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Ten Lies About Sin

Last week, we looked at David’s great sin.  We looked at the fall of a great man in II Samuel 11.  That chapter and the one after it are two chapters that every Christian should study.  They are very important chapters on temptation and sin.  They are very practical.

David’s great sin began with his eyes.  He saw something from the roof of his palace.  He saw a woman bathing, a beautiful woman bathing, a beautiful naked woman bathing.  Men receive sexual gratification through their eyes. Women are different kinds of creatures.  Men are visually stimulated.

This one look led to adultery and premeditated murder.  It all began with a look.  The LOOK led to THOUGHTS.  Thoughts led to DESIRES. Desires led to SIN.  Sin led to a CRIME.  Crime led to a COVER-UP.

Today, we want to What does this story say to us today?   We are going to look at ten lies about sin.  These are ten common things that people believe about sin that are wrong.  You may believe some of these lies.  We are going to look at each one and see why it is a lie from Scripture.

Lie # 1 – Sin is normal and natural

That is the first lie.  Many believe that sin is completely normal.  Sex is a natural drive, like eating and drinking.  Hunger and thirst are natural physical appetites.  Sex is a natural drive created by God.  Therefore, some argue that any type of sexual expression at any time with anyone in any way is normal.

The first lie is that sexual immorality is normal.  Pre-marital sex is normal.  Most do it.  Adultery is normal.  Homosexuality is normal.  It is part of nature.   Haven’t you heard about all of those gay penguins?

There is only one problem.  When David committed adultery and murder, the prophet Nathan said that what he did was evil. Society may approve of immorality.  God says that it is wicked.

Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is EVIL in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. (II Samuel 12:9 NIV)

Sex is created by God.  The sex drive is normal.  It is a natural God-given desire but sex like anything else can be abused and perverted.  The One who created sex also created laws to regulate it.

One of the things the Bible prohibits is sex outside of marriage.  It also prohibits any sex that is not between a man and a woman.  We live in a world in which immorality is socially acceptable that we do not see some of these things as wicked.  We do not see them as God sees them.

Lie # 2 – God is pleased no matter how I live

This lie is called antinomianism.  That was a heresy in the early church.  It said that we can live any way we want.  It is a common myth.  God accepts no matter how we live.  He accepts all people.  He accepts all religions.  He accepts all lifestyles.  It’s not true.

We see that in II Samuel 11.  David commits sins.  His plan works.  He gets what he wants.  He marries Bathsheba.  He takes her as his own and brings her to the palace but notice how the chapter ends.  The last words of the chapter say, “BUT the thing David had done DISPLEASED the Lord” (II Samuel 11:27 NIV).

David was pleased.  He was very happy.  He got what he wanted.  He was pleased but God was not pleased.  What pleases man and what pleases God are two different things, because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

What do we have to do to please God?  Fear God and keep his commandments.  David’s son Solomon said that this is the “whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

The LORD is pleased with those who fear Him (Psalm 147:11 BSB)

whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (I John 3:22 ESV)

David did NOT please God in II Samuel 11.  He did NOT keep God commandments.  He broke them.  In fact, he broke six of the ten commandments. He broke commandments one, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

He BROKE them.  He DESPISED them. Nathan says three times that David despised what God said (II Samuel 12:9, 10, 14). David got too powerful.  He was the king.  He thought he could do anything.  He thought he was above any rules or laws. He despised anything that held him back from what he wanted to do.

Many do this today. They know what God says about something but refuse to do it.  In fact, they have CONTEMPT for what the Bible says.  They despise the Bible. That is why many disobey it.  It is outdated.  It is old-fashioned.  It is unscientific.

Society has absolute contempt for what God says and what the Bible says about creation, about marriage, about gender, about sexuality, about abortion.  Do we fear God and keep His commandments, or do we break them?  Do we love the Word of God or do we despise it, like David did?

Lie # 3 – Sin makes you happy

That is why many women have affairs.  They say, “God wants to make me happy.  This will make me happy.”  That is the myth.  Deliberately disobeying God, and living outside His revealed will, never makes anyone happy.

David pursued Bathsheba.  He saw her.  He wanted her.  He coveted her.  He took her.  He married her.  He got to keep her.  On the outside, he was happy.  On the inside he was miserable.

He had a guilty conscience.  He couldn’t worship God.  This went on for a whole year.  Can you image how depressed and irritable he must have been during that time?

Sin separates us from God.  David was living in sin.  He killed man.  He killed a good man.  He betrayed a friend.  He was living in unconfessed sin.  He was out of fellowship with God.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.2 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (Psalm 32:1-4 NIV)

Many think that if you disobey the Bible and do what you want to do, you will be happy.  You will be fulfilled.  Sin does have pleasures.  In is pleasurable.  It is fun.  If preachers tell you that it is not, they are lying.

The Bible talks about “the pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25) but it says that the pleasures of sin are ONLY “for a season”.  They do not last.  Proverbs 20:17 says, “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel” (ESV).

Lie # 4 – I can get away with sin

That is the fourth lie.  It is the lie that you can get away with your sin.  You can hide it.  David tries that.  He engaged in the most famous cover-up in history, but it did not work.  It all came out in the end.

You may be sure that your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NIV)

You don’t have to read the Bible to know this.  All you have to do is to read the newspaper or watch a few episodes of Forensic Files.  People always think that they can commit the perfect crime and never get caught.

They think they can hide their crime from people.  They think they can destroy all of the evidence and leave no trace of what they did but their sin always finds them out.  It catches up to them, because of modern technology and DNA evidence.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. (Luke 12:2 NIV)

Do we do what David did?  Do we try to hide our sins?  What does the Bible teach?

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 NIV)

Lie # 5 – I could never fall into deep sin

David did not just commit a little sin.  He committed a big sin.  He did not commit it before he was saved. He committed it after he was saved.  He did not commit it when he was a young man.  He committed them when he was an older man.

If King David could fall, a real man of God, a man after God’s heart, a great man of faith, a man who could slay giants in his life, then we can fall.  David is the last man we would expect to do this.  Are we overconfident like Peter was?

Many think that they could never fall into deep sin.  This is the lie of overconfidence.  Peter was guilty of it and he was an apostle.

Jesus predicts that ALL of the Apostles would fall away on account of Jesus (Matthew 26:31-34).  It is a very specific prediction.  He even tells when it will happen.  That very night it would happen.

Peter said, “Everyone else will but I won’t.”  He meant well but his mistake was trying to correct Jesus.  It never goes well when you try to tell Jesus that He is wrong.  Jesus said, “Not only will you disown me, but you will do it three times.”  Jesus knew Peter’s heart better than he did.

Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (I Corinthians 10:12 ESV)

Lie #6 – Sinful desires are not wrong if you don’t act on them

We had a professor at a university in Virginia this last week that said this very thing.  He said that you can have desires for children and not be a sex offender.

Most would say that it is okay to have lustful thoughts about someone as long as you don’t act on them. That is the definition of “safe sex”.  You don’t have to worry about STDs.  You don’t have to worry about getting anyone pregnant.

What is wrong with this approach?  One, it contradicts what Jesus plainly taught.  He taught the exact opposite.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has ALREADY committed ADULTERY with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV)

Jesus did NOT say that it is wrong to appreciate beauty.  He did not say that attraction to the opposite sex is wrong.  He did NOT even say that all sexual lust is wrong.  God was the one who created the sex drive.  What He condemned is thinking about, desiring, lusting after someone who is not your spouse.  The world says it is innocent and harmless.  Jesus says it is adultery.  It is mental adultery.

Two, one sin often leads to another.  Sin is a slippery slope.  It is progressive.  That is what we see in these chapters.  The sins get worse.  David’s sin began with adultery but ended in murder, not just the murder of Uriah but the murder of other soldiers who also died on that day (II Samuel 11:24).  Sin produces more sin. Have we bought into this lie?

Lie # 7 – There is nothing you can do to prevent sin.

This is the next lie.  You can’t do anything to prevent sin.  It just happens.  That lie is completely refuted by this chapter.  We see that in the first verse of the chapter.  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…But David remained in Jerusalem. (II Samuel 11:1 NIV)

It was the time when the kings went off the battle.  David was a king.  He should have gone out to battle.  Other kings went out.  He should have been out leading his troops.  Instead, he stayed home.

Now leaders do not always do this today.  When we have a war, the President does not go on the battlefield even though he is the Commander-in-Chief of the army, according to the Constitution. In that day, kings did go out to battle.

David stayed home.  He was not where he was supposed to be.  That made him vulnerable to temptation.  If he went off to battle, he would never have seen Bathsheba.  He never would have sinned.  He could have prevented sin by being in the will of God and by being where he was supposed to be.

All of us have a weakness in some area of our life.  We have sins we struggle with.  What steps are we taking to avoid sinning?  Are we taking any?  Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away… And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. (Matthew 5:29-30 NIV).

On the other hand, you can be right where you are supposed to be and still be tempted.  Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where He was tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1).  He was in the right place.  He was in the will of God.  He was filled with the Spirit and He was still tempted.

David did not go roof with some binoculars looking for naked women.  Now, He was not a Peeping Tom.  He just happened to see one.  It all happened accidentally.  All it took was one look and he was destroyed, and it was an accidental look.

How do you avoid sin in that situation? David should have done what Job did.  Job made a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1).  What does that mean?  How do we make a covenant with our eyes?  How do we do that?

There are certain things that we do not let out eyes see.  It means we have to avoid looking at certain things (pornography).  It also means if you see something that you shouldn’t see, you turn away.  You don’t keep looking.  David apparently did not do that.

Lie # 8 – I do not need help when I fall into sin

When we sin, we deceive ourselves.  When we sin, we think we can deal with it ourselves.  David tries that and nothing happened.  He commits major sin, multiple major sins, and he does not repent.  Time went by and he still did not repent.

He does not repent on his own.  God has to send someone to confront him.  Sometimes the ONLY way people will repent of for other people to talk to them about their sin.  The Bible was NOT just given for teaching, for doctrine.  It was also given to REPROVING and CORRECTING people (II Timothy 3:16). Some people need to be rebuked. Sometimes, God has to use us to lovingly confront someone else who is in sin.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

Have you ever had to confront someone who was living in sin?  We don’t do it too much today.  Most of us do not like to confront people.  They usually do not respond too well.

God sent someone to confront David. God sent was Nathan.  Nathan was someone David knew, someone David respected.  He had been with David when he was a fugitive (I Samuel 22:5).  He was David’s friend, but he was also a real prophet.  Nathan’s job was to rebuke the king.  He was sent by God to confront his boss.

Notice HOW he did it. What he does is brilliant.  Nathan used wisdom.  He used tact.  Nathan did NOT walk in the door and say, “You filthy sinner, Repent or Perish.”  He did NOT hit him over the head with his sin.  He did not point a finger at David.  He did NOT castigate him for committing deep sexual sin in the royal palace.

Instead, He tells a story.  The story is called a parable.  Jesus did not invent parables.  There are some in the OT.  This story was about animals.  David was an animal lover.  He loved animals.  He used to be a shepherd.  He tells the shepherd David a sheep story.  This story was about a poor man with a pet lamb that he loved.

It is about how a man who was filthy rich and had plenty of animals stole this poor man’s only animal and killed it for a guest.  This story hit a nerve.  It made David angry at the man who did this.  He said that the man should die.  Nathan says, “YOU are the man.  You are the one who did this.”

David had no idea that this rebuke was coming.  He wasn’t expecting it.  Nathan traps him with a harmless little parable.  He let David decide what the punishment should be for this crime.

Nathan shows us how to deliver a rebuke to someone.  He shows us how to speak the truth in love.  He has the perfect balance.  He is NOT all negative and he is NOT all positive.

He tells him that God HAS forgiven him of his sin.  He tells him that he will NOT die.  Both adultery and murder were capital crimes in the OT.  He also tells David to his face that he is GUILTY.  He tells him that what he did was EVIL.  He tells him that he will suffer COSEQUENCES of his life for the rest of his life for what he has done.  David response with genuine repentance.

Lie # 9 – I could never be forgiven for what I have done

That is the lie.  What is the truth?  Sin is forgivable, not just little sins but big sins.  Any sin can be forgiven. You can commit adultery and be forgiven. You can commit homosexuality and be forgiven.  You can commit cold-blooded murder and be forgiven.  No sin is too big to be forgiven.

Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven (Matthew 12:31 NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness. (I John 1:9 NIV)

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18 NIV).

The Lord has put away your sin” (II Samuel 12:13 NIV). David said that the Lord forgave the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:5 NIV).

There is just one catch.  In order to be forgiven, there has to be genuine repentance.  We do have to confess our sins.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9 NIV)

Five Signs of a False Confession

Genuine repentance is more than just saying, “I am sorry.” Or “I have sinned.”  Many people say, “I am sorry” and do not really repent.

King Saul said, “I have sinned.”  He said it twice ((I Samuel 15:24, 30) but did not mean it.  What are some signs of a false confession?

1) Your confession is FALSE if you say it for the wrong reason.

Politicians say the words, “I have sinned” all the time when they are caught.  They say it for the wrong reason.

2) Your confession is FALSE if you say it and do not really mean it.

Many say, “I have sinned” but do not really mean it.  They are just a bunch of words.

3) Your confession is FALSE if you say it and do not take full responsibility for your sins.

Many say the words “I have sinned” but do not take FULL responsibility.  They make excuses or blame others for what they have done.

4) Your confession is FALSE if you say it and try to cover up what you have done.

If you try to cover up, hide or minimize what you have done (I did it but it is not a big deal”), you have not genuinely confessed your sin.

5) Your confession is FALSE if you say it and do not make any change in your life.

You have to confess and forsake your sins (Proverbs 28:13).  When the Scribes and Pharisees came to be baptized by John the Baptist, he called them “a brood of vipers”.  He said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8 NIV).

Lie # 10 – I can sin and not suffer any consequences of my sin

That is the ninth lie.  An old pastor from Chicago used to say, “Choose to sin.  Choose to suffer.”  If you sin, you can be forgiven but forgiveness does NOT remove the consequences of sin.  You can commit murder and be forgiven but you may spend fifty years behind bars as a consequence.  You could lose your marriage or your health.

David faced consequences for his sin.  We see four consequences in this chapter.

CONSEQUENCE ONE: An unwanted pregnancy.  David only had sex with Bathsheba only one time, and she got pregnant and gave birth.  That sounds like a good thing comes out of a bad situation.

CONSEQUENCE TWO: David’s baby would die.  Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are NOT going to die. 14 BUT because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” (II Samuel 12:13-14 NIV)

It got sick and died. After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. (II Samuel 11:15 NIV).  This verse is a problem for some preachers.  How many times have you been told by preachers that God wants everybody healthy, and He never makes anyone sick?

This passage says point blank that the Lord struck the child, and he became ill.  This baby died and it was David’s fault.  He knew it. How did David respond once the child died?

Was he mad at God?  Was he angry and bitter the rest of his life?  No.  He accepted God’s justice.  He went into the house of the Lord and worshipped God.  He returned to his house and ate and comforted his wife (II Samuel 12:20, 24).

CONSEQUENCE THREE: Sexual crimes would happen to David’s family.  David committed sexual sins with another man’s wife and now sexual sin will take place with David’s wives and his own kids. “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” (II Samuel 12:11-12 NIV).

CONSEQUENCE FOUR: Violence would now be a part of David’s family.  Now, therefore, the sword will NEVER depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ (II Samuel 12:10 NIV).

Three of his kids will die violent deaths (Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah).  They all die by the sword. One of them was his firstborn son who he will lose. Children raped each other, killed each other and tried to take over David’s throne.  David’s sin affected the rest of his family.  It did not just affect him.  It affected some of his other wives.  It affected his kids.  Sin has consequences.

Why Did God kill David’s Infant Son for David’s Sin?

Critics raise this objection.   It does not seem right.  It seems wrong.  God says, “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16 NIV).

How can God tell us not to do this and then He does it? Isn’t this a contradiction?  Why did God murder King David’s innocent child?  How do you answer them?  There are a couple of problems with the question.

First, God is NOT killing an innocent child.  Babies are not born innocent.  They are not born drinking whiskey and smoking a cigar, but they are all born in sin (cf. Romans 5:12-19).

Second, it is not murder if God takes a human life.  He is the Creator.  He can do that at any time.  He has the perfect right to do that.  He gives life and He can take it at any time.

Isn’t that punishing the child?  Not really.  It is rewarding the child.  The baby boy went immediately to Heaven.  The child got an upgrade. He had a much better life than living on earth in David’s messed up family, as we will see from the next chapter.

But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (II Samuel 12:23 NIV).

This brings us to a passage that is very important to help people who are grieving the loss of a loved one, especially the loss of a child.  This passage teaches three important truths that every Christian should know.

1) This passage teaches that there is life after death.  David clearly believed in life after death. There is no doubt about it.

2) This passage teaches that infants who die go to heaven.  David’s baby boy went there.  It is not a stretch to assume other babies go there as well.

3) This passage teaches that there will be a reunion of believers and infant children who have died in the afterlife. David says, “I will go to him.”

That should be a comfort to every mother who has lost a child to a  miscarriage.  It also helps answer the question of whether aborted babies go to heaven.  The passage is not dealing with abortion, but we can infer from this passage that they do go to heaven after they die.

David’s Great Sin

We are going to look at two important chapters in II Samuel that every Christian should know.  We are going to spend two weeks on these chapters.  We are going to look at these chapters in a completely different way.   We are going to look at David’s sin.

We are also going to see how David’s scandal compared to presidential scandals in our own day.  There are some myths that people have about David and they are some myths that people have about Bathsheba.

Today, we are going to look at the fall of a great man.  David was not just a good man.  He was a great man.   He is one of the greatest men of the Bible.  He was Israel’s greatest king.  He was greater than we will ever be.  He is mentioned in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11.

What we learn from II Samuel 11 is that even great men can fall.  King David was saved.  He was a believer fell into sin.  He did not fall into a little sin.  He fell into some big sins.

David did not want to face a physical battle, so he did not go off to war with everyone else. He stayed behind in the palace and faced another battle, a moral battle. This battle he lost. He could defeat the nine-foot-tall Philistine giant but there was a giant on the inside that he could not defeat.

David slew Goliath but this giant slew David. He was soundly defeated. This was the giant that David could not defeat. Our greatest enemies that we will ever face are not physical. They are not external. They are internal. They are invisible. They are spiritual.

This chapter is SHOCKING.  It describes David’s great sin.  It starts with a sexual SIN.  The sin becomes a CRIME.  The sin leads to violence.  It leads to bloodshed.  It leads to a homicide.  The crime turns into a COVER-UP. The cover-up is always worse than the crime. It still is today.  This led to a SCANDAL in Israel.

Everyone knows two famous stories about David.  Everyone knows the story about David and Goliath.  Everyone knows the story about David and Bathsheba.

The David and Goliath story took place when he was young.  He was so young that no one took him seriously.  David’s defeat of Goliath was the greatest victory in his life.  It was David at his best.

The David and Bathsheba story took place when he was much older.  David was a middle age man.  He was married.  He is not a kid anymore.  The story of adultery with Bathsheba is the story of David’s greatest defeat.  It is David at his worst.

In this chapter, we come to a different David than the David we talk about in church.  Here we see, not David the saint, but David the sinner.  We see David the adulterer.  We see David the murderer, the cold-blooded killer.  We see David the liar and David the deceiver. We see David the hypocrite.

In this chapter, David is NOT the hero.  He is the villain.  It is a different David than we are used to seeing.

We think of David the great giant killer. We think of David, great man of faith.  We think of David as a man after God’s own heart.  We think of David as “God’s anointed.”  He was an anointed king.

We think of the writer of Scripture.  David wrote the best devotional book of all-time.  He wrote the Book of Psalms.  He was the one who wrote Psalm 23 (“The Lord is My Shepherd”).  In II Samuel 11, we see a different side to David.  David does not even look like the same man.

The David we learned about in church was a godly, spiritual man.  He wrote Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  This David wrote a letter to have a man killed in cold blood, like he is a member of the mafia.

He doesn’t kill him himself.  He gets hit men, professional killers, to do the job. This was calculated.  It was premeditated.  The same person did both.  It sounds like they are almost two completely different people

The David we learned about in church had compassion on people.  He had compassion on handicapped people and people with disabilities (Mephibosheth).  He forgave his enemies. When he finally got a chance to kill crazy the demon-possessed Saul who had been tormenting him for years, he refused to do it.

David refused to kill a bad man but, in this chapter, he kills a good man.  He kills Uriah, who was one of his best soldiers.  He returned good for evil when it came to king Saul, but he returned evil for good when it came to Uriah.

David’s Scandal & the Clinton Scandal

We have seen plenty of political scandals in our history.  Our last sex scandal in the White house involved Bill Clinton in 1998.  Sex scandals did not begin with Bill Clinton. King David had one three thousand years ago in the palace in Israel.

There are a lot of similarities between Bill Clinton’s scandal and King David’s scandal.

· Both were about the same age at the time.  Both were middle-aged men.  David is about fifty.  Bill Clinton was in his fifties during his scandal.

· Both were married at the time and had kids.

· Both were musicians.  King David played the harp and Bill Clinton played the saxophone.

· Both were political leaders.  One was a king, and one was a President.

· Both committed a secret sin.  God says what David did was in secret (II Samuel 12:12).

· Both committed a sexual sin.

· Both tried to cover up their sin.

· Both continued in office after their sin

Even though there were many similarities, there were some important differences

· Bill Clinton had sex with a single woman.  David had sex with a married woman.

· David’s scandal led to the birth of a child.

· David’s scandal led to a bunch of people dying, not just Uriah (cf. II Samuel 11:17). No one died over the Monica Lewinski affair.

What he did was much worse.  Even though David’s crime was worse, when he was confronted about it, he did not deny it.  He didn’t rationalize it.  He confessed his sin.

Myths about David

It is true that David had a problem with sexual lust.  Most men today have the same problem but there is no evidence that he had some kind of sexual addiction. He was not a womanizer.  He did not have continuous affairs with multiple women.  David was not a serial adulterer.  It was a one-time act.  It was a one-night stand.

David had one affair and it became the turning point in his life.  It ruined the rest of his life.  He is never the same after this incident. How many people have done something similar?  They do one stupid thing, and their life is ruined.  It is never the same. Some have lost their job, their reputation or ministry forever.

Summary of Events

The story begins with a war.  Israel is at war with the Ammonites.  Why are they fighting the Ammonites?  You have to go back and read II Samuel 10 to get the answer. Israel eventually defeats them and makes them slaves in II Samuel 12 after they completely humiliated the Jews in chapter 10.

In II Samuel 11, the troops go out to fight but David stays behind in the palace.  Instead of being on the battlefield, he is in the bedroom.  He is in his bed.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace (II Samuel 11:2 NIV).

Preachers criticize David here.  What was he doing in bed all day?  He wasted the whole day in bed, as they have never taken a nap before.  People take naps today and they took them three thousand years ago.  This was “evening” (NIV) or “late afternoon” (ESV).

After laying down, David gets up.  Perhaps he couldn’t sleep.  He gets up and goes outside.  He walks on the roof to get some fresh air.  The roof was the coolest place in the house.  He did not have air-conditioning.  Why is he going on the roof? We don’t do that today.  We would fall off the roof.  David had a flat roof.

While he was outside from a distance, he saw a woman bathing. He sees a woman.  He sees a naked woman.  He sees a beautiful naked woman.  He asks about her.  He finds out some things about her.

Who Was Bathsheba?

and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” (II Samuel 11:3 NIV).

What does David find out about Bathsheba?  He learned several things.

One, she was MARRIED.  She was a married woman.  That should have put her off limits to David.  Adultery was a capital crime in the Law of Moses.  Today, adultery is no big deal.  It happens all the time but in David’s time, it was punishable by death.

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10).

Two, she was married to URIAH.  Uriah was one of David’s best soldiers.  He was one of David’s “mighty men” (II Samuel 23:23-39).

It was a select group of elite fighters, like the SEALS today.  He had a Jewish name, but he was a Hittite.  He was a Jewish convert.  Bathsheba might have been a Gentile as well.

Three, her dad’s name was ELIAM.  Eliam was also one of David’s mighty men.  He was also one of his top fighters (II Samuel 23:34).

Four, her grandfather’s name was AHITHOPHEL.  We know that from II Samuel 23:34. He was one of his most trusted advisers.  We know that from II Samuel 16:23. Bathsheba was his granddaughter.  Later in II Samuel, he commits suicide (II Samuel 17:23).

That should have stopped David in his tracks, but it doesn’t.  Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her (II Samuel 11:4 NIV).  Then she goes home.

Myths about Bathsheba

Some male chauvinist preachers actually blame her.  They see her as the bathtub temptress.  Here is a lonely wife.  Her husband was off fighting on the battlefield.   She is left alone at home.

She was beautiful.  She is immodest.  She had her eye on the king all along and used her beauty to entice David and seduce him.  She takes a bath in full view of the king.

This requires a rather creative imagination.  It sounds like a good romance novel.  It reads things into the text that are not there.

The Bible does NOT blame her.  It blames David.  Nathan does not go confront Bathsheba.  He goes and confronts David.  He said, “YOU are the man.”  He places all of the blame on David, not on Bathsheba.

She was minding her business taking a bath.  She did not know anyone was watching.  She was an object of David’s lust.  She was the victim.  She did NOT initiate the encounter.  David did.  David was on the roof and saw Bathsheba.  David investigated who she was, stalked her and took her.  He did not invite her to the palace.  He took her.

This relationship is NOT described as a romance.  It is NOT described as a love story.  It is NOT described as an affair.  David saw her, sent for her, and TOOK her.  It is one-sided.  It sounds more like rape.

David was the most powerful man in the country.  He sent messengers to take her.  We are not told that she is given any choice in the matter.  She has no voice.  She only says three words in the chapter: “I am pregnant.”  It is only two words in Hebrew.

We do not even know if she saw David when she was bathing or even know he was there.  She probably thought he was off on the battlefield.  Let’s imagine what life was like for Bathsheba.  It might look like she had everything.  She was drop-dead gorgeous but she had many problems.  She suffers trauma and tragedy in her life.

1) She did not have any children.  Kids were a big deal in that day.  Married women in that day wanted to have kids and she did not have any yet.  She tried but did not have any, like other women had.

2) She is separated from her husband for months at a time.  He is off fighting the Ammonites in battle (II Samuel 11:1), and she is left home alone.

3) She is raped by the king (II Samuel 11:4 ESV).  The king called her to the palace.   She did not know why.  She probably assumed that he was going to tell her that her husband was killed on the battlefield but finds out that she is called there for another reason.  Women had no rights.  This was a patriarchal society.

4) Her husband is murdered, and she becomes a widower (II Samuel 11:26-27). We are told that she mourned for him.  When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. (II Samuel 11:26 NIV).  She did not want him to die.  She loved her husband. She grieved for him after he died.

5) She gets pregnant, has a baby, and her baby dies.  After losing her husband, who she loved, she loses her baby. It was her first baby.

6) Finally, she is forced to marry her husband’s murderer and rapist.

7) Her grandfather kills himself.  He commits suicide.

Bathsheba did not have an easy life, but she does marry the king, moves into the palace and becomes David’s most famous wife.  One of her sons becomes the next king (Solomon) and she becomes an ancestor to the Messiah.  Bathsheba is in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

David’s Three Plans

What happens next in the story?  Bathsheba gets pregnant. David now has a problem.  What David did is not what people would do today.  They would just have an abortion.  That is how many today deal with an unwanted pregnancy.  That was not an option for David, so he ordered Uriah home, so people will think it is his child.  There were no DNA tests back then.

Uriah came home to Jerusalem for three days and still did not go home to his wife.  The OT says that soldiers were not to have sex when they were at war (Deuteronomy 23:9-11).

Uriah the Hittite is more righteous than David the Jew.  David did not go to war and had sex with another man’s wife.  Uriah went to war and refused to have sex with his own wife.  The Hittite was living better than the Jew.

When the first plan did not work, David went to Plan B.  He fed Uriah some food and got him drunk.  Drunkenness is a sin.  David led him to sin, but he still refused to sleep with his wife.  Uriah had more integrity drunk that David had sober.

When that did not work, he went to Plan C.  He had Uriah killed.  He did not kill him. He used the Ammonites to do it.  He sends him to the front of the line and pulls the troops back.  David commits adultery and then cold-blooded murder.  He plots a man’s death.

When David hears the words “Uriah your servant is dead,” David did NOT feel guilty.  He felt relieved.  In fact, Joab said when you tell David about how many people died in the battle and you want to cheer David up, just say, “Uriah also is dead.”   Then, David married Bathsheba. David covered up the sin more by marrying Bathsheba, which was legal at this point.

God gave David some time to repent but he didn’t, so he sent Nathan the prophet to him.  Nathan confronts David to his face and says, “You are the man.  You are guilty.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. (II Samuel 12:7-8 NIV)

God blessed David abundantly.  He prospered him.  He gave him all kinds of success and David still commits adultery.

“Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods. I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.’ (Jeremiah 5:7 NIV).

You can’t feel sorry for David.  It is not like he can’t get his needs met at home.  He’s not sexually deprived.  He had multiple wives.  He had seven wives before Bathsheba.[1] He was married to a lot of beautiful wives already. This was NOT about sex.

After confronting David, Nathan told him what the consequences of his sin would be, consequences he would have to deal with the rest of his life.  One of those consequences is that Bathsheba’s baby will die.  No matter how much he prays and fasts, the baby dies.

What was David’s response?  He could have said, “I did not have sex with that woman.”  He could have pulled a Bill Clinton.

He could have pulled a King Saul and blamed other people.  He could have blamed Bathsheba.

Instead, he confessed.  Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (II Samuel 12:13 NIV).  He took full responsibility for his actions. He says, “It’s my fault. I am to blame.”

Next week, we will look at lessons and applications from the fall of King David.

[1] II Samuel 3:1-5 mentions six wives plus he married Michal.

The Secret to Success

We have been studying the life of King David, Israel’s greatest king.  Last time, we looked at II Samuel 7.  Today, we are going to look at the next three chapters of the book.  They are short chapters.

We see in these chapters that David was not passive.  He was a man of action.  He wanted to do things.  David asks three very important questions.  These are questions that we should ask ourselves today.  These three questions all boil down to loving God and loving people.

The FIRST QUESTION question is, “What can I do for God?”  David had a passion for God, and he wanted to do something for him.  He wanted to build God a temple. God said, “No” but the desire itself was good.  What do we want to do for God?

The SECOND QUESTION is, “What can I do for my country?” The country had enemies that hated the Jews.  It had enemies on all sides which attacked, mistreated and abused his people, as we see in II Samuel 8 & 10.

David smote his enemies.  You say, “That is not very Christian.  Aren’t we supposed to forgive our enemies?”  On a personal level we are.  That command is given to individuals, not nations.  David was the leader of a country.  He was a king.

The THIRD QUESTION is, “What can I do to people in need? What can I do to help people who are suffering? How can I bless people?  How can I show kindness to people?”  He asks this question in II Samuel 9.

II Samuel 9 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  It is perhaps David’s greatest hour.  Someone commented that everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.  Everyone knows the story of David and Bathsheba but not as many know the story about David and Mephibosheth.[1]  It is a powerful story.  It is one of the coolest stories in the Bible.

Today, we are going to talk about success.  Everyone wants to be successful in life.  No one wants to be a failure.  People want to be successful, no matter what they do.  How does that happen?

How do we become successful, not just successful in ministry but in other areas of our life, like at work or at home?  What is the secret to success?  In these three short chapters, we will see the secret to success.  David was extremely successful.

David was at the high point of his career.  He has victory after victory.  He has success after success.  What caused his success?  Why was David so successful?  Today, we are going to look at four principles of success from the life of David.

Before we do that, let’s look at his success in these chapters.  These chapters focus on David’s MILITARY SUCCESS.  They deal with David’s empire.  They are about foreign conquest.  These chapters are violent.  They are bloody.  A lot of people die.  There are mass casualties.

That’s what happens in war.  David kills twenty-two thousand Zobahites (II Samuel 8:5).  He kills eighteen thousand Edomites (II Samuel 8:13).  He kills forty-one thousand Arameans (II Samuel 10:18).

Many criticize what David does in the other two chapters.  If you have a problem with what David does here, you will have a problem with what the Son of David will do in the future.  When Jesus returns to earth, He will return as King of Kings.

Preachers do not talk about this too much but when Jesus returns, there will be a bloodbath.  A lot of Gentiles will be killed.  The Book of Revelation talks about a river of blood that is five feet deep.

What seems hard to understand is what David does to the Moabites.  He had Moabite blood in him.  His great grandmother (Ruth) was ethnically a Moabitess (Ruth 4:17). David left his parents in the care of the king of Moab (I Samuel 22:4) and yet David executes these Moabites.

Why was he so harsh on these Moabites?  We don’t know.  According to Jewish tradition, the king of Moab betrayed David’s trust and killed his parents and possibly his brothers.  That is what Rabbinic tradition says but we don’t know this for sure.

David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live. So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute. (II Samuel 8:2 NIV)

It seems cruel and barbaric but there is another way to look at this.  This may actually be a sign of mercy.  I Samuel 27:9 says, “Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive” (NIV).  Here, two-thirds are put to death and one-third are spared.  It is more humane.  He could have killed them all as God’s enemies, but he does not do that.

David does not completely destroy any of these nations.  He doesn’t wipe them off of the map.  He defeats them and he subjugates them.  They pay him taxes, but he doesn’t exterminate them.

Today, we want to talk about the secret to success.  The first ten chapters of II Samuel deal with the TRIUMPHS of King David.  David is on his way up.  By the time we get to these chapters, David is at the top of his career.

He is the definition of success.  He has fame (II Samuel 8:13).  He was a national hero.  There were songs sung about him.  He has wealth, the wealth of a king.  He is living in a brand-new fancy palace.  He has all these beautiful wives.  The country is united.  It is not divided, like our country is today with red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives.

On the battlefield, he has victory after victory and success after success.  He defeats all of his enemies in every direction, north, south, east and west.  He defeated his enemies to the north (the Arameans).  He defeated his enemies south (the Edomites).  He defeated his enemies east (the Moabites, the Syrians) and west (the Philistines).

The last one was a big deal.  The Philistines were a big problem for the Jews.  They were the ones who killed King Saul and his son Jonathon.  David finally defeats them, and you don’t hear about them again unto the time of Hezekiah.  Just by looking at a map, you can see how successful David was.  Israel looked much bigger under King David than it looks today in the modern state of Israel.

The Empire of David

Israel Today

Four Principles of Success

What caused David’s success?  There was only one thing that caused it.  It was God.  Two times in II Samuel 8 we see the words, “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.”  We see it in II Samuel 8:6 & II Samuel 8:14.

That is the only reason that he was successful and it is the only reason that we are successful today but there are four principles of success that we see in these chapters.

1) Put God first in your life

How did David put God first?  He wanted to build God a temple.  He wanted to bring the ark (the presence of God) to Jerusalem.  When he defeated his enemies, he dedicated the spoils to God.

David took spoils from his enemies and used them to build the temple, articles of silver, of gold and of bronze (II Samuel 8:10). King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued (II Samuel 8:11 NIV).

This is very interesting.  The temple was built by the Gentiles.  They provided a lot of money to build it.  That is a type or picture of NT truth.

The NT describes the church as a temple.  We are a temple to God, a spiritual temple. What is this temple made up of?  It is mostly made up of Gentiles.

But seek FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

Do we put God first in our life?  Does He come second, third or last?

2) Follow Scripture

If you are going to be successful, you have to obey God.  You have to follow Scripture.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8 NIV)

David does this here.  Everything he does here is in the will of God.  David expands the territory of Israel, but David is not an imperialist.  He is not trying to conquer the world.  He’s not Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.  He is not Adolf Hitler.

These were territories that God gave to the Jews.  They were deeded to Israel.  God owns the whole earth, and He gave certain land the Jews.  He has a right to do that.  He created it.  He owns it.

Are we obedient to the Word?  Do we even know what it says?  Jesus said, “If you love me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 KJV)

3) Live a life of integrity

David did that.  We see that in II Samuel 9.  II Samuel 9 is all about a promise kept.  Jonathon died.  David became king and twenty years later, he remembered a promise he made to Jonathon.

Do you keep your promises?  It is a test of character.  Many don’t.  Many make promises but don’t keep them.  Politicians make campaign promises and don’t keep them.

David promised when he became king that he would always watch out for Jonathon’s family.  He kept that promise even after Jonathon died and even after Jonathon’s dad tried to kill him for years.

David could have held a grudge.  Instead, he kept his promise.  He made a covenant with Jonathon.  He swore an oath to Jonathon, and he kept it.  Do we live a life of integrity?  Would non-Christians say that we live a life of integrity?  Do we keep our promises?

The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind (Psalm 15:2-4 NIV)

4) Show compassion to people in need

A fourth thing that David does in these chapter is that he shows kindness to people.  He not only shows kindness, he goes out looking for someone to show kindness to.  He goes on a kindness search.

David showed kindness TWICE in our section (once in II Samuel 9 and once in II Samuel 10).  He showed kindness to a Jew in II Samuel 9.  He showed kindness to a Gentile in II Samuel 10.

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show KINDNESS for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1 NIV)

In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, “I will show KINDNESS (same word) to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. (II Samuel 10:1-2 NIV)

He showed kindness to a member of a rival dynasty (Mephibosheth) and he showed kindness to the king of an enemy nation (Hanun).

One act of was received and one was not.  Hanun didn’t trust David.  He thought he was up to no good. When you try to do good to some people, they get suspicious but, in both cases, David had no ulterior motives.  He just wanted to be kind to people.

Does that describe us?  Every Christian should be kind to people.  Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22 ESV).  We are to be clothed with kindness.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12 NIV).  Are we clothed in kindness?  Do we go out of our way to show kindness to people?

What we learn about David is that he was also a man of mercy and compassion.  He had a heart for people who were suffering.  That is interesting.  David was a strong leader.

He was strong enough to lead a nation and subdue his enemies.  He a military man.  He killed people on the battlefield but there was another side to David.  We see his true nature.

David was kind and compassionate.  He had a compassion for the needy.  Many mock and ridicule these people.  David had a heart for people who were disabled and handicapped.  He had a heart for people with special needs.

The Life of Mephibosheth

That brings us to the story about Mephibosheth.  It is a true story.  What do we know about Mephibosheth?

1) Mephibosheth was a son of Jonathon, David’s best friend

Jonathon was the son of Saul.  That made him Saul’s grandson.  He had royal blood in him.  Saul was Israel’s first king.  Mephibosheth was a physical descendant of Israel’s first king.

2) Mephibosheth experienced incredible tragedy in his life

When he was five years old, three bad things happened to him.  They all happened on the same day.  He lost his father.  He lost his grandfather, and he became crippled (II Samuel 4:4).  He was crippled by a fall. He was hurt by other people.

Many of us are like Mephibosheth.  We have been hurt in life by someone.  Some people hurt you intentionally.  Mephibosheth was hurt because of an accident.  His nurse was trying to help him, but she hurt him accidentally.

3) Mephibosheth was completely dependent on others

Mephibosheth was dropped when he was five.  Now he is a grown man.  This is twenty years later or longer and he is lame, not on one foot but on both feet.  He is permanently disabled.

He can’t walk.  He can’t work.  He cannot earn money.  He has to live with someone because he can’t support himself.  A man named Machir let him live with him.  Machir was a wealthy man.

4) Mephibosheth had a negative self-image

How do we know?  Mephibosheth said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (II Samuel 9:8 NIV).  Mephibosheth did not say that he was a living dog but a dead dog.  He does not even feel like a real man.

He is married and has a son, but he thought bad about himself.  He could have been a successor to the throne, but he was dropped and then he was damaged and broken permanently.  He had no future. He had no hope.

He had royal blood in him, but he did not see himself as a prince but as a piece of garbage.  He saw himself as completely worthless, like the rest of society saw him.  He did not look good.  He was physically deformed.  He looked like a freak.  He was a social outcast.  Every day, he was angry, bitter and depressed.

5) Mephibosheth lived in hiding every day

Mephibosheth is not only a poor man, living with Machir, he is hiding from David.  Why was he hiding?  Kings in that day typically wiped out the old dynasty.  There was a dynastic slaughterer.

Today, if Democrats take over the White House, Republicans just lose their job or vice versa.  In that day, the old dynasty was slaughtered, so Mephibosheth has to hide.  He hides far away in a place called Lodebar.

Lodebar was a barren wasteland.  It means “a land of no pasture.  It is a place of dryness and negativity.  It was a desert wasteland where many live today.  It was far away from the king.

There is a river between him and King David (the Jordan).  He is living in total fear.  Every day he thinks he might die.  He could be killed at any time.  He was always looking over his shoulder.  He is afraid he might be found.

6) Mephibosheth’s worst fear was finally realized

Job said, “What I always feared has happened to me” (Job 3:25 NLT).  Mephibosheth lives in fear every day and then, one day, it happened.  He was located.  A servant ratted him out.  Mephibosheth hears a big knock on the door.

Who is it?  We are here from the royal palace in Jerusalem.  We are under direct orders to take you to King David immediately.  Mephibosheth was shaking in his boots.

Mephibosheth did not know anything about a covenant between him and his father.  He assumed the worst.  All he knew is that King David was the one his grandfather tried to kill for years and that now the most powerful man in the country suddenly wants to see him and he is absolutely terrified.  He is petrified.

7) Mephibosheth was rewarded beyond his wildest dreams

There is a plot twist in the story.  David does not punish Mephibosheth.  He rewards him.  He expected to be executed on the spot.  Instead of facing the sword, he is rewarded by King David.

David makes him an instant multi-millionaire.  He grants him all of the land that his grandfather Saul owned.  I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul (II Samuel 9:7 NIV).

He goes from completely broke to owning all of his grandfather’s land in Gibeah.  That is great but he can’t take of that land, so David gave him thirty-five people to help him take care of the land he just gave him.

This ugly deformed man was allowed to eat with David’s family as one of his sons.  They adopted him into the family.  He also got to eat at the king’s table, which was a place of honor.  He never has to cook.  He is treated as royalty.

The Gospel of Mephibosheth

What does this say to us today?  What is the lesson for today?  This is a beautiful picture of the gospel.  All of us are like Mephibosheth.  We have all been crippled by a fall.  We have been crippled by the fall of Adam.  All of us have been made lame by sin.  We are helpless.  We have no hope and no way to save ourselves.

We were not seeking God.  We were hiding from Him.  We were running from Him.  God has to see us out.  Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).  We are saved the same way Mephibosheth was saved.  We are saved by grace.

Chuck Swindoll says, “The story of Mephibosheth is the greatest illustration of grace in all the Old Testament”[1]  He did not deserve to sit at the king’s table.  He did not do anything to earn it.  It was given to him.  It was given to him, not because of anything he had done but because of what someone did on his behalf.

He received grace because of an agreement made between David and his dad before he was even born.  We were chosen in Christ before we were born.  We were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

David accepted Mephibosheth just as he was.  He did not say that once he could learn how to walk that he could eat at his table.  For the rest of his life, he never learned how to walk but he was always accepted at David’s table.

David gave Mephibosheth a new identity.  He adopted him as one of his sons.  When we get saved, we get a new identity.  We become a child of God.

God accepts us just as we are and welcomes us into His family.  He adopts us into His family.  We get to eat at the king’s table.  Because of our salvation, we get to have a person relationship with the Son of David (who was greater than David).

[1] https://www.insight.org/resources/article-library/individual/amazing-grace-on-display

[1] http://73.221.144.249/Audio/Dav13.mp3

 

 

 

 

 

The Davidic Covenant

Last week, we looked at one big topic in II Samuel 7, when God says “No.”  All of us have dreams.  Sometimes, God says “no” to our dreams.  He says “no” to our prayers and to our plans.  David wanted to build God a temple and God said, “no”.  We saw how David responded when that happened and how we should respond.

Today, we want to look at the other big topic in this chapter.  Today, we are going to be looking at a covenant God made to David.  In the Bible, God operates through covenants.

What exactly are covenants?  There are a lot of them in the Bible.  Covenants are agreements between God and people, binding agreements.  When they are between people, they are called contacts but when they are between God and people, they are called “covenants.”

We are affected today by some of these covenants.  We are affected by the Noahic Covenant.  God promises to never again kill everyone on the planet with a flood, even if we deserve it.  The world seems to get worse each year.

If you don’t believe me, just turn on the news but no matter how bad it gets, this will never happen again. God promises.  There are other covenants that we are directly affected by, such as the New Covenant.

If you read II Samuel 7, you will not find the word “covenant” there anywhere, but God makes one with David.  He makes a covenant with David.  He swears by oath.  He gives David some promises and says that He will not lie to David.  He makes a prophecy in the chapter, a messianic prophecy.  It was not just about David; it was about the Son of David.

It is one of the most important covenants in the Bible.  It was probably the most important day in David’s life and yet few Christians know much about it. There are not too many sermons on it.

I have a friend who is going to a conservative seminary in NC.  He is almost through with his Ph.D. and he told me that he did not learn much in seminary on the Davidic Covenant.  Where is this covenant in the Bible?  What did God promise David in this covenant?  Is this covenant conditional, unconditional or both?

It is a covenant found in three main places in the Bible. It is found in II Samuel 7.  It is found in I Chronicles 17, and it is found in Psalm 89.  There are ten specific promises in this covenant.  God makes David ten amazing promises.  God makes ten “I will” statements in this chapter.  There are nine things that God promises to do and one thing that He promises not to do.

Ten Incredible Promises

1) I will make your name great

That is a promise of popularity.  Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth (II Samuel 7:9 NIV)David was unpopular originally.  He was a nobody.  David began as an obscure shepherd boy.  When the Prophet Samuel came to his house, he was not even invited to the dinner table.

He went from being someone that no one thought about to being one of the most famous men in the country.  Songs were written about him.  He took out Goliath with a slingshot.  He was a national hero.  He became the king.  He went from being one of the most famous He was one of the most famous people in the country to being one of the most famous people in history.  People still talk about him today.

2) I will provide a home for my people Israel

And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own (II Samuel 7:10 NIV).  That is a promise of a national homeland for the Jews.  That has been fulfilled.  They had a homeland in David’s day and the Jews have one today.

3) I will also give you rest from your enemies

That is a promise of peace.  I will also give you rest from ALL your enemies (II Samuel 7:11 NIV).  God had already begun to do that.  All of David’s enemies had been defeated (Saul, Ishbosheth, Abner, the Philistines).  The Jews do not have rest from their enemies today.  It has not been fulfilled.

Israel is a small country in the Middle East surrounded by twenty-two Muslim nations.  Not all of them are their enemies but many are.  Some have said that they plan to wipe Israel off the map.  Since 2001, thousands of missiles have been fired into the country.  The Jews are still disturbed today by their neighbors.  They still receive threats from terrorists.

4) I will raise up your offspring to succeed you

That is a promise of a dynasty.  When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood (II Samuel 7:12 NIV). God promised David that not only would he be king but his kids after him would be king (the House of David).

God said, “Before a house a house is built for Me, I will build a house for you.” Saul was king but never had a dynasty that lasted.  He had kids but none of them took over after he died.  One tried, but he did not last long, and was assassinated.  That is what happens when you fight the will of God.  God said David would be the next king.  Someone else tried and it did not work out.

5) I will establish his kingdom

This is the promise of a kingdom, along with a promise of a future temple.  God did that. I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name (II Samuel 7:12-13 NIV). God established Solomon’s kingdom and Solomon built the temple.

6) I will establish the throne of his kingdom.

This is the promise of a long-lasting kingdom.  In fact, it was a kingdom that was not just long-lasting, it was eternal.  I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (I Samuel 7:13 NIV).  As one preacher put it, sin cannot destroy it (II Samuel 7:14-15).  Death cannot annul it (II Samuel 7:12-13).  Even though David dies, the covenant goes on.  Time will not exhaust it (II Samuel 7:16).[1] This kingdom will last forever.

7) I will be his father, and he will be my son

This is the promise of adoption in II Samuel 7:14. David’s son Solomon was also God’s son.  God called the king his son.  It is a relationship promise.  We can have that same relationship with God that Solomon had.  This is also a promise of intimacy.  We have a father/son or daughter relationship to God.  We get to call God “Father.”  We can have a personal relationship to God.  We are His children if we are saved.

8) When he does wrong, I will punish him

You say, “I thought this was a prophecy of Jesus.  Jesus did not do anything wrong.  He was sinless.”  That is true but the Davidic Covenant was not just about Jesus.  It has dual fulfilment.

Part of it was fulfilled by Solomon and part of it will be fulfilled by Jesus.  Jesus did not do anything wrong, but Solomon did.  Which part will be fulfilled by Solomon and which part will be fulfilled by Jesus? II Samuel 7 focuses on Solomon. I Chronicles 17 focuses on Jesus.

God says, “When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands” (II Samuel 7:14 NIV). God disciplines his children.  That does not mean that God hates us.

It is actually a sign of love.  Proverbs says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24 NIV).

9) I will NOT take my love away from him

That is the promise of perpetual love.  God tells David that if individual kings’ sin against him, they will get in trouble, God said, “BUT my love will NEVER be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (II Samuel 7:15 NIV)

What does that mean?  Individual kings could sin, and individual kings could be judged by God, but individual kings could not do anything to do away with this covenant. God does not take his love away from us either.

It is like our salvation.  If we sin, God chastens us.  God disciplines His children, but they are still his children, but we don’t lose our salvation every time we sin.  We sin every day.  We would have to be, not just born again but born again and again and again.

I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. 29 I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure. 30 “If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes,

31 if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, 32 I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; 33 but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.

34 I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered. 35 Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David— 36 that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; 37 it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.” (Psalm 89:28-37 NIV).

“This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne (Jeremiah 33:20-21 NIV)

What is strange is that Solomon sinned worse that Saul.  What did Saul do that was wrong?  He let someone live that he was supposed to kill.  He offered a sacrifice without waiting for the prophet Samuel.  At least he was offering the sacrifices to God.  Solomon became a complete idolater.  He built temples to pagan gods.

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done (I Kings 11:4-6 NIV).

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command (I Kings 11:9-10 NIV).

God judged Solomon but did not end the Davidic Covenant.  It continued after Solomon.  It continued after the Babylonian Captivity.  How do we know? We know that from the NT.  The Angel Gabriel said to Mary that Jesus, “will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33 NIV).

10) I will establish David’s house, David’s kingdom and David’s throne forever.

Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ (II Samuel 7:16).

 Did God Keep His Word to David?

This is the promise of an enduring covenant that is permanent and eternal.  The word “forever” is found two times in the verse.  That leads to a problem.  If you know biblical history, the House of David did NOT last forever.

It only lasted four hundred years.  God did not tell David that his kingdom would last four hundred years.  He said that it would last FOREVER.  No king is sitting on this throne today.  In fact, there is no throne to sit on.  If you go to Israel today, you will not even kind a king.  No king sat on the throne of David since 586 BC.

Is this objection valid?  There are three things to keep in mind here:

1) God promised to establish David’s line forever (Psalm 89:29) and that promise was kept.

David’s line never died out.  Today, no one knows if they are a descendant of King David, but the NT begins with two genealogies of Jesus and they both go back to David. He will come from David’s body.

He was the root and offspring of David (Revelation 22:16).  He was a Son of David (Matthew 1:1).  He had royal blood in him.  It is the first time that we are told that the Messiah would not only be a Jew and not only come from the tribe of Judah but would be a descendant of David.

2) There were conditional aspects to this covenant

God promised that there would always be a descendant to reign on David’s throne (Jeremiah 33:21), which he always had but, because of disobedience, some kings did not get an opportunity to do that, because included in the Aspects of this covenant were conditional.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, 3 and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses.

Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go 4 and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘IF your descendants watch how they live, and IF they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ (I Kings 2:2-4 NIV)

“Now Lord, the God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel, IF only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me faithfully as you have done.’ (I Kings 8:25 NIV)

3) The OT prophets predicted that God will restore Davidic kingdom to Israel in the last days.

Even after the Babylonian Captivity, but the OT prophets predicted that one day the House of David would return with a king on the throne of Israel.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. HE WILL REIGN ON DAVID’S THRONE and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)

’The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. “’In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. (Jeremiah 33:14-15 NIV)

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior. (Jeremiah 23:5 NIV)

For the Israelites will live MANY DAYS without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 5 AFTERWARD the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days. (Hosea 3:4-5 NIV)

Two Views of the Davidic Covenant

There are two views of the Davidic Covenant in the church today.  They are very different.  What are the two views?

View One – The Davidic Covenant has been fulfilled already

One proponent of this view is Hank Hanegraaff.  He was on the radio at one time.  He had a program for many years called “The Bible Answer Man.”    He believes that this covenant is completely fulfilled today.  Jesus is ruling on the Davidic Covenant in heaven.

Hanegraaff says, “God’s promise to David that his descendants would sit on the throne forever (see II Samuel 2:11-16; cf. Isaiah 9:6) was fulfilled when Christ, ‘the Son of David (cf. Matthew 1:1; 12:23; 21:15; Luke 1:32), ascended to the throne of the heavenly Jerusalem and established his reign and rule over all of the earth.”[2]  He quotes Acts 2 to support this view.

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 

31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29-33 NIV)

In order for this view to work you have to spiritualize the Davidic Covenant.

Jesus is sitting on a spiritual throne.  The throne of David is in heaven.

It is a spiritual rule, not over the tribes and Israel and Judah but over the church (the true Jews).

It is a spiritual kingdom, an invisible spiritual rule inside people’s hearts.

It involves a spiritual temple.  Paul said that we are the temple.  The church is the temple today.  That is what God is building, a spiritual house.

It involves spiritual enemies and spiritual peace (It is something inside your heart).

The problem with this view is that the parts of the covenant that were already fulfilled were fulfilled literally. David literally died.  He went to be with his ancestors when his days were over.  He had an heir who literally succeeded him.  His son Solomon succeeded him as king.

Solomon was a literal king.  He had a literal kingdom.  He sat on a literal throne.  He built a literal temple for God.  When he sinned, he was literally punished for disobedience.

The covenant could not be already fulfilled because aspects of it have not been fulfilled yet.  Israel does not live in safety today (Jeremiah 23:5).  Wicked men still oppress the Jews today (II Samuel 7:10).  They do not have rest from all of their enemies (II Samuel 7:11).

The Prince of Peace who will sit on David’s throne will bring peace to the earth, peace that will never end (Isaiah 9:6-7).  That has not happened yet.  His reign will result in justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7).  When you look at the earth today, you see the exact opposite.  You see wickedness. You see sin.  You see injustice.

View Two – The Davidic Covenant will not be completely fulfilled until the future

Part of the Davidic Covenant has already been fulfilled but it will not be completely fulfilled until Jesus returns.  Jesus will return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Some of it has been fulfilled already.  David had a son who sat on his throne and built a temple, like God promised, but Jesus is not currently sitting on the throne of David.

Jesus is sitting on his Father’s throne.  He is sitting on the right hand of God.  There is not peace in the earth.  There is not safety to the Jews living in the land of Israel but when Jesus returns, there will be safety and peace for the Jews.

The advantage to this view is that it takes the covenant literally.  It doesn’t try to spiritualize it. If these parts of the covenant were literal, why wouldn’t the rest of it be literal as well?  This was a covenant that God swore that He will fulfill it by an oath.  He promised to David that He would fulfill it.

[1] https://sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/600504-the-house-that-god-will-build-2-samuel-7

[2] Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code, 200.

 

When God Says “No”

Today, we come to a chapter that has two major topics.  One is doctrinal and one is practical.  One deals with the Davidic Covenant and one deals with prayer.  We will look at these two topics in two separate lessons.

God made a covenant with David in this chapter. He made a promise to David.  He swore an oath that it will come to pass.  It is a messianic chapter.  It is not just about David.

It is also about the Son of David.  It is a prophecy of Jesus.  II Samuel 7 is prophetic.  It is also very practical. This chapter tells us how to pray.  There are some important lessons on prayer.

Have you ever had a dream that never came true?  Have you really wanted to do something, but never got it? Have you ever had one of your dreams completely shattered?  If you did, you are not alone.  The same thing happened to King David in the OT.  David wanted to do something for God.  He really wanted to do something for God and God said “no”.

How did you respond when you had to give up your dream?  Many people respond the wrong way.  We will see how David responded when his dream did not come to pass.  There are some important lessons in this chapter.  What is the background of the chapter?

Setting of the Chapter

As the chapter beings, David is on top of the world.  He has worked his way up from shepherd boy to outlaw to king.  He is a new king.  He is king over the whole nation, all twelve tribes.  He is popular.  Everyone loves him.  He is a national hero.

The new king is living in a new palace.  It has just been built.  He is wealthy.  He is living in the lap of luxury.  God blessed him abundantly.  He has all these beautiful wives.  He has lots of kids.

On top of that, he is at peace.  He has defeated, not just his enemies.  He has defeated ALL of his enemies around him (II Samuel 7:1 NIV).  David could have talked like Nebuchadnezzar did.

29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:29-30 NIV)

David could have said, “Is not this the great Jerusalem that I have built?”  He did conquer the city that no one else could conquer.  It was unconquerable up to that point.  He could have taken credit for it all and boasted.

He could have thought about himself.  He could have said, “I have been running from a demon-possessed king.  I had to leave my family.  I earned this.  I deserve this.  I have been living in caves for the last ten years.  Now, is my time to be pampered in the palace.”

Instead, David is unsettled.  He looks down from the balcony of his luxurious palace and sees God living in a little tent.  He seems to have everything, but he is not satisfied.  He is thinking, “How can I give back?  How can I help others?  How can I do more?  What can I do for God?”

In this world, there are givers and takers.  Some Christians are just takers. Which are you? David wants to be a giver.  He comes up with a plan.  The plan was to build a temple for God.  God has been housed in a tent and David does not think it is right.

He had to tell someone about it, so he told his best friend what he wanted to do for God.  It is important to have someone close that you can talk to about your dreams.  David must not have been close to some of his wives, because we do not hear about him talking to them about his dream.  Some of his wives were not too spiritual (e.g., Michal).

It is really important who you choose to be your friends.  Some can build you up and some can tear you down.  David made close friends with some godly people.  He became close friends with King Saul’s son Jonathon.  Jonathon was older than David was, but they developed a close bond.

Then, Jonathon died in battle.  He was killed by the Philistines.  David was heartbroken but he was also close to two other friends.  They were both prophets.  Their names were Nathan and Gad.  Samuel had a school of the prophets.  Maybe they were part of that school.  Many believe that they wrote II Samuel.

29 Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the Chronicles of Samuel the seer, and in the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer (I Chronicles 29:29 ESV).

Gad was with David when he was a fugitive (cf. I Samuel 22:5).  Nathan was David’s advisor after he became king.  Nathan wasn’t just a personal friend of David.  He was a real prophet.  He heard directly from God, not like most people who claim to be prophets today.  He did not always tell people what they wanted to hear but what they needed to hear.

David told Nathan what he wanted to do for God and Nathan said, “That’s great. Do what is in your heart.  God is with you.”  He completely supported David.  He was not speaking as a prophet but as a friend. We should encourage fellow Christians as well.

Nathan did not throw a wet blanket on David’s passion.[1] He did not laugh at the idea.  He did not mock it.  He did not discourage him.  He was an encourager, like Barnabas, but he was also a prophet.

That night, Nathan goes home and goes to bed and something happens.  God speaks to him.  He received a message from God.  Nathan received a word from the Lord.  God didn’t speak to David.  He spoke to Nathan (II Samuel 7:4-16). God said, “It is not my will for David to do this.  David is not the man to build me a house, but I am not going to tell him. You are.”

The next day, Nathan went back to David and told him that he would not be able to build the temple, but his son would.  He also said that He was not going to build a house for God.  God was going to build a house for him.  God is in the house-building business.  He builds houses.  It is a pun on the word “house.”  It is a play on words.

Five Truths about Unanswered Prayer

Today, we are going to look at five truths about unanswered prayer from this passage.  Many Christians have yet to learn these five truths.  All of us have had unanswered prayers.  People in the Bible had them as well.

David does not get what he wants.  It will not be the last time He has an unanswered prayer.  After he has an affair, which results in a baby and the baby dies, he prays for the child to live.  That does not happen.  Have you ever prayed and not gotten what you asked for?  Here are five truths about unanswered prayer.

1) There is a difference between our desires and God’s will

Many do not understand this.  Some Christians do not understand it.  Many think that if they want something really bad, if they believe it will happen, if they have faith, they will receive it.

Jesus said if you have just a little faith, you can move mountains.  If you want to be healed, just have faith but there’s one problem.  If it is not God’s will for something, it doesn’t matter how much faith you have.  You can have mountains of faith.

I John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (NIV). We hear the words, “If we ask ANYTHING, he hears us” but we leave out the words, “if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL”

How many women have wanted to marry a man and even prayed about it, but it was not God’s will?  How many men have had a desire to marry a woman, but it wasn’t God’s will?

Our desires are not the same thing as God’s divine will.  We are not always right.  We are not God.  Leaders (including anointed kings) were not always right.  Spirit-filled pastors are not always right.

David had dreams.  He had desires.  They were good desires.  God said that He did not need a temple.  He never asked for a temple. Was it wrong for David to desire to build one?  No.  We know that from what Solomon said.

“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. (I Kings 8:18 NIV)

God knew David’s heart.  He was a man after God’s own heart.  He loved God.  He has a heart for God.  He seems to be putting God first.  He just returned the ark to Jerusalem.  He just made Jerusalem the worship capital of the nation.  He had a good desire to build the temple.  There was nothing wrong with the desire, but it was not God’s will.  David’s plans were not God’s plans.

That is why we have to pray “Thy will be done.” Even Jesus prayed this way and He was perfect.  He prayed, “not my will but your will be done” (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; cf. John 6:38).  how much more do we need to pray this.

2) Sometimes, God says “no”

Here is something that the preachers don’t tell.  They often say to follow your dreams.  They say to pursue your dreams.  It sounds good.  It is not necessarily wrong but, what they don’t tell you, is that God sometimes says “no” to DREAMS.  Sometimes, He says “no” to our PLANS.  Sometimes, God says “no” to our PRAYERS.

David wants to build God a temple.  God says, “It is not the time and you are not the man.”  He did NOT say that a temple for Him could be built, just not now.  He just said that David could not do it.  That must have hurt.  He really wanted to do it.  it was his idea and God said “no.”

We say “no” to our kids.  A parent that gives their child everything they ask for is only raising a monster. That is not what good parents do.  It is not what God does either.  Has God ever said “no” to you?

