1 Samuel 22:6-23

Sermon preached on July 19, 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.

In his book, Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer tells the story of a doomed 1996 expedition to Mount Everest in which 8 people died. Part of the disaster was due to bad weather. But part of it was related to inexperience. I'm not sure what it costs now but back then ordinary people could pay around $65,000.00 and could go on an expedition to Everest with the possibility of getting to the top. But the problem was that some of them were too inexperienced. For example, there was one death that was totally preventable. I believe it happened at Camp 3. Krakauer writes, (p. 162-163)

"Chen YuNan, a thirty-six-year-old steelworker from Taipei, crawled out of his tent to evacuate his bowels shod only in the smooth-soled liners of his mountaineering boots—a serious lapse of judgment.As he squatted, he lost his footing on the ice and went hurtling down the Lhotse Face.."

He was killed. Chen made two mistakes. First he didn't have the proper footwear on and that's why he slipped. Secondly, he didn't have his ice axe with him. If he had his ice axe he may have been able to stop his slide. I've heard of climbers who have started to slide down an icy mountain face and they have dug their ice ax in to stop their slide.

But it's hard on a slippery slope. If you start sliding on a icy slope on a mountain that might be the end of you. It's better to avoid slippery slopes.

One of the great lessons that Scripture teaches us is that

sin is a slippery slope that we can't control.

Saul didn't suddenly turn from serving the Lord to committing great sins. It was a progression that took place over time. His sins became progressively worse and worse.

The first major sin of Saul after he became king was his offering sacrifices without a priest present. (1 Samuel 13) He sought the Lord's favor but he didn't do it in the correct way. Saul was waiting for Samuel but Samuel didn't arrive when Saul expected him. Some of his men were deserting and the Philistines were threatening so Saul took things into his own hands and offered the burnt offering on his own. It was a major sin and I don't want to excuse it in any way but we should note that he was trying to seek the Lord's favor. The sins that would follow were worse.

Saul's second major sin as king was that of not totally destroying the Amalekites when God ordered him to do so. He spared the best of the animals, as well as their king, Agag. (1 Samuel 15) I'm not sure what he was thinking, perhaps of his own glory and honor, but he certainly wasn't thinking of God in any way. He was disobeying the Lord. He was leaving much of what the Lord told him to do undone.

That was very bad, a horrible sin—but it wasn't as bad as killing the priests of the Lord. In fact, it's ironic that when the Lord told Saul to totally destroy the Amalekites, he was unwilling, but here he has no hesitation in killing the Lord's own priests, along with the inhabitants of Nob, including its,

"men and women,
its children and infants,
and its cattle, donkeys and sheep."

Saul's sins became progressively worse. And that's the way of sin. Sin is a slippery slope. With King Saul and his sins, there were first, relatively speaking, minor sins, then sins that were more severe, then finally sins that were much, much worse. That's the way of sin.

We see this in
David's sin as well. His sin with Bathsheba seemed to start off with a relatively small dereliction of duty. 2 Samuel 11, the chapter that tells of David's horrible sin with Bathsheba and of his despicable murder of Uriah the Hittite, begins with these words,

"In the spring,
at the time when kings go off to war,
David sent Joab out with the king's men
and the whole Israelite army.
They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
But David remained in Jerusalem."

The following verses tell how one night David got up from his bed and walked around the roof of his palace. From his roof he saw a woman bathing. His first sin was in not diverting his eyes. He should have looked away. He should have been like Job, who said, (Job 31:1)

"I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl."

But David didn't have such a covenant. He kept looking. Then he made inquiries about who she was and even though he found out she was a married woman, he sent for her and slept with her. When he learned that she was pregnant, and her adultery would be found out because her husband was with the troops, David sent for him and asked him about the troops and then sent him home. But Uriah didn't go home but stayed at the entrance of the palace. So the next day David tried to get Uriah drunk so that he would go home. But that didn't work. So David then wrote a letter to Joab to arrange for Uriah to die in battle. David even sent the letter to Joab in Uriah's hand.

