1 Samuel 19:18-24
Sermon preached on June 14, 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.
On May 24th, 1941 several British warships were tracking the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic. They were trying to catch up to it and sink it. Among the British ships was the pride of the British fleet, the battlecruiser HMS Hood. When they caught up with the Bismarck and her escorts a tremendous battle took place. Just 10 minutes into the battle a shell from the Bismarck hit the Hood and exploded in her magazine, where the Hood's munitions were. This resulted in a cataclysmic explosion in the rear part of the ship, which sank almost immediately. The bow quickly became vertical and sank a little more slowly, but within three minutes all traces of the Hood were gone. Of the one thousand four hundred and eighteen men on the Hood, only three survived. Only three of almost 1500 men. One of the men who survived, Ted Briggs, told of his harrowing escape. He managed to get outside and started going down a ladder when the water reached him. He attempted to swim away from the ship but the force of the sinking ship pulled him under. He said he remembered struggling for awhile, but then realized that it was hopeless as he was being carried further and further down into the ocean's depths. So he gave up all hope. Then suddenly, he found himself being miraculously propelled back to the surface by a huge air bubble. Some air had escaped from the sinking ship and he was caught up in it. It could be that the windows on the bridge collapsed and released the air that had been trapped there. Wherever it came from it happened right under the spot where Briggs was and he shot to the surface and soon found himself among the burning oil. He was able to hang on until help arrived.
That's an incredible story. All hope was gone and then suddenly he was saved in the most unexpected of ways.
We have a story like that in our text. King Saul has determined that he is going to kill David. He found out that David had gone to meet with Samuel. So he sent soldiers to take David into custody. But when they arrived and saw a group of prophets prophesying, the Spirit of God came upon them and they also prophesied. When Saul heard what had happened he sent more men and the same thing happened to them, they also prophesied. He sent a third group and the same thing happened to them. At that point Saul decided to take things into his own hands and he set out to capture David himself. But as he went, the Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied. When he arrived he stripped off his robes and prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This gave David time to escape.
Wow. What an act of deliverance the Lord provided—by sending His Spirit on His enemies and causing them to prophesy. This deliverance has much to teach us.
The first lesson that we see here is that
the Spirit is our sure and ultimate protector.
That's one of the reasons God delivered David this way.
This chapter tells of four times that David escaped death at Saul's hands. The first time Jonathan warned David, interceded with his father on his behalf, and saved David. Jonathan used his persuasive powers with his father to save David. Jonathan was instrumental in saving David.
In the second deliverance, David eluded Saul's spear. But David was quick and he either ducked or sideswiped it as the spear missed and went into the wall instead of into David.
In the third deliverance, Michal, Saul's daughter, saved David. She knew that men were watching their house and that as soon as David left he would be killed. So she let him down from a window and David was able to escape unnoticed.
But in the fourth example, it was all of the Spirit. God didn't use any means at all. His Spirit came upon the men sent to capture David and the Spirit Himself stopped them.
In all of these deliverances we should see God's hand. God was not just involved in the last deliverance—but in all of them. David saw it that way. Psalm 59 was written about the third incident, Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him and Michal saved him. Psalm 59 is all about David looking to the Lord for deliverance. It begins, (verses 1-3)
"Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from bloodthirsty men.
See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, O LORD."
It ends with the words, (verses 16-17)
"But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God,
are my fortress, my loving God."
David looked to God for deliverance. He attributed his safety to God and His protection.
In the second deliverance, where David eluded Saul's spear, I'm sure that David did not attribute his escape to his own agility, but to God's protection. We see it in his words in a similar situation. When David was trying to convince King Saul to allow him to go out and fight Goliath, He said, (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
"Your servant has been
keeping his father's sheep.
When a lion or a bear came
and carried off a sheep from the flock,
I went after it, struck it and rescued
the sheep from its mouth.
When it turned on me,
I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear;
this uncircumcised Philistine
will be like one of them, because he has defied
the armies of the living God.
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."
David gave credit to God. He testified that it was the Lord who delivered him.
Thus, we should understand that it is the Spirit of Jesus who is our sure and ultimate protector. As the psalmist testified in Psalm 121,
"I lift up my eyes to the hills
— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore."
We see the same thing in the New Testament. We are delivered by Jesus. In John 17:12 Jesus said to the Father about His disciples,
"While I was with them,
I protected them and kept them safe
by that name you gave me."
