1 Samuel 24:1-7
Sermon preached on September 6, 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.
When I was a school teacher and got the idea of attending seminary to study theology, I was faced with a dilemma. Marg and I both worked for the same school board and according to our contracts if we were going to resign from our jobs, we had to do it by April 30. I had applied to seminary well before that but as the last couple of weeks of April came around I still hadn't heard whether I had been accepted. At one point the thought came into my head,
"Well, if I don't hear by the end of April that might be a sign that God doesn't want me to go to seminary, at least this year."
I had done everything right as far as applying well in advance, it's not like I had left applying to the last minute. If God wanted me to go to seminary wouldn't He arrange it so that I got accepted in time? When it got down the last few days of April I decided to phone the Admissions Office of the seminary to see if they had accepted me. They told me that, no, they hadn't made a decision on my acceptance because they didn't make those decisions until May. That was a little bit of help, in that it told me that I hadn't been rejected yet, but it really didn't give me a clue as to what I should do.
So what were we going to do? At the time teaching jobs were hard to get and if we resigned our jobs and I didn't get accepted at seminary, our resignations might have seemed foolish.
The question is: Should you use God's providences like that in your decision making? Are God's providences a reliable guide in what you should do?
David's men certainly thought so. They were hiding in a cave with David and Saul came into the cave to relieve himself and then have a rest. David's men wanted to pounce on Saul. They saw the opportunity to kill him while he was sleeping as a sign from God that they should do it. They said to David, (verse 4)
"This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you,
'I will give your enemy into your hands
for you to deal with as you wish.'"
But David refused to listen to them and not only did he not lift a hand to harm Saul, he prevent his men from doing so.
This is a great story and it has many important lessons for us.
The first lesson has to do with interpreting God's providences. You need to be careful that you don't misinterpret them. The truth we see here is that
God's providences are no sure guide to what you should do.
Now by that I'm not referring to God's providences whereby He definitely makes His will known. For example, in the book of Acts we are told that Paul and his companions tried to enter Bithynia, (Acts 16:6f)
"but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to."
Then during the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come over to Macedonia and help them. Now those were providences of God that Paul correctly obeyed because they definitely conveyed God's will.
But when I say that God's providences are no sure guide to what you should do, I'm referring to situations where God's providences seem to be moving us in a certain direction, yet God's Word tells us that we should go in a different direction.
David's men thought that just because God gave David an opportunity to kill Saul that David should have taken it. They not only urged David to kill Saul but they equated it with God's will. They knew that God controlled everything so they interpreted Saul's coming into the cave and going to sleep as a sign that David was supposed to kill Saul. When David refused, they wanted to do it themselves. Verse 7 makes it clear that David's men wanted to attack Saul. David had to be very forceful with them in order to keep them from killing Saul.
But David's men made a great mistake. God didn't want David to kill Saul. The words they quote to David are ones that they made up. God never told David to kill King Saul.
If David had done that, he would have taken the throne illegitimately. You'll remember Shimei's words to David when Absalom drove him out of Jerusalem. He said to David, (2 Samuel 16:7-8)
"Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel!
The LORD has repaid you for all the blood
you shed in the household of Saul,
in whose place you have reigned.
The LORD has handed the kingdom
over to your son Absalom.
You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!"
Shimei's words were lies. But if David had killed Saul that day in the cave—they would have been true. If such words were true they would have been a disgrace for David. The kingdom had been given to Saul by God. He was the Lord's anointed. No man could take that away from him. No man had a right to kill him. Samuel made no attempt to kill King Saul. He gave no orders for David to kill Saul. Saul was the Lord's anointed. David knew that and refused to lift a hand against Saul.
David knew the Old Testament law. He know that Leviticus 19:18 said,
"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge
against one of your people,
but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD."
David in the cave knew that he must not strike out at Saul. He knew that he must not render evil for evil. He knew the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:20-25
"if you suffer for doing good and you endure it,
this is commendable before God.
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.
For you were like sheep going astray,
but now you have returned
to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."
We are taught this over and over in the Scripture. In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus said,
"You have heard that it was said,
'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you: Love your enemies,
bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
And in Romans 12:14f the apostle Paul wrote,
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…
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."