He says “no” to Apostles.  Paul had a thorn in the flesh.  He asked the Lord to take it away.  He asked three times and God said “no”.  Have you ever had a prayer that God said “no” to?

3) When God says “no” it is for a reason

It is not because God is mean or cruel or unfair.  He has a reason.  We may not know the reason or understand the reason.  God does not have to give us a reason, but He has one.

God does not always give us a reason why he says “no” but he gave David one.  We are not told the reason in II Samuel, but we are told the reason in I Chronicles.

David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. 8 But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. (I Chronicles 22:7-8 NIV)

King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. 3 But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’ (I Chronicles 28:3 NIV).

God did not want David to build Him a house because he had too much blood on his hands.  The Temple was to be a house of prayer for all of the nations.  David had killed too many Gentiles.  He accepted that reason, as we will see.

4) God often gives us far better than we ask

God’s answer is sometimes far better than our request.  David asked God if he could build him a house.  God said, “No you can’t but I am going to build you one.”  God’s plan was not just to bless David but David’s house, David’s descendants for all eternity.  That was slightly bigger than the request.

The Bible says that God is able to do far more than we ever ask him.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).  That is like asking someone to give you one dollar and they give you a hundred dollars instead.

5) Submit to God’s plan for your life

When God says “no” to us, we get angry.  We get bitter.  We get mad at God.”  God told Saul that he rejected him as king.  Saul fought the will of God.  He tried to kill the man God called to replace him, so the prophecy would not be fulfilled.

He tried to fight God and God’s will.  It only led to his death.  Do we submit to the will of God for our life?  David submits to God’s plan for his life.  That is exactly what he does here.

The first thing he does is he talks to God about it.  He does not immediately go to friends and complain or gossip or whine.  He goes to God.   Then King David went in and sat before the Lord (II Samuel 7:18 NIV).  It is the only tie in the Bible we see anyone sitting when they pray.  David is sitting before the Lord.

David does not say, “This is not fair.”  He says, “I do not deserve what you are about to do for me.” Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? (II Samuel 7:18 NIV)

He praises God.  How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. (II Samuel 7:22 NIV)

He submits himself to God’s will.  He says, “Do as you will.”  And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight. (II Samuel 7:25-26 NIV).

He asks God to do what he said he would do. “And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight. (II Samuel 7:28-29 NIV).

This is the way that we are to pray today.  We are to pray based on the Word of God.  We are to pray the promises of God back to Him.  It is called Scripture based prayer.

[1] Butler, J. G. (2010). Analytical Bible Expositor: I & II Samuel (p. 681). Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.

How to Worship

What does real worship look like?  Is what we do in most churches real worship?  Today, we are going to look at an important passage on worship.  It is interesting.  It is practical.  It is thought-provoking.  It raises some questions. As we read the chapter, eight questions stand out to me.

Eight Crucial Questions

Question One – Has God ever been mad at you?

Many preachers have said that God is not mad at you, but it sure looks like He is mad at someone in this chapter.  II Samuel 6:7 says, “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah” (NIV).  God was angry at Uzzah and Uzzah dropped dead.

God struck him dead and Uzzah was a believer.  He was not a pagan.  He was not an idol-worshipper.  He was a Jew.  His dad was the priest.  It is like one of the pastor’s kids dropping dead.  He will probably be in heaven. God killed him.  That is strange.

God judges two people in this chapter.  He judges a man, and He judges a woman. Uzzah loses his life and Michal, David’s wife, loses her fertility.  Michal was the woman in the window.  Instead of worshipping with David, like she should have been doing.  She is on the outside, criticizing and judging those who are worshipping.

She had a negative, judgmental critical spirit.  She despised her husband in her heart.  She mocked him. God kept her from having any kids. Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (II Samuel 6:23 NIV)

We think of infertility as just a medical condition today but, in this case, it was divine judgment.  In our culture today, some might see infertility as a blessing but, in that culture, it was considered a curse.

You say, “This is OT.  It is old covenant.  God does not do that today.  He doesn’t get angry at people today.  He does not get angry at believers.”  The only problem is that God’s nature has not changed.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Furthermore, the same thing happened in the NT.  It happened to Ananias and Saphira.  They were Christians.  They were members of the first church in Jerusalem.  Read Acts 5.  It is the NT that says, “our God is a consuming fire.”

Question Two – Have you ever been mad at God?

Many have experienced a terrible tragedy in their life, such as a monstrous crime, the death of a loved one, or loss of a child, and they are mad at God.  Sometimes, we do stupid things, get in trouble and blame God for our problems.

Proverbs 19:3 says, “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord” (NIV).

Some people in the Bible were mad at God.  Some of the greatest saints in the Bible were mad at God.  David was one of them (II Samuel 6:8) and he was a man after God’s own heart.

David was angry. He was angry at God.  He tried to bring the ark to Jerusalem.  He tried to put God first.  He tried to honor God and a man died.  If people were going to die, he did not want anything to do with it.  He let someone else take it. Some people stay angry and bitter forever.  They never get over it but David didn’t stay angry forever.

Question Three – Have you ever been afraid of God?

Should we be afraid of God? Most Christians have no fear of God.  Many see God just as their friend and buddy. The Bible talks about the FEAR of the Lord.  The Bible says that fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).  In this chapter, David was afraid of God (II Samuel 6:9).  Why?

A man in this chapter dropped dead.  God struck him dead, and people were afraid.  The same thing happened in the NT.  When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead, we are told that, not just fear but GREAT FEAR “seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11 NIV)

Question Four – How do you respond when you fail at something?

How do you react when you fail at something?  You try something and it does not work.  Your failure may even be public and embarrassing, like David’s was.  Many of us try something fail and just give up.  David tried to bring the ark into Jerusalem and failed.  Three months later, he tried again and this time he was successful.  He did not give up.

Question Five – Have you ever done the right thing and been punished?

How many of us have done the right thing and got in trouble for it?  In this chapter, the ark of God is being transported.  It starts to fall.  A man reaches out his hand to stop it from falling on the ground and he dies.

That seems a little harsh.  It seems a little excessive.  You touch something and you die.  You touch something that you are trying to protect.  It is like getting in trouble for trying to help someone.

It sounds like he did the right thing. It sounds like he did what anyone else would have done in that situation.  There is only one problem.  God said NOT to touch the ark, or you will die (Numbers 4:15).

The ark was so holy that it could never ever be touched by human hands.  You could not even touch it accidentally.  If anyone did, it would be instant death, like touching a live wire.  Uzzah defied the Word of God.  He defied God’s revealed will and did what seemed right to him.  Many still do that today.

Question Six – Is it wrong to dance in church?

Many churches say that it is.  The Bethlehem Christian Church in Elon, NC adopted a strong stand against dancing over a hundred years ago.  In 1898, it adopted a motion saying, “whereas dancing is a sin, therefore be it resolved that any member of this church engaging in any form of dancing shall be considered guilty of disorderly conduct and dealt with accordingly.” [1]

Many Baptist churches teach that dancing is a sin.  Are they right?  Sometimes dancing is wrong.  Some worldly dancing today is without question sin.  It can also lead to sin.

Herodias’ daughter danced before Herod before John the Baptist was executed (Matthew 14:6).  Erotic dancing involved when Israel worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32:6) but all dancing is NOT sin.

King Solomon said that there is a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Psalm 150:4 says, “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” (NIV).  David dances in this chapter.  He is not just dancing.  He is dancing in worship.

This is a worship dance.  This was not Dancing with the Stars.  It was NOT entertainment.  It was worship.  Our chapter says that “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might” (II Samuel 6:14 NIV).

It is interesting to me that when we think of David in the Bible, we think of David the SHEPHERD.  That is what he was as a young boy.  We think of David the POLITICIAN.  We think of David the king. When we think of David, we think of David the MUSICIAN.  He played the harp.

When we think of David, we think of David the WARRIOR.  He was a military man.  He was a soldier.  He was a fighter.  He knew how to fight.  He knew how to use a slingshot.  He killed Goliath.

When we think of David, we think of David the WRITER.  He wrote Scripture.  When we think of David, we think of David the ACTOR.  He acted like he was completely crazy before the Philistine king.

Now we see another side of David. In II Samuel 6, we see David the DANCER.  He had some moves.  David was definitely NOT a Baptist.  He was leaping (II Samuel 6:14).  He was spinning.  There is a big contrast here between Uzzah and David.  One is dead and one is dancing.  One is face down on the ground and one is leaping in the air. [2]

Question Seven – Have you ever had marriage problems?

Everyone who has been married has some marriage problems.  No one has a perfect marriage.  What we don’t think about is people in the Bible having marriage problems, but they did.  Pastors sometimes have marriage problems.  Apostles had marriage problems.  Prophets had marriage problems.  Anointed kings had marriage problems.

David, a man after God’s own heart, had marriage problems.  Some of those problems were his own fault.  Having multiple wives didn’t help.  Having an affair didn’t help his marriage either.  Other times, they were not his fault.

David just finished blessing the nation, comes home to bless his family and when he gets home, he arrives to a battle zone.  David created a revival in the nation.  He brought unity and worship back in the nation.  People are happy.  They are celebrating but not Michal.  She is angry perhaps because David is more popular than her dad was.  Her dad was King Saul.

Instead of encouraging, and supporting him for what he had done, his wife Michal is angry with David.  She is bitter and sarcastic.  She mocks him.  What is even worse, she criticizes him.  David is out worshipping, and she is critical.  Have you ever criticized the way someone else worshipped?  Many act just like Michal, even today.

Question Eight – Have you ever been falsely accused?

Many of us have been false accused at some time in our life.  Joseph was falsely accused of a sex crime by Potiphar’s wife.  David was falsely accused by his own wife.

Michal accused him of being undignified.  She accused him of unkinglike behavior.  She accused him of immodesty.  She accused him of exposing himself in public.  She accuses him of being an exhibitionist.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (II Samuel 6:20 NIV)

Of course, it was not true.  It was a lie.  David did take off his royal robes, but he was NOT naked, and he did NOT apologize. He does not back down and say, “I am sorry you were offended by what I did.”  In fact, he doubled down and said he would do it again and even more.  He even gets a few digs in about her father, King Saul.

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (II Samuel 6:21-22 NIV)

The Return of the Ark

What is going on in this chapter?  The ark gets a new home. What exactly is the ark?  Why is David bringing it to Jerusalem?  Why is it important?  If you don’t understand that, this chapter will not make much sense.

This was the third thing David did since becoming king.  First, he conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital.  Second, he defeated the Philistines in two battles.  Third, he recovered the ark and brought it to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem became not only the political capital; it became the religious capital.  This was huge.

It is hard for us to understand.  We do not have anything like the ark in the world today.  We don’t have anything like it in the church today. The ark goes back to the time of Moses.  It was a little wooden box.  It was covered with gold and it was holy.  It was so holy that you could not see it or touch it.

This box did not just contain some religious relics.  It had some of those.  It had the Ten Commandments written on two stone tablets with the finger of God.  This box represented the presence of God.  It was the place of His presence.  God’s presence and glory filled this box.  This seems a little strange, God in a box.

God is not limited to a box.  He is not limited to the Temple.  He is not limited to church.  God is omnipresent.  He is not confined to a box or one location.  He is everywhere present.  He fills heaven and earth but, in the OT, He manifested His presence in a unique and special way to His people.

God does not manifest His presence on earth today.  God is not doing that today in a physical way.  For over eight hundred years, God manifested his presence on the earth in a theocracy.  We do not have a theocracy today.  We do not have a pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire at night.

The Philistines captured it in battle.  They stole it and took it home and put it in one of their pagan temples, but bad things kept happening to them, so they got rid of it.  They put it on a cart and hitched it to some cows who led it for miles to Israel.  What happened to it next?

They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. (I Samuel 7:1-2 NIV)

Abinadab kept the ark for twenty years.  When David became king, he decided it was time to move it from the border of the country (Kiriath Jearim) to the center of the country (Jerusalem).  David wanted to bring the presence of God back to Jerusalem.  He wanted to bring the presence of God to the capital of the nation.

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals. (II Samuel 6:1-5 NIV)

Thirty thousand people go to get the ark.  The Philistines’ no longer have possession of it.  Aminadab has it and he lives in Kiriath Jearim.  They get the ark and begin the nine-to-ten-mile trip from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem.

The ark was placed on a new cart.  They did not want to carry it nine miles.  A cart was more convenient, so it was placed on a cart, pulled by oxen and guided by two of Aminadab’s sons.  They were familiar with the ark.  It had been in their house for twenty years.  Everyone is happy.  Everyone is celebrating and then the ark comes to the place of Nakon (which means “to smite”).

Then the oxen started the stumble and the ark started to fall.  Uzzah reaches out to touch the ark and he drops dead.  Suddenly, the music stops.  The worship stops.  David is angry and he is afraid.  He does not want anything to do with the ark, because some other people might drop dead as well, so he took it to the house of Obed-Edom (II Samuel 6:10).

Nobody else wanted the ark.  People were dropping dead but Obed-Edom said, “I will take it.”  Obed-Edom took a risk and invited God into his home and something amazing happened. We are told that God blessed Obed-Edom (II Samuel 6:11).  The ark stayed in his home for three months.

God blessed the fire out of him, as our pastor would say.  He allowed God into his home.  He invited God into his home and God blessed him and his whole family for three months.  What would God do if we invited him into our home?

Apparently, he obeyed what the Bible says about the ark.  He didn’t touch it.  Hopefully, he did not have any little kids running around in his house, playing.  They might see it and say, “What’s this little golden box?  Can we play with it?”  Obed-Edom obeyed the Word and was blessed, and we can be too.

Three Principles of Worship

What is the application from II Samuel 6 for today?  This chapter tells us how to worship.  It gives us three principles of worship.

1) We are to worship biblically

Uzzah died because he didn’t read his Bible.  The Bible said not to touch the ark.  He touched it.  Not knowing the Word cost him his life.  The leaders of the nation did not do things biblically.  They brought the ark back on a cart.  It was a new cart, but it was still a cart.  Leaders of churches today do not always follow the Word either.

What is wrong with carts?  Nothing but God said that the ark was not to be transported that way.  It gave a very specific way to transport the ark.  Only certain people could move it (Levites).  They could move it only a certain way (on poles) and there were certain things they could not do.  They could not touch the ark or look at it.  It had to be covered.

Jesus said that worship has to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  It has to be biblical.  Where did the Jews get the idea to bring the ark back on a cart?  They got it from the Philistines.  That was how they moved it in I Samuel 6.

We have some new carts in the church today.  We have churches that throw out what God says and does what the world does.  This is Oxcart Christianity.  It follows the world, rather than God.  We have churches that teach gay marriage and do many other things contrary to Scripture.

2) We are to worship passionately

That is the second thing we see in this passage.  There is praise.  People are blessing God.  There is worship.  People are making animal sacrifices to God (burnt offerings, peace offerings).  There is music, all kinds of music, stringed instruments (lyre) and percussion instruments (harp, cymbal, timbrel, castanet and cistrum).  It was not quiet and somber.  It was loud.

There was shouting (II Samuel 6:15).  There was not just music, loud music (cymbals, trumpets).  There is dancing and leaping.  Psalm 1492-3 says, “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (NIV)

Does this describe our worship?  It is passionate?  Do we do it with all our might (II Samuel 6:5), like they did or are we half asleep when we worship?  Do we do it before the Lord (II Samuel 6:5).  This was not a performance before people.  It was all for God.  Is there passion, enthusiasm and emotion in your worship?

3) We are to worship reverently

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. (II Samuel 6:6-7 NIV)

Reverence has become a dirty word today.   We can have joy and reverence at the same time but reverence is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing.  Uzzah died because of a lack of reverence.  God struck him dead because of his irreverence.  That is what the text says.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably WITH REVERENCE and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV)

We have a problem today with a lack of reverence in society.  There is no respect for teachers, for parents, for law enforcement, for government leaders.  There is a lack of respect for authority today.  There is a lack of respect for God who is THE ultimate authority.

We see irreverence by comedians.  In fact, when people today talk about a comedian being irreverent, it is seen as a good thing.  The problem is that this same spirit has crept into the church.  Some preachers are irreverent.  They show a lack of respect for God and His Word.  When you mock the Bible, you are not reverent.  When you mock God, you are not reverent.

[1] https://www.bethlehemchristian.org/history/how-things-have-changed.html

[2] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, 111.

Sheep and Goats

The final message of Jesus to His disciples before He died is found in what scholars call the Olivet Discourse.  It is found in Matthew 24-25.  It is His sermon before his death, and it deals His return to earth.  It deals with end-times.

Most Christians believe in the Second Coming of Christ.  They believe that one day Jesus will come back to earth, but most don’t have a clue what He will do when He gets here.  When Jesus comes back, judgment will follow.

The Second Coming will look a lot different than the First Coming.  At the Second Coming, Jesus will come in glory.  He will come in the clouds.  There was no cloud of glory at the First Coming.

The first time He came, Jesus came in weakness and humiliations.  He was nailed to a cross.  The next time he comes will be the exact opposite. He will come in strength and power.

The first time He came to save.  The second time He will come to judge.  He will sit on a throne, not in Washington, D.C., but in Jerusalem.  That is where the throne of David was located (cf. I Samuel 2:11). Jesus will sit on David’s throne (Isaiah 9:7).

Today, we will be looking at the final thing Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse.  It is often called the parable of the sheep at the goats in Matthew 25, although it is more than a parable.  It is also a prophecy.

A Shocking Passage

It is a shocking passage.  It is one of the most shocking passages in the Bible.  This passage does NOT fit the Jesus that many people worship.  It does NOT fit the Jesus that we see in some churches today.

Many think that the God of the OT is violent and angry.  He is always punishing people, sending floods and wiping out cities but Jesus is different from that mean God of the OT.  He is gentle and loving.

Most see Jesus as Savior but not as Judge and yet the Bible says that Jesus is the one who will judge the world (Acts 17:31; John 5:22).

Many say that God is not mad at people.  Jesus seemed to be pretty mad at these goats.  He sent them off to eternal punishment, not just punishment but ETERNAL punishment.  The goats have no way to escape.  They do not get a second chance. They can’t appeal the verdict to a higher power.

This is one of the scariest passages in all of the Bible.  Jesus does not call sinners in this passage blessed.  He calls them CURSED.  He does not tell sinners, “Come to Me.”  He tells them, “Depart from Me.”  It gets even worse than that.  Jesus doesn’t just say “Depart from me,” He says, “Depart from Me into ETERNAL FIRE.”

This is absolutely terrifying.  One pastor called Matthew 25:41, “the most terrifying words ever spoken.” Albert Martin called those words of Jesus, “the most terrifying words that the human ears can ever hear.”

On the other hand, this passage also has one of the most comforting passages in all of the Bible.  Jesus commends the sheep for what they did.  It sounds a little like, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

He calls them blessed, not cursed.  He invites them into the kingdom.  He gives them something. He offers them an inheritance.  He tells them to take it.  He tells them that it was been waiting for them for a long time.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘COME, you who are BLESSED by my Father; take your INHERITANCE, the kingdom PREPARED FOR YOU since the creation of the world. (NIV)

Jesus sounds a lot like Paul.  Paul said that believers were elect or chosen In Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  Jesus says that believers were chosen in advance and even calls them elect (Matthew 24:31).

That almost sounds like Jesus was a Calvinist.  Their inheritance was prepared for them before they were born or had done any good or evil.  It was prepared for them before they existed. It was prepared for them before anyone existed.  This shows that salvation is not by works.  It is by grace.  This was shocking.

The sheep were shocked by what Jesus said.  He remembered little things that they did not even remember doing for him.  The goats were shocked by what Jesus said as well.  Many of these goats thought they were all going to heaven.  They were not all ax-murderers.  Some of them were religious.  Some of them were church members.  Some churches are full of goats.

A Misunderstood Passage

Many have misunderstood this parable.  They have completely misinterpreted it.  Liberals believe it is just about SOCIAL JUSTICE.  It is a passage about doing things to help people. It is about helping the downtrodden, oppressed and exploited members of society, the lowest members, who Jesus called the least (ἐλαχίστων), like immigrants, and refugees.

Of course, this passage is NOT about the government helping people out or church helping people out but individual Christians reaching out to people in need.  Governments cannot visit people in prison.  Individuals have to do that.  Furthermore, the goats in this parable are on the left side.  The sheep are on the right side.

Legalists use this passage to teach WORKS-SALVATION.  Catholics, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses love this passage.  They use it to teach that salvation is by works.  The Bible teaches that salvation is not by works (Romans 4:3-5; 11:6; Ephesians 2:5, 8-9; Titus 3:5).  That is a clear teaching of the Bible.

Doing good works will not save you.  Feeding the hungry will not save you.  Visiting the sick will not save you.  We should do good works but good works do not save.  They are not the basis of salvation.  They are the evidence or demonstration of salvation.

Today, we are going to look at four things that this passage teaches.  We are also going to look at four false doctrines that many believe today that are refuted by this passage.

Lessons for Today

1) There is a day of judgment coming

The Bible teaches that judgment is coming.  A day of wrath is coming.  No one wants to think about judgment. It is unpleasant.  It is unpopular.  It is rarely preached today.  Some preachers never mention hell.  The trend today is to be positive, encouraging and preach feel-good topics.

The truth is that judgment is real.  It is biblical and it is absolutely terrifying.  The Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Many people do terrible things one earth.  They commit horrendous crimes.  Some criminals are never caught.  It seems like they got away with it.  They escaped justice.

One day, everyone will face justice.  The heavenly judge sees everything and knows everything.  The Bible says that one day all of the secrets will be revealed. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. (Luke 12:2 NIV)

The judge is all-knowing.  He knows everything.  He lined the sheep and goats up on two sides.  The Bible says that He knows who the sheep are.  He calls his own sheep by name (John 10:3 NIV). The Bible says that “The Lord knows those who are his” (II Timothy 2:19 NIV). He also knows who the goats are.  He knows what the sheep and goats have done.

You say that is just for unbelievers.  That is not true.  One day, EVERYONE will be judged.  “For we MUST ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10 NIV).

Paul said that we are all going to appear before this judgment seat and he was talking to believers.  If Paul is going to one day be held accountable to God for his life, and he was an apostle, we will as well.

Sheep will be judged, and goats will be judged.  Believers will NOT be judged to determine salvation.  Paul said, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV) but believers will still be judged.

The problem today is that many think they are saved who are not.  Some have a false sense of security. The parable of the sheep and the goats is the third parable in Matthew 25.  Each one teaches the same lesson.  The first parable is the parable of the ten virgins or the ten bridesmaids (as the NLT renders it).  The second parable is the parable of the talents.

In the parable of the ten virgins, the five foolish virgins say to Jesus, “‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’”  They call Jesus Lord.  They believe in Jesus.  They claim to follow Him, but Jesus says to them, “‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’” (Matthew 25:11-12 NIV).

2) There are two kinds of people

All of the world can be divided up into only two different kinds of people, sheep and goats.  Sheep and goats are two completely different types of people.  They have different personalities and temperaments.  They represent two different kinds of people in the world.  It comes right out of the OT.  God judges between sheep and goats in Ezekiel 34.

Now the world teaches that there are more than two kinds of people.  Society divides people up by gender (male, female, transgendered).  It divides people up by sexual orientation (gay, straight, bisexual).  It divides people up by income level (rich, poor, middle class).

It divides people by political party (Republican, Democrat, Independent).  It divides people up by skin color (black, white or brown).  It divides people up by denomination (Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal).  It divides people up by theology (Arminian, Calvinist, charismatic, non-charismatic).

It divides people up by education level (just a high school diploma, college education and people with advanced degrees).  It divides people up by religion (Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist).  Today, people are divided up into the vaccinated and the unvaccinated camp.

God sees only two types of people: saved and unsaved.  He only sees sheep and goats.  You are either spiritually dead or spiritually alive.  Jesus said this many times in Matthew.  He has talks about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.  He talks the wheat and the tares, and the good fish and the bad fish in Matthew 13.

The question is, which are you?  Are you a sheep or a goat? Are you saved or lost?  If you are not saved, get saved today. How can you tell if you are saved?  Jesus answers that question, as we will see.  He gives a six-question test.

3) There are two eternal destinies

In this passage, people end up in two places.  Some go to the right hand and some go to the left hand.  Some go to heaven ands some go to hell.  Some get eternal life and some get eternal punishment.  There are two destinies, and both are said to be eternal.

Notice that the word “eternal” is used two times in the last verse of the chapter.  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 NIV)

The goats receive justice.  They get what they deserve.  The sheep receive grace and mercy.  They get what they do not deserve.  Did Jesus hate the goats?  No.  The kingdom was prepared for the sheep, but eternal fire was NOT prepared for these goats.  God never planned that for them.  They rejected Him and ended up there. There are two destinies.  The question is where are you going? Heaven or Hell?  What will be your destiny?

4) It is possible to tell if you are saved

How do you tell the difference between a sheep and a goat?  This is where it gets interesting.  Jesus gives a way to tell.  He gives a test.  He gives very specific criteria, and it is not what we think.

Jesus did NOT say that you can tell who the sheep are because they believe a set of doctrines or subscribe to a church creed.  You can tell the sheep because they said the sinner’s prayer.  He didn’t say you could tell who the sheep were because they have been baptized.  Many goats have been baptized.

He didn’t say that you could tell who they are because they attend church.  Many goats attend church as well. There are whole denominations of goats.  He did not say that you can tell who the sheep are because they speak in tongues.  They cast out demons.  They prophesy.  They heal people.

The test that Jesus gives is not a charismatic test or a doctrinal test.  It is a heart test.  It is a love test.  It is a compassion test.  One way to tell the difference between sheep and goats is to look at how they treat people, especially people who are in need and are suffering.  It is one thing to have pity or compassion of people and feel bad for them.  It is another thing to do something to help them.

This test does not require a lot but it instantly reveals if you are a sheep or a goat.  You do not have to do something great.  You do not have to cure cancer or pastor a great megachurch.  You do not have to lead a million people to Christ.   You just have to help people who are suffering.

You don’t need raise people from the dead or walk on water.  You just have to help people in need. That does not take a lot of effort.  In fact, it doesn’t even cost anything, like giving a thirsty person something to drink or visiting someone who is sick or in prison.

Good works do not save people.  They give evidence of salvation.  Good works reveal your spiritual condition.  It reveals your heart condition. It distinguishes the sheep from the goats.

Does this mean that sins do not matter?  Jesus does not care how you live as long as you help people in need?  Is He saying that you can live like the devil, as long as you give to the poor?

That is not what this is saying at all.  The compassion test is one test of salvation.  There are many others.  For that, you need to read the rest of the Bible but, even in this passage, the sheep are called RIGHTEOUS (Matthew 25:46).  The goats by implication are not righteous.  They are wicked.

What did Jesus say about His sheep?  He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 NIV).  The sheep follow Jesus.  The goats do not.  Other passages also describe them as wicked.

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom EVERYTHING THAT CAUSE SIN AND ALL THAT DO EVIL. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41-42 NIV)

This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate THE WICKED from THE RIGHTEOUS 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:49-50 NIV)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, YOU EVILDOERS!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)

That raises this question.  How do you respond to the needs of people around you?  The sheep did not just minister to their spiritual needs.  They ministered to their physical needs as well.

Four False Doctrines Refuted

Jesus refutes four false doctrines in this parable that many believe today.  What are they?

1) The doctrine of universalism

The doctrine of universalism teaches that everyone is saved.  God is the father of everyone.  There are not sheep and goats.  Everyone is a sheep.  Many believe that doctrine.  That is refuted in this chapter.  Jesus speaks of two kinds of people.  He speaks of sheep and goats.

2) The doctrine of pluralism

Pluralism teaches that everyone is going to heaven.  All paths lead to God.  It does not matter what religion you practice. God will accept you. Some believe that but it is refuted in Matthew 25.  The sheep go to heaven and the goats go to hell.  They do not both go to the same place.  Jesus not only speaks of two people.  He also speaks of two destinies.

3) The doctrine of annhilationism

Annhilationism teaches that when you die, you cease to exist.  Annihilationism is a cult. Cults take what the Bible clearly teaches and try to redefine it.  They take what a majority of Christians have believed for two thousand years on a major doctrine and try to redefine or reinterpret it.

Matthew 25:46 clearly teaches eternal punishment. The verse specifically mentions the words “eternal punishment” (NIV, NLT, ESV, ASV, NASB).  Cultists say it is not punishment and it is not eternal, but they have huge problem

It is the problem of consistency. The word “eternal” is used two times in the same verse. Eternal modifies the noun “punishment” (εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον).  Eternal also modifies the noun “life” (εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον). The same adjective (“eternal”) modifies two nouns in the same verse and has to mean the same thing both times.

If hell is not eternal, heaven is not eternal. In fact, God is not eternal. The same word is used of God (Romans 16:26). The same word is used of the kingdom of our Lord and Savior (II Peter 1:11).

4) The doctrine of purgatory

Catholics believe in something called purgatory.  If you are really good, you go to heaven when you die.  If you are really bad, you go to hell and if you are only a little bad, you go to purgatory, where you can burn a few sins off for a thousand years and then you are fit for heaven

Jesus said the sheep go to heaven.  The goats go to hell.  He did not say that anyone went to purgatory.  He did not teach that the really bad goats go to hell but those who are not so bad go to purgatory.

The Threefold Anointing

We want to talk about something that you will almost never hear preached in church.  Have you ever heard of the three anointings?  Most Christians have not but, in the church, we often hear people talk about “the anointing.”  We often heard people called “an anointed speaker or “an anointed worship leader.”

You may hear talk, not only about anointing, but also about different types of anointing. There is a musical anointing. There is prophetic anointing. There is evangelistic anointing. There is a teaching anointing.

What does it all mean? Is it even biblical?  Can we be anointed today?  In I & II Samuel we see that anointing IS biblical.  It is a biblical term.  David is a biblical example of someone who was anointed by God.

II Samuel 5:3 says, “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they ANOINTED David king over Israel. (NIV).

David was anointed, not once, not twice but three times.  Some of us have never been anointed once.  He was officially anointed to ministry three times.

David was NOT an anointed worship leader.  He was NOT an anointed preacher.  He was an anointed POLITICIAN.  That sounds like an oxymoron today.  We often associate politics with corruption.  Most politicians these days are scoundrels by definition but David was an anointed king.

What does it mean to be anointed?  Can we be anointed today?  Why was David anointed three times?  Wasn’t the first anointing good enough?  Why did he have to be anointed three times?

First, we have to get the context.  II Samuel is a book about the reign of King David, Israel’s greatest king.  In II Samuel 5.  David becomes king over the country.  He fights his first battle.  It was a battle against the Philistines.  He only went to war only because he was attacked.

After David became king, he was attacked by the Philistines.  They declared war on David.  They killed the last king of Israel and now come after David after he becomes king of the whole nation.  What did he do?  He hid.  He used guerilla warfare tactics.  He went out to his stronghold (II Samuel 5:17) when he was running from Saul.

God gave the Philistines into David’s hands, not once but twice.  The Israelites not only defeated them; they stole the Philistine gods (II Samuel 5:21) but they did not worship them.  I Chronicles 14:12 says that they burned them with fire.  David accomplished more in two bloody battles that Saul did in forty years against the Philistines.

David expands his power.  He becomes king over the whole country.  He gets crowned as king.  There is a coronation ceremony.  He not only gets a crown.  He gets a castle to live in.  A king needs a palace, so a foreign king gives him the wood and carpenters (II Samuel 5:11).

In this chapter, David expands his POWER.  He expands his TERRITORY.  He expands his FAMILY.  He takes more wives and more concubines. He got more children (sons and daughters).  After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 14 These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet. (II Samuel 5:13 NIV).

The chapter mentions eleven kids (II Samuel 5:14-15) and he had some children before this.  Some of these kids came later.  The first four were children of Bathsheba.  We know that from I Chronicles 3:5. He has not married her yet.  David wasn’t perfect.  He was not supposed to have all of those wives, but God still blessed him.  We do not have to be perfect for God to bless us as well.  Otherwise, nobody would be blessed.

Lastly, David gets a new capital.  The old capital was Hebron.  David chose Jerusalem as his new capital.  It was called the city of David (II Samuel 5:7, 9). This was the place where Solomon built the temple.  It was where the whole sacrificial system was.  It was where Jesus was killed, just outside the city.

It was a brilliant political move on David’s part.  Jerusalem was in the middle of the country but none of the tribes had conquered it yet.  We think of Jerusalem today as a Jewish city, but it was not always a Jewish city.  David made it a Jewish city three thousand years ago.  It used to be a Canaanite city.  The Jebusites lived there.

David chose a city that was in the center of the country.  It did not belong to any particular tribe, like Washington D.C., which is not part of any state.  It did not show favoritism to any particular tribe.

It did not favor the north or the south. It was the perfect location to unify the country and it was strategically significant. It was built on a steep hill with valleys on the east and the west.

David had one minor problem.  He had to conquer it first.  That wasn’t easy.  No one had done that yet.  The city was a fortress.  It was a city on a hill.  Tall walls protected this city.  It was virtually unconquerable.

David faced Goliath before.  He was an impossible enemy.  He was tall.  He was strong.  He was intimidating and he was confident.  He was undefeated.  He seemed unbeatable.  He mocked David.  He laughed at him.  Now David faces Goliath number two.

The Jebusites also mocked David.  They said that the blind and lame could keep David out.  They told David, “There’s no way you’re getting in.”  When people tell you that you can’t do something, it should only motivate you to prove them wrong.  That is exactly what David did.

How did David conquer the city?  He used military strategy.  He does not use brute force.  He outsmarted them.  He thought outside the box. There was one way to get into the city.  It was through the water shaft (II Samuel 5:8). Archeologists have discovered this water shaft.  It was discovered by British archeologists in the 1800s.  Today, it is called Warren’s Shaft.  That was the one weakness of the city.

Here was a city that had never been  conquered, just like Goliath had never been beaten in battle.  The city was on a hill.  It had tall walls, so David had to get creative.  Max Lucado says that then everyone else saw walls, David saw tunnels.  He came up with a creative way to solve the problem.[1]  He says, “If the wall is too tall, try a tunnel.”[2]

David also promised a reward to anyone who go in.  We know that from I Chronicles.  He said whoever did it would become his commander-in-chief (I Chronicles 11:6), so Joab did it (I Chronicles 11:6).

There is a good animation of how David conquered the city.  It was done by the Megalim Institute in Jerusalem and is very good.  You can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXHiXuPw7zM.

The key verse in the chapter is II Samuel 5:10. David “became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him” (NIV).  He was not only prosperous.  He was not only blessed.  He was powerful.  He was very powerful.

As Saul lost power.  He lost battles and his sons were dying, David got power politically.  He got more wives.  He had more children.  He formed political alliances (Phoenicians).  He defeated enemies (Philistines).

The Philistines attacked him twice, and both times, they were defeated.  Anyone who opposed David, lost.  Saul lost. Ishbosheth lost. Abner lost.  The Philistines lost.

Why did this happen?  Why did David grow in power?  There were two reasons.

One, God was with him.  He was with him even when he was not in power.  He was also with him when he was on the run from Saul and had to live in caves.  God was with him and He protected David. Jesus is with us today.  He said that he will be with us always.  He will never leave or forsake us.

Two, He was anointed.  He was God’s man.  What does it mean to be anointed?  Why did he have to be anointed three times?

Characteristics of Anointing

To be genuinely anointed, five things have to take place.  You have to have all five of these qualities to be biblically anointed.

1) To be anointed means that you are called by God to do a particular job or ministry.

2) To be anointed means that you are empowered by God to do a particular ministry.

3) To be anointed means that you are recognized by your spiritual leaders to do it.

4) To be anointed means that you are recognized by other people

5) To be anointed means that you are publicly consecrated and set apart to God for service or ministry.

All five of these qualities are found in I & II Samuel.  We will see all of these qualities in David.  David was anointed by a prophet of God.  After he was anointed, he was filled with the Spirit.

He was supernaturally empowered by God.  He was recognized by the rest of the country.  People from all twelve tribes of the country recognized his anointing.

Today, we want to look at the three anointings of David.  They were done at different times.  They were done in different places.  They were done for different purposes.

He was anointed the first time when he was fifteen.  He was anointed the second time when he was thirty.  He was anointed the third time when he was thirty-seven.  The first anointing was in Bethlehem.  The last two were in Hebron.  The first anointing was secret.  The last two were public.

Why was he anointed three times?   What were David’s three anointings?  What did each one mean? David was anointed in stages.  His anointing was progressive.  Each anointing gave David more authority for ministry.

The First Anointing

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” (I Samuel 16:8-13 NIV)

What did this anointing mean?  What was the significance of the first anointing?  Note four things here.

1) The first anointing was a SECRET anointing

It is found in I Samuel 16.  It took place in Bethlehem.  It was done David’s own house.  David was just a boy or teenager.  He was probably about fifteen years old.  The witnesses were David’s immediate family.  No one else saw it.

2) The first anointing was a PROPHETIC anointing

It was done by a real prophet, not like some fake prophets in some churches today.  David had one of the most famous men in the country unexpectedly show up at his house in Bethlehem.

This anointing was prophetic.  This anointing came from God.  David did not come up with the idea to be king.  The thought probably never entered his head.  God gave him this idea through his prophet.

Samuel only anoints the one God told him to anoint.  In fact, the person Samuel wanted to anoint and thought he should anoint was not the one he anointed.  He only anointed the one God said to anoint.  In Psalm 23:5, David says to God, “You anoint my head with oil.”

3) The first anointing was a CALL anointing

This was when David got his lifelong calling.  The first anointing was David’s call to ministry. After David was anointed by Samuel, he knew what his mission in life would be.  He now knew what God’s will for his life was.  He knew what God was going to do through him.  He now had some dreams for the future.

This was the first stage of David’s anointing, receiving his call by God.  He was filled with the Spirit.  David now knew his mission, but he did not become king yet and start ruling.  That did not happen overnight.  It didn’t happen for years.  Even though Samuel anointed him, he was not king yet.  In fact, he was too young to be king yet.

It took some time.  We saw that last week.  David was anointed to be king at the age of fifteen but did not become king until he was thirty-seven.  He had to wait over twenty years to be king over the whole country.  David had to wait to be used by God.  He had to be prepared to be used by God.

4) This was David’s PROMISE anointing

This anointing was promised to take place.  It was destined to take place.  David may not have realized it at the time, but he was destined to be king.  No one could stop him.  He had a prophetic word.  He had an infallible word from God.  Persecution could NOT stop it.  Trials could NOT stop it.

Threats to his life could NOT stop it.  Saul could not stop him with his three thousand troops.  Abner could not stop him with his troops.  They could delay him from being king, but that delay was actually part of God’s plan, because he was not even ready to be king yet.  He needed more time to grow and develop.

What is the application for us?  God calls everyone to do something. We may have never had a greasy prophet pour some oil over our head but we all have received a special call from God to do something that is unique to us.  We may have had someone in our life with a lot of spiritual discernment who has spoken words of truth into our life.

We may have received a call to do something unexpectedly.  Has God ever put a desire in your heart to do something special?  It may be a call no one else knows about.  This first anointing was in secret.  Very few knew about it.

The Second Anointing

David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah. (II Samuel 2:3-4 NIV)

1) The second anointing was a PUBLIC anointing

It is found in II Samuel 2.  For the first time, David is anointed publicly in Hebron.  It was done fifteen years later.  David was now thirty years old (II Samuel 5:4).

2) The second anointing was a POLITICAL anointing

After the first anointing, David did not hold office.  Now he is in office, ruling over one tribe as king.  People called him king.

3) The second anointing was a CONFIRMATION anointing

This anointing was done, not just by one person but by more people.  The anointing is growing.  It is getting bigger.  This time it is done by the men of Judah.  They actually went where David was to anoint him.

Not only did David have the call of God on his life but other people outside of his family (inner circle) began to recognize this call.  One whole tribe of Israel recognized it.  The whole Tribe of Judah recognized that he would be king and anointed him in public.  The big area in which he lived (his state) anointed him.

One of the tribes for the first time anoints David as king.  He is still not king over the whole country or even a majority of the country, but God is beginning to work on his behalf.  The promise is beginning to be fulfilled.  This is the anointing of partial fulfillment.

That leads to both encouragement and discouragement.  It is encouraging because David is king.  God does not just give David his calling and dream for the future. He begins to work.  There is partial fulfilment of the promise

It is discouraging because David was only king of one out of twelve tribes.  That could also have David to question whether the promise would be ultimately fulfilled.

David received a death of the vision.  He was excited and shocked when he was first anointed.  He thought it would take place.  Then, he began to wonder what was going on and whether it would really come to pass.  Saul was trying to kill him.

He had to live in a cave. He received death threats.  It looked like the prophecy was never going to come to pass. What did he do?  Once again, he waited.  He waited seven and a half more years.

The question for us is this: Have you ever received a special call by God, and it looked like it was beginning to be fulfilled?  Have you not only had a call to do something, but people begin to recognize that you are called to do something, people outside your own family?  Have you ever experienced a delay in your call?  Perhaps a long delay?  How do you respond when the dream does not take place right away and you have to wait, like David did?

The Third Anointing

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. (II Samuel 5:1-3 NIV)

David has a third anointing.  The first was when he was fifteen.  The second one was when he was thirty.  The third one was when he was thirty-seven (II Samuel 5:4-5)

It was David’s greatest anointing. He was anointed to take on his promised destiny.  The anointing once again gets bigger.

1) The third anointing is the OFFICIAL anointing

It was an official anointing for David to be king over the whole nation.  David now is not just anointed by his family or by his tribe but by the whole nation.

God’s promise is being finally fulfilled.  The country is united.  It is no longer divided, not politically and not geographically.  No more civil war.  No more fighting.  No more Jews dying. Three things happened at this anointing.

The nation RECOGNIZED David as king.  They were forced to.  Abner was dead.  Ishbosheth was dead.  Saul was dead.  The only one of his descendants left was a cripple.

The nation HONORED David as king.  They did this publicly.  David did not come to them.  They came to David to do this (II Samuel 5:1).  Note the three reasons in the text they did this.

They also CELEBRATED David as king.  It was a big celebration.  It involved a three-day feast.  Three hundred thousand people showed up.  We know that from I Chronicles 12:23.

All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king. 39 The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them. 40 Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, olive oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel. (I Chronicles 12:38-40)

2) This third anointing was a DESTINY anointing

David steps into his full destiny as king over Israel.  He begins doing what God has called him to do. He begins doing what he was born to do.  God did not just call David to be king over one tribe but to be king over a whole nation.

It was no longer just a dream.  It was no longer just beginning to happen.  It was completely fulfilled, and this anointing was permanent.  He does not need to be anointed again.  He did not need a fourth anointing.

Have we ever gotten to this point in our life?  At this stage, we do not just have a call, we do not just have a dream to do something, we have not just started to do the job, we have done all of it and have the confirmation from others and the power of the Holy Spirit working on the inside.  That is the third anointing.

[1] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, p. 107.

[2] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, p. 108.

A Kingdom Divided

We began a study of the book of II Samuel.  It is not a doctrinal book.  It is a historical book.  It describes the reign of King David, Israel’s greatest king.  Today, we are going to look at three chapters.  Most Christians do not know these obscure chapters in II Samuel very well.

In, these three chapters, there is a lot of drama.  There’s a lot of politics.  Politics is usually dirty.  It is dirty today and it was dirty three thousand years ago.  Even church politics is sometimes dirty.

In these chapters, there is a lot of fighting, a lot of hand-to-hand combat and a lot of warfare.  There is civil war.  It is violent.  It is bloody.  A lot of people die in these chapters.  Jews kill fellow Jews.

There is murder.  There are three successive murders in this section.  There is one in II Samuel 2 (the murder of a brother, Joab’s brother).  There is one in II Samuel 3 (the murder of a military leader, General Abner) and one in II Samuel 4 (the murder of a political leader, King Ishbosheth).

This is probably not anyone’s favorite chapters in the Bible.  You will never hear them preached from the pulpit.  They are too violent.  They are too gory and gruesome.  People usually do not come to church to hear a good sermon on decapitation and amputation.

Saul’s son gets his head cut off.  Other people get their hands and feet cut off.  Abner stabs a man in the stomach with a sword and it comes out on the other side (II Samuel 2:23).

That’s not very nice.  That is not very positive.  It is not very encouraging.  It is not a feel-good topic.  Why is this in the Bible?  It is in the Bible because it actually happened.  It is true.

The inspired authors don’t try to rewrite history.  People try to do that today.  If they don’t like history, they just rewrite it (1619 Project).  The Bible doesn’t do that.  It tells us what actually happened when David became king.  The Bible is true.

It is also realistic.  The Bible is a real book about real life.  We live in a violent world.  It was violent in Noah’s day.  It was violent in David’s day and is violent today.  Terrible things happen in our world every day.  The Bible relates to the world in which we live.  It can speak to our world.

A Bloody Transition

What happens in these chapters?  Let’s summarize these chapters.  After King Saul died, the nation was divided.  Our nation is very divided today politically, perhaps more divided than it has been in a long time.  Israel after the death of King Saul was divided even more.

David became king in the South.  Ishbothseth became king in the North.  Ishbosheth was chosen but not anointed.  David was anointed.  Now, there were two rival kings in the country.  They had two kings and two kingdoms.  One kingdom had eleven tribes (Israel) and the other had only one (Judah).

The two kingdoms went to war.  It is the first civil war in Jewish history.  David does not start it.  Saul’s general Abner starts it.  David only fought when he had to. The first battle of the war was fought at the Pool of Gibeon.  It is right between the north and the south of the country.  It is close to Judah.  Archeologists have found the pool where this battle took place.  It has been discovered.

Abner suggested a group of them start fighting.  Twelve young men from Saul’s side fought twelve men from David’s side and everyone was killed.  The rest of them continued fighting and David’s side was winning.  He lost twenty but one of the twenty was Joab’s brother.  Saul’s side lost three hundred and sixty (II Samuel 2:31).  No one won, so the battle continued.

Saul’s general Abner had two problems.  He was accused of a sexual crime.  He is accused of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines.  If he did it, it would not be just a sexual act; it would be a political act.

To claim a king’s concubine is to claim the throne.  We do not know if it was true.  Abner denied it but it bothered him that he was accused of this.  His other problem was that his side was losing.

The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. (II Samuel 3:1 NIV)

Abner’s side was losing, so he decided to defect and join David’s side.  His side was losing.  If you can’t fight them, join them. He wanted a position in David’s government. David agreed with the plan on one condition.  He wanted his wife back first.  He had to leave her and go on the run because her dad was trying to kill him.  David has not seen her for about fifteen years.

Michal was David’s first wife.  After David Goliath, she had a big crush on him, like a lot of women at the time.  She married him.  I Samuel 18:20 says that she loved David.

It is the only time in the Bible where we are told that a woman loved a man.  It is the only time in the whole Bible.  He had to go on the run and leave her and now he wanted her back after her dad was dead.

The only problem is that she had already remarried.  David got his wife back, although her second husband was not very happy.  You feel a little sorry for him.  He was in tears. Abner gave David what he wanted but he never made it in David’s government, because his general Joab killed him.  He killed in at Hebron.

He killed him because Abner killed his brother in the previous chapter. Abner is a complete failure.  He tried to fight David. That did not work.  He decided to join him.  That didn’t work either, because Joab killed him.  Abner killed his brother in battle reluctantly.  Joab killed Abner in cold blood.  He pretended to shake his hand and stabbed him to death.

David did not approval of what Joab did.  He wasn’t happy about it, but he did not punish him right away.  Joab was family.  He does not kill him at the time, but when David is on his deathbed and about to die, he does have him executed (I Kings 2:4-6).

David then has a national mourning for Abner.  He has a public mourning for his enemy and fought against him.  He makes Joab walk in the funeral procession.  David had a lamentation for Saul and now he has one for Abner.

Abner was the one who installed Ishbosheth as king.  He was the power behind the throne.  He was the only one keeping him in power.  T.D. Jakes points out that “sometimes the guy that gets the job is not very good but the people under him make him look better than he is” [1].

Some would say that describes President Biden. He is just a puppet, like Ishbosheth.  No one knows who is really in charge.  We know who was in charge of Ishbosheth.  It was Abner.  He was the power behind the throne.  Once he was gone, two brothers, two men who were captain in Saul’s army (Rekab and Baanah), decide to get rid of Ishbosheth.

They not only assassinate him in his own house; they assassinate him in his own bed.  Then, they cut his head off.  They brought the head of Ishbosheth to David, expecting a reward.

Apparently, they were not very smart.  David just executed the man who claimed to kill Saul and expected a reward.  That was current events.  Now they kill Ishbosheth and expect a reward from David.  Instead, he punishes the two men.  He executes them and then their hands and feet are cut off and they are hung.

Application for Today

What is the application of these chapters for us today?  What is the lesson?  Don’t stab people in the stomach?  Don’t cut off people’s heads. Don’t cut off people’s heads, hands or feet?  Don’t try to kill someone in their bed?  Don’t try to assassinate your leaders?  There are some other things these chapters say.  These chapters are guaranteed to speak to you in some way.

Every US president has a philosophy.  We often call it a doctrine.  There is THE BUSH DOCTRINE.  The Bush Doctrine said that the way to fight the War on Terror is not to go on the defensive but to go on offensive and not wait to be attacked.  It is the doctrine of preemption.

There is THE OBAMA DOCTRINE.  That is the doctrine of political correctness.  He refused to even say the words “radical Islam.”  He refused to even identify the enemy, because that might offend some people.  He would call it “workplace violence.”  It is also the doctrine of appeasement (Iran deal).

There is THE TRUMP DOCTRINE.  The Trump Doctrine was a doctrine of America first and American strength (“Make America great).  He talked tough but never want to war.

The David Doctrine

What if we took the same concept and applied it to David?  What would David’s Doctrine be based on these chapters? David is God’s king.  He is the anointed king.  How does he rule?  There are six things that David does in these chapters that we should today.  The David doctrine from these verses are six things.

1) Respect Your Predecessor

That is the first thing that David did when he came into office.  He actually did it before He came into office.  He respected Saul as King, as God’s King.  When David became king, he did not trash Saul.  That is what we do in our political system.

The new party comes into power and they often trash the previous administration.  David did not do that.  He came into power.  The old king was dead, and he gave a lamentation for him.  We saw that in II Samuel 1.

David’s first act as king was to praise the men of Jabesh Gilead who went and got the body of his enemy Saul and buried him after the Philistines completely desecrated his dead body (II Samuel 2:4-6)

He wrote a lamentation for Saul, and he was not even a good king.  He started out good but turned out bad.  How do you respect authority?  Many do not like authority.  How do you treat your predecessors?  Be careful what you say about them.

2) Expect problems in life

Many preachers act like if you follow Jesus, you will not have any problems.  You will be healthy.  You will be wealthy.  You will be prosperous.  That is a lie.

Jesus said to His disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).  You won’t hear this too much in church, but Jesus said, “In this life, you will have trouble.”

You will have problems: financial problems, marriage problems, car problems, health problems, family problems, problems with your kids.  The Bible does not say that we won’t have problems.  It says that God will be with us in our problems.

David experienced this.  He was anointed to be king.  God promised that he would be king.  He was God’s man and then he was persecuted.  He had to go on the run.  People were trying to kill him every day and then Saul died. God took the evil, psychotic, demon-possessed king out.

You would think after Saul died that David’s problems would be over.  No more sleeping in a cave.  No more going on the run.  No more being a fugitive.  David is no longer a wanted man.  He is no longer marked for death.  He can get his wife back.

You would expect a smooth transition to power.  You would expect the road to kingship to be easy, but it wasn’t.  A civil war ensued, and David did not get full kingship for seven and a half years.

David was anointed but he was opposed by people.  Some actually took up arms against the Lord’s Anointed King.  The same thing happened to Jesus, the Son of David.  It happens to us as well.

3) Seek God’s will for your life

David began to reign as king at the age of thirty.  What was the first thing he did?  He prayed.  He asked for God’s guidance.

In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked. The Lord said, “Go up.” David asked, “Where shall I go?” “To Hebron,” the Lord answered. (II Samuel 2:1 NIV).

David asked two questions.  Should I go up?  Where should I go?  He asked specific questions and got specific answers.  David did this repeatedly.

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” (II Samuel 5:17-19 NIV).

When they attacked a second time, David inquired of the Lord a second time and the Lord answered him (II Samuel 5:22-25).  We need to do the same thing.  We need to seek God’s guidance for our life.  Should I move to this city?  Should I take this job?  Should I marry this person?  Is this the right thing to do?  Don’t necessarily do the obvious.  Consult with God.

What would happen if we sought God’s will for EVERY decision of our life?  In ALL of our ways, we are to acknowledge Him, and he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6).  David didn’t trust his own instincts.  He asked God.  God says if we lack wisdom to ask Him and He will answer us (James 1:5)

4) Wait patiently for God to work

This is hard.  When we want God to do something, to do something big, we want him to do it now.  We don’t like to wait for things.  That is usually not the way God works.

David was first anointed king when he was a teenager.  He was around fifteen years old when God told him that he would be king.  How old was he when he was king over the whole country?  Thirty-seven (II Samuel 5:4-5).  He had to wait over twenty years for the promise to be fulfilled.

The same thing happened to Abraham.  He was seventy-five when God appeared to him and told him that his wife would have a son (Genesis 12:4).  He had no children.  He had two wait twenty-five years before that promise was fulfilled.  It was fulfilled when he was one hundred (Genesis 21:5).

David is the anointed king.  He was promised the throne.  He was promised the throne by God Himself, but he wasn’t king for a long time.  He had the right to be king.  He had the divine right to be king, but he did not force himself to be king, like a dictator.

He did not try to take over the country by force.  He did not force people to bow down to him as king.  He had the right to the throne but did not insist it to happen or try to force it to happen.  He didn’t step on people to get power.

Even though the old king died, David still does NOT take over the whole country right away.  He only takes over one tribe.  He takes over Judah.  Eleven out of the twelve tribes rejected him as king, but he waited on the Lord.  He waited for his timing.  He waited until God gave it to him.

How patient are we?  How patient are we to get things done that need to be done?  Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

5) Submit to God’s will for your life

Not everyone did that.  Abner knew that David was supposed to be king.  Abner knew the prophecies about David. We know that from II Samuel 3:9. Even though he knew that David was supposed to be king, he installed Ishbosheth as king after Saul died.  He knew who the chosen king was, but he did not want that king, so he set up a rival one.

Abner’s act was an act of rebellion.  People still do that.  They rebel against God today.  They rebel against the Word of God.  They rebel against the program of God.  They rebel against the will of God.  They know what the will of God, but they do not submit to it.  In fact, they oppose it.  They will fight it.

They also try to come up with something better than God’s plan and God’s will.  God’s plan for marriage is between a man and a woman.  People in society think they have a better plan.  They open up marriage to two men or two women.  God created people male or female.  He created two genders.

Society says there are transgender people who have a different gender on the inside than what the outside of their body looks like.  It says there are other people who are intersex.  They have characteristics of both male and female.  This is simply rebellion to the plan of God for human sexuality and gender revealed in Scripture.

Every time you oppose the will of God, you suffer.  Ishbosheth suffered and so did Abner.  David did not completely submit to God’s will when it came to marriage.  He was a polygamist.  He began II Samuel with two wives, got one more in II Samuel 3.  Two chapters later, we are told that David took up more concubines and wives (II Samuel 5:13-16).

6) Don’t hold grudges

This is a big one.  Do we hold grudges against anyone?  Remember Esau held a grudge against his brother Jacob and planned to kill him once they were done mourning his father’s death (Genesis 27:41).  The Bible says, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (NIV)

David had a lot of enemies.  He had a lot of people he could have held grudges against, but he didn’t.  He didn’t hold a grudge against King Saul who tries to kill him repeatedly.  He did not hold a grudge against Abner who set up a rival king to David.  He honored him when he died.

He didn’t even hold a grudge against the rival king Ishbosheth.  He executed his assassins.  We are to be just like David and not hold grudges.  We are to forgive people, as Jesus forgave us (Ephesians 4:32).

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbYaOlAboOY

Love Your Enemy

How do you respond to people you don’t like?  What about who people who are mean to you and mistreat you, people who persecute you?  How do you respond when bad things happen to people who mistreat you and abuse you?

What almost all of us do is to feel good about it.  We would say, “That person had what was coming to them.  It served them right.  Justice was served.”

Jesus commands us in the NT to do the exact opposite.  He commands us love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  That is not only hard to do, it does not seem to make much sense.

Today, we are going to see that this is not just a NT teaching.  It is in the OT.  David did this to his enemies in II Samuel 1 and we will see how he did this.  We just finished a study of I Samuel and saw some incredible lessons in that book.

We saw that God uses people the world rejects.  He chose someone who his older brother hated and despised.  He didn’t choose the oldest, which would have been chosen by the culture of the day.  He chose the youngest.

We saw that to be used by God, He has to prepare you.  God had to prepare Joseph.  He had to prepare Moses.  He had to prepare David.  David was chosen by God to be king and anointed by a prophet, but he did not become king for at least ten years.  He became a fugitive.

People were trying to kill him.  He was marked for death.  There was a bounty on his head, and he did not do anything wrong.  He had to go on the run for about ten years.  During those ten years, God had to prepare him for the job of king.

We saw that God can do impossible things through the one who believes, even kill a giant.  David faced a giant who terrified everyone else.

This giant was big and intimidating.  He mocked David and David’s God.  Because David had faith, he had confidence to stand against this giant.  He was bold.  He does not just kill Goliath; David cuts his head off.  He decapitates him and takes his sword.

Today, we begin the study of a new book of the Bible.  It is the book of II Samuel.  In our Bible, I & II Samuel are separate books.  In the Hebrew Bible, I & II Samuel are all one book.  They cover the lives of three men – Samuel, Saul and David.  I Samuel covers the reign of the first king of Israel (Saul).  II Samuel covers the reign of the second king of Israel (David).  David lived a thousand years before Jesus.

By the time we get to II Samuel, David is not just a kid killing a giant.  He is man.  He is thirty years old.  He is married and has two wives.  II Samuel covers the reign of King David, the reign of Israel’s greatest king.  This means the book covers forty-year period, because David ruled for forty years.

Relevance Today

Why is this book important for us?  Why do Christians today need to study this book today?

1) One of the most important covenants in the Bible is found in II Samuel.

It is the Davidic Covenant.  There are many covenants in the Bible.  God made a covenant with Noah.  He made a covenant with Abraham.  He made a covenant with Moses.  He also makes a covenant with David.  It is one of the most important covenants in the Bible.  We see it for the first time in II Samuel. What did God promise David in the Davidic Covenant?

One, He promised David that not only would he be king, but his kids would be king.  He promises David a dynasty, the Davidic dynasty.  David wanted to build a house for God.  Instead God builds a house for David.

Two, of his own descendants would be the promised Messiah.  God says that He will come from David’s body.  He will be a Son of David.  David was anointed to be king but there will be another “anointed one” coming who would be a descendant of David.

The word messiah means “anointed one.”  He will not just be anointed with oil by some old prophet.  He will be anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Three, the Messiah will establish His own kingdom.  II Samuel says that this kingdom will be on the earth.  It will not just be some type of heavenly, spiritual kingdom, like many preachers say.

Four, His kingdom will last forever.  It will not be taken away from Him, like it was taken away from Saul.  There will be no end to His rule.

2) II Samuel is a book that deals with the same problems that we see in our world today.

This is a very modern book.  It deals with some of the same things we see in our world today.

There is VIOLENCE. II Samuel is a violent book.  There is an execution in the first chapter.

There is CRIME (rape, murder, incest).

There is SEX. There is forbidden sex (adultery).

There is POLITICAL INSTABILITY (civil war, political revolution, assassination). David’s own son tries to take over his throne.

There are FAMILY PROBLEMS. We see bad parents and messed up kids in this book.  The kids follow the sins of the parents.  The father commits murder and the son commits murder.  One brother kills another brother.  There are dysfunctional families.

3) II Samuel shows the serious consequences of sin and the reality of forgiveness.

David was God’s Man.  He was the anointed king of Israel.  He was handpicked by God to be king. In II Samuel we will see what happens when this Man of God falls.  David commits rape.  He commits adultery and commits murder.  He suffers terrible consequences for these sins but when he repents, he also receives forgiveness.  That is an important lesson for us today.

David Gets Bad News

II Samuel is a continuation of I Samuel.  What is the background of the book?  David and Saul both went to battle on the same day.

David fought the Amalekites and Saul fought the Philistines.  David fought the Amalekites in the southern part of the country.  Ziklag is in southern Israel.  Saul fought the Philistines in the northern part of the country on Mount Gilboa in Galilee.  David won his battle and Saul lost his battle.

II Samuel begins THREE DAYS I Samuel ends.  In I Samuel 31, Saul dies.  In II Samuel 1, David finds out about it.  He gets the news of Saul’s death. There was not TV or Internet to watch.  There was no CNN.   He had to get the news by word of mouth.  Apparently, this was the first time David gets the message about Saul’s death and he gets it from an Amalekite.  II Samuel 1 raises an important question.

Does the Bible contradict itself?

Many people believe that the Bible is full of contradictions.  There are tons of them.  There are many passages that contradict each other, and critics say that II Samuel 1 is one of them.  Are they right?

The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. 4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”

But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day. (I Samuel 31:3-5 NIV)

“I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ “‘An Amalekite,’ I answered. 9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’ 10 “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. (II Samuel 1:6-10 NIV)

Who really killed Saul?  One chapter says that Saul killed himself.   Another chapter says that an Amalekite killed him.  Which is correct? They both can’t be correct.  Does the Bible contradict itself?  No.

Do you honestly believe that anyone is dumb enough to write one chapter and then completely contradict himself in the very next chapter of the book? That would be preposterous.

I & II Samuel are not two different books of the Bible.  They are one book in Hebrew.  These I Samuel 31 and II Samuel 1 are probably written by the same person.

In I Samuel 31, the Israelites fought the Philistines.  Israel was losing.  Three of Saul’s four sons were killed.  The Israelites began to retreat (I Samuel 31:1).

Saul was hit by an arrow from a Philistine soldier.  He is critically wounded.  He could not fight, and he could not run.  He didn’t want the enemy to capture and kill him, so he asked his armor bearer to do it.

He did not ask an Amalekite to kill him.  He asked his armorbearer to kill him, but he refused, so Saul killed himself and it says that he was dead.  That is what I Samuel says.

In II Samuel 1, we get a different story. Saul is injured.  He tries to kill himself but is unsuccessful and asks an Amalekite to finish him off without any mention of the armorbearer.  There are several things about this story that don’t make much sense.

It seems a little strange that this man just happened to be in the neighborhood and ran into King Saul “by chance” (II Samuel 1:6 KJV).

