Sins of Desperation, Tokens of Divine Care
1 Samuel 21
It has been a while since we have camped along with David. The last time we saw David's life beginning to endure a number of hardships. We saw that timeless friendship between David and Jonathan in "The Priceless Security of Loyal Love" (1 Samuel 20). Our main points were:
I. Ready Service (1 Samuel 20:4)
II. Selfless Humility (1 Samuel 20:13)
III. Protective Love (1 Samuel 20:14, 15, 17)
IV. Loyal Courage (1 Samuel 20:27-34)
V. Parting Grief (1 Samuel 20:41)
VI. Divine Awareness (the LORD 13x)
As we trace through chapter 20 it reminds us of these things we affirm about the Lord: Yahweh lives, sees, takes action, stays close, shows loyal love, cuts off our enemies, directs our path, unites those that trust in Him together as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We believe all those things. We sit together here in the comfort of a place of worship with a thousand others who have joined in song, and prayer, and Scripture reading, and affirmed such truths about God. It is different when you are on your own and when everything that has been a source of security for you has been stripped away. There are times when these religious precepts can seem disconnected from where we are really living. We mouth the words, but our hearts ache or scream inside that these things don’t seem to be truth for us personally in our present crises. That experience is not foreign to even the most outstanding saints of God. If that's where you are this morning, you are in a common place.
Consider the man after God’s own heart, David. His life suddenly surged from shepherding sheep as the youngest son of Jesse when the old prophet Samuel anointed him as the future king of Israel. At that time the Spirit of God rushed upon him to empower him not just for the throne but for getting there alive. Because of his musical ability, he is tapped to play for King Saul during the rejected King’s bouts with demon oppression. David suddenly catapults to national prominence when he kills the mighty champion of the Philistines, Goliath the giant warrior from Gath. At that point Saul’s jealousy of him awakes. David becomes King Saul’s armor bearer and warrior for Israel, building a resume of spectacular military victories. The king, with his jealousy mounting, tries to destroy him by offering him his daughter in marriage if he will kill 100 Philistines. David kills 200 and becomes the king’s son-in-law. From that point on Saul openly tries to murder him. His loyal friend Jonathan (Saul's son), his protective wife Michael (Saul's daughter), his godly mentor Samuel, and then the mighty Spirit of God himself foil every strategy Saul attempts.
For a time David has a breather, but Saul’s murderous rage resurges and David is on the run. He loses his high position; he loses his wife; he must leave his best friend; the popularity of the nation becomes as useless as last year’s headlines. A small band of men accompany him, but other than that, he has had every crutch removed. He is a fugitive with no weapon or food.
That is a far cry from the sense of wonder and privilege he must have felt as oil trickled down his head while Samuel declared he would be king. It is certainly the opposite of the exhilaration of defeating Goliath and hearing the women of the nation sing that while Saul had slain his thousands, David had slain his ten thousands. It is nothing like the satisfaction of slapping down before Saul the proof that he had just successfully dispatched 200 enemy soldiers or the thrill of being brought into the king’s family through marriage to the king’s daughter. Or above all, the knowledge that God was with him, making him wiser than his years, and successful beyond imagination.
He had nothing now, or so it felt. Jonathan’s encouragement fades with each dusty mile. Desperation starts to well up inside him and seems to short-circuit the faith in the Lord that had been his hallmark. He does what human beings do when they lose their grip on God. He resorts to his own ingenuity—and chooses lying as his weapon of protection. Let's read about it in 1 Samuel 21:
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” 2 And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” 4 And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. 7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord. His name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul's herdsmen. 8 Then David said to Ahimelech, “Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste.” 9 And the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here.” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me.” 10 And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” 12 And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”
When we read a chapter like this we wonder how this fits in. This seems like such a disconnect from the David that we know and we wonder how he can do such things. If you consider the passage closely and consider the kind of trouble David is in, you will recognize yourself there. We have all committed sins of desperation and we have all needed tokens of Divine care.
Sins of Desperation, Tokens of Divine Care
I. David’s Desperate Sins
· Lying to God’s Servant
· Running to the Enemy
· Pretending to be Insane
II. God’s Continued Care
· Showbread: Provision for Daily Needs
· Goliath’s Sword: Reminder of “Impossible” Victories
· Philistines: Protection and Release from Surrounding Enemies
Consider David's desperate sins. He sins in lying to God's servant, Ahimelech, the priest. He sins in running to the enemy, the Philistines, for his protection. That leads to almost an unnecessary sin and deception, pretending to be insane. We know this is not the David we have come to admire. This is not the David strong in the Lord and the power of His might. It shows us a David who is subject to the same like-passions as we are, whose own flesh would sometimes dominate his life, particularly when he is under enough pressure. I want you not only to see David's desperate sins, but also to see God's continued care--these tokens of His care for His people. He shows His care in provision for daily needs. The fact that David eats the showbread, the consecrated bread that only priests were to eat, is significant. It points to God providing our daily needs. Was David doing the wrong thing? Yes, but God still provided his daily needs. Second, God shows His care in the reminder of an impossible victory. The sword of Goliath is so significant. It was a reminder of the kind of God he served and the kind of victories God gives people--impossible victories. This is key for us when we are in a trial like David was facing, when all the things we have relied on are knocked out from under us, when we feel our life is in a free-fall and that life is closing in on us and we are tempted to turn from the Lord and trust something else. One of the things God does for us is to remind us what He has done for us in the past. Third, we see God's continued care in His protection and release from surrounding enemies. We wonder why David would put himself there in Goliath's hometown, carrying Goliath's sword. We think that David has put himself there and it is his own foolish doing and he has earned it. But still God, despite David's foolishness, protects him there and sees that he is released. There is much for us to learn from a passage like this, largely because it hits so close to home.
