
The question for us as we enter into a new week and as we live out the moments of our days is, "How big is our God?" The God that we serve makes the battle for the faith worth it, no matter what it costs. The God that we serve makes generosity with our material possessions worth it. It is worth it because of Who He is!
1. “The blessed (happy) and only Sovereign”—what is the relationship between happiness and sovereignty and why is our happiness dependent whereas God’s is independent?
2. Why does it make no sense to let anyone or anything less than God rule your life or supply its joy?
3. How does suffering for defense of the gospel and sharing your possessions relate to who God is in your life? How is it that you cannot lose if your relationship to Him is secure?
4. How is God’s invisibility both frustrating and instructive for us?
5. How does God’s infinite worth and eternal strength of supreme control steer your life goals and what you most glory in?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
April 6, 2014
A Sure Future Versus Vain Regret
1 Samuel 26
Last Sunday in 1 Samuel 25 we saw God's Restraint of Folly: the folly of not only a worldly man like Nabal who was living for the moment, indulging himself and harming others, but also the folly of rash revenge in David, a man after God's own heart. God used the humble wisdom and faith of Abigail who ended up becoming David's wife.
The Folly of Self-Centered Indulgence (Nabal)
The Folly of Rash Revenge (David)
The Wisdom of Humble Faith (Abigail)
Today we continue David's history in 1 Samuel 26.
Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?” So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. (If Ziphites sound familiar, it is because a couple of chapters ago we read about a similar stunt the Ziphites pulled. For some reason they did not care too much for David and they wanted to ingratiate themselves to Saul. The Middle East was not a large land region, so it should not surprise us that we hear again of the same people as we continue through 1 Samuel.) And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come. Then David rose and came to the place where Saul had encamped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him. Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab's brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul's head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.
Then David went over to the other side and stood far off on the top of the hill, with a great space between them. And David called to the army, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, “Will you not answer, Abner?” Then Abner answered, “Who are you who calls to the king?” And David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy the king your lord. This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord's anointed. And now see where the king's spear is and the jar of water that was at his head.”
Saul recognized David's voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” And he said, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of the Lord, for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.”
Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.” And David answered and said, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and take it. The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord's anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” Then Saul said to David, “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.” So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place.
This is a chapter of tremendous contrasts. David is rising. Saul is sinking. Shipwreck and Shining. David proves himself righteous by refusing to kill Saul, the Lord’s anointed when he has a second opportunity to do so. Saul confesses his sin and foolishness and promises to do no more harm to David. This is their last recorded encounter. This was the end of Saul’s pursuit of David, although, as the next chapter illustrates David did not know that to be the case, just as we do not know what comes next in the chronicle of our lives. In some ways we are relieved that Saul finally says he’ll stop chasing David. David may get a break from the fugitive life he’s endured so long. We may even be hopeful when we hear Saul admit his sin, confess his foolish mistake, promise to do no more harm, call David to return, and bless David like a father would a son. But there is a stark contrast even in Saul’s apparent repentance and confession. It is key to his fall. It is key to David’s rise.
The question we often ask ourselves the first time we look at a narrative is, "Where is God?" This is the question we ask now, and it is actually the question we should ask each morning as we begin our day: Where is God? This is the question we ought to be asking as we think about our life and its relationship to other people. Where is God?
The chapter actually refers to the LORD (Yahweh, His covenant name) by name 16 times and refers to Him one more time with just a pronoun. That’s more than we’ve seen so far in any of these chapters, but every reference to God comes from the mouth of David. Reference to the LORD is noticeably absent from Saul’s words—because the LORD is absent from Saul’s thinking and his life. That is the fundamental difference between the man with a sure future and the man suffering vain regret. Both are sinners. Both have played the fool. Both have experienced repentance, but only one displays a spirit of faith in God and a close relationship with Him.
All of humanity is divided along this line. As we gather here this morning, the divide is the same. This is like a mirror on all humanity. There are those who have a sure future and those who suffer or will suffer vain regret.
What is your relationship with the LORD (Yahwah, the covenant God) who has provided a way of salvation, a way of relationship with mankind -- sinners and fools who need to repent? And more than repent -- believe and trust and come into a relationship with God. That makes all the difference.
In David’s speeches recorded here, he acknowledges (affirms) several realities in light of his faith in and relationship with the LORD.
- The LORD lives. (In an oath formula, but it is foundational to everything.)
- The LORD rules. (The details of life, the kings that rise and fall, those that He anoints, the timing of their coming to power, whether they are sleeping or awake)
- The LORD judges. (He governs his universe.)