What are the odds that this Amalekite was just out walking his dog, when he just happened to walk into the middle of a major battle between two of the largest armies of the day?

No, this Amalekite was not there by accident.  He was a graverobber.  He was there on purpose and took the crown off the dead body of King Saul.  He was out looking for spoils.

It seems a little strange in this situation that Saul would strike up a conversation with someone he had never met.  Saul was in extreme pain.  He was dying and he starts to engage in small talk with a complete stranger.  He probably never talked to Saul that day, although he may have witnessed his suicide from a distance.

It is strange that Saul did not mind being killed by an uncircimcized Amalekite but not by an uncircimcized Philistine.  That makes absolutely no sense.  The Amalekites were just as hated.  The Amalekites attacked the weakest Hebrews trying to escape Egypt. The Israelites were supposed to completely wipe out the Amalekites.

I Samuel 31 says Saul died by suicide.  It is inspired Scripture.  An Amalekite with ulterior motives said that Saul died another way.  We know that he had ulterior motives because David later said that he was expecting a reward (II Samuel 4:10). You can either believe what I Samuel 31 says or you can believe a pagan Amalekite.

The truth is that Saul did NOT die by an Amalekite.  He died by falling on his own sword.  The Amalekite was a liar.  Now the Bible does not say he was a liar but implies it.  David does not know it is a lie.  He takes what the man says at face value.

He had some evidence to support him.  He had Saul’s crown and bracelet.  That did not prove that he killed Saul, but it proved that he came from the battlefield.  It proved he was on the scene.  He was there.  He seemed to be a credible eyewitness.

David interrogate him.  He asked the man five questions.  He asked him what he saw and who he was and how he knew that Saul was dead.  The man says he just happened to be on the scene, saw the king who asked him to kill him.

He said he was an Amalekite (II Samuel 1:8).  If you remember from the last chapters of I Samuel, the Amalekites were the ones who just kidnapped his wives and kids and destroyed Ziklag.  They burned it to the ground. He had just finished killing a bunch of Amalekites.

Three Ways to Love your Enemy

What does this chapter say to us today?  David loved his enemy.  He demonstrated this in three ways.  What David did here, we are called to do today.

1) Show love for your enemy by your actions

David showed his love for his enemy by his ACTIONS.  David showed his love for Saul by having the man who claimed to kill him executed on the spot.  There was no trial.  He already confessed.

We know what David did not know.  We know that this Amalekite died because of a lie.  The man walked eighty miles with this news hoping he would be rewarded, and he was punished instead.

The Amalekite thought he could profit from a lie.  He thought he could get rich off of a lie, but he found that crime does not pay.  Deception rarely gets you what you want in the end.  If you die, you want it to because you tell the truth, not because you tell a lie.

David said, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’” (II Samuel 1:14, 16).

This man had no fear of doing this.  He said he was an alien (II Samuel 1:13).  He was not even a citizen of the country.  He was living in the land as an alien and had killed the king of the land. David says, “You did not just kill anybody.  You killed God’s Anointed; the man God handpicked to be the king of Israel.”

David says, “You did not just kill anybody.  You killed God’s Anointed; the man God handpicked to be the king of Israel.”

This is the one passage of the Bible that shows that euthanasia (mercy-killing) is unbiblical.  This man claimed that Saul wanted to be taken out of his misery and asked this Amalekite to kill him, but David treated what he did as murder.  Euthanasia is murder.  David clearly did not believe in euthanasia.

We are not to go about executing people today, but we should show love for our enemy by our actions.  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20 NIV)

2) Show love for your enemy by your emotions

David showed his love for his enemy by his EMOTIONS.  He is moved to tears.  He sobs publicly.  You expect him to mourn for his best friend Jonathon, but he also mourns for his enemy Saul.

Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and TORE THEM. 12 They MOURNED and WEPT and FASTED till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. (II Samuel 1:11-12 NIV)

This is strange.  It seems to make no sense.  Saul treated David horribly.  He was his own son-in-law.  He was married to Saul’s daughter and Saul persecuted David.  He tried to kill him about eleven times.  He sent troops after David.

He made David’s life miserable.  He forced him to leave his home and made him live on the run for ten years.  He forced him to go into hiding.  He always had to look behind his back.  His life was always in danger.

After he died, you expect him to be happy.  He no longer has to sleep in a cave.  He should be rejoicing.  Now, he gets to be king.  Now, he is not a wanted man.  Now, he can relax.  You expect him to be happy, but he is sad.  He mourns.

3) Show love for your enemy by your words

David showed his love for his enemy by his WORDS.  David wrote a lament for Saul.  David writes a poem or song about Saul and Jonathon.  David turned his words into music. David was not just a soldier and a politician; he was a musician, a poet and a writer.

He writes an ode to Saul and Jonathon.  He said, “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions” (II Samuel 1:23 NIV). David not only mourned for Saul and Jonathon; he ordered the people to mourn them as well.  He required that their legacy be preserved, and their career celebrated.

David not only mourned for Saul and Jonathon; he ordered the people to mourn them as well.  He required that their legacy be preserved, and their career celebrated.

David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ORDERED that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar (II Samuel 1:17-18 NIV)

This is actually very practical.  How do you respond when your enemy dies?  What do you say at a funeral of an unsaved person, someone who lived a wicked life? It may even be the funeral of a friend or family member.  At a funeral, even of an unsaved person, you can bring out the positive strengths of that person, as well as use it as an opportunity to preach the gospel.

David could have written a poem about Saul as a madman, a mentally unstable, psychotic, murderous, blood-thirsty, demon-possessed king.  It would have all been true.  He was that.  The Holy Spirit left him, and an evil spirit entered him.  Saul committed mass murder when he killed all of the priests and wiped out a whole town, but David did not say that.

Instead, he focused on Saul’s strengths: his courage and valor.  He said, “How the might have fallen!” (II Samuel 1:19, 25, 27 NIV). He extolled the might of Saul. Saul was a mighty man.  He brought prosperity to the nation (II Samuel 1:24).

He did not make Saul out to be better than he was.  He did not make him out to be some great saint or man of God.  That happens a lot at funerals, but he did emphasize some of his strengths.

It is interesting to me how politicized the world is in which we live.  When one president replaces another president, the road to the White House was so contentious that when they get there, they never say anything positive about their predecessor.

That is terrible.  Joe Biden has not said one positive thing about Donald Trump, even though he was able to produce three vaccines for the country in a year through Operation WARP Speed (OWS) .

 

The Unpardonable Sin

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Mathew 12:31-32 NIV)

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:28-29 NIV)

And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Luke 12:10 NIV)

Today, we want to look at the scariest passage in the NT. It comes from the lips of Jesus. It is the saying about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  It is mentioned in three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).

Perhaps no saying of Jesus has been more abused and misunderstood than this one.  Many have been terrified by this verse.  People who suffer from OCD, in particular, have been tortured by these words of Jesus.

They are afraid that at some time in the past, they said something about the Holy Spirit, perhaps even by accident, and now their fate is sealed.  They are doomed to hell.  They cannot be saved. They have no hope.

Are they right?  We will find out.  First, we want to look at the context of the passage.  The biggest mistake that people make today is that they take this saying of Jesus out of its context.  People pull verses out of context all of the time in the Bible.  That is one way to misinterpret the Bible every time.

What is the context of this saying?  What is the specific situation which led to this sin?  An incredible miracle, a healing miracle.  It is also an exorcism.  Matthew and Luke describe it.  You can read about the context in Luke 11 and Matthew 12.

An Incredible Miracle

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. (Luke 11:14 NIV)

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see (Matthew 12:22 NIV).

The story begins with a man with problems.  He had three problems.  Anyone of these problems would be big enough but he had three of them.  The man was completely blind.  He couldn’t see.  He was mute.  He couldn’t talk and he was demon-possessed.  He was a blind, mute demoniac.

He was the biblical Hellen Keller.  Hellen Keller could talk but she could not see or hear.  This man could hear but he could not see or talk, only he was much worse, because he was demon-possessed.  The demon actually CAUSED his physical problems.  It caused his medical problems.

Now every time you have a headache does not mean you are demon-possessed but in some cases medical problems can be demonic in origin.  This one was.  How do we know?  The way Jesus healed the man was by casting out the demon.  We know that from Luke.

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. (Luke 11:14 NIV)

Jesus healed the man and that led to two completely different reactions: one was positive, and one was negative.  One group of people were completely open minded and just looked at the facts and the other group was close minded and hard-hearted.

Both sides agreed on four things.  There was no debate about these four things.

1. Everyone agreed that this man had real physical problems.  He was not faking an illness.

2. Everyone agreed that the man got better.  He could see and hear.

3. Everyone agreed that this healing was completely supernatural. This man was not healed by natural medicine.  He did not get better slowly over a long period of time.  He got better instantly and miraculously.

4. Everyone also agreed that Jesus was responsible for the healing.  The man got better because of what Jesus did to him.

Two Different Reactions

There were two different reactions to these set of facts.  You can agree on the FACTS and disagree on the CONCLUSIONS.  Just ask Republicans and Democrats today.

A mass shooting takes place and people die.  Everyone agrees on the facts.  One side says that we have a crime problem.  The other side says it is not a crime problem.  It is a gun problem. We need to get rid of these evil guns.

Abortion is a real issue in America.  We can agree on the facts.  One side says the issue is the taking of human life, innocent human life.  The other side says the issue is the right of women to control their own bodies.  Same facts, different conclusions.  What were the two reactions?

The people on the street had one reaction saw this incredible miracle and were amazed.  It is one thing to heal a man who was blind.  That would be incredible enough, but Jesus healed a man who couldn’t see, couldn’t talk and was demon-possessed.

First, they said that they had not seen anything like this (Matthew 9:33).  It happened again and they said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23).  Could this be the Messiah? The Jews believed that there were certain miracles that only the Messiah would be able to do. This must be one of them.  That was one reaction.

The Pharisees had a different reaction.  They said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons” (Matthew 12:24 NIV).  This was not said by just anybody.  They had the same facts, but a different reaction.  Why?

It was not because of a lack of evidence.  The evidence was powerful.  It was undeniable. The Pharisees witnessed Jesus heal a man with multiple disabilities.  They just witnessed an exorcism.   It happened right before their eyes.  They were completely unmoved.

It was not because they were just ignorant and did not know any better. The ones who said this were the religious experts.  They were the scholars of the day.  They knew the Bible.  God has mercy on people who say things out of ignorance.

Paul said, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” (I Timothy 1:13 NIV)

They had a revelation about Jesus being the Messiah.  They understood it.  They saw the miracles with their own eyes.  The evidence was overwhelming.  They could not deny the evidence, so they tried to discredit it.

They said that this was not messianic.  It was demonic.  Jesus did these thing by the power of Beelzebub.  He did it, not just any demon, but by the top demon, the head demon, Satan himself.

They did not just reject Jesus as the Messiah, like many do today.  They said that He was actually demon-possessed and performed His miracles by the power of Satan.

Jesus did answer them with a Bible verse but with logic. He said, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” (Mark 3:23).  “If I am working for Satan, then Satan would be fighting Satan.”  In essence he says, ‘Satan may be evil, but he’s not stupid!’”  It is in this context, that Jesus gives us the warning about the unpardonable sin.

Today, we want to look at ten things from Scripture that you need to know about the unpardonable sin.

Ten Truths about the Unpardonable Sin

1) There is such a thing as an unforgivable sin

Jesus said so.  We think today that there no such a thing as an unforgivable sin.  All sins are forgivable.  That is what most preachers will tell you.  Jesus said emphatically, “every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, BUT blasphemy against the Spirit will NOT be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31 NIV).

Now this is strange.  You hear all of the time in church that God is a forgiving God.  What you hear is absolutely true.  God is a forgiving God.

He casts all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19 NIV).

He has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:1 NIV).

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Hebrews 8:12 NIV)

God is forgiving.  He does not just forgive our sins; He forgets them.  He is merciful.  He is full of compassion.  He gives people second chances, but with this sin, there is NO second chance.  There is NO forgiveness.  There is NO hope, not in this life and not in the next life.  This will be with you forever.  It is an ETERNAL SIN (Mark 3:29 NIV, ESV)

2) The worst moral sins imaginable can be forgiven

We tend to think that if there is an unforgivable sin, it must be really bad.  It must be some monstrous crime.  What is strange is that the worst sins that you can possibly think of in your mind can all be forgiven.

The worst sexual sins and perversions CAN be forgiven. Adultery can be forgiven (John 8).  Homosexuality (I Corinthians 6:9-11) can be forgiven.  Rape, incest and child abuse can all be forgiven.

Murder can be forgiven. David committed murder and he was forgiven (Psalm 32:1-2). Murder is not the unpardonable sin, contrary to what the Mormon Church teaches.[1]

Murder is not the unpardonable sin.  Not even suicide is the unpardonable sin.  Abortion is not the unpardonable sin.  Abortion can be forgiven.  King Manasseh committed child sacrifice in the OT, and he was forgiven.

Even mass murder is not the unpardonable sin. Serial killers can get saved.  In fact, some have, such as the Son of Sam (David Berkowitz).

Not only can murder be forgiven; the worst murder ever committed on the planet can be forgiven.  Nailing Jesus to the cross could be forgiven.

The Apostle Peter preached to some people who were responsible for the death of their Messiah and he did not say that they could not be forgiven.  Peter did not say that they had committed the unpardonable sin.

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge and YOU, with the help of wicked men, PUT HIM TO DEATH by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:23 NIV)

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 NIV)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NIV)

Even blasphemy is not the unpardonable sin.  You can blaspheme God and still get saved.  The Apostle Paul said that he used to be a blasphemer (I Timothy 1:13).  He persecuted the church and he was forgiven.  Only a certain kind of blasphemy cannot be forgiven.

3) The unforgivable sin is more than just verbal

Blasphemy is a verbal sin, but this is no ordinary verbal sin.  This was not an accidental failing.  It was not misguided moment of irreverence.  It was not just a slip of the tongue. Jesus said in this very chapter, “Out of abundance of the HEART the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 KJV).

This sin is not just saying some bad words about the Holy Spirit.  If that was the case, then every preacher who read Matthew 12 as the Scripture reading would be guilty of the same sin.

“Speaking against the Spirit was not merely a sin of the tongue.  The Pharisees not only sinned with their words.  It was a sin of the heart, expressed in words.”[2] What the Pharisees said in their heart on the inside came out in words on the outside.

An accidental slip of the tongue does not come out of the heart.  When you say something accidentally or misspeak, it is unintentional.  It is saying something that you do not mean to say.  This was a heart issue.  This was an intentional, deliberate and willful sin.

4) You can still commit this sin today

Some teach that the sin cannot be committed today. The argument is that since Christ is not on the earth, casting out demons, people cannot commit this sin today.

It is a very popular view in some circles to say that Jesus has to be on earth to commit this sin. This was the view of Charles Ryrie (1925-2016), the author of the Ryrie Study Bible.

“To commit this particular sin required the personal and visible presence of Christ on earth; to commit it today, therefore, would be impossible.”[3]

“The special circumstances involved in this blasphemy cannot be duplicated today; therefore this sin cannot now be committed.”[4]

I have great respect for Charles Ryrie.  He is great writer and theologian.  I have a signed book from him, but there are many flaws with this view. Jesus did NOT call this a DISPENSATIONAL sin.  He called it an ETERNAL sin (Mark 3:29).

Jesus NEVER said, “If you commit this sin before 70 A.D., you won’t be forgiven.”  He said, “If you commit this sin at all, you will not be forgiven.” Jesus does not give a time limit or expiration date for this sin.

You will not be forgiven if you commit this sin in the first century.  You will not be forgiven if you commit this sin in the twentieth century.  You will not be forgiven in this life or the next life.  He says it in the strongest possible language.

Furthermore, this is NOT a sin against Jesus.  This is a sin against the Holy Spirit, so does NOT require the physical presence of Jesus on the earth.  In fact, when Jesus left the earth, He said that the Holy Spirit would come to replace Him.

People can still blaspheme the Spirit today.  The Holy Spirit is still at work in the world today.  He is the active force of God in the world today.  His person and His work can still be blasphemed. Hebrews 10:29 says that people can still insult the Spirit of Grace.

However, only unbelievers can commit this sin.  This is something everyone agrees on.  Even John Calvin said that no Christian could commit this sin.[5]  He is absolutely correct.

Christians can sin.  They can sin against the Holy Spirit.  The Bible mentions three sins they can commit against the Holy Spirit.

  • Christians can GRIEVE the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).
  • Christians can QUENCH the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19).
  • Christians can LIE to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).

Christians CANNOT blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  There is no example of any Christian blaspheming the Holy Spirit in the NT. There is only one example in the Bible of people committing this sin and they were not believers.  They were not any of His followers.

They were the Scribes and Pharisees who hated Jesus. The enemies of Jesus were the ones accused of this sin.  Jesus said to them, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?” (Matthew 12:34 NIV).

He did not call them SHEEP.  He called them SNAKES (Matthew 23:33). He did not call them children of God.  He called them children of the devil.  He said that Satan was their father (John 8:44).  He called them “children of hell” (Matthew 23:15).

5) You can be moral and commit this sin

We tend to think that if that the only ones who could commit this sin must be really bad people.  The shocking truth is that those accused of this this sin in the Bible were outwardly moral people.

The Pharisees were not known as notorious sinners.  They did not have a criminal record.  They were not ax-murderers.  They were not drunkards or crack heads.

The Pharisees were outwardly moral.  Outwardly, they looked great.  They were upstanding individuals.  They had a good reputation in the community. They were well-respected.  They lived exemplary lives.

6) You can be religious and commit this sin

This sin was not committed by skeptics and atheists.  It was committed by religious people.  The Pharisees were religious.  They were extremely religious.  They went to church, which they called synagogue.

They studied the Bible.  They studied the Bible for hours each day. They were scrupulous about keeping religious rules.  The people who should be more concerned about committing this sin are religious people.

7) You can be a leader and commit this sin

Religious leaders are the only ones said to commit this sin in Scripture.  The Pharisees and scribes were not just religious.  They were religious leaders.

They were distinguished rabbis.  The Scribes were the professional Bible scholars of the day.  They were the experts on the Bible.  They were the ones who knew the prophecies of the OT about the Messiah.  They were highly educated.

This sin was not committed by the ordinary church members.  It was committed by the pastoral staff.  It was committed by the senior pastor.

As one NT scholar put it, “Those who should most particularly heed the warning of this verse today are the theological teachers and official leaders of the churches.”[6]

8) If you are worried about committing it, you haven’t committed it

There are many people worried about committing this sin.  As D.L. Moody once said, “Those who think they have committed the unpardonable sin seldom worry themselves about other sins.”[7]

On the other hand, if you are worried about committing this sin in the past and feel guilty and think there is no hope for you, there is good news.  If you are humble, broken, and repentant, you have not committed this sin.  Everyone agrees on this point.  That is important to know practically.  It is important to know pastorally. How do we know this is true?

9) The unpardonable sin makes repentance impossible

All sins are forgivable.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us from ALL sin.  The only sin God will not forgive is the sin we will not confess but the person who commits this sin is incapable of confessing it.

This sin can never be forgiven, because in order to commit it, the heart has to be beyond repentance, as A.W. Tozer says.[8]  This sin makes one incapable of asking for a pardon.   F. F. Bruce says, “The nature of this sin is such that one does not repent of it.”[9]

John Walvoord put it, the thought is not “that one seeking pardon will not find it, but rather that one who rejects the Holy Spirit will not seek pardon.  It is the ultimate in unbelief.”[10]

Charles Ryrie agrees.  He says that this sin “can never be forgiven, not because God withdraws His grace but because people withdraw themselves from all contact with God.”[11]

It is scary to think that you can actually get to a point where your heart is so hard that you are unable to even ask for a pardon.  No matter how much evidence you place before some people, they will never believe.

We like to tell people that they always have hope as long as they are alive.  The Bible teaches that some do NOT have hope.  The Bible teaches something different.

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”39 For this reason they COULD NOT BELIEVE, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” (John 12:37-40 NIV).

For it is IMPOSSIBLE TO RESTORE AGAIN TO REPENTANCE those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 RSV)

The Bible teaches that you can get to a point where repentance and faith is literally impossible. You can get to a point where you CANNOT believe and to a point where you CANNOT repent.

The Pharisees did not just REJECT Jesus.  They did not just DISCREDIT Jesus and say that His miracles came from Satan.  They wanted to SILENCE Jesus.  They wanted to KILL him.

They had a meeting on how they could kill Jesus.  In the same chapter, we see the words, “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:9 NIV).  They were at a point of no return.  The same thing can happen to people today

10) Deliberately speaking evil of the clear and undisputed work of the Holy Spirit is very dangerous.

It is extremely dangerous to do this.  It was dangerous two thousand years ago and it is dangerous today.  Why?

As Grant Osborn puts it, The Holy Spirit is “the divine tool of salvation.”[12]  Holy Spirit is the one who makes faith and repentance possible. The Holy Spirit’s job is to bring people to Christ.

It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict the world “of sin, of righteous and of judgment” (John 16:8 KJV).  The Spirit is the one who bears witness to Christ (John 15:26).  You cannot even say that Jesus is Lord apart from the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:3)

A person who blasphemes the Spirit is slandering and rejecting the only one who can lead them to a place of saving faith.

[1] Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, said, “The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, which is shedding innocent blood after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant.” (Doctrines and Covenants 132:26–27).

[2] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Moody Press, 1981), 352.

[3] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Moody Press, 1981), 352.

[4] Charles Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible Expanded Edition (Moody Press, 1995 update) on Matthew 12:31, p. 1534

[5] Calvin wrote, “As we maintain, that he who has been truly regenerated by the Spirit cannot possibly fall into so horrid a crime” (Commentary on Matthew 12:31 in https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/matthew-12.html)

[6] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Gospel According to St. Mark, The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 143.

[7] D. L. Moody, Notes from my Bible: from Genesis to Revelation (Kindle Locations 1670-1671). Sequor Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[8] A. W. Tozer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9AwHUwulqE).

[9] F. F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of Jesus, The Jesus Library (InterVarsity Press, 1983), 90.

[10] The quote comes from Walvoord’s book Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come Moody Press, 1974) accessed online at https://bible.org/seriespage/chapter-12-jesus-rejected-pharisees.

[11] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Miracles of our Lord (Thomas Nelson, 1984), 69.

[12] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series (Zondervan, 2010), p. 680.

The Great Commission

We are often interested in a person’s last words.  A person’s last words are important. A man’s dying words often tell a lot about him.  What will your last words be?  What were Jesus’ last words?

Luke tells us what His last words on the cross were.  His very last words before He died was a prayer.  Jesus called out with a loud voice,“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46 NIV)

Those were not His last words.  After Jesus died, He rose from the dead and appeared to people on earth for forty days.  What were the last words before He ascended into heaven?  The last thing Jesus said in Matthew, Mark and Luke before He ascended was the Great Commission.

Last time, we looked at the resurrection of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus rose from the dead and then He appeared to people.  Matthew actually mentions two appearances of Jesus in two different places.

He appeared to a group of women and He appeared to a group of men.  He appeared to the women after they left the tomb.  Later in the same chapter, He appeared to a group of eleven men, not in Judea but in Galilee, and gave them the Great Commission.  These were the final words of Jesus to the church before He ascended into heaven.

What did Jesus talk about in His final words?  His final words were not teaching on some topic. They were not words of comfort or words of instruction.  They are words of exhortation.  They are commands.  He tells us to DO some things. [1]

The Great Commission is something that we are to do.  Jesus tells us what He wants His church to do until He returns.  Jesus was sent on a mission and He sends us on a mission.  He said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21 NIV)

We are sent on a mission.  It is a mission for the whole church.  This mission is NOT just for the apostles.  It is NOT just for missionaries.  It is NOT just for church leaders.  It is for EVERY believer.  It is a mission for everyone in the church.  Everyone has a special assignment from Jesus.

This mission is not optional.  These are commands.  It is called “The Great Commission,” not “The Great Suggestion” or “The Great Recommendation.”  These are not just good ideas.  They are commands.

Jesus has the right to tell us what to do.  He has more authority than anyone in the universe.  He said, “ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:17 NIV), not “some authority” or “most authority.”  Jesus has ALL authority in heaven and on earth.

The Main Business of the Church

In the Great Commission, Jesus tells us what the main business of the church today should be.  Many churches are involved in other things than what Jesus said, like helping the poor and feeding the hungry.  Those things are not wrong, but they should not be the primary focus of the church.

Many black churches focus on politics and improving life on earth, fighting for social justice.  That is also not wrong.  We need to be salt and light in the world.  It is not wrong for Christians to serve in public office.  It is not wrong for Christians to serve in government.

We should stand up for truth.  We need to take a stand against sin and injustice is sin, but the church is not to just be some political institution. That is not the mandate of the church.  What should the main business of the church be?  We will find out in the Great Commission.

Three Problems Today

When He appeared to the men, He gave them the Great Commission.  Today, we have three basic problems when it comes to the Great Commission.

Some Christians are IGNORANT of the Great Commission.  Some Christians MISUNDERSTAND the Great Commission.  Most of us DISOBEY the Great Commission.  Which of the three describe you?

1) Ignorance of the Great Commission

The first problem is that many Christians have never even heard of the Great Commission.  Many churches do not teach the Bible.  Some can go to church for twenty years and never learn the Bible.

Barna did a poll of Christians and asked them if they had heard of the Great Commission.  Fifty-one percent said that they had never heard of it.  It is a recent poll.  It did not come out seventy-five years ago.  It came out three years ago.  It came out in 2018.  Even some professing Christians and many in the church seem to have never heard of the Great Commission.

2) Misunderstanding of the Great Commission

The second problem is that many have heard of the Great Commission but do not really understand it.  There is a lot of misunderstanding about what the Great Commission is all about.  There are a lot of myths about the Great Commission that Christians have.

The biggest myth about the Great Commission is that it is just about evangelism.  It is about getting as many people as possible to pray the sinner’s prayer.  The most common view of the Great Commission in the church today is that it is all about soul winning.

Soul Winning is part of the Great Commission.  It is an important part of it but that is not all of it.  The truth is that even if you evangelized every single person on the planet in every country on the globe, and got them saved, you have NOT fulfilled the Great Commission.

Why?  The Great Commission has three parts, not one.  Most people think it has only one part, including some pastors.  It actually has three parts.  What are the three parts?

Part One – Evangelism

Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  What does that mean?  Christian reconstructionists teach that the way to disciple the nations is to get into government, impose biblical law on society and try to reform all areas of culture and society in order to bring them into submission to God’s will.

That is not what Jesus is talking about.  Making disciples in the Great Commission does not come through legislation.  It does not come through politics.  It comes through EVANGELISM.  It comes through regeneration. How do we know?  There are two reasons.

1) The CONTEXT of the Great Commission

Note the parallel passages.  He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15 NIV).  

Preaching the gospel to all creation is parallel to making disciples of all nations.  We see this in another parallel passage in Luke’s Gospel.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:45-47 NIV)

2) The ORDER of the Great Commission

The three parts of the Great Commission are chronological.   Notice the order of the verbs.  Going and making disciples is mentioned FIRST.  Making disciples (evangelism) comes BEFORE baptism.

You don’t baptize people and then start preaching to them, unless you are Presbyterians and do infant baptism.  You baptize people who have already responded in faith to the gospel.

Today, we make a distinction between evangelism and discipleship.  When we talk about discipleship, we talk about something we do AFTER we are saved.  We talk about making disciples, not just converts.

It is true that we need to make MORE than just converts but the word for “making disciples” is used in a lot of different ways.  Here, it is used for making converts.  It is used for evangelism.

Part Two – Baptism

Baptizing is part of the Great Commission.  If your church does not practice, it is not fulfilling the Great Commission.  The man who led me to the Lord was the pastor of a church that did not practice water baptism.  It is an extreme position.

For the most part, the church has done a pretty good job of following this command.  Most churches baptize new converts. Jesus said that this baptism is to be done in the name of the Trinity, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19 NIV).

There is one church that believes that baptism should be done only in Jesus name.  They are the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).  They are called Oneness Pentecostals.  They don’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.

The problem is that this is what Jesus said for us to do.  He said we are to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It is a command.  It is a clear command.  It is a command of Jesus.  Some churches may not like it, but we can’t change what Jesus said and rewrite the Bible.

Part Three – Teaching

Now we come to the most neglected part of the Great Commission.  We are not only to evangelize and baptize people.  Jesus said that we are to teach them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:20).

Saved people need to be taught some things.  Our churches are full of people who have not been taught the Word.  They don’t know what Jesus commanded.  Many in churches today are ignorant of some of the most basic doctrines of the Bible.

In some churches, teaching has fallen into disrepute.  Some preachers mock the Bible.  Many churches have gotten rid of Sunday School classes for adults.  Many churches that have small groups no longer have Sunday School classes.  That is considered old and outdated.  The new model is small groups.

When I was a young believer, I went to a Baptist church where the pastor preached the same sermon every week.  He preached the salvation message every week with a different text.  There is nothing wrong with preaching the gospel.  We should preach the gospel.

The problem is that we are to preach the whole counsel of God, not just the four spiritual laws.  There are many other churches just like that one.  They preach part of what is in the Bible but not everything.

Jesus wants us to teach EVERYTHING He commanded.  This teaching is not just informational.  Jesus does not say “Teach them to KNOW all things I commanded.”  He did not just say, “Teach them to know all of the doctrines of the Bible or all of the books of the Bible,” as important as that is.

He said, “Teach them to DO all things I commanded.” “Teach them to OBEY all things I commanded” (Matthew 28:20). Learning alone is not enough.  The goal is not just head knowledge, but practical obedience to the commands of Christ, so what are they?

The Commands of Jesus

What are some of the things Jesus commanded?  Do you even know some of the things Jesus commanded?  Could you list ten things He commanded off the top of your head?  Let me list just thirty of the commands of Jesus.

Jesus commands us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moths destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

He commands us to give to the poor.

He commands us to beware of covetousness.

He commands us not to fear what man can do to us.

He commands us to seek God first and His righteousness.

He commands us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

He commands us to go two miles when we are compelled to go one.

He commands us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

He commands us to take communion (“This do in remembrance of Me).

He commands us to let out light shine before men.

He commands us to settle things quickly with our adversaries.

He commands us not to do our righteousness before men to be seen by them.

He told us if our right hand offends us to cut it off.  He said if our eye offends us to pluck it out.

He commands us to feed His sheep.  In fact, He gave that command three times.

He commands us to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.

He commands us to rejoice when people revile us and say all kinds of false things because of Him, not just to patiently endure but to actually rejoice.

He commands us to turn the other cheek to those who insult and slap us.

He commands us to love one another as He has loved us.  He called that one “a new command.”

He commands us to love different races, like Samaritans (“Do and do likewise”).

He commands us to love our enemies (people we do not even like).

He commands us to forgive those who sin against us.

He commands us to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us, praying for those who abuse us and hurt us.

He commands us to bless those who curse us.  Wish them well.  Say good things to them.

He commands us not to fear.  He says, “Don’t fear what men can do to you.”

He commands us not to judge others, lest we be judged ourselves.

He commands us not to worry about tomorrow or about anything.

He commands us to let our communication be yes or no.

He commands us to close the door when we pray and to pray in secret to the Father.

He commands us to pray persistently, to keep asking, to keep seeking and to keep knocking.

How are we doing with these commands?  These are not even all of the commands of Jesus.  Which ones do we need to obey this week?

Two Types of Churches Today

There are two types of churches today.  Some churches do ALL evangelism and NO teaching.  Others do ALL teaching and NO evangelism.  The passion of some churches is evangelism.  They have a heart for reaching the lost.  They want to get the gospel out to everyone in their neighborhood. That is good.  They want people to get saved.

The passion of other churches is in-depth Bible teaching.  They do verse-by-verse expository preaching.  That is also good.  They want people to know the Word.  The Great Commission is NOT just evangelism.  It is NOT just teaching.  It is evangelism. It is baptism and it is teaching EVERYTHING Jesus commanded.

3) Disobedience to the Great Commission

The third problem that Christians have today is that many of us know what it says.  We understand it but just don’t do it.

How are we doing in the area of the Great Commission?  We are to evangelize everyone.  Are we obeying it?  We don’t all have to go to quit our jobs, get on a plane and become missionaries on the other side of the planet. but have we shared our faith with anyone?

Do we have a passion for lost people?  Have we shared our personal testimony with anyone as to how we came to faith?  Are we silent believers?  Do people around us even know that we are Christians?

Have we led any believer into a deeper knowledge of their faith?  Have we discipled anyone?  Have we ever made disciples of anyone?  Have we ever taught another believer anything from Scripture?

These are questions worth thinking about.  None of us are perfect.  We all fail but we need to be conscious every day that we wake up that Jesus sent us on a mission for Him.  We have a job to do.

Encouraging Words

Some of us feel uncomfortable with sharing our faith.  If that describes you, there are two things that should encourage us.

First, Jesus is with us.  The Great Commission ends with the words, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).  Jesus does not send us on a mission and leave us alone.  He says He will be with us always.  We have Jesus.  We also have the Holy Spirit.

Second, we have the Holy Spirit.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV). With the Holy Spirit comes POWER.  The Holy Spirit brings supernatural power, power to witness.

[1] https://jamesmacdonaldministries.org/?s=Matthew+28

The First Easter

April 5, 33 AD is the most important date in history and yet it is a date that is not in any of the history books.  The most important event in history was not World War I.  It was not World War II.  It was not the Reformation or the American Revolution.  The most important event of all time is the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

All of Christianity is based on the resurrection.  Jesus is not different from any other dead religious leader.  Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.   As Paul said, “If Jesus did not rise from the dead, our faith is vain.”  If the resurrection happened, then Christianity is true, the Bible is true, Jesus is the Messiah.  In fact, Jesus is God.

Today, we are going to read the resurrection story from Matthew.  To understand the Easter story, you have to read all four Gospels.  Every account is true.  Each is inspired but no one account gives you the full picture.  That is why we need all four to get all of the details. We think we know the Easter story pretty well.  We hear about it every year, but how well do we really know it?

The Easter story begins with the women.  We want to spend some time looking at these women.  Who were they?  The Gospels mention four names. Matthew mentions two.  Mark mentions one more and Luke mentions the fourth woman.  Who were these women?  Two were wealthy.  Two were mothers of apostles.

The Four Women of Easter

1) Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1)

She is mentioned in all four Gospels. There are all kinds of novels about her.  There are a lot of myths about her.  Much of what you have heard about her is not true.  The Bible does not say that she was an immoral woman.  It does not say that she was a former prostitute.  It does not say that she was the wife of Jesus, as you see in the Da Vinci Code. 

What do we know about her from Scripture? Jesus freed Mary Magdalene from seven demons, not just one or two but seven.   That is mentioned twice in the Gospels (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9).  She was wealthy and supported Jesus financially (Luke 8:2-3).  She had FINANCIAL connections.

Jesus appeared to her first.  When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared FIRST to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. (Mark 16:9).  Some say that she is the most important woman in the NT.  She is mentioned fourteen times.

You would think that the first one Jesus would appear His mother first but He didn’t.  He appeared to Mary Magdalene first (maybe because she was the only one who went to the tomb twice that morning).

2) The Other Mary (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10)

This woman had RELIGIOUS connections.  She is mentioned in three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke.  There were three Marys at the cross and two at the tomb. Mary was a common name. Two went to the tomb. We know Mary Magdalene.  Who is the other mysterious Mary?

The other Mary was a mother of one of the Apostles, James (Matthew 28:2; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10).  She was the mother of James, the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15) as opposed to James, the son of Zebedee.  She was at the cross, where she is called by Mark “James the less” (KJV) or “James the younger” (NIV).  This James was not as prominent as the other one.

3) Salome (Mark 16:1)

This is another woman that has RELIGIOUS connections.  She was the mother of two apostles (John and James).  She was the wife of Zebedee.  We know that by comparing Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40.

4) Joanna (Luke 24:10)

This woman had POLITICAL connections.  Her husband was a government official.  He worked for Herod Antipas.  He was part of the Court of Herod (Luke 8:3).   Herod was the one who chopped off the head of John the Baptist.  She also was wealthy (Luke 8:3).

What is surprising is that Jesus’ mother is not mentioned as one of the ones coming but Luke says that these were not the only women who went to the tomb.  Others came with them.

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, AND THE OTHERS WITH THEM who told this to the apostles. (Luke 24:10 NIV)

More than four women went to the tomb.  Others went with them.  How many others went with them?  Were there two others or ten others?  We don’t know but it is in the plural, so there were at least two more, making a total of at least six women.  Jesus’ mother could have been in that group, which would make three Marys there.

An Act of Love

What brought these women to the tomb?  These women demonstrated extreme love.  They demonstrated extravagant love. Mary Magdalene was became His most loyal follower.  How would you respond if you were freed from seven demons.

All of these women loved Jesus.  They loved Him more than the men.  They were devoted to Jesus.  They were more devoted to Jesus than we are.  They were with Him at His death, when most of the men ran away.  They were with Him. They were there to support Him. The Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17 NIV)

They also cared for Him even after he died.  They were wealthy and spent some money on Jesus.  Mark tells us that they went out and bought some spices for Jesus.  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome BOUGHT SPICES so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1 NIV).

They got up very early Sunday morning, while the men were still sleeping.  VERY EARLY on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb (Mark 16:2 NIV).  Mary Magdalene left before Sunrise.  She left while it was still dark (John 20:1).  These women went in groups but they all left early Sunday morning.

Matthew says that they just went to look at the tomb (Matthew 28:1) but we know from Mark and Luke that they did not just go to visit the tomb and pay their respect.  They went to perform an act of love.  They went to put spices on the dead body of Jesus.   They could NOT do this job on Saturday, because it was the Sabbath.  They had to wait for Sunday.

Why would they do something as crazy as that? It seems strange to us today.  Why put spices on someone who had been dead for two days, especially in the hot climate of the Middle East? They wanted to make the body of Jesus smell better.  Why would you want to make a dead body smell good?

We would not go near a dead, stinking, decomposing body, even of a loved one, and try to make it smell better but, they did.  It was an act of love.  It was an act of extreme love.  It was an act of devotion.  Love is extravagant.  Love is so extravagant that sometimes it is irrational.

It makes you do some crazy things.  These women bought spices, got up early and headed to a tomb to anoint a dead body that they knew they could not access.  There was a big heavy stone in front of the tomb, and it was guarded by Roman soldiers.  The women knew about the stone.  We know that from Mark. Mark tells us what they talked about on the way to the tomb.

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:2-3 NIV)

It did not even make sense for them to go there in the first place.  That did not stop them.  They went anyway and they went early.  God rewarded their act of love.   He rewarded them in a way that He did not reward the Apostles.  God never forgets what we do for Him.

The first to find that the tomb was empty was not the men.  The first to find it empty was the women.

The first to see an angel that morning was not the men.  The first to see an angel that morning was the women.

The first to actually see Jesus alive was not the men.  The first to see the Risen Jesus was the women.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10 NIV)

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42 NIV)

That is interesting.  We may be upset that we have not done something great for God.  None of us are Billy Graham.  Even all of the little things we do for Him He remembers and rewards. God rewarded these women, even though they weren’t perfect. Some of these women had a past.  Mary Magdalene was demon-possessed.  She was ruled by seven demons.  She was tormented.  Jesus did not hold that against her.

He rewarded these women, even though they weren’t perfect and even though their theology wasn’t perfect. When they made their way to a tomb, they were not looking for the living and risen Christ.  They were looking for a lifeless corpse. They came to anoint a dead body.  Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener (Jesus the Gardener) but God still rewarded her, even though she was confused and mistaken.

An Easter Surprise

When the women got to the tomb that morning, they all received a surprise.  Try to picture what was going on that morning.  They witnessed a horrific scene on Friday.  They were traumatized by the brutality of the execution.

They are heading out to the tomb with their perfumes and spices early in the morning.  They are all depressed.  The one they loved was tortured and killed. Their eyes were red.  They had been crying.  They were grieving.  They were mourning.  They were sad.  They were broken-hearted.

When they got to the tomb, they went from sadness to shock.  Everyone got an Easter surprise.  When they got to the tomb, they could not believe that the stone was rolled away (Matthew 28:1-4; Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:1-2; John 20:1).  The first thing they did was to go inside and there they found that the body was gone, according to Mark and Luke (Mark 16:4-5; Luke 24:2-3).

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:2-3 NIV)

Now, they were puzzled.  They brought all of these spices to anoint the body and there is no body to anoint. Where’s the body?  The body is not there. The body was nowhere to be found.  This was huge.  Mary Magdalene immediately left.  This was too important not to tell anyone.  The Apostles needed to know.

Mary’s problem was that she jumped to conclusions.  She saw that the stone was moved.  She saw the body of Jesus missing and a bunch of dead Romans lying around.  She went back and told the Apostles that someone stole the body of Jesus, while the rest of the women stayed there.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (John 20:1-2 NIV)

The Appearance of Angels

Mary Magdalene leaves.  The rest of the women stay but they are confused. What happened?  Where is the body?  Who could possibly have taken it?  Where did they move it to?  As they were trying to figure it out, they faced an even greater problem.  An angel showed up suddenly out of nowhere.  That does not sound like a problem to us.

We have no idea what it is like to see a real angel.   Most of us have never seen a real angel in person.   Our ideas about angels come from Hollywood (Touched by Angel).  Those are fake angels.  The angels these women saw were supernatural beings.  They shined like lightning and there was not just one of them; there were two of them.  Luke mentions two angels (Luke 24:4).  Two angels later appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-12).

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. (Luke 24:4 NIV)

His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. (Matthew 28:3 NIV)

These angels were terrifying.  The women fell to the ground.  Their faces were in the dirt. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground (Luke 24:5 NIV)

They came to the tomb SAD.  At the tomb, they experienced SHOCK.  When the angels showed up, they experienced FEAR.  They were terrified.  These supernatural beings showed up, wearing blinding white clothes, and shining like the Sun.  Their face shined brightly.  Their clothes shined brightly.

All of the Roman soldier’s passed out.  These were seasoned soldiers.  They were not afraid of anything.  They were armed.  They had faced war.  They fought battles but when they come face-to-face with an angel, these big strong men fainted.

Bad angels (demons) are terrifying but, apparently, good angels are also scary.  They are heavenly beings.  The first thing the angels said to the women is “Do NOT be afraid” (Matthew 28:5; Mark 16:6).  Mark adds one more detail.  When they left and headed back, they were still afraid.  They were shaking.  They were trembling (Mark 16:8).

The Nature of Angels

Angels are interesting creatures.  They are greater beings than we are.  One preacher them “biblical extra-terrestrials.”  They are supernatural beings.  They have superhuman strength.  They have incredible strength.  They are spirit beings.  They are spirits.  Hebrews calls them “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14).

We have a spirit, but we are not spirit beings.  A spirit does not have a body.  Jesus said, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39 ESV)

Angels are spirits.  They don’t have a physical body.  They are immaterial.  They are not male or female, but they can take on a human body.  They can take on human form.  Here they appeared as young men.

In Mark, they see one young man (Mark 16:5).   In Luke, they see two young men (Luke 24:4).  Is this a contradiction?  One Gospel says they saw one angel, and another says they saw two angels.  No, it is not a contradiction.  It would only be a contradiction if Mark said that they saw “one and only one angel.”

They are His servants (Psalm 103:20-21). They do whatever God tells them to do.  God sent these angels on a mission.  God told them to do two things.

First, He told them to move a big heavy rock.  All it took was one angel to move it.  Matthew’s Gospel records that event.  He moved a two-ton rock with one finger effortlessly.

If we had to do a dangerous covert operation with armed guards around, we would try to do it as quickly as possible and get out of there.  This angel moved the stone right in front of armed Roman guards and then sat on top of it without any fear.

He used the big stone as a chair.  The angel did not move the stone to let Jesus out but to let the women in.  Jesus had already risen from the dead before the stone was rolled away

Second, He told them to deliver a message. What was the message?  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. (Matthew 28:6 NIV).  They got to deliver the greatest message in the history of the world.   Jesus is not dead; He is alive.

They also gave the women some small rebukes. They said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5 NIV).  He said, “If you are looking for Jesus, what are you doing here?  You are looking in the wrong place.”  Their love was extravagant.  It was irrational at times.  It was also misguided.  Love can be misguided.

Many religions see salvation among the dead.  All of their founders are dead (Buddha, Muhammad).  They worship a dead god.  Some people are more devoted to a dead god than to the living God.  A. B. Simpson said, “To many a Christian, Jesus is still but a dead Christ or at least an historic Christ, but not a living and present reality.”

The angels also said, “He is not here; he has risen, JUST AS HE SAID” (Matthew 28:6).  It is almost as if they said, “Didn’t you listen to Him?  If you would have listened to him, you would have known this would have taken place.  You would have expected it.”

The irony is that the enemies of Christ knew what He said better than His own followers.  They knew that He predicted that He would rise from the dead and tried to stop it.  That would be like unbelievers today knowing what is in the Bible better than some Christians do.  Jesus made an amazing statement in Luke 24.

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

Jesus said that if you do not believe everything the Bible says, you are a fool and He said that to some of His own followers who believed in Him.  How many Christians only believe part of the Bible.  Parts of it they like but other parts are simply discarded. We need to believe all of the Bible.

The First Easter Sermon

In Matthew 28, we see the first Easter sermon ever given.  It was preached by an angel from heaven.  God usually uses people to preach but sometimes He uses angels to preach. On special occasions, He uses angels to deliver a message to people.  Angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds.

The angels announce the resurrection of Jesus.  They say, “He is risen.”  They say, “Do not be afraid.”  Then they say this: Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples (Matthew 28:6-7 NIV).  Notice the four important words: come, see, go, tell.  These are four words that everyone should follow.

1) Come

The first word is “come.”  It is an invitation.  The Bible has many invitations to people to come.  Jesus says, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away (John 6:37 NIV)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.  (Revelation 22:17 NIV)

2) See

The angel does not just say “come” but “come and see.  Investigate it.  Check it out.  Examine the the evidence for yourself.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Come into the tomb and see.  Look where his body was.”  What the angel said was verifiable.

He didn’t say, “You just have to take it by faith.  Just take my word for it.  I am an angel from heaven.  You can trust me.”  We should encourage people to check out the truths of the Bible and Christianity for themselves.  We see the same thing in John.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see. (John 1:45-46 ESV)

3) Go

“Don’t just linger around and investigate.  Don’t just stick around at the tomb as much as you love Jesus.  Go and go quickly.  You have an important job to do.”  Some don’t go.  Interestingly, as they went, they saw Jesus on the way (Matthew 28:8-10).  God always rewards instant obedience.

4) Tell

“Don’t keep the message to yourself. Tell others about it.  Tell what happened to you this morning.  Tell what you saw at the tomb and what you heard.  Give your personal testimony about Jesus.”  We are given a similar commission.  It is called “The Great Commission.”  Some go and don’t tell.

A funny thing happened when the woman left.  They went to the Apostles.  They went to the leaders.  They went and told the men.  Not only did they reject what they were saying, they laughed at them.  They thought they were crazy.  We are to give the message whether people accept it or reject it.  Eventually, all of the Apostles accepted the message and preached it themselves.

Jesus In Our Place

Last time, we looked at the trial of Jesus.  Today, we will look at Jesus’ death.  It is the most famous death in history.  What is the setting of this event?  The date was April 3, 33 A.D.  The day was a Friday.  The location was Jerusalem.  The time was nine in the morning. The place was a small hill outside the city of Jerusalem called Skull Hill.  All four gospels say that was the place of execution (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17).

Five Miraculous Events

This was no ordinary death.  Supernatural events accompanied this event.  Five miraculous events accompanied the death of Jesus.  Do you know what they were?

First, the Land was Dark.  There was supernatural darkness. Three of the four gospels mention this darkness (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). It was dark during the brightest time of the day and it stayed dark for three hours (12 PM to 3 PM).

If that really happened, you would expect some evidence.  It turns out, we have evidence that this really took place (Thallus, Phlegon, and Africanus).  In the second century, Tertullian says that evidence for this event was still available in the archives of Rome.[1]

Second, the Veil was Torn.  The veil of the Temple was torn.  The veil was several inches thick and it was torn from top to bottom. This is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).

Third, the Earth was Shaken.  There was a huge earthquake that took place.  The earth shook.  This is only mentioned in Matthew (Matthew 27:51).

Fourth, Bodies were Resurrected.  People were resurrected from the dead.  This is also only mentioned in Matthew (Matthew 27:52-53).

Fifth, Lives were Changed.  We see this in Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47).  Do you ever wonder what happened to the soldiers who crucified Jesus?

We know what happened to one of them.  One of them might have come to faith that day.  The one who was in charge of the crucifixion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” The one who said this was not a Jew.  He was not a Christian.  He was a pagan.

He was a rough hardened military man.  He had supervised a lot of crucifixions.  He was not just a soldier.  He was a high-ranking soldier.  He was a centurion.  He could tell there was something different about Jesus.  He could tell this by the way He died.  Most men in Jesus’ position would be curing, angry and begging for mercy.  Jesus prayed for His enemies.  He asked forgiveness for His executioners.

We have four accounts of the crucifixion.  All of them were based on some eye-witness testimony but only one of the four gospel writers was actually there.  John is the only one of the four who was an actual eyewitness to these events.  John says that he was there that Friday.  Jesus asked him to take care of His mother.  He saw what happened.  He wrote it down and what he writes down is true.

The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19:35 NIV)

We are going to take things from all of the gospels but John records one of the most important things Jesus said on the cross. It was the last thing He said on the cross – τετέλεσται.

Apparently, Jesus did not like to start a job and not finish it.  He created the world in six days, finished it and rested on the seventh day.  He finished everything the Father wanted Him to do.  He finished His earthly ministry.  He finished the work of creation and He finished the work of redemption.  He did not leave one sin unpaid for.

Today, we want to look at the two sides of the crucifixion.  We want to look at two different perspectives on the crucifixion.  Both of them are true.

Perspective One – Black Friday

The crucifixion was the worst event in human history.  The murder of Jesus was the worst crime in human history.  It was the greatest crime ever committed on planet earth.

It took place on a Friday. We call it Good Friday.  It should be called Black Friday.   It is one of the darkest days in history. It was so dark that it became physically dark outside.  As the Light of the world was dying.  It became pitch black outside.

This was not just the execution of an innocent man.  This was not the killing of a good man or a great man.  It was not just the killing of a king, as bad as that would be. It was the execution of the Son of God.  It was the murder of the God Man.

Jesus is the incarnate Word.  He is the One who created all things (John 1:3).  Humanity was trying to destroy its Creator. Mankind wants to be autonomous.  We want to be our own god and make our own rules.  We want to put God on a cross.  That is what they did to Jesus.

A Miscarriage of Justice

Jesus’ death was a miscarriage of justice. It was a travesty of justice.  Here, you have the spotless Lamb of God who never did anything wrong and only did good accused of a capital crime and tortured to death, while the guilty Barabbas is completely set free.

Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons.  He spoke like no one else spoke.  He taught like no one else taught.  He taught people to love their neighbor, to love their enemies and to forgive people who wronged them and for that He was rewarded with death.

1) Jesus was falsely accused.

He was accused of a political crime.  It was a capital crime.  It was the crime of treason.  He was accused of being an enemy of the state.  The punishment for this crime was death.  It was a crime He had never committed?  Have you ever been falsely accused of something you did not do?  Have you ever been accused of a crime?  Jesus was.

Jesus was not given a fair trial.  If we are falsely accused of a crime, we just call up a lawyer to defend us.  Jesus was not given a lawyer.  He had no one to defend Him.  In fact, He had no legal rights.  He was not given any prison rights.  He was not given any human rights.  He was not given due process.

2) Jesus was wrongfully convicted.

He was not only wrongfully accused; He was wrongfully convicted.  False evidence was used in his trial (lying witnesses) and his judge was corrupt.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”  (Luke 23:13-16 NIV)

Pilate was corrupt.  He knew Jesus was innocent.  He said he was innocent.  He said it publicly.  He said it three times (John 18:39; 19:4, 6). Pilate says, “He has done nothing worthy of death, THEREFORE I will punish him.”  He should have said, “therefore, I will release him.  Therefore, I will let Him go”

The judge’s verdict was innocent.  The sentence was death.  A completely innocent man was sentenced to death on purpose.  Today, the innocent are put on death row by mistake sometimes, but this was no mistake.  Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent.

Why did he do it?  He was a politician, a corrupt politician, like many are today.  He gave into political pressure.  He gave into social pressure.  Matthew says that he did this to avoid a riot.

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” (Matthew 27:22-24 NIV)

People do the same thing today.  Some who sit on juries make decisions, not just based on the facts (guilt or innocence), but to appease a mob and prevent riot and looting on the street.

3) Jesus was tortured, as well as killed.

Most of us have no idea that it is like to be tortured.  We have not escaped from POW camps.  Many of us have lived lives of comfort.   Jesus was tortured by expert executioners.   He was tortured a number of different ways.

Abuse comes in many different forms (physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse). Many people have suffered abuse and have scars from it.  Jesus knew what it was like to be abused.  He can relate to abuse.  He was tortured before He died and while He was dying in a number of different ways.

Jesus was tortured physically. He was physically abused.  He was scourged.  He was chained to a pillar, stripped of his clothes and beaten with a whip. He was spit on (Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19).

He was blindfolded (Luke 22:64).  That is only mentioned in Luke.  He slapped in the face.  He was slapped in the face twice (John 18:22; 19:3).  That is only mentioned in John.  He was struck on the head with a staff (Mark 15:19).

He was tortured by the way He died.  Jesus was not killed by lethal injection.  He was killed by crucifixion.  Roman crucifixion was dehumanizing.  It was inhumane.  It was barbaric.  It involved torture, nails driven in your hands and feet.  It was reserved for the worst of criminals.   It was so terrible and so horrific that no Roman citizen could ever be crucified.

It was a slow death.  It was a painful death by asphyxiation.  It has to be the worst way to die.  People on the cross did not bleed to death.  They died from lack of oxygen.  They died gasping for breath.  It was a public death.  We have not had a public execution in about a hundred years (1936).

Jesus was forced to carry his own cross.  John is the only one to mention this (John 19:17).  He was like Isaac carrying the wood he would be sacrificed on.  He did not carry the entire cross, just the horizontal crossbeam or crossbar.  This was about seventy-five to a hundred pounds.  He carried it from the Judgment Hall to the place of execution.

The path that He walked is called the Via Dolorosa.  It is about a third of a mile long.  There is an African connection to the cross.  On the way to the cross, a man from Cyrene helps him carry it (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).  Cyrene is in Africa.  It is in modern Libya today.

What do we know about him?  He must have been a STRONG man.  They would have not asked a weakling to help carry a hundred-pound cross.  He was a FOREIGN man.  He was from another country in town for the Passover.  He was a BLACK man.  He was from Africa.  He was a JEWISH man.  He had a Jewish name (Simon).

He did not volunteer to help Jesus.  The text says that he was forced to do this (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21).  He was going the opposite direction.  on his way into the city while Jesus was on his way out of the city.  Luke says that Simon follow behind Jesus (Luke 23:26).

Bearing a cross is essential today. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV) but He does NOT force people to carry one like the Romans did.  He gives people a choice.

Jesus was not just tortured physically.  He was verbally abused.  He was mocked BEFORE He was crucified.  He was mocked by Herod’s soldiers (Luke 23:11).  He was mocked by Pilate’s soldiers (Luke 23:36).  They put a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe on Him.  They fell down on their knees pretending to pay homemade to Him (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:19).

He was mocked WHILE He was crucified.   The soldiers gambled for His clothes as he lay dying, right in front of His mother.  He was mocked by people at the very moment that He was in excruciating pain.  Some people passing by insulted Him.

29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”  (Mark 15:31 NIV; cf. Matthew 27:39).  He was mocked by many of the esteemed religious leaders of the day.

31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  (Mark 15:31-32 NIV; cf. Luke 23:35ff.)

He was also mocked by one of the thieves who was dying right next to Him.  That is mentioned in three of the Gospels (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:39).  Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him (Mark 15:29-32 NIV)

Jesus was mocked by Herod’s soldiers.  He was mocked by Pilate’s soldiers.  He was mocked by people in the street.  He was mocked by the religious leaders and Bible scholars of the day.  They mocked a dying man.  He was mocked by other people being executed with Him.  People in the world still mock Jesus today.

Perspective Two – Good Friday

The crucifixion was the WORST event in history, but it was also the GREATEST event in human history. That is why we call it Good Friday.  God brought the greatest good out of the greatest evil.  He brought incredible good out of the worst crime ever committed on planet earth.

What would have happened if Jesus never went to the cross? In him we have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7 NIV).  If Jesus never went to the cross, there would be no forgiveness. There would be no redemption.  There would be no salvation.

The crucifixion was an act of great INJUSTICE.  It was also an act of great LOVE.  

But God shows his LOVE for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who LOVED me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

And walk in love, as Christ LOVED us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2 ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ LOVED the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

Jesus was not forced to go to the cross.  He chose to go to the cross. John 19:16 says that Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified but John 10:17-18 says that delivered himself.  He said that no one takes his life from Him.

Jesus said, For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18 ESV)

When Jesus was being beaten, He did not resist.  He did not fight back.  He went as a lamb to the slaughter.  He did not threaten people.  Those who judged Jesus will one day be judged by Jesus, but Jesus did not threaten them.  He did not say, “One day the tables will be turned, and I will be the Judge and will determine your fate and where you spend eternity.”

While He was being crucified, He could have come down from the cross.  People were mocking Him and daring him to do it, but He didn’t.  He accepted it as part the God’s eternal plan.  It was planned from the foundation of the world.  This is one of the things that is clear from John’s account of the crucifixion.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be FULFILLED that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” (John 19:24 NIV)

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be FULFILLED, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28 NIV)

These things happened so that the scripture would be FULFILLED: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (John 19:36 NIV)

Jesus actually fulfilled twenty-eight prophecies in one day when He died. [2]

[1] “And yet, nailed upon the cross, He exhibited many notable signs, by which His death was distinguished from all others. At His own free-will, He with a word dismissed from Him His spirit, anticipating the executioner’s work. In the same hour, too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were not aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives” (Tertullian, The Apology, 21:19) accessed at https://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-05.htm#P253_53158

[2] https://www.cbcg.org/franklin/SA/SA_28prophecies.pdf

Truth on Trial

Today, we will be looking at the most famous trial in history.  The most famous trial in history was not the OJ Simpson Trial or the Scopes Monkey Trial.  It was not Roe V. Wade.  It was the trial of Jesus.  This trial is mentioned in all four Gospels.  We will be looking at John’s account.  In John 18, Jesus is arrested and put on trial.  The trial will result in a sentence of death by crucifixion.

We live in a day in which people do not always get justice.  We have bad laws.  We have bad cops.  We have bad judges.  We have unfair sentences.    The guilty often walk free or get a very light sentence.  The innocent sometimes go to prison.

Many do not get a fair trial today. Jesus did not get a fair trial either.  He was falsely accused of a crime.  He had no legal rights.  He had no lawyer representing him and defending him.  Jesus was not a Roman citizen.

This trial was a complete travesty of justice.  J.D. Greear calls it, “The most unjust trial in human history.” [1] It perpetrated was the greatest injustice of all time, the murder of the incarnate Son of God. [2]

What is the background to our section?  Before Jesus’ civil trial, He had a religious trial.  Religion hates Jesus.  The top religious leaders in the nation HATED Jesus.   You would have expected the religious experts of the day to welcome Jesus.  They were very religious.  They memorized huge chunks of their Bible.  Their own Bible predicted that the Messiah would come.

Instead, they wanted to kill Him.  Jesus might not fit in too well into some churches today either.  He would have been a little too Jewish for some Baptist churches today. He drank alcohol.

Jesus was arrested at night by a huge army of soldiers armed with swords and clubs (Matthew 26:47; John 18:3).  He was brought to the house of the High Priest and interrogated under oath.  He stood before the Sanhedrin.

He was physically abused in their custody.  Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him (Matthew 26:67). The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. (Luke 22:63 NIV).  Jesus was given the death penalty for blasphemy.

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. (Matthew 26:65-66 NIV)

He was placed in a holding cell.  The next day, they took Jesus to the Roman authorities.  As much as they wanted to kill Jesus, they could not do it legally.  Only the Romans had the authority to execute anyone, so the next day, they took him to Pontius Pilate very early in the morning, probably around 6 AM.

Did Pontius Pilate Actually Exist?

There is solid historical evidence for the existence of Pontius Pilate.  He is mentioned in Jewish (Philo, Josephus), Roman (Tacitus) and Christian (NT) sources but it was not until sixty years ago that we had actual archeological evidence for Pilate.

In 1961, his name was discovered by archeologists on a stone in Israel.  The stone has an inscription that says in Latin, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

It is called “The Pilate Stone.”  You can see this stone if you go to Jerusalem today.  It is in the Israel Museum.  Since then, archeologists have found in Bethlehem a two-thousand-year-old ring with Pilate’s name on it in Greek.

Pilate met Jesus for the first time.  He came face-to-face with Him.  Pilate interviewed Him.   He interrogated him.  Jesus stood before Pilate’s Court. The Jews took him to Pilate’s headquarters, The Praetorium but would not bring Him inside, because they did not want to be defiled going into a pagan Gentile residence.

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. (John 18:28 NIV)

Note the complete hypocrisy here.  These leaders didn’t have a problem with committing murder, but they do not want to be seen stepping into Gentile territory.  They were big on ceremonial purity but not too big on  moral purity.   As Jesus said, these people would “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24 NIV).

They were scrupulous and meticulous about following all of the ceremonial rules, as they get ready to commit the worst sin ever committed in history, the murder of their own Jewish Messiah. They would not go into a Gentile’s house, so Pilate had to come out.

The interesting thing is that we know exactly where this was.  Pilate’s Judgment Hall was the Antonia Fortress beside the Temple.  If you go to Israel, you can visit it today.  It has been converted to a school.  There is this courtyard outside where Jesus would have been taken and stood outside.

We do not know if Pilate knew Jesus had been arrested the night before.  He asks them what he was charged with (John 18:29).  John does not tell us.  30 If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” (John 18:30 NIV).

Luke gives us more details.  He gives us the actual charge.  It wasn’t blasphemy.  That would not stand up in a Roman court.  The charge was upgraded to treason.  It was changed to political rebellion.

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” (Luke 23:1-2 NIV).

Pilate brings Jesus inside and asks him questions about some of these charges.  The Bible records seven of Pilate’s questions.  While Pilate interrogates Jesus, he asks Him seven questions.  He probably asked Him a lot more but John only records seven.  In the end, it turns into a discussion about truth.  While Jesus is the one on trial, He puts Pilate on trial.