I. David’s Desperate Sins
Lying to God’s Servant
Why did David not tell Ahimelech the truth? Perhaps to protect the priest from having to make a choice that would appear disloyal to King Saul. Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief herdsman, lurks nearby. It is not good that Doeg is there. Perhaps because David was not sure Ahimelech would help him if he knew David was a fugitive. But by lying to Ahimelech he put him, the other priests, and their families in deadly danger. We are going to see that it fulfilled a prophecy that God had given to Eli years before. Still, it put these people in danger, and they had no idea they were in any danger at all.
It is not uncommon for people to hide their troubles from those that could help them for fear they will respond the wrong way or will be unnecessarily burdened. They are afraid to trust and embarrassed to share that they’re in a fix. So often what can be done to help is never asked for till it is nearly too late. One thing I advise folks during premarital counseling is that if you start getting into trouble, let someone who can help know early on while there is a greater chance to turn the tide.
It's hard for us to do that. It's hard for people to get honest about where they really are, when there is some sin starting to take over their life. They have worked at it, but they keep falling back to it, and it gets a strangle hold on them and they are embarrassed that anybody would know. They don't tell anybody, but what they need most is to have some help--somebody to pray with them and help them through it. Don't let pride, refusal to repent of sin, or embarrassment keep you from getting the help you need.
Let's flip that. Are you the kind of person someone in trouble can safely come to? Do you convey the kind of love to people that they would come to you and tell you something about themselves that is really hard to share and tough to deal with? If you have God's love in you, you ought to be that kind of person. How can you balk at the sins of others when you know that if God held you accountable for your sins, you would burn in Hell right now. There is not one of us in God's family who deserve to be there. There is not one of us that sin does not have a grip on. There's not one of us that left to ourselves would not tank rapidly. People who have sin that has gripped them around the throat, that is destroying them, need help from God. They need godly people who know what God is like and who have experienced rescue themselves to be that kind of person. True servants of God ought to be the first people we can trust to help when the need is great.
Running to the Enemy
I’m not sure what David was thinking. You have done things like that. If you haven't, others have. You wonder, "What are they thinking or are they thinking at all?" You look back on your life and can't believe you did that. Believe it because we can be really foolish.
We don't know what David was thinking, especially carrying Goliath’s massive sword. Hundreds of Philistine warriors are dead because of David’s exploits and he walks into Goliath's hometown. Maybe he’s not thinking anything except I have to get out of Saul’s territory and the best place for that is among Saul’s enemies.
This is actually not an uncommon desperation move among saints in trouble. How many believers in trouble run away from God’s people and seek advice, comfort, protection among the pagans—pagan counsel, pagan remedies, pagan substitutes for God. We try to ease the pain with sins we know to be wrong rather than letting the pain drive us to our knees to seek help from the Almighty—drugs, alcohol, affairs, etc. We sin because we think sin will fix our problem, because Satan is dangling the right bait on the hook. The fish doesn't bite the bait for the sake of the hook. We get baited into doing things that match our particular hunger thinking that it will make us happy when all it will do is make us slaves. That's what we see happen to David.
A wife thinks leaving her husband is what God would want her to do. No, it is not. We think we cannot give to God because we cannot afford it. It's not just wrong. Dave Ramsey would say that is stupid. Many a church chooses to seek worldly tactics and wisdom rather than seeking God’s face. They mothball spiritual weapons mighty to pulling down strongholds while they turn to carnal weapons of pragmatism, manmade solutions and philosophies. The goal of the church is not to have more people. It is to shine out Jesus and to make disciples of all nations. That will bring people. All it takes to get a lot of people is a football game, and that saves nobody.
Pretending to be Insane
This humiliating display appears to be David’s only out, having unnecessarily placed himself in jeopardy. Sometimes we paint ourselves in a corner and it seems there is nothing left but to do one more deception. Nothing is quite so pathetic as a child of the Everlasting King playing the fool. Our sin makes fools of us all. God graciously uses the humiliation of our fool status to wake us up to pursuing a better path—the path of His will.