- The LORD cares. (It is easy to think that someone all-wise wouldn't care for people like us, but it is clear that the Lord cares.)
In Saul’s speeches you see confession and repentance, but his focus is self-centered and earthbound, with no mention of the LORD. So you have the vain regret of focus on self. But someone can be self-centered and still give confession: I have sinned, I have acted foolishly, I have made a great mistake. They can actually show a degree of repentance, of turn-around. We see this when Saul says, "I will no more do you harm. Return my son David. Blessed be you, my son David, you will do many things and succeed in them." This is not the same Saul who was treating David in such a despicable way, but his is a worldly repentance that remains without God and without hope in the world.
I. The Sure Future of Faith in God (David)
And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord's anointed.
The first thing we see David affirm is that the LORD lives. You are familiar with the term. You see David say it in verse 10 and later in verse 16 as he rebukes Abner for not being a good bodyguard for King Saul. Granted, this is an oath formula, a way of saying "this is so," but it is also in David's mind and life a fundamental reality. He serves the living God. This is a great contrast between the idols of the pagans and the living God. He actually takes action in the history of mankind. He is not a creation of man, not just an icon on a wall, not imprisoned in some temple, or particularly impressed with the ceremonies of religion. He is a living God. He is awake, aware, and active.
Natural man does not think that way. God is far from his thoughts—as if God does not exist at all except as the subject matter of Sunday sermons and hymns of worship, but the true believer knows God is there. God is there in the wilderness in the middle of the night amidst a sleeping army. His presence and His power are the determining realities of any situation. So David knows that while Saul and his 3,000 men sleep in the dead of night, and Abishai and David stand over him capable of slaying him, they are not alone. God is with them, beholding the evil and the good. Whatever they do in the cover of night is brightness to God. It is completely known. The believer doesn't talk about what he is getting away with because always God knows. He sees. And He is the main one with whom I have to deal. He controls everything about my life and has everything at His disposal to deal with me.
Think about the worldview David has here: the worldview of a sure future because of his faith in God. Consider your thoughts, words, and actions of the last week. What of them would you change if you had been keenly aware of the presence of the living God with you through every moment of that time? The reality is that maintaining consciousness of the living God is one of the most life-changing mindsets we can possess. It will change how husbands treat their wives. It will change how wives talk to their husbands. It will change how parents rear their children. It will change how children submit to their parents. It will change the discussions you have about the boss during coffeebreaks. It will change the way you treat those you supervise. It will change what you do on your day off. It will change what you choose to meditate on and where you put your focus -- IF you are thinking, "I have faith in and I serve the living God." As the Lord lives! Because He does, how should you live?
The second thing that David affirms is the LORD rules. He rules in appointing the authorities that are in power (compare Romans 13). He sets them up and takes them down at will. We ought to obey our authorities because God sets them in place. If we resist authorities, we are resisting God.
Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.”
Note that David is not afraid of killing people. He is perfectly capable of doing this. It is not that he doesn't have opportunity or that he doesn't have a friend who is loyal to him and would encourage him to do it.
But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?”
It was not that David even thought that Saul was a great guy. It was that he understood that Saul had his position because God put him there. It wasn't just acts of men who put him there, it was God!
And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord's anointed. (1 Samuel 26:8-11)
16 . . . you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord's anointed.
23 the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord's anointed.
It was David's reverence for God that gave him reverence for Saul.
History often seems off-course. The Sauls of the world hold the scepter while the Davids run for their lives. But God is ruling nonetheless. He sets up kings and puts them down. He determines the times and seasons of whole nations. And those that are aware of His kingship seek to honor His sovereign choices with humble, persevering faith that stays within the bounds of his authority by giving honor to whom honor is due.
When you get on your knees and humbly acknowledge that God is the Lord of History, including your own personal history, what situations can you leave to Him to resolve? What anxieties can you release from your fretful thoughts? What joys can you anticipate, knowing He works all things together for the good of them that love God?
The third thing David affirms is the LORD judges. We might sometimes look at the atrocities of King Saul and of Doeg the Edomite and the kinds of things that other men have done over history. We might say, "Wait a minute. God is not judging. He is not dealing with these people." One thing to remember is that if God is showing grace to them and patience, remember that we, too, have need of grace and patience. What if God nailed you the moment you sinned any time you sinned? If God has shown mercy to you, why should He not also show it to anybody else? But the Lord does judge. David declares...
Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of the Lord. (1 Samuel 26:19-20)
It is easy to resent the suffering we endure from those we know to be sinning against us, but consider this reality. God often uses sinners to bring judgment against our sin, even as He used the Babylonians to judge Judah (Habakkuk choked at this — God, you are too holy to use evil men to judge your people.) You know how easy it is to get your back up when someone you know isn't right with God gets in your face or does something to make your life hard? Have you ever noticed how God will use someone like that to address something that is wrong in your own life? In fact, that is what makes it sting so bad -- because they brought up something that you know isn't what it ought to be. God often uses sinners to judge other sinners. If you think about it, who else on the planet is He going to use if He is going to use people? It is going to be a sinner of some sort. God used the Babylonians to judge Judah despite the prophet Habakkuk's protest that God is too holy to look on evil, and therefore, He couldn't use the Babylonians. But God said, "Watch me," and He did. Then He judged the Babylonians, too.
David shows that he knows himself a sinner, and that sometimes God chooses to use greater sinners to chasten His children. David just came off of practically wiping out all the males of Nabal's household. So he knows that he can fly off the handle. At the same time, he knows that God will hold people accountable who stir up evil against others. It is very possible, based on his words, there was someone like that in Saul’s court that kept him ginned up against David. There are people like that. Wherever they go they stir up conflict and trouble. They are divisive. They're slanderers. They're heartless and cruel. In fact, there is one group that the Scriptures say to identify and after two warnings to have nothing more to do with them.
What pains David most about his exile is his being cut off from the public worship of the Lord in the tabernacle. You know that a guy who wrote so many of the Psalms loved to go to corporate worship. Missing it made him feel like he was living the life of a pagan. God’s people love worshiping alongside God’s people.
Another truth that David underscores is that the LORD cares.
The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation." (I Samuel 26:23-24)
God is not unjust to forget our labors of love. Even a cup of cold water given in His name will not lose its reward. That is not just in the future. Sometimes we sing, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus." That's true, but God doesn't wait until eternity to reward His people. You know that. The reward is going to be great -- beyond our imagination, but God knows our frame. He knows that we need some encouragement along the way, and He often rewards now. That's because He regards our lives as precious (great, important). Our lives are important to God. He delivers His people out of all tribulation (distress). The New Testament says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because it matters to Him concerning you." Peter was talking to exiles, a lot of them were refugees, a lot of them living in strange places and dealing with difficult circumstances. Peter said to them, "Don't be anxious about it. Don't fret because God will fret for you."
It may be hard for you to convince yourself that the LORD considers your life of great importance and that He really cares about you, especially when you are deep down in the trials of life. How can you be sure? The reason we are sure is that is what the Bible is all about. The big story of the Bible is redemption, that God is doing everything necessary to rescue a sinful, fallen, foolish, human race and restore them back to Him. God cares for a human race that has believed Satan’s lies and rebelled against God. Is the notion that God cares about you just typical religious feel-goodism? Absolutely not! Consider this. What makes David so significant is that he is the ancestor of the coming Anoined One, the promised God-man Savior, Jesus Christ. His safety had to do with his connection with the Messiah King. So does yours:
Romans 5:8: God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah) died for us.
Romans 8:32: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:35: What shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Nothing—not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword . . . neither life nor death, nor angels nor rules, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing has the power to separate us from the love of God. The Lord cares. That's His nature.
II. The Vain Regret of Focus on Self
Saul makes confession. “I have sinned.” “I have acted foolishly.” “I have made a great mistake.” It is great to hear words like these from Saul. I believe he means them, but we have heard similar words before:
1 Samuel 24:17: You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.
1 Samuel 15:24-25, 30: I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return to me that I may bow before the LORD. . . . I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”
Religion was useful to Saul. Samuel was useful to Saul. Yahweh was useful to Saul, but He is Samuel's God, not Saul's God. All of his feeling sorry about his sin isn't really enough. Beside confession we also see Saul's turn-around (repentance). He says, "I will no more do you harm." "Return, my son David."
“I will no more do you harm.” And he makes good on those words to David. He says, "Return, my son David.” This is in contrast to driving him away, cursing him, and “Blessed be you, my son David, you will do many things and succeed in them.” This is in contrast to cursing David and slandering him and seeking to kill him. Saul’s repentance, however, is incomplete. He still is not really seeking the LORD with the submission of humble faith. You can realize you are a sinner, that you have been foolish and that you have done wrong, but if all you get to is that "I feel bad about it. I confess it, and I am not going to do it anymore," you need more than that! I need more than that. Who is going to wipe my record clean? Who is going to change me from the inside out? Who is going to walk with me? My problem is not just my sinfulness, it is my godlessness, my broken relationship with God that creates my unrighteousness. Just becoming more moral, more sympathetic and more apologetic isn't enough. I need to be rescued by God Himself. I need that relationship with God. This is the Gospel. When you repent, God calls you to trust in the Savior He has provided, to yield to Him.
