1 Samuel 23:14-29
Sermon preached on August 30, 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.
Peter Marshall was a very famous preacher in the first part of the 20th century. He was born in Scotland and emigrated to the United States when he was in his early 20's. He was twice chaplain of the US Senate. After his death his wife Catherine wrote a book about his life called, "A Man Called Peter" which was subsequently made into a movie. In that book she told of an incident that took place in Scotland when Peter was young. He was walking home from a nearby village, one dark starless night. She wrote,
"Peter struck out across the moors, thinking he would take a short cut. He knew that there was a deep deserted limestone quarry close by the Glororum Road, but he thought he could avoid that danger spot. The night was inky black, eerie. There was only the sound of the wind through the heather-stained moorland, the noisy clamor of wild muir fowl as his footsteps disturbed them, the occasional far-off bleating of a sheep. Suddenly he heard someone call, 'Peter!' There was great urgency in the voice. He stopped. 'Yes, who is it? What do you want?' For a second he listened, but there was no response, only the sound of the wind. The moor seemed completely deserted. Thinking he must have been mistaken, he walked on a few paces. Then he heard it again, even more urgently: 'Peter!" He stopped dead still, trying to peer into that impenetrable darkness, but suddenly stumbled and fell to his knees. Putting out his hand to catch himself, he found nothing there. As he cautiously investigated, feeling around in a semicircle, he found himself to be on the very brink of an abandoned stone quarry. Just one step more would have sent him plummeting into space to certain death."
In his book, "The Mystery of Providence", the Puritan John Flavel tells two similar stories. One concerns John Jewel, a Puritan who was sought by the authorities during the reign of Bloody Mary. One night he was in Oxford when he found out that the inquisition was coming for him. He fled toward London. It was dark and at one point he inadvertently lost track of the road and wandered off. It was that mistake that saved his life. (p. 96) If he had stayed on the road he would have been captured.
The other story that Flavel tells is of a man called Dod. From Flavel's telling, it seems that Mr. Dod was a pastor. Flavel tells us that Mr. Dod was in his study late at night when, (p. 91)
"he was strongly moved, though at an unreasonable hour, to visit a gentleman of his acquaintance. Not knowing what the design of Providence in this, he obeyed and went. When he came to the house, after a few knocks on the door, the gentleman himself came to him and asked whether he had any business with him. Mr. Dod answered, No; but that he could not be quiet till he had seen him. O, sir, replied the gentleman, you are sent of God at this hour, for just now (and with that takes the halter out of his pocket) I was going to destroy myself. And thus was the mischief prevented."
Catherine Marshall and John Flavel used those stories to illustrate God's providential care over His people.
Our text contains another example. The story of the Ziphites treachery and David's escape in the Desert of Moan are great examples of God's wonderful care over His people. The Ziphites told King Saul that if he came down they would deliver David into his hands. It wasn't too long after that that Saul and his men seemed to have David trapped. They were closing in for the kill when a messenger came to Saul and told him that the Philistines were raiding the land. Saul had to break off his pursuit of David and so David escaped. The reason that David escaped from Saul is because of God's providence. As verse 14 tells us,
"Day after day Saul searched for him,
but God did not give David into his hands."
The great truth that we see in our text is that
David was safe because God ordered everything so that David would not fall into Saul's hands.
It was God's providence that saved David. Events in this life like David escaping from Saul do not happen by accident. Rather we must remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that He rules and orders events in such a way that His people are saved and His glory extended. We are told this in Ephesians 1. The apostle Paul wrote that after His resurrection Jesus had been raised to the highest place, (verses 21-23)
"far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church, which is his body,
the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."
When Satan targeted Peter, Jesus told him that his faith would not fail, because He had prayed for Him. Even though Peter went through a severe trial, Jesus was with Him every step of the way.
You'll also recall that Jesus ended the Great Commission with the words, (Matthew 28:20)
"And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."
As the apostle Paul said about God in Acts 17:26-28,
"he himself gives all men
life and breath and everything else.
From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live."
Or as Joseph said to his brothers when he made himself known to them in Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-7)
"I am your brother Joseph,
the one you sold into Egypt!
And now, do not be distressed
and do not be angry with yourselves
for selling me here, because it was to save lives
that God sent me ahead of you.
For two years now there has been famine in the land,
and for the next five years
there will not be plowing and reaping.
But God sent me ahead of you
to preserve for you a remnant on earth
and to save your lives by a great deliverance."
God's hand was with Joseph every step of the way.
We have another example of God's providence in 1 Samuel 26. Saul was again pursing David. David found out about it and actually searched out and found where Saul's camp was. He then asked Ahimelech and Abishai which of them would go down into the camp with him. Abishai agreed to go. David and Abishai went down at night, when Saul and his men were sleeping. Abishai wanted to kill Saul, but David wouldn't let him. But David did do something. In verse 12 we read,
"David took the spear
and water jug near Saul's head, and they left.
No one saw or knew about it,
nor did anyone wake up.
They were all sleeping, because the LORD
had put them into a deep sleep."
God put Saul and his men into a deep sleep. Even the guards were asleep. I don't know what David was thinking, seeking out Saul and going down into his camp—but it's clear that he was safe the whole time. God was not going to give David into Saul's hands. David was safe. David acknowledged this in Psalm 31:15. He said to God,
"My times are in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies
and from those who pursue me."
David knew that his life was lived in the hand of God.
But someone may say,
"Well, that was all right for David, but I haven't been promised such specific protection. God's protection of David isn't much comfort to me."
It's true that none of us have a specific promise like David did. God promised David he was going to be king so David knew that he was going to live until that took place. But it's quite wrong to think that we can't take comfort like David did. We too are in God's hand.