In Jude 1:1, the introduction is,
"To those who have been called,
who are loved by God the Father
and kept by Jesus Christ:"
Our deliverance is from God. Everything good we receive comes from Him. As James 1:17 says,
"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father
of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."
So Christians, in all things recognize and acknowledge that God is your deliverer. You are never ultimately delivered by yourself or by anyone else. In all things give Him thanks and praise.
The second thing we see from our text is that
your trust in God ought to be absolute.
God doesn't need anything of an earthly nature to save you. He saved David by His Spirit alone. What a remarkable deliverance. What power was there.
Picture it. These men had come with the intention of harming David. But God sent His Spirit on them and instantly they were changed. As Dale Davis says, )1 Samuel, p. 199)
"God sends forth his Spirit in raw, irresistible power on Saul's police forces and compels them into helplessness."
Should you ever be afraid? Never. Should your trust in God ever waver? Never.
Indeed, one of the principle things that our text teaches us is that
God's enemies are not out of His control.
God's Spirit can subdue His enemies and change them so that they proclaim His Word. God's Spirit is sovereign. His working is mysterious. Jesus referred to the working of the Spirit in John 3:8 and said that the wind blows wherever it pleases, we hear its sound, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with the working of the Spirit. We are always under His care and protection. He is with us.
How diverse God's protection can be. How invincible it is. He can use other people to save us. But when there's no one and men advance against us, we do not need to be afraid. God can still rescue us. We should realize this. As the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 1:18-19,
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order
that you may know the hope
to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance
in the saints,
and his incomparably great power
for us who believe."
God's power is for us.
Indeed, what we see here could have been the result of David's prayer in Psalm 59. Verses 9-11 of that Psalm say,
"O my Strength, I watch for you;
you, O God, are my fortress,
my loving God.
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those
who slander me.
But do not kill them,
O Lord our shield,
or my people will forget.
In your might make them wander about,
and bring them down."
David asked God not to kill his enemies, but make them wander about. A partial fulfillment of that could have been Saul and his men wandering about prophesying.
Note as well that our text tells us that Saul, (verse 24)
"stripped off his robes…"
This is significant. It showed Saul humbled, humiliated before Samuel. (See Ezekiel 16:39 and 23:26) Indeed, it recalls what Jonathan had done in the previous chapter after David killed Goliath. Verse 4 of chapter 18 tells us that Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, his sword, bow and belt. He was laying aside his royal robes and giving them willingly to David.
Saul was not willing to submit to God's will. He fought it with everything that was in him. But it didn't matter, God's enemies can't thwart His purposes. He can stop them in many different ways. He can take them over so that they do His will.
For those of you who are not Christians, consider the state that you're in. You're not serving God. You're not living for the great purpose for which you were created. You're wasting your life chasing after things that aren't going to satisfy. Jesus and His glory mean very little or nothing to you.
It was the same way with King Saul. Yet this story shows
how futile it is to go your own way and disregard God.
King Saul had no regard for the Word of God. Yet it is ironic that he ended up prophesying. We're not sure of the content of his prophesying. It could have just been some sort of raving, as it was in the previous chapter. (18:10) Or it could have been prophecy with a particular content to it. That's how we usually think of prophecy. For example, when Samuel was established as a prophet in Israel, God revealed Himself to Samuel through His word and he brought the Word of the Lord to Israel. (1 Samuel 3:20-4:1) Thus Saul's prophesy could have some content to it, about David becoming king. If that was so how ironic it would have been.
It's the same with those who do not acknowledge Jesus now. On the last day, everyone, even God's enemies, are going to acknowledge the Word, Jesus Christ. It says of Him, (Philippians 2:9-11)
"Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
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"
How futile to go your own way. It will not prosper you. Saul was brought to submission. He could not stop God's plans. He perished.
Don't let that happen to you. Stop your rebellion. Go to Jesus. Find true life in Him.
The third thing we see from our text is
the importance of going to God for help when you're in trouble.
This passage shows us something about the importance of the Word of God, about seeking God's presence, about being humble under adverse circumstances.
Two things in our text show us this.
First of all, note that when David fled from Saul he went to Samuel, God's prophet.
David was seeking the will of God. He draws near to God. He wants to know how God would have him respond in this situation.
Remember that David's world was falling apart here. He's lost his job. He's lost his home. He has to run for his life. Yet he's done nothing wrong. He's been faithful to God and faithful to King Saul. Yet Saul is jealous of David and is determined to put him to death.