Let's look on the other side of the equation because the Bible is not a book about man, but a book about God. When you look at the best of men, even like David, what you find is fools and sinners. All of us play the fool and commit sins that we know about and sins that we don't know about. Our whole human race is there. Everything that is wrong with all things is fallout from man turning his back on God. Sin is what we're born to. By birth and by choice we are sinners. Our only hope is a God who is willing to save fools. If everyone were honest, there is not one respectable person here, not in our own selves. Ultimately that is the Gospel. The Good News is that God's love and goodness is so great that He saves fools and rescues them from themselves and from the wrath of God they deserve because He is good, not because we are. That is the theme song you hear playing through this passage. David is behaving like a fool and God is behaving like God, still loving him and looking out for him and still changing him.
II. God’s Continued Care
Showbread: Provision for Daily Needs
Showbread—bread of the face—was baked fresh each day and set out before the LORD to symbolize that our daily provision of food is made possible by the LORD. We know this. You may think you work to provide, but who made it possible for you to work? The showbread was symbolic to show that we are dependent every day on sustenance from God. That's why we pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” We ought to plan for the future, but our day-to-day reliance is on God for even our daily necessity of adequate food. That reliance is right because God cares about our bodies as well as our souls.
Psalm 37:25: I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
Matthew 6:31-33: Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
According to ceremonial law only the priests were permitted to eat the day old showbread because it had been consecrated for temple worship. Ahimelech violated this ceremonial rule for the sake a greater law—the law of love for your neighbor. In Matthew 12 Christ Himself affirms this truth. Human need is more important than ceremonial correctness. Worship wars are about ceremony, not about loving God and loving people. Plucking grain on the Sabbath, healing the man with the withered hand—“it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Religious practices that harm people and refuse to meet their real needs—including physical needs—are practices out of line with the will and heart of God. Sometimes we are afraid to follow hard after God because of the cost of it. We fear God will not care for us in practical ways. We forget that He created us with those needs and is lovingly committed to meeting them.
Goliath’s Sword: Reminder of “Impossible” Victories
Remember David’s words that unforgettable day?
1 Samuel 17:37: The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.
1 Samuel 17:45: You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
1 Samuel 17:46-47: “That all the earth may know there is a God in Israel . . . and that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
That was the message of David and Goliath. It was about a spectacular God using a shrimp of a boy to take on a giant and the shrimp wins because the shrimp believes in God. Never forget the amazing interventions of God in the lives of His people, recorded in Biblical history and church history. Recall the divinely done events in your own local church that have underscored that the Lord is with us. Don't forget those services, those turnarounds, those rescues.
Never erase the memory of what He has done for you personally. The longer you live the more instances of impossible victories pile up in your own history. Don't forget them. They are there from God for your sake. Face the fears and uncertainties that loom before you or the burdens and dangers that press down upon you with confidence in the mighty Lord of history who has intervened for His people. Remember the cross, the resurrection, His promise that He is coming back and that He intercedes for us right now. Remember those things.
Philistines: Protection and Release from Surrounding Enemies
David is trapped by his own foolish moves. But David’s foolish mistake of desperation does not remove Him from God’s protection and purpose. Sometimes we think that. We think we are saved by grace, we are converted by grace, justified by grace, but now if we make any mistakes, God will boot us out the door. If that is true, then God can't save anybody. We are all still in the flesh and do foolish things. God rescues us not because we deserve it but because He is good.
Note how the alarmed Philistines speak of him in verse 11: And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” They call him “king”! It is as if God is using the Philistines as his mouthpiece to speak to David. Samuel anointed him king. Jonathan is confident he will be king. Now even the Philistines affirm it as if already done. God’s purposes will prevail and God uses the Philistines to say it to David. David had a place in God’s redemptive history that even he did not comprehend at the time. He was to be ancestor of the Messiah! In God's perfect plan David is part of that. There is no way he is dying. David can play the fool, but God will pull him up by the nape of his neck and rescue him because he has a part in redemption history. None of us are David, but if we are children of the King we have a part in redemption history, too. Like David you have no idea how far reaching that is or how many lives will be changed by it. That is the history of awakenings and revivals. If you belong to Jesus you are part of that redemption history and your place is important. God will protect you. He already knows you are a fool and a sinner. That's why He died for you, rose again and intercedes for you and has guaranteed you an inheritance among the saints of light. That's not something you can do for yourself. God chooses the nothings to bring to naught the things that are. God takes fools and sinners and makes them wise and makes them children and saints.
Why did they not kill him right away? Who knows except to say that killing David at this point in his career is impossible in light of God’s purposes and promises and plans. Had David stayed focused on that, he would not be trapped among Philistines.
When we reach wit’s end, we need a renewed focus on God—His steadfast love, His mighty power, His loving provision and protection. More than ever we need Him. That is the value of being at wit's end and the value of having every crutch removed however painful it may be, because it turns your heart toward God. He is the only one that can handle impossible things.
That is really what brings us to a place of trusting Christ as our Savior. We reach a point where all our desperate attempts to get out of trouble we’ve brought on ourselves prove futile. We stop ignoring God. We stop fighting God and start clinging to him. We lay down our weapons. We cast ourselves on His provision—a Savior who knows how foolish we are, how sinful we are, and who loves us still. Enough to take our sin on Himself and pay for it in full, to die our death and give us resurrection life. What a Savior!