Pilate’s Seven Questions

Pilate’s FIRST QUESTION Pilate asked Jesus was, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33 NIV).  Jesus says, “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” (John 18:34 NIV).  He gives an evasive answer. He did not answer Him directly at first.  Why did He do this?

It was a bad question.  It was a trick question.  The question was a trap.  There was a question of two behind the question.  What did Pilate mean by king?  Of course, Jesus is king.  What Pilate really was asking was whether Jesus was a political revolutionary.

That was really what Pilate wanted to know.  He wanted to know if Jesus was planning on taking up arms and planning to overthrow the government.  He wanted to know if Jesus was a threat to Rome but that was not what he asked, so Jesus sidestepped the question.

Pilate’s SECOND QUESTION was “Am I a Jew?” (John 18:35).  It was a rhetorical question. That is a question not to get information but to give information.  It implied a negative answer.  Pilate said, He adds, “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me.”

Pilate’s THIRD QUESTION was “What have you done?” (John 18:35).  The question assumed that Jesus is guilty.  There was no presumption of innocence here. Jesus does not answer this question.  He could have said, “I have healed the sick.  I have given sight to the blind.  I have raised the dead.  I have cast out demons. That is what I have done.”

Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36 NIV).

That is a very important statement.  Jesus does NOT deny that He is a king.  He does NOT deny that He has a kingdom.  He DOES deny that his servants are to fight for his kingdom.  That is very significant.

Jesus was very different from Muhammad.  Muhammad was a military man.  He fought all kinds of battles and killed many people.  He believed in jihad.  Islam is a religion of the sword.

Jesus never fought anyone.  We never see Him with a sword or a weapon.  We never see Him fighting people.  He never killed anyone.  He said to turn the other cheek and forgive your enemies.  He taught His followers to love people, not kill them.

When Jesus was arrested, Peter pulled out a sword and cut a man’s ear off, but Jesus healed the man and told Peter to put his sword away.  He said that His servants were NOT to fight.  There should not be any religious wars waged for Jesus.  The Crusades were wrong.  Jesus’ kingdom is NOT of this world.  In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church believed that his kingdom was of this world and they fought for it.

Right now, Jesus’ kingdom is internal.  It is a spiritual kingdom.  One day, Jesus will return to the earth to rule and reign.  He will establish His kingdom on the earth.  Then, He will have a sword.

Revelation 19:16 says, “Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”  At the Second Coming, Jesus will reign on the earth as king but at the First Coming, He came as a lamb, not a lion.

Pilate’s FOURTH QUESTION was “So you are a king?” (John 18:37 ESV).  Jesus already answered this question, but He is more emphatic.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37 NIV)

Pilate’s FIFTH QUESTION was “What is truth?” (John 18:38 NIV).  That sounds like a question from a Philosophy 101 course.  It is perhaps the most important question a person can ever ask.   It is a question that everyone must answer.

When we talk to people about Jesus, we can get two completely different responses.  One response is to be open, receptive and accept the message.  Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37 NIV).  Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 NIV)

The other response is to reject truth.  That is what Pilate does here.  Jesus gave Pilate an invitation to respond to Him here.  He invites the judge to be one of followers.

If Pilate was on the side of truth, he would have accepted Jesus’ words.  Instead, he said, “What is truth?”  He not only rejects the truth; he mocks it.  That is not how a true believer would respond.

The irony is that he was standing right in front of the incarnate Son of God, the very embodiment of truth.  He says, “What is truth?” when he is standing right in front of Truth.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Some people can ask the question out of sincerity.  Pilate asks it out of complete cynicism and does not even wait for an answer.  He just walks away and leaves the room.

Is Truth Relative?

One of the biggest things you will hear today is that truth is relative.  What is true for you is not true for me.  Everyone has their own version of truth.  That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.  Is the law of gravity only true for me or is it true for everyone?

Truth is absolute.  Two plus two equals four.  It equals four in China.  It equals four in India.  It equals four in America.  It equals four in every culture and in every place.  If you go to the Moon, it equals four.  It equals four in every time.  If you go back in time a thousand years, it still equaled four.

Truth has nothing to do with culture.  It has nothing to do with attitudes.  It has nothing to do with feelings.  I may feel great on the outside but that does not change the fact that I may have cancer on the inside and may be dying.

It has nothing to do with my beliefs.  I may not believe in the law of gravity but that will not change the fact that if I fall of a tall building, I will fall to the ground.    Gravity applies to those who believe it is a physical law and it applies to those who do not believe it is a physical law.

Pilate’s SIXTH Question was “Where do you come from?” (John 19:9 NIV).  Jesus did not answer this question.

Pilate’s SEVENTH Question was “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (John 19:10 NIV).  Jesus said, “You have that power because God gave you that power (John 19:11).

Pilate has now interrogated Jesus.  He realizes that He is not violent.  He is not a threat to Rome.  He wanted to set him free.  He tries to set him free several different ways. He tried to avoid the case and sent Him back to the Jews.

When he found out that Jesus was a Galilean, He sent Him to Herod because Galilee was his jurisdiction.  He gave him a choice between Jesus and Barabbas.  He gave them a choice between releasing an innocent man and releasing a guilty man.

The KJV says that Barabbas was “a robber” (John 18:40 KJV).  The Greek word ληστής is the same Greek word used to describe the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus (Mark 15:27) but Barabbas was much more than a petty thief.  He was a murderer.  He killed someone.  He was a revolutionary.  (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19).

Jesus was brought before Pilate because He was accused of being a revolutionary, even though He was innocent, and then they let Barabbas go free when he was the one who tried to overthrow the government.  He was a real terrorist.  He participated in a bloody insurrection.  Barabbas was a thug and a killer.  This was complete hypocrisy.

Barabbas is the one who receives a pardon.  Jesus was punished and the criminal who should have been punished is released.  Jesus takes Barabbas’ place.  He walks off to His execution, while the guilty Barabbas is let free. A terrorist goes free.  A murderer goes free.

We are like Barabbas.  Barabbas was wicked and so are we.  We are sinners.  We broke God’s law.  We stand under condemnation like Barabbas did.  We deserve death and Jesus took our place. What Jesus did for Barabbas, He does for us.

Pilate tried to send Jesus back to the Jews.  He told them to try him.  That did not work.  He tried to send him to Herod, but Jesus did not talk to Herod.  He tried to release Barabbas instead of Jesus, but the Jews did not want Barabbas.  Finally, he tried to give Jesus some type of punishment to save his life.  He scourged Jesus.  That made no sense.  Pilate knows Jesus is innocent but treats Him like He is guilty.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. (John 19:1-3 NIV)

That approach did not work.  “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” (John 19:15 NIV)

What is happening here?   There is some politics going on.  Pilate gave in to the pressure.  He gave in to the mobs.  He was worried about his job.  Pilate was a politician, but he was not Donald Trump.  Donald Trump told you what he thought unfiltered and did not care what anyone thought.   Love him or hate him, he did not change his core principles based on the latest CNN poll or based on what violent mobs in the street did.

Pilate was different. Interestingly, Pilate only lasts three more years as Governor of Judea.  In 36 AD, Pilate was removed from office and sent back to Rome.

People complained to Emperor Tiberius about Pilate.  He was accused of many things.  Philo mentions him being accused of oppression, cruelty, excessive force, murder and not giving people a fair trial. [3]

Mobs tried to intimidate Pilate to crucify Jesus, even though he knew that He was an innocent man.  We see the same thing today.  Mobs in the street intimidate and blackmail the legal system.  If a guilty verdict is not reached in some murder cases, they threaten violence.  They will riot, loot and destroy businesses.  They will burn the whole city down.

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12 NIV)

Nathaniel Williams, who is a pastor in North Carolina wrote, “Pilates’ sins were many. He ignored his convictions and his wife’s wise counsel. He gave in to the whims of an angry mob. And he condemned Jesus to be crucified — not because he believed Jesus was guilty, but because it was more politically expedient. And when it was all over, he washed his hands — trying to convince himself and others (unsuccessfully) that he was not responsible for the unjust execution that was about to take place.” [4]

Pilate’s Choice

This brings us to Pilate’s choice.  He came face to face with Jesus.  He met him.  He talked to Him.  He interviewed him.  He knew that He was innocent.  In fact, Pilate said that he was innocent three times (John 18:39; 19:4, 6).  He had a choice to make: to release Jesus or to kill Him.  Pilate will go down through history as the man who sentenced Jesus to death, the man who ordered His execution.  He is known as the man who killed Jesus.

Everyone who faces Jesus has a choice.  The people had a choice.  They had to choose between Jesus and Barabbas.  Pilate had a choice and we have a choice.  Everyone who has encountered Jesus or who has been confronted with the gospel has a choice.  It is the greatest decision of your life.

What will you do with Jesus? Your eternal destiny depends on your response to Jesus.  Like Pilate, we only have two choices.  We can turn away from Him and reject him or we can accept Him, listen to what He says and follow Him.

Did Pilate Become a Christian?

Many Church Fathers believed that Pilate later converted to Christianity.  Tertullian in the second century wrote, “All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Caesar, who was at the time Tiberius” (Apology, 21).

St. Augustine in the fourth century, wrote, “Yet both Pilate and the Magi sought, or at least recognized, not a king of the Gentiles, but the King of the Jews … As to the fact that the leaders of the Jews suggested to Pilate not to write specifically that He was the King of the Jews, but that He said He was the King of the Jews, Pilate here represents the wild olive tree to be engrafted in place of the branches which had been broken off” (Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Sermon 201).

The Greek Orthodox Church believes that Pilate became a Christian (Saint Pilate).  The Russian, Greek and Coptic churches believe, as does the Ethiopian Church, that both Pilate and his wife Claudia became Christians. They believe that they not only became Christians, they believe that they both became a martyrs.

On the other hand, there is no evidence from the NT that Pilate ever came to faith.  There is a much darker view of Pilate’s fate found in the writings of Eusebius. Eusebius lived in the fourth century and has been called “the Father of Church History.”

According to Eusebius, Pilate was not martyred; he committed suicide.  Eusebius says that Pilate, because of his own wickedness, became his own murderer and executioner  (Ecclesiastical History II.7).

[1] https://jdgreear.com/unjust-trial-history-redeem-every-injustice/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XENGTj9IDf8

[3] Philo, http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book40.html (On the Embassy to Gaius 38 (299-305) ).  Cf. also Josephus, https://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-18.html (Antiquities of the Jews 18.3-4)

[4] https://intersectproject.org/faith-and-politics/danger-pilate-politics/

Praying Like Jesus

Today, we want to start with a question.  How is your prayer life?  Many struggle in the area of prayer.  The truth is that one of the best ways to know how spiritual a person really is to look at that person’s prayer life.

Prayer is like a spiritual thermometer.  It gives you your spiritual temperature. The more spiritual you are, the more you know how to pray, the more you pray, the more often you pray, the more passionately you pray.

One of the best ways to learn how to pray is to listen to someone who knows how to pray. Wouldn’t it be great if we could listen to some of Jesus prayers?  In John 17, we get a chance to do that.  We get to hear twenty-six verses of Jesus praying to the Father.  It is like listening to him pray for five minutes.  He knew how to pray.

Jesus was the greatest miracle worker.  No one else went around walking on water, turning water into wine, raising the dead healing the sick.  He was the greatest teacher.  “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46 ESV).  No one ever preached like Jesus preached.  No one ever prayed like Jesus prayed.

Jesus prayed a little different than we do.  When we pray, we usually fold our hands, close our eyes, and bow our heads.  Jesus opened his eyes and did not look down. He looked up.  He lifted His eyes to heaven when He prayed (John 17:1).  He did that on other occasions as well, like when He fed the five thousand.  Today, we want to look at how Jesus prayed.  How do we pray like Jesus?

How to Pray Like Jesus

1) Pray Early

Jesus prayed early. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35 NIV).  Don’t wait until you go to bed at night.

Jesus did not just pray first thing in the morning, He prayed VERY early in the morning.  He prayed while it was still dark before sunrise, while most people were still sleeping. Why should we do that?  It makes God the number one priority in our lives. It means we put him first in the morning (Psalm 5:3).

2) Pray Alone

It is not wrong to pray with others, but we all need to have personal time alone with God.  It is hard to pray and concentrate when there are all kinds of distractions.  Jesus did not just pray early; He went somewhere to pray where He could be alone.

Jesus went somewhere to be alone with God.  Sometimes, He went to a mountain to pray (Luke 6:12).  He left where He was staying and went outside to pray.  He said, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6 NIV).

3) Pray Passionately

Many pray without any passion and without any emotion.  Many prayers are cold and lifeless.  They are just a religious ritual. Prayer by rote. That is not the way Jesus prayed.

He prayed passionately.  He got emotional when he prayed.  He cried when He prayed.  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7 ESV)

That passage mentions loud crying and tears.  Jesus worked up a sweat when he prayed.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44 NIV).  How many of us get emotional when we pray?  How many of us work up a sweat when we pray?

4) Pray Long

Jesus prayed long. John 17 seems like a long prayer, but it was not Jesus’ longest prayer. One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God (Luke 6:12 NIV).  Jesus prayed all night long.  We are lucky if we can pray a few minutes.  Jesus prayed for hours.  He had an all-night prayer meeting.

We need to take care of our body.  We need food but some things are more important than food.  Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34 NIV).  Some things are more important than sleep.

What is the longest we have ever prayed to God?  Two minutes?  Most of us will never pray all night light Jesus did but we should be able to pray more than two minutes.  Prayer is not just about giving requests.  It involves communion with God.  It involves worship.  It involves confession of sins.  It involves fellowship.

5) Pray for Glory

John 17 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible.  It is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible.  It is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth.  It was not a prayer of Moses or Isaiah. It was not a prayer of the great prophet Elijah.  It was a prayer of the Incarnate Son of God.  What was the first thing that Jesus prayed for?  He prayed for glory.  That word is used five times in these first five verses.  He prayed for God to be glorified.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus prayed for God to glorify Him.  Father, the hour has come. GLORIFY YOUR SON (John 17:1 NIV). And now, Father, GLORIFY ME in your presence (John 17:5 NIV).  He asks the Father to glorify Him with the glory that He had before He left heaven, “the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5 NIV).

This was not selfish.  Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, THAT YOUR SON MAY GLORIFY YOU” (John 17:1 NIV).  This is interesting.  We have lots of prayers to God.  We ask for lots of things.  How often do we pray for God to be glorified in our requests?  How often do we pray for God to be glorified on our worst days?

How often do we pray for God to be glorified in our suffering and in our pain?  We pray for God to take away our suffering and our pain.  That is not what Jesus does here.  He said, “I glorified you on the earth (John 17:4) and now I want to glorify You in My death.”

He said, “I finished the work you gave Me to do.”  That is something we all would like to say on our deathbed.  Far too many of us have regrets on our life and wish we had done things much differently.  Have we don’t the work that God gave us to do on the earth?  Do we even know what it is?

6) Pray for Others

Jesus prayed for others.  Most of his prayer in John 17 is about others.  The first five verses are about Himself, but the next twenty-one verses are all about other people.  That to me is amazing.  When we are going through something bad, we focus on ourselves.  I have.  We all have but Jesus did not just focus on Himself.  He was thinking of others on His worst day.

Jesus said seven things on the cross.  Half of them had to do with other people.  He expressed a concern about his mother.  He helped a criminal who was dying right next to him and He prayed for the sinners who crucified him.

That raises this question. How will you respond when it is your time to die? How would you pray if you knew that you were going to die the next day?

How would you pray if you knew that you were not only going to die the next day but die early in the middle of your prime?

How would you pray if you knew you were going to die an extremely violent death the next day?   If you could talk to God, the night before what would you say to Him?

John 17 brings us to the last night of Jesus’ life. He was minutes away from being arrested.  He was hours away from being tortured and killed.  He would be on the cross in twelve hours. He would be dead the next day.  His death is imminent.  He says, “the hour has come” (John 17:1).

What is most on His mind?  What does He pray for?  He prays for believers.  He prays for past believers and He prays for future believers.  He doesn’t pray for everybody.  He doesn’t pray for the world.  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9 ESV).

Here you have the Good Shepard praying for the sheep.  This is where it gets interesting.  We are in the Bible.  When Jesus said this prayer, He was thinking of us.  He had us in mind.  How does it feel to know that Jesus prayed for us and still prays for us?

Jesus prayed for us before we were even born.  What did He pray for?  Let’s look at four powerful prayer requests in this prayer.

Four Prayers for Believers

1. Jesus prayed that we would be KEPT

10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:10-12 ESV)

We see that word “keep” or “guarded” three times in these verses.  Jesus says, “You gave them to me.  I kept them, while I was on earth.  Now, I am leaving, and I am asking you to keep them.”  Keep from what?  He did not just mean “to keep from harm” or “to keep from danger,” because eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred.

It was a prayer for them to be kept from the Evil One (John 17:15).  It was also a prayer to keep people saved.  The opposite of being kept is being lost (John 17:12).

That tells us a lot.  One, it tells us that every believer is in spiritual danger.  We need to be kept.  It tells us that we can’t keep ourselves safe.  Even the Apostles could not keep themselves.  We can’t keep ourselves.  We can’t keep ourselves saved.

It tells us that we need divine protection to be kept safe.  The ONLY reason that we stay saved is that God keeps us.  All we like sheep go astray every day.  This is a powerful verse for eternal security.  Other verses teach the same thing.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are KEPT by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:4-5 NKJV)

Now to Him who is able to KEEP you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24 NKJV)

Arminians believe you can lose your salvation.  They have an answer to this argument in John 17.  Their answer would be this: Jesus lost Judas.  If He lost Judas, other people could be lost as well.

Jesus said, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost EXCEPT the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12 NIV).

If you say, “None of them was lost, except one,” it seems to imply that one of the ones that God gave Him was lost. Are they right?  No.  You can see that by reading the rest of the verse.

Jesus is not saying that He tried really hard but lost one.  Jesus is not saying that He was a complete failure when it came to Judas.  Not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, THAT the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12 ESV).

Jesus says that the only one who is lost is the “son of lostness” (the son of perdition) and that was part of the divine plan. It was the fulfillment of Scripture.  It did not catch Jesus by surprise.  He was not caught off guard by what he did.  He did not fail when it came to Judas.  This was planned long ago,

In fact, two times in John we are specifically told that Jesus did NOT lose any people that God gave Him.

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose NONE of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (John 6:37, 39 NIV)

This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have NOT lost ONE of those you gave me.” (John 18:9 NIV)

2. Jesus prayed that we would be SANCTIFIED

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:14-19 ESV)

Jesus not only prayed for our security; He prayed for our sanctification.  That is a word we do not use outside of church.  It is another word for holiness.  The word “sanctify” means to “consecrate” or “make holy.”

Jesus does NOT pray for our health.  He does NOT pray for our prosperity.  He does NOT pray for our wealth.  Jesus does NOT pray that we will all be rich.  He does pray that we will be holy.

Sanctification does NOT mean that we never fall into sin.  It does NOT mean that we become sinless.  It means that we become more and more like Christ.  That should be one of the goals of our life.

This is God’s will for your life.  I Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (KJV).   It does not happen instantly.  We don’t just get the baptism and become perfect.  It happens over a period of time.

The primary way we are sanctified is through the Word.  God’s Word is what cleanses us.  It transforms our mind.  Many people are not too big on Bible study.  Some even mock it.  Only Pharisees study the Bible.  God’s Word is what sanctifies us.

The problem today is that many Christians are ignorant.  They don’t know the Word.  They don’t read it.  Some churches do not preach it.  Sanctification comes through truth.  It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).  It is the truth that sanctifies us.  Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV).

Many people think the Bible is a bunch of myths.  It is unscientific.  Skeptics believe the Bible is full of errors.  They believe that it is full of contradictions and lies.  Jesus said that God’s Word is truth, not just true but TRUTH.  God is a God of truth.  God cannot lie.  It is IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie.  Everything God says is true.

Of course, not all Bible study sanctifies you.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses do a lot a bible study and they are not too sanctified.  Just studying the Bible academically is not wrong but it will not sanctify you.  Filling your head with a bunch of bible facts is good but God’s Word has to be applied to your life in a practical way to transform you.

3. Jesus prayed that we would have JOY

Jesus does not just want us to be safe and to be sanctified.  He wants us to have joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that MY JOY may be in you, and that your joy may be FULL (John 15:11 ESV).

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the FULL MEASURE of MY JOY within them. (John 17:13 NIV)

Not all Christians have joy.  Many people walk around defeated and depressed, like some poet.  Some are miserable.  Jesus not only wants us to have joy and He wants us to have a lot of it.  He wants us to be full of joy.

In fact, Jesus does not just want us to have joy; He wants us to have HIS joy and this joy is not based on circumstances.  Jesus already said that believers are not of the word and the word hates them (John 17:14).  This joy is not based on a problem-free life.  It is supernatural joy.

4. Jesus prayed that we would be UNITED

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-24 ESV).

Jesus prays for unity.  Unity must have been really important to Jesus.  He prays for it FOUR TIMES in this prayer (John 17:11, 21, 23, 24).   What kind of unity is He actually praying for?  Let’s notice three things about this unity.

A) This unity is CHRISTIAN

It is a unity of believers.  It is unity of people who believe in Jesus (John 17:20). For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. (John 17:8 NIV).

This is NOT a unity of believers and unbelievers.  It is NOT a unity of believers and the world.  This is a prayer for Christians to be one.

Jesus does NOT pray for all religions to be one, an ecumenical unity, like a unity between Muslims and Christians or Hindus and Christians.

It also is NOT a prayer for some Christians to be one.  We believe in unity of people in our own denomination or in our own church.  We can have unity with them, because we have a lot in common.

We think alike.  Jesus did not pray for all the Baptists to become one or all the Methodists to become one.  He prayed for for ALL Christians to be one.

Apparently, it is possible to have unity, real unity, deep unity with people from another denomination or people with a slightly different theological view than we have or a different political view.

Of course, we also need to keep in mind that not every one in church is a real Christian.  Churches are full of people who are not believers.  Some of them are members.

B) This unity is SPIRITUAL

This is a spiritual unity.  It is not external.  It is not organizational.  It is not denominational.  It is patterned after the Trinity.  We are to be one just like the Father and Son are one (John 17:11, 21). Christians are members of the same family.  They may go to different churches, but they are all children of God.

C) This unity is POWERFUL

That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us SO THAT the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:21 NIV)

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. THEN the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23 NIV)

Unity is powerful.  Unity attracts people to the gospel.  It can cause people to come to faith.  Disunity and fighting among Christians drives people away.  When Christians live in unity, they advance the gospel.

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Don’t Throw Stones

Today, we come to one of the most famous stories in the Gospel of John and perhaps the Bible.  Everyone knows this story.  This story is dramatic.  It is emotional.  It is powerful. Unfortunately, some pastors never preach through it.  Some who preach through the Gospel of John skip this story, like it is not even in the Bible.

In fact, if you read some Bibles, it is not in there. Some translations go from John 7:52 to John 8:12 and completely skip John 8:1-11, because it is not in some of the oldest Greek manuscripts of John.

This is a huge mistake.  No one questions whether this story happened.  There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the story took place.  The majority of Greek manuscripts have the passage in it. The story is historical.  This story is inspired.  It is practical.  It is relevant.  It has a powerful message for us today.  We will see how this story applies to us today.

A New Perspective

We will also be looking at this story perhaps in a way you have not heard before.  Almost all of us have read this story wrong.  We have read it as the story of “Jesus and the Adulterous Woman.”  That is how the section is titled in most bibles.  We focus on the woman.

That is part of the story.  It is a story about a sinner, a wicked sinful woman.  It is a story about a woman who committed a sexual sin.  She committed adultery.  There is no question about her guilt.  Even Jesus said that she sinned.

The woman was unquestionably guilty.  She was not framed for something that she didn’t do.  The charges were not based on gossip.  They were not based on rumor.  This was not hearsay.  She was caught in the act.  Witnesses were present.  The punishment was clear.  It was a capital crime in Moses’ day.

The woman is not the only sinner in the story. The story is not only about the sin of the woman but also about the sin of the men who brought the woman to Jesus. The men happened to be religious leaders.  Their sin was greater than the sin of the woman.  What the accusers did was worse than what the accused did. What was the sin of the men in this story? They commit several sins.

Five Sins of the Judges

1) They try to trap Jesus

They did not come to the Temple to worship Jesus or to learn from Jesus but to trap Him.  They wanted to accuse him.  They wanted to incriminate him.  They brought a guilty woman in, but they really did not want to accuse her.

Their real goal was to accuse Jesus and the plan was to do it with a trick question.  They thought they could outsmart Jesus.  They came up with a question that was impossible to answer.  It was a trick question.

They brought a woman caught in adultery and asked if she should be killed.  If Jesus said to kill the woman, He would be breaking Roman law.  That would get him in trouble with the Romans, because the Jews did not have the authority to kill anyone.  That was something that could only be done by the Romans.

If He said NOT to kill the woman, he would be breaking Jewish Law.  That would get him in trouble with some of the Jews. If he was really the Jewish Messiah, he could not tell people to not follow the Law of Moses.  He cannot be the Messiah and tell people not to follow the Bible.

It was a no-win situation.  The Scribes and Pharisees think that they have got Jesus in the perfect trap.  They asked the perfect question for which there can be no answer.  Jesus would be in trouble here if He said the woman should be stoned.  He would be in trouble if he said that the woman should not be stoned.  It looked like He could not win.

2) They use people for their own purposes

Who were these men?  They were Scribes and Pharisees.  The Pharisees were known for being religious.  The Scribes were the professional scholars of the day.  They studied the Bible all of the time but even though these men were religious and studied the Bible, they had no compassion for people.  In fact, they used them.

Here a woman is taken from her bed and dragged down the street.  She is barely clothed.  She was taken in public and forced to stand in front of a crowd at the temple against her will.  She is hauled into church right after being caught in adultery.

They brought this woman to Jesus to execute and came with stones in their hands.  They wanted to kill her right at church.  They wanted to execute her right in the middle of a small group bible study.  That is the worst place to die.  They were at the Temple.  Nothing was sacred to these men.

The woman is shamed.  She is humiliated.  She is dehumanized.  She is upset.  She is crying.  She is scared and about to die.  She thinks her life is over.  They do not care anything about the woman.  She is disposable to them.

We don’t know much about this woman.  We do not know if she was young or old. We do not know if this was her first offense or if she was a serial adulterer.  We don’t know if she was a prostitute.

We do not even know her name.  In the 6th century, Pope Gregory said that this woman was Mary Magdalene.  He identified the woman in John 8 with the woman in Luke 7.  For nearly 1300 years, this was taught as Catholic doctrine (until 1969 when Pope Paul VI reversed it).

John does not mention her name.  If you were this woman, you would not want your name recorded for all time for everyone to know.  You would not want your secret sins broadcast to the whole world.

3) They disrupt Jesus’ teaching

Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived.  No one ever spoke like Him (John 7:46).  Jesus is teaching in the temple.  He is teaching a Bible class.  Jesus is in the middle of a sermon when a mob brought a half-naked woman to Him.

It is really hard to teach when there are disruptions going on right in front of you.  Every teacher in the public school knows what that is like.  These religious leaders stop Jesus from doing what He was doing by disrupting Him.

It was intentional.  They were really not interested in the law or in justice.  It was a kangaroo court. If they were really interested in justice, they would have taken her to the courts.  Instead, they just brought her to Jesus while He is teaching.

4) They follow only part of the Bible

The Scribes and Pharisees acted like they were all concerned about the Bible but they only wanted to obey half of the Bible.  The Law did command death for adultery but is also commanded death for both parties.

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—BOTH the adulterer and the adulteress MUST be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NIV)

If this woman was caught in the very act, as they say, they would have caught the man as well.  They knew exactly who he was.  Why didn’t they bring the man before Jesus and publicly humiliate him as well?  The reason is that he was either one of them or was one of their friends.

They had a double standard.  The woman was not the only one breaking the law.  The religious leaders were breaking the law.  They wanted to stone the woman but not the man.  Do we obey only parts of the Bible, the parts we like?

5) They focus on the sins of others

These men had their own sins.  In fact, their sins were greater than hers, but they focused on her sins, instead of their own.  That was much easier to do.  Let’s look at how Jesus responded to the sin of the men and how He responded to the sins of the men.  He responded very differently.

The Judges are Judged

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (John 8:6-8 NIV)

How did Jesus respond to these Scribes and Pharisees when they came and disrupted his Bible class?  He completely ignored them.  He didn’t look at them.  He looked down and began writing on the ground.  We don’t have to respond to every crazy thing people say.  Sometimes, we just need to ignore them and say nothing.

Jesus wrote on the ground.  It is the only time in the Bible that we are told that Jesus wrote anything.  He is never said to have written a book or a letter.  He never wrote His memoirs, but He did write something on the ground.

Why is that important?  Some people in the past have said that Jesus was illiterate.  He was uneducated.  He never went to school.  He must have been illiterate, just an uneducated first-century Palestinian peasant.  Some still say that.[1]

The problem is that it is completely false.  We see here that Jesus could write.  He knew how to write.  He also knew how to read.  He went into the synagogue, opened a scroll of Isaiah written in Hebrew, found the part where Isaiah 61 is located and began reading it.

He quoted Scripture all of the time word for word.  Jesus could read.  He could write and, in John 8, He writes on the ground twice.  The first time He wrote on the ground, nothing happened.

He said something.  He said, “He who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again, nothing happened.  Then, He wrote on the ground a second time and this time the woman heard stones drop, feet shuffle and the men walk away.

What did He write?  No one knows but we have two ideas.  The men came asking Jesus about the Law and he writes on the ground with his finger.  The Ten Commandments were written on two tablets of stone with the finger of God.  Jesus wrote the Seventh Commandment with His own finger in Exodus.

Then Jesus said something that is one of the most misunderstood and misquotes, misapplied verses in the Bible.  He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Some think that this means that we can never ever judge anyone for anything.  We have to be sinless to ever judge anyone. With this logic, we could never prosecute anyone for any crime.  We would just have to forgive all criminals, including rapists and child molesters.

We would have to empty all of the prisons.  Some believe that Jesus abolished the death penalty in this passage.  If that is true, you cannot put people to death, even if they are mass murderers or serial killers.

This is wrong on so many levels.  Jesus gave the Law.  He was born under the Law.  He said that He did not come to abolish the Law.  The OT Law contains capital punishment in it (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 21:12, 14-17, 22-26, 28-29; 22:18-20; Leviticus 24:17, 21; Numbers 35:15-18; Deuteronomy 21:21-22).

Jesus was not requiring judges to be sinless, otherwise there would be no judges.  In the OT, you did not have to be sinless to execute anyone.  When Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” you have to look at the CONTEXT of the passage. “The reference to “sin” here refers not to any sin but to the sin of adultery. He who was not guilty of that sin could throw stones.”[2]

What did He write the second time?  No one knows but, whatever He wrote, must have convicted them of their own sins.  Jerome in the fourth century said that he wrote their names down.[3]

In fact, the Armenian manuscripts (5th and 9th century) say, “wrote on the ground the sins of each of them.”  Jesus may have written their names and the names of the woman they used to commit this sin.

Apparently, these men were guilty of the same sin that they were accusing the woman of.  Those who brought the accusation turned out to be as sinful as she was.  In fact, they were MORE sinful.  In addition to the five other sins, they were guilty of adultery.

Someone said, “The “vilest sinners are often the greatest accusers.”[4] That is why Paul said, “You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (Romans 2:22 NIV).

They saw what Jesus wrote the second time and heard what He said, felt convicted and left.  These men came to judge the woman taken in adultery but in the end, they were the ones who were judged.  Jesus did not convict them.  Their own consciences convicted them.  He helped by writing some things down on the ground.

The Adulterer is Forgiven

 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. (John 8:8-11 ESV)

Now we see how Jesus responds to this woman.  He responded very differently to broken sinners than He did to self-righteous hypocrites.  He doesn’t ignore the woman.  He begins talking to her.  She calls Jesus “Lord” (John 8:11).  The men just called him “teacher” (John 8:4).

Jesus asks where are the accusers?  She says they are gone.  The prosecution left.  If you appear in court and there are no accusers, the judge dismisses the case.  Jesus does not accuser her and tells her to go and sin no more.  What does that say to us today?

Practical Applications for Today

1) Do not minimize the reality of sin in your life.

This is where some preachers have gotten it wrong.  They say Jesus is the “Friend of Sinners,” so He is completely accepting and tolerant of everything.  Jesus called what this woman did “sin.”  He said, “Go and SIN no more

If you notice, Jesus did NOT excuse her sin.  He did NOT say that she was not to blame.  It was not her fault.  He did NOT justify her sin and say that it was not that bad, or everyone does it.

He did NOT deny that she had sinned.  He did NOT overlook her sin.  He did NOT celebrate her sin, like we do today (Gay Pride).  He did NOT try to rename her sin and call it something else.  We do that today in modern society.

We call drunkenness substance abuse, not sin.  We call pre-marital sex living together, not sexual immorality.  We call adultery an affair.  It is just a fling.  We call homosexuality an alternative lifestyle.  We call abortion a choice, not murder.  We call profanity just some salty language.  Jesus called sin SIN.

2) Don’t lose hope when you do sin

In this passage we see that sin can be forgiven.  Sexual sins can be forgiven.  Her adultery is forgiven.  Little sins can be forgiven.  Big sins can be forgiven.  Not only can sins be forgiven, crimes can be forgiven.  Capital crimes can be forgiven.  This was a capital crime in the OT.

Jesus granted the woman a pardon. Did she deserve a pardon?  No.  She was guilty.  Neither do we.  This was sheer grace and mercy.

He was the one who had authority on earth to forgive sins and He forgave her.  He could have condemned this woman.  In fact, Jesus was the only one there who was sinless, and he said, “I do not condemn you”.

The Scribes and Pharisees were quick to condemn.  Jesus was quick to forgive.  The Jewish leaders were quick to judge.  They came with rocks in their hands.  Jesus was quick to forgive.

3) Don’t continue to sin

Jesus said, “Go and sin NO MORE.”  That is interesting.  That is the part we often overlook.  Jesus was not soft on sin.  Jesus did not forgive the woman and stop there.  He told the woman to go and sin no more.  After He healed the man born blind, He said the same thing (John 5:14).  This is a message that is not always preached in church.

Jesus showed grace and compassion to this woman, but He also gave her a charge.  He gave her a personal challenge not to commit this sin again.  Apparently, that was possible.  Jesus is not telling this woman to do something that was impossible.  Sinful activity can be stopped.

Jesus did NOT say, “Stop sinning, and I will forgive you.”  He did not say, “I will forgive you IF and only IF you stop sinning.”  We do not have to change our life to be accepted by God and earn His favor.  We are not saved by works.

He also did not say, “You are forgiven, so it does not matter how you live.  You can live any way you want.  You are now free.  You can keep living in unrepentant sin. It does not matter to Me.”  Some teach that today.  Jesus said, “Go and sin NO MORE.”

4) Don’t judge people unbiblically.

This chapter is all about judging people unbiblically.  That was the sin of the men.  It is all about a judgmental spirit.  It is all about throwing stones at people.

Are we guilty of throwing stones?  We are not guilty of throwing literal stones.  We live in a different era. We would not literally stone anyone, but we love to attack people.

Sinners love to throw stones at other sinners.   Some churches are full of them.   There are some stone throwers in church. They have a pocketful of stones.[5]  They throw stones at fellow Christians.  Do we have a critical spirit?  What are some signs that you might have a judgmental spirit or a critical spirit?

Signs of a Judgmental Spirit

You do not have compassion for people who are hurting.

You are quick to criticize but not help people who need it.

You are very negative and critical about people.

You believe the worst about people, even if it is just based on rumor.

You are quick to point out other people’s faults, even though your faults are greater.

You have a superiority complex and think you are better than other people.

You criticize people for not following rules which are not even in the Bible

[1] The Harvard educated Muslim scholar Reza Aslan said in his recent book that Jesus was probably illiterate.  He writes, “Whatever languages Jesus may have spoken, there is no reason to think that he could read or write in any of them, not even Aramaic” (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 35).

[2] Butler, J. G. (2009). Analytical Bible Expositor: John (p. 125). Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.

[3] Jerome, Against The Pelagians, II.17.

[4] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/john-8.html

[5] https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=73171435546

The New Birth

If you were able to meet Jesus and could ask Him anything, what would it be?  What would you talk about?  The Gospel of John gives us two examples of unbelievers who got a one-on-one conversation with Jesus.  These conversations are back to back.  One is in John 3 and one is in John 4

These conversations were with very different people.  One was with a man and one was with a woman. One was with a Jew and one was with a half-Jew (a Samaritan).  One was with someone who was moral.  One was with someone who was immoral.

One was with someone who had a bad reputation (someone who slept around).  One was with someone who had a good reputation (a respected rabbi in the community).  One of these conversations resulted in immediate salvation.  One did not.

Today, we are going to look at a named Nicodemus and his conversation with Jesus.  This is the most famous conversation in the Bible.  Jesus has a conversation with one of the most famous men of his day.  He has a conversation with one of the great minds of his day.

This is a very important chapter.  It raises a lot of questions.  Who exactly is Nicodemus?  Why does He come to talk to Jesus?  What does Jesus say to Him?  How did He witness to him?  How does this conversation apply to us?  We are going to see five truths about the new birth from this section.

John 3 describes one of the greatest miracles of the Bible, the miracle of the new birth.  At the new birth, God takes dead people and makes them alive.  We were all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

We walked.  We ate.  We spoke.  We worked but we were dead.  We were physically alive but spiritually dead.  At salvation, dead souls come alive. They are resurrected.  Spiritual life is imparted.  A new birth takes place.  This is appropriate topic for Easter Sunday.

The man who interviews Jesus in this chapter is named Nicodemus.  He is only mentioned in the Gospel of John.  That is the only time he is mentioned in the NT.

If you read the Gospel of Matthew, you won’t see Nicodemus.  If you read the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Luke, you will not read a word about Nicodemus.  He is only in John.  John mentions him three times in the book. Nicodemus is in three different chapters of John (John 3; John 7; John 19).

The Prominence of Nicodemus

Who was the man who came to visit Jesus that dark night in Jerusalem?  He wasn’t just anybody.  He was famous.  He was a VIP.  He was a member of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (John 3:1).  It was the highest  court in the land.  It was like being a Justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin before his crucifixion.  Nicodemus sat on this court.  It was a very prestigious position.  It was an elite group. There were only seventy people in the country who were on this court.  He was highly respected.  He was a celebrated rabbi.

He was also a distinguished teacher.   He was not just a teacher of Israel.  Jesus called him “THE teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). In Greek, there is the definite article with the word “teacher” (ό διδασκαλος τοϋ Ίσραήλ).  He was the master teacher of the land.  He was THE preeminent teacher of the day.  He was theologian Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was a scholar of the Torah.  He knew the Bible.  He was the teacher of Israel.  He was the expert and yet, in John 3, this expert goes out of his way to visit a country preacher from Galilee.  He went to learn from an uneducated carpenter.

Jesus does not go to Nicodemus.  Nicodemus went to Jesus and had a conversation with Him.  He did not have an appointment.  He just showed up.

He came to see Jesus by night (John 3:1).  Someone called him the first “Nick at Night.” Many have criticized Nicodemus for this.  They say he came out of FEAR.  He didn’t come during the day because he did not want anyone to see him.

He was been concerned about how that would have looked or what other members of the Sanhedrin would have thought of him.  He was embarrassed to be seen with Jesus during the day.  There might be some truth to that criticism. Many people did not actively support Jesus out of fear (John 7:13).

If you were a follower of Jesus, you could be cast out of the synagogue (John 12:42).  You can criticize Nicodemus for coming to Jesus at night but at least he came.

The Positives of Nicodemus

John 3:19-20 says, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (NIV).

Most people do not come to the light but Nicodemus does come to the light on a dark night.  He comes to talk to the light of the world.  God worked in his heart and drew him to Jesus.

Nicodemus was not antagonistic to Jesus.  He was not hostile to Him, like the other Jews of his day.  He did not show up to trip Jesus up like some of the Pharisees or trick him but to learn from him.

Nicodemus was fascinated by Jesus.  He was interested in spiritual truth.  He was curious.  He was respectful.  He was sincere.  He was teachable.  He was humble.

He was older than Jesus.[1]  He had the greater reputation.  He was the teacher of Israel.  He didn’t wait for Jesus to come to him to learn.  He went to Jesus.

Nicodemus had an open mind.  Most Pharisees did not come to see Jesus.  They hated him.  They wanted to kill Him.

He thought for himself.  He did not just follow what the other Pharisees or the other members of the Sanhedrin thought.  He did his own investigation.

He interviewed Jesus himself and asked him questions.  He examined the evidence for Jesus and the evidence led him to faith.

The Problem of Nicodemus

Nicodemus had many strengths, but he had one problem in John 3.  He was unsaved.  He was not a believer.  Because he is not a believer, he does not have the Holy Spirit and because he does not have the Holy Spirit inside him, he has absolutely no idea what Jesus is talking about.  Jesus says one thing and Nicodemus thinks he is talking about something else.

Nicodemus was an unbeliever.  Jesus even calls him an unbeliever (John 3:12).  He tells him that he must be born again (John 3:3), which tells you that he was not born again.  When Nicodemus sees Jesus, what does he call him?  He calls him “Rabbi Jesus.”

He came to Jesus at night and said, “RABBI, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. (John 3:1 NIV).

On the surface, that sounds generous.  Jesus had no rabbinic training.  He had no seminary training.  He had not studied under any of the great rabbis of the day.  Many were amazed at how Jesus knew so much without having gone to any rabbinic school (John 7:15).  Nicodemus gives him credit and called him “Rabbi.”  It was like an honorary doctorate.

It sounds like a compliment but actually it is an insult.  That would be like calling him “Pastor Jesus.”  Jesus was not just some spiritual leader or the founder of a world religion.

He was not just a teacher.  He was not just a professor.  He was not just a rabbi.  He is Lord.  He is the Messiah.  He is God.  He is not just a teacher who came from God.  He is God who came to teach. He did not just come to teach.  He came to save.

Nicodemus Meets Jesus

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1-3 NIV)

Why did Nicodemus come to see Jesus?  What motivated him to come?  Let’s look at the context.

An uneducated country preacher comes to Jerusalem and begins attracting great crowds.  He begins teaching, preaching, healing people, casting our demons and performing incredible miracles that have never been seen before, like turning water into wine.  Jesus was instantly famous.  People began talking about him.  He was the talk of the town.

Nicodemus did not know Jesus.  He had never met him.  He was not one of his followers.  He had heard that he was a great teacher.  No man ever spoke like him (John 7:46) but what really impressed him was the miracles.  Teachers were a dime a dozen in Israel but Jesus was different.

He not only had knowledge; He had power.  He had supernatural power.  God was with Him.  He could do incredible miracles.  His miracles were undeniable, and they were stupendous.

We KNOW that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him. (John 3:1-3 NIV).

We don’t know what miracles they were.  The only one that is mentioned before this is Jesus turning water into wine but apparently, there were many more.  He not only performed miracles in Cana.  He performed some miracles in Jerusalem.

Is it wrong to believe because of the miracles?  No. The purpose of the miracles in the book of John is to produce faith.  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)

That is the purpose of the book.  On the other hand, not everyone who believes just because of miracles is necessarily saved.  Not everyone who believed because they saw some miracles actually had true faith.

People can believe for all kinds of reasons.  Not everyone has real heart-saving faith.  Some believe in Jesus like they believe that George Washington was the first President.  That is not genuine faith.  Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian.

Jesus knows the difference between true and false faith.  He knows the difference between people who are the true believers and false believers.  The Lord knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19). The Good Shepherd knows who His sheep are (John 10:14).  He also knows what is inside the human heart.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person (John 2:23-25 NIV).

Rabbit Trails to Avoid in Evangelism

How did Jesus respond to Nicodemus?  When a famous person comes to him, notice what Jesus does not do.  There are three things He does not do and three lessons for us to avoid.

1) Avoid small talk

Jesus does not talk about the weather or sports.  They don’t talk about sports.  Jesus got right to the point. He did not waste time on talking about things that do not matter.

2) Avoid flattery

If a famous person complimented us, we would be flattered.  We would be honored to have the top bible scholar of the day endorse our ministry.

Jesus does not say, “Thanks. I appreciate your kind words. They really mean a lot to me, coming from the top teacher in Israel.  I have heard a lot of things about you as well and the good work you do in Jerusalem.”

3) Avoid debate

Jesus didn’t challenge Nicodemus to a debate on spiritual things.  When people come to us and try to debate us, we are wasting our time.  That is not the way people get saved.

We can’t argue people into the kingdom.  We are “called to win souls, not arguments.”[2] Nicodemus and Jesus have a dialogue.  Nicodemus has some questions, but it is not a debate.

Five Truths on the New Birth

1) Salvation involves new birth

Here we learn that the phrase “born again” comes right out of the Bible.  It is a biblical term.  It is in two books of the Bible (John, I Peter).  Jesus coined the term.  Billy Graham was not the first preacher to talk about people being “born again.”  Baptists did not come up with the term.  Jesus was the first one in history to talk about people being born again.

Jesus compared salvation to a birth. He used the metaphor of birth.  He said, “You must be BORN AGAIN.” To enter the kingdom, you need more than teaching and you need more than a new religion, you need a new birth.  It is a radical metaphor.  To get saved, you cannot just reform on the outside.

It does not involve reformation but complete and total transformation.  There has to be a radical change on the inside by the Holy Spirit called the new birth.  As one preacher put it, reformation puts a new suit on the man.  Regeneration puts a new man in the suit.

Salvation does not come by following a set of rules or keeping some commandments.  We don’t need to be patched up or repaired.  We need to be completely reborn.  We were spiritually dead.  We needed new life.  We did not need a new religion.  We needed a new life.  We need to become new creatures in Christ.

Of course, to tell people that they need to be born again is offensive.  The Christian message is offensive.  The Bible speaks about “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11).  Many would say, “Why do I need to be born again?  I think I am fine the way I am.  I am basically a good person.  I haven’t killed anyone.”  That brings us to our second point.

2) The new birth is needed for every person

Jesus did not say, “You should be born again.” He did not say, “It would be a good idea for you to be born again.”  He said, “You MUST be born again.”  It is not optional.  It is essential.  There are NO exceptions.  If you are not born again, you CANNOT see the kingdom of God.  It is impossible.

We know that murderers need to be born again.  Prostitutes need to be born again.  Child molesters need to be born again.  Porn stars need to be born again.  People who mock God and deny His existence (atheists) need to be born again.  Muslims and Hindus need to be born again.

The shocking thing is that Jesus said to fellow Jew Nicodemus, “YOU must be born again.”  He was the poster boy of someone who you would think did not need to be born again.  He was better than most people.  He was not a serial killer.  He was not an ax murderer.  He was not a dope dealer.  If Nicodemus needed to be saved, everyone needs to be saved.

He was moral.  He was not immoral.  He was a Pharisee.  The Pharisees lived outwardly moral lives.  Jesus said they were.  He said that they cleaned the outside of the cup.

You can be moral and lost. Many people are very moral but very much unsaved.  Are we born again or do we just live outwardly moral lives?

Nicodemus was also religious.  He was very religious.  You can be religious and lost.  You can pray five times a day, like the Muslims do, and be lost.  You can be religious and lost.

In fact, Nicodemus was not just religious; he was a religious leader. He was a “ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1).  You can be a pastor and be lost. You can be an elder and be lost.  You can be a deacon and be lost.

Nicodemus was a teacher of religion (the teacher of Israel) and yet he was not saved.  You can be a Sunday School teacher and be lost.  You can be a seminary professor and be lost.  You can be the top bible scholar in the land and be lost.  What have we learned from Nicodemus?

Just became you are famous, you are not exempt from the new birth. Just because you are prominent, you are not exempt.  Just because you are wealthy, you are not exempt.  Just because you are respectable in society, you are not exempt.

Just because you are highly intelligent and educated, you are not exempt.  Just because you are moral, you are not exempt.  Because you are religious, you are not exempt. Just because you do all kinds of things in the church, you are not exempt. Are we truly born again?

3) The new birth is a supernatural process

Salvation is not a physical process.  It is not a natural process, like physical birth.  It is completely different.  That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. It requires a miracle. You have to be born of the Spirit.  You have to be born again or born from above.[3]

It is a work of God, not a work of man.  I cannot make anyone be born again.  Only God can do that.  We can talk to people and try to reason with them but only God can make them born again.

4) The new birth takes place through faith

Jesus says not only do you have to be born again; He tells you how to be born again.  The new birth is conditional.  There is something that a person has to do to get saved.  Three times in this chapter, we are told that life comes by believing (John 3:15, 16, 36).

Believing in Jesus for salvation does not just result in life; it results in eternal life.  In fact, we are told that it comes to ANYONE who believes (“whosoever”).

Some read John 3 and see the sacraments.  John 3:5 says that you have to be “born of water and the Spirit.”  You have to be baptized to be saved.  That is how the Roman Catholic Church reads it.  That is how the Church of Christ reads it.  Are they right?  No. It is easy to refute.

John talks about eternal life all through the book of John.  Not one time does he connect eternal life to baptism, not once.  He does connect eternal life and receiving eternal life to believing.

Whoever BELIEVES in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 ESV)

Whoever BELIEVES in him is not condemned (John 3:18 ESV)

Whoever BELIEVES in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36 ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and BELIEVES him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)

Everyone who looks on the Son and BELIEVES in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40 ESV)

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that BY BELIEVING you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)

John uses the term “believe” about a hundred times in the book.  It is a key term.  He does not use the noun “faith” (like Paul does) but he uses the verb “believe.”

John does mention baptism.  The verb form is used six times (John 1:26, 33; 3:22, 23; 4:2; 10:40) but nowhere does it say that eternal life comes by baptism.  Nowhere does it say if you are baptized, you will not perish. [4]

5) The new birth results in a changed life

If you experience the new birth, your life will be changed.  If you are born again, there will be clear signs of it. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NIV).

There are clear signs of wind.  You can feel it.  You can see the effects of it.  There are clear signs of the new birth as well.  The new birth causes a total transformation.

II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV).   When we become a Christian, Paul says that we become “a new creation”. It’s almost as if we become a different person. The old person that we were before we became a Christian is gone.

Salvation involves a radical change in a person.  You go from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive.  You go from being a child of the Devil to being a child of God.  If you are really saved, your life will change dramatically.  If there is no change, there is no life.  You are just the same as you were before.

[1] That is implied by John 3:4.

[2] https://www.missionwaychurch.org/blog/called-to-win-souls-not-arguments

[3] The word “born again” (άνωθεν) can mean “born from above” or “born again” in Greek.  Nicodemus took it to mean “born again” and misunderstood what Jesus was saying.  Jesus probably meant “born from above.”  That is how the word is used the other two times in John (John 3:31; 19:11).  On the other hand, the traditional translation  is not wrong.  To be born from above, you have to be born again.

[4] Jesus uses two figures  – water (3:5) and wind (3:8).  Water is a symbol of cleansing (Ezekiel 36:25; Isaiah 44:3). It is a universal cleansing agent. Any time we wash something, we use water. Wind is a symbol of life-giving power (37:1-2, 4-11).

Water is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 44:3 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 use water the the Spirit in a parallel structure. Water is symbolic of the Holy Spirit even in John (7:38-39). Water has a metaphorical use in John.

While it is most of the time used in a literal sense, water is used metaphorically seven times in the Gospel of John (4:10, 11, 14 (three times), 15; 7:38). John the Baptist connected the Holy Spirit symbolically to fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus connected the Holy Spirit symbolically to water (John 3:5).

Resisting Temptation

Today, we are going to talk about temptation.  All of our life we face temptation.  It is a fact of life.  No one is exempt.  Baby Christians aren’t exempt.  Mature Christians aren’t exempt.  Pastors aren’t exempt.  Missionaries aren’t exempt.  Even Jesus was tempted, which shows you that it is not a sin to be tempted.

The Bible says that he was in all points tempted like as we are (Hebrews 4:15 NIV).  He was tempted more than these three times.  If you just read Matthew, you might get the idea that Jesus was only tempted after his forty day fast.  Mark and Luke tell us that he was tempted the entire forty days.

Mark 1:13 says, “and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan” (NIV).  That is not a contradiction.  Both can be true.  He was tempted after this as well.  He was tempted not to go to the cross and after He was on the cross, He was tempted to come down from the cross.  Jesus was tempted repeatedly by Satan.

Three Basic Truths

Before we start, I want to look at three basic truths.  Our passage assumes these three basic truths.

Truth One – Sin is Real

Sin is real.  It is universal.  It is found in every single person on the planet.  We sin every day.  People in every country sin. If you watch the news for one day, you will see the devastating effects of sin in our world.  We can all agree on this first point.  No one is perfect.

Truth Two – The Devil is Real

In some circles, the Devil is a mythical creature.  The Bible teaches the existence of a real being called Satan.  Jesus believed in Satan.  He called him the ruler of this world.  He not only believed in a literal Satan, He talked to Satan.  He carried on a conversation with him.  When people do that today, some think they are crazy, but that is what Jesus did here.

Truth Three – Temptation is Real

Temptation does not always come from Satan.  Most of the time we are tempted, we are not tempted by Satan.  We are tempted by our sin nature.  Our sin nature tempts us most of the time.

Satan does not need to prance around to tempt people.  For a lot of men, all they need is a bottle of beer and a half naked woman.  We are “dragged away” by our own “evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14 NIV)

Jesus did not have a sin nature.  He could only be tempted by Satan.  What is a temptation for you may not be a temptation for me.  What is a temptation for me may not be a temptation for you.  All of our temptations are different.

I have never been tempted to turn stones into bread.  I have never been tempted to do that. I have never been tempted to jump off of a tall building.  I avoid them.  I am afraid of heights.

I have never been tempted to fall down and worship the Devil.  Devil worship is not something that I struggle with. It is not something that I have ever struggled with, although I have been tempted to put other things before God in my life.

Today, we are going to look at Jesus’ three desert temptations. What were Jesus’ three temptations?  I would outline the three temptations as follows: the first temptation had to do with a DRIVE.  The second temptation had to do with a DARE. The third temptation had to do with DOMINION.

The first one had to do with a natural drive, the drive for hunger.  The first temptation had to do with food.  Satan tempted Adam and Eve with food, and he tempted Jesus with food (turning stones into bread).

The second temptation had to do with a dare. It was the Devil’s Dare. It involved some risky behavior (jump off of a tall building).  The third temptation had to do, not with a dare or with a desire but with dominion.  It was a temptation for world domination (all of the kingdoms of the world).

Vance Havner gave a different outline.  He said that the first temptation was PHYSICAL (stones into bread).  The second temptation was SPECTACULAR (jump off of a building).  That would have turned the Messiah into a superhero, like Superman who can leap tall buildings.  The third one was POLITICAL.

Havner said that the first temptation put Jesus in the bread business.  The second one put him in show business and the third one put Him into politics. [1]  Let’s look at all three a little closer.

The First Temptation

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:2-3 NIV)

The first two temptations begin with the words, “IF you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3, 6).  Is Satan questioning if Jesus is the Son of God?  It looks like that from English but not from Greek.

This is a first-class condition in Greek which is a condition of assumed reality (e.g., Matthew 12:27; Colossians 3:1).  It is assumed to be true, as distinguished Greek scholar A.T. Robertson points out.[2]

Satan does not have any doubts that Jesus is the Son of God.  He knew Jesus before he was born.  The demons know he is the Son of God.  They know His true identity.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:23-24 ESV)

Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.  (Luke 4:41 NIV)

Satan is saying, “Since you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.”  The first temptation is to turn stones into bread.  How was the first one even a temptation?

This was something that Jesus needed.  It was a need, not a want.  If you don’t eat, you die.  Jesus has gone over a month without eating.  Jesus was not exempt from real physical needs.  He got hungry.  He got thirsty.

He had the power to do this.  If Jesus could turn water into wine, He could turn stones into bread.

There was no command against it.  There is nothing wrong with eating bread.  It is not forbidden. There is no explicit command in the Bible about turning stones to bread.

Furthermore, it was not flashy or showy.  No one would have seen it.  Jesus was alone in the wilderness.

What is the harm of making some bread in a moment of hunger?  What is wrong with turning stones to bread?  There are many things wrong here.

Jesus is in the middle of a fast.  Satan is asking Jesus to break his fast. Jesus was hungry because he was fasting.  It was all voluntary.

This was a temptation for Jesus to misuse His powers.  Satan is asking Jesus to do a miracle outside of the will of God.  None of Jesus’ miracles were for himself.  All of his miracles were for others.

Jesus provided food for other people who were hungry but never when he was hungry. Jesus is getting ready to start his ministry.  He has not performed a miracle yet.  Satan is asking Jesus to perform his very first miracle for himself.

Jesus NEVER did any miracles for his own personal needs, even if the needs were legitimate.  That was never God’s will.  This was a temptation to fulfill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. There is a right and a wrong way to meet any need.

It was also a temptation to doubt God’s provision and love.  It was a temptation not to trust God’s providential care.  Satan is asking Jesus not to trust God to provide for himself but to take matters into his own hands.

Satan is tempting Jesus to allow His physical cravings to rule Him.  We are tempted to allow physical cravings to rule us and to not trust God to provide for our needs.

Jesus responded with Scripture.  Satan asked him about bread, so Jesus quotes a Scripture from Deuteronomy about bread.  It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 NIV).

The problem today is that many in our society do live on bread alone.  The whole focus is on physical and material needs and not spiritual needs.  We do not just have a physical body.  We also have a soul.  We need more than physical food.

The Second Temptation

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ (Matthew 4:5-6 NIV)

What is this temptation?  It is a temptation for Jesus to put himself in danger.  If you are the Son of God, jump off of a tall building. If you have faith, you can do anything.  You can jump off of a tall building and God will protect you.  You won’t get hurt.  It sounds like some faith preachers today.

Satan uses Scripture with this temptation.  Since Jesus quoted Scripture, Satan quotes his own Scripture. The Devil knows the Bible.  He is an expert at quoting it out of context to confuse people. His ministers also quote it frequently. Cultists are really good at twisting Scripture.  They are really good at taking verses out of context to support unbiblical doctrines.

That is why we need to know the Word well.   There is very little Bible teaching these days done on Sunday morning and most Christians do not know the Word very well.  Some of them have been in church for twenty or thirty years and they still do not know it.

Satan quotes Psalm 91.  It says that if you trust in God, he will protect you from all kinds of bad things that are happening. He protects God’s people from disease and pestilences.  He protects God’s people from wild animals (lions and snakes).

This passage is not saying that God will protect you if you deliberately put your life in danger as an act of faith.  It is not saying that God will protect you if you choose to drink poison or shoot yourself in the head.

It is not saying that He will protect you if you jump out of a plane without a parachute or drive recklessly down the highway.  It is not a promise of invincibility if you deliberately put yourself in danger or act stupid.

What Satan suggests is just plain stupid.  It is an attempt to manipulate God.  It tries to force God to act in a certain way.  It is testing God.

The first temptation is not trusting God enough.  Don’t trust Him.  Take care of your own physical needs in the desert.  The second temptation involved too much faith.  Trust him so much that you will jump off a cliff as an act of faith.  That is sheer stupidity.

Jesus does not argue with Satan.  He does not tell him that he is quoting verses out of context.  He just quotes another verse, also from Deuteronomy.  Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7 NIV).

The Third Temptation

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9 NIV)

The third temptation also takes Jesus to a high mountain and he looks down, but he does not ask him to jump.  He tries to make a bargain with him.  This is the only temptation where Satan tries to give Jesus something.

Satan offers Jesus something.  He offers him fame.  He has offered many other people the same thing and they have sold their soul to the Devil.  What kind of temptation was this?

It was a temptation to wealth.  It was a temptation for power, fame and prestige, having all the kingdoms of the world (world dominion).  It was an appeal to the pride of life.

It was also a temptation to idolatry.  It was a temptation to worship Satan, which involved idolatry.

This was a temptation to compromise.  It was a temptation to take a shortcut.  Jesus could have the crown without the cross.  That would be appealing.  He could get what he wanted without having to suffer, without having to be tortured on a cross and without having to die in shame as a criminal.

Once again, Jesus responds by quoting Scripture, another passage from Deuteronomy, which must have been His favorite book.  Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ (Matthew 4:10-11 NIV).

Basic Principles of Spiritual Warfare

1) After a period of great blessing may come temptation

This is interesting.  When was Jesus tempted?  He was tempted immediately AFTER his baptism.  Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  He gets out of the water, looks up and the heavens open up. The Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove and God the Father says in a loud audible voice from heaven, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

That was an incredible experience.  God was speaking audibly from heaven and publicly endorses his ministry.  People could visibly see this dove and the dove lands on Jesus.  The entire Trinity was there.

This phenomenal experience was followed with great temptation.  Greg Laurie said, “after that the dove came the devil.” [3]  Temptation can come after blessing.  There are many examples of this in the Bible.  Immediately after Elijah’s great victory over the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal is his great trial.  He was so depressed that he wanted to take his own life.

2) Satan tempts us when we are at our weakest point

Satan does not tempt us in our strengths.  He tempts us in our weaknesses.  Jesus was perfect.  He did not have any weak points, but He was physically weak from fasting for forty days and that is when He received these three temptations.

Asking Jesus to turn stones into bread is a temptation for a hungry man.  I used to wonder why none of the three temptations of Jesus were sexual.  Why didn’t the Devil send a prostitute out in the desert?  Bread would have been a far greater temptation for a man who had not eaten anything in forty days.

3) Every temptation, no matter how strong, can be resisted

This temptation shows that Satan can be resisted.   When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, they gave in quickly.  It was easy for Satan to get them to sin.  We give into all kinds of temptations.  We are just like Adam and Eve.

Satan tempted Jesus three times and Jesus was physically weak, almost at the point of death.  He had gone forty days without eating anything and he still did not give into any of Satan’s temptations.

Temptations can be resisted.  James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (NIV).

Satan is stronger than us, but he CAN be resisted.  He cannot do anything to us against our will. We don’t have to give in to him. The Devil only has as much power over us as we give him.

Satan can’t force Jesus to do anything.  All he can do is to tempt him.  He could not force Jesus to do anything.  Even when he took him to the highest part of the temple.  He could not push him off.  All he could do was to ask him to jump off.

The Bible teaches that Satan can be resisted and there is power in resisting.  James says the Devil flees when we resist Him.