This illustration may help. Suppose you are in a flood and the waters are steadily rising. You are standing at the top of a hill, but the waters continue to rise. Then someone sends you a boat. You say, "I know I ought to get in the boat. I wish I weren't stuck in the flood. I know if I got in the boat, it would hold me up, but I'm staying on this hill." You have to get into the boat if you are to be rescued. We need more than an apologetic attitude. We need more than confession. We have to have faith to trust in God and enter into a relationship with Him. This is Yahweh, the covenant God. This is a God who has ratified that covenant with the blood of His Son. I can be religious to the hilt. I can make my apologies. I can say my prayers, but until I actually have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, I am still a worldly, godless man.
So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place. There was no real trust possible because too much damage had been done. Off-and-on commitment to the LORD and to men characterized Saul. He was unstable in all his ways. David’s way is directed by the LORD. Saul turned to his own way. He was a sinking ship.
Next time we see Saul, he is desperate to get word from the prophet Samuel, who has already died. Saul would not listen to Samuel when the prophet was alive. Now he seeks him through the help of a witch, a necromancer, who supposedly talks to the dead in violation of God’s explicit commands. He seeks Samuel, not because he’s seeking the LORD but because he wants to know the future. Who will win the upcoming battle with the Philistines? Saul suffers the plague natural to all human beings. It started in the Garden of Eden.
C. S. Lewis put what our problem is so well in The Case for Christianity, p. 43:
“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. . . . Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. . . . God can’t give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it isn’t there. There’s no such thing.”
The prophet cries out, "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near." (Isaiah 55:6)
The only way to find Him is through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man. "No man comes to the Father except through me. I am the way, the Truth and the life." (John 14:6)
The Sure Future of Faith in God (David) or The Vain Regret of Focus on Self (Saul) -- which one describes you?
1. One way to measure how much you’re thinking about the Lord during the day is how much you talk about Him. What times do you find it most natural to bring God into the conversation with others?
2. What behaviors reflect your personal awareness that God is alive and active and what behaviors contradict that reality?
3. How does really believing that God rules history, including your own, affect your attitudes toward life in general and toward others in their relation to you?
4. How does knowing that God judges sin affect your thinking about your own sin and the sin of others against you?
5. What makes believing God really cares for you personally hard to accept, and what truths or experiences help you overcome that difficulty?
6. Why is sincere confession and repentance not enough to rescue people from the vain regret of self-focus?
7. How can you help people like Saul who have come only part way from their sin to the Savior?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
April 6, 2014
God's Restraint of Folly
1 Samuel 25:1-42
David is going through a period in his life he probably never anticipated. He's experiencing stress that makes it so easy to do the wrong thing. In the middle of the battle and changes we don't expect to deal with, it is critical that we maintain a God-centered focus, that we don't forget what we know is true about God and what He is doing in the earth. Even the heroes of the faith can forget that sometimes. We saw last time that David exercised his God-centered faith as with the Power of Reverence he was able to Wait God’s Time (1 Samuel 24:1-7), to Trust God’s Justice (1 Samuel 24:8-15), and to Show God’s Goodness (1 Samuel 24:16-22).
We come to chapter 25 with a complete contrast to that kind of behavior. It is encouraging because it teaches us that even if we are serving God one week, it is possible for us to really mess up the next and that God is still looking out for us. We'll read through 1 Samuel 25:1-42.
1 Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah. Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. 2 And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. 3 Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. 4 David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. 5 So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. 6 And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. 7 I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. 8 Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’” 9 When David's young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. 10 And Nabal answered David's servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. 11 Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” 12 So David's young men turned away and came back and told him all this. 13 And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage. 14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. 15 Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. 16 They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. 17 Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” 18 Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. 19 And she said to her young men, “Go on beforeme; behold, I come after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 And as she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, behold, David and his men came down toward her, and she met them. 21 Now David had said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. 22 God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.” 23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25 Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. 26 Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. 27 And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.” 32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! 34 For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” 35 Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I havegranted your petition.” 36 And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light. 37 In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. 38 And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died. 39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing. The Lord has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife. 40 When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “Davidhas sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” 41 And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” 42 And Abigail hurried and rose and mounted a donkey, and her five young women attended her. She followed the messengers of David and became his wife.