Did David learn anything from all this? Absolutely! We know that for sure because he wrote a Psalm in response to these experiences, Psalm 34, a Psalm of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away:
1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encampsaround those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires lifeand loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
That's the message of 1 Samuel 21. It is the message we need. Sins of desperation we all commit. We need tokens of Divine care. The greatest token of all is the cross and the empty tomb.
1. What are some crises you have faced that for a time took you down a wrong path, and how did God turn things around for you?
2. What have you found makes it hard to be honest about your troubles and to seek help from God’s servants when you most need it, and what have you found has helped you overcome that fear?
3. What are some common worldly tactics of dealing with trouble, and why are they insufficient?
4. Does it seem almost unspiritual that God would care about your physical needs? Why is such a perspective out of line with what the Scriptures teach about God and man?
5. In what ways has God come through to supply your physical needs in times of desperation?
6. What are some past “impossible” victories God has brought about in your life?
7. “God rescues us not because we deserve it but because He is good.” How does this statement reflect the gospel? How does this gospel truth impact the needs of your daily life?
8. How does having a place in God’s redemptive history shape your view of your life with its problems and opportunities?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
February 2, 2014
Free to Serve
1 Timothy 6:1-2
Having laid out the need for Timothy to admonish others not to depart from true doctrine or to teach something different, roughly midway through his letter to Timothy Paul made this statement: I am writing these things to you so that you may "know how to behave in the household of God" (1 Timothy 3:15). In the ancient world households included family members, slaves and workers who had to function in a certain way to be profitable and work well. So it is among the people of God who gather in Christ's name. There is a way that we interact and function whether gathered or scattered. Here Paul begins to work through what that interaction looks like. He addresses Timothy, who was a young man probably in his mid 30's and was leading the church. As a leader of other elders, he was in a difficult position. How did they perceive him? How would he view himself? How could he garner the respect that he needed to lead without seeming pushy? Paul admonished him to be the example of the believer, not letting people look down on his youth but earning respect by living in a way that would bring that respect naturally. He talked about how we treat older men and women, how we take care of widows with family and those without family, and how we interact with those who rule the church, the spiritually mature leaders, setting example for the flock, and how we respond to them. He went into what happens when they are out of line and are sinning and resistant to correction. How do we deal with that? How do we interact with one another in terms of laying on hands and appointing folks to office? Paul then reminded Timothy that some sins are obvious before the Judgment and others are not, but the Lord takes care of that. Then he came to a group of people in the church who really had a difficult row to hoe. The relationship they had within the church body was at odds with what they were experiencing in their daily work. Those were the ones who served as slaves. That is where we take up Paul's instruction today under the umbrella of how we behave in the household of God. How do we live out the gospel in practical ways?
1 Let all who are under the yoke as bondservants (slaves) regard their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.
2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
We may look at those verses and think that they have obviously nothing to do with us today because, as far as I know, no one in this local body of believers in this point in history is a bond slave. You may think we should just move on to the next verses in Timothy, but there is much to be gained by what Paul teaches about these who served in difficult circumstance: Free to Serve. The play on words is intentional because sometimes we misdefine what freedom really is and we misdefine what service really is and what its value is. We want to learn from those who certainly were in much worse situations in their lives and in their work places than we are. We can learn how to deal with the struggles we face. My guess is that you face struggles in your work place. Maybe those in authority over you don't always do the right things. We all have difficult days. There are days when we feel like quitting. There are times when we are angry or frustrated. There are times when it hard to bring to bear our Christianity in the role in which God has called us to serve.
Verse 1 gives an undesirable circumstance. We are primarily looking at the workplace. What do you do when you are stuck in undesirable circumstances?
Free to Serve
· Undesirable Circumstances (v 1a)
· Respectful Attitude (v 1b)
· God-centered Priorities (v 1c)
· Family Love (v 2)
I. Undesirable Circumstances (1 Timothy 6:1a)
1 Let all who are under the yoke as bondservants (slaves)
Consider with me first the undesirable circumstances in which some members of the Church of Ephesus where Timothy served found themselves: "Let all those that are under the yoke as bondservants." A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load as they plow a field. We don't talk about yokes much today, but they became a symbol of service to others. Christ used this imagery when he said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." He grew up working with his legal father, a carpenter, and Jesus may have crafted many yokes. He would have made them fit perfectly and made the burden easier. He calls us to take His yoke. His yoke fits. We were made to serve the King of Kings. We were made to submit to God. We were made as creatures of the Creator, and we find joy in serving Him. When a person gets a position of serving someone really important, that is considered a high honor. What greater honor could there be than serving the God of the Universe? You have the best Master there is! He is all-wise, He is all-loving, and He is all-powerful, and He has given us the privilege of serving Him. His yoke is easy and the burden is light, but the burden is not always easier and lighter when it comes to serving others. That is certainly the case for slaves in the ancient world.
Somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of the population in the ancient world were slaves at the time Paul wrote these instructions. And given that those at the top of the food chain, the noble, the mighty, the wise were the least likely to turn to Christ because of the trap of self-sufficiency, a large number of converts to Christianity were slaves. The brotherhood that existed in the church among people from all walks of life created some challenges in how Christian slaves were to serve Christ within the framework they found themselves.
Some were slaves by virtue of military conquest. Some were slaves by birth. Some had sold themselves as slaves to pay off debts they could not otherwise satisfy. Some were purchased or inherited.
Aristotle called them living tools, but they functioned in all areas of society, not just as manual laborers in the field, but also as teachers, artisans, house managers, cooks, housekeepers, and doctors. Many of them were highly educated; all of them were an essential part of how the whole civilization worked.
Many of them had living situations that were better than the day laborers who eked out a living from day to day with no guarantee of work from one day to the next and no provision of housing, clothing, and food, but it was slavery nonetheless. Freedom was as desirable then as it is today.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 perhaps best capture the biblical perspective toward how to view your situation when it may be undesirable—like that of a slave.
20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
We tend to think changing our status (married-single, child-adult, teacher-student, employer—employee) will somehow make it easier to serve God. Not necessarily and not usually. Serve God where you are. If He changes your status, serve God there too. Most people who are going to serve God when married, serve Him while single. Those who are going to give the Gospel in a foreign mission field share it here, too.
It can be difficult for us with our historical experience of a certain form of slavery with its economic motivations and practical abuses to really understand what it was like to live in such a world with the kind of slavery that existed throughout the Roman Empire.
We are grateful for the labors and sacrifices of Christians and others who fought to end the racial slavery of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a sobering stain on the history of the church as well as an illustration of how a biblical view of human beings — created in God’s image, fallen, and in need of redemption — topples institutions that have fundamental components contrary to Scriptural truth.
The Old Testament and New Testament response to slavery has more to do with warning against its abuse of human beings than with the institution itself, just as the Scriptures are not so concerned with the form of government as to the righteous fulfillment of duties whether governing or governed.
It is easy to focus so much on dismantling institutions and correcting societal practices that we forget the core reason for whatever abusive institutions and practices exist and divert our efforts toward battling symptoms instead of curing the disease.
You can get so worked up over inequities you perceive in your workplace, so frustrated with what you think isn’t lined up correctly, so incensed with the decisions of those who have the responsibility to make them, that you forget what’s really important and behave every bit as sinfully and destructively as any ill you are so obsessed with correcting. It is amazing how spiteful, angry, vengeful, slanderous, and ungodly even professing Christians can sometimes get when they think there has been some form of injustice done by those whose responsibility it is to lead, to govern, to decide. We almost always forget that it is harder to do well than we imagine until we are handed the duty ourselves.
Look at how we respond to a referee we believe made a bad call in a ball game. Observe kids’ attitudes towards their parents, students toward teachers, citizens toward those they’ve elected to serve in leadership, staff toward managers, and employees toward their bosses. People feel justified to act like the devil if they think someone in authority over them has made a mistake or committed a sin. With today's ability to give "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" to everything and everybody, we have come to think that we are all experts. We tend to voice our views on everything and everybody everywhere.
No one serves in completely desirable circumstances. No one. Even dream jobs sometimes are nightmares. Homeownership, which seems connected to the "American dream," can feel much like slavery when everything seems to break. Those with authority can tell you how thankless and self-sacrificing it can be. As long as you are fixated on your undesirable circumstances of your own making or because of someone else, you will undermine your ability to deal with it in a way that honors God. Yes, undesirable circumstances are universal. We all experience them whether we are slaves or not. Here is how we are supposed to respond.
II. Respectful Attitude (1 Timothy 6:1b)
regard their own masters worthy of all honor,
Worthy of all honor means treating someone as highly valuable. These are the same words used for how a husband is to treat his wife (1 Peter 3:7). I am to regard my own master as worthy of all honor, not just to honor him but to think of him as worthy of it. A husband ought to treat his wife as a priceless value.
Regard (or consider) is a way of thinking, an attitude slaves were to have to their masters, regardless of whether the master was a good one or not.
One of the most helpful passages that I have found in all of God's Word in times when I have felt myself mistreated is in 1 Peter 2. I have turned there myself for help in how to respond to others, and I have pointed others to it as well. I turned to it first when I was in my early 20's, longing to be independent, a surging in my soul when I was still under the authority of my folks.
1 Peter 2:13-25
13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Mutual submission is a hallmark of Christians under the Spirit’s control (Ephesians 5:21); unwillingness to place our own interests under someone else’s, a mark of the control of sinful flesh.
Here is a revolutionary thing! The Christian slave actually thinks of his master as deserving—worthy of high honor. He serves not because he is afraid he will be beaten if he doesn’t, not begrudgingly, but from a heart glad to serve. You’ve met people like that.
There are businesses that have taught their employees that's the way you treat people. When you go to the nearby place to get a chicken sandwich and you thank them, you hear "my pleasure." There is no way that everyone there says that unless someone taught them. They are showing a Christian virtue. No surprise that the company was founded by a Christian.