So what does David do? Is he disappointed in God and the way that God is treating him? Is he angry with God? Is he so distressed that he just goes off by himself in the wilderness? No. Even though it's dangerous, David goes to Samuel. (Ramah was only two miles from Saul's town of Gibeah.) He goes to God's prophet. He seeks refuge in God.
David is an excellent example to us here. When you're disappointed in how your life is going, when you're disappointed in God's providences, when it seems that God is punishing you rather than rewarding your obedience—draw close to God! Don't go away from God—draw near to Him.
The mistake that many people make when things don't go their way is that they move farther away from God. They became disillusioned. They stop reading their Bibles as much as they used to. They stop praying as much as they did. They stop seeking out Christian fellowship. They draw away from God because they're disappointed in Him.
That's what Job's wife told Job to do. She said to him, (Job 2:9)
"Are you still holding on to your integrity?
Curse God and die!"
She wanted Job to give up on God, to lash out against Him and then in some sort of existentialist rebellion, face his death like a man.
That's what many people do. They abandon God. Because God hasn't treated them well enough they turn on Him and go their own sinful way.
How different it was with David. He goes to Samuel and pours out his heart to him. He tells him everything that Saul had done to him.
It was the same with the apostle Paul. His life was exceedingly difficult. He describes some of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23f. He tells how he has been in prison many times, how he has often faced death, how five times he received 39 lashes, how three times he was beaten with rods, how he was once stoned, three times shipwrecked, etc., etc..
Yet how did Paul react. In Philippians 3:10-11 he wrote,
"I want to know Christ
and the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death,
and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
He wanted to share in Christ's sufferings, to become like Him in His death. John Calvin writes,
"Christ crucified is set before us, that we may follow him through tribulations and distresses; and hence the resurrection of the dead is expressly made mention of, that we may know that we must die before we live. This is a continued subject of meditation to believers so long as they sojourn in this world. This, however, is a choice consolation, that in all our miseries we are partakers of Christ's Cross, if we are his members; so that through afflictions the way is opened up for us to everlasting blessedness, as we read elsewhere, 2 Timothy 2:11-12. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. We must all therefore be prepared for this—that our whole life shall represent nothing else than the image of death, until it produce death itself, as the life of Christ is nothing else than a prelude of death."
There's suffering before joy, death before life. In Luke 9:23 Jesus said,
"If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me."
The cross is a symbol of suffering. If you're going to follow Jesus, if you're going to let Him lead you to glory—you must follow Him in suffering. As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:12-13,
"Dear friends, do not be surprised
at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange
were happening to you.
But rejoice that you participate
in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed
when his glory is revealed."
When things become difficult and suffering is your lot—you are to draw nearer to God.
In the late 1860s life was good for Horatio G. Spafford and his wife Anna. They were living in a north side suburb of Chicago with their five children, four girls and a boy. Spafford had a successful law practice in Chicago. It seem like everything was going their way.
However, in 1870 their four year old son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever. Then in October 1871 the great Chicago fire destroyed much of Spafford's real estate holdings. But they used much of what they had left to help the homeless and to care for the sick and homeless. In 1873 the family decided to travel to Europe, not only for Mrs. Spafford's health but also to help evangelists Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey in their evangelistic campaign there. They planned to sail together but at the last minute Spafford was delayed by a business emergency and he told his wife and children to take the ship and he would follow on another. In the middle of the Atlantic the ship with his wife and girls collided with another ship and many people were lost when their ship sank. Spafford's wife was rescued but his four daughters perished. When his wife's rescue ship reached England she sent her husband a telegram, "Saved alone. What shall I do?" Spafford left immediately to join his wife. In the middle of the Atlantic on his way to England Spafford was called to the bridge by the captain. The captain said to Spafford,
"A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep."
That night, alone in his cabin, Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." Spafford's faith in God never faltered. He did not let the tragedy take him away from God. He used it to draw closer to God.
Lastly, again, for those of you who are not Christians. This passage shows the Spirit coming on people who are not close to God and the Spirit possesses them, does something good with them—but the Spirit's working in them is temporary. After David gets away, the Spirit leaves them.
The lesson for you is that
you should not be content with anything less than the Spirit working in you and giving you salvation, bringing you to Jesus.
Has the Spirit worked in you? Has He done good things in your life? Yes He has. There is no doubt about that.
Perhaps you have done notable things. Perhaps you have a wonderful family. Perhaps you are a really good person, compared to many around you. That's wonderful. But the greatest thing is missing and because of that all that good may just be temporary. You need Jesus. Go to Him now. Ask Him to save you. Go to Jesus Christ for salvation.