That's what we are called to. So it doesn't matter if God gives you an opportunity to harm your enemy, you are not to do so. Exodus 23:5 reads,
"If you see the donkey
of someone who hates you fallen down under its load…"
What are you to do? Use it as an opportunity to mock your enemy? No. It continues,
"do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."
So rather than relying on opportunities to discern God's will, David relied on God's Word. Easy opportunities are no sure guide to what you should do. Rather God's will is to be found in His Word.
Just because there's an open door in front of you doesn't mean that you should take it. We have another example of that in the life of Jesus. You'll remember when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, that Jesus asked them who they were looking for. They said that they were there for Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus replied, "I am he." John 18:6 tells us,
"When Jesus said, 'I am he,'
they drew back and fell to the ground."
They fell to the ground! That was so unusual. This group of soldiers, armed with weapons (verse 3), shrank back when Jesus stood in front of them and acknowledged who He was. I don't know what happened to them. I've never heard of anything like that. It's usually the one who is going to be arrested who shrinks back.
Why did they fall to the ground? It is quite possible that they were totally taken off guard by the boldness of Jesus. Leon Morris suggests that it was the style of Jesus answer to them that threw them off, that He was using the language of deity and that they fell back in fear or awe.
That could be. But one thing that we are absolutely sure of is that Jesus did not see their falling on the ground as an opportunity to escape. Quite the contrary, He stayed standing in front of them and asked them again who they wanted. Escaping was not in His thought process. He came into this world for that very hour. As He said in John 12:27-28,
"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
No, it was for this very reason
I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!"
Jesus took the hard and difficult path. It was the path His Father wanted Him to take. Just because there was an opportunity to escape did not mean that He was supposed to take it. Quite the contrary, He was to ignore it.
We are taught the same principle in the life of Ruth. After he husband died and father in-law died, her mother-in-law Naomi decided to return to the land of Israel. Ruth and Orpah, her daughters-in-law, decided to go with her. But she urged them not to. She said, (Ruth 1:8-9)
"Go back, each of you, to your mother's home.
May the LORD show kindness to you,
as you have shown to your dead and to me.
May the LORD grant that each of you
will find rest in the home of another husband.
Then she kissed them and they wept aloud."
But they both decided to continue with her. At that Naomi urged them again to return. At that point Orpah turned back and left.
After Orpah left Naomi continued to urge Ruth to leave her. She told her to join Orpah. Naomi said to Ruth, (Ruth 1:15f)
"Look, your sister-in-law is going
back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."
But Ruth was determined not to leave her. She said,
"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me."
Ruth could have chosen the easy path. Naomi was giving her every opportunity to go back to her mother's house. But Ruth didn't take the easy path that was open in front of her. Ruth had three opportunities to leave Naomi. Three times Naomi urged her to leave her, but Ruth did not take advantage of any of them. She knew that Naomi had something that she should not let go of. She was going to serve Naomi's God.
So when you're looking for guidance on what you should do, don't misinterpret God's providence. Don't make the mistake of thinking that an opportunity, an open door, is God's will. And don't think that something that is difficult is not God's will. You need to look to God's Word to discern His will.
The second great truth that we are taught in our text is that
the end does not justify the means.
You know the argument. Some people will tell you that if you have a good goal, you are justified in using evil to get there. I call them "Satan's shortcuts". Satan wants you to sin in order for good to come.
David had been promised the kingship by God. Saul had killed the priests of the Lord at Nob. David could have said that the sooner he (David) became king, the better for the nation of Israel. But for him to become king at that time David would have had to sin. That's what his men wanted him to do.
We see this in our world today. Terrorists think that they can bring forth what they consider a good goal by murdering people. They actually think that they're doing God a favor by engaging in bloodshed. They think that good will come from their murderous deeds.
You also see it at the other side of the spectrum. Some people who are trying to prevent terrorism and save innocent lives believe that the end justifies the means. Our government doesn't want another 9/11 to happen. Does that justify torturing terrorist suspects? (You all know the term, 'waterboarding'. Some terror suspects were tortured.) Does that justify violating certain constitutional rights? After September 11 some US citizens were arrested on material witness warrants even though the authorities lacked probable cause. They were held without trial and even after they were released some of their constitutional freedoms were violated. It was all done in the name of the war on terrorism.