The key to approaching narrative like this is to look for God. When you look at 1 Samuel 25 through that lens, you see a striking contrast between the first half of the chapter and the last. The first half makes no mention of Yahweh, the LORD. It’s as if when Samuel the prophet died the awareness of the LORD died. Saul has divorced himself from God. And now the man after God’s own heart seems to have forgotten the theme of his own life—that the battle is the Lord’s and salvation belongs to Him. If the one who is to be the next king has no thought of God in the crises of life, the nation has a bleak future—without God and without hope in the world. The second half refers to the LORD twelve times. The person who introduces the LORD into the crisis is not David, the man after God’s own heart, but Abigail, the wife of a stubborn fool. Her lot in life is hard, but her faith in the LORD is strong, and it leads her to intervene in a bold way that saves many lives, and rescues David from blood guilt born of rash anger.
There is quite a contrast between David in chapter 24 as he spares Saul out of reverence for God, and David in chapter 25 as he straps on his sword to slay Nabal and all the males of his estate on account of Nabal’s arrogant insults at a time when David and his men needed his help. It reminds us that even the greatest hero of the faith can play the fool. It also reminds us that the real hero of redemption history is not even an extraordinary man like David, but is the Savior God, the ultimate anointed One, Jesus Christ. When we see a passage like this, we see God restraining folly.
God’s Restraint of Folly
- The Folly of Self-Centered Indulgence (Nabal)
- The Folly of Rash Revenge (David)
- The Wisdom of Humble Faith (Abigail)
I. The Folly of Self-Centered Indulgence (Nabal)
We see this in the person of Nabal. He is very rich—3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. That is not currency we are used to but we can imagine how expensive it would be to own and take care of that much. He is the husband of a beautiful and discerning wife, but he himself is harsh and badly behaved, even though he is a descendant of Caleb (hero of God). The name Nabal means insolent fool, the kind of hardened fool that scoffs at God and godliness, a fool who lives an earthbound existence and doesn't understand how the spiritual matters are so important to his life.
As we go through the passage we find this fool described this way: he is ungrateful for the kindness that David and his men have done for him. He is inhospitable and insulting and returns evil for good. He is a worthless man who will not listen according to his own servant’s estimate. Even his wife Abigail, a woman God calls discerning as well as beautiful, gives testimony regarding her husband:
25 Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.
Nabal’s insulting refusal to show David hospitality after David and his men had protected Nabal’s flocks and servants is the spark that sets this crisis ablaze. It might not seem so bad a thing in our society that a person will not help someone else, but in the Mediterranean world to fail in hospitality was a terrible insult, contrary to all the rules of etiquette of the day.
What did we learn about Nabal? A fool cares more about his things than people. He was more concerned with what it would cost him. He lives for this world only. A fool is ungrateful. A fool closes his heart to those in need. A fool returns evil for good.
What do you do with such people? We need to understand that God restrains fools like these. God is not threatened by such petty power. God is not impressed by 3000 sheep or a thousand goats. God does not care about the quality of food or drink you have. He doesn't care how successful and powerful the rebel kings and rulers of this age are. He holds rebel kings and rulers who rage against Him and His anointed in derision. He laughs. He does not fret, because He will deal with them. He has all the time in the world. He can do it instantly or a thousand years from now. He is not worried that if he doesn't get it done now, it won't get done. He is the ruler of the universe, the King of kings. He is the One who sets up kings and puts them down. He is the One in whom our very life-breath is held.
If the LORD our God does not fret about such evil-doing fools, should those who trust the Lord as God fret? Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay. For that reason we are commanded to leave revenge up to God and treat even our enemies with kindness.
Nabal's biggest problem, as well as the fools of this world who arrogantly mistreat God's people, is not selfishness or even their abuse of other people. Their biggest problem is their godlessness. Nabal's problem is not just that he is inhospitable, it is that he doesn't know God or honor Him. If he honored God he would love God's servant and he would show God's character. Often as we travel through life we meet Nabals, people who are brash and rude and make it hard on others. Our anger wells up inside and we feel like we are being taken advantage of and wonder who is going to stop them. What can we do? God has got it under control. The world might look like it is careening out of control, but it is not. It is moving toward God's predetermined goal. God will take them down in His time. Their biggest need is not even punishment. Their biggest need is God. All of us were darkened in our understanding, hardened in our hearts where we couldn't see the light. That's why we act as we act. A person acts godlessly because he is godless. That is exactly Nabal's problem.