4) We can’t defeat Satan in our own strength

Where is Jesus when He was tempted?  He is alone with God in the desert.  He is away from all people.  He is away from all food for forty days.  He spends time alone with God.  He relies completely on God.  He meditates on Scripture.  He prays.  He was filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1).  He was led by the Spirit (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1).

That is how he was able to deal with Satan.  Jesus was alone in the desert with Satan for forty days.  Mark says that Jesus was with all of the wild animals (Mark 1:13).  That is not mentioned in Matthew or Luke.

It was rather terrifying, but Jesus did not battle Satan in His own strength.   He relied completely on God.  We should not try to do spiritual warfare on our own, rather than in the power of His strength (Ephesians 6:10).

5) God’s Word has power over temptation

This is very interesting.  Jesus receives three temptations in Matthew 4.  When one temptation does not work, he tries a second one.  When the second one does not work, he tries a third one.  Each time Jesus responds the same way.  He says, “It is written. It is written. It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

God’s word is our final authority.  It is the final authority for living.  It is the final authority for doctrine.  It is the final authority for spiritual warfare.  For spiritual warfare, it is a weapon.  It is a weapon that can be used to overcome temptation.

Paul called it “a sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). The NT describes the Bible as a sword and not just a dull sword, a sharp sword (Hebrews 4:12). Hebrews does NOT say that the Bible is a two-edged sword. It says it is sharper than a two-edged sword. A sharp sword only cuts on the outside. God’s Word cuts on the inside.  It penetrates hearts.

Jesus is a model to us today.  How He responded to Satan is the same way we should respond to Satan today.  Jesus didn’t try to reason or argue with the Devil. He did not try to debate him.  Instead, He did three things.  He knew the Word, even passages in Deuteronomy.  He meditated on it.  He applies the Word.

He applies it to His own situation.  He took passages dealing with Israel being hungry in the wilderness for forty years and applied it to His situation.  He was in the desert and was hungry for forty days.  Jesus not only knew the Word, mediated on the Word and applied the Word; He also quoted the Word.

God’s Word keeps us from sinning.  Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” If there is an area of our life in which we are weak, we might want to memorize some Scripture on that subject.

Most Christians do not know the Word very well.  They do not know the Book of Deuteronomy.  They do not read it too much.  They could not quote any verses out of it.  The OT is too scary for most Christians.

It’s not enough to have the Bible. You may have a whole stack of Bibles at home and never read it or know what is in it. That’s like having a nice sword on your wall at home for decoration.  It is like having some weapons that you own but you don’t know how to use them.  That makes the weapons completely useless.

If we are going to be like Jesus, we need to KNOW the Word from Genesis to Revelation.  We need to MEDITATE on the Word.  We need to MEMORIZE the Word.  We need to APPLY the Word to our own life situation.  We also need to QUOTE the Word, especially when we are under attack from the enemy.

That is what Jesus does.  Jesus was perfect.  He was sinless.  If He needed to do that, how much more do we?

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpvR2gg1c9s

[2]https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/robertsons-word-pictures/matthew/matthew-4-3.html

[3] https://harvest.org/resources/devotion/when-does-temptation-come/

The Word Became Flesh

The last time we were together we looked at one of the greatest prophecies of Jesus in the OT.  We looked at Isaiah 53.  Today, we are going to look at one of the greatest passages in the NT about Jesus.  It is found in the Gospel of John.  John is one of the most popular of the four Gospels.  It is one of my favorite Gospels.

John is a book that we encourage brand new Christians to read.  It is a good book for baby Christians.  A child could read it.  It is easy to read.  It is easy English and easy Greek.  If you have ever read the Greek New Testament, you would know that some of the easiest Greek to read in the NT is the Gospel of John.

John is also a deep Gospel.  Some of the greatest minds in church history have argued about what John meant in this prologue.  Some have called it “the greatest words ever written.”  It is a theological masterpiece.  It is some of the deepest theology found anywhere in the Bible and it was not written by some scholar at Princeton or Harvard in an ivory tower.  It was written by a rough fisherman from Galilee.

In this prologue to John’s Gospel, John tells us who Jesus is.  Why is that important?  Your eternal destiny depends on what you believe about Jesus.  If you have the wrong view about Jesus, you cannot be saved.  Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24 NIV)

One of the most important questions that anyone can ever ask is, who is Jesus? In fact, Jesus asked his own disciples, who people thought he was.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16 NIV).

Times have not changed much, even two thousand years later.  If you ask the same question today, you will get a lot of different answers.  Most of them are wrong.  Many believe that he was just a TEACHER.

He was a good moral teacher.  He was a first century Jewish rabbi known for teaching about loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemies.  He is known for coming up with the Golden Rule.

Islam takes it a step further.  According to Islam, Jesus was not just a teacher or rabbi, he was a PROPHET.  They teach that Jesus should be respected.  He was a miracle worker and he was a prophet.

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was much more than a prophet.  According to them, he was an ANGEL.  They believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel.  He is much greater than a prophet.  Today, we are going to look at who John says that Jesus is.  John says Jesus is much more than what people today say He is.

John is not giving his own opinion about who Jesus was thousands of years later.  John lived in the first century.  He knew Jesus long before he began his ministry.  John was related to Jesus.  Jesus and John were cousins.

John’s mother was named Salome and she was Mary’s sister (John 19:25; Mark 15:40).  John’s mom would have been Jesus’ aunt.  John not only knew Jesus; he was an eyewitness to His miracles.  He says in I John that he is testifying to things that he had seen, heard and touched (I John 1:1-3)

Five Important Truths about Jesus

Who is Jesus according to John?  Today, we are going to look at who Jesus is in these verses and then we will look at what it has to do with us.  We can’t look at everything in these verses.

We are only going to scratch the surface but today we will look at five truths about Jesus from this prologue of John.  A little warning.  We are going into some deep waters here.  Today, we are going to study some deep theology.  What are five truths about Jesus in this prologue?

1. Jesus is the Word

Jesus is called “The Word” three times in the first verse. In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and THE WORD was God. We see in the next verse that this Word is a person.  HE was with God in the beginning.  That is John’s unique designation of Jesus.

Only John calls Jesus “the Word.”  Matthew does not call him the Word. Mark does not call him the Word. Luke does not call him the Word. Paul does not call him the Word. John calls him “The Word.”

John calls Jesus “The Word” in the Gospel of John.  He calls Jesus “The Word” in I John.  He calls Jesus “The Word” in The Book of Revelation.   The Greek word is λόγος.  The philosophers of John’s day talked a lot about the λόγος. What does it mean that Jesus is the Word?

The word λόγος has two possible meanings.  It can mean “word” (a spoken word) or it can mean “reason.” (an unspoken thought).  For the Greek philosophers, it meant “reason.”  That is the classical meaning.  The word “logic” comes from the word λόγος.

Aristotle said that λόγος is the quality that separated humans from animals.  We have rational thinking. The Stoics and later Philo identified the λόγος with God and with creation.  The Logos was the divine reason behind creation.

John is not talking about logic or reason.  He is talking about speech.  The background is not Greek philosophy but Hebrew revelation, as F.F. Bruce says.[1]  John is going back to Genesis.  Genesis describes creation by speech. God used his words to create things.  He spoke the universe into existence.  That was God’s method of creation.

God did not have to speak the universe into existence.  He could have just thought or willed the universe into existence, but He chose to speak it into existence. “AND GOD SAID, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  You will find the words “and God said” eight times in Genesis 1 (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26) but λόγος means even more than this.

Words are powerful.  Words are how we express ourselves.   We express ourselves with words.  We communicate with words.  Words communicate people’s thoughts.  We do not just express ourselves with words, we reveal ourselves with words.  Words tell us something about us.  Jesus is God’s revelation to us.

When we say that Jesus is the Word of God, we are not saying that He is another prophet with a message from God.  He doesn’t have the message; He is the message.  He is the Revealer of God (John 1:18).

If you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus.  Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18 NIV).  To use Paul’s language, Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus is not only a revelation of the Father; He is means to the Father.  Jesus is the only way to the Father.  If you want to go to the Father, you have to get through Jesus.  Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6)

2. Jesus is Eternal

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning, the Word was,” not “In the beginning the Word came into being” but, “In the beginning the Word already was.”  It is imperfect tense (Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος).

All of us had a beginning when we were born.  Jesus did NOT have a beginning.  In the beginning, He already was.  We all came into existence when we were born.  He existed before He was born.  We did not exist before we were born.

Jesus existed before He was born.  He existed before Abraham.  He said, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV).  He did not say that before Abraham existed, he came into being.  He said, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  Jesus not only existed before Abraham.  He existed before Adam and Eve.  He existed before creation itself.

3. Jesus is Divine

Jesus is God. One of the strongest proofs for the Deity of Christ in the NT is found in the Gospel of John.  He could not have said it any stronger.  The first verse of the book says that the Word was not only with God; the Word was God.

John’s Gospel begins with the four words “the Word was God” (John 1:1) and the book ends with Thomas calling Jesus “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).

The Gospel of John teaches that he is not just a man.  He is not just a prophet.  He is not an angel; He is God.  He is not just like a godly man; He is God.  He is not just like God; He is God.  He is not just the Son of God; He is God.

Jesus is called God many times in the NT. John calls Jesus “God.”  Paul calls Jesus “God.”  Peter calls Jesus “God.”  The author of Hebrews (whoever he was) calls Jesus “God.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses and John 1:1

Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own translation of their Bible, called The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.  In the NWT, John 1:1 does not say that “the Word was God.”  It says, “The Word was a god.”

There is a reason for their translation. When you read the words, “and the Word was God” in Greek, the word “God” (θεός) does not have the definite article.  Therefore, they believe that the word θεός must be indefinite.  It must refer to “a god” rather than “God.”  In their view, Jesus is a subordinate inferior god but not God Almighty.  Are they right?

They are right about one thing.  They are right that a noun without the article in Greek can be indefinite but there are two important things that they don’t tell you.

The first thing they don’t tell you is that θεός does not have to have the Greek article to be translated “God.”  It can still mean God even without the article (θεός).  In fact, there are four other times in the prologue the word for “God” does not have the Greek article but still refers to the one true God.

John 1:6 says that John the Baptist was a man “sent by God.”  That that does not have the article in Greek (παρὰ θεοῦ) but we do not translate that John was sent by “a god.”

John 1:12 says that, “Those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of God.”  There is no article in Greek there (τέκνα θεοῦ) but we do not translate it, “Those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of a god.”

John 1:13 says, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  The word for “God” in Greek does not have the article (ἀλλ’ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν) but we do not translate it “children who were born of a god.”

Finally, John 1:18 says, “no one has ever seen God.” It also does not have the article in front of the word “God” in Greek (Θεoν οὐδείς ἑώρακε πώποτε) and yet we do not translate it “no one has ever seen a god.”

If the word “God” without the article in Greek means “a god,” that would make the Father a god, because John calls the Father θεός four times in this prologue. All of the Greek scholars will tell you that θεός and ό θεός are used interchangeably in the NT (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, Robertson, Green, Thayer, Abbott-Smith).[2]

The second thing they don’t tell you is that the Bible teaches that there is only one God.  It does not teach that there are many gods.  The Apostle Paul talks about many “gods” and many “lords” but he says that they are SO-CALLED gods (I Corinthians 8:5).  They are gods in name only.  They don’t really exist.

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6 ESV)

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. (Isaiah 43:10 ESV)

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV)

To believe that Jesus is “a god,” you have to be a polytheist.  You have to believe in many gods.  This translation would make perfect sense if it was written by a Hindu or someone who believed in multiple gods.

John was a Jew.  He was a monotheist. He believed that there was only one God.  He knew that no other gods actually existed.  There is no way that he could possibly have written that Jesus was a god.

People called god in the Bible

Jehovah’s Witnesses would immediately reply to this argument that people in the Bible are called “god.”  The word θεός is used of people.  Even in the Gospel of John, θεός is used of people.  If people are called θεός (and they are not God), then perhaps Jesus can be called θεός and not be God.

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? (John 10:31-36 NIV)

Is this a valid argument?  No.  This passage once again is dealing with people who are only CALLED gods (John 10:35).  They are not really gods.  The key is CONTEXT.  Jesus in John 10 is quoting Psalm 82 and Psalm 82 in the context is dealing with human judges

They are not real gods.  They are only called gods because of their position over others.  Political and judicial figures on earth often can decide life and death.  Because of their position, they act like gods. They are gods in a functional or positional sense.  It metaphorical or figurative, not literal.

John 1:1 is NOT dealing with human judges in the context. People were not even created yet.  The earth was not created.  Why is Jesus called God?  He is not called because of his position but because of his actions.  He is not just in the position of God; He does things only God can do.

1) Only God creates.  Jesus is the Creator of all things.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:3 NIV). In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1 NIV)If you are the Creator, you are God.  Only God can create things.  It is one of the marks of Deity.  We can make things but only God can create something out of nothing by words.

 2) Only God can raise the dead on the last day.  That is what Jesus will do.

See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life (Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV).  Jesus will raise everyone form the dead.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. (John 5:21 NIV).  Four times Jesus says in John, “I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54)

3) Only God is the judge of the world.  Jesus will judge the world.

“I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds (Jeremiah 17:11).  The NT says that Jesus will judge the world (John 5:21-22; Acts 17:31).  He will determine people’s final destinies.  He is the Creator of the world.  He is the Judge of the world.

4) Only God is the Savior.  Jesus is the Savior.

Jesus is the Savior of the world.  In fact, Isaiah 43:11 says, ‘I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior” (NIV).  Jesus’ name means “savior.”  John 4 says that Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 4:42).  You can only be saved in his name (Acts 4:12).

5) Only God can be worshipped.  Jesus is worshipped

Jesus said, “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10) and yet He received worship (John 9:38).  Only God can receive worship.

Jesus is called God because he is one with the Father (John 10:30). He is called God in John because he is equal to the Father (John 5:18).  He is to be honored just as people honor the Father (John 5:23), which is sheer blasphemy for anyone who is not God.

4. Jesus the Creator

Jesus did NOT create some things.  He does NOT create most things.  He created ALL things.  Through him ALL THINGS were made; without him NOTHING was made that has been made (John 1:3 NIV).  John says this two times in one verse that Jesus is the Creator.  He says it positively and negatively, so everyone gets the point.

This answers some of the cultists.  This verse shows that Jesus is NOT a created being.  He created all things.  If He created all things and He was a created being, He would have had to create Himself which is logically impossible.  Jesus is NOT an angel.  He is the creator of all of the angels.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV).

That verse says that Jesus did not just create all of the angels; He created different classes of angels.  Apparently, angels come in classes. Some have more rank and authority than others.

There are low-level angels and high-level angels.  There are angelic powers (lowest level), principalities (middle level angels), dominion angels which are in charge of other angels (middle level angels) and throne angels, like the cherubim and seraphim (high level angels).  Jesus created them all.

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth.”  The NT says Jesus created the heavens and the earth, so Jesus must be God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have an answer for this.  They say that God still created everything, but He did it through Jesus.  God is the Creator, but Jesus is the agent of creation.  Jesus is the contractor but there is one problem.  The Book of Isaiah completely refutes that theory.

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself (Isaiah 44:24 ESV)

That does not say that God created the world and used someone else to do it.  This verse says that He did it BY HIMSELF.  It says that He did it ALONE.  Job said the same thing (Job 9:8 NIV).

“Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. 13 MY OWN HAND laid the foundations of the earth, and MY RIGHT HAND spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. (Isaiah 48:12-13 NIV)

The one speaking here is the Lord Almighty in the context.  That verse does not say that God is the Creator, but He hired someone else to do the world.  No, His own hand laid the foundations of the earth, so if Jesus was the Creator of all things, He must be God.

5. Jesus is Human

The Word became flesh (John 1:14).  He became fully human.  He got tired.  He fell asleep on a boat.  He got hungry.  When he went without food for forty days, he was really hungry.  He got thirsty. He said “I thirst” on the cross.  He could feel pain.  He could experience joy.  He experienced sorrow.  He wept.  He got angry.  He even experienced depression.  He could suffer.  He could die. He could be crucified.

This is John’s Christmas story; the Word became flesh. It is different from the other Christmas stories.  Matthew and Luke begin the Christmas story in Bethlehem.  John does NOT start the story on earth.  He starts the story in heaven.  The first three verses of the chapter take place in heaven.

John does not mention an inn.  It does not mention a manger or any swaddling clothes.  He does not mention the wise men.  He does not mention the great star that led them to Jesus.  John gives us a theology of Christmas.  For John, Christmas is not about a baby being born in a manger.  It is about God becoming man.

The Word became flesh.  William Barclay called that “the single greatest verse in the NT.”[3] It is a shocking statement.  The incarnation is one of the greatest miracles in the Bible.  God became one of us. He stepped down from heaven to earth and became a man.  The eternal Word became flesh.  The Creator of the world became flesh.  The one is said to be God became flesh.

The Greeks believed that this was impossible.  Man could become God but God could not become man, because they believed that the body was evil.  That is what the Gnostics taught (cf. I John 4:2-3).

The Greek philosophers said that the Logos was involved in creation, but they never said that the Word became flesh.  John alone writes that the Word became flesh.  This was RADICAL.  Jesus had to become one of us to save us.

Think how significant this is.  In the OT, God often took human form and appeared to people in a theophany.  There are many theophanies in the OT.  The Incarnation is NOT a theophany.

In a theophany, God appeared in the form of a man and it was only temporary.  At the Incarnation, Jesus became an actual man and it was permanent.  At the incarnation, Jesus became a permanent member of the human race.  He will remain the God-Man for all eternity.

Application for Today

We have seen five truths about Jesus from John’s prologue.  What is the application to us today?   How does this apply to us?  Jesus coming into the world requires a response.   It requires a reaction.

Everyone has two choices.  They can believe or not believe.  They can accept Him or reject Him.  What is our reaction?  Do we believe or not believe?  Do we accept Him or reject Him?  Jesus does not force Himself on people against their will.  We see the responses of many people to Jesus in the text.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)

While the majority of the world rejects Jesus and while the nation of Israel rejected him, some have accepted Him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12 NIV).

John tells us what happens when people accept Jesus.  Something happens.  Their identity changes.  They become the children of God.  To be a child of God means that God is our Father and we can have a special relationship with him that others can’t have.

It is an act of GRACE.  We have received “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  None of us deserve to be called God’s children but when we believe, we become one. We become one not based on anything that we did.

It is an act of LOVE.  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (I John 3:1 NIV).

It is an act of CERTAINTY.  When we believe in Jesus as Savior, we are given the RIGHT to become a child of God.  We have that right because Jesus gives it to us.  It is not just a wish or desire.  It is a right.

[1] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 29.

[2] Samuel G. Green, for example writes, “We find θεός (God) almost interchangeable with ό θεός (Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek New Testament [Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1912], p. 186).  God the Father is called θεός (John 1:6, 18) and Jesus is called ό θεός (Matthew 1:23; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8).

[3] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, (rev), I, p. 66.

The Suffering Servant

Today, we come to one of the most amazing chapters in the Bible.  Isaiah 53 is the greatest prophecy of Jesus in the Bible.  It is a prophecy of his suffering and his death.  Some have called this chapter “the Mount Everest of Messianic Prophecy.”  Mount Everest happens to be earth’s highest mountain.  It is the highest mountain range on earth.

A chapter like this needs some type of introduction.  There are several things you might not know about this chapter.  Here are five basic observations about the chapter.

Five Amazing Facts

1) This chapter is a prophecy

It was written over seven hundred years before Jesus was born.  All of it came literally true.  We live in the year 2021.  That would be like if we made a detailed prophecy of what would happen in our country in the year 2721 and everything that we said came to pass.

When this prophecy was written, crucifixion did not even exist yet.  It had not been invented yet as an instrument of execution. The Persians invented it in the 5tth or 6th century BC.

Isaiah was written in the 8th century BC and yet he predicted that the Messiah would be pierced. When Isaiah wrote this, people were executed in other ways (stoning, beheading or hanging) but not by crucifixion.

2) This chapter is written in the past tense

That is a little strange.  If you are going to make a prophecy, you put it in the future tense.  This is a prophecy and it is all in the past tense looking back on events.

He WAS despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3 NIV).  He WAS pierced for our transgressions; He WAS crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).  He WAS oppressed and afflicted (Isaiah 53:7 NIV).  Everything is past tense.

3) This chapter is a poem

It is not only a prophecy; it is a poem.  It has a poetic structure.  It is made up of five stanzas.  Each stanza is made of three verses each.  There are three different speakers in this poem.  God the Father speaks.  The nation of Israel speaks, and Isaiah speaks.

You say, “It does not sound like a poem.  It doesn’t rhyme.”  Hebrew poetry does not rhyme words.  It rhymes thoughts.  It rhymes ideas.

There is a lot of parallelism in the chapter.  Jesus is not only despised, He is rejected.  He is not only pierced, He is crushed.  He is not only oppressed, He is afflicted.

He is not only punished, He is stricken.  He not only bears sins; He is a sin offering.  There are three different words for sin in this chapter (sin, iniquity, transgressions).

4) Jews are forbidden to read it this chapter

We often hear ads on TV trying to tell you some dirty little secret that the banks don’t want you to know, which is ridiculous because banks want you to make money so they can make money.  Isaiah 53 is a chapter that many rabbis don’t want people to know about.

It used to be part of the regular reading in the synagogues, but the rabbis took it out.  When the Book of Isaiah is read in synagogues, this chapter is skipped over.  They will read Isaiah 52 one week and Isaiah 54 the next week.

Most Jews have never read this chapter.  They have no idea that this chapter is even in their Bible.  In fact, there is a trick in Jewish evangelism.

If you read some verses from the Hebrew Bible to modern day Jews and they hear Isaiah 53, they get angry, because they think that you snuck in some verses of the NT into it.

When they are shown that the chapter comes out of their own Bible, they are shocked.  They are stunned.  It is the universal reaction.  Many Jews have been converted from this passage.

5) The chapter actually begins in Isaiah 52

It goes from Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. Does that mean that there are errors in the Bible?  No. The TEXT of the Bible is inspired.  The CHAPTER DIVISIONS are not.  The text is without error.  The chapter divisions are man-made.  They came a thousand years after the Bible was written.

Five Pictures of Jesus

Today, we are going to do a quick overview of this chapter.  We are going to look at five pictures of the Messiah from Isaiah 53.  Jesus is the Successful Servant (Isaiah 52:13-15).  He is the Scorned Servant (Isaiah 53:1-3).  He is the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:4-6).  He is the Submissive Servant (Isaiah 53:7-9) and He is the Satisfied Servant (Isaiah 53:10-12).  We will look at each section briefly.

The Successful Servant

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand (Isaiah 52:13-15 NIV)

This is the prologue to the chapter.  The chapter starts positive.  It begins with the successful servant.  By worldly standards, Jesus was not very successful.

He was born in a stable.  He grew up in an obscure village. His parents were peasants. His dad died young.  He never got married or had kids. He lived in poverty.  He was a carpenter, a simple manual laborer.  He never owned a home.  He had nowhere to lay His head.  He had no formal education.  He never had a college degree.

He started his ministry late and it only lasted three years.  He had a criminal record.  He was convicted of a capital crime.  He was executed by the state and he lived a short life.  He died a young man in his thirties.

His best friends ran from him. His own family thought he was crazy.   Some of His closest followers, some of his own Apostles, turned him in to the authorities to be arrested. His own people rejected him as their leader and turned him over to the Romans.  He died a disgraceful death.

Was He really successful?  Yes!  Success in God’s eyes is different than success in the world’s eyes.  Are you successful in God’s eyes or successful in the world’s eyes?

Genuine success is not based on circumstances.  It is not based on economic status.  It is not based on popularity.  It is based on one thing: obedience.  Do you do what God calls you to do?  Do you obey Him.

Notice who is speaking in this first stanza.  God the Father is speaking (“See, My Servant”).  What does He say about the servant?

He was raised and lifted up (Isaiah 52:13).  Isaiah 52 says that He will be, not just exalted but HIGHLY EXALTED (Isaiah 52:13).  Jesus conquered death.  He sits at the right hand of God.  Philippians 2:9-11 tells us how highly exalted he is.

Therefore, God exalted Him to THE HIGHEST PLACE and gave him the name that is ABOVE EVERY NAME, 10 that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and EVERY TONGUE acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

Jesus was successful.  You cannot come to the Father, except through Jesus (John 14:6).  You cannot be saved, except through Jesus name (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is the one who will judge the world (Acts 17:31).  He is the one who determines your eternal destiny.  He is the one who has the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).  He will return to earth in power and glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).

When Jesus returns to the earth, people will be shocked.  The Bible says that EVERY EYE will see him coming in the clouds (Revelation 1:7).  Kings will shut their mouths when they see him (Isaiah 52:15).  Who are they shutting their mouths at?

They are shutting their mouths at the one who was physically disfigured so much so that he did not even look human.  That is interesting.  The NT does not go into all of the gory details of the crucifixion, like you see in The Passion of the Christ.  This one verse in Isaiah 52:14 describes it and it is in the OT.

The Scorned Servant

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:1-3 ESV)

The next nine verses have a different speaker.  Someone else is talking.  It is not the Father.  It is the Nation of Israel looking back. What do we learn about the coming Messiah in these verses?

Israel as a nation rejected him.  God promised Israel a Messiah.  The nation had been waiting for thousands of years for the Messiah.  When He finally came, they rejected Him. That is why Isaiah wrote, “Who has believed our message?”

The answer is very few.  Few Jews then believed it and few believe it today.  Most people reject it. What were the reasons for the national rejection of Jesus? In these verses, we see what the nation thought about Jesus and why they rejected Him.

Three Basic Reasons for Rejection

1) Jesus was unimpressive 

Isaiah says, “he grew up like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.” He was like a weak little plant.  He appeared as a nobody.  He seemed ordinary, not special.  Everything about him was unimpressive (his birth, his childhood, his education, his income level, his occupation).  He was born in a manger, not a palace.

2) Jesus was unpopular

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him. He wasn’t wealthy. He wasn’t popular.  He wasn’t famous.  He was not accepted by all the rabbis of the day.  In fact, they were offended by him.  Most of the rabbis in the day rejected him.  Most Jews today still reject Him.

3) Jesus was unattractive

He had no beauty that we should desire him. That does not mean that Jesus was ugly, but he did not look regal.  They were not looking for a lamb. They were looking for a king wearing a crown.  They were looking for a political leader [1].

They were looking for King David.  Jesus did not look like the Messiah they were expecting.  He did not fit the profile. Incidentally, Isaiah 53:2 is the ONLY physical description of Jesus in the Bible.

Everyone wants to know what Jesus looked like.  Was he tall or short?  Did he have brown hair or black hair?  What He black, white or brown?  Did He have brown eyes or blue eyes?

What we do know is that he did not look like any of the pictures of him found in most churches.  None of them look very Jewish.  Isaiah 53:2 is the only thing the Bible says about Jesus’ physical appearance and it is found in the OT.  It says that he had no beauty that we should desire him.

Jesus not only faced rejection; he faced ridicule.  People did not just reject Him; they mocked Him. They held him in low esteem.  They spit on him.  They despised him.  In fact, they despise Him to this day.  In many Jewish households, they are not even allowed to say the name of Jesus.  The name of Jesus is like a curse word in some homes.

They hated him so much that they could not even look at him.  People turned their faces away from him.  When we see people in the street with signs asking for money, we often turn away from them and pretend that we did not see them.  Jesus’ body was so disfigured on the cross that people turned their face away from him.

Jesus is called “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  What does it mean that Jesus was a man of sorrows?  Does that mean he was gloomy? Does it mean he never laughed or never had a sense of humor?  Does it mean that he was always sad?  No!

Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). He was always cheering up people.  He said, “be of good cheer” three times (Matthew 9:2; Mark 6:50; John 16:33).  He told people to “cheer up.”  The Bible says that he was full of joy through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).  He wanted us to share his joy that that out joy would be full (John 15:11).

He even told jokes.  Many of his parables contain humor in them, like the man walking around with a log in his eye or when he talked about the Pharisees who strained out a gnat and then swallowed a camel, but he also experienced sorrow.  He experienced mental anguish.   He experienced emotional pain.

He experienced other people’s pain.  He wept over the future destruction of the city of Jerusalem.  He wept over the death of Lazarus.  He also experienced personal pain and anguish.  They said, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).

They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered (John 19:15 NIV).  It is pretty hard when your own people reject you.

The Suffering Servant

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)

The Messiah not only experienced success and scorn, He experienced suffering, painful suffering, excruciating suffering, suffering we cannot imagine.  In these verses, we see three very important truths.

TRUTH NUMBER ONE: We are all sinners

All we like sheep have gone astray.  We are like wandering sheep.  It describes not just the whole nation of Israel; it describes the whole human race.  Each one has gone astray.  We are selfish and we are rebellious by nature.  We do not all go astray the same way.  We all go our own way.

TRUTH NUMBER TWO: Jesus suffered for our sins

He did not suffer for his sins.  He suffered for our sins.  We sinned.  He suffered.  One preacher called this “history’s greatest substitution” [2].  This was the greatest substitution of all time.

Jesus died as a substitute for our sins.  Our guilt was transferred to him.  This is the gospel in Isaiah.  It is the same message that Paul preached that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  This is the John 3:16 of the OT.

Jesus was smitten by God, not just by the Romans and not just by Pontius Pilate.  He was smitten by God.  He died as an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10).  He died for the transgression of His people (Isaiah 53:9).  The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6 NIV).

Notice the word “all” is found twice in Isaiah 53:6. ALL of us have gone astray and the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us ALL. It is a good verse to show that Jesus died for everyone.  It is a good verse against limited atonement.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)

TRUTH NUMBER THREE: Jesus’ suffering made us well

It brought us peace.  It brought us healing.  Both are in Isaiah 53:5. That brings us to one of the most misquoted in the church today.  Many people misunderstand this verse.  It is a favorite verse among prosperity preachers.

By His Stripes We are Healed

What does the phrase “by his stripes we are healed” (KJV) mean?  What are stripes?  It is talking about Jesus’ beatings, his scourging.  How could his wounds heal people?

How could someone’s wounds heal someone else?  What does it mean that they heal people?  Healing is for people who are sick.  When we see the word “healing,” we think of sickness and disease.  We think of cancer.

Do these words guarantee physical healing to every believer?  No.  Many have prayed these words and have been healed but many godly, Spirit-filled believers have not.

Does that mean that we cannot trust the Bible? No.  Isaiah 53:5 is talking about spiritual healing and it is very easy to prove that. The key is the CONTEXT.  What is the context of the passage?

In the context, Isaiah 53:5 deals with sin, not sickness.  The verse does NOT say that Jesus was pierced for our sickness and crushed for our diseases.  It says that he was pierced for our TRANSGRESSIONS and crushed for our INIQUITIES.

If you are not convinced by that argument, then do a word study of the word “healing” in the Book of Isaiah to see how it is used.  It is used six times in Isaiah (Isaiah 6:10; 19:22; 30:26; 53:5; 57:18; 57:19) and in EVERY case it is used of spiritual healing.  It is NEVER used of physical healing in the book.

Isaiah 6:10 is one example.  Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed (NIV).

It is clearly talking about spiritual healing.  When their heart is hard and their ears are dull and their eyes are close, it is talking about their spiritual condition.  Healing in that verse is also spiritual.

If you are still not convinced, look at how the verse is used in the NT.  Isaiah 53:5 is quoted one time in the NT and, in that place, it is used of spiritual healing.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (I Peter 2:24-25 NIV).  Everything in that passage is spiritual (bore our SINS, die to SINS, live for RIGHTEOUSNESS).

Some people object that Isaiah 53:4 does refer to physical sickness.  They are absolutely right.  The KJV says, “he has born our griefs” and that word “griefs” literally means sicknesses (cf. Deuteronomy 7:15; 28:59, 61; I Kings 17:17; II Kings 1:2; 8:8-9, etc.)  This verse is quoted in the NT and refers to physical healing but there’s a catch.

That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17 NLT)

This does not prove that healing is in the atonement.  It proves the exact opposite.  The only time that it is quoted in the NT, it does not refer to Jesus’s death on the cross.  It refers to Jesus’ healing ministry.  Matthew says that when Jesus healed people, Isaiah 53:4 was being fulfilled.

Jesus did not bear people’s diseases by suffering them himself or by dying.  He took them away by healing them.  When Jesus got rid of Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever, he did not give himself a fever.  He just healed her (Matthew 8:14-15).

The Submissive Servant

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:7-9 ESV)

Jesus is not only the suffering servant; he is the submissive servant.  He is described as a lamb.  That is interesting.  The whole human race was described as wandering sheep who go astray.

One quality of sheep is that they are rebellious.  Jesus is also described as a lamb (baby sheep).  Another quality is that they are silent.  They are meek animals.  They are docile.  When their wool is cut, they are quiet.

Jesus was suffering and he was silent.  What Jesus did, we would call un-American.  Jesus experienced suffering.  It was unjust suffering. It was painful suffering.  It was humiliating suffering.  It is illegal suffering.  It was unfair yet notice what Jesus did NOT do.

He didn’t resist.  He didn’t fight back, even though he had the power to stop it.  He didn’t protest and demand his rights on the street.  He didn’t threaten anyone and say, “I will get you back.”  He didn’t curse and swear.  He didn’t get mad at God for how unfair he was being treated and how unfair life was.

That is our natural reaction.  That is how we respond today when things that are unfair and unjust happen to us.  When we are mistreated, we are not silent.  We are loud. We are out on the street demanding our rights, protesting.

When Jesus returns to earth, He will not be silent and submissive.  He will rule with an iron rod, but the NT says that we are to follow Jesus’ example when he was on earth.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 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. (I Peter 2:21-23 NIV)

The Satisfied Servant

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV)

This is the third voice in the chapter.  It is the voice of Isaiah.  God the Father has spoken.  The nation has spoken and now the prophet speaks.

Why did he suffer?  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.  Suffering was God’s will in his life.  Many think that God never causes suffering.  Only the Devil does that.  That is a lie.

It was God’s will that Jesus endure the terrible suffering of the cross.  Now, God is not sadistic.  He does not like to torture people, but it was God’s will Jesus die a violent painful death on a Roman cross.

In fact, He planned it thousands of years before it happened.  It is actually God’s will that some believers experience suffering.  That does not fit the prosperity message.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Jesus not only died for transgressors; He was numbered with them.  He died between two thieves and he prayed for the transgressors.  He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

What were the results of Jesus’ sacrifice?  He is satisfied.  He did the will of God.  God blessed him.  His days were prolonged.  The chapter has already talked about him dying and pouring out his soul to death and now his days are prolonged and he sees the light of life.  That is resurrection.  Anytime you do God’s will, you will be blessed and satisfied as well.

He ends up with a seed, not a physical seed but a spiritual seed because earlier it said that he did not have a generation.  This is talking about people who are saved as a result of his death.

He ends up justifying many by his death.  Now that he bore their iniquities, they are justified.  This is amazing.  Isaiah 53 here sounds like the book of Romans and Galatians in the NT.

The chapter ends with a brief summary of the chapter.  Jesus endured SUFFERING, made a SACRIFICE for sin, acquired a SEED, shared the SPOILS, prayed for SINNERS and received SATISFACTION for his obedience.  He ends up with great SUCCESS.

[1] https://www.grace-ebooks.com/library/Henry%20Mahan/Henry%20Mahan%20Transcribed%20Sermons%20By%20Text/23_isaiah/isa%2053%20The%20Gospel%20According%20to%20Isaiah.htm

[2] https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=81406132141

A Ghost Story

Everyone loves a good ghost story. Are ghosts real?  Is it possible to communicate with someone who died?  Is it wrong to try to contact a loved one who died?   What does it say about the Bible say about the occult?

Today, we are going to finish the book of I Samuel.  It has been a huge blessing to study for me personally.  What is in these chapters may be new to you, because these chapters are hardly ever preached in church.

They deal with the topic of the occult and the afterlife.  We are also going to look at how these chapters apply to us today and what lessons we can learn.  I Samuel 28 is one of the strangest stories in the Bible. What is so strange about it?

A Strange Story

1) I Samuel 28 is strange because it has a WITCH in it

There are not too many stories in the Bible about witches. This is a story about one of the most famous witches in history, the Witch of Endor.  She is not really a witch. The Bible does not call her a witch. A witch deals in magic or casts spells. The Bible calls her “a medium” (I Samuel 28:7).

Mediums are people who try to contact the dead.  Since she has been known as “The Witch of Endor,” that is what we will call her. Why is God communicating through a witch?  God can use a magician (three magi).  He can use a witch (Witch of endor).  He can use a donkey.  He is completely sovereign.

2) I Samuel 28 is strange because it has a GHOST in it

It was Samuel’s ghost or spirit.  This story does not just have a ghost in it.  It has a scary ghost.  It completely scared the Witch of Endor and she was used to seeing strange things.  When she sees it, she does not just scream; she screams loudly, at the top of her voice (I Samuel 28:12). This story is perfect for Halloween.  It is spooky.

3) I Samuel 28 is a little strange because it has a SEANCE in it

Saul has a séance.  The night before a big battle, Saul has a séance with a witch.  The ghost of Samuel suddenly appears and speaks.  Saul gets a message from Samuel beyond the grave.

It is the only time in the Bible where someone who died came back with a message.  Jesus came back from the dead with a message but he was no longer dead.  Samuel was still dead.  This is the only time in the Bible where someone who died appeared with a message to someone on earth[1]

These are dark and gloomy chapters.  I Samuel 28 describes Saul’s darkest hour.  Last week, we saw David’s darkest hour.  This week, we see Saul’s darkest hour.  This is Saul’s last night on earth.  It is his last supper on earth. It is like his last meal on death row.

Saul has a big problem.  He has a crisis on his hands.  It is a military crisis and he needs some answers but is not getting any, so he turned to a witch and he got some answered.  It worked.  Saul was able to contact the Prophet Samuel after he died, and Samuel talked to him.

Saul got one final conversation with Samuel.  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have one final conversation with someone who died (a parent, a loved one, a friend, a spouse)?  Saul got that opportunity.

He turned to Samuel for some help.  All Samuel tells him is that that he has only twenty-four hours to live and his sons have only twenty-four hours to live.  How would you feel if you received that message?  How would you feel if God told you that by tomorrow, you would be dead?

This is a disturbing section.  A desperate king commits a desperate act and receives a disturbing message from a dead prophet and then dies a disgraceful death and is publicly humiliated by his enemy.

Three Background Events

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land. 

4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. (I Samuel 28:3-5 NIV)

The story begins with three important background events.  This story would not have taken place unless these three things happened.

First, the prophet Samuel dies. He died earlier in the book but his death is part of the background to this story.

Second, Saul gets rid of all of the mediums and witches from the land.  People who practiced the occult were kicked out.

Third, the Philistines prepared for war.  They did not plan for a border raid (like David was doing) but full-scale war, as Frutchenbaum points out.

This army was much larger than the Jewish army.  We know from I Samuel 13:5 that the Philistines had chariots. They had a massive army and better technology.  Saul’s army was smaller, and he knew that he did not stand a chance.

The best Philistine killer was David and he was no longer in the country.  In fact, he joined forces with the Philistines along with six hundred of his men.

Saul did not know if they were going to fight against him. The Prophet Samuel was also dead.  In the past, when Saul had a problem, he could turn to Samuel for counsel.  Now, Samuel is dead.  He killed all of the priests.  He has no spiritual leader to turn to and Saul is afraid.

The Witch of Endor

He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.” “There is one in Endor,” they said. (I Samuel 28:6-7 NIV).

Saul turns to a witch.  He breaks his own law.  He turns to a medium to solve his problems, the Witch of Endor.  Since he could not get any answers from earth or heaven, he tries to get some answers from hell.

Saul takes two men with him, puts on a disguise, takes off his kingly robes, and visits a witch at night.   He had to walk about eight miles to get to her.  He also had to walk around the Philistine army to get to this witch.  He put himself in danger to get to her and the witch put herself in danger by meeting with Saul, since her occupation was illegal.

She is a little mysterious.  She only appears once in the Bible and never again.  She has no name.  Who was she?  We don’t know but Jewish tradition (e.g., Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer) says that she was the mother of Abner but there is no evidence for that.

Saul’s Final Act of Rebellion

Saul lived a life of rebellion against God and it culminates in one final act of rebellion, the sin of divination.  So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.” (I Samuel 28:8 NIV)

Samuel said, “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (I Samuel 15:23 NIV).  Divination was something that God hated.  He called it an abomination.  In the OT, it was not just a SIN; it was a CRIME.

It was a crime punishable by DEATH in the Law of Moses.  Exodus 22:18 says, “Do NOT allow a sorceress to live” (NIV). Leviticus 20:27 says, “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you MUST be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads” (NIV).

Saul commits the sin and a day later he is dead, but the witch continues to live. What was the witch’s reaction to Saul’s visit? She was suspicious.  She didn’t trust him.  She wanted to make sure that this was not a sting operation.

But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?” (I Samuel 28:9 NIV).   Saul promised to protect the witch, the very witch God commanded to be executed.

Notice what Saul said.  Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will NOT be punished for this” (I Samuel 28:10 NIV).  God said in the law that they were to be punished by death.  Saul swears by God that she will not be punished.  He takes up the name of God and swears that he will not do with he is commanded to do in Scripture.

He asks her to call up Samuel and she does.  When he appears, she is shocked.  She screams.  Apparently, she didn’t expect it. Saul asked what he looked like and when she told him, Saul knew it was Samuel.

Then, Samuel starts to speak to Saul.  He does not speak through the medium.  He speaks directly to Saul and Saul speaks to him (I Samuel 28:15-19) and the woman was not part of the conversation.

According to Jewish tradition, the Witch of Endor saw Samuel, but did not hear his voice.  Saul heard Samuel’s voice, but could not see him.  That is what the text seems to say.

 Was this Samuel or a Demon?

Did Samuel actually appear to Saul or was this Satan in disguise, as Matthew Henry suggests. Was this a demon?  Can we know for sure?  R.C. Sproul said it is impossible to know the answer [2].  Is he right?  That is what most people think.  The fact is that it is very easy to know which view is correct

The text is very clear. There is nothing in the chapter about a demon or evil spirit.  It says very clearly that the woman SAW SAMUEL (I Samuel 28:12).  It does NOT say that she saw a demon or evil spirit that looked like Samuel.

In fact, five times in the passage we see the words SAMUEL SAID (I Samuel 28:12, 14, 15, 16, 20), not “a demon said.”  What conclusions can we draw?

The text says that it was Samuel, not a demon. What Samuel says here is consistent with what he said to Saul earlier in the book (I Samuel 13; 15) and the prophecy came true just as Samuel said it would. That was the test of a true prophet in the Bible.

Samuel’s Final Prophecy

Samuel utters his final prophecy.  He utters his final prophecy after he died.  He is the only one to give a prophecy after he died and while he was still dead.  He gives a final sermon.  That would be like if our pastor died and then his spirit appeared and uttered one final message from the grave.

What kind of prophecy does he utter?  It is a prophecy of judgment.  It was all negative.  It was also very specific.  It was not general and vague, like some prophecies today.  He said to Saul, “I am dead.  Tomorrow, you will be dead.  You and your sons will be dead, and David will be king.”

It is very interesting if you compare Samuel’s first prophecy and his last prophecy.  Samuel’s FIRST PROPHECY was that the high priest Eli and his two sons would die on the same day (I Samuel 3).

Samuel’s LAST PROPHECY was that King Saul and his sons would die on the same day (I Samuel 28).  The poor man had to be the instrument of bad news to people.  Prophets did not get to choose their message.  They said whatever God told them to say.

Samuel was the instrument of bad news when he was a little boy and he was the instrument of bad news after he died.  Many so called prophets today have a message of nothing but good news to people.  They said that Trump will be re-elected and it will be good.  None of them said that Biden will be elected and it will be bad.

The Wicked King and The Good Witch

Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night. (I Samuel 28:20 NIV)

The Witch of Endor did good to the one who tried to get rid of all the witches in the land.  She was kind.  She was compassionate.  She comforted Saul.  She showed hospitality.  She does not just offer him food.  She insisted on it and would not take no for an answer.

Apparently, she was a good cook.  She killed the fatted calf.  Saul ate the fatted calf just like the Prodigal son did (Luke 15:22-23).  She cooked him a big meal, which must have taken some time.  There was no microwave back in the day.  This witch cooked Saul his last meal and it was not a TV dinner.

The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. 25 Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate. That same night they got up and left. (I Samuel 28:24 NIV).

Four Truths about the Afterlife

This story about Samuel and the Witch of Endor tells us a lot about the afterlife.  Notice four facts from this story.

1) There is life after death

The afterlife is real.  Some say that when you die you cease to exist.  That is what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach.  It is called annihilationism but that is not what we see here.  After Samuel dies, he does not cease to exist.  He is still alive.  His body is dead, but his spirit is alive.  It appears.  People can see it and Samuel speaks to people.

2) The righteous go to a better place after death

Notice how Samuel rebuked Saul when he called him up.  Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” I Samuel 28:15 NIV).  Samuel was at a place of peace after he died.  He did not go to Hell.  He did not go to Purgatory.  He was at peace.  After he died, he went to a better place than earth.  He did not want to come back to earth.

3) You do not lose your personal identity after death

“What does he look like?” he asked. “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel (I Samuel 28:14 NIV).  Samuel was recognizable after death.  Samuel does appear as an old man.  There will not be any old people in heaven, but this is also before the cross and before the resurrection.

Jesus had not died yet.  Samuel is not in heaven yet.  He is in Hades or Sheol.   He came “up from the ground” (I Samuel 28:13), not “down from Heaven.  What is important here is that he was recognized by others after he died.   You will be recognized after you die.  You won’t lose your identity.

4) After death, you will know much more than you know now

The Bible says that in heaven we will know even as we are known (I Corinthians 13:12).  Samuel knew what would happen the next day to Saul and his sons.  Bible teacher S. Lewis Johnson used to say that a child in heaven will know more in five seconds than the greatest theologians on earth know now.

Three Powerful Lessons

How does all of this apply to us today?  How does Saul apply today?  How does the Witch of Endor apply today?  What can we learn from this story?  I want to look at three lessons from a disobedient king.

1) If we do not listen to God, don’t expect our prayers to be answered

When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. (I Samuel 28:5-6 NIV)

Saul tried to hear from God.  He reached out to God and God was silent.  Why didn’t God answer him?  He was living in deliberate rebellion to the Word of God.  He did not truly repent, even though he claimed to twice.  There was absolutely no change in his life.

One thing we hear preachers say a lot is that God speaks to people.  They are right.  They are absolutely right.  Of course, it is also true that sometimes, God will not speak to people.  Sometimes, he refuses to speak to people, even if they reach out to Him.

28 Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke (Proverbs 1:28-30 NIV)

Could God ever stop speaking to us?  Yes.  The Bible says that if we live with unconfessed sin and pray, God will not hear us.  If we do not listen to him, He will not listen to us.

If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18 NIV)

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2 NIV)

2) If we choose to live in rebellion to God, we can expect to suffer.

James Macdonald used to say, “Choose to sin; choose to suffer.”  The Bible says that “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15 KJV).  Saul sinned and he suffered badly.  Saul came under divine judgment in these chapters.  What happened to him?  The next day, eight terrible things happened.

a) The nation of Israel lost a military battle (I Samuel 31:1)

b) Three of Saul’s four sons were killed in battle (I Samuel  31:2)

c) Saul was mortally wounded in battle by an arrow (I Samuel 31:3)

d) Saul commits suicide, rather than be tortured by the enemy (I Samuel 31:4)

e) Saul was beheaded after death (I Samuel 31:8-9)

f) Saul’s dead body was publicly displayed on a wall (I Samuel 31:10)

g) Saul’s armor was placed in a pagan temple (I Samuel 31:10)

h) The Philistines invaded the country of Israel (I Samuel 31:7)

Judgment did not happen to Saul immediately.  It took years before it went into effect.  Saul had many sins.  Jewish tradition mentions four sins of Saul (Lev. Rabbah 26:7).  When Saul visited the Witch of Endor, when he committed the sin of divination, that completely sealed his fate.  That was the sin that did him in.

Saul received three prophetic words of judgment from Samuel.  He received one in I Samuel 13.  He received one in I Samuel 15 and he received one in I Samuel 28.  Each one of those words came after Saul had sinned.  Saul did not get the message the first time.  Sometimes, God has to say things to us several times before we get the point.

Saul’s sin did not just affect him, it affected his kids.  They suffered as well. You are never better off if you do things your way instead of God’s way.  You always lose in the end.

Does God judge people today?  Does he judge believers today?  We don’t know if Saul was saved but he believed in the true God. He was not a pagan.  He was not a Philistine.  He was an Israelite, and he was under divine judgment.

God judges believers today for sin.  He judged Ananias and Sapphira in the NT (Acts 5).  They were members of the first church in Jerusalem.  This is not talked about too much in church today because it is not popular.  No one wants to hear this message.

3) If you participate in the occult, you are playing with fire

Saul gets what he wants in this chapter.  He contacts the dead Samuel through a medium.  Does this chapter encourage you to dabble in the occult?  Does it encourage you to try to contact dead loved ones?   Does it encourage you to call the psychic hotline?  No.  Several things are clear here.

1. The Bible expressly forbids all occult activities.

Scripture prohibits going to a medium or trying to contact the dead (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:9-12).  When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Isaiah 8:19 NIV)

In fact, there is a story of some who came to faith in Ephesus while Paul was there.  After they got saved, they burned all of their occult books (Acts 19:18-20).  This is a clear teaching of the Bible.  The Bible does not encourage witchcraft.

2. The Witch of Endor did not bring Samuel up.

God brought Samuel up, not the witch.  That is why she was so shocked and surprised.  That is why she screamed at the top of her voice.  She did not expect it to happen.  If the witch brought Samuel back, she would not be surprised to see him.

God brought Samuel up in spite of the witch, not because of her [3]. Jesus is the only one who has the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).

3. Visiting a witch did not help Saul.

It only hurt Saul.  He did not get any comfort.  He did not get any encouragement.  He did not get any advice.  He did reach Samuel, but he did not help him.  It only made him more afraid and depressed.

Samuel did not give him any good news.  He only gave him bad news.  He just told him that he would be dead in twenty-four hours.  It would have been better if Saul never went there in the first place.

If you were going to die in a terrible car crash in one day and some of your family would be killed and there was absolutely nothing you could do to prevent it, would you want to know that the day before?

You might want to take care of things the day before, but all that news would do is to make you completely depressed.  Sometimes, it is better to be ignorant.  The Bible says to live one day at a time and not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34).

[1] Elijah and Moses appeared at the Transfiguration.  They were still dead and appeared in Mark 9:4. They could be seen by people but they just talked to Jesus.

[2] https://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/did-saul-talk-to-the-spirit-of-samuel-or-a-demonic-impersonation/

[3] Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask, 168.

The Danger of Compromise

Many people in the Bible seem larger than life.  Moses parted the Red Sea with a rod.  Elijah called fire down from heaven.  He raised a boy from the dead.  He changed the weather.  He prayed and there was a drought for three years.  He prayed again and it started raining.  Joshua commanded the Sun to stand still.

When was the last time that you did that?  Have you ever raised anybody from the dead?  Have you ever changed the weather by your prayers?   When have you changed the movement of the stars or planets by your words?

David was also larger than life.  He was Israel’s greatest king.  He was the only man in the Bible who was called “a man after God’s own heart.”  No one besides David is called that.  He had the faith to kill a huge giant.  Without question, he was one of the greatest men of the Bible.  He was an ancestor of the Messiah.

In these chapters, we find that David was just like us.  He was human.  He was imperfect.  He had flaws.  He had sins.  Some of them were big sins, as we will see in this chapter and later in II Samuel.  He made really bad decisions.

David’s Darkest Hour

In this chapter, we see David’s darkest hour.  David is at a low point in his life.  These are David’s darkest days.  He is depressed.  He is dark.  He is gloomy.  He is pessimistic.  He was afraid.  He is driven to despair.  Has that ever happened to you?  Notice the opening of the chapter.

But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”

2 So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maok king of Gath. 3 David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal. 4 When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him.  (I Samuel 27:1-4 NIV).

We can’t criticize him too much.  We do exactly the same thing today that David did.  David said, “Saul is going to kill me.  It is only a matter of time.  It may not happen today.  It may not happen this week or this month but it will happen.  It is only a matter of time before I am dead.  I can’t run forever.”

God delivered David from a lion.  He delivered him from a bear.  He delivered him from Goliath but somehow he thought God would not deliver him from Saul, so he had to run away, leave the country and go to the land of the Philistines.

David is exhausted.  He is tired of running from a madman.  He was tired of being a fugitive.  He was a fugitive month after month and year after year.  David has been a fugitive for years.  He has been on the run for over eight years.  That gets old, especially when you have families to take care of.  He went on the run in I Samuel and, by I Samuel 27, he is still on the run.

When you think about it, David had many things on his side.  He had many reasons to believe that one day he would be king.

1) David had a prophetic word that he would be king.  Most of us do not have a specific prophetic word about our lives and our future.  David did.

2) David had a kingly anointing.  He was anointed to be king by a prophet.  He was anointed with oil.

3) David had special empowerment from the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came on David powerfully.

4) David had all kinds of evidence of success in his life.  He had plenty of evidence of God working in his life, providing and protecting him.

5) David had lots of encouragement from all kinds of people, including his enemies.

King Saul said, “I know that you will SURELY be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.” (I Samuel 24:20 NIV)

Abigail said, “The Lord your God will CERTAINLY make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord EVERY good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel| (I Samuel 25:28-30 NIV)

In fact, David himself said, “As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from ALL TROUBLE” (I Samuel 26:24 NIV).

David used to believe that God would deliver him.  He used to believe that he would live to be king.  Now, he is convinced that one day Saul will kill him.

Is David any different from us?  We are not always on a spiritual high.  We have our ups and down.  We have fears.  Sometimes, we feel great and sometimes we are driven to despair.  Sometimes, our faith in God’s Word is strong.  Sometimes, we have questions about our faith.

It is a common problem.  In some churches, if you have any questions, they kick you out of the church.  You are not allowed to question anything.  Some of the greatest saints have questions.  John the Baptist was one of the greatest men of the Bible.  Jesus said he was (Matthew 11:11).

He was locked up in a Roman prison for months and went through a dark period in his life. He had some real questions about who Jesus really was.  He asked Jesus, “Are you the one who came or should we look for another?”  Jesus did not rebuke him and say, “That’s a dumb question.  Why would you ask such a thing?  You of all people should know better.”  Instead, he answered his question.

What caused David’s depression?  What caused his faith to falter?  The chapter begins with these words, “But David thought to himself” (NIV).   “David said to himself” (Berean Study Bible).

Instead of looking up for answers, he looks inside.  Instead of having a conversation with God, he has a conversation with himself.  That is one guaranteed way to be depressed.  Just look within.  That is Buddhism.

David decides that the ONLY way to protect himself is to run away from his problems.  He moves to the land of the Philistines.  He stays there for sixteen months (I Samuel 27:7).  He was in this country when King Saul died.   David is living in enemy territory.  What do we know about the Philistines?

They were pagans.  They were idol worshippers.   They were not just the enemies of Israel.  They were the archenemies of Israel.  This was where the giant Goliath was from.  In a few chapters, the Philistines not only kill Saul, they kill Jonathon, David’s best friend.

Advantages to Living in Gath

David does it for one reason, to get away from Saul and it works.  “When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him.” (I Samuel 27:4 NIV).   There were some advantages to living in Gath.  Now, he does not have to worry every day if he is going to die, so he goes to Gath and makes friends with the leader of Gath, whose name was Achish (ah-keesh).

Achish liked David a lot.  He said, “I know that you have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God” (I Samuel 29:9 NIV).  Achish thought he was an angel but it was all built on a lie.  He did not know that he went around killing his own people behind his back.  Achish said, “From the day you came to me until today, I have found no fault in you” (I Samuel 27:6 NIV)

He not only liked David and respected David; he trusted David (I Samuel 27:12 NIV).  He trusted him so much that he made David his bodyguard (I Samuel 28:2).  Compare this reaction of David to Saul’s reaction to David.  Saul didn’t like David and he didn’t trust David.  He couldn’t stand him.  It is strange but sometimes the world treats you better than some people in the church.

Not only was he treated better there and safer there (no assassination attempts) but there was food there.  Nabal would not give him any but he found some in Gath and David was not living in a cave.  David was given a town in the country to live in (I Samuel 27:5).  It was the town of Ziklag.

Recent Discovery of Ziklag

For the longest time, no one knew exactly where the city of Ziklag was located.  Just a few years ago some archeologists discovered this town. In 2019, a team of Israeli and Australian archaeologists excavated it.[1]  They even found some items going back to the time of David there.

Did David Do the Right Thing?

Did David do the right thing?  If something works, does that make it right?   No.  Just because something works does not make it right.  That is “the ends justifies the means” philosophy.

You can commit murder and get away with it but does that make it right?  You can rob a store because you don’t have money to pay your rent and never get caught.  Just because something works, doesn’t make it right.

David went to the land of the Philistines before and didn’t work.  In fact, the prophet Gad told him to go back to the land of Israel.  He had a word from God to go home (I Samuel 22:5). Now, he decides to go back.  Believers make the same mistake more than once.  You would think that we would learn the first time.  Sometimes, we have to make the mistake several times, before we get the point.

The Results of Compromise

David solved one problem when he moved to the land of the Philistines but he created many more problems.  Compromise is always dangerous.  It always has some unintended consequences.  What were some of the results of compromise?

1) It puts people at risk

When you compromise, sometimes other people get hurt.  He put people at risk in Gath.  The last time David went to Gath, he went by himself.  This time he brought his two wives with him.  He also brought six hundred men and their families.  If you count the women and children, he went there with well over a thousand people.  David brought godly Abigail into this pagan, idolatrous country and put her in danger.  She would later be kidnapped (I Samuel 30:2).

2) It results in sin

David sins in this chapter. He commits three main sins in the chapter and these sins are repeated.  They are not done one time. David steals. David lies.  David commits murder.

He commits mass murder.  He went on raids and just wiped out entire towns.  We would call these war crimes today. Is David just doing what Joshua did?  Was David just an instrument of judgment?  There are some important differences between David and Joshua.

God never told David to do this.  He just did it.  The reason he killed people was not to do what God told him to do but to prevent any witnesses from reporting on his crimes (I Samuel 27:11).  That is the wrong reason to kill people, so there are no eyewitnesses.

When David wanted to build God a Temple, God said, “No. You have shed too much blood on the earth but your son Solomon can build me one” (cf. I Chronicles 22:8).

In addition, David killed all the people but brought all of the spoils back to the Philistine Achish.  That was not part of the directions God gave to Joshua

David is not only extremely violent in Gath, committing mass murder, but he is dishonest.  He has to constantly lie about who he is killing and what he is doing.  He lied all of the time. David told bold face lies in Gath.  His whole life in Gath is one big lie.  He leads a double life.

Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.) 9 Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.

10 When Achish asked, “Where did you go raiding today?” David would say, “Against the Negev of Judah” or “Against the Negev of Jerahmeel” or “Against the Negev of the Kenites.” 11 He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, “They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’” And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory (I Samuel 27:8-11 NIV)

That is the exact opposite of how we are to live today.  We are to be open.  We are to be honest.  We are to be transparent.  We are to be truthful and not lie to one another.

3) It leads to two masters

It is hard to live a double life.  James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (NIV).  David had to be a faithful Jews and a faithful Philistine all of the time.  Eventually, he had to choose between the two.  He could not be both at the same time.  You can’t live for God and for the world at the same time.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24 NIV).

It came to the point where he was asked to go to war against his own people and asked him what he would do (I Samuel 28:1).  That is the kind of thing that happens once you compromise.  David was asked if he would fight.  He gave the political answer.  It was vague.

He said, “you will see for yourself what your servant can do” (I Samuel 28:2 NIV).  That is like what Joe Biden when he was asked if he would pack the Supreme Court.  He said, “Elect me and find out what I will do.  I am not going to tell you but you will see what I will do shortly.”

David almost went to war against his own people.  He almost did it but once again God kept him from sinning.  Some of the other Philistine leaders did not trust David like Achish did.  They sent him home (I Samuel 29:1-11).  That solved the whole problem but they only sent him home after he came out on the battlefield ready to fight.

David’s Restoration

We have seen David at his lowest point.  We see him sin and compromise but he does not stay there. In these chapters, we also see him completely restored. How does that happen?  What did it take to restore David.  What did God use to restore him?  God used circumstances in his life to restore him.

David had to repent and ask God for help but he did not do that until he was completely broken.  That did not happen overnight.  It did not happen for sixteen months.  Some of us need to be completely broken before we can be restored.  How was David broken?

Achish asked David to go into battle against his own people.  When David and his six hundred soldiers get there, the Philistine commanders say, “What is he doing here?”  They did not trust him and they sent him back home (I Samuel 29), so they walked seventy-five miles home.

When they got home, they are tired from walking at least seventy-five miles and then they saw Ziklag on fire.  Their city was on fire.  Their homes were destroyed.  All of the women and children were gone.  They were kidnapped. The men were exhausted and now they were completely devastated.  Their family was gone.

David did some raiding on the Amalakites and now the Amalites raided him and kidnapped all of the women and children.  One of the things that God told King Saul to do was to wipe out all of the Amalakites but he did not do it and now they kidnapped all of these families and the men were talking about killing David.

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”

“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”  (I Samuel 30:6-7 NIV)

Chuck Swindoll called this “a turning point in David’s life.”[2] When David was completely discouraged, when there was absolutely no hope, when his own soldiers wanted to kill him, in David’s darkest hour, he didn’t find strength in himself or in anyone else.  He found strength in God.

David was in an impossible situation. All of the wives were gone.  The kids were gone.  God was the only one who could help him.  He is the only one who can help us.  We need to completely depend on God and rely on Him to solve our problems.

[1]https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/IsraelExperience/History/Pages/Archaeologists-uncover-biblical-town-of-Ziklag-8-July-2019.aspx

[2] The Swindoll Study Bible NLT . Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Playing the Fool

Today, we are going to be talking about fools.  It is an important topic today because we are surrounded by them in the world in which we live.  Last time we were together, we looked at a fool called NABAL.  He was a foolish farmer, a foolish businessman and a foolish husband. His name meant “fool.”

Today, we are going to look at another fool, named SAUL.  He was a foolish father-in-law, a foolish employer and a foolish king.  He was a leader who was a fool.  He was a foolish politician.  We have a few of those today.  As the saying goes, “there’s no fool like an old fool.”  Saul was an old fool.  He admitted he was a fool.  He said, “I played the fool” (I Samuel 26:21 KJV).