In Matthew 10 Jesus urged His disciples not to be afraid. He said to them, (Matthew 10:29-31)
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
apart from the will of your Father.
And even the very hairs of your head
are all numbered.
So don't be afraid;
you are worth more than many sparrows."
Jesus told them that He cared for them, that they shouldn't worry.
Of course this didn't mean that nothing bad was going to happen to them. In Luke 21:16-19 Jesus said to His disciples,
"You will be betrayed even by parents,
brothers, relatives and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
All men will hate you because of me.
But not a hair of your head will perish.
By standing firm you will gain life."
It's interesting that Jesus said that some would be put to death but that not a hair of their head would perish. This seems like a contradiction. But it's not. Jesus is teaching some very profound. William Hendriksen writes,
"what Jesus meant was that nothing, not even our hairs, is excluded from the domain of God's tender care, so that we may be assured that if any hair perishes it is by his will and for his purpose."
Norval Geldenhuys writes about Christians, (Commentary on Luke)
"although they are to suffer physical pain and death, they can never be plucked from the protecting hand of God—nothing will happen to them outside His will, and He will make all things work together for their highest welfare and their eternal salvation…"
Thus, you Christians should understand that,
like David, your life is lived in God's hands.
You'll remember what Jesus said about His sheep in John 10:28-30.
"I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all;
no one can snatch them
out of my Father's hand."
So the apostle Paul could write in Romans 8:28,
"And we know that in all things
God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."
This should be a great comfort and encouragement to you who are Christians.
You see, it's all about the promises of God—believing them and trusting your Good Shepherd to take care of you according to the promises. You, like David, have many promises from God. The promises of God in regard to His providence should be a constant source of strength to you.
Consider Jonathan here. He spoke to David about God's promise to David and he had absolute faith in it. In verses 16-18 we read,
"And Saul's son Jonathan
went to David at Horesh
and helped him find strength in God.
'Don't be afraid,' he said.
'My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.
You will be king over Israel,
and I will be second to you.
Even my father Saul knows this.'
The two of them made a covenant
before the LORD."
Jonathan helped David find strength in the Lord by directing him to the promise God had given him. As a result of this David's faith was strengthened. David wrote Psalm 57 around this time. Verse 2 of that Psalm reads,
"I cry out to God Most High, to God,
who fulfills [his purpose] for me."
David knew that God had a purpose for his life and that He would fulfill it. The Hebrew word that is translated, 'fulfills' has the meaning of 'perfecting' and also of 'bringing to an end'. John Flavel writes, (The Mystery of Providence, p. 17-18)
"when a business is performed and perfected, the agent then ceases and desists from working."
John Calvin tells us that this signifies that,
"God will never forsake the workmanship of his own hands, — that he will perfect the salvation of his people, and continue his divine guidance until he have brought them to the termination of their course."
In other words, David was confident that God would bring to pass the purposes that He had for him. David expressed the same thing in Psalm 138:8 where he wrote,
"The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands."
What David expresses is similar to the thought the apostle Paul expressed in Philippians 1:6. Paul wrote,
"being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus."
Jude 1:24-25 tells us about this as well. He wrote,
"To him who is able
to keep you from falling
and to present you
before his glorious presence
without fault and with great joy—
to the only God our Savior be glory,
majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages, now and forevermore!
Flavel tells us David's faith was strengthened by the knowledge that, (p. 18)
"God had transacted all things, or performed all things for him."
Flavel continues, (p. 19)
"The expression imports the universal interest and influence of Providence in and upon all the concerns and interests of the saints. It not only has its hand in this or that, but in all that concerns them. It has its eye upon every thing that relates to them throughout their lives, from first to last. Not only the great and more important, but the most minute and ordinary affairs of our lives are transacted and managed by it. It touches all things that touch us, whether more nearly or remotely."
But there's even more that we should notice from our text. John Woodhouse points out certain parallels between David's experiences here and the experiences that Jesus would later undergo. (1 Samuel, p. 451) David was threatened. He had no place to lay his head. His followers were frightened. He could not trust himself even to those he saved from the Philistines. In spite of that David was absolutely committed to the safety of God's people, to the defeat of their enemies and doing the will of God.
So it was with Jesus. He had nowhere to lay His head. His followers were afraid and didn't understand His mission. Like David, Jesus was committed to the saving of His people and to the defeat of their enemies. Like David, He could not trust Himself even to those He came to save. Like David, He faced great enemies. Yet He knew He was doing God's will and He was not afraid.
David followed a certain difficult path, yet he trusted God and succeeded, becoming king over Israel. He pointed us to the great work of Jesus, the Savior of the world. He followed a path of suffering and hardship. He died for His people and saved them. He rose from the dead and was given a name above every name. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He calls us to follow Him on the path of suffering, to take up our cross daily. (Matthew 16:24) Yet while we do that, we must not be afraid. Rather we must have confidence. We are in His hand. Our times are in His hand. Nothing can happen to us apart from His will. He is leading us to glory. We, forgiven sinners, can lift our heads high and praise Him with everything in us and live for Him. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12,
"We are hard pressed on every side,
but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body
the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always
being given over to death for Jesus' sake,
so that his life may be revealed
in our mortal body."
Christians, Jesus is leading you to glory. He is with you every step of the way. Take comfort in that. Rejoice in that. Your Good Shepherd is with you. He has you in His hand.
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.
David was safe. God did not give David into wicked King Saul's hands. How good that was. King Saul was wicked. He would have destroyed David. But God protected David because David trusted in Him, followed Him.
You need protection. There is a great enemy who seeks your life, your soul. He wants to destroy you. There's only One who can protect you, save you. That's Jesus.
Go to Him today. Ask Him to protect you. Ask Him to save you. Give your life to Him.