This has been an on-going problem for the people of God as we see those that are wicked prosper.
In Psalm 73 Asaph said that his feet had almost stumbled and his steps had nearly slipped because he was envious of the arrogant and he saw the prosperity of the wicked. He gets a grip on things when he goes into the sanctuary of God, a place where we are reminded that God rules. When he went into the sanctuary of God, then he discerned their end. He discerned that God had put them in slippery places and would make them fall to their ruin. That makes us sorry for people like Nabal because his behavior shows how badly he needs God. We are told that Abigail told Nabal after he had gotten over his feasting and drunkenness from the night before. He evidently had some kind of stroke and ten days later the Lord deals with him and he struck him and Nabal died.
He is like the rich fool Christ tells about in Luke 12 who had laid up goods for many years with plans to build bigger barns, telling his soul to take it easy, eat, drink and be merry. God says, “You fool, this night your soul will be required of you. Then whose shall these things be?” Jesus comments: So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. If I'm not taking care of my soul and my relationship with God, what good will my things be for me?
He is also Like Belshazzar, feasting away, mocking God with vessels of the Lord, who is weighed and found wanting. His kingdom is divided, and before the night is out he is dead.
If you spend all your days gathering to yourself what you can gather, indulging yourself in your pleasures and things, all the while neglecting the cultivation of your soul toward God, you are playing the fool and you are heading to a fool’s disastrous end. You will harm instead of helping others. Your biggest problem is that you have forgotten God. We all must answer to God. We can't live in God's universe without giving God homage.
Nabal causes us to ask the question, What are we living for? What consumes your time and your energy? What are you obsessed with? What are you trying to achieve in life? Is there anything about it that would indicate your understanding of the creator God who sustains all things and holds your life-breath in His hands? How do you respond when the needs of others call for giving up what you have acquired? That's really the acid test of whether you know there is a God in the universe, whether you understand that what you have all belongs to Him, and is given to you not just for yourself, but for doing good to others.
What do you do with what you have? What are you willing to give up for the sake of someone in need? We all can live like fools in acquiring things and as soon as someone threatens our things we are up in arms. That's a good indication that our life is too much about things instead of about God.
II. The Folly of Rash Revenge (David)
We expect a man named Nabal—Fool—to be a fool, but we are taken back when David, a man after God’s own heart, plays the fool, too. In David's hurt and anger he is determined to bring the death penalty against the man who would not help him, but rather insulted him. And worse, he claims he will kill every male in the household, which would include discerning servants like the one who came to Abigail to report his master’s bad behavior. Does this remind you of anybody? Two chapters earlier we see Doeg at the command of Saul slaying the priests of the Lord because the priests helped David whom Saul considered to be an enemy. What's the difference? What has happened to the man of reverence, who waits God’s time, trusts God’s justice, and shows God’s goodness?
How would David or you and I do something like this? David has been living through a time of prolonged crisis. That has to wear on you after a while. He is at a time of urgent need with a sense of deserving reward for kindness done. He has a weight of responsibility on his shoulders for the livelihood of hundreds of other people. Then there is injury to his ego. He is treated as a wrongdoer even though he is trying to serve God. He is weary, wounded, and desperate—with the power to kill. Without the restraint of God, such a man can be deadly dangerous.
Where is God in David’s thinking? When you and I live life without reference to God we become fools. If it can happen to David you can bet that it can happen to us. Nabal was no real threat to David’s survival. God had promised to bring him to the throne. God did not need Nabal’s wealth or kindness to do it. David knows this, but is not thinking from a divine perspective—if he’s thinking at all. He’s just reacting. He's demonstrating human nature: “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to our own way." He's showing how even the best people need a Savior, One on whom the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all. A true servant of the Lord cannot afford to forget the God he serves. Whenever he does, he will act foolishly and people get hurt. The world needs believers to behave like believers (trust God).
Do you really believe God is King? Do you really believe God is Savior? Do you believe God treats people with grace? Do you really beleive you are a sinner like everyone else? Do you believe that His purposes will prevail and no fool named Nabal is going to stand in the way? If you are trusting that, you don't need to strap on your sword. So many times we react because we are not thinking about the God who is, and what God has promised.