Three Types of Fools

Jerry Vines is a former pastor from Florida.  He was at one time the President of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He is retired now.  He is in his 80s.  Vines once preached a sermon and made the statement that there are three types of fools in the Bible: mental fools, material fools and moral fools.[1]

A MENTAL FOOL is a fool in his thinking.  There are a lot of mental fools.  One kind of mental fool is an atheist but there are many more.  The Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart that there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Atheists think that they are smart.  They think that they are advanced.  They have thrown off the shackles of the bible, the church and religion.  They think they are liberated.  Other people may call them smart.  God calls them fools.

Today, when we call someone a fool, we mean that this person is stupid.  Not all fools a low IQ.  Fools may be smart.  They may be educated.  They might teach at Princeton or Harvard, but they are fools in God’s eyes.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22 ESV).

A MATERIAL FOOL is a fool in his possessions.   Nabal was a material fool.  He was a rich fool.  He owned thousands of sheep and cattle.  Material fools are often wealthy.  Material fools do not think about eternity.  They live for the here and now.  Many are selfish and stingy.

The rich farmer in Luke 12 was a material fool.  He was rich.  He was selfish.  His philosophy was “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).  He was a hedonist like many today.  He just lived for pleasure.  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. (Luke 12:20 NIV)

A MORAL FOOL is a fool in his morals.  We have plenty of those today.  This kind of fool does not take sin seriously.  Fools make a mock at sin (Proverbs 14:7 NIV).  This kind of fool tries to make sin respectable.  This fool calls evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).

This fool believes that there are no consequences for sin.  One day, we will all die and stand before God who will hold people accountable for their actions.  He will judge everyone according to their works.

There are many different kinds of fools.  This list is not exhaustive.  What kind of fool was Saul?  What made him a fool?  We will see that he is a moral fool.  What made him a fool? Are we fools?  Have we played the fool, like Saul did?

In I Samuel 26, David outsmarts Saul.  He outsmarts his army and he outsmarts his personal bodyguard.  Abner was head of what we would call today his secret service.  David did not do it on his own.  He had a little help from above.  He got some divine intervention.  A miracle takes place in this chapter.  It is a sleeping miracle.

The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?” 2 So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. (I Samuel 26:1-2 NIV)

Notice how the chapter begins.  Saul gets some intelligence from the Ziphites.  The Ziphites once again tell Saul where David is hiding.  They rat him out.  They betray David.  What is surprising is that the Ziphites were from David’s own tribe.  They were from the Tribe of Judah.  Saul, once again, comes after David and once again brings three thousand troops with him.

When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived. Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” “I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.  So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground. (I Samuel 26:3-7 NIV)

David’s Plan

David finds out that Saul is looking for him.  He finds out that Saul is out to kill him, after he promised not to do that again, so what does David do?  What would we do?  We would run and hide.  We would run for our lives.  That is what any sane person would do.  That is what anyone who does not have a death wish would do but David was different.

David was a different kind of man.  The Bible says that the righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1 NIV).  David killed Goliath.  David was young.  He was bold.  He was fearless.  Instead of going on the defensive, he goes on the offensive.  Saul does NOT go into David’s camp.  David goes into Saul’s camp.

David does not just go into Saul’s camp.  He goes into the middle of the camp (because that is where Saul was).  He went there at night (probably in the middle of the night because everyone is asleep) and was completely undetected, like a ninja in the dark.

The odds were against him. This was risky.  It was dangerous.  Some would say that it was stupid.  He could have lost his life.  Some soldier in Saul’s army had to be a light sleeper.  If one soldier heard them to hear them, it would be two against three thousand men.

David asked if anyone wanted to go with him.  David finds one person who is willing to go.  The only one willing to go was a young man named Abishai. Who was Abishai?  We find out in I Chronicles.

13 Jesse was the father of Eliab his firstborn; the second son was Abinadab, the third Shimea, 14 the fourth Nethanel, the fifth Raddai, 15 the sixth Ozem and the seventh David. 16 Their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. Zeruiah’s three sons were Abishai, Joab and Asahel. (I Chronicles 12:13-16 NIV)

Abishai was the son of Zeruiah (zer-you-eye-ah).  Zeruiah was his mom, not his dad.  She happened to be one of David’s sisters.  That made his David’s nephew.  He was also was Joab’s brother.

David gets a chance to kill King Saul, but this time Saul is not going to the bathroom.  He is sleeping.  He gets a chance to kill him while he was sleeping but he does not take it, even though Saul tries to kill David while he was in bed earlier in the book (I Samuel 19:15-16).

David enters the cave and finds Saul sleeping but, this time, he is not alone, like he was before.  He is surrounded by all of his troops.  He is completely protected.  He even has his bodyguard with him.

David does not kill Saul, even though Abishai tells him to do it. He says, “God has delivered him into your hand.  Now is your chance.  Kill him and all of your problems will be over and you will be king, like God promised.”  In fact, in this chapter, Abishai offers to do it for David. He said that all it will take will be one thrust of the spear.

David refused to kill him because Saul is the Lord’s anointed.  Out of respect for the Lord, he refuses to kill him.  David said, “God put him in office.  Saul did not put himself there.  If God wants to take him out, He can but I am not going to.”

What does he do instead?  He does not cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.  He takes his spear and jug of water but later gives it back.  Some of us sleep with water near our bed and so did King Saul.  David took it, along with his sword.  Saul always had a spear by his side wherever he went.

This raises a question.  Why did David do this?  Why did he risk his like and the life of his nephew, especially if he does not kill Saul?  What was the point of that mission?

The last time that Saul and David meet on earth is in I Samuel 26.  When David encounters Saul, he does not kill him.  He just takes a jug of water and a sword out of the camp and gives them back anyway.   It seems like a complete waste, so why did he do it?  He did it to prove a point.

How do you change the opinion of someone who doesn’t like you?  How do you change the opinion of someone who has a completely false view about your character?  What can you do, based on David’s example, to try to change the opinion someone has of you?  Is it even possible to do that?

That was what David was up against.  That was his challenge, so what did he do?  What tactics did he use?  He did two things.  He used ACTIONS and he used WORDS and he used them in that order.  We usually just use words.

David did not just argue with Saul.  He did do that.  He said to him, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of?” (I Samuel 26:18 NIV). He also demonstrated through actions that he was not against Saul and was not trying to harm him.  He did this repeatedly.  He proved by his actions that he was not out to hurt King Saul.  Notice what David said.

Saul’s Response

What was Saul’s response?  He did not get emotional and weep out loud like he did last time (I Samuel 24:16) but he did give David a CONFESSION and a PROMISE.

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” (I Samuel 26:21 NIV)

Saul’s promise is that he will not try to hurt David anymore.  David does not put too much stock in this promise.  We will see that in the next chapter.  Saul would say one thing and go back on his word the next day.

Saul also makes a confession to David.  What is his confession?  He says, “I have sinned.”  Saul admits that he has sinned.  He had done that before.  He said the words “I have sinned” TWICE earlier in the book (cf. I Samuel 15:24, 30).  Not everyone who says those three words is sincere.  Not everyone who says, “I am sorry” really means it.  These days, people can say the right words and not mean any of it.

Saul does not only call himself a SINNER.  He calls himself a FOOL.  He says, “I played the fool” (I Samuel 26:21 KJV).   Saul says that he has been “terribly wrong” (I Samuel 26:21 NIV).  Saul admits that he did not just make a little mistake.  He made a huge mistake.

Samuel called him a fool in I Samuel 13:13 and now Saul calls himself a fool in I Samuel 26:21. He says that he played the fool.  That summed up his whole life.   You could put that on his tombstone.

At the end of his life, he looked back and said, “I have played the fool.” That is not what we want people to say about us at the end of our lives.

How many Christians have played the fool?  How many would dare to admit it?  Many would deny it, even if it were true, because of their pride.  Saul admits it here when he is confronted by David.

Saul was not always a fool.  He did not start out a fool.  He started out great.  How many professing Christians start out great but end up complete fools?

Compare how Saul started and how he ended?  He started out anointed by a prophet to be the first king of Israel.  He started out obedient.  He started out humble.  He started out filled with the Spirit.  He started out popular.

The people loved him.  Most of them did.  He started out full of promise.  He had a lot of potential.  God could have used him greatly.  He could have had a dynasty.  His son Jonathon could have been king.  The Messiah could have come from his line, but he became a fool.

How did Saul end up?  He ended up in deliberate disobedience to the command of God.  He ended up being a reject.  God rejected him as king.  He ended up fighting the will of God for his life.  He has a terrible and disgraceful ending.

That is always a bad plan.  He ended up demonized.  He had an evil spirit.  He ends up in the occult, visiting a witch.  He dies in disgrace.  After he dies, his enemies behead him.  That is not how any of us want to end up.

How Saul Played the Fool

How did Saul play the fool?  There are many ways he did this but four immediately stand out.

1) He deliberately disobeyed the Word of God

He deliberately disobeyed clear commands of Scripture.  Have we done that?  Some Christians live in blatant disobedience to the Word of God.

2) He actively fought the will of God for his life

God rejected him as king, and he continued to reign as king.  Do you know what God wants you to do and try to fight it or do you accept what he is doing in your life?

3) He gave it to a sinful obsession

Saul had a sinful obsession.  He was obsessed with killing David and tries to do it every day.  It was an irrational obsession because David had done nothing wrong. This obsession almost ruined his life.  Do we have a sinful obsession?

4) He did not live a life of integrity

His words meant nothing.  He would say, “I am sorry” when he was not sorry.  He made promises to people and repeatedly broke them.  Do we live lives of integrity?

[1] Jerry Vine, “Jacksonville’s Three Biggest Fools,” Sermon (1999).

The Message of Abigail Today

Last week, we began a study of I Samuel 25.  It describes a conflict between two men – David and Nabal.  They had was a business dispute.  Nabal was a rich farmer in Carmel.  He was not just rich; he was very rich.  He was loaded.  He owned thousands of sheep and goats.  David and his men watched them as they were grazing.  There was no police.

David and his men protected Nabal’s animals.  They kept them safe from bandits.  They saved Nabal a lot of money.  They did not ask for a lot of money.  They did not ask for some exorbitant fee for their services.  All they asked for was some type of compensation that Nabal thought was fair.  It was a perfectly reasonable request.

Nabal was not grateful for David’s services.  He had no appreciation for what David had done for him.  He not only rejected David’s offer, he mocked him.  He said, “Who is this David?  I don’t know him.”

David was famous.  Everyone knew who David was.  He was the most famous man in the country.  Women sung songs about him.  Not only did he ridicule him, he reviled him.  He vilified him.  He accused David of being disloyal to the king.  He accused him of being a rebel.  Nabal returned evil for good.

No good deed goes unpunished and David was furious.  David was mistreated and he planned on getting back at Nabal.  He and his men decided to take care of Nabal once and for all.  They planned to take him out.  Nobody liked him.  No one would miss him if he was gone.  David got four hundred men ready and planned a massacre.  They planned to kill Nabal and his family.

That brings us to the character of Abigail, one of the greatest women in the Bible, the hero of the chapter.  Abigail heard what her husband had done and she knew exactly what to do.  She took action.  She took immediate action. I Samuel 25:18 says, “Abigail acted quickly” (NIV).  The NLT reads, “Abigail wasted no time.”

She got some food together.  She brought together some good food, not just some leftovers and she brought together a lot of it.  She brought together enough to feed four hundred hungry men.  She brought much more food than they expected.  It was so much food that she needed some servants to help her bring it all.

This was Abigail’s catering service.  It was the first meals on wheels, only there were no wheels.  This food was delivered on donkeys.  The Bible says that she brought all of this food without telling her husband (I Samuel 25:19).

Abigail’s Speech

When she sees David, gives an important speech.  It is found in I Samuel 25:23-31.  It is “the longest speech by a woman in the Old Testament.”[1]  It is the single longest recorded speech by any woman in the Bible.  It is 272 words in English (NIV).

Abigail sees David, gets off of her donkey, and shows respect for David.  She bows to the ground, face in the dirt.  She calls him “my lord” nine times (I Samuel 25:24, 25 [2], 26, 28, 29, 30, 31 [2]).

She completely apologized for how her husband treated them.  She said, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him.” (I Samuel 25:25 NIV).

She brings God into the conversation, not in a routine way but in a genuine way.  How often do we do that?  We often leave God out.  Abigail mentions God seven times in this speech (I Samuel 25:26 [2], 28 [3], 30, 31).  God has blessed David.  He made promises to David and he will keep them.  She makes a prophecy.  This speech is prophetic.

Abigail predicts that one day David will be king.  He will be ruler over Israel (I Samuel 25:30).  He will have a lasting dynasty (I Samuel 25:28), unlike Saul who will have no dynasty.  Abigail was prophetic.  According to the Talmud, Abigail was one of the seven prophetesses of the Old Testament (Megillah 14a).

Abigail did not stop with a great speech.  She did more than give an eloquent speech.  She brought David and his men some food.  She did not just say, “You will be king one day.  I am sure of it.  Be warmed and filled.  God will one day bless you.”

The Bible says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (I John 3:18 NIV).  She did not just apologize or say she was sorry for what her husband had done.  She made it right.  Sometimes, we need to encourage people with words but sometimes they need more than words.

David had never seen a woman like Abigail.  She stopped him dead in his tracks.  We know the rest of the story.  David and his men had a meal.  They turned around and went back.  Abigail went home to her husband.  She eventually told him what happened.  He dropped dead.  David did not have to take Nabal out.  God did.

David proposed to Abigail and she got married.  Abigail asked David to remember her (I Samuel 25:31) and, after her husband died, he did.  Abigail became his wife but not his first wife.  David was actually married at the time to Ahinoam (I Samuel 25:43).[2]  This would have been wife number two for David.  He had another wife (Milcah) but he was not living with her.  In fact, Saul had given her to another man in marriage (I Samuel 25:44).

Lessons from Abigail

That brings us to an important question.  This is an interesting story but what does all of this have to do with us?  How does it apply to us?  How is Abigal a role model to believers today?  How does she speak to us today?  There are many lessons for us to look at.  What Abigail did, few women would do today.

1. Be people of character, even when people around us are not

We are to be people of character, people of integrity, even if people in our family or people we work with are not people of character.  Abigail was married to a fool, like women are today but that did not change who she was.  Just because she was married to a fool, did not mean that she became one.  When we are surrounded by complete darkness, we are just to shine the light of Christ even brighter.

That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15 NIV)

Abigail was beautiful (I Samuel 25:3).  According to Jewish tradition, she was one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived but Abigail was not just beautiful on the outside.  She was beautiful on the inside.  Today, most women focus on outward beauty.  That is what people look at.  That is what society says is important.  Many spend more time adorning the outward person, rather than the inward person.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (I Peter 3:3-4 NIV).

2. Be peacemakers in the midst of conflict

There are two types of people.  There are peacemakers and there are agitators.  They like to cause conflict and stir things up and disrupt them.  They love a good fight.  Some politicians just seem to stir up conflict between the rich and the poor.  Many social activists love to stir up hatred and conflict between the races, instead of trying to bring them all together.  Which type of person are you?

Abigail was a peacemaker.  She did not stir up conflict with her husband and try to pick a fight with him and she knew how to calm David down when he was angry.

Here were four hundred angry soldiers on their way to a massacre who come in contact with calm, gentile, peaceful woman armed with just a few rotisserie chickens and their hearts melted.  Men are simple creatures.  All you have to do is to make them some food.

Nabal returned EVIL FOR GOOD.  David wanted to return EVIL FOR EVIL.  Abigail OVERCAME EVIL WITH GOOD.

God calls us to be peacemakers.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).  Jesus doesn’t just call us to have peace.  We should have peace on the inside.  It is one of the Fruits of the Spirit but Jesus does not just call us to have a peaceful disposition.  He does not just call us to be PEACE LOVERS (like some hippy with a peace sign on their shirt).  He calls us to be PEACE MAKERS.

Peacemakers try to reconcile people who do not get along, people who can’t stand each other, people who are fighting.  That is God’s work.  He is in the business of reconciliation.  He is in the business of reconciling us to himself.  When you are a peacemaker, you are doing God’s work. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Peacemakers are not always successful.  What they try does not always work.  It worked with David because he was reasonable.  it would not have worked with Nabal, because he was a complete fool.  Some people just don’t want peace.  Being a peacemaker is not easy.  It is sometimes dangerous.  It can be costly.  To be a peacemaker, you don’t ruin from conflict.  You have to go into conflict.

3. Be wise in your daily decisions and personal relationships

Paul said, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15 NIV).  Abigail is an example of great wisdom in this chapter.  Proverbs says, “The wise woman builds her house” (Proverbs 14:1 NIV).  She knew what to do to take care of her family.  She knew what to do to save lives.  She knew how to respond to a crisis.  It required quick thinking and immediate action.  There was no time to procrastinate.

She showed wisdom in dealing with her husband.  When she left with the food, she did not ask her husband first (I Samuel 25:19).  Why?  One, he would have said “no.”  Two, she did not need to ask him.  It was the right thing to do.  She did not need to get his permission to do the right thing.

She knew when to talk to her husband and when not to talk to him.  When he was inebriated is not a good time to have a serious discussion.  When she talked to David, she knew how to use tact.  She knew exactly what to say and how to say it.

At the very minute that David was one his way to commit a massacre, Abigail reminded him how God has kept him from bloodshed and from avenging himself on his enemies.  That stabbed him right in the heart. She tells him that when he becomes king, he will not want to look back and have a guilty conscience and a lot of regrets.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15 NIV)

A wise person is open to suggestions and criticism. Nabal was not wise.  You could not tell him anything.  Abigail was so wise that she even took suggestions from her servants.  Normally servants are told what to do by their master but, in this case, the master was told what to do by her servants and Abigail listened to them.

4. Be honest in your dealings with people

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25 NIV)

Abigail was perfectly honest in her dealings with people.  She didn’t have a bunch of secrets.  When she came home, she told her husband exactly what she did.  She did not hide anything.  When she went before David, she was completely open and transparent.  She was open about her husband being a fool.  That was true.  It was public knowledge.  She was not spreading family secrets.  It was also what his name meant.

5. Be brave when you encounter danger

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)

Abigail is an incredible example of bravery.  This is an example of feminine courage.  She risked her life to face four hundred armed soldiers on their way to slaughter some people.

She knows if she services that problem, when she comes home, she knows she will be in trouble with her husband.  She knows that he will not be happy.  She will face an angry husband back home.

Many people in that situation would have been too afraid to do anything.  They would have been paralyzed by fear but Abigail trusted God in this situation and God blessed her.  Instead of being married to a wicked man, her next husband was a man after God’s own heart.  Instead of being married to a fool, her next husband was the future king of Israel.

6. Be faithful to your spouse

What Abigail did is not what most people would do today.  Abigail was married to a fool.  It was not a good match.  She could not have been very happy.  She was in a bad marriage, but we never see her leave her husband.  We never see her have an affair with another man.

Those are things that people do today.  Those are some things that some professing Christians do.  Even though she had a bad husband, even though she was in a bad marriage, even though her husband was completely unreasonable, even though she did not even choose her husband, she was still faithful to her husband.

Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. (Proverbs 5:15 NLT).

Was Abigail a Submissive Wife?

This leads us to one final question.  Critics would say that Abigail stayed with her husband but she was not really submissive to him.  Is that true.  Was she submissive?

Feminists love the story of Abigail.  People who believe in egalitarianism love I Samuel 25.  They believe that Abigail is a clear example in the Bible of a woman who was NOT submissive to her husband and the Bible commends her.

There are many people on the internet with this view.  One example of this is Margaret Mowczkom.  She is Christian feminist from Australia who has a blog.

Mowczkom says that she was always taught that “women were supposed to revere and respect their husbands as leaders, and certainly not say anything bad about them.

But here was a Bible woman who went behind her husband’s back and did something she knew he wouldn’t approve of.  And she even announces her husband’s faults to David…

Despite defying her husband and saying negative things about him, Abigail is commended for her actions. Furthermore, David recognises that Abigail was sent by God.”[3]  Is Mowczkom right?  What does the Apostle Paul teach in the NT?

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22 NIV)

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24 NIV).

Does I Samuel 25 contradict that message?  Is the message of the chapter that women do not need to submit to their husbands, especially if they are fools?  That might be a large percentage of husbands these days.

In some ways, Abgail does not fit the typical stereotype of submission that many people have.  She is not weak.  She is not passive.  She is not quiet and shy.  She is strong.  She is assertive.  She is independent.  She is courageous.  She is fearless.  She thinks for herself.

On the other hand, it is NOT true to say that Abigail is an example of an unsubmissive wife in Scripture.  Even in I Samuel 25, she is not unsubmissive to her husband.  She is an example of someone who is working for her husband, NOT against him.  This is clear from two things in the chapter.

1) Abigail does not disobey her husband in this chapter.

There is not a word in the chapter that they even had a conversation about it.  Abigail does act independently but she does not outright defy her husband’s explicit orders.  He never told her that she could not do what she does in this chapter.

2) Abigail’s actions actually save her husband’s life.

She did not disobey her husband and she was not working against him.  She was working for him.  She was acting as his “helper.”  If Abigail did not do this, he would have been slaughtered by David and his men.  He would have been massacred.

If she hated her husband, she could have said, “I hear you are on your way to kill my husband.  Please kill him.  Nobody likes him.  I have been trying to get rid of him for years.  You will be doing me a favor.”  Instead, she pleads for his life.  She saves his life.  Abigail is a role model for women today.

[1] Robert D. Bergen, I & II Samuel (NAC), 249.

[2] Abigail is always mentioned after Ahinoam (e.g., I Chronicles 3:1).

[3] https://margmowczko.com/abigail-1-samuel-25/

Don’t Marry a Fool

Today, we are going to look at one of the greatest women in the Bible.  She lived three thousand years ago and is an incredible role model today, but many do not know much about her.  She is not that famous.  Most Christians do not know this chapter very well.  Esther has a whole book.  She only has one chapter.  It is a chapter that every woman should study.

The Book of I Samuel has several chapters that focus on women.  In the beginning of the book, a few chapters were devoted to Samuel’s mother, Hannah.  She was stuck in an unhappy marriage.  Her husband was married to two wives and his other wife teased and mocked her.

Today, we are going to look at the life of another woman in I Samuel who was also stuck in an unhappy marriage.  Abigail is one of the godliest women in the Bible.  We need more women like Abigail in the church today.

There are three main characters in this chapter (David, Nabal and Abigail).  All of the men look bad.  The hero of the story is a woman.   Both Nabal and David act like fools.  Only Abigail looks good in the chapter.

Nabal looks bad.  He is rude and mean.  He is selfish.  He was wicked.  David protected Nabal’s flocks and gets insults in return.  Nabal returns good for evil.

David loses his temper.  His ego is hurt, and he wants revenge.  He completely overreacts.  Nabal acts like a jerk, so David want to kill everyone, because of Nabal’s sin.  He wants to kill everyone in Nabal’s house all because he was not invited to dinner.  David ends up acting as foolish as Nabal.

Why Abigail is Important

Abigail is the hero.  She is peacemaker in the midst of conflict.  She causes two people who hate each other to live at peace with one another.  She keeps David from sinning.  She keeps him from committing murder.  If it was not for Abigail, David would have committed murder.  He would have committing mass murder.

Abigail saves lives.  She saves her family.  She prevents an atrocity from taking place. David is saved by a woman.  She also confronts sinful authority in her day.

This chapter is also a love story.  It is positive.  It is uplifting.  It is a love story, but it is not a traditional Hallmark story.  When David first met Abigail, she was married to someone else.  When she finally married David after her husband died, he was married to someone else.  This is not necessarily the model for us today.

In, this chapter, David loses one wife but gains two.  He loses a friend but gains an enemy.  We are going to look at four relationships in this chapter: Samuel and Nabal, Nabal and Abigail, Nabal and David, and David and Abigail.

Samuel’s Death

Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran (I Samuel 25:1 NIV)

The chapter begins with a death.  Samuel dies.  This was the end of an era.  He was the last judge.  He was also David’s friend, his counselor, his mentor dies.  Samuel was the one who anointed him as king in front of his whole family.  Samuel dies but David can’t go to the funeral, because Saul would have him arrested.

If you go to Israel, you can visit his tomb.  It is in the west Bank.  A mosque was built on top of it (Nabi Samwil Mosque).  Samuel was not the only one who dies in this chapterTwo men die in this chapter.  The men are Samuel and Nabal.  There are two funerals and a wedding in this chapter.

What do these two men have in common?  They both die and they were both great.  They were great in different ways.  Nabal was financially great.  He was great in sheep.

Samuel was spiritually great.  Samuel had a relationship to God.  God spoke to Samuel.  He spoke to him as a child.  Samuel lives a long time and dies a natural death.

Samuel’s death was a blessing.  Nabal’s death was a curse.  Samuel lived a long time and died of natural causes.  Nabal lived a short time and died by divine judgment.  God struck him (I Samuel 25:38).

The fear of the Lord prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened (Proverbs 10:27 NIV).  We want to have our lives prolonged, not cut short.  Nabal’s life was cut short and no one cared about him when he was gone.  He was so wicked.  The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot (Proverbs 10:7 NIV).

Abigail’s Qualities

Nabal was married to Abigail.  What type of person was she?  She was intelligent.  She was wise.  She knew when to talk and when not to talk.  She was godly.  She was strong and assertive.  She does not come across as the victim in this story.  She was very generous and giving.  She was humble.  She had the heart of a servant.  She washed the feet of David’s men.

She was brave.  She went out and faced four hundred armed soldiers without fear, and she knew that, if she survived that, she would be in trouble with her husband when she got home.

She was beautiful (I Samuel 25:3).  According to Jewish legend, she was one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived. She was not just another pretty face.  She was beautiful on the inside and on the outside.

Some women only look good on the outside.  Abigail had a good face, a good mind and a good heart and she was wealthy on top of that.  It looked like she had everything (intelligent, beautiful, godly and rich on top of that), but she had one problem.  She just had one little problem.  She was married to a fool.  Talk about incompatibility.  Here was a wise woman married to a fool.

She had an unhappy marriage.  She was stuck in a bad marriage.  She was married to a difficult man.  She was married to a complete jerk.  He was a slimeball.  He was an abusive husband.  The Bible calls him a fool.

Many people today are married to someone like Nabal.  Some Christians are married to a Nabal.  They are married to unsaved husbands.  Their husband is a son of Belial (I Samuel 25:17).  They are unequally yoked together with an unbeliever.  They have no compatibility.

Plenty of wives today are married to idiots.  They are married to complete morons but there is a big difference between them and Abigail.  Abigail had an arranged marriage.  She did not pick her husband.  She had no choice in the matter.  Nabal was chosen for her.

Her parents probably meant well when they chose him.  They probably thought they were helping her.  He came from good stock.  Caleb was one of his ancestors.  Caleb was from the Tribe of Judah.  Her was from the same tribe as Jesus.  He was from the same tribe as David.

His family was wealthy husband.  Nabal would have been able to take care of her.  She would have had financial security.  Some parents are more concerned that their children gain riches than righteousness.  Nabal was rich but he was also a fool (I Samuel 25:25).  He was the ultimate fool.

People marry fools today because they choose to marry fools.  Some choose to marry nonbelievers and wonder why they have big problems after they get married.  Be careful who you marry.  Don’t marry a fool.  One of the women in my class said jokingly that the only way to avoid this is not to get married.

Characteristics of a Fool

What made Nabal a fool?  What did he do that foolish?  Many of us have fools in our life.  What makes a person a fool today?

1) You could not reason with him

We are told that no one could talk to Nabal (I Samuel 25:17).  Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words. (Proverbs 23:9 NIV).  You cannot talk to a fool.  A fool is not open to reason or logic.

Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7 NIV).  Fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22 NIV). Baptist preachers are not the only ones who hate knowledge.  Fools do as well.  Wisdom is too high for fools (Proverbs 24:7 NIV).

2) He mocked and ridiculed others

Nabal mocked David, who is the Lord’s Anointed (I Samuel 25:10).  In Proverbs, fools are mentioned right next to mockers.  Condemnation is ready for scoffers and beating for the backs of fools. (Proverbs 19:29 ESV)

3) He did not respond well to correction

Nabal did not respond well to criticism or rebuke.  That is why no one could talk to him.  The Book of Proverbs says that this is a characteristic of fools.  The fool always things he or she is right.  You cannot tell a fool anything.  They are not open to the facts.

A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool (Proverbs 17:10 NIV)

A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence (Proverbs 15:5 NIV)

4) He only cared about himself

Nabal is very selfish.  He only thinks of himself.  Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” (I Samuel 25:11 ESV).

5) He lived a life of excess

When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk (I Samuel 25:36 NIV).  He was not just drunk.  He was VERY drunk.

Proverbs 19:10 says, “It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury” (NIV).  The only thing worse than a jerk is a rich jerk.  Nabal was not just rich.  He was very rich (I Samuel 25:2).

6) He was ungrateful

He did not appreciate what others had done for him.  David did some things for him and he could care less.

Dispute with David

David had one enemy (Saul). He moved somewhere else and got another enemy (Nabal).  They never met face-to-face but they became enemies.  Nabal was a wealthy rancher.  He was a rich farmer in Carmel.

Carmel is different from Mount Carmel, where the Prophet Elijah had his contest with the prophets of Baal.  Mount Carmel is in the north.  The village of Carmel is in the south.  It is a few miles south of Hebron.

Nabal was rich.  He was not rich in money.  They did not have any money in those days. He was rich based on livestock.  He owned 3000 sheep and 1000 goats (I Samuel 25:2).  He was not as rich as Job.  He was not the richest man in the Bible.  Job owned 7000 sheep (Job 1:3), but he was very rich.

David and Nabal have a business dispute in this chapter.  Nabal had a lot of sheep.  He had thousands of them.  They had to graze.  Who protected them while they were out in the fields?  Who kept them safe from bandits and thieves?  The shepherds could not always do it.  The wilderness was a big place and it was dangerous.

There was no law enforcement in those days.  This was like the Wild Wild West.  David and his men protected them.  They were not asked to do it.  They just did it because it was the right thing to do and they did not take any of the sheep, which they could easily have done.  They did not take one sheep.

Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them (I Samuel 25:15-16 NIV)

David made a request from Nabal.  He asked for compensation.  David was not asking for a handout, but he did want payment for protection.  David asked for payment for services rendered but not requested.

Is what David did blackmail?  Is it a shakedown? Is he asking for protection money?  By today’s standards, David acts like he is part of the mob. He acts like he is a gangster but we have to look at this in light of the time in which David lived.

In those days, this would have been a reasonable request.  David saved Nabal some money.  If he did not do this, Nabal would have lost a lot of sheep and now he is looking for something in return as compensation.  He was not asking for a lot.  In fact, he let Nabal decide what the compensation should be.

What was Nabal’s response? Not only did he turn David’s men away empty-handed, he responded with insults and with sarcasm.

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days (I Samuel 25:10 NIV).

He said, “Who is David?” even though everyone in the country knew he was.  He was a national hero.  He had killed Goliath.  He called David a runaway slave.  Nabal was ungrateful for what David had done for him.  He does not even thank him.

David responds with anger.  David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies. (I Samuel 25:12-13 NIV).

David completely overreacts.  He brings 400 men against Nabal.  That is a little bit of overkill.  As Swindoll says it is like killing a roach with a shotgun.[1]  Now David becomes the fool.

A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Proverbs 12:16). A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated (Proverbs 15:17 NIV).  David wanted to exterminate every male in the household.  He wanted to return evil for evil.

He was kind to Saul but not kind to Nabal.  He was willing to forgive Saul but he was not willing to forgive Nabal.  He was willing to spare Saul’s life in I Samuel 24 and he will be willing to spare it again in I Samuel 26 but in I Samuel 25, he wants to kill Nabal.

Next week, we will look at Abigail’s response to this crisis and how she saved her family by her quick thinking and bold action in the face of danger.

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion & Destiny, 99.

Love Your Enemies

Today, we come to a chapter that is extremely practical and relevant to the days in which we live.  It is also one of the strangest chapters in the Bible.  It requires a viewer warning, because of the content.  You are going to hear some things today that you have never heard in church, but everything here actually happened.

The chapters we have been looking at have focused on two men – Saul and David.  Saul was the king.  David was his son-in-law.  King Saul became jealous of his son-in-law and his jealousy turned into hared.  Hatred turned into violence.

Saul hated David so much that he wanted to kill him and tried to kill him kill David.  He tried every day.  He tried all kinds of different ways, but each time he was unsuccessful.  This time, he gets lucky.  He gets a lead.  He gets some intelligence.

He finds out where David is hiding, and he travels thirty miles to get him and he brings three thousand soldiers with him.  David only had six hundred men.  Saul not only knows exactly where he is, but he brings five times more troops against him.  David is now cornered and completely outnumbered.  The two have a confrontation near a cave in a place called En Gedi

It is an area in Judah that is on the west shore of the Dead Sea.  It is called Ein Gedi today.  Some locals there think they know the exact cave where it took place.  A lot of visitors go to En Gedi.[1]  A lot of tourists go there today.

There are a lot of caves there and there is some fresh water there.  It is an oasis.  There are a lot of mountain springs there.  It has become a nature reserve, sanctuary for various species of plants, birds, and animals.

Saul and David meet face-to-face.  They have a special encounter but even this does not work.  David survives again by the sovereignty of God, because nature calls.  In I Samuel 24, Saul has to go to the bathroom.  It is one of the funniest stories in the Bible.  How would you like to have a chapter in the Bible about you going to the bathroom?  That would be embarrassing.

After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. 3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. (I Samuel 24:1-3 NIV)

This is interesting.  Saul comes after David with three thousand men.  He has him cornered.  It looks like David does not stand a chance.  Then, nature calls.  The Bible says that he had “to relieve himself” (I Samuel 24:3 NIV, ESV).

The Hebrew says that he covered his feet.  Most modern translations say something else.  The KJV is the only translation that follows the Hebrew literally. What does that mean?  Does it mean that his feet were cold, and he had to cover them?  Some seem to think so.

Gene Getz is a famous Christian writer.  He is a good writer.  He has written more than sixty books.  He is a former Dallas Seminary professor.  He is about ninety years old today.  He has written books on many bible characters.  He wrote a book on David and said that David went into this cave to go to take a nap.[2]  That is what it means to cover your feet.  When you sleep, you usually cover your feet.

The problem is that this is not what it means in the Hebrew.  In Hebrew, it means to take a dump.  It is a euphemism for pooping.  Saul needed to take a pit stop.  He is outside.  There were not a lot of restrooms around three thousand years ago, so Saul used a cave as an outhouse.  It is private.  It is secluded.  He probably did not bring any reading material because these caves are dark.

It just so happens to go into the very cave where David and his men were hiding.  Some of these caves in the area were huge.   They were gigantic.  Apparently, David and his men are in the back.  This shows the complete sovereignty of God.

Saul walks into a cave. David and his men can’t believe what they were seeing.  The first thing they probably said was “holy crap” (because they saw a king was taking care of business).  He is alone.  He is weak.  He is defenseless.  He is vulnerable.  The king has his pants down, squatting in a cave, sitting on his throne, taking care of business.

They told David, “Now is your chance.  You have the perfect opportunity to take out this deranged, demonized psycho king.  God has delivered Saul into your hands.  Let King Saul die in the bathroom like Elvis the King did.”

That is what it looked like on the outside.  Saul has been trying really hard to kill David.  He has tried fifteen or sixteen times, but he was not successful.  David has NOT been trying to kill Saul but then Saul just shows up.  He appears out of nowhere unexpectedly and now David has a chance to kill him.  It sure looked like God was delivering Saul into David’s hands He already gave David the promise that he would be the next king.  David’s men told him to do it.

David walks up behind him very slowly.  The text says, “Then David crept up UNNOTICED” (I Samuel 24:4 NIV).  How do you do that?  David would have made a good ninja.  How could someone walk up behind you while you were going to the bathroom, cut something off of your clothes without you noticing it?

Wouldn’t you hear the person coming up behind you or feel your clothes being cut up?  The truth is that Saul may have laid his royal robe down before he went to the bathroom.  He probably was not wearing it while was taking care of business.

David walked close to Saul with his weapon in hand very quietly and then did something unusual.  Instead of killing him, he just off part of his robe.  Why didn’t he kill him?  We don’t know. He may have changed his mind.  He may not have wanted to kill the dad of his best friend (Jonathon) and his wife (Michal).

After he did it, something happened.  David felt guilty.  The Bible says that his heart smote him.  Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. (I Samuel 24:5 NIV).  David didn’t hurt Saul physically at all.

He did NOT lay a hand on him, but his heart smote him.  David just cut off a little piece of cloth from a garment and he felt terrible.  He had a tender conscience.

That is one of the reasons he was a man after God’s own heart, not because he did not sin but when he sinned, he had a tender conscience.  He felt bad about his sin.

David did not do a big sin.  Does that ever happen to us?  Some people do big sins and their conscience doesn’t seem to bother them.  David did a little sin and his conscience bothered him.  What type of person are we?  What kind of conscience do we have?

He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David SHARPLY REBUKED his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. (I Samuel 24:6-7 NIV)

Five Powerful Life Principles

What does this say to us today?  It is a great story in Scripture but how does it apply to us today?  Let me point out five very important applications from this chapter for today.  Let’s look at five principles.  Each of these five principles contradict what the world says today.

PRINCIPLE ONE: When someone wrongs you, do not respond in kind.

The first principle has to do with FORGIVENESS.  All of us have been wronged by someone.  We have been hurt by someone.  Some people have been mistreated and even abused by people.  How do we respond?

Saul treated David horribly.  Many people today treat other people terribly.  Some professing Christians treat other Christians badly.  David does not respond in kind.  When Saul tries to kill David.  David does not say, “I am going to kill Saul. I am going to get him back.  I am going to make him pay.”

David does not repay evil with evil.  He repays evil with good.  David had a huge problem.  The most powerful man in the country is trying to kill David.  He is not safe.  He is one the run.  He constantly has to move around.  He is tired.  He is hungry.  He can’t be with his wife.  He can’t be with his family. Now he has the perfect opportunity to kill Saul.

One single thrust of the spear and his troubles would be over.  He would be able to get rid of the problem.  He would not have to sleep in a cave anymore. [3] He could kill him and assume the throne.  He does not do that.  He does not treat Saul the way he treated him.  What David does here anticipate what the NT teaches thousands of years later.

Do not repay ANYONE evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18 NIV)

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21 NIV)

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:9 NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV)

Saul has been trying to kill David.  Now David gets a chance to kill Saul.  In fact, he gets two chances to kill Saul.  He gets a chance to kill Saul in I Samuel 24 and he gets a chance to kill him in I Samuel 26.  Both times he doesn’t kill him.

Are we like David?  Do we forgive people who sin against us?  It does not come natural to us.  Jesus calls us to a life of forgiveness.  He calls us to live the opposite of the way the world lives.

PRINCIPLE TWO: When the perfect opportunity to take revenge on your worst enemy arises, don’t take it.

The second principle has to do with REVENGE.  It has to do with taking matters into your own hands.  Revenge comes natural to us.  When someone hurts you, you want to hurt them back.  You want to make them pay.  Society tells us it is okay.  “Don’t get mad.  Get even” is the moto.

If you don’t respond that way, you are just weak.  You don’t have any backbone.  There are all kinds of movies about people getting revenge.  It makes really good entertainment for men, at least.  Men like a good martial arts movie.  Women do not usually like those kinds of movies.

What the Bible says is completely counter-cultural.  It is not what we want to do.  It is not what society tells us to do.  It is not what David’s own men advised him to do.  The Bible calls us to not act naturally but to act supernaturally.  The Bible says to leave revenge to God.  He will repay.  He can always repay a lot better than we can.

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NIV).

That is not just a NT teaching.  It comes right out of the OT.  Paul is quoting the OT (Deuteronomy 32:35).  This teaching runs all through the Bible.

PRINCIPLE THREE: When people over you are in a position of God-given authority, treat them with respect

This principle is also in direct contradiction to what the world teaches.  What do we hear in the world?  We hear people say to question authority and to reject authority.

Don’t trust your parents.  Don’t trust the church.  Don’t trust the police.  Don’t trust your government.  Don’t trust the president.  One sign of false teachers is that they “reject authority” (Jude 8).  It is one of the signs of the last days.

That is exactly what we see today.  People hate the police.  They want to defund them.  They hate the president.  They say “Hashtag, Not My President.”  They are part of the resistance.  They hate him, speak evil of him.  They mock him.  They tried to impeach him.  Even the press today shows no respect for the office of the presidency.

Another thing that we are told in the world is that respect is earned.  It is not given.  You aren’t obliged to respect someone, if you feel the person don’t deserve it.  That is not what David believed.  Saul did not deserve to be respected.  He did not earn respect, but David respected him anyway.  We could learn something from this.

Why did David respect him?  He respected him because he was the Lord’s Anointed.  He respected him because of his office.  He respected him because of his position as the theocratic king.

He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” (I Samuel 24:6 NIV)

This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ (I Samuel 24:10 NIV)

The world teaches that if a leader is evil and you don’t like him, you can get rid of him.  You can assassinate him.  That is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer tries to do.  David respected the office, even though he did not respect the man in that office.  Saul was unworthy of the office.

What would we say today?  I know what I would have said.  I would have said, “God may have put you in that office, but he has rejected you as king.  Therefore, I do not accept you as my king.  If God rejects you, I reject you.  You are an illegitimate king.  You are a wicked king.”

How does this apply today?  We don’t have kings and none of our leaders are anointed with oil by some prophet.  They are still to be treated with respect.  I Peter 2:17 says “Honor the emperor” and in Peter’s day, the emperor was not a Christian.  He was a pagan emperor who worshipped idols. Even secular governments are ordained by God (Romans 13:1).

PRINCIPLE FOUR: When you are trying to do something, make sure you do it the right way.

The world teaches that the ends justifies the means.  If the outcomes is good, then you can take any measures to achieve that outcome.  The Bible does not teach that philosophy (cf. Romans 3:8).

David does not do that here.  David was told by God that he would be the next king, but he did not believe in any means to get the throne.  He did not believe that gave him the right to assassinate King Saul.

Saul was completely mad.  He was crazy.  He was a psycho king.  He was unstable.  He was violent.  He was demonized.  He sinned against God.  God even rejected him.

The Holy Spirit left him, but he was still chosen by God.  He was still anointed to be king.  He still functioned in that position as king by God’s sovereignty. The only person who could remove Saul was God.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: When you forgive someone, do not put yourself in danger.

That is one of the myths about forgiveness.  When you forgive someone, you give up resentment and bitterness.  You give up revenge, but you do not have to voluntarily put yourself in danger.  David does not do that here.

What happens after Saul walks out of the cave?  David calls his name.  He bows down to the ground.  He gives him respect.  He calls him “my lord.”  He tells him what he could have done but did not do, even though he was encouraged to do it.  He showed the proof.  He tells him that he has done nothing wrong against Saul and has not tried to rebel against him and says, “Let God be the judge between us.”

What does Saul do?  How does he respond?  He weeps.  He admits he has sinned against David.  He admits that David is more righteous that he is.  He asks God to reward him.  He says that he knows that one day he will be king.  They make an oath and then they leave but notice the last verse in the chapter.

So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, BUT David and his men went up to the stronghold. (I Samuel 25:22 NIV).

That is strange.  Saul wept.  He admitted he was wrong.  He admitted David was right.  He made an oath.  It looks like they patched up all of their differences but David still stayed in the stronghold.  He did not go home to his wife.  He did not go home where he was close to Saul.  Why?

David was not naïve.  He did not trust Saul.  He done this kind of thing before.  He made promises before and then he went right back to doing what he did before, so he wisely kept his distance from Saul.  He made some boundaries.  Sometimes, we have to go to the stronghold.  Forgiving people does not mean that you necessarily have to go back into an abusive relationship.

Four Signs of True Repentance

There are many people today who are just like Saul.  This raises a good question.  When someone says that they are sorry, how do you know if they really are?  What does true repentance look like?  What does false repentance look like?  How can you tell the difference?

1) True repentance leads to a changed life

It bears some real fruit (Matthew 3:7-10).  False repentance does not lead to a changed life.  Many people claim to repent.  They claim to be Christians but there is no change in their life.  True repentance involves confessing AND forsaking sin (Proverbs 28:13)

2) True repentance results in a change on the inside and on the outside

False repentance results in only an outward change.  Saul got emotional.  He wept.  He displayed some tears, but he only changed on the outside.  False repentance is only external.

3) True repentance hates sin

False repentance hates the consequences of sin.  People with a false repentance are not sorry they sinned.  When many politicians are caught in a scandal, they say that they are sorry but what they really mean is that they are sorry they got caught.

4) True repentance acknowledges sin without qualification

False repentance always minimizes sin or justifies it.  False repentance acknowledges sin but blame others for it. They will say, like Saul did, “I have sinned but” (I Samuel 15:24-25).  True repentance takes full accountability for what was done.

[1] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/vie-ein-gedi;

[2] Getz, Gene A. Men of Character: David (p. 115). B & H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] William Hixson, I Samuel 24 (Spoken Recording).

Divine Guidance

Today, we continue in our study of the Book of I Samuel.  We are going chapter by chapter through this book.  We are studying chapters that most Christians do not read that often.   We come to a chapter that raises some interesting questions.

How do we know what the will of God is today?  How do we know what God wants us to do?  What is the right way and the wrong way to make decisions?  What common mistakes do Christians make today when they make decisions?  What common mistakes do they make when they try to find the will of God for their lives?

This chapter deals with this topic.  It is a chapter all about the providence of God and the protection of God.  It is also a chapter about God speaking to people.

For the last few weeks, we have studying the life of David.  We are dealing with the period of David’s life in which he is a fugitive.  He is on the run.  He has been a fugitive since I Samuel 19.  Someone called these chapters “Adventures of a Fugitive.”

David is not a fugitive from justice.  Normally criminals do something really bad and hide so they won’t get caught.  David did not do anything wrong, but he is on the run from a psycho killer (who just happens to be his father-in-law).  It is a sign that you might have married into the wrong family when your father-in-law wants to kill you.

David was chosen by God to be the next king.  He had the hand of God upon him.  The Holy Spirit came on him.  He was God’s Anointed.  He was divinely empowered to kill a giant, but he has become a fugitive and life was not was easy for David.  He was a fugitive for about ten years.  He goes on the run around twenty and did not become king until he was thirty years old (II Samuel 5:4).

David was God’s Man.  He was God’s Anointed, but David did not have it easy.  He was not vacationing in some five-star resort.  He was not pampered.  He did not live a prosperous life.  He was just trying to survive.  He was marked for death.  There was a bounty on his head.  People were trying to kill him every day.  He is hunted by the most powerful man in the country and he has to move around constantly.

David can never stay in the same place very long.  In the last few chapters, he went to five different places.  In fact, he went to two other countries for safety.  In this one chapter he goes to five more places.  He goes to Horesh.  Then, he goes to Keilah.  Then, he goes to Ziph.  Then, he goes to Maon and finally he goes to En Gedi.

What do we see in this chapter?  David has some highs and he has some lows, just like we have.  He is on top of the world and everything is great and then things get really bad. He saves a city (the city of Keilah).  He is a type of Christ in this chapter.  He is a savior.  He saves a city, but he also experiences betrayal.  In the last chapter Doeg betrays him.  In this chapter, he is betrayed by the Ziphites.

Saul and David play a game of cat and mouse.  Every day, Saul tries to catch him, and he almost succeeds but God miraculously intervenes and protects David and no matter how much he tries, he cannot get David because David was under divine protection.

In the last chapter he had four hundred men who followed him.  Now he has six hundred men who are following him, and, in his lowest point, David sees his best friend Jonathon for the last time, and, like a good friend, Jonathon encourages David.  All of that is in I Samuel 23.

How to Respond to a Crisis

When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors”

Notice how the chapter begins.  It begins with a crisis.  The Philistines acted like bullies.  They were stealing the food supply of the city of Keilah.  They were robbing the threshing floor.  This was a military crisis.

In the last chapter, David was in another country.  He was in Moab and the prophet Gad told him to go back to Judah, so he does.  Then he hears about a city being attacked by the Philistines.  It is the city of Keilah.  Keilah was in Judah.  David was from Judah, not too far from where David was.  How should he have responded to this crisis?  How should we respond to a crisis?  What should your first response be?

David had three options.  One option was INACTION.  It is to do nothing.  That is the selfish option.  It is to respond with indifference.  “It is not my problem.  It is the problem of the people who live in that city.  They can do something about the problem or, if they can’t, the king can.  Saul can deal with the problem.  That is his job, not, mine.”

That is what his advisors told him.  “It is somebody else’s problem.  We have enough problems of our own.  We are trying to survive.  The king is trying to kill us.  We do not have enough time to worry about somebody else’s problem.  It would be too dangerous anyway.  We would have to fight both the Philistines and Saul. Keilah was in the center of the country.”

The other option is ACTION.  David could have immediately acted.  This is an emergency.  I have to do something, and I have to do something quickly.”  That is what leaders.  They step forward and take action.   They take bold actions immediately.  David was a leader, but he doesn’t do that.

Instead of immediately acting or doing nothing, David does something else.  He PRAYS (I Samuel 23:1-2).  David prays four times in this section.  He asks God what he wants him to do.  That was the first thing he did.  He did not ask other people what they thought he should do.  He asked God.

He took his decisions to God.  No decisions were made until God was consulted.  Is that what we do when we make decisions?  Is that what we do in a crisis situation?  David prayed.  He said, “God should I go attack the Philistines and save the city?”  God says, “Go.  You have a green light” (I Samuel 23:2)

His men thought he was crazy.  His advisors didn’t support him.  They criticized him, so what did David do?  What do you do when you receive criticism?  David prayed again and this time he received confirmation.

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” 5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (I Samuel 23:4-5 NIV)

Not only was he to go but he would be successful, so David obeys.  He does what Saul should have done.  David acts as the real king. He is the protector of Israel.  One of the jobs of a king is to fight nations that invade and attack the country.  Saul doesn’t do it, so David does.  In fact, David acted the exact opposite of Saul.  Saul destroyed a city (the city of Nob).  David saves a city (the city of Keilah).

David saved a city and he wasn’t even king yet.  He did not wait until he had the office of a king to act like one. You don’t have to have an official office to serve God.  You don’t have to wait until people recognize you for you to do what God has called you to do.  The chapter begins with a crisis.  When you obey God, he blesses you.

Not only did they save the city and defeat the Philistines, they got a few cows in the process (I Samuel 23:5).  That doesn’t mean anything to us but these men were on the run and they were hungry.  They ended up with a steak, but that is not all that he got.  Because he listened to God and obeyed him, he also got access to the priesthood and the ephod.

Now when Ahimelech’s son Abiathar had fled to David in Keilah, the ephod had come down with him. (I Samuel 23:6 ISV)

This is where it gets interesting.  David had his own personal prophet (Gad).  Now, he has his own priest (Abiathar).  There is one priest in the country.  Saul killed all of the other priests and Abiathar flees to David.  Saul killed his dad.  He meets him Keilah and he has these two stones (Urim and Thummim).  What is the deal with these two magic stones?

They were two prophetic stones.  The priests wore an ephod, which was like an apron or vest, and inside this ephod was a pocket which contained these two stones (Exodus 28:30).  These special stones somehow revealed the will of God. They gave a yes or no answer to questions, like flipping a coin.  We don’t know how it was used but it was like holy dice and it gave David a huge advantage over Saul.

Saul had more troops.  He had more weapons.  He had more influence.  He was the most powerful man in the country but he didn’t have God.  He did not have any prophets.  He did not have any priests.  When he prayed, God would not answer him.  He was living in rebellion.  He was rejected by God and God was not speaking to him (I Samuel 28:5-6).  David was outnumbered but David had God and he had access to the will of God.

How does this apply to us today?  We should pray before we make any decisions, especially in a crisis.  If we are believers, God is with us.  God speaks to us.  We have access to the will of God today but some things are different.

We do not hear God’s voice from magic stones, like David had.  We do not have any supernatural stones but we have a supernatural book.  David did not have sixty-six books of Scripture to read.

We have the Holy Spirit living inside us.  David had access to the Holy Spirit but He did not indwell him, like he does us today.  We do not HAVE priests to go to.  We ARE priests (I Peter 2:9).

9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” 10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will.” 12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will.” (I Samuel 23:9-12 NIV)

David prayed two times about the crisis with the Philistines and the city of Keilah.  Now he hears Saul is coming after him and he says, “Bring me the ephod.”  He asks God two questions:  Is Saul coming to get me and will the city turn me in?

He gets answers to both questions.  Saul is coming and the city is going to turn him in.  The city that he just saved and delivered is not going to turn him in.  They are going to rat him out.

Saul had some spies that warned him about David, but David had God who warned him about Saul.  He had some inside information.  What does David do?  He goes on the run again.  Right after David has a huge victory.  David is a hero again.  Right after his great success, he is back on the run.

Saul’s Two Mistakes

What does this say to us today?  What lessons can we learn?  Saul made two mistakes.  These are two mistakes that many people make today.  Many Christians make these mistakes.

1) A mistake regarding the will of God

Saul thought he knew the will of God.  He believed something was the will of God. He says to himself, “I have got him now.  God has given him into my hands.  I can’t believe my luck.  He is a sitting duck right now.  He is in a town with gates and bars.  He is trapped.”  Saul was certain that something was the will of God and yet he was completely wrong.

We can be completely wrong about the will of God.  Have you ever thought something was the will of God for your life and you were completely wrong?  We probably all have at some point in our life.  Christians can be wrong about the will of God today.

Saul had no excuse for what he did.  He should have known better. Somehow, he convinced himself that it was the will of God to kill an innocent man but not just an innocent man.

He was an innocent man who just did a good deed.  He saves a city in his country.  Instead of being glad for what he did, he wants to use it as an opportunity to kill him.  David was not just an innocent man; he was God’s anointed.  Saul wanted to kill God’s anointed.

“Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:15 NIV)

That was written by David.  Many misquote this verse today.  They take this verse out of context.  Many use this verse to say that you can never question anything your pastor does.  He can never be criticized because he is the Lord’s anointed.  It is used to silence people in a congregation.

That is not what that verse is saying at all.  It is not saying if someone is living in sin or teaching false doctrine, you can’t correct it.  The NT says that every Christian is anointed by the Holy Spirit (I John 2:20).  This is a command not to physically harm God’s anointed.

2) A mistake regarding the voice of God

We can be wrong about the voice of God.  Now, I have to say something that you do not hear too often in church.  It is possible to think that God is telling you to do something and it is not God.  It is possible to think you are hearing the voice of God, but you are hearing somebody else’s voice.

In the 2020 Presidential election, many prophets claimed to have a word from God.  I followed them very closely.  Several claimed that Trump would win and Biden would not become President.  While the election process is still in litigation, it looks like all of these prophecies on the Internet turned out to be completely false and yet all of these people claimed not to give their word but a word from God.

Saul thought God was trying to tell him something.  He thought that God was speaking to him.  He thought that he had a sign for him to act.  David was trapped in a city.  He had a perfect opportunity to get him.  God does open doors for people, but circumstances do NOT always indicate the will of God.

If you think you are hearing God’s voice and it involves violating Scripture, you are not hearing the voice of God.  The voice that Saul heard told him to kill an innocent man.  The voice that Saul heard told him to break one of the Ten Commandments.  That was not the voice of God.  It was the voice of Satan.

God tells David that Saul is coming and he escapes.  He and six hundred men escape.  Where does they go?  They go into the wilderness.  They leave the city and go into the wilderness and to the hills.  It is much harder to find people there. Saul tries but he is not successful.

David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands (I Samuel 23:14 NIV)

Saul can’t find him, but some spies come to him to turn David in.  David is betrayed again.  He is betrayed by the Ziphites.  The Ziphites were descendants of Caleb.   They were members of the Tribe of Judah (I Chronicles 2:42).

19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.”

21 Saul replied, “The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.” (I Samuel 23:19-23)

The Ziphites betrayed the Lord’s anointed and then Saul blesses them.  Saul replied, “The LORD bless you for your concern for me. (I Samuel 23:21 NIV).  Even wicked men can use religious language and pretend to be spiritual when they are out trying to kill someone.

Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammah lekoth. (I Samuel 23:25-28)

Notice how the chapter ended.  It ends with a great escape.  There are two great escapes in this chapter.  David escaped from a city (I Samuel 23:1-14) and now he escapes from a mountain (I Samuel 23:26-29).  They end up on a mountain.  David is on one side and Saul is on the other side.

It looks like the end for David once again.  He is completely surrounded.  There is no way out.  There was nowhere to go and then God intervenes.  God is the one who can change impossible situations.  Sometimes he does it miraculously, like at the Red Sea where the Jews had nowhere to go.  They had a river in front of them and Egyptians troops behind them and nowhere to run.

In this case, God did not intervene miraculously.  He intervened providentially.  That is often what God does to us today.  All he had to do was to send Saul a message about the Philistines.  Notice the five things that had to happen for this to take place.

The Philistines had to attack at just the right moment.  Someone at the palace had to know where the king was.  A messenger had to be dispatched to find the king.  The messenger had to get precise directions to find the king.  He had to know how to get there.  He had to arrive just before David was about to be captured.[1]  It was a miracle, but it was a providential miracle.

A Final Reunion

While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “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.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh. (I Samuel 23:15-18 NIV)

Jonathon and David have one final reunion before Jonathon is killed in battle.  The irony here is that Saul looks for David in this chapter every day and can’t find him but Jonathon his son can find him.  He risks his life to see David but he goes for one purpose: to help David find strength in God (I Samuel 23:16).

Just at the right moment, in David’s darkest hour, Jonathon shows up to encourage him.  That is what a true friend will always do: turn people who are in trouble or depressed back to God and back to the promises of God.  Jonathon was not a prophet, but he gave David hope.  He tells him not to be afraid.  He tells him not to worry.

Jonathon says, “I know that my dad is the king.  I know that he is the most powerful man in the country.  I know that he hates you and that he wants to kill you.  I know that he is doing everything he can to kill you.  I know that he is trying every day of his life.  I know that he has a whole army helping him get you, an entire army was sent out to get one man, but he won’t be able to lay a hand on you and one day you will be king over Israel.”

The shock here is that Jonathon was the one who said this.  He was the crowned prince.  He was supposed to be the next king.  He accepted the fact that he would not be the next king and David would and was not jealous at all.  In fact, he was happy to serve under David.

Was Jonathon just telling him what he wanted to hear?  No.  He was reminding him of the promises of God.  His destiny was to be king.  He was anointed by God to be king by Samuel the prophet and one day he would be king.  Not only did he become king, he became the ancestor of the Messiah.  No matter what his circumstances said, he would become king.

This shows us the power of friendship.  We need friends but there are a lot of different types of friends.  Secular friends are not the same thing as godly Christian friends.  Worldly friends do not strengthen your faith.  Godly friends, like Jonathon, encourage you in God.  They build up your faith.   It is great to have a friend like that.  It is even greater to be a friend like that to someone else.

This also shows us the power of words.  They can be used to tear people down or to build them up and to encourage them.  Jonathon used them to encourage David.  We should do the same.  Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (ESV).

[1] http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/in-the-presence-of-my-enemies/

Massacre of Ministers

We are studying the Book of I Samuel.  We are going to try to cover two chapters today.  We are looking at the life of David. His life is fascinating.  David was one of the greatest men in the Bible.  He was a spiritual giant.  He was an ancestor of the Messiah.  He was Israel’s greatest king.  He was the only man in the Bible who was called “a man after God’s own heart.

David had amazing faith.  He had incredible courage in the midst of danger.  He faced Goliath without fear, when no one else in the army would dare to face him and when he was not even old enough to be in the army.

Some of our heroes seem to be larger than life, but, in reality, they are just like us.  James says that prophet Elijah was just like us (James 5:17).  He was a man of like passions.  David was a lot like us as well.  He had flaws.  He had sins.  He had problems. In I Samuel 21, he tells a lie and goes completely crazy.

David wasn’t perfect.  He had some flaws and the Bible does not cover them up or hide them.  It describes the good and the bad.  Aren’t you glad the Bible does not have a few chapters about your life?  Aren’t you glad that it does not describe you at your best and you at your absolute worst, your strengths, as well as your weaknesses?  That would be embarrassing.

David was a believer.  David was saved.  David had the Holy Spirit on him.  He was anointed by God.  He was a man after God’s own heart and yet, in this chapter, he acted crazy.  He started foaming at the mouth and acting insane.  God’s man acted like a mad man.

The man we see in this chapter does not even seem like the same David earlier in the book.  That David was full of faith.  He had no fear.  He faced danger without fear.  He lived for God.  He was a man of absolute integrity.  That raises some interesting questions.

How could a man after God’s heart act like a complete lunatic?  How could the one who not only wrote Scripture, he wrote the largest book of the Bible (Book of Psalms) act like a complete madman?  How can you be saved, filled with the Spirit, on fire for God, serve God one moment and go absolutely crazy the next moment?  How is that even possible?

It was possible for David and it is possible for us today.  We are all sinners.  We have a sin nature.  After we get saved, we don’t lose our sin nature.  Believers can sin.  Believers can backslide.  They can do some terrible things.  They can do some dumb things.  They can do some wicked things.  The same one who walked on water one day, denied Jesus another day.

In previous chapters, King Saul went crazy.  He acted completely crazy. In this chapter, David goes crazyDavid acts like Saul.  In fact, David does it by choice.  David does it without an evil spirit.  Saul had an evil spirit.  He was demonized.  David was not demonized.

Why did David act this way?  Fear.  Fear will get you to do some crazy things.  It will get you to do some stupid things.  David is on the run in these two chapters.  He is running from a madman.  He is running from a psychotic killer, like in the horror movies.  He is running for his life.  The king is hunting him like a dog.

David never stays in any one place very long.  He is always moving around. He goes to five different places in these two chapters.  He goes to Nob.  He goes to Gath.  He goes to the Cave of Adullum.  He goes to Mitzpah, and he ends up at the Forest of Hereth.

When David left King Saul, the first person he went to see was the Prophet Samuel.  Samuel lived in Ramah.  That is in I Samuel 19.  The second place he went to see was the high priest who lived in Nob in I Samuel 21.  Everyone pronounces it “Nob” but in Hebrew it is pronounced know-v.  In Hebrew this b sound is a v sound.

David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”

2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”

5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away. (I Samuel 21:1-6 NIV)

The very first person David went to see was the prophet.  The second place he went to see was the high priest.  He went to church.  Nob was a center of worship.  It replaced Shiloh as the center of worship after Israel’s defeat in battle in I Samuel 4:1-11.  It was where the Tabernacle was located.  It sounds like the right place to go but he did not go there for spiritual help.

