1 Samuel 18:12-30
Sermon preached on May 25, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
The Count of Monte Cristo is a wonderful novel. When I was a teenager it was one of my favorite books. It's all about revenge. The main character, Edmond Dantes, was wrongly imprisoned because of the misdeeds of 3 or 4 men. After 14 years he escapes and for the next several years Edmond plans and implements an elaborate scheme of revenge. His plans work perfectly. By the end of the novel his enemies are disgraced and destroyed. Edmund wins.
But it's a sad story. Indeed, I didn't find the end at all satisfying. Even though he won, in the sense that his plotting was successful—Edmond lost. It was like his revenge consumed him and hurt so many, including many who were not guilty—that in the end he was not the hero I thought he was. I found him to be something of a tragic figure. The book left me feeling that his course of revenge had not the best path for him to follow—far from it. I think the author was trying to show us that revenge and plotting the destruction of your enemies is tragic and empty. Forgiveness, mercy and kindness are far better paths to travel.
We have a similar lesson in our text. But it goes farther than the Count of Monte Cristo and shows that scheming is ultimately self-destructive. It destroys those who practice it.
The latter part of this chapter is about Saul scheming against David. He hatches different schemes to get rid of David—yet each of them fails. Saul plotted against David by offering his daughter Merab to him, thinking that the Philistines would kill David. In verse 17 Saul said to David,
"'Here is my older daughter Merab.
I will give her to you in marriage;
only serve me bravely
and fight the battles of the LORD.'
For Saul said to himself,
'I will not raise a hand against him.
Let the Philistines do that!'"
But David declined. But later, when Saul found out that his daughter Michal was in love with David, he was pleased. He thought, (verses 20-21)
"I will give her to him
so that she may be a snare to him
and so that the hand of the Philistines
may be against him."
Saul's attendants told David that all Saul wanted as a bride price was a hundred dead Philistine soldiers. In verse 25 we read,
"Saul's plan was
to have David fall
by the hands of the Philistines."
But David killed 200 Philistines. Saul schemed against David but David went from success to success. In all his scheming, all Saul did as hurt himself.
Thus the great lesson for us here is that
you must not scheme against others.
Scheming backfires. This is a theme that we see repeatedly in the Bible. We see it with King Balak of the Moabites and Balaam. You'll remember the story. The Israelites were coming up out of Egypt. They met and defeated the Amorites. Because of that the Moabites became afraid. In Numbers 22 we read,
"The Moabites said to the elders of Midian,
'This horde is going to lick up
everything around us,
as an ox licks up the grass of the field.'
So Balak son of Zippor,
who was king of Moab at that time,
sent messengers to summon
Balaam son of Beor,
who was at Pethor, near the River,
in his native land.
'A people has come out of Egypt;
they cover the face of the land
and have settled next to me.
Now come and put a curse on these people,
because they are too powerful for me.
Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them
and drive them out of the country.
For I know that those you bless are blessed,
and those you curse are cursed.'"
When Balaam arrived Balak took him out and showed him the children of Israel. But instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blessed them. When Balak heard him, he was displeased with Balaam. But he wasn't going to give up. He kept taking Balaam to different places. The second place was one where Balaam could only see part of the Israelites, not the whole camp. He thought that Balaam might be able to curse them from there. But that didn't work as Balaam blessed them again. So Balak took Balaam to a third place, thinking that Balaam would be able to curse them from there. But that didn't work as Balaam blessed Israel again.
At every turn Balak was frustrated. All his plotting against the children of Israel was for nothing. Indeed, it backfired.
The biblical account tells us that Moab had nothing to fear from Israel. God told His people not to invade Moab, that it was given to the descendants of Lot. Moab had nothing to fear from Israel. Israel was merely going to pass by on their way to the promised land. They were not going to harm Moab in any way.
Yet, because they were involved in wanting Israel to be cursed, the Moabites themselves were cursed. In Numbers 24:17, in Balaam fourth oracle, he said,
"A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls of all the sons of Sheth."
Balak tried to do Israel great harm. But he ended up hurting his own people.
But the story doesn't end there. The conniving of the Midianites and the Moabites was not at an end. Balaam came up with a plan. He knew that God would become angry with the Israelites if they sinned against God. So he suggested that Moabite women into the Israelite camp to lead the Israelite men into sexual immorality and idolatry. (Numbers 31:16) It was a very devious and diabolical plan. And it worked. Many of the Israelites were led astray and the Lord sent a plague on Israel that killed 24,000 of them.