When you worry that people are getting away with self-centered sin toward others, what are you saying about God? When you consider that God knows more about the situation than you do and has every resource at His disposal to deal with such persons in the very best way at the very best time, what would your responses be like? Take the thing that has you most fretful, that you are struggling with the most. Take that and put it in the context of a God who knows how to run His universe and a God who rescues sinners, and who is committed to faithfulness to you. If we respond wickedly to wickedness, we enlarge the damage and join forces with the evil one. Human history is often a long chain of sinful responses with escalating cost. Someone has to break the chain and reverse the direction. Someone who knows what grace is like and somebody that has true faith in the God who can manage just fine without our help.
God took the initiative to reconcile sinful fools to himself by bearing the cost of their sin. Rather than resenting the cost, He lovingly, willingly bore God’s wrath on our sin, died our death, and rose again to grant to those who trust in Him free forgiveness and eternal life. His followers should and must display the same kind of grace toward sinners, the same kind of faith toward God. This God can manage the difficulties, defend you and rescue you though all Hell be turned against you. Nothing can sever you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Who are you wounding or putting at risk because of your resentment and anger? Put the anger away! There’s much to be done for the kingdom. There are battles David ought to fight, but this is not one of them. It is a side track that will ruin the reputation of David and of God in the world. David is playing the fool but for the restraint of God through an individual.
III. The Wisdom of Humble Faith (Abigail)
Abigail's speech is full of God, of the Lord, the One who enters into a relation with men:
26 Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. 27 And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!
Here is this humble servant of the Lord. Seven times she refers to herself as a servant. She shows, grace, resourcefulness, courage, generosity, settled faith in the Lord, his power, his promises, his purposes. David was anointed to be a savior not a destroyer. He is the link to the coming Messiah who fulfills God’s salvation plan.
Abigail injects the LORD into this diseased disaster and turns it all around. Solomon will write: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
Abigail affirms the LORD’s promises to David and His unfailing care, which promises made his vengeful plan unnecessary and unworthy. What credit would it be to the Lord that a believer fighting the battles of the Lord ascended the throne with innocent blood on his hands simply because he was insulted by a fool? David acknowledges that it is the LORD who sent her to restrain him from his vengeful folly.
Anybody who has been stopped from continuing to pursue a sinful path has God to thank for it. God knows how to arrest His servants. In this case he used the humble, pointed words of a faithful woman willing to step up and meet the needs of David’s 400 armed men and intervene before their leader committed an atrocity in answer to an insult. God’s restraints are acts of love toward us. We do well to heed them as from God and not from men and to get our focus back where it belongs: on Him and His plans.
As different as Nabal and David are, in this part of their history, they both prove to be fools when left to themselves. One dies, struck by the Lord, unrepentant. The other is restrained by the LORD and repents. If you think about it, those are the two options. Either you continue blindly on a fool’s path with no thought of God or others, only to be cut off and judged, with all opportunities for repentance gone forever, or you listen to the pleas of those speaking the LORD’s wisdom into your life. Stop your rush toward sin, and trust the God who rescues fools from their folly.
God is committed to His redemption plan. David was just part of it, an ancestor of Jesus Christ who would accomplish it by pouring out His life for our sake. Isn't it obvious in a world full of folly that God nonetheless restrains it. He judges it or He purges it through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1. When have you seen yourself behaving like the fool Nabal, and what do you think is the cure?
2. Why do you think it is so natural to want to “strap on your sword” in order to deal with those who are self-centered, insulting, and abusive toward you, and what helps you refrain from sinning in response to sins against you?
3. Why would the kind of humility Abigail displays by her speech and action be necessary to diffusing explosive situations like this chapter records?
4. Abigail is humble, resourceful, and courageous. Why?
5. God rescued David through Abigail’s actions. If David needed such help, is it likely there is anyone who will not need a brother or sister to intervene at some point? Why or why not? What kinds of crises can you help resolve through the wisdom of humble faith in the Lord’s promises and purposes?
6. How is Abigail like Jesus?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
March 30, 2014
Behold the Glories of our Christ
In the opening chapter of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we meet Christian who is journeying from his home town, the city of destruction, to the celestial city or heaven. On his back is the great burden of his sin which weighs him down and puts him in danger of death and destruction. Christian meets Evangelist who gives him the Word of God and directs him to a “Wicket Gate” for deliverance. After numerous difficulties and failings, Christian arrives at the gate and then the Interpreter directs him to the cross of Christ. Upon seeing the cross, his burden suddenly falls from his back and tumbles into the sepulcher of Christ never to be seen again. “Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.”