The word you heard most often at Dr. Dwight Gustafson's funeral was "gifted." He was highly gifted, but the great thing was that he did not let his gifts or his development of them stand in the way of treating others with love and humility.
When I have a problem serving someone else because I think it is beneath me or that it demeans me, my problem is as much a spiritual one as anything else. Look at my status in the kingdom of God—I never deserved that. Why should I be griping?
III. God-centered Priorities (1 Timothy 6:1c)
so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled (slandered, blasphemed).
Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
In Colossians Paul goes on to address masters in how they treat slaves. Evidently in Ephesus at the time the church may not have had masters, but only slaves and freedmen. There are bigger issues than whether you feel like you got a fair deal. How can you respond to tough circumstances in a way that people see the glory of God? In what ways can you let them see the humility and love of Christ so that it draws them to the teaching—the gospel? These concerns—God’s glory, Christ’s gospel—are the chief reasons to be alive—no matter what role I find myself working in.
IV. Family Love (1 Timothy 6:2)
2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
You can imagine how awkward it could be to have taken communion together as brothers in worship on Sunday, then to step back into an environment with definite guidelines regarding how masters and slaves interacted. It would be possible for the slave to be overly familiar, to resent his lower status and having to serve a brother in Christ, or to speak disparagingly of the master because of the sense of spiritual equality. But such disrespect—thinking down on—their master (despot) was both selfish and harmful to the master.
It is difficult to exercise any form of authority as master, boss, government official, teacher, or parent over those who are resistant and disrespectful. Such a spirit is not Christlike for Christ took on the form of a slave and humbled himself to die on the cross for us. It is a privilege to serve someone who is a brother or sister in Christ because whatever good you bring to them is done for the family and honors the heavenly Father and the Savior Son. It is a privilege to serve someone who is a brother or sister in Christ. Paul calls them "beloved" because they are loved by God.
Husbands live with wives in an understanding way, giving them honor because they are heirs of life with them.
Remember when you feel anger or spite toward someone who has authority over you in some way you are mistreating a member of the body of Christ. You are dishonoring your Lord, just as a persecutor who strikes a Christian attacks Christ. Do not do the devil’s work!
In Christ you are free to serve!
1. How does Paul’s instruction regarding the undesirable circumstance of being a slave help you view the undesirable circumstances you face in the workplace or anywhere else in your life?
2. Why is considering others (not just treating others) who have power over you worthy of honor humanly impossible, and how is having such an attitude possible at all?
3. What are some ways you can respond to others—especially those you think are mistreating you—so that God’s name is honored and Christ’s gospel is advanced?
4. What do God-centered, gospel-advancing priorities do to even the most mundane or distasteful of duties?
5. What are common ways professing believers show disrespect toward brothers and sisters in Christ and what are ways we can show our brothers and sisters in Christ love and honor?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
February 2, 2014
Showing Neighborly Love: 2014 Church Goals
Hampton Park 2014 Church Goals
Loving through increased membership care.
• We will increase membership care through the pastoral leadership.
Pastors will engage in visitation efforts that are measurable and
that incorporate congregant mentoring.
• We will increase membership care through the deacons. Deacons will interact with their deacon groups with greater accountability.
• We will increase membership care through all members by equipping members better with training in counseling and
Loving through strategic ministry to our men.
• We will strengthen our men through periodic events aimed at encouraging and challenging our men to fulfill their God-given role as leaders at home and in the church.
• We will strengthen our men by developing support groups for
regular accountability and mentoring.
Witnessing through global and local efforts.
• We will increase our witness globally through our continued
refinement of our global missions policies and operations which will allow us to operate more strategically and efficiently.
• We will increase our witness locally by encouraging and
equipping our members to share the gospel with one person
this year with whom they have not shared it before.
• We will increase our witness locally by supporting individual
witness efforts through periodic, organized outreach events.
Broken People, Neighbor's Heart
The God we serve, the God who is light and love is Master of restoring broken things that seem impossible to heal, of changing people in ways that seem impossible to change. He is so committed to it that He has given His Son to die in our place, to rise again and intercede for us, and is coming back. He told us two thousand years ago of what was yet to be. We began with this at the beginning of the year when we studied that God said "I am making all things new," with our text from Revelation 21. We also looked at 2 Corinthians 5 when we studied "A New Creation." We looked last week at Romans 13, "The Time Is Now." We learned it was time to pay our love debt, to be wide awake, to be battle ready, to seize the day by living as children of light armed with the armor of light and clothed in Jesus, starving the beast of the flesh.
In Luke 10:25-37 we find Jesus Christ’s own exposition of what loving one’s neighbor means. Since we are ambassadors for Christ as those transformed by Him, it is crucial for us to understand what living out Christianity looks like in our day-to-day lives. The time is now for us, individually and as a church body, to live this way and to make it the culture of our church and the pattern of our lives.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
This is a beautiful parable known all over the world. It is important for us to see from the start just how probing and convicting it is. The context in which Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan gives some idea of how supremely important what He’s teaching is. He is answering a question from a lawyer. In that culture a lawyer is one who is not just an expert in civil law, but in God’s law, since in the Jewish culture the two merge. The lawyer is asking about what he can do to inherit eternal life—not so much for himself as to test Jesus as to whether He answers correctly.