David was in a very difficult situation. To David, it seemed that he had to commit more sins to prevent his previous sins from being found out. He felt he had to sin further in order to protect Bathsheba. With David, sin was a very slippery slope.

The lesson for you is that if a certain sin ever entices you, and it seems like you can commit just that one sin and do no more—recognize that that's not how sin operates. You may think that you can just commit that one sin and then withdraw and do no more—but that's not the way of sin. When you're tempted to sin, think of it as stepping off a safe path onto a very slippery and hazardous slope. Think of yourself high on a safe mountain path with sheer ice just off the path with the ice sloping away to a great cliff. Just one step off that safe path and you can find yourself hurtling down to your great hurt. That's how you ought to view sin.

Why is sin a slippery slope?

This is important because knowing why sin is a slippery slope as that may help us to hate and avoid it. As the psalmist said in Psalm 97:10,

"Let those who love the LORD
hate evil,"

The first reason sin is a slippery slope is because

sin sears your conscience so that you can't see the horror of sin like you should.

Consider Saul's conscience here. Where was it. I mean, stop and think about it. Here we have a king of Israel ordering his men to kill the priests of the Lord. This is almost unbelievable. The men of Benjamin who were with him were hardened soldiers yet not one of them would lift a hand against the priests of the Lord. That is telling.

They knew that priesthood had been implemented by God under Moses. They knew that the priests were there for the good of all Israel. They were to lead and help the people of God in their worship of God. The Old Testament priests were mediators between God and man. They offered sacrifices for the sins of the people and made atonement for their sins. They offered prayers on behalf of the people. They took care of the tabernacle and even had the Urim and Thummim, by which the high priest could consult to find out God's will.

To think that Saul would have them killed is almost unthinkable. As king Saul was supposed to lead the people in the worship and service of God, like Solomon did in 2 Chronicles 6. But instead he is seeking to destroy David, the Lord's anointed, and he kills the Lord's anointed.

How different Saul is here than he was when he was when he was first introduced to us in Scripture. You'll remember he was looking for his father's donkey's and when his servant suggested that they go to a man of God to inquire of him, Saul hesitated because he didn't have any gift to give the man of God. When he first met Samuel he was very humble, saying that he was from the smallest clan of in Benjamin and that Benjamin was the smallest clan in Israel.

Later, after Saul had rescued the city of Jabesh, someone said that the troublemakers, who had earlier opposed and despised Saul, should be put to death. But Saul wouldn't allow it, saying that no one should be put to death on the day that the Lord rescued Israel.

Saul goes from that—from being respectful and humble before God's servants, from being a man of mercy—to one who orders the innocent priests of the Lord to be put to death, along with the men, women and children of their town.

What can account for that change? Sin. Previous sins had seared Saul's conscience. 1 Timothy 4:2 refers to hypocritical liars,

"whose consciences
have been seared as with a hot iron"

Sin sears the conscience so that after awhile it doesn't feel pangs of guilt because it has lost all sense of right and wrong.

That's the way of sin. It sears the conscience. Thus after you commit one sin, it becomes easier to commit the next and the next one comes even easier so that soon one is not even aware of how heinous sin is.

We see the same thing in
David. You'll remember that when King Saul was chasing David that at one point David came upon a sleeping Saul and cut off the corner of his robe. Later, he was conscience stricken and greatly regretted it. (1 Samuel 24:5) His conscience was tender.

But after his adultery with Bathsheba and his killing Uriah, David's conscience didn't seem to bother him at all. He married Bathsheba and carried on like nothing had happened. Indeed, it seems from the way that Nathan the prophet approached David regarding his sin suggests that he was afraid of David, thinking that David would put him to death.

That's the way of sin. It sears that conscience. It turns a tender conscience into one that doesn't feel a thing.

There's a lesson for us here. It's this:

recognize this consequence of sin.

The consequences of sin are not just external. We may think that when we sin there is a chance that we will get caught but that if we don't, then we've gotten away with it, that we've totally avoided the consequences of sin.

No. No. No. If you sin—whether you get away with it or not—there is a consequence of sin that is internal that is almost impossible to discern—your conscience is seared.