The sight of the cross relieved Christian of his burden. I suspect that a great number of people tonight have burdens on their back which weigh them down. Some may be carrying the burden of sin. Perhaps an addiction to drink, pornography, deceit, or greed pulls you down toward destruction. Other may carry the weight of physical illness. Just look at our prayer bulletin! Perhaps a child in your home is going astray and appears hopelessly blind to the truth. Fear and doubt may grip your hearts. Uncertainty about the future may weigh you down. Your job may be on the verge of being gone. I sit on the Pastoral Advisory Committee. Our pastors carry enormous loads and weights. Most of those loads are ones that come from the care of this assembly.
Just as the sight of the cross and the Savior relieved Christian of his burden, so our burdens will begin tumbling from our backs as we look to the Savior! God may not take every difficulty or burden from us in this life. But He will begin to give us a perspective on life and hope for the next life as we see the Savior.
This evening, we will look at Jesus Christ through the lens of Isaiah 52:13-15. This passage combined with Isaiah 53 is one of Isaiah’s servant songs which extol the coming Messiah. In the New Testament, we learn that the servant is none other than Jesus Christ.
Follow as I read Isaiah 52:13-15.
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.
I. Christ lived a glorious life (Isaiah 52:13)
II. Christ died a brutal death (Isaiah 52:14)
III. Christ provides a glorious salvation (Isaiah 52:15)
I. Christ lived a glorious life. (Three attributes of Christ’s glorious life.)
a. My servant—
i. Servants are lowly, but as God’s servant, Christ is glorious.
ii. The servant of God carries out the will of God.
iii. Mark 10:45: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
iv. Philippians 2:5-11: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality
with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of
a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human
form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and
bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and
under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
b. Acted wisely
i. Calling of Peter and Andrew—Mark 1:17: And Jesus said to them, "Follow
me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
ii. Rebuke of Religious Leaders-- Mark 12:17: Jesus said to them, "Render
to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God things that are God's."
And they marveled at him.
iii. Journey to the Cross--- Matthew 16:21: From that time Jesus began to
show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things
from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the
third day be raised.
Matthew 16:22: And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him,
saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
Matthew 16:23: But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me,
Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind
on the things of God, but on the things of man."
c. High, lifted up, exalted
i. Isaiah 6:1: In the yeara that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting
upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the
ii. Matthew 3:17: and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is
my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
iii. Matthew 7:28-29: And when Jesus finished these sayings, the
crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching
them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
iv. Matthew 17:5: He was still speaking when, behold, a bright
cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said,
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen
[Contrast the servant’s high position with the brutality of His death.]
14 As many were astonished at you- his appearance was so marred,
beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children
II. Christ died a brutal death
a. Comparison to the deported—Isaiah 52:14: As many were astonished at you-
b. Content of His suffering—Isaiah 52:14: his appearance was so marred, beyond
human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind
i. Gospel of Mark notes on suffering
[Contrast the brutality of the servant’s death with the glory of the result.]
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because
of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which
they have not heard they understand
III. Christ provides a glorious salvation (Six great truths or descriptions)
a. Sacrifice—Sprinkles—sacrifice for sins
i. Hebrews 9:19-22: For when every commandment of the law had been
declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats,
with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself
and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God
commanded for you." And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood
both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law
almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood
there is no forgiveness of sins.
ii. Romans 5:8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still
sinners, Christ died for us.
b. Scope—Many nations—all peoples
c. Grace—forgiveness (sprinkle) for scoffers
i. The people that killed Jesus are offered forgiveness
ii. Luke 23:34: And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do."
d. Evangelism—see, understand
e. Repentance—shut their mouths either in amazement or repentance
i. 1 Samuel 25:37: In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal,
his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he
became as a stone.
ii. Job 40:1-5: And the LORD said to Job: "Shall a faultfinder contend with the
Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it." Then Job answered
the LORD and said: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer
you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not
answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."
iii. Romans 3:19: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those
who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole
world may be held accountable to God.
iv. Beholding Christ empowers repentance.
f. Faith – Isaiah 53:1: Who has believed our report?
i. Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
ii. Salvation is glorious because I simply need to believe and not work.
iii. Beholding Christ empowers faith.
Friends, we must see Christ if we are to live the live God intended for us. When Jesus fills our vision, the misery of our sin vanishes. When we behold Christ, we recognize that God has solved the largest and most destructive problem that we have which is our sin. If God can take care of our worst problem, what can he do with the smaller ones?
- John 1:36: and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
- Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Philippians 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
- Romans 8:37: In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Hampton Park Baptist Church
March 30, 2014 PM