He went there for physical help. He went to church to get some bread.  He is not there to worship.  He is not there to pray.  He is not there to hear from God.  David was only about five miles away from where Saul was, but he was one the run and he was starving.  He had no food, so he makes a pit stop at the Tabernacle.

He did not see any McDonalds near him.  There was not any fast food available.  There were no grocery stores either.  Food was not as accessible three thousand years ago as it is today, so he went to the Tabernacle.

Many go to church today for the same reason.  They do not go to hear the voice of God.  They don’t go to learn the Word of God or to pray or to worship.  Some go for potluck meals, bake sales, flea markets or for baby showers or wedding showers.  Some go for social reasons or for a handout.   Some go to meet people.  I have met some salesmen who go to church to get business contacts.

David comes to the Tabernacle for bread.  He talked to the high priest.  His name was Ahimelech.  Ahimelech was the great grandson of Eli (I Samuel 14:3). He was the grandson of wicked Phinehas.

The priest had bread but the only bread he had was holy bread, the consecrated bread, what the OT calls “the Bread of the Presence” (I Samuel 21:6; Exodus 25:30).

He did not have regular bread but only special sanctified bread.  According to the Book of Leviticus, only the priests were supposed to eat this holy bread, and David was not a priest, but the priest gave him the bread anyway. He gave him bread and Goliath’s sword.  He said you can have some bread as long as long as you are ceremonially clean.

Did he do the right thing?  He was breaking OT Law.  Leviticus 24:9 says that the break “belonged to Aaron and his sons who are to eat it in the sanctuary area” (NIV).

Jesus says that he did the right thing (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28). Human need takes precedence over religious rules.  David was on the run.  He was starving.  He needed some food.  Mercy is more important than religious rules.

It is possible to have a religion without mercy, a religion without compassion.  That is what Phariseeism was.  It is what you see in some churches.  Rules are more important than people.  God desires “mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). Jesus quotes that passage in Matthew 12:7.

David’s White Lies

While David was talking to the priest, he told a lie.  What is the lie?  The priest asks him why he is there, and he says he is there because he is on a top-secret mission from the king.  That was not true.  He was not on a mission FOR the king.  He was running FROM the king.

Apparently, David had a little problem with honesty.  Not only does he flat-out lie, but he lies to the high priest.  He lies to religious leaders of the day.  That is like lying directly to the pastor.

David found it very easy to lie.  He lied in the last chapter and he lies in this chapter.  He was married to a woman who lied. Are you like David?

Christians should not be dishonest.  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25 NIV).  Lying comes from the devil.  He is “the father of lies” (John 8:44)

Today, everyone seems to lie.  Politicians lie, especially during election season.  They will say anything to get elected.  We like to make a distinction between big lies and little white lies.  A big lie is if we get on the witness stand and are asked if we killed someone and are not honest.

A little lie is when we say something that is not true, so we do not offend someone or when someone asks us how we are feeling, and we say fine when we feel miserable.

Why did he lie?  We do not know for sure.  He may have lied to get food and he felt if he didn’t lie, he would not get any.  There was a bounty on his head.  He was number one on Saul’s Top Ten List. He may not have helped him if he knew that he was a fugitive, an enemy of the state.

On the other hand, he may have lied to protect the priest.  It might mean death to anyone who helps him.  It would put at risk anyone who aided and abetted a fugitive.

David lied but he was not a good liar.  What David asked for completely contradicted his mission.  It proved he was lying.  The priest asked him why he was there.  He said he was on a top-secret mission but then he asked him for food and weapons.  It does not make any sense to go on a dangerous, top-secret government mission and not take any weapons with you or any food.

Did his lie work?  He did get food and a weapon but the priests all got killed.  A whole town got wiped out.  David felt bad.  He felt responsible.  He blamed himself.  He did not blame Doeg, the dirty Doeg.  He blamed himself (I Samuel 22:21).

If he never showed up there, the priest would still be alive but I would have blamed Saul.  He was the one who ordered the execution.  He was the one responsible, not David.  Saul would have killed the priest, regardless of whether David lied or told the truth, if he helped him in any way.

David’s Acting Career

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (I Samuel 21:10-13 NIV).

David first fled to Nob.  That was only a few miles away from Saul.  It was close to Saul.  He did not stay very long there.  He knew he had to go somewhere else where he would be safe, so he decided to go to leave the Promise land and go to another country.  He fled to Gath.

Gath was thirty miles away and it was in another country.  It was not just any country.  It was a country that was an enemy of Israel.  David thought he would be safe there.  Saul would not think to look there.

David ran to the Philistines for help.  He went to the world for help.  That is like Christians today turning to their unsaved friends for help, for spiritual counsel for support.  Do you turn to the world for help?

David thought that no one would know him.  He thought he could just blend in and be anonymous.

The problem was that David was famous.  He did not know how famous he was.  Everybody knew him.  Not only was he famous in Israel.  He was famous in other countries.

There was a song about him and people in other country had heard it.  That tune really got around.  It shows the power of music.  On top of that, David enters the country, goes to Goliath’s hometown and carried Goliath’s big sword on his belt.  That tipped him off right away.

David killed two hundred Philistines.  He killed their hero Goliath.  He was their hero and David killed him.  That is like someone killing Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.  David knows he will not be popular there and he is afraid and he acts crazy.

Fear got David to flee the country.  Fear of Saul got him to leave.  He gets to Gath and now fear gets him to act insane.  Fear causes people to do crazy things.  It can cause us to do crazy things.  Fear of the coronavirus gets some people to do crazy things.  They won’t even come to church.  They are too afraid.

He will go back to Gath a second time in I Samuel 27 and live there for over a year.  They were Israel’s enemies.  They were God’s enemies.  They worshipped idols.  If they accepted him and protected him, he would have to fight for them.  He would have to fight against God’s people.

One thing that we can say about David is that he had a lot of skills.  He was extremely gifted.  He was a shepherd.  He was a musician.  He was a harpist.  He was a warrior.  He was a fighter.  He was a giant killer.  He was a soldier.  He was a commander.

He was a writer.  He was a poet.  He was a politician.  He became a king.  Now, we see that he was an actor.  He knew how to act.  Beth Moore says, he would have won an Oscar for acting.[1]

David the Cave Man

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. (I Samuel 22:1-2 NIV)

David goes on the run.  He fled out of the country to Gath.  Now, he decides to go back to Israel.  He goes ten miles east this time to a cave.  He was not safe in Gath or Nob but he was safe in this cave and he gets all kinds of support from people there.  He gets some followers.  His brothers come down to see him.  His family supports him.

David is an outcast and four hundred other outcasts come to join him. The four hundred people are a picture of the church. They are a bunch of nobodies.  They were a bunch of losers.  They are a people with problems, people who could not pay their bills.  Those who follow David are like those who follow Jesus.

From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.

But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth. (I Samuel 22:3-5).

David now goes to another country (Moab).  David acts as a good shepherd.  He wants to take care of his parents and family and make sure they are safe, but a prophet speaks to him and tell him to go back to the land of Israel (I Samuel 22:5).  Even when we backslide, God can send people into our life with a word from the Lord.  He has ways to get our attention and David obeys the prophet.

Five Shocking Truths about Evil

The chapter ends really bad.  David is betrayed.  He is betrayed by a man named Doeg. Jesus was betrayed by Judas.  David was betrayed by Doeg.  Doeg tells Saul that the priest gave him food.  Saul orders the execution of these priests but his servants refuse to do it.

When they refuse to do it.  Doeg does it.  He not only does it, he kills all of their families.  He wipes out a whole town, killing “its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (I Samuel 22:19 NIV)

The chapter ends with a massacre.  It ends with a slaughter.  It ends with an atrocity.  Saul commits mass murder.  He does not just kill anybody.  He orders the execution of eight-five priests.  That is like killing eighty-five pastors today.

It is a massacre of ministers.  It is killing of religious leaders, some of the top leaders in the country.  They had not done anything wrong and they were massacred by Saul.

How do we respond when we are faced with incredible evil in the world?  I want to look at five shocking truths from this incident.  There are five truths that you are often not told in church.

1) Evil is a fact of life in this world

Evil in the world is real.  It is common.  It is shocking.  It is a fact of life because people are created with free will.  We are all created with the ability to do good or to do evil.  As a result, the innocent suffer in this world.  This does not fit the prosperity message but we live in a fallen world.  Bad things happen.  Terrible things happen.  All you have to do is to watch the news each night.

2) Some evil in this world is demonic in origin

Saul turns a corner here.  He does not just come after David.  He wages an all-out war on the priests of the Lord.  This is not just mental illness.  It is DEMONIC.  The Holy Spirit left Saul and an evil spirit entered him.  There is natural evil and there evil in this world that is so bad that it is demonically inspired.  The devil comes to steal, to kill and to destroy.

3) Believers are not exempt from evil

Some of us may have experienced it.  Pastors are not exempt.  They are not exempt from terrible things that happen.  Sunday school teachers are not exempt.  The godliest Christians on the planet are not exempt from evil.  They were not exempt in Bible times and they are not exempt today.  We do not have a guarantee in Scripture that nothing bad will ever happen to us or to our family.  Job did not have that guarantee.

4) Professing believers sometimes commit the evil

Bad things happen to believers from other people who claim to be believers.  Have you ever experienced evil from someone who claimed to be a Christian or perhaps from someone that went to the same church as you?

Saul claimed to worship the true God.  He did not worship idols.  Saul is the one who orders this execution of an entire village (men, women, children, animals).  Saul would not wipe out all of the Amalekites and then orders the extermination of an entire village of his own people.  He ordered a holocaust at Nob.  Satan sometimes uses even professing Christians to do his work.

5) God can bring good out of evil

God is sovereign over all of the evil that takes place in the world.  He can take the worst evil on the planet and use it for good.  He can use evil for His own purposes.  Hitler’s holocaust only led to the creation of the state of Israel a few years later.

Saul tries to wipe out all of the priests but one escapes and he flees to David’s side. God has completely left Saul.  He does not have any prophets.  he does not have the priesthood.  God is not talking to him.  At the end of the book, he has to go to a witch to try to get some revelation.

[1] Beth Moore, A Heart Like His, 76.

Covenant Friendship

One of the biggest problems people have today is depression.  It is a worldwide problem.  One in six Americans take medication for it.  Christians are not immune from depression.  They get depressed.  Depression is caused by many things.  One thing that causes depression is when bad things happen.  Things do not always go as we plan.

Bad things happen to good people.  We are sometimes shocked when bad things happen to believers.  Sometimes terrible things happen to some of the best of people and to some of the godliest people in the church.

What happened to Job has been repeated in the modern day.  It is not just a story in the Bible.  Maybe bad things have happened to you or to your family.  Perhaps you have asked God why you were let go from your job or why your marriage is heading for divorce or why one of your kids died young.

When you look in the Bible, you find that people experienced the same problems we have.  They experienced depression as well.  Some of the best men and women in the Bible experienced it.  David experienced it.  That is strange.   The man of God’s own heart got depressed.  David wrote many of the Psalms and he was depressed.  In this chapter, David is depressed.  He is in the dumps.

Why was David depressed?  Bad things were happening to him.  David wasn’t always depressed.  He had a lot of things going for him.

He was the only one in his family who was chosen by the prophet Samuel and anointed to be king and he came from a big family.  He had a lot of brothers.  He must have felt special.

He killed a giant.  He had to feel great about that.  He did something that no one else in the whole country could do.  That must have made him feel good about himself.  He probably felt invincible.

He was the most famous person in the whole country.  He must have felt like he was on top of the world. Even the women were singing about him.  That must have boosted his self-esteem.

He was also given a job promotion.  He was given a chance to work for King Saul in the royal palace as his court musician, weapons carrier and later a commander in the army. That must have felt good.  He felt like he had a purpose in life.  He was doing something important in life.  David was moving up in the world but then things changed.

Things changed because of jealousy.  Saul became jealous of David.  He loved him at first.  I Samuel 16:21 says that he “loved him very much” (NIV) but two chapters later that love turned into complete hatred (I Samuel 18:10-11, 25b, 29).  That can happen today.

It happens in some marriages.  Two people start out madly in love, passionately in love and then, in just a few years, they can’t stand each other.  Love turns into hatred.  Saul became jealous.  He became suspicious, which turned into hatred, which led to violence.  It leads to attempted murder.

Saul tried to kill David several different ways.  David’s own father-in-law tried to kill him several times with a spear.  He tried to get the Philistines to kill him but that did not work.  Then, sent two bands of assassins, Hebrew Hitmen, who tried to kill him in his bed but they failed.

David had to leave his wife, jump out of a window, leave town and run for his life.  David’s wife said, “Leave now or you will be a dead man by tomorrow” (I Samuel 19:11).

David left Gibeah, where Saul lived and ran to Ramah, where Samuel lived.  He was the only one who really understood the situation.  He anointed him but, when he got to Ramah, three more bands of assassins showed up and when they were unsuccessful, Saul showed up to do the job.

He meant business but when they all got there, they started prophesying (I Samuel 19:19-24).  They became charismatics.   What he prophesied we are not told.  We don’t know what Saul said, but somehow the murderers were turned into worshippers.  That gave David a chance to run from Ramah to Naioth.

David was in survival mode.  He was not trying to be king and take over Saul’s job.  He is just trying to survive.  David has to run away to save his life. David becomes a fugitive for about ten years.  He becomes a man on the run.  He is running from not just anybody.  He is running from the most powerful man in the country.

This is the opposite of the prosperity gospel.  David was called by God.  He was anointed by God.  God’s hand was on his life and then he had to leave his family.  He had to leave his wife.  He had to leave his home.  He had to leave his job and go on the run for years, living in caves.  He was always looking over his shoulder.  He had to look out for assassins.  People were trying to kill him.  He had to dodge spears and hitmen.  He did not live a life of prosperity.

Why God Allowed This in David’s Life?

Why did God allow this in David’s life?  He was God’s anointed.  We would ask why does God allow things in our life?  David was only about twenty.  He was anointed to be king, but he was not ready yet to be king.  David had to grow a little bit.

Spiritual growth takes time.  Toadstools can grow up in a day, but it takes some time for an oak tree to grow.  God had a few things to teach him first.  He had to get him ready for what he called him to do.  He had to teach him how to trust God and depend on Him alone.

He did something else really important in this time.  He used this time to write Scripture.  He wrote some of the Psalms.  We do not know all of them[1] but Psalm is perhaps one example.

Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, 2 or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3 Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands— 4 if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe—5 then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.

6 Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. 7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high. 8 Let the Lord judge the peoples. Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.

9 Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure— you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. 10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. 11 God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. (Psalm 7:1-11 NIV)

What is the remedy for depression?  In our day, the remedy is drugs.  Doctors prescribe some antidepressants.  Sometimes that might be needed.  David found an answer in a friend.  In a dark place, he finds a friend.

If you are depressed, you need a good friend you can turn to.  You need a friend who understand you, a friend who supports you and a friend who can give you good biblical counsel.  David finds one in I Samuel 20.

Jonathon encouraged David.  He told him that God was with him.  He told him that he was not going to die.  He told him that one day he would become king.  Jonathon was the heir to the throne but he was the one who encouraged David.  He understood David’s future better than he did.

Of course, friends don’t have all of the answers.  There are some deep questions that only God can answer but we all need good friends who can speak truth to us and encourage us.  Jonathon and David do that in this chapter.  They have three conversations.

David’s Problem

Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?” (I Samuel 20:1 NIV)

Now, this is interesting.  David did not know why this was happening.  He did not know why Saul was trying to kill him.  When we have bad things happen to us, we ask the same question.  Why?  Why did God allow it?  Why is God doing this?  Why is this happening to me?

Now, we know because we can read I Samuel why this was happening to David.  God tells us why King Saul was doing this.  God can see right through us.  He knows out heart.  He knows our thoughts.  He knows the motives of everything we do.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (NIV).

One Step Between Me and Death

David fears for his life.  He tells Jonathon that his dad is trying to kill him.  He says something to Jonathon that is very profound.  David said to Jonathon, “But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:3).  It is just as true of us as it was of him.

David is a young man.  He is about twenty-year-old.  He was not eight or ninety.  He is in his twenties, and, David said that there was step between him and death, just one step.

What David says is true of all of us.  Death is not only assured; it is approaching.  We are all close to it.  We are all fragile.  Some feel great and then catch the coronavirus and drop dead.  There is just a step between us and death.  Life is brief.  Our life hangs by a thread.  We could die at any time.  One little slip, one accident and our lives are over.

We never know when we will take our last step on earth and jump into eternity.  The real question is, Are you ready for that day?  Are you prepared?  Most are not.  The Bible says, “It is appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

David said to Jonathon, “Why does you dad want to kill me?”  How did Jonathon respond?  What did he say?  He says, “My dad does NOT want to kill you.  He would never do something like that.”  Jonathon does not think his dad is capable of doing this.

He said, “If he did want to kill you, he would have told me” (I Samuel 20:2).  He told me that he would not kill you.  He swore before God that he would not do it.  Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” (I Samuel 19:6 NIV).  Jonathon took him at his word.

That is what you would expect a son to do.  What was the problem?  If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see that Saul tries to kill David after he made that statement.  In fact, David is on the run for his own safety, because Saul is trying to kill him.

Jonathon was in denial.  Many of us have blind spots when it comes to our family.  Jonathon’s dad was certifiably crazy but he could not see it, because he was his dad.  Our kids may be completely rotten but we think they are angels.

Jonathon wanted to believe the best about his dad but that made him a little gullible.  He was naïve.  He was blind.  David knew his dad better than Jonathon did.  This shows that friends are imperfect.  They are not always objective.

So how did they resolve this?  Two friends couldn’t agree.  David said that Saul is trying to kill him.  Jonathon said he is not.  David came up with a plan (I Samuel 20:5-8).  The plan involved a little deception.

David would not show up for dinner for two days and see how Saul would respond.  The plan was to say that he was in Bethlehem for a feast.  If Saul accepted it, it shows that he was not mad at him.  If he is angry, it shows that he wants to kill him.

Jonathon agreed to go on this fact-finding mission.  He is going to gather intelligence in order to get the facts about his dad and reveal what he really thought about David.  David has to wait three days to find out the answer.

Jonathon does exactly as he is told.  Jonathon does not lie.  He simply says, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.” (I Samuel 20:28-29 NIV).

That was all true.  That was what David said and Saul has a temper tantrum.  Saul become angry at David.  Jonathon tries to support his friend David and then Saul comes after Jonathon himself.   He insults him and tries to kill him.

Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. THEN Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. (I Samuel 20:30-34 NIV)

In this last chapter, Saul threw a spear at David and tries to kill him. In this chapter, Saul threw a spear at Jonathon.  He threw a spear at his own son, the crowned prince, and tried to kill him.  Jonathon had no doubt what his dad really thought about David.  It became clear that Saul had complete hatred for David and hatred for anyone who even supported David.

As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he MUST die!” (I Samuel 20:31 NIV)

The chapter ends on a sad note.  Jonathon reveals to David what happened.  Both men are upset.  Two close friends who have to say “goodbye.” They had to separate and go their separate ways. David goes one direction and Jonathon goes another direction.  Jonathon heads back to the city.  David heads into the wilderness.  They will only meet again one more time.  That is in I Samuel 23.

Six Qualities of Covenant Friendship

Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” (I Samuel 20:42 NIV).

This friendship was very different from friendships today.  How is covenant friendship different from ordinary friendship?

Ordinary friendship has nothing to do with God.  there is no spiritual basis to it.  People can be friend for all kinds of reasons.

Ordinary friendships do not last beyond death.  If you have a friend and your best friend dies, you usually do not become close friends with that person’s children.

Ordinary friendship does not involve an oath.  We do not make oaths when we get friends.

Ordinary friendship does not involve a covenant.  We do not make covenants with our friends.  We do not have too many friendships like this today, although marriage involves an oath before God.

I want to look at the qualities of covenant friendship from David and Jonathon.  There are six qualities of covenant friendship.

1. Loyalty

Jonathon and David had an inseparable bond.  This was not a casual friendship.  This was a deep friendship, not like a Facebook friend.  The Bible says that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David” (1 Sam. 18:1 KJV). Jonathon is closer to David than he is to his own family members.  The Bible says that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV).

2. Intimacy

There was some depth to this friendship.  They had some secrets.  They shared things with each other that no one else knew about.  They had secrets that Jonathon did not even tell his family about.  The Bible says that he loved David AS HIMSELF.  We are told that three times in I Samuel (I Samuel 18:1, 3; 20:17).

Jesus said that the whole law could be boiled down in two points: love God and love people.  He said, “Love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength, AND love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

Jonathon is the perfect example of the second kind of love.  He is the biblical example.  Are we like Jonathon?  Most of us are not.  We love ourselves a little more.  Most of us our selfish.  We only think about number one.

3. Obligation

They formed an agreement.  They made a pact.  This was not a one-sided.  It was two-sided.  Both had an obligation in this friendship.  They both needed something and wanted something.   Both Jonathon and David are worried about something. David is worried that Jonathon’s dad will kill him.

Jonathon is worried that David will one day become king and wipe out every member of his family including Jonathon himself.  That was the practice in that day.  Both made promises to each other.  Jonathon promises to protect David.  David promises to protect Jonathon and his family.

4) Encouragement

Jonathon encouraged David.  He said that he was not going to die and that he would one day become king.  He encouraged him when he was at his lowest point.

The Bible says that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17 NIV).  A real friend loves at ALL times.  A real friend does not just want to be your friend when things are going great (a fair-weather friend).

A real friend will stand with you when no one else will stand with you.  A real friend will stand with you when you are sick.  A real friend will stand with you when you are charged with a crime.  A real friend will stand with you in your greatest tragedy.

5) Assistance

Jonathon would do anything for David.  David is completely vulnerable.  He is in need.  Jonathon says to him, “Whatever you want me to do, I will do it for you” (I Samuel 20:4 NIV).  He does not just help him with words.  He does things to help him.  Jonathon ends up risking his own life for David.  Jonathon almost gets killed in this chapter.

6) Affection

After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. (I Samuel 20:41-42 NIV)

This was an emotional farewell.  Jonathon and David were crying.  They were kissing.  That was part of the culture of the time.  Friends today do not have to kiss one another, like they did, but real friends show affection for one another.

[1] Wiersbe says Psalm 7, 11-13, 16-17, 22, 25, 31, 34-35, 52-54, 56-59, 63-64, 142-143

Two Kinds of Friends

Today, we are going to talk about friends.  What does it mean to be a friend biblically?  We are going to look at real friends and fake friends.  Some friends are fake.  Jonathon was a real friend.  Saul was a fake friend.  Which type of friend are you?

Several weeks ago, we began a study of the life of David, one of the greatest men in the Bible.  He is mentioned about a thousand times in the Bible.  David began a life of complete obscurity.  He was a complete nobody.  He was not famous.

He started out as a poor shepherd boy in Bethlehem.  He was the baby of the family but one day everything changed.  The prophet Samuel showed up at his house with a bottle of oil, poured it on David’s head and anointed him as king.  God’s Spirit came powerfully upon David and everything changed.  Today, I want to look at three things: David’s Prosperity, David’s Popularity and David’s Protection.

David’s Prosperity

God began to bless David.  David moved up in the world.  He started out as a simple country shepherd, but he became Saul’s court musician and weapons carrier, his armor-bearer.  Then, he became a giant killer.  He killed Goliath and walked away carrying his head. In this chapter, he becomes a military commanded and even joins Saul’s family through marriage.  We are told this three times that David was successful.

Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well. (I Samuel 18:5 NIV)

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. (I Samuel 18:12-15)

The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known. (I Samuel 18:30)

Why was he so successful?  It wasn’t just because he worked hard or because he had a lot of talent.  It was because God was with him.   We are told three times in the chapter that God was with David (I Samuel 18:12, 14, 28).  God blessed David.  He prospered him.  He blessed everything he put his hand to do.

No matter what Saul did, no matter how many times he plotted against David, David continued to succeed.  God kept blessing him.  We want the same thing to be true of us.  We want to be successful.  If we are obedient to God, we will bless us.  He will prosper us.  Does this mean that the Bible teaches the health and wealth gospel?  Does it mean if we obey God, we will be healthy, wealthy and not have any problems?

Tell that to Job.  He was blameless.  He was godly and he had problems.  He lost everything: his health, his wealth, his kids.  Joseph was obedient to God.  God blessed him but he was thrown in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of a sex crime and thrown in a prison.  David does not live an easy life in these two chapters either.

David seems like he is on top of the world.  He joins Saul’s family.  He marries his daughter.  He becomes his son-in-law but then Saul goes completely insane.  He becomes certifiably crazy.  He grabs a spear and tries to kill David.

It is bad enough when the king wants to kill you, but Saul was not only the king, he was also David’s boss.  David worked for King Saul.  We saw that in the last two chapters.  Have we ever had a boss like Saul?  Have you ever worked for someone who was moody, unstable, and bipolar? This boss actually became violent.

Saul was not just David’s boss; he was his father-in-law.  Some of us who are married have in-law problems but none of us probably had a violent father-in-law who was completely psychotic and tried to kill us and even hired people to kill us.

David had to deal with people trying to kill him repeatedly in this chapter. He was a man marked for death. His life was constantly in danger.  There were contracts out on his life.  He had all kinds of hit men coming after him

Not only did he have to face death in these chapters, but he became a fugitive.  He became a man on the run.  He becomes an outlaw.  He has to escape out of a window and run for safety.  He becomes a fugitive for ten years.  He never sets foot in the palace again until Saul is dead.

It does not sound like David led an easy life.  We are not promised a problem free life either.  If preachers promise you that, they are lying.  Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world ” (John 16:33 NIV).  In this world, we will have all kinds of trouble.  Life is not always fair.  Bad things happen.

David’s Popularity

The second thing we see here is Davis’s popularity.  David was popular.  In the last chapter, he just killed Goliath and cut off his head.  He became the most famous man in the country.  He was more famous that the king himself.  He was a celebrity.  He was a hero.  He was a national hero.  He was larger than life.  Notice the last verse in the chapter.  David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known (Samuel 18:30 NIV)

David’s name was well known.  He was famous.  He was popular. Everybody loved him. The people loved him.  All Israel loved him.  All Judah loved him (I Samuel 18:16).  This was not everyone loved Raymond.  This was everyone loved David.  Saul’s servants loved him (I Samuel 18:5).  The women loved him (I Samuel 18:6-7).

Women loved him, especially the young women, the single women.  He was the teenage heart throb. They loved David.  He was a hero and he was good-looking.  When the soldiers came back from the battlefield, the women do not praise God, they praise David.  The young women sang about him (like he was one of the Beetles).  The danced.  They sang “joyful songs with timbrels and lyres” (I Samuel 18:6 NIV).

People, even in Saul’s family, loved him. His daughter Michal loved him (I Samuel 18:20).  She had a big crush on him.  She loved him and eventually married him.  Now, this is a little interesting Bible trivia.  Did you know that this is the only time in the Bible where we are told that a woman loved a man.[1]  It is the only time in the whole Bible.  That had to count for something.

Her brother Jonathon loved David as well (I Samuel 18:3).  Jonathon was his best friend.  We are told that four times (I Samuel 18:3; 20:16, 42; 23:18).  It is one of the most amazing examples of friendship in the Bible.  It is classic friendship between two men.

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (I Samuel 18:1-4 NIV)

Four Characteristics of Real Friends

Many have friends but they are not anything like the friendship of David and Jonathon.  This type of friendship is rare.  It is not common.  This friendship was characterized by four things.  True friendship has these four qualities.  Every marriage should have these four qualities.

1) Loyalty

There was a deep commitment between these two men.  There was a bond.  They made a covenant between the two of them (I Samuel 18:3).  This loyalty was dangerous.  It was risky.  Jonathon was loyal to someone who had a death sentence hanging over his head.

He was loyal to someone who had several warrants out for his arrest.  Jonathon was loyal to David over his own father.  He was loyal to David over the king.  David was so loyal to Jonathon that he did good deeds to Jonathon’s children, even after Jonathon was dead.

2) Sacrifice

Gifts were exchanged.  It was a little one-sided.  Jonathon gave David some gifts.  David did not give Jonathon any gifts.  They were not on the same level.  This was the prince and the pauper.

What gifts did Jonathon give David?  He gave him his robe, tunic, sword, bow and his belt (I Samuel 18:4).  The KJV says, “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”

This is not the best translation here.  I do not know when men wore in the 1600s but men these days don’t wear girdles.  Only old ladies were girdles.  Jonathon did not prance around in a girdle.

Why is Jonathon giving David these things?  It was a prophetic action.  It was Jonathon’s way to say that he would be the next king.  He would be Saul’s successor.  He would be heir to the throne.  Jonathon was not only giving him some gifts; he was giving up his right to the throne.

3) Humility

Jonathon was Saul’s oldest son.  He was the crowned prince.  He was destined for the throne.  He was next in line to be the king, but he accepted that David was anointed by God.  He knew that David would be the next king and he accepted that.  Saul never accepted that.  He tried to kill David so what God predicted doesn’t take place. He fought the will of God for his life.

Jonathon should have been jealous of David. He had good reason to be jealous of David but instead of hating David, he loved David.  He accepted David as God’s choice as king and loved David.

He was not even jealous that David outshined him.  Before I Samuel 17, Jonathon was the most famous soldier in the army.  He has the one who had the reputation for bravery against the Philistines.

He attacked twenty Philistines by himself.  He was also a war hero.  After David killed Goliath, it was almost like he was completely forgotten but he is not jealous at all.  He had no thought of himself.  He was selfless.  David was his rival, but he was his greatest supporter.

4) Support

One of the things that friends do is to support each other.  They encourage each other.  Jonathon supported David.  I Samuel 23:14 says, “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God” (NASB).  When Jonathon found out that his dad was trying to kill David, he told David about it.  He told him to go into hiding and he tried to talk his dad out of it.  He tried to convince him not to kill David (I Samuel 19:4-5).

He supports him in the next chapter.  He laid out the case why David should not be killed.  He would have made a good attorney.  In I Samuel 19, he plays the role of a peacemaker.  Normally that would have been a good idea, but you can’t reason with a mad man.

Unbelievers today read this chapter very differently than we do.  If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you can come up with some crazy ideas.  Some skeptics today believe that Jonathon and David were gay.

Were David and Jonathon Gay?

Here were two men.  They are the same sex.  They loved each other (I Samuel 18:1, 3).  They kissed each other (I Samuel 20:41).  The strongest argument that they have that David was gay is that he married someone with a guy’s name like Michael.  It sounds like the first gay couple by today’s standards.

How would you answer this argument?  We can’t read it in a modern secular context.  We have to read these words in light of the culture of the time.

In that culture, men kissed other men.  It did not mean they were gay.  It was a common greeting.  Men in the West do not kiss other men, unless they are gay.  In the Middle East, men kiss other men on the check.  It is non-sexual.

Both Jonathon and David were heterosexuals.  Jonathon was married and had kids. Mephibosheth is one of his kids.  David is married to Jonathon’s sister.

David’s greatest sexual sin was with a woman, not a man.  The Bible condemns him for his adultery with Bathsheba.

Jonathon and David were said to be “one in spirit” (I Samuel 18:1 NIV).  This shows that this was a spiritual, not a physical relationship.

The Bible strongly condemns homosexuality.  It is universally condemned in both the OT and the NT.  It calls it an abomination and a sin against nature.

Fake Friends

In the rest of the chapter, Saul’s true colors come out.  While everyone else in the country loves David, while people in his own family loves David, Saul hates him. He can’t stand him.  He wants to kill David.  He tries to kill David He tells everyone around him to kill David. Real friends don’t stab each other in the back.  Saul was a backstabbing friend.

David gets a friend in this chapter (Jonathon).  He also gets a new enemy (Saul).  His enemy is not Goliath.  In fact, it is not a Philistine.  It is an Israelite and Saul persecutes David.  David becomes a clear type of Christ.  He was anointed but rejected.  He was hated without a cause.  What happened to David could happen to us.  Everyone will not always like us.

Jesus said, “you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:19-20 NIV)

Saul hated David that hatred turned into violence and attempted murder.  Saul pretended to be David’s friend, but he was really his enemy.  That was the way Judas was.  He gave Jesus the kiss of friendship as he was betraying him.  Several verses in the Bible talk about this.

His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21 NIV).

Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. (Psalm 28:3 ESV)

Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts, they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. (Proverbs 26:24-25 NIV)

Saul told David to fight the Lord’s battles (I Samuel 18:17) but he said that so he would get on the battlefield and get killed.  It sounded real spiritual, but he had murder on the brain.  He told David that he wanted him to be his son-in-law, but he said that, not for good reasons but for evil reasons.  He had a hidden agenda.

We are going to look at what some have called “The Saul Syndrome.”  Many church people have it.  Many church leaders have it.  This was not just some type of mental illness.

Saul was not just bipolar or manic depressive.  He was plagued by demons.  He had an evil spirit.  This was not just depression Most depressed people do not go out kill people. Most depressed people are not violent, according to the Harvard Medical School.[2]  His actions were triggered by one thing.  It was jealousy.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. 7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

8 Saul was VERY angry; this refrain displeased him GREATLY. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. (I Samuel 18:6-9 NIV)

It started with jealousy and insecurity.  The very next day, he tried to kill him (I Samuel 18:10-11).  We think of jealousy of some minor sin but in this chapter, it was one step short of murder.

David’s Protection

Saul tries six different ways to kill David.  Each way fails.  David had nine lives.  It was almost like he was invincible.  In fact, each time it backfired.  God protected His anointed.  David was God’s anointed.  The Messiah was going to come from David.

Six Ways to Kill a King

1) Saul tried to kill David by spear (I Samuel 18:10-11; 19:10)

He does this three times.  Each time he does it when David is playing a musical instrument.  Here you have David with a harp in his hand and you have the man Saul with a spear in his hand.  You never want to give a mad man a spear or a gun.  What is he doing with a spear?  He is at home, not on the battlefield.

Saul did not need to hold a spear.  He had men to protect him.  He should be throwing spears at the Philistines.  Instead he is throwing them at David, a man after God’s own heart.  He is throwing them at God’s anointed.

David must have had some good reflexes.  He would have been good at dodge ball.  He was like George W. Bush, who was good at dodging shoes thrown at him in 2008 at a press conference.[3] Whatever you thought of George W. Bush, he had some good moves.

2) Saul tried to kill David by dowry (I Samuel 18:24-25)

Saul promised that the one who killed Goliath would get his daughter in marriage (I Samuel 17:25) but Saul was not a man of his word.  He had two daughters (Mer-ov and Me-call).  He did not give his oldest daughter to David.  He gave her to someone else.  His other daughter Michael wanted to marry him, but David said, “I can’t marry her because I am dirt poor.  I can’t pay the bride price.”

Saul says, “I don’t need money.  You can pay me in dead Philistines.  Just kill a hundred Philistines and bring me back proof that they are dead.  Bring me back a hundred Philistine foreskins.  The Philistines were uncircumcised.  Saul figured this was a suicide mission.  It would get him killed.  The bride price will kill him.

This has to be one of the strangest things in the Bible.  David does it and comes back with a bag of two hundred foreskins.  People will do crazy things for love.  Pity the fool that had to count the foreskins, but someone did.  They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. (I Samuel 18:27 NIV)

3) Saul tried to kill David by marriage (I Samuel 18:21)

Saud gave David his daughter to him in marriage.  Why?  “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him” (I Samuel 18:21 NIV).  She thought that the temperamental and spoiled princess would do him in.  He thought she would be on his side.

What happened?  The snare turned into an advantage.  Michal took David’s side.  She loved him.  She protected him.  Instead of hurting him, she helped him.  She actually saved his life.  She sent him out of the window probably of an upper floor to save his life.  He left and fled to Samuel in Ramah, since he was the one who anointed him.

She not only told him what to do to protect himself, she lied for him.  She actually told three lies.  She said he was ill (I Samuel 19:14).  She made it look like he was in the bed by putting an idol in the bed (I Samuel 19:15-16).  What was she doing with an idol in the first place?  Why did she have one in the house?  We don’t know.  Finally, she said that David threatened to kill her if he did not escape (I Samuel 19:17).

4) Saul tried to kill David by the Philistines (I Samuel 18:25)

Saul said, “I don’t need to kill David.  I will get the Philistines to do it.”  Her will fall by the hands of the Philistines (I Samuel 18:25).  The irony is that is how Saul died. What Saul planned for David came on his own head.  He died by the hands of the Philistines.

5) Saul tried to kill David by his own family (I Samuel 19:1)

He used his own children.  He tried to get his son Jonathon to kill him.  It made perfect sense because he was Saul’s oldest son.  He was the heir to the throne.

Jonathon disobeyed his own father.  He disobeys the king.  He commits civil disobedience.  Someone said that this is one of the best examples in the whole of Scripture of godly civil disobedience. The Scriptures teach that we are to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1).

The plan didn’t work because Jonathon was David’s best friend.  That backfired because David now had someone on the inside who could warn him every time Saul was trying to kill him.

6) Saul tried to kill David by hit men (I Samuel 19:11-15)

We are told that “Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him.”  He hired professional killers to do the job.  He hired assassins but even they couldn’t get the job done.  Saul sent then back to try again, and they were still unsuccessful.

[1] Robert Altar, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 118.

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-illness-and-violence

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RFH7C3vkK4

 

Defeating Giants

Today, we come to one of the greatest stories in the Bible.  In fact, it is one of the greatest stories in all literature.  It is one of the most famous stories in pages of Scripture.  Everyone knows it.  Every child knows it.  This passage is as famous in the OT as John 3:16 is in the NT.  Even if you have never set foot in a church or opened a Bible, you know this story.

It is a story about FIGHTING.  This was an epic battle between two fighters.  Two men squared off to fight.  It is perhaps history’s most famous battle.  A soldier in one army challenges a soldier in another army to a one-one-one battle to the death.  The underdog wins.  The good guy wins.

It is a story about FAITH.  David is great example of incredible faith, faith in action.  He is probably somewhere between fifteen and twenty years old. He was in his late teens and he displays bold faith in this chapter.

This is not just a children’s story.  In fact, part of the story is too graphic for children.  It is much too violent for children.  David does not just kill Goliath; David cuts his head off.  He decapitates him.  Why did he do that?  He wanted to make sure he was dead.  Maybe he had seen one too many monster movies where you think the bad guy is dead but then he comes back to life and attacks you.

David wanted to make sure he was dead and have some proof.  When he went to talk to King Saul after the battle, he had Goliath’s severed head in one hand and Goliath’s sword in the other (I Samuel 17:57).  David also carried Goliath’s bloody head all the way to Jerusalem (I Samuel 17:54), which is sixteen miles away.

In fact, it is not just story at all.  It is history.  It actually took place.  We have found the actual place in Israel where this battle took place.  You can visit the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath.  You can see the location on the Internet where the Valley of Elah is located today.[1]

The goal for today is to see what happens in this chapter but also to see how it applies to us.  What lessons does it have for us today?  If all we do is read this and talk about how David killed Goliath, we missed the whole point of the chapter.  This chapter has the potential to change your life.

Let’s begin by getting some background.  The chapter begins with a battle between two nations.  The come together to fight.  The Israelites are one hill.  The Philistines are on the other hill and there was a valley in between them (I Samuel 17:3).  The Philistines were on the north and the Israelites were on the south.  That raises an important question.

Identity of the Philistines

We know who the Israelites were.  Who were the Philistines?  The Philistines were Canaanites.  They were like the Native Americans who were in America before the white man appeared.  The Philistines were in the Promise Land before the Jews appeared.  They were a pagan people who were under divine judgment.

There were five Philistine cities in the Promise Land (Joshua 13:3).  Gath was one of them.  Goliath was a soldier from Gath.  People who were from Gath were called Gittites, not Hittites but Gittites (II Samuel 6:10).  Archaeologists have excavated Goliath’s hometown.[2]

The Jews were told to kick them out of the Promise Land.  Jonathon had some success against them, but they never were quite able to completely get rid of them.  On this occasion, there was a stalemate.  The two nations were at a stand-off.

Neither side really wanted to fight.  They used a method of warfare called representative warfare.  It was warfare by proxy.  The best fighter on one side was sent to fight the best fighter on the other side.  There are examples of this taking place in the ancient world.  It did happen.  The most well-known soldier in the Philistine army was named Goliath.

A Philistine Champion

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. (I Samuel 17:4-7 NIV)

1) He was strong

He carried a coat of armor that was about a hundred twenty-five pounds (I Samuel 17:5 NLT) and a spear that weighted fifteen pounds (I Samuel 17:7 NLT).  He was not just a soldier; he was the best fighter that the Philistines had.  He was the Philistine Samson.  It was like sending out Bruce Lee to fight.

2) He was tall

He was huge.  He was tank.  This was a tall Bruce Lee.  He was like a walking mountain. The Bible says that he was “six cubits and a span” (I Samuel 17:4).  That is about nine feet, nine inches.  Goliath was big.  He was almost ten feet tall. The NBA would have loved to have Goliath.  The tallest member of the NBA was only 7 feet 7 inches tall.

3) He was armed

He was not only tall, he was armed.  His body was full of armor.  He was covered in metal. He was covered from head to toe in bronze.  The Philistines had the best technology of the day.

4) He was intimidating

Goliath was big.  He was tall.  He towered over everyone else.   He was intimidating.  He was physically intimidating. He was a bully.  Have you ever faced a bully?  Goliath was not just a bully; he was a big bully.  He used words to taunt and hurt people.  He used psychological warfare.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. (I Samuel 17:8-11 NIV)

He challenged the Israelites to fight him.  He did it every day.  He did it two times a day.  He did it for forty days (I Samuel 17:16).  He laughed at the Israelites.  Their army was weak to him.  None of them were man enough to fight him.  He saw them all as a bunch of cowards.

He struck fear into an entire army.  All of the soldiers were completely paralyzed in fear.  He was so big that and no one dared to fight him. No one had the guts to face him.  You would think there would be one person in the army brave enough to fight him.  The one you would expect to fight him was Saul.

He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else in the nation (I Samuel 9:2), but he would not fight him.  He was too old.  God had rejected him.  The Spirit had left him, and he was not about to face him.

The next person you would expect to fight him was Jonathon.  He was known for his incredible bravery.  He attacked the Philistines twice by himself.  He defeated twenty Philistine soldiers by himself but even he dared not fight him.

Joseph’s brothers were in the army, but they would not fight him.  None of the soldiers would fight him.  They wouldn’t fight him, even with good incentives.  King Saul promised three rewards to the one who beat Goliath. What were the rewards?

The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” (I Samuel 17:25 NIV).

Saul promised money and marriage to the one who fought Goliath and won but no one took him up on the offer. It would have been a suicide mission.  You would have to be crazy to go do it.  It is like going out and fighting Godzilla.

Challenge Accepted

Then, David arrives on the scene. When we first saw David in the Bible, he was just a shepherd.  Then, he became a musician.  He became Saul’s court musician.  In this chapter, we see him a great fighter, a brave warrior.  David had many different skills and abilities.  He was also a man after God’s own heart.

Why does he show up?  He didn’t show up because he wanted to be famous or be put in the record books.  He did not show up to show how tough he was.  He did not show up to fight anyone.  He did not show up to sign up for the army.  He was too young.  You had to be twenty to be in the army (Numbers 1:3).  He showed by because he was sent by his father on a mission.

His dad sends him to bring food (ten loaves of bread, ten cheeses).  The brothers got the bread.  The commanded of the unit got the cheese (I Samuel 17:17-18).  He gave cheese to the big cheese.  Apparently “the army was running low on rations.  Families of the troops held provide for the army.”[3]  Plus, it had been more than a month since they drew up battle lines and Jesse wanted to find out what was going on.  There was no television or internet three thousand years ago.

How far did David travel to get there?  The distance between Bethlehem and the Valley of Elah was about fourteen miles.  David had a long trip to take.  We are told he left EARLY in the morning (I Samuel 17:20).  When he got there, he saw Goliath out challenge, taunting and mocking the Israelites, blaspheming God.

A couple things are very interesting here.  This whole battle would not have taken place unless TWO THINGS took place.  The whole battle would not have taken place unless Jesse sent the right man and unless David came at the right time.  Jesse had eight sons.  Three were in the army and five were at home.

He wanted to send some food along.  He just happened to ask David to do it.  If he asked any of his other brothers, this battle would not have taken place.  David just happened to come at the right time when Goliath was out talking.  If he came at the wrong time, the battle would not have taken place.

David asks some simple questions.  David accepts the challenge.  Other soldiers hear that he is interested in fighting Goliath and is not afraid.  Saul hears about it.  David is taken to the king. He tries to give him his own armor, but David rejects them.  He can’t wear Saul’s armor.  It doesn’t even fit him.

David goes to the front line and Goliath sees him.  Goliath is insulted that the Israelites did not send their best fighter against him.  They just send a boy.  Instantly, his guard went down.  They did not send a soldier out.  They sent out a shepherd without any body armor on.  Goliath mocked and cursed him.  He threatened him.

David utters a prophecy.  The Holy Spirit came on him.  How did he know what was going to happen?  God must have revealed it to him.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. (I Samuel 17:46 NIV)

Seven Steps to Killing Goliath

What does this story say to us today? What is the application? A common approach today in some evangelical circles is that David is not us. It is Christ.[4]  That makes nonsense of the text. David was a man anointed by God and empowered by God.  He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit and used by God but he was just a man, an imperfect man.

The analogy does not work.  Jesus did not kill Satan and cut his head off.  The one who died on the cross was Jesus, not Satan (although He also rose from the dead). Satan has been judged but he is still roaming the earth wreaking havoc.

He did not defeat some giant greater than he was.  Jesus did not defeat a giant who was greater or stronger than he was.  Jesus was the one who created the angel who became Satan.  He is his Creator.

Chandler says that the Bible is not about us, which is true, but it is a complete straw man argument.  No one says that the Bible is about us.  The question is NOT whether the Bible is about us.  The question is whether the Bible APPLIES to us and on that point there can be no doubt.  The Bible applies to us.  The OT applies to us today.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NIV)

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”

8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (I Corinthians 10:6-11 NIV)

I Samuel 17 does apply to us.  It shows that God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people, like a poor country shepherd boy. What he did for David, He can do for us. There are seven powerful applications from this chapter. There are seven steps to killing giants today.

1) Identify the giants

The first lesson from this chapter is to identify who the giants are in your life.  You can’t solve a problem until you know what the problem is.  We have all faced a giant in our life. What is a giant to me may not be a giant to you.  What is a giant to you may not be a giant to me.

What exactly is a giant from this chapter?  A giant is a challenge or problem that seems impossible.  It is something that terrifies and intimidates you.  It is something that you run from in fear.  It is something that you are afraid to face or confront.  It is something that enslaves you and brings you into bondage.

We fight battles today and some of them are against giants. All of us face giants in life.  Giants come in many different forms.  They are not always people.  None of us will probably face a physical Goliath that we have to fight but there are some modern-day Goliaths.  Max Lucado says that “Goliaths still roam our world.”[5]

“Your Goliath doesn’t carry a sword or shield; he brandishes blades of unemployment, sexual abuse or depression.  Your giant doesn’t parade up and down hills of Elah; he prances through your office, your bedroom, your classroom.  He brings bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, people you can’t please, whiskey you can’t resist, pornography you can’t refuse, a career you can’t escape, a past you can’t shake and a future you can’t face.”[6]

2) Remember victories

Kill your lion and bear first.  That is what David did.  He did not start off killing giants.  He had to work his way up.  He killed a lion and a bear first and he did that when no one was watching.  He did that in private without an audience.[7]  Many people want to go out and kill giants and take on big problems when they cannot even take on small problems.

What experience do you have?  What spiritual successes do you have?  That’s the problem.  Some of us do not have any victories in our life but we should have some.  How has God already worked in your life? David killed a lion and a bear, but he was not content with that.  He was willing to see God do even greater things.

3) Trust God

Trust God in your problem.  Too often we try to fight our battles alone.  Jesus said, “With Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  David did not fight this battle on his own.  For David, the battle was not personal.  This was not really a battle between David and Goliath.

It was a battle between Goliath and God.  David said, “for the battle is the Lord’s” (I Samuel 17:47).  The battle was God’s, not David’s.  This was really a battle between Goliath’s gods and David’s God, although he played a role in it.

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (I Samuel 17:45-47 NIV)

He used a slingshot, but his faith was not in his weapons.  He doesn’t say, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you with a slingshot.”  He says, “but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

David did not go into battle boasting and bragging about his skills and abilities.  He did not go against Goliath thinking, like Muhammad Ali that he was the greatest.  He brought God into his battles.  He trusted God to help him fight and to give him the deliverance.  That is the key.

4) Be angry

As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26 NIV)

David sees sin in the world.  He sees people blaspheming God.  He sees people defying God.  He sees people defying God’s people on earth and he is bothered about it.  He is angry.  He does not sit back and say, “That’s just the way things are.”  He is angry and he wants to do something about it.  This anger caused him to take action.  It caused him to step forward.  What causes you to get angry.  Are you ever angry over God not being glorified in the world and in the church?

5) Don’t fear

Don’t fear your Goliath.  The soldiers were all terrified of Goliath, but David was the only one who did not seem to be afraid of him.  He was motivated by faith and not fear.  Goliath was intimidating but he was not God.  He was just a man.

If David was afraid of Goliath, he would never have fought him.  David runs toward the battle line.  He did not just fight him; he ran towards him.  He faced his challenges head on.  He did not let fear rule him.  One of the messages of this chapter is that size does not matter.  Outward appearances do not matter.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves

6) Ignore criticism

Don’t listen to negative voices.  Sometimes we have negative voices in our head.  We hear all kinds of negative voices.  We may feel that God is calling us to do something, but we will get nothing but criticism and discouragement from people.  That is what happened to David. When he told people what he wanted to do, other people dismissed him, ignored him and laughed at him.  Do people ever do that to you?

What were the negative voices that David heard?  He heard negative voices from his family.  He heard negative voices from his king.  He heard negative voices from his enemy Goliath.  In fact, in this chapter, there were no positive voices, except one.  No one was encouraging David to fight Goliath.  No one could tell he that he could do it but, in the end, Saul finally said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” (I Samuel 17:37)

What did his oldest brother say?  When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? With whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle. (I Samuel 17:28 NIV)

Typical older brother syndrome.  David was simply doing what his dad told him to do.  He was an obedient son.  What was his older brother’s response?  Judgmental.  Critical.  Angry.  Feelings of superiority.  Questioning David’s motives for being there in the first place.  He was probably also a little jealous that the Prophet Samuel anointed David and not him to be king.

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (I Samuel 17:32 NIV).  What did the king say?  Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” (I Samuel 17:33 NIV)

He said, “You can’t do it.  You can’t stand toe-to-toe against him. He is a professional martial artist.  He is an expert at hand-to-hand combat.  He is trained fighter.  He is a veteran.  You are a shepherd.  He is a soldier.  He has years of experience.  He is undefeated.  No one has beaten him before, and he is massive.  He towers over everyone.”

What did Goliath say to him?  He despised him.  He mocked him.  He threatened him and he cursed him.

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (I Samuel 17:41-44 NIV)

7) Use the right weapons

Every battle involves some weapons.  If you use the wrong weapons, you will not be successful.  You will not be effective.

Word of faith people say that we need to talk to our giants.  David talked to Goliath, but it was not words that took him out.  It was a rock.

David does not try to fight Goliath in Saul’s armor.  He doesn’t take a sword.  He uses a slingshot.  We think of it as a child’s toy but it was an actual weapon.  He does not use a sword because he did not own one and was not an expert in the sword but he was good with the slingshot, so he uses what he knows, is comfortable with and is good at.  He does not use someone else’s weapons.

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. (I Samuel 17:40 NIV)

Some think this was a lack of faith.  Why did he take five smooth stones?  Why didn’t he just take one stone with him?  This is a ridiculous question.  He did it to be properly prepared for battle.  No one goes into battle with one bullet in his gun, unless you are Barnie Fife (as someone in my class pointed out).  No archer goes out with one arrow in his quiver.  David went out prepared for battle and so should we.  Our battles are not physical but spiritual (Ephesians 6:12).

[1] https://www.holylandsite.com/valley-of-elah

[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/the-big-gath-dig-goliath-s-hometown/

[3] Faithlite Study Bible on I Samuel 17:17.

[4] This is the view of Matt Chandler (https://vimeo.com/34692625).  Others have followed this approach.

[5] https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/upwords/take-goliath-down-11630947.html

[6] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, p. 2-3.

[7] https://cedarministry.org/how-to-kill-your-goliath/

 

 

God’s Man

We are beginning a study of one of my favorite characters in the Bible.  We begin a study of David. He is mentioned more than Moses.  He is mentioned more than any other person in Scripture, apart from Jesus.  He is mentioned about a thousand times in the Bible.  He is mentioned more than Abraham.  He is mentioned more than Moses.

David is one of the greatest men in the Bible.  He is the only one in the Bible who is called “a man after God’s own heart.”  No other man is given that title.  No other woman is given that title.  It is not said of Moses or Abraham.  It is not said of Isaiah.  It is only said of David.

The Bible says this, not once but twice.  It says it once in the OT (I Samuel 13:14) and once in the NT (Acts 13:22).  If God says this about David, it must be true, because God does not lie.  Apparently, you don’t have to be perfect to be a man or woman after God’s heart, because David had some flaws. 

If you want to read about David, you can find him primarily in two books of mthe Bible: I & II Samuel.  The second half of I Samuel deals with the RISE of King David (I Samuel 16-31).  It gives us his rise to power.  The Book of II Samuel deals with the REIGN of King David.

II Samuel can be divided into three parts: David’s TRIUMPHS (II Samuel 1-10), David’s TRANSGRESSIONS, as he commits adultery and murder (II Samuel 11) and David’s TROUBLES (II Samuel 12-24).

David lived a thousand years before Jesus.  He was from the Tribe of Judah.  He lived in the small town of Bethlehem and he was the ancestor of the Messiah. Jesus called himself “the son of David.”

David became Israel’s greatest king but when we see him in I Samuel 16, he is not a great king.  He is not famous.  He is not popular.  He is not respected.  In fact, he is despised by his older brothers.

David is just a teenage country shepherd boy in this chapter.  He is just a child and he is a child in a large family.  He had seven older brothers and he is the baby of the family.  

Firstborn kids are not taken seriously.  They are often not treated with respect.  No matter how old they are, they are always just the baby of the family (I Samuel 17:14).  His older brothers hated and despised him. 

In I Samuel 16,a thousand years before the time of Christ, God sends Samuel on a secret mission to the small village of Bethlehem.  Samuel does one of the most important things in his career.  He selects the next king of Israel.  He anoints David as king.

In the last chapter, the old king being rejected.  In this chapter, a new king being selected.  David is chosen to be the next king.  He is empowered by God.  The Holy Spirit comes on him powerfully and God gives him a promotion.  David begins his training for the job. 

Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank” (NIV).  That’s what happens to David.  He begins to work for King Saul in this chapter.  He begins apprenticing as king.

We are going to see three things in this chapter: David’s ANOINTING, Saul’s ATTACK and David’s ASSIGNMENT. 

David’s Anointing

Let’s look at the first part of the chapter.  The chapter begins with David’s anointing. God tells Samuel to anoint someone as king.  Why?  Thery already had a king.  God rejected their king.  We saw that in the last chapter and we also saw Samuel’s reaciton.

He could have gloated.  Saul took over his job.  He was hurt when the people said that they did not want him.  They wanted a king.  He could have been celebrating.  He could have said, “Serves your right.  I told you so.  You should have stuck with me as you leader.” 

Instead, the text says that he had three responses: Anger (I Samuel 15:11).  Sadness.  He mourned for Saul (I Samuel 15:34).  Prayer.  We are told that Samuel prayed all night for Saul (I Samuel 15:11) and he mourned for Saul (I Samuel 15:34).  In fact, when we get to I Samuel 16, he is still mourning.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (I Samuel 16:1 NIV)

There is a time for mourning when bad things happen but there is also a time to stop mourning.  God says something very interesting to Saul.  He says, “Stop morning.”  There is “a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). 

There is also a time to stop mourning.   God says, “Stop mourning.  Fill your horn with oil and go anoint the next king.  Anoint Saul’s replacement.”  Would God ever say something like that to us?  You have a problem.  Get up and go do something about it. 

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” (I Samuel 16:2 NIV).  If Samuel anoints another king, while Saul was still king, and if Saul hears about it, he could be killed, because it would be considered treason. 

Samuel lived in Ramah in the north.  Bethlehem is ten miles away in the south and Saul lived between the two cities.  In order for Samuel to get to Bethlehem, he would have to go through Gibeah.  Samuel said, “I can’t do this.  It is too dangerous.”  God told Samuel to face his fears and to trust him.  Sometimes, we have to do the same thing.

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Did God Tell Samuel to Lie

What is God saying here? Is God telling Samuel to lie? Is God encouraging deception? No. Withholding information is not the same thing as misinformation. Concealment is not the same thing as deception. You can tell the truth without telling the whole truth. Not telling everything” is NOT the same as lying.

Missionaries who work in countries where Christianity is illegal may tell people they are there for another reason (e.g., business, teaching) and that is not wrong if that is what they are doing. Samuel didn’t lie.

He did perform a sacrifice. He told the truth. Everything Samuel said was true. If he was asked, “Do you have any other purpose in coming? And he said “No,” that would have involved deception. It would have been an outright lie.[1]  

Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of HIS SONS to be king.”

God tells Samuel to anoint the next king.  He does NOT tell him who he is, but He narrowed it down for him.  God told him where the king lived (Bethlehem).  He told him which family he came from (the family of Jesse).  

Samuel knew the city and house he lived in, but Jesse had many sons.  He now knows that one of Jesse’s sons will be anointed as king, but he doesn’t know which one yet.  God did not reveal it to him, so he pays Jesse a visit. 

Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

Jesse had eight sons.  David had seven brothers.  The Bible gives us the names of six of them.  One might have died early, and his name is not recorded.  We are told the names of three of David’s brothers in this chapter (Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah).  We are given the names of three other brothers of David in I Chronicles 2:14-15 (Nethanel, Raddai, Ozem).  He Bible also records the names of two of his sisters[2] but this chapter is about his brothers.

A Cinderella Story

I Samuel 16 is a take on the Cinderella story. It is the biblical Cinderella story. The brothers know that Samuel is going to anoint one of them to be king, so they stand up in a line for this coronation. There is a line up almost like a beauty pageant. Whoever wins the line-up, wins the lottery.

David was not allowed to be in the line-up. He was deliberately kept out. He was deliberately excluded by his own family. Cinderella could not go to the ball because her stepmother gave her more work to do.

David was not invited to the feast because he had to take care of the sheep. He had to stay home. You say, this can’t be a Cinderella story unless it is a love story. Cinderella falls in love. Come back next week. David kills the giant and gets the girl.

Picture the scene.  Samuel shows up unexpectedly at the small town of Bethlehem to anoint the next king.  He comes to Jesse’s house.  Jesse was so excited to find out that one of his own sons would one day become king.  Jesse’s sons line up for Samuel.  In that culture, the oldest would always go first.  They were considered the most important, because of primogeniture.  The one in the back of the line thought that he does not stand a chance because he is last. 

One by one, Samuel looks at each of them and rejects them all.  The first one steps forward.  He says, “No.  That is not the one.  Next person.”  Finally, he comes to the last son in the line and the man thought that he won the lottery (because there is no one else behind him).  Samuel says no to him as well.  That is seven rejections.

At this point. Samuel has a problem.  There is a disconnect somewhere.  Samuel is beginning to wonder if he heard God correctly.  God sent him to Jesse’s house to anoint the king. God said He was going to choose one of the sons.  All of the sons went before him and none of them were chosen, so he asks Jesse, “Do you have any more kids I don’t know about?  Is this all of them?” 

Jesse says, “No.  It is not all of them.  There is one more”.  “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” “Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” (I Samuel 16:11 NIV)

They go looking for him, find him and bring him back.  David walks in the door, Samuel sees him and instantly knows that this is the one.  Now, David woke up that morning and nothing seemed different about that day.  He went out and took care of the sheep that morning like he always did.  

Now, while he is working, someone rushes out to find him and tells him, “The Prophet Samuel is at your house and is asking to see you right now.”  David says, “What for?  Why does he want to see me?  Did I do something wrong?”  David walks in the door and gets the shock of his life.  He finds that he is going to be the next King of Israel. 

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers” (I Samuel 16:12-13 NIV).

Once he is anointed with oil by the prophet Samuel, notice what happened.  So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. (I Samuel 16:13 NIV).  The Spirit did not come on David before he was anointed.

We want the same thing happening to us.  We want God’s Spirit coming on us POWERFULLY.  You can be saved but not filled with the Holy Spirit.  Many Christians saved but God is not doing anything in their life.  They are not filled with the Spirit.  They do not have any power.  You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (Acts 1:8 NIV)

Lessons from David’s Anointing

What does this say to us today? What are the personal applications or lessons?

1) God is sovereign over human events, but he uses people to accomplish His will.

God is sovereign.  He is the one who is in charge.  He has the right to reject Saul as king and He has the right to pick a new king and He has the right to pick anyone he wants to pick but He uses people to do it.  He used the Prophet Samuel.

He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. (Daniel 2:21 NIV).

For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one and exalts another (Psalm 75:6-7 NIV)

2) We judge people one way.  God judges them a completely different way.

This is interesting.  David was handpicked by God to be the next king but the one he picked was not the one that anyone else would have picked.  David’s dad Jesse would have never picked him.  His brothers would never have pick him. Even Samuel would not have picked him.  Samuel thought the first guy looked good.  Eliab walked by Samuel and he was impressed with him.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:6-7 NIV)

God picked someone that no one else would pick.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. 

He is NOT pick someone who looked like a king. David did not look like kingly material.  He just looked like a poor country shepherd boy.  He pickled someone who just came in from the field working with animals. 

He did not have time to take a bath or change his clothes.  He probably smelled to high heavens.  God was not looking on the outside.  He was looking on the inside.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  We make snap judgments about people based on appearances and write them off sometimes because of how they look.  God does not do that.

He did NOT pick a politician.  He picked someone who had absolutely no experience in politics.

He did NOT pick someone famous.  He picked someone who was obscure.  He picked a complete nobody.  He was so obscure that he was not even on the ballot to be king.  He wasn’t a consideration. 

He did NOT pick an adult.  He picked a child.  This chapter shows how God can use young people.  He used Samuel (the boy prophet).  Now he uses David.  God bypassed all of the older brothers and went straight to a child and anoints him. 