But the Midianites suffered much more. In Numbers 31:2 the Lord said to Moses,
"Take vengeance on the Midianites
for the Israelites.
you will be gathered to your people."
The rest of Numbers 31 describes the destruction that befell the Midianites. Verses 7, 9 and 10 read,
"They fought against Midian,
as the LORD commanded Moses,
and killed every manÖ
The Israelites captured
the Midianite women and children
and took all the Midianite herds,
flocks and goods as plunder.
They burned all the towns
where the Midianites had settled,
as well as all their camps."
Verse 8 is also telling. It says,
"They also killed Balaam son of Beor
with the sword."
Balaam, who was so greedy after worldly wealth, so conniving in wanting to please Balak, so clever in his plotting against Israel—his end was destruction.
Plotting backfires. The ones who are really harmed by plotting are the ones who plot.
We also see this in the book of Esther. Haman hated Mordecai. He hated him so much that he wasn't content to just kill Mordecai, but he plotted to put all the Jews in the kingdom to death. He was an ancient Hitler. His plot was elaborate and well thought out. He had lots cast to pick the date for the slaughter of the Jews. He then went to the king and lied about the Jews, telling the king that they did not obey the king's laws and that it was not in the king's interest to tolerate them. (Esther 3:8) He even told the king that he would put 10,000 talents of silver in treasury to pay for the extermination of the Jews. Haman organized everything. He sent out orders and messengers throughout the whole kingdom with the order to kill and plunder the Jews on the date that was set. He also had a seventy-five foot gallows built with the express purpose of hanging Mordecai on it. They very next day he was going to go and ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it.
But what happened? Everything was turned upside down. Queen Esther intervened on behalf of her people. All Haman's plans backfired. The next day it was Haman who was hanged on the gallows that he had built. On the day that was appointed for the destruction of the Jews—the Jews were allowed to defend themselves and it was their enemies who were destroyed and plundered. All Haman's planning to harm the Jews was for nothing. He ended up harming himself, his family, and those who allied with him.
There are many other examples of plotting that backfired, that shows that it is self-destructive. You'll remember David's son Absalom and how he plotted to kill his father and take his throne. He spent years stealing the hearts of the people. He got the wisest counselor in the kingdom on his side. The timing of his coup was perfect. But it was all in vain. His rebellion was crushed and Absalom was the one who ended up being killed.
Or think of the wicked queen Athaliah. (2 Kings 11). When her son King Ahaziah of Judah was killed, she plotted to put the whole royal family to death so that she could rule. She thought she succeeded. But one baby son of Ahaziah was hidden from her. For six years he was hidden in the temple while queen Athaliah ruled. Then he was crowned king and she was put to death. Her plotting was essentially self-destructive.
Judas plotted against Jesus. He plotted to betray him and gain a good deal of money in the process. But where did it get him? He ended up disillusioned, guilt-ridden and committed suicide.
We see the same thing in King Herod. He plotted against the early church. He had James put to death with the sword. (Acts 12) When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceed to arrest Peter and kill him as well. But where did all this plotting get Herod? An angel of the Lord stuck him down and he died a most horrible death.
Plotting against other people is self-destructive.
Now I know that most of you would never consider plotting against others to harm them, so I'm preaching to the choir. But nevertheless, there are great lessons for you here—lessons about why you should be patient, lessons about how it's not enough not to hate those who have hurt you—but how you need to be a blessing to them.
So let's first look at why you should be patient when someone plots against you and hurts you. You should be patient because God rules and He will see that justice will be done.
It is self-destructive and useless to plot against others is because
God rules and He despises those who plot evil against others. He sets Himself against them to destroy them.
Proverbs 6:16-19 says,
"There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension
God hates those who plot evil. He will destroy them. As we read in Proverbs 6:12-15,
"A scoundrel and villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
who winks with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up dissension.
Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed
Sometimes the wicked seem to flourish. Joseph's brothers plotted against him and for many years it seemed that they succeeded. Sometimes it seems that the plans of evil people do succeed. Psalm 73 testifies to that. Their wickedness seems to go on and on. But it does not last. It will suddenly come to an end. Verses 18-19 says about the wicked,
"Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!"
God brings destruction to those who plot. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 reads,
"God is just:
He will pay back trouble
to those who trouble you
and give relief to you who are troubled,
and to us as well."
In Genesis 49:42 Jacob said to Laban about his plotting against him.
"But God has seen my hardship
and the toil of my hands,
and last night he rebuked you."