Jesus affirms the lawyer’s summation of God’s law—love God supremely; love your neighbor as yourself. The problem is, has any human being other than Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s law? Absolutely not. If we had, we wouldn’t be sinners desperately in need of being saved from sin, death, and God’s wrath.
But the lawyer breathes the atmosphere of a culture that holds that people can actually achieve eternal life by their good works, so to justify himself he presses for a definition of terms. Who is my neighbor? Whom do I have to love to have eternal life? It has gone from testing Jesus to trying to defend himself because he is trying to reduce God’s law of right and wrong down to a manageable size.
Jesus answers his question by changing it. Not, “Who is my neighbor?” but “Do you show yourself to be a neighbor to others?” He answers the question by turning the focus to "Who are you?", "What kind of person are you on the inside?" that would make you respond to your neighbor in the right way? Jesus is going after this self-righteous man’s conscience. He is making the lawyer acknowledge the true nature of his heart as one who does not love as he should, and therefore, as one who is a sinner before God.
Consider four truths Jesus teaches regarding loving your neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan:
- Neighborly love does not come from position, ceremony, or heritage (Luke 10:31-33).
- Neighborly love finds its opportunities along the way (Luke 10:31-33).
- Neighborly love compassionately refuses to avoid broken people (Luke 10:30,33).
- Neighborly love makes practical sacrifices to help people in need (Luke 10:34-35).
I. Neighborly love does not come from position, ceremony, or heritage. (Luke 10:31-33)
That is obvious, isn’t it? Here you have a priest. He’s going to Jericho to fulfill priestly duties. It’s his job, his vocation, his position to intercede for other people through offering up the various kinds of sacrifices God prescribed. It’s also his duty to teach people the word of God. Worship is his business, his livelihood. Of all the people in the world from whom to learn godliness, he would be on the go-to list. But his godliness is professional godliness, not practical day-to-day godliness. For all his deeds of worship, he shows that he lacks what is essential. “When he saw him [the man beaten by bandits and left half dead] he passed by on the other side.” The test of his worship is not whether he could do the sacrifice right, but what he would do when he comes across a broken man. Perhaps he was running late. Perhaps he was afraid he would make himself ceremonially unclean by touching the beaten man. But everyone who hears this parable—including the self-righteous lawyer—knows he did the wrong thing when it came to the most important things.
It is the same with the Levite. He was a member of the tribe of Levi, from which the priests came. There is a whole book in the Old Testament devoted to this tribe, called Leviticus. It lays out the duties of members of this tribe. So he was of the tribal heritage devoted to sacred duties associated with the worship of God. There was much to be done in the temple precincts besides just offering up sacrifices and overseeing worship itself.
Both the priest and the Levite were Israelites--members of God's chosen people through whom the Messiah would come. Both were connected to worship. Both were superior to the Samaritan in terms of position and heritage. Both were closely tied to the ceremonial worship of God in accord with the Old Testament Scriptures.
The Samaritan on the other hand was of a mixed race—part Israelite, part Assyrian. This dates back to when the Assyrians took over the northern 10 tribes of Israel because of their idolatry. Out of that mix of races came a mixed religion developed over time that accepted only part of the Old Testament Scriptures, that worshipped in a different way and in a different place than Jerusalem. You can imagine the relationship between Jew and Samaritan was tense. It was hostile. Both treated one another with great spite.
So of the three men that passed by this beaten man that day, the Samaritan was the one you would least expect to respond in the right way. But he did. The difference had nothing to do with position, ceremony, or heritage. It had everything to do with what he was on the inside. That drove the actions he took to help someone in desperate need.
How many take comfort from the position they hold, the spiritual heritage they have, the ceremony they practice during worship services, thinking that they are right with God and safe for eternity? But it is a false measure, a false hope. I may be a Pastor, Christian school teacher, deacon, member of the choir, Sunday school teacher or helper, usher, safety team, administrative assistant—these are all noble, necessary responsibilities—like being a priest. You can live them out with neighborly love because of God’s love in you. But many don’t. And they aren’t worried that they don’t. They think their position proves their spirituality and therefore that they belong to God and are useful to others. This is not true.
Others find security in their form of worship—biblical, reverent, beautiful, conservative or free and expressive, formal or casual, historic or innovative. But ceremony is blasphemy apart from inner reality that expresses love to God and love to others in practical, loving ways. Paul says, “Without love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13).
You may come from a Christian home and heritage, a Christian culture. That is a blessing from God full of opportunities to know Him and know about Him that many in the world have never had. But your heritage cannot save you and does not necessarily help anyone else in need. Perhaps yours was a broken home, a pagan heritage, a sordid past. It's been painful. It's been tragic. You have had limited light and limited opportunity. That will not be the measure of who you are. That will not determine whether you are of any use to someone in need.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Jesus gave sight to the blind. Jesus turned persecutors into missionaries. Jesus takes brands from the burning and makes them messengers of light.