The history of the church is also filled with such stories. Some of the Crusades were characterized by great inhumanity and the slaughter of innocent people. During the Inquisition many innocent people were tortured and killed. And it was all in the name of God and the name of His kingdom.
Professing Christians have engaged in such activities because they believe that the end justifies the means.
But the Bible here shows us that the end does not justify the means. David refused to take Saul's life. He was not going to do so. He knew that God had appointed Saul king and he waited for God to remove Saul. He did not use sinful means to gain the kingdom.
We must take this lesson to heart. We are never to do evil that good may come. Evil doesn't tend to produce good. Good never comes from evil. Good comes from good. Don't ever think that sin will lead to good. Sin's offspring is suffering, misery, and death.
Now there are times when it seems that good comes from evil. But it's only an illusion. For example, when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he told them that God had send him ahead of them to save many lies. He told them that in selling him into slavery they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. God brought good out of evil. He did that by overruling it and not allowing evil to bring forth its natural fruit. The good came from God, not from the evil that was in the hearts of Joseph's brothers.
God doesn't want us to do evil that good may come. The apostle Paul dealt with the idea of sinning for a good purpose decisively in Romans 6. He totally rejected it. (Shall we sin so that grace may abound. By no means!)
You'll remember that one of the temptations that Satan put to Jesus related to gaining all the kingdoms of the world. In Matthew 4:8-9 we read,
"the devil took him to a very high mountain and
showed him all the kingdoms of the world
and their splendor. 'All this I will give you', he said,
'if you will bow down and worship me.'
Satan was offering Jesus and easy way to get all the kingdoms of the world. He was telling Jesus that He didn't have to go to the cross, He didn't have to endure the pain and suffering, that He didn't have to die. Satan tempted Him to get what He had promised men, not by the means that God had appointed, but through Satan's means.
The point of all this is that it's not enough to have a good goal, you also have to use good means to get to it. The end does not justify the means. Jesus told Satan to get away from Him. He totally rejected the path of evil. So too should you.
The third lesson we see from our text is that
you need to be firm in resisting evil.
David was not only committed to doing what was right, he wasn't going to let his men touch Saul. Verse 7 tells us that David,
"rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul.
Not only did David not harm Saul, he did everything in his power to prevent those around him from doing the same.
David's men were in the same predicament as David. They, too, were in danger from Saul and when they saw Saul helpless they wanted to kill him. When David refused to kill Saul, they were upset. David was going to allow their lives continue to be jeopardized when in fact he could put an end to it.
The Hebrew word that is used there literally means, 'to tear up, pull down, to sever apart'. This perhaps suggests that there was an exceedingly strong disagreement between David and his men. We must remember that David had a lot of troublemakers with him. (See 1 Samuel 30:22) Some of them weren't even loyal to him. Later, when David and his men were with the Philistines, the Amalekites raided David's city of Ziklag and carried off their wives and sons and daughters. When David's men found out about it some of them talked about stoning David. (1 Samuel 30:6)
So it is likely that David had quite a struggle with his men in keeping them from killing Saul. David stood up for what was right in spite of great opposition. David did not let any of his men carry out their plans to kill Saul.
This means that you are to do everything you can (using legitimate and righteous means) to stop others from doing evil.
But for those of you who are not Christians, what you should understand from this is that
Saul's reprieve was only temporary.
David did not harm Saul. He did not kill him. A sinner was not punished like his sin's deserved. But that was only for a time. Before too long Saul's time came and the Philistines killed Saul. He got the reward for his sins.
God does have a time for judgment. Jesus is coming again in judgment. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 reads,
"This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed
from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
He will punish those who do not know God
and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord and
from the majesty of his power on the day
he comes to be glorified in his holy people
and to be marveled at among all those who have believed."
Unless you repent it'll be the same for you. Perhaps today is a good day for you. You're enjoying life and things are good. Just like Saul you are oblivious to the danger around you. There's only one thing keeping you out of hell's fires and eternal misery—that's God's patience.
Go to Jesus now. Do it before His patience runs out. Don't make the biggest mistake you could ever make by refusing His offer of safety, of salvation, of eternal life.