The one who Samuel anointed was not even a man.  He was a teenager (probably somewhere between ten and fifteen years old).  You say, “Well that makes no sense.  He is too young to be king.”  That is true but he does not start ruling yet.  He will not be crowned for another fifteen years or so. 

Saul’s Attack

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.  15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. (I Samuel 16:14-15 NIV)

Two things happened here.  The Holy Spirit left Saul and an evil spirit entered Saul

Today, we would say that Saul was bipolar or suffered from clinical depression, but Saul did not have a disease.  He had some demons.  His problem was not that he struggled with depression.  His problems were not psychiatric.  They were not mental or emotional.  They were spiritual.  They were caused by an evil spirit

In fact, this was an evil spirit FROM GOD.  We are told that THREE TIMES in this chapter (I Samuel 16:14, 15, 16).  That seems a little strange.

The Bible does NOT say a harmful spirit from Satan tormented Saul. It says evil spirit from God tormented him.  How is that possible? We are told in churches that God doesn’t do this today. It would go agaist His character.  God is not the author of evil.

Does evil come from God?   God does not CAUSE evil, but He does PERMIT it.  He sovereignly allows it. He is even sovereign over demons.  Even demons have to get permission to do things.  We know that from I Kings 22 and Job 1-2.

Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” (I Samuel 16:16-18 NIV)

David’s Assignment

We are told that David played the lyre.  The lyre was like the harp.  It was the guitar of the that day.  We find out that David was not only a shepherd. He was a musician and got a reputation for playing the lyre. 

David gets two jobs in this chapter.  His job at home was to take care of the sheep but when Saul finds out about him, he gives him two jobs.  He becomes Saul’s armor bearer and he became Saul’s court musician.  He did not get the job because he applied for it.  He got it through recommendation.  People heard about him.  He had a good reputation and was recommended for the job.

Saul had a problem.  When the Holy Spirit left him, it left an opportunity for an evil spirit to harass him.[3]  Everyone around him could tell he had a problem.  They could tell that the way Saul was acting was not normal and they thought that music might help calm him down, so they brought in David as the minister of music in the palace.  David becomes the first music therapist. 

Was this the answer to Saul’s problems?  No.  It helped with some of the symptoms but didn’t solve the problems, just like some doctors that do not solve your medical condition but just treat the symptoms.  Harp music was not a cure to his problem.  Saul had a sin problem.  He had a spiritual problem, but it did relieve some of the symptoms.[4] 

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (I Samuel 16:23 NIV).

What is the lesson for today?  This shows the power of music.  It shows the power of good music.  It is therapeutic.  Harp music could help Saul and he was not even a believer.

Music soothes the savage breast, as the poet says.  David played nice soothing music (not rap music, heavy metal or screamo music) and this soothing music was able to soften a hard heart. 

This shows the value of listening to good Christian music today.  That is why it is always good to listen to Spirit-filled music.  It lifts up your spirits.


[1] https://defendinginerrancy.com/bible-solutions/1_Samuel_16.1ff.php

[2] Zeruiah and Abigail, according to I Chronicles 2:16.

[3] He was probably not possessed but influenced by the evil spirit.  The Hebrew text says that it came upon Saul but never says it went inside him (cf. Leon Wood, The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, 129-138, which can be found online at https://rediscoveringthebible.com/WoodSaulandEvilSpirits.pdf).  Harp music is not the solution to demon possession.  It takes more than soothing music to cast out a demon.

[4] John G. Butler, Analytical Bible Expositor – Joshua to 2 Samuel (Wordsearch).

Absolute Obedience

Today we come to an amazing chapter.  It records the rebellion and rejection of King Saul.  It is a passage full of incredible personal applications.  It is also a passage that raises some deep theological questions.  It is one of the chief passages on obedience in the Bible.  It is the chapter that contains the words “obedience is better than sacrifice.”  It is one of the most famous verses in the Bible.

It is a chapter that will completely challenge your view about God.  God gives Saul a command in this chapter.  What is the command?  Kill all of the Amalekites.  Wipe it out an entire nation.  Slaughter every man, woman and child.  Don’t spare anyone.  Don’t take any prisoners or hostages.

That is strange.  Is that what Jesus would do?  Kill babies.  Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.  This sounds a little harsh.  It sounds a little unloving.  I thought God wasn’t mad at anyone. I thought He loved everybody.  Why is He killing everyone?  That doesn’t sound like a God of love.

The truth is that many Christians today do NOT have a biblical view of God.  The God that many Christians worship is not the God of I Samuel 15.  The truth is that if you want to know what God is like, you have the read the whole Bible.  You can’t just read the NT.  You have to read the OT. You have to read the whole book, not just your favorite passages.

This is one of the most violent chapters in the Bible.  Saul is not the only one who does some killing in this chapter.  The man of God, Samuel, kills someone.  The old prophet killed a man, and he killed him violently.  Samuel hacks Agag to pieces with a sword.  That doesn’t sound very nice.  It is too violent and too graphic for TV.  It is definitely too graphic for church.

I Samuel 15 is also one of the saddest stories in the Bible.  Saul is rejected.  He is rejected by God and this is the second time it happens.  He was rejected by God in I Samuel 13 and now he is rejected again in I Samuel 15.

Saul was not only king; he was an anointed king.  He was an anointed leader.  He was God’s anointed king.  He was God’s anointed king and yet now he was rejected by God. He was a leader who lost his anointing.  In the next chapter, the Holy Spirit leaves Saul.

That raises a very important question.  Could that happen today?  Could what happened to Saul happen to a Christian?  The answer is Yes and No.  There are some similarities and some differences.

One difference is that the Holy Spirit does leave us like He left Samson and Saul.  The Holy Spirit operates differently today in believers than he did in the OT.  He used to dwell WITH people and now He dwells IN people (John 14:17).  The Holy Spirit would come on people to do a specific job in the OT.  Today, He permanently indwells believers.

There are some similarities.  Believers today can disobey God just like King Saul did.  We can sin like Saul did today.  Leaders can also lose their anointing.  We can’t lose our salvation, but we can lose a special calling to ministry.  We can be disqualified from service. God can take that away from us.  That still happens today.

God did not reject Saul because he did not like him.  God rejected Saul because he repeatedly rebelled against God.  He refused to obey and even God does not reject Saul totally right away.  He gave him several chances.

In I Samuel 13, Saul completely blew it.  The king tried to be a priest and Samuel rebuked him.  He called him a fool.  In I Samuel 15, Saul gets another chance to prove himself.  He gets one final test.  It is a test of obedience.  He fails the test.

Samuel confronts Saul face to face, leaves and when he leaves, he is done with Saul.  He never sees him again.  He talks to him again until he dies, although he does talk to him after he dies, when he visits the witch of Endor.

Saul’s Commission

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (I Samuel 15:1-3 NIV)

This section raises all kinds of questions for skeptics of the Bible.  This chapter seems to make the Bible look bad.  It seems to make God look bad.  God seems to tell Saul to kill innocent people in cold blood.  Is genocide wrong.  If it is, how can God not only allow command genocide, how could He command it?  Is God sanctioning mass murder?  Isn’t God a love?

The problem is that our picture of God is all wrong.  Many Christians picture God as a doting grandfather who ignores sin and overlooks it.  He accepts everybody and doesn’t judge people.  That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible LOVES people but He also JUDGES sin in the OT and in the NT.  That has been erased from much of modern Christianity.  God not only judges people; He judges nations.  God is the one who created life and can take it at any time.  God gave me life and can take it at any time.

That doesn’t mean that God is sadistic or that He likes to torture people.  Even this chapter, shows the mercy of God.  God is slow to anger.  He did not judge the Amalekites immediately.  He did not judge them for five hundred years.  He gave them plenty of time to repent but there was no change and the result was judgment.

What happens in I Samuel 15 is not genocide; it is judgment.  It is not jihad; it is judgment.  Jihads take place when people kill for God and they think that God will somehow reward them if they blow innocent people up.  That is not what is happening here.  God is the only one who has the right to take life.  We don’t have that right.  We do not have divine authorization to do this today.  God has not told us to do this.

Notice several facts about this commission.  Several things stand out.

First, Saul’s commission was GOD-GIVEN.  It was a divine commission.  Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says” (I Samuel 15:1-2 NIV).

This was not Saul’s idea.  This was not Samuel’s idea.  It was God’s idea. Samuel did not say, “This is what I say.”  He says, “This is what GOD says.” (I Samuel 15:2)

Second, Saul’s commission was ABSOLUE.  Saul was not only to kill the Amalekites; he was to kill ALL of them.  There were to be NO exceptions.  There were to be no survivors.

Third, Saul’s commission was very DETAILED.  It was specific.  Saul was to kill ALL of the people and ALL of the animals.  He was to kill ALL of the men and ALL of the women.  He was to kill ALL of the adults and children.  He was to kill ALL of the children and even babies and he wasn’t to spare anyone.

Four, Saul’s commission was completely JUSTIFIED.  God could have told Saul to do this without giving him a reason, but he gave him a reason.  What was the reason?

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. (I Samuel 15:2 NIV)

Now this seems strange.  God is going to judge the Amalekites for something they did five hundred years ago.  God predicted back then that they would be destroyed.

 Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. 19 When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deuteronomy 25:17-19 NIV)

What did they do?  They were the TERRORISTS of the day.  They took advantage of the weak, the sick, the elderly and people who could not fight back or defend themselves, just like terrorists do today who blow up a plane in the sky.  God sees what people do to His people and He sees what they do to the weak and helpless.  They think they can get away with it but the day of reckoning is coming.

Saul’s Response

How did Saul respond to this commission?  Did he complain?  Did he argue with God?  Did he say, “I’m not going to do it.”  No.  He started out great.

So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. 5 Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. 6 Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. (I Samuel 15:4-9 NIV)

Saul had no problem killing women.  He had no problem killing children or even babies but the one person he saved was the king.  He killed the animals but not all of them.  The sick ones he killed but the good ones he kept.  They were too good to destroy.

He obeyed but he obeyed selectively.  He obeyed the commands he wanted to obey but not the ones he didn’t want to obey.  From that standpoint, he is no different from any Christians today.  Many Christians pick and choose which commands they want to obey in the Bible.

12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul disobeyed God and even sets up a monument in his own honor but Samuel confront him face-to-face and Saul argues with him.  Samuel says, “Why did you disobey God?  Saul says, “I didn’t disobey.”  Saul says, “Well if you killed all of the animals, then why can I hear some of them?”  He blamed other people for that.

Saul answered, “THE SOLDIERS brought them from the Amalekites; THEY spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but WE totally destroyed the rest.” (I Samuel 15:15 NIV).

“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 THE SOLDIERS took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” (I Samuel 15:20-21 NIV)

Essentials for Spiritual Leadership

1. Obedience

Real leaders obey God, even when it is hard and even when it is unpopular. Saul did not do that. He disobeyed God. Saul did not do the job, so Samuel did it. He became Agag’s executioner. Samuel doesn’t kill an innocent man. He killed a man that God said should be killed. He was a baby-killer. Samuel said that his sword made women childless (I Samuel 15:33). It is like taking out Osama bin Laden. The punishment fits the crime. Are we obedient? Do we do what God tells us to do?

2. Honesty

Saul was dishonest. He said that he obeyed the Lord when he didn’t obey the Lord. He would make a good politician today. Real leaders are completely honest and transparent. Are we honest with people?

3. Accountability

Real leaders take responsibility for their actions, even when they make mistakes. Saul did not do that. He blamed other people for his actions. He blames the people for things he did. He is the exact opposite of his son Jonathon.  Jonathon took responsibility for sinning and was willing to die, even though he sinned in ignorance (I Samuel 14:43).  Are we accountable to people?

4. Humility

Real leaders are humble.  They act like servants.  They do not draw attention to themselves.  Saul is out building monuments to himself.  Are we humble?  Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (NIV)

5. Authenticity

Real leaders are authentic. They are real. Poor leaders are fake. They are phony. They are not real. Saul was fake. He went around saying “Praise the Lord.” He used religious language. He used flattery. When he saw him, he said, “The Lord bless you” (I Samuel 15:13 NIV).

Applications for Today

1) Rebellion is serious to God

We live in a day in rebellion is common, rebellion against parents, rebellion against teachers, rebellion against churches, rebellion against police officers, rebellion against the government.  Today, many would not see it as wrong.  Our whole country was founded on rebellion.

This passage tells us what God thinks of rebellion. We find in this passage that He hates it.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry (I Samuel 15:23 NIV).  Being a rebel is just like being a witch.  It is one of the worst sins on the planet. In the OT, it was a capital crime.

It is so bad that God compares it to witchcraft.  Many of us would not think of committing witchcraft.  We would never do something as bad as that, but we have no problem rebellion against God-appointed authorities in society.  The irony is that Saul is involved in rebellion in this chapter and is involved in witchcraft at the end of the book.  He participates in the occult.

2) Rebellion has consequences

You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” 27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. (I Samuel 15:26-28 NIV)

Samuel says to Saul, “You rejected God and now He is rejecting you.”  That is the consequence of rebellion and this rejection is that it was permanent.  Many fallen pastors have been restored to leadership in the church.  Saul fell but he could NOT be restored.  He was rejected by God and this could NOT be changed.

Confession could not change it.  Saul said the words, “I have sinned.” In fact, he says those words, not once but twice in this chapter (I Samuel 15:24, 30).  Many say the words “I have sinned” when they are caught but it is not genuine.  Pharaoh said those words.  Judas said them. Bill Clinton said them.

Worship could not change it.  Saul worshipped God in this chapter.  Saul worships the Lord (I Samuel 15:31) and yet was still rejected by God.

Prayer could not change it.  Begging God for forgiveness could not change it.  Saul asked to be forgiven of his sin.   Now I beg you, forgive my sin (I Samuel 15:25).  He does not just ask for forgiveness; he begs for it.  He pleads for it.

Even the prayers of a prophet could not change it, even a prophet who prayed all night long.  Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.  (I Samuel 15:10-11 NIV)

In fact, God said that He was not going to change His mind about it.  “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (I Samuel 15:29 NIV).

You say, “That does not seem fair. The poor man admitted he sinned. he asked to be forgiven. He begged to be forgiven. He worshiped God. A prophet prayed for him for hours and none of it seemed to matter.   God can forgive any sin forgiven but there is a difference between forgiveness and consequences.  If I commit mass murder, God can forgive me, but I still have to deal with the consequences for my actions and so did Saul.  There are consequences for our actions.

You say, “But doesn’t God believe in second chances?”  Isn’t He the God of second chances? This was his second chance.  Saul blew it in I Samuel 13, so God gave him one more chance and he blew it again.

One of the consequences of Saul’s actions is that God rejected him as king.  Now that did not stop him from being king.  He continued to rule as king and he continued to rule for a long time but God was no longer with him.  In fact, when he remained as king, he was actually fighting the will of God.  Many Christians today do the same thing.  Many Christians fight the will of God in their life.

3) God wants full obedience

That is the whole point of the chapter.  God wants us to obey Him.  He wants us to obey Him completely.  He doesn’t want us to obey Him selectively and to pick and chooses which verses we want to follow.  We really should not call ourselves Christians if we are not going to obey God.  Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord if you don’t do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Saul did some things instead of obedience.  He was told to kill all of the animals but he kept some alive so he could sacrifice them to God.  Samuel said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. Obedience is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22 NIV).

What does that mean obedience is better than sacrifice?  What does it mean today?  We don’t have animal sacrifices today.  Today, we would say, obedience is better than worship.  Obedience is better than going to church.  Obedience is better than being religious.  Obedience is better than performing some religious ritual or religious ceremony.  Here are some liberal churches that don’t believe the Bible.  They throw out the Bible but they are big on ceremonies and ritual.

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?

13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! 16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:10-17 NIV).

The Jews got to the point where they separated religion and morality and many still do today.  Muslim fanatics will commit all kids of unspeakable atrocities but will have the name of God on their lips.  Some Christians treat other Christians terribly in the world but will be the first people to go to church and be religious.

In biblical times, people would cheat, lie, seal and even kill but say, “That’s okay.  I am covered I went to the temple and offered some sacrifices.  I threw some sheep on the altar.”  It became the answer to everything. One pastor in Canada (Paul LeBoutillier), summarized it well.

“You mess up?  Sacrifice.  You do something you shouldn’t have done?  Sacrifice.  “Yeah, I know, I kind of did something I shouldn’t have done but I brought a sacrifice.  Just bring up a sacrifice because God loves those sacrifices.  All we got to do is to take him a sacrifice.  I don’t know what it is about sacrifices.  Something about blood.  I don’t know why but He likes it.  Just kill an animal.  I can probably sacrifice a sheep or two for having my fun.  It will be okay.” [1]  

What we learn from this is that God doesn’t just want a bunch of dead rituals from us.  He wants obedience.

Contrast of Characters

I Samuel 14 is a story of two men.  It is the tale of two men. These men are different.  They were polar opposites.  They were in the same family but were very different.  You can have two people in the same family who are very different.  You can have a brother and sister or two brothers or two sisters that are very different.  One usually takes after the father and one takes after the mother, at least that is the way it was in our family. In this case, the two people who are different are father and son.

How differently can there be? In many cases, there are not only personality differences but spiritual differences between family members. You can have sheep and goats in the same family.  Saul and Jonathon were very different.  One was godly and one was ungodly.  One of these men was wise and one was foolish.  You would expect the old one to be wise and the young one to act like a fool, like many young people do today, but in this case, the young one was wise and the old one was a fool. 

This whole chapter is a study in contrasts.  We are going to look at the spirit and Jonathon and the spirit of Saul.  Which spirit are you? Are you more like Jonathon or are you more like Saul?  Are you more like the father or are you more like the son? 

The Spirit of Jonathon

First, let’s look at the son.  The whole first part of the chapter focuses on Jonathon.  Jonathon was one of the most amazing men of the OT.  We call him Jonathon in English.  He never heard of that name.  His name in Hebrew is Yo-nah-ton.

Jonathon was the son of Saul.  He was not Saul’s only son.  Saul had a lot of children.  He had a wife (I Samuel 14:50) and he had a concubine (II Samuel 3:7).  I Samuel 14:49 mentions three of his sons (Jonathan, Ishvi and Malki-Shua) and two of his daughters (Merab and Michal).  He had another son from his wife mentioned in II Samuel 2:8 (Ishbosheth).  He had four sons from his wife and he also had two sons from a concubine (Ii Samuel 21:8).

Saul had at least six sons, but Jonathon was Saul’s oldest son.  That made him a prince.  He would have been heir to the throne.  He was Prince Jonathon.  Jonathon was not just a prince but also a soldier.  He was a brave soldier.  He is out fighting the Philistines in battle.  In fact, he and two of his other brothers, all die fighting the Philistines in battle at the end of the book.

What do we know about Jonathon?  He is one of the godliest men in the Bible. We usually do not think of rough soldiers as very spiritual.  We do not think of too many military men as being spiritually sensitive.  We don’t think of fighters as having a soft heart, but Jonathon was.  This one soldier was full of incredible faith.  He would have made a great king, although he never became king. 

Jonathon is the hero of the chapter.  He is the one who defeats the Philistines.  The great general in this chapter is not Saul but Jonathon. Was he perfect? No. Jonathon sins in this chapter. He gets in big trouble.  He almost lost his life.  He almost died for doing something that he did not even know was wrong.

Jonathon is a lesson on the incredible power of faith.  Jonathon is young.  He does something that is bold, daring, audacious and even dangerous but God works a miracle because of his incredible faith.  This chapter shows what one man can do with God.  It shows the power of one or in this case two (Jonathon and his armor-bearer).

Daniel 11:32 says, “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (NKJV)

With God, simple, ordinary, uneducated believers can do extraordinary things that they did not think were possible. The Bible is full of example of people who did them, like David killing Goliath. Jonathon did great exploits in I Samuel 14.  The missionary William Carey said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” 

The cool thing about Jonathon is that he did not come from a really spiritual home.  His dad was not too godly.  In fact, he did not have the best father.  He was a little cold and distant, willing to kill his own son (“off with your head”).  He was not a very loving father.  The army seemed to love Jonathon more than his dad did in this chapter.

You do not have to come from a great home to be used by God.  You do not have to come from a great home to be to do great things for God.  You do not have to come from a great home to have great faith in God. 

The great prophet Samuel did not have a son like Jonathon.  He had two two boys (Joel and Abijah) and they were both wicked but Saul, who was not spiritual at all, had a godly son, one of the most spiritual men in the OT.  As we said before, godliness is not genetic.

Let’s look at what Jonathon did, what he did not do, how he did it, why he did it and what happened as a result. 

One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, 3 among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left. (I Samuel 14:1-3 NIV).

What was the plan?  The plan was to attack a Philistine garrison with just one other person, his armor bearer.  The plan was to attack it singlehandedly without any backup.  This was a two-person assault. 

What was an armor bearer?  It was someone who carried a soldier’s weapons into battle.  He would have carried Jonathon’s giant sword.  He would have gone right into the front lines of battle.  In golf, he would have been like a caddy.  David later became King Saul’s armor bearer (I Samuel 16:21). 

What doesn’t he do?  He does not tell his dad.  He does not tell the king or anyone else (I Samuel 14:1, 3).  This was a secret mission.  Why does he not tell anyone?  Probably because he knows that they would not support him.  We need to be careful who you tell certain things to.  Jesus said not to cast your pearls before swine. He did tell his armor bearer. He was completely supportive.

The armor bearer could have been negative.  He could have been pessimistic.  He could have been critical. he could have been judgmental.  He could have said, “You have got to be crazy for two men to attack a military garrison without any backup at all.  That is not good military strategy.  We don’t stand a chance.  The odds are against us.  You are going to get us both killed.” 

Instead, the armor-bearer said, “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said” (I Samuel 14:7 NIV). Not only “DO it” but “do ALL of it.  Do the entire plan.”  Then, he says, “GO AHEAD; I am WITH you heart and soul.” (I Samuel 14:7 NIV). Wouldn’t it be cool if we had people in our life like this armor-bearer?  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could support other people like this armor-bearer?

Why did Jonathon want to do this in the first place?  Jonathon had a promise.  Samuel told Saul that “he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines.  I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me” (I Samuel 9:16 NIV).  There is no sign that Saul believed this promise, but Jonathon did.  He took it seriously.  Some Christians take the Bible seriously and believe everything it says.  Others, not so much.  Jonathon knew another promise.

One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. (Joshua 23:10 ESV)

Jonathon not only knew his Bible.  He also knew the power of God.  He said, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (I Samuel 14:6 NIV).  Jonathon believed that God could use two men just as much as he could use an entire army.  He did not have many troops, but it didn’t matter.  God can work when things are completely hopeless.  He has no limitations.  He can use you just as much as he can use Billy Graham or D.L. Moody.

Jonathon was a lot like us.  He thought he knew the will of God but he wasn’t exactly sure. Have you ever wanted to do something but you didn’t know if it was God’s will? 

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. PERHAPS the Lord will act in our behalf.” (I Samuel 14:6 NIV)

Nothing is impossible with God.  With God all things are possible.  There is nothing God cannot do.  He believed that God COULD work regardless of the numbers. But he does NOT presume to know the secret will of God. He knows what God CAN do but he does NOT know what he will do.   He had no guarantee.  Jonathon believed in the POWER of God to do what Jonathon prayed.  He also believed in the FREEDOM of God to do something else.

This goes against the grain of some teaching in some churches.  It teaches that faith is NOT believing that God can; it is KNOWING that He will.  It teaches that we should just make things happen by DECLARING that that they should happen and then claim victory. Jonathon did not do that.  He dictate to God and try to force God to do his will. True faith does not tell God what to do but submits to His will. 

Jonathon knew the will of God generally but not specifically.  He was looking for the specific will of God, so he devised a sign.  He had to devise a sign to determine the will of God.

Jonathon acts very similar to the way Gideon did in Judges 6-7.  It is not identical.  It is a little different.  Gideon attacked the Midianites by surprise at night.  Jonathon’s attack was not a surprise but notice the similarities. 

Gideon went into the camp of the Midianites with just one servant.  He designed a fleece to determine the will of God.  They are thrown into a panic.  They fight one another and then reinforcements come. The exact same thing happens in this chapter. 

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” (I Samuel 14:8-10 NIV)

What Jonathon does is that we often do.  We often do not know the specific will of God.  If this happens, we will respond this way.  If that happens, we will get a different message from God.  What was Jonathon’s sign?  The response of the Philistines to their action would be the sign.  If they say come up, we have a green light to go and God will be with us. 

So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”  So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord HAS given them into the hand of Israel.”

When they said the words “come on up,” then Jonathon KNEW that he would be successful.  Jonathon and his armor bearer do some rock climbing.  They climb up a steep cliff on their hands and knees.  They climb up some sharp rocks and when they get to the top, the fight the Philistines.  They were completely outnumbered ten-to-one.  Geography was against them.  Numbers were against them but one by one they killed all of the Philistines. God gave the Philistines into the hands of Jonathon and his armor bearer.

The victory led to panic in the camp and it led to an earthquake (I Samuel 14:15).  The ground shook.  Saul and his army saw the confusion.  They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. (I Samuel 14:20 NIV). 

That led to more people wanting to fight.  Saul originally had three thousand men but was down to six hundred.  Now everyone wanted to fight, because the enemy is in disarray.  Everyone always wants to be on the winning team.  Morale went up.

When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven. (I Samuel 14:22-23 NIV)

Jonathon saw God work a miracle on his behalf.  What was the spirit of this young man Jonathon? 

1) Jonathon had the SPIRIT OF COURAGE. 

Jonathon was the king’s son, but he does not act like a pampered prince but a brave soldier.  He was fearless in battle.  He was not afraid of the Philistines.  He was not afraid to be in a dangerous situation.  This was the second time Jonathon did this (cf. I Samuel 13:3)

2) Jonathon had THE SPIRIT OF FAITH. 

This man was full of faith.  He was a man who believed the Word of God and took it seriously and trusted God to act on His behalf in some way.  He did not always know how but he took a step of faith.  He was a man who was not afraid to take some risks and step out on his own for God. 

3) Jonathon had THE SPIRIT OF LEADERSHIP. 

Jonathon knew the promises of God and felt compelled to take action, decisive action.  He could not sit still.  He was tired of sitting, waiting and doing nothing.  He wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  He was not just a man of faith; he was a man of actions.  Some people love to argue about things but won’t do anything. They are all talk.

Jonathon was not just a man of faith.  He was a man of works.  Jonathon starts fighting the Philistines first.  He is the one out confronting the enemy.  He is the one taking the initiative.  Jonathon, not Saul, was the real general.  How many of us are like Jonathon? How many of us have his spirit?

The Spirit of Saul

The second half of the chapter focuses on Saul. What do we learn about the character of Saul from this chapter?  Saul had a completely different spirit in him.

1) Saul had THE SPIRIT OF FEAR

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. (I Samuel 14:2-3 NIV)

What is Saul doing?  He is at home resting under a pomegranate tree, like he is on vacation.  He is taking it easy, instead of going to battle.  He is not leading.  He is passive. He is indecisive. He is not doing anything. He is sitting on his hands. He only decides to fight them once he sees that they are on the run.  Then it is easy.  Saul is not leading. He is following. 

Instead of being full of faith, he is full of fear.  That was his first mistake.  Many Christians today have a spirit of fear.  In fact, COVID-19 had given them a spirit of fear.  Many churches have a spirit of fear. They dare not open their doors. God has not given us a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7). That does not come from God.

2) Saul had THE SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE

He was also hanging out with the wrong people in Gibeah.  He is with his troops, but he is also hanging out with a priest from the line of Phineas.  God completely rejected that line.  Eli the priest was killed and so were his two sons on the same day.  God was through with them and yet Saul is still hanging out with them.

Many Christians today have a spirit of compromise.  It is one thing to compromise on political issues.  Politicians have to make deals with the other side to get what they want.  It is another thing to compromise on moral issues.

How did Saul compromise?  He spent time with the wrong people.  For some preachers, this is not possible.  Jesus hung out with prostitutes and sinners.  If he hung out with prostitutes, we can hang out with anyone.  Are they right? Yes and No.

We should minister to anyone and everyone but there is a difference between ministry and close fellowship.  The Bible talks about all kinds of people you should not fellowship with or should avoid. this is not preached from the pulpit too much today.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. (Proverbs 4:14-15 NIV)

Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house. (Proverbs 5:8 NIV)

He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20 NKJV)

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips. (Proverbs 14:7 NIV)

Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21 NIV)

You say, “I got that. I don’t go to the bars. I don’t spend time with hookers.”  The Bible actually goes beyond this.  Did you know that there are some professing Christians that you are not to associate with either?  You don’t hear this too much in church.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people (I Corinthians 5:9-11 NIV)

3) Saul had THE SPIRIT OF LEGALISM

Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food. 25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. (I Samuel 14:24-25 NIV)

In the heat of battle, Saul commands his troops to fast for twenty-four hours (I Samuel 14:24).  He does not just say that you must fast.  He says that you will die if you eat food.  He made it a crime punishable by death.  As hungry as they are, when they actually see food in front of their eyes, like some honey in the woods, they can’t eat it, because if they eat it, they will die.  They struck down the Philistines from Mickmash to Aijalon (I Samuel 14:31 NIV). Biblical scholars tell us that this is about fifteen miles.

Saul’s army travels fifteen miles and fight the Philistines on an empty stomach.  That is just stupid.  Bad government always hurts people.  In addition to being at the wrong place with the wrong people, he is making the wrong decisions.  He made decisions that hurt his troops and put his own’s son’s life in jeopardy.  God did not tell them to do this.  Saul did.

This rule was completely unnecessary.  It was irrational.  It was counter-productive.  Some churches do the same thing.  There’s nothing wrong with rules but many we do not need rules that are unbiblical.  We don’t need rules that are stricter than the Bible.  We don’t need rules that bind people’s consciences.  We don’t need rules that cause people to sin. 

Many Christians have a spirit of legalism.  They are very legalistic.  Many churches are legalistic.  Many have silly, legalistic rules that are stricter than Scripture.  Some churches say that if want to go into the ministry, you cannot get married.  You have to be single.  Does the Bible say that?  No but that does not stop churches from believing it.  There are plenty of other churches with other silly rules.

What happens when you have churches that are legalistic?  What happens when parents are extra harsh on their kids?  They rebel.  If you go too far to one extreme, that just sends people to the other extreme.  That is what happened here.  When leaders are too strict and too oppressive, they encourage people to sin.

No one could eat and when they finally are allowed to eat, they are so hungry that they will eat absolutely anything.  They don’t have time to drain out all of the blood of animals, like Levitical Law said to do and they end up violating Scripture.

4) Saul had THE SPIRIT OF STUBBORNNESS

Saul starts out with a foolish vow and follows it a foolish punishment.  The decree said that no one could eat for twenty-four hours but the punishment for breaking that decree was death.  That does not seem fair.  If someone is hungry and tries to eat some food, Saul wants to kill him. 

Then, Saul takes it one step further.  He says that anyone who eats will be killed, even if he eats in ignorance and even if it is his own son.  Jonathon ate out of complete ignorance.  He did not even know about Saul’s decree.  He was out fighting the Philistines when Saul gave this rule but still wants to kill him.  As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” (I Samuel 14:39 NIV)

If you are completely hardheaded and stubborn and inflexible and proud, you are like King Saul.  He said what he said and he was not going to change his mind.  Saul wanted to kill Jonathon but the whole army came to his defense.  At the beginning of the chapter, Jonathon delivered Israel.  At the end of the chapter, Israel delivered Jonathon.

But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death. (I Samuel 14:45 NIV)

How to Lose

We are studying I Samuel.  There are many pivotal chapters in this book.  I Samuel 13 is one of them.  Samuel lived about three thousand years ago.  The nation at the time was rule by judges and had been for years.

In I Samuel 8, the nation wanted a whole new political system.  They wanted a king.  Every other nation had them and they wanted them.  It was great that God was their King, but they wanted a king they could see.  It wasn’t God’s best for them but that’s what they got.  They got what they wanted.

Many of us do not get God’s best in our life.  We screw up.  We make really bad choices and end up with second best.  What happens in that situation?  Is there any hope?  In I Samuel 12, Samuel says, “You did not get God’s best but there is still hope.  You and your king still have a choice.  You can choose to obey and be blessed or you can chose to disobey and be cursed.”

In I Samuel 13, Saul chooses to disobey.  He completely blows it and it brings us to an interesting topic. All of us want to be successful in life.  We do not want to completely waste our life.  We do not want to live a long life and then die as a failure.  I Samuel 13 tells us how to be losers.  I Samuel 13 is a rather depressing chapter in the end.

It begins on a positive note.  Saul’s son Jonathon attacks a garrison of the Philistines and has some military success (I Samuel 14:3) but it ends with his dad King Saul as a complete loser.

Saul started out great.  He looked like a king.  He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else.  He was kingly in appearance.  The people loved him.  He was popular.  He had leadership gifts.  God’s Spirit fell on him and he prophesied.  On top of all of that, he was humble.  He was so humble that when they called his name by lot, he hid among the luggage.  He was the reluctant ruler.

Now, Saul becomes a REJECT.  Saul becomes rejected by God.  He fell under divine judgment and was rejected by God.  It is bad enough when people reject you.  It is bad when a boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you.  It is bad when a spouse divorces you.  It is bad when an employer fires you, but it is even worse when God rejects you.

God rejected Samuel, not once but twice.  He rejected him in I Samuel 13.  He rejected him I Samuel 15.  It had absolutely nothing to do with SALVATION.  It had to do with KINGSHIP.  Saul was the first King of Israel.  God put him on the throne and later He rejected him as king.

This rejection happened gradually.  It happened in stages.  It got progressively worse.  First, God rejected his kids.  He said to Saul.  “You are NOT going to start a dynasty.  None of your kids are going to take over when you die.”

Saul had a son named Jonathon.  He was in line to become the second king. God tells Saul that Jonathon will never be king.  He would never become Saul’s successor.

God told him, You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.(I Samuel 13:13 NIV).  If Saul had not sinned, not only would Jonathon have become king, but the Messiah would have come from the line of Saul.

In I Samuel 13, God rejected Saul’s kids.  In I Samuel 15, God rejected Saul himself.  He said that he will NOT be king anymore.  Not only will his dynasty not continue, he will not continue.

The Setting

What is the setting of this chapter?  What is going on here?  The chapter begins with Jonathon attacking the Philistines and he is successful.  Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it (I Samuel 14:3 NIV). That led to a counterattack.  It led to a massive military response by the Philistines. Jonathon picked a fight with the Philistines and stirred up a hornet’s nest.

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven (I Samuel 13:5 NIV).

The Philistines invade the land of Israel and come to Mickmash (I Samuel 13:5).  Several things stand out here.

This was a MASSIVE INVASION. They came against Israel with thousands of soldiers, like the sand on the seashore.

It was a POWERFUL INVASION.  They came against the Israelites with chariots which were basically like tanks.

It was TERRIFYING INVASION. They came to the very center of the country to Mickmash in the land of Benjamin.  It was near the border of the northern and southern kingdom.  It is an Arab town today.

This was a real crisis.  The nation was in trouble.  The situation was desperate.  Morale was low.  Mass defections were taking place.  People were hiding in fear.

When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. (I Samuel 13:6-7 NIV)

Where was Saul?  He was at Gilgal (I Samuel 13:7) and invited the people to come there (I Samuel 13:4).  He had an appointment.  Samuel was planning on meeting him in Gilgal.

Before the Jews went into the Promise Land, they stopped at Gilgal and got right with God before they went into battle.  They circumcised their sons (Joshua 5).  Saul does not want to go into battle without the blessing of God.  Sacrifices were to be offered to ask the favor of God before the upcoming battle.

Samuel told him to WAIT until he got there before any sacrifices were offered.  When Samuel finally shows up, Saul had already made the sacrifices.  In fact, he left Gilgal with making any.  That brings us to our topic for today.  Today, we are going to look at three signs of a loser from I Samuel 13.

Three Signs of a Loser

SIGN ONE: You think that you are more important than you actually are

We become spiritual losers if we get a little too big for our britches.  We become spiritual losers if our head gets a little too big for us.  It could happen to a politician.  It could happen to a pastor.  It could happen to a boss.  It could happen to anyone.  Usually, it happens to someone in power, because power tends to corrupt.

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring ME the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And SAUL offered up the burnt offering. (I Samuel 13:8-9 NIV).

The Law of Moses said that not just anyone could offer up sacrifices.  Only certain people were allowed to do that. Only Levites could offer sacrifices.  Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin.  He was not a Levite.  He was not allowed to offer any sacrifice, but he did it anyway.  He should have focused on the ministry that God called him to do, instead of trying to do someone else’s ministry.  He had plenty to focus on as king.  He had a big job.

God set it up so no king could ever be priest and no priest could ever be king.  There is one famous story in the Bible about this.  It is about a man named Uzziah.  He was another man who was a king and who started out great but ended terrible.  In fact, he died as a leper.  You might think that you do not know him, but we have all heard his name many times.  In the year he died, Isaiah saw an incredible vision of God (Isaiah 6:1).  What does the Bible say about Uzziah?

Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father Amaziah. 2 He was the one who rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah after Amaziah rested with his ancestors.

3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success…

But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”

19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him.

21 King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous and banned from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land. (II Chronicles 26:1-5, 16-21 NIV)

Are you humble or proud? Being humble doesn’t mean that we don’t have any self-esteem. Being humble doesn’t mean that we go around feeling bad about ourselves.  Being humble doesn’t mean that we don’t have any confidence.  Being humble doesn’t mean that we can’t have satisfaction in anything we have ever done.

Pride is different than all of these things.  When you are proud, you have feelings of excessive or inflated self-worth. When you are proud, you go around thinking you are better than other people.  When you are proud, you look down on other people.  When you are proud, you can never admit you did anything wrong.

SIGN TWO: You refuse to do what God tells you to do

The second way to become a loser is to not do what God tells us to do.  Samuel meets Saul in this chapter and confronts him.  He has some strong words to say.  In the Bible, prophets had the right to confront kings.  Hebrew kings were not absolute monarchs.  They weren’t dictators.  Notice what Saul said.

And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. 11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel (I Samuel 13:9-11 NIV)

“You have done a FOOLISH thing,” Samuel said. “You have NOT kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. (I Samuel 13:13 NIV)

Jesus said that you are a fool if you do not BELIEVE the Bible.  Remember, He said to some disciples, “O fools and slow of heart to be believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25)  Samuel said you are a fool if you do not OBEY the Bible.

Saul disobeyed a direct order.  He disobeyed a clear command.  Many Christians do the same thing today.  Some Christians simply refuse to what God says in His Word, even when what it says is very clear.  Do we do what God tells us to do?  What was Saul told to do?  He was told to go to Gilgal and wait until Samuel got there.

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must WAIT seven days UNTIL I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” (I Samuel 10:8 NIV).

He went ahead and offered sacrifices without Samuel.  What are the takeaways from this?  There are three:

  • If you disobey God, you always lose

The world thinks today that if we follow old-fashioned biblical commands, we will lose.  We will be held back in life.  We will miss out but if we disobey the Bible, we will win.  We will be better off.  The truth is that if you try to live your life contrary to the Word of God, you ALWAYS lose

  • You can have good intentions and be disobedient

Saul meant well but he was still disobedient.  Saul offered a sacrifice.  He offered it to God.  He thought he did a good deed, but God rejected him.  It is not enough to have good intentions.  It is not enough to be sincere and passionate.  Many fanatical Muslims have so much zeal for their faith that they will kill themselves.  We can have all kinds of zeal but, as Paul said, zeal has to be according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

Jesus said, “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you WILL THINK THEY ARE OFFERING A SERVICE TO GOD. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. (John 16:1-3 NIV)

  • You can religious and be completely disobedient

Saul was religious.  He performed a religious ritual.  He offered a sacrifice.  He offered it to the true God.  He was trying to worship God.  We can be religious and still rebellious.

All kinds of people in this world are religious but that does not mean they are saved.  The Pharisees were very religious but many of them were unsaved.  God does not even accept all worship to Him, to say nothing of those who worship other gods.  Jesus says that some people honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him (Matthew 15:8).

SIGN THREE: You make excuses for your sin

The third way to lose is to make excuses when we do sin, to rationalize it.  That is what Saul did and it is what people still do today.  It goes all the way back to the garden.

Adam and Eve did that.  Adam blamed his wife for his sin (“THE WOMAN you gave me caused me to eat the forbidden fruit”).  He blamed God for his sin (“The woman YOU GAVE ME caused me to eat the forbidden fruit”).  Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.  Saul did the same thing.  He gave Samuel four excuses for his disobedience.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” (I Samuel 13:11-12 NIV).

What were some of his excuses he used?  He made four excuses. One excuse had to do with his troops.  One had to do with Samuel. One had to do with the Philistines, and one had to do with God.

The FIRST EXCUSE is that the men were scattering.  The troops are fleeing.  “Everyone is deserting me. I have to do something, and I have to do it now.” That is the excuse of situation ethics.  Ethics are determined by the situation. “The situation requires me to take action immediately and not wait any longer.”  It is based on the view that circumstances dictates policy and  dictate morality.

God’s eternal moral laws do not change with the situation.  They do not change with culture.  There is never a time when adultery is ever right at any time or in any place.  There is never a time or a place when it is right to worship an idol.  It is always wrong.

The SECOND EXCUSE is that Samuel did not come.  He has not made it to Gilgal yet.  Samuel was not there so he jumped the gun and took matters into his own hands.  He blamed Samuel for his own actions.  “It is your fault because you did not come on time”.  His second excuse involved guilt transfer.  It involved blameshifting.  It involved blaming other people, instead of taking responsibility for your own actions.

The THIRD EXCUSE was that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash and were going to come down against Saul.  He had thousands of Philistines and ten thousand chariots all around him.

This is the excuse of pragmatism.  This is the ends justify the means excuse.  The problem here is that the end does not justify the means.  Why not say–as some slanderously claim that we say–“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just! (Romans 3:8 NIV)

The FOURTH EXCUSE is “God wants a sacrifice.  I have to give it to Him, so I have to disobey you to obey God.”  This is the religious excuse.  He felt he had to do it to please God.  I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt COMPELLED to offer the burnt offering” (I Samuel 13:12 NIV). The problem here is that Saul was not pleasing God here.  He was deliberately disobeying God.

How People Rationalize Sin Today

We can criticize Saul for what he did but how often do we do the exact same thing today.  Many people today act just like Saul.  What are some of the ways they do it?  We cannot look at all of them but here are three common approaches used today.

1. They deny any wrongdoing

The first rationalization is denial (“It is not wrong).  They do not admit that they have even done anything wrong.   They will flat-out deny that what they are doing is sinful.  If we quote a Bible verse that says that something is sinful, they will say that we have the wrong interpretation of the verse or just reject the Bible as outdated.  They would never say that what they have done is wrong.  The Bible must be wrong.

2. They redefine wrongdoing

They redefine what is right and wrong.  In fact, instead of condemning sin, they embrace it.  They celebrate it (gay pride).  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20 NIV).

We do everything we can today to soften sin and to sugar coat it.  We use all kinds of euphemisms today.  God calls something sin.  The world today calls it something else.  They completely redefine it and call good evil and evil good.

  • Abortion is not murder. It is a woman’s right to choose.
  • Spanking children is called child abuse.  It is not discipline; it’s abuse.
  • Condemning sin is called intolerant.  If you denounce sin in any form, you a bigot.
  • Premarital sex is not called fornication. It is just living together, sleeping together or shacking up.
  • Lying is just called stretching the truth.  It is no longer considered deception.
  • Homosexuality is not an abomination or a sin against nature. It is called perfectly normal and natural. It is the way God made people.  Those who commit it are called gay. They are just happy. That sounds much better than calling something an abomination.
  • Cursing and swearing is no longer called sin. Now, it is called salty language. It is just colorful language.
  • Drunkenness is no longer called sin or a work of the flesh as Paul calls it. Now, it is called a disease or substance abuse.  It is not sin, just an addiction.
  • Violence is now called protest.  Vandalism, looting and destruction of property is just peaceful protest.

3. They attack the accuser

When you criticize them, instead of going on the defensive, they turn the tables and go on the offensive.  They say that no one has the right to criticize them.  No one is perfect.  Everyone sins.  Judging is wrong.  Jesus said NOT to judge people.  Only God can judge us.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)

Are they right?  Jesus is not saying that all judgment is wrong.  He is not saying that you can never judge anything in that passage.  In the same chapter, he tells us to look out for false prophets (Matthew 7:125).  You cannot do that without, making a judgment.  When we tell people what the Bible says, we are not judging them. The Bible is. God is.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

 

 

How to Preach Like Samuel

If you go to different churches, you will hear very different types of sermons.  What you will hear in a black church is different from what you will hear in a white church.  What you will hear in a Baptist church is very different from what you will hear in a charismatic church.  Preaching styles are very different.  Some preachers shout and scream.  Some spit on you.  Some are so quiet that you fall instantly to sleep.

Today, we get to see what kind of a preacher Samuel was.  Samuel was not just a prophet; he was a preacher. Samuel was the spiritual leader of the nation and he delivers a sermon in this chapter.  What kind of a preacher was he?

There are a lot of different types of preachers in churches today.   How many of them preach like Samuel?  What did he preach like?  We will find out today but first we need to get some background.  Without the background, the chapter will not make much sense.

I Samuel is a book about two people.  It is a book about two leaders.  One was prophet/priest/judge and one was a king.  The first part of the book is about Samuel.  The second part of the book is about Saul.

In I Samuel 11, Saul was inaugurated as the first king of Israel.  In I Samuel 12, Samuel resigned resigns from the job.  It is a chapter dealing with a transition of power.  It is about the changing of the guard.  Samuel is out and Saul is in.

Samuel is now an old man.  He is elderly.  He has led the nation since he was you and now he is old.  He is old and grey haired (I Samuel 12:2).  As Saul becomes the first king, Samuel resigns.  He steps aside.

Some people are too proud to step down when it is time.  Samuel knew when it was time to step down.  Someone else was selected to replace him but he does not resign as prophet.  He resigns as judge. His ministry is not over.  He still has some things to do.  He will go on to anoint the next king, but he resigns as judge. He will still function as a prophet.

As Samuel officially steps down, he gives a speech.  He gives a resignation speech.  He gives a farewell speech.  Many people who are old and who retire, give a speech but Samuel’s speech was a little different. This speech was not for a company but for a whole nation.  He was speaking to “all Israel” (I Samuel 12:1).

Most retirement speeches are lighthearted and funny.  They are positive and upbeat.  Samuel’s speech is not all positive.  It is not lighthearted.  It is dead serious.  It is bold.  It is direct.  It is confrontational.  It is in-your-face.

This was more than a speech.  It was a sermon.  It starts out as a conversation between Samuel and the nation but turns into a sermon.  I want to look at this sermon practically.  If people were to preach like Samuel today, how would they do it?

1) Be Transparent

He was also completely transparent.  He was passionate.  He was fiery.  He spoke from his heart.  He spoke from his own experience, but he also didn’t have a bunch of secrets.  He didn’t try to hide anything.  He was open about his life.

Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” (I Samuel 12:1-3 NIV).

Many preachers are fake.  They get all worked up, ranting and raving but they are just a bunch of hot air.  They today stand up in the pulpit and rail against sin but are complete hypocrites.  They are guilty of the same sins they preach against.  Samuel didn’t do that.  He had integrity.  He had personal integrity.

He was a man of character.  He was a man of honor.  He was a man of faithfulness.  Samuel was an old man at this time, and he begins to look back on his life.

He reflects back on his life.  It is something all of us should do at some point. Samuel walked with God from his youth.  He did not walk with God as a child and then rebel from God as a teenager and live in the world for a while like many do today.

He was faithful to God all of his life.  He was not selfish.  He was not greedy.  He was not covetous.  He was not materialistic.  He didn’t get rich off of the people or take anything from them.  He did not rip anyone off or use the job just to enrich himself.  In fact, he even challenges the people to testify against him (I Samuel 12:3).  He challenges them to try to find anything against him.  Who does that today?

Samuel was blameless.  There was a lot they could say to criticize his two sons but they had no word of criticism for him but Samuel was not perfect, so he said, “If I have done anything wrong, I will make it right” (I Samuel 12:3).  Few have that kind of integrity.  There is another man in the Bible known for being blameless.  It is Daniel.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find NO CORRUPTION in him, because he was trustworthy and NEITHER CORRUPT NOR NEGLIGENT. (Daniel 6:4 NIV)

Daniel was blameless and what was unusual about him was that he was a politician.  He worked for the Babylonian government.  It is even rarer to find politicians with this kind of integrity and transparency.  His enemies looked for things against him but could not find any.  We do not have too many political candidates running for office like Daniel.

Many of them are not known for their personal integrity, honesty or character.  Most of them have some skeletons in their closet.  In fact, some have gone so far as to say that character does not matter.  That is what Bill Clinton said when people began looking at his life.

We need more people like Daniel and Samuel.  We need more leaders like Daniel and Samuel.  We need more pastors like Samuel.  Samuel was transparent.  Good leaders should be completely transparent.  Some pastors have cheated people.

Some have oppressed people.  Some have hurt people.  Some have done it in church.  They have ruled the church like dictators and tyrants and when they have been confronted about it, cover it up or they deny it.  They don’t acknowledge their sin and they don’t try to make it right.  They justify it.

2) Be biblical

This sermon was biblical.  Samuel bases what he says on Scripture.  The biggest problem with modern preaching today is that much of it is not biblical.  Some Christians sit in some churches for years and do not know what the Word says, it is never preached from the pulpit.

Samuel bases his sermon on Scripture.  It is biblical history.  He bases it on history, but it is not secular history.  It is not just a dry history lesson that you might get in school.

Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors.

8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place.

9 “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety.

12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. (I Samuel 12:6-12 NIV)

In this sermon, Samuel gives a history of the nation from the beginning all the way up to the current day.  He begins with the Exodus and goes all the way to the time of Nahash the Ammonite.  That was a current event.  It just happened in I Samuel 11.  Samuel does not just teach history; he teaches biblical history.  He does not just teach history for history’s sake.  He uses history for a spiritual purpose.

Sermons that are effective have to be based on Scripture.  Not all preachers today preach the Word.  Some get into the pulpit and just tell stories or jokes.  Some just preach politics.  Some preach modern philosophy or political correctness.  Some preachers just give self-help talks. They sound great.  They tickle people’s ears.

Preachers tells them people what they want to hear.  They preach things that are popular.  Many pastors today give “sermons that charm rather than challenge, entertain rather than edify”[1]  Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2).  We are to preach it all of the time.   What people really need to hear are God’s Words, not our words.

3) Be bold

This sermon was direct.  It was confrontational.  5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness AGAINST YOU, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” (I Samuel 12:5 NIV)

Now then, stand here, because I am going to CONFRONT YOU with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors. (I Samuel 12:7 NIV)

Samuel confronted the nation with what God did FOR them and HOW they responded to God (how they forgot God and said that they did NOT want Him to rule over them).  Samuel confronted the nation with its sin.  He did not hold back.  He says that what they did was EVIL.  He calls it “evil” twice (I Samuel 12:17, 20)

Samuel was not politically correct.  He did not dance around issues.  He was not afraid to talk about some topics.  He dealt with them and dealt with them directly.  Samuel preached against sin.

Some preachers are afraid to use strong language.  They do not preach against sin, because they do not want to offend anyone.  They do not want to be considered unloving.  Many preachers today try to be all positive because that is what people want to hear.  Samuel did not give the people what they wanted to heart.  He gave them what they needed to hear.

Samuel used strong language.  That does not mean that you have to be rude and obnoxious.  It means that you are not afraid to speak truth to people.  John the Baptist used strong language.  He was not afraid to rebuke Herod when he was living in sin.  Jesus used strong language against the Sadducees and Pharisees.  He called them HYPOCRITES.  That does not sound very ecumenical.  It does not sound very tolerant.

He was not afraid to preach against sin and he was not afraid to WARN people.  The chapter ends with a warning.  If you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will PERISH. (I Samuel 12:25 NIV).  He is not talking to pagans.  He is talking to God’s people.

How did they respond?  They responded well.  They took the rebuke, because Samuel was a man of integrity and he spoke truth to the people.  They acknowledged that they had sinned and asked Samuel to pray for them (I Samuel 12:19).

4) Be supernatural

17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.”

18 Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. (I Samuel 12:17-18 NIV)

Samuel did not just preach.  He didn’t just teach.  He performed a miracle right before their eyes.  Samuel was more than a teacher; he was a preacher, but he was also more than a preacher.  He was a prophet, not like some prophets we have in some churches today but a real prophet.  Supernatural things happened when Samuel spoke.  He could call down rain and thunder.

When Samuel spoke, they did not just see Samuel; they saw God at work.  Samuel had the people’s attention.  They were engaged.  They interacted with him as he spoke. Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw God directly at work when we speak to people about Him?

God was at work in this sermon.  God did great things in this sermon.  Samuel said in I Samuel 12:16, “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!” (NIV).  Wouldn’t it be cool if God did great things in churches today and Christians saw it?  Good preaching is supernatural.  God has to work in the life of the hearers

5) Be simple

This sermon was not complicated.  It was simple.  Good preaching does not have to be long and complicated to be good.  It can be simple.  Einstein once said that “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”  Samuel gave the people two choices, not ten or twenty, just two.  If you obey, you will be blessed.  If you rebel against God, you will suffer the consequences.

14 If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! 15 But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors. (I Samuel 12:14-15 NIV)

What are the two choices?  Fear God or rebel against God.  They can choose to obey or disobey God. The first option is to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all their heart (I Samuel 12:24).  The second option is to continue to do evil (I Samuel 12:25).

They are the same two choices that God’s people have today.  It was true in the OT and is true in the NT.  It was true of Israel.  It is true of the church today.  You can’t rebel against the commands of God and expect Him to bless you.

6) Be Balanced

One of the biggest problem of preachers today is that they are not balanced.  This is true of preachers all throughout the country.  What they say is true.  They say things that need to be said.  They say things that people need to hear but they do not preach the whole counsel of God.  They leave important things out.  If you do not do expository preaching and go chapter by chapter or verse by verse or book by book, most likely you are not preaching the whole counsel of God.

Some preachers are all negative.  Some preachers are all positive.  Some pastors preach the love of God, but not the wrath of God.  Some pastors preach the wrath of God, but not the love of God.  Some preach heaven, but never talk about hell.  Some preach hell, but don’t say too much about heaven.  We should preach both.  Both are in the Bible.

Samuel’s sermon was balanced. How was it balanced, unlike many sermons today?

  • He gave them both teaching AND application.

Some preachers are all teaching.  Some preachers are all application.  Samuel gave both.  He taught them biblical history, but he gave them some applications.  He gave them exhortations.  He told them to DO some things.  What did he tell them to do?

He tells the NOT to forget what God did for them (I Samuel 12:24).  He tells them not to turn away from the Lord (I Samuel 12:20).  He tells them to serve the Lord faithfully with ALL of their heart (I Samuel 12:24).  He tells them to fear the Lord (I Samuel 12:24).  He tells them not worship useless idols (I Samuel 12:21).

That is still a good exhortation for us today.  Do we fear God?  Do we serve Him?  Do we obey Him?  Do we serve God faithfully with all of our hearts or halfheartedly?

  • He gave them promises AND warnings

What promise does Samuel give the people in this chapter?  For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. (I Samuel 12:22 NIV)

What warning does Samuel give the people in this chapter?  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish (I Samuel 12:25 NIV).  The chapter ends with a serious warning.  Samuel was both negative and positive.

  • He gave them both rebuke AND encouragement

He rebuked them for asking for a king and called it evil but he also gave them hope.  He gave hope to people who repented.  What do you tell people who have sinned?  What do you tell people who have sinned greatly?  What do you tell people who know that they have blown it and feel bad about it?  They may have sinned by marrying the wrong person (an unbeliever).

There are some consequences to our actions, always have been and always will be.  The Bible says that we reap what we sow.  On the other hand, there is hope to people who have completely screwed their life up.  There is hope for people who did NOT get God’s best for their life.

They could still have God’s blessing.  They may not be as blessed as much as if they had fully obeyed but they can still be blessed.  Israel could have God’s blessing, even with a king.  God is not going to abandon people.  He gives hope to the hopeless.

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/itching-ears.html

Saul’s First Test

This chapter brings up an interesting question.  It is a question that there is a lot of confusion on.  Is it sinful to be angry?  If it is, is it always sinful?  Most believe it is.  I Samuel 11 gives us an answer.  What it says may sound a little shocking.  It is not what most people believe.  it is not what most people have been taught.

In the last chapter Saul becomes king.  Now the king is tested.  He faces his first test and he passes the test.  Saul starts out great.  This is a short chapter.  It is only eleven verses long.  It is a man’s chapter. There is a lot of action and violence, a lot of fighting.  Bad things happen in this chapter and God brings good out of evil.  In an earlier chapter, we saw how God brought good out of a PERSONAL TRAGEDY (some missing donkeys).

Now, he is going to bring good out of a NATIONAL TRAGEDY.  He is going to bring good from the evil.  He is going to bring good out of terrorism.  He brings good out of the violent Ammonites.  That is like bringing good out of ISIS, the holocaust or COVID.

Chronology of Events

To understand this chapter, you have to understand five events.  We are going to look at them briefly.

Event One

Israel asked for a king and got one. They got their first king, their first monarch.  They wanted a king like all of the other countries had.  They did not want an invisible king.  They wanted a king who would fight their battles and that is what they got.

Event Two

The king goes home.  After the king was chosen, he went home (I Samuel 10:26).  He did not set up a big bureaucracy.  He did not immediately move into the White House.  He did not sit on his throne in some fancy palace.  He went home and he went back to farming.  When we see Saul in this chapter, he is out in the field, plowing with oxen.  He was an old farm boy.

Event Three

A city is attacked.   The city of Jabesh Gilead is attacked by the Ammonites around 1043 BC.  Several ancient sources tell us that this took place about a month after Saul became king (DSS, LXX, Josephus).  The city they attacked (Jabesh Gilead) just happened to be the same tribe as Saul was.

Apparently, the Ammonites did not get the memo that a new king was chosen in Israel and he was from the tribe of Benjamin.  They assumed that Israel had no central government and was just a coalition of tribes.  They attacked Jabesh Gilead and put a siege around the city.  They cut if off from the rest of the world.  No one could get out and no one could get in.

That is how the chapter begins.  Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead (I Samuel 11:1 NIV).  That is what the Hebrew text says (MT) but there is another reading of this verse found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites severely. He gouged out the right eye of all of them and there was no one to save Israel. There did not remain an Israelite man who was beyond the Jordan whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not gouge out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the hand of the Ammonites and went to Jabesh Gilead. And they were there about a month.[1]

The Hebrew Bible does not say this.  It is not in the Masoretic Text (MT).  It is in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Did this actually happen?  We do not know for sure.  This may not have been Nahash’s first military campaign against the people of Israel.  The Ammonites were located east of the Jordan River.  The tribes of Reuben and Gad also lived east of the Jordan River.  They may have attacked them first.

The Ammonites surround Jabesh Gilead.  The people ask for a treaty (I Samuel 11:1).  They say, “We will give you one, but we have to cut the right eyes out of all of your soldiers first” (I Samuel 11:2)

The Ammonites were terrorists.  Terrorism did not begin in our day.  It is not a new phenomenon.  The first terrorists were not Muslim.  Terrorism existed in Samuel and Saul’s day.  Nahash was a terrorist.  He wanted to gouge out the eyes of his enemies.  He did not just want to hurt them, he wanted to humiliate them.  He wanted to physical mutilate and dismember them.  It was cruel.  It was inhumane.  It was barbaric.

To make matters worse, the Ammonites were related to these people.  They were kin.  They had a blood connection.  The Ammonites were descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew.  They were descendants of Lot’s youngest daughter through incest (Genesis 19:30-38) but they were still family.  The Ammonites are attacking their own relatives.

God is going to use the Ammonites to spotlight the new king.  He used a crisis to bring out Saul’s leadership qualities.  A good crisis often brings out the best in leaders.  George W. Bush leadership abilities were on display after 911. The coronavirus has brought out Donald Trump’s leadership abilities.

Event Four

Saul saved the city from destruction.  His first day on the job and he is thrown into the hot seat.  Saul faces his first test as king and passes the test with flying colors.  This was Saul’s finest hour.  Saul comes face to face with evil.  He comes face to face with barbarism.  He comes face to face with terrorism and he did not fear.  He did not back down.  The people wanted to surrender and make a treaty but he didn’t.  Saul was fearless.  There was no negotiating with evil.  There was no negotiating with terrorists.

The people ask for more time to make a decision and are given a week (I Samuel 11:3).  Everyone is crying and weeping.  Saul hears about what is going on, gets angry, cuts up an ox in pieces and sends it to the other tribes (I Samuel 11:6-7).

Saul went right into action.  He took charge of the situation.  He got the nation together in a crisis situation.  Saul may have been the king but he did not have a standing army.  He mobiles one quickly.  He mobilizes an army of over 300,000 soldiers.

He did not just quickly organize an army.  He planned an attack and the planning involved some military strategy.  They marched all night.  They attacked them early in the morning while they were all asleep.  He attacked them when they least expected it.

He attacked them from three directions (I Samuel 11:11).  It is hard enough to fight off an attacker from one direction if you are not prepared but Saul attacked them from three directions.  One hundred thousand troops attacked the Ammonites from three different directions.  It was the classic ambush strategy and it worked.  The Ammonites were totally wiped out, except for just a few men who escaped.

Event Five

Saul is celebrated and honored as king.  He is publicly affirmed as king.  He has become a war hero.  So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. (I Samuel 11:14 NIV).  He has the whole nation behind him and the whole nation is united.

Relevance Today

Why does this chapter matter?  Why is it important to us today?  This chapter is important for two reasons.  First, this chapter points us to Jesus.  Second, this chapter teaches us a valuable lesson.  Let’s look at these two points.

1. This chapter points us to Jesus.  The whole Bible points to Jesus and so does this chapter.

Saul: A Type of Christ

Saul is a type of Christ.  There are two main characters in I Samuel: Samuel and Saul.  Both men are types of Christ.  They are both pictures of Christ.

We know how Samuel was a type of Christ but how could King Saul possibly be a type of Christ?  Saul was an evil ruler.  He tried to kill David repeatedly.  He tried to kill his own son and his own son-in-law.  He was demonized.  He participated in the occult.

How could Saul possibly be a type of Christ?  We see how Saul could be a type of Jesus in this chapter.  Let me point out several similarities between Jesus and Saul. You cannot read this chapter and miss this.  It is important.

1) Both Jesus and Saul were kings

They were from different tribes.  Saul