God appeared to Laban and warned him.
The point is that God watches all things. Psalm 94:3-10 asks how long will the wicked be jubilant. It continues,
"They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, O LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the alien;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, 'The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed.'
Take heed, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?"
Yes. He punishes those who plot evil. Proverbs 1:10 warns against throwing your lot in with those who plot evil. Proverbs 1:11-19 says,
"If they say,
'Come along with us;
let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
let's waylay some harmless soul;
let's swallow them alive,
like the grave, and whole,
like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse'
— my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it."
We see the same here in our text. Why did Saul's plotting against David fail? In verse 14 we read about David,
"In everything he did he had great success,
because the LORD was with him.
Verse 12 says,
"Saul was afraid of David,
because the LORD was with David
but had left Saul.
Saul hates David and plots against him—but rather than leading to David's demise, Saul is the one who goes to destruction.
Now I ask you—have others cheated, hurt and betrayed you? Has someone harmed you?
You prisoners, have people harmed you? Did someone lie at your trial and did that put you here? Did you lawyer not represent you as he/she should have? Was the judge unfair to you. Have there been people here who have not treated you well— another inmate perhaps? Or perhaps a CO?
How should you respond to that?
First, don't plot against them. It will not succeed. It'll only destroy you. Zechariah 8: 17 we read,
"do not plot evil against your neighbor,
and do not love to swear falsely.
I hate all this,
declares the LORD.
Psalm 21:11 says of evil people,
"Though they plot evil against you
and devise wicked schemes,
they cannot succeed;"
Psalm 64:5-8 says about wicked people,
"They encourage each other in evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares;
they say, Who will see them?
They plot injustice and say,
'We have devised a perfect plan!'
Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.
But God will shoot them with arrows;
suddenly they will be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
and bring them to ruin;
all who see them will shake
their heads in scorn."
So you Christians can be patient when others plot against you. God rules. Plotting evil is self-destructive. The ones who plot should be the ones who worry.
The second great lesson for Christians is that rather than plotting evil against those who hurt you,
you should plan to be a blessing to them.
In Romans 12:17f we read,
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil…
Do not take revenge, my friends,
but leave room for God's wrath,
for it is written:
It is mine to avenge;
I will repay, says the Lord.
On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good."
Rather than plotting to do evil to others, we are called to do them good. In 1 Peter 3:9 the apostle wrote,
"Do not repay evil with evil
or insult with insult,
but with blessing,
because to this you were called
so that you may inherit a blessing."
We were called to this. And in doing so we are following in the footsteps of Jesus. Romans 5:10 tells us that when we were God's enemies Jesus died for us. He came and suffered and died for us that we might live. He did good to those who despised and hated Him. When the soldiers nailed Him to the cross He asked His Father to forgive them. We are to follow His example. In 1 Peter 2:21-24 the apostle wrote,
"To this you were called,
because Christ suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps.
'He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.'
When they hurled their insults at him,
he did not retaliate;
when he suffered, he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself
to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins
in his body on the tree,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed."
We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Christians, God has continuing plans to bless you. In John 14:2-4 Jesus said,
"In my Father's house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you
to be with me that you also
may be where I am."
God has glorious plans for you. God is going to treat you so much better than you deserve. He is going to give you good even though you deserve bad. In light of that, how can you not plan to bless others, even those who have harmed you? May God gives us grace to do so.
For those of you who are not Christians, what out text means for you is that
you should realize that there are those who are plotting against you, plotting for your everlasting destruction.
Satan has plotted against you and blinded your eyes. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Revelation 20:10 speaks of him as deceiving the nations, including you. He does that in order to destroy you. (1 Peter 5:8) There are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms plotting against you. Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan leads the whole world astray.
Not only that, but in the future their will be false Christs, (Mark 13:22) who,
"will appear and perform signs and miracles
to deceive the elect—if that were possible."
Not only that, but the world itself, our society, attempts to deceive you. The advertising media by and large ignores the issue of your death. The media wants you to focus on temporary, unimportant things, on your own pleasure, on the things you can accumulate—yet it's all vanity, transitory. This world is going to pass away and be burned up with fire. (2 Peter 3:10f) One day you're going to have to stand before the great Judge and give an account for your life. (Romans 14:12, Revelation 20:11f)
There are many who don't want you to know that. They're plotting against you.
There's only One who can save you from their plotting, from your sin, for the great evil One—Jesus Christ the Righteous. Go to Him for salvation today.