Let me illustrate. When I worked as a longshoremen one of the things that I noticed that the language of many of my fellow-workers was very foul. Every second or third word was coarse and filthy. It was disgusting. I hated it. It was not a good environment. But since I never indulged in it I didn't think that it affected me. But I remember that one day Marg and I went on a date and we went to see a movie and as we left the movie theater I said to her,

"Wasn't that a great movie?"

She replied,

"Well, it had a lot of filthy language in it."

I was surprised and said,

"It did?"

I hadn't even noticed it.

In the same way, when you sin, it sears your conscience. You may not even notice it but that's the effect of sin. Don't go near sin. Don't even touch a little sin. If you do it will change you internally.

The second thing we should understand about why sin is a slippery slope is due to the fact that

sin is ultimately against God.

That's easy to see in our text. Saul wasn't merely having individuals in a town murdered—he was murdering the anointed of the Lord. It was a sin that was against the order He has set up, against His anointed priests—thus ultimately against God Himself.

This is true of all sin. The nature of sin is that it is ultimately against God. Sin is not independent. Sin is not impersonal. It is not a private matter. It is against God.

You'll remember when Joseph was enticed by Potiphar's wife, Joseph refused to go to bed with her. He said, (Genesis 39:9)

"How then could I do such a wicked thing
and sin against God?"

Joseph knew that sin was ultimately against God. We see the same thing in Psalm 51:4. After his sin with Bathsheba and his killing of Uriah, David said to God,

"Against you, you only,
have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sightÖ"

Franz Delitzsch says that David recognizes that sin,

"of whatever kind it be, directly as a sin against God, and in the last analysis as sin against Him alone; for all the relationships, in which man stands to men and to creatures in general, are only forms in which there is manifested his fundamental relationship to God; and sin is 'that which is evil in God's sight.'"

We see something similar in Isaiah 43:24 where God said to Israel,

"But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses."

Sin is an affront to God, to His character, to His will.

Today people look on their behavior as mainly a private affair. They will tell you that anything that goes on between consenting adults and doesn't hurt anyone else is a private matter and really can't be wrong. They will tell you that if someone is sick and he chooses to end his life at his own hand, they refer to it as dying with dignity. They view it as a fundamental human right.

They don't even put God in the equation. But let there be no doubt about this. All sin is against God, against His will, against His kingdom. When people like Saul put their will first, they are setting themselves up against God.

So what you should understand is that when you sin, even if it's a private sin that no one else sees—that you're sinning against God.

In fact,

when you sin, it's like slapping God in the face.

Now, what would you do if someone slapped you in the face? Many people would immediately strike back. But God is not like that. How patient He is! How kind He is! As we read in Psalm 103:8,10,

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger,
abounding in loveÖ
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities."

How patient He is with sinners. Remember how Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He said, (Luke 13:34)

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
you who kill the prophets
and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed
to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
but you were not willing!"

Or as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9

"He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance."

But God's patience does not last forever. If you keep slapping Him in the face over and over again, in spite of His continued kindness to you—know assuredly that at some point God will cut you off. As we read in Romans 11:22,

"Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God:
sternness to those who fell,
but kindness to you,
provided that you continue in his kindness.
Otherwise, you also will be cut off."

Those of you who aren't Christians, I ask you,

Do you think you can get away with despising God's kindnesses indefinitely?

You can't. Refusing to believe in Jesus is a sin against God. As we read in John 3:18-19

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already
because he has not believed in the name
of God's one and only Son."

Sinning is showing contempt for God. Don't do that. As we read in Romans 2:4

"Or do you show contempt
for the riches of his kindness,
tolerance and patience,
not realizing that God's kindness
leads you toward repentance?"

Go to Jesus for salvation. Trust in Him.

Lastly, for all of us:

Don't sin. Avoid it with everything in you.

Fight against it. Resist temptation. Ask for God's help. Pray. Pray. Pray. Ask Jesus the Good Shepherd to keep you from sin. Sin, if it has its way with you will destroy you. Saul's sin, as far as we know, led him to perdition.

Sin is a slippery slope. Sin is against God. You should tremble whenever you contemplate sin.