Neighborly love does not come from position, ceremony, or heritage. It comes from a transformed heart.
II. Neighborly love finds its opportunities along the way. (Luke 10:31-33)
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him . . .33 . . . a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was.
All of them were on the way to somewhere else when the opportunity came along. It was not planned. It was not spectacular and not public. It was on the way, on the path of some other duty. That is where opportunities to show neighborly love most often happen. Not that there is no value in planning and preparing and participating in some kind of planned ministry. It’s just that usually the most significant opportunities to show a neighbor’s heart don’t appear significant and are not convenient. They are alongside the path of what you’ve planned, what you’re not being paid to do. They are what cost you time and pull you from the things you may have planned to get done that day.
As you journey, open your eyes—and your heart, to the needs of others because that's where you will find the opportunities along the way. You will find them in your neighborhood, workplace, ball field, hospital, school, vacation spot. These may seem to be by chance to you, but because there is a God who governs the universe, these are not chance opportunities. They are Divine appointments. They are opportunities you could not orchestrate or create. They are a gift from God to you to show His love to others, to show that you really do belong to Him.
III. Neighborly love compassionately refuses to avoid broken people. (Luke 10:30,33)
This was the core difference between the Samaritan and the others. There has to be a source point for being a neighbor for others.
When the priest saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.
Everything else came from that. All three were passing by. All three saw him. Two avoided him. One had compassion on him and went to him to bind up his wounds. It is not often you come across someone nearly beaten to death in the streets. But there are broken people everywhere. Broken marriages, broken hearts, broken dreams. People battered by their own sin, terrorized by Satan, abused by others, scorned, neglected, alone, helpless, cynical that anyone would even care enough to help. They may have just suffered a lost job. They may have just watched a dying loved one, had a rebellious child, a terminal illness, a toxic church, an addiction, a difficult pregnancy, the death of a child, the betrayal of a spouse, the failure of a business. These are common tragedies of human existence.
There are broken people everywhere because we live in a cursed world and we are all members of a fallen race. How does God respond to broken people—marred, twisted, wrecked by their own sin? He becomes one of them to be their kinsman Redeemer. He takes on Himself their weakness and suffering. He bears their sin on His own shoulders. He dies their death penalty. He breaks the teeth out of jaws of death and rises from the dead to lead His people into freedom from death. We have been rescued because of His great compassion toward us. If we have trusted in Him we have His life in us. His Spirit indwells us making us more and more like Him who taught us not just with precepts and parables, but with His life what “love your neighbor as yourself looks like,” and how much it costs. We are His ambassadors, controlled by the love of Christ.
Do we even notice? Do we ask? When we see broken people does our heart break for them? Or do we pass by on the other side because we have important, less messy, spiritual matters to attend to? As you look through the lens of this parable, what kind of neighbor are you? Are you proving to be a neighbor? Who needs your loving care? How can you help?
“The way to a person’s heart is through a wound.” Piper
IV. Neighborly love makes practical sacrifices to help people in need. (Luke 10:34-35)
There is a reason the carnal heart will avoid people in need. It costs us something to get involved enough to help. There were obvious practical needs that had to be addressed in this battered man’s life. The Samaritan plunged forward to take care of each of them, at significant personal expense.
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
Neighborly love is costly. Jesus taught us that. It is why so many pass by on the other side. But look at what’s to be gained! The man would have died were it not for the Good Samaritan. And what hope of heaven do priest and Levite have if they do not love God enough to obey the second greatest command of all? They have no hope but for the Savior who paid with His life to rescue sinners and change their self-centered hearts to compassionate hearts like His. Paul writes about that as he talks to the Philippians about how to treat each other in Philippians 2:1-11:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus responded to broken people with a neighbor's heart. Neighborly love does not come from position, ceremony, or heritage. Neighborly love finds its opportunities along the way. Neighborly love compassionately refuses to avoid broken people. Neighborly love makes practical sacrifices to help people in need. As the Father sent Jesus, He has sent us. If we are to bear the good news to broken people, we have to have a neighbor’s heart. That can come only from Jesus.
What kind of neighbor are you?
What happens in our thinking as humans when we attach our spiritual security with our position, ceremony of worship, or heritage? How does such thinking contradict the gospel? Compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.
What are some examples in your own experience of when you had opportunity to meet a need “along the way”? How do such instances fit within the framework of God’s control and care in human history?
In what ways does your life evidence compassion for broken people and how could it reflect Christ’s love more?
Since you were born again, what has God used to increase your compassion and neighborly love for others?
What names of some needy individuals can you share with the group for prayer or practical support?
What are some ways you could make room in your time and resource planning for making practical sacrifices for people in need?
What are some possible hindrances to your showing neighborly love to needy people you know or will meet?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
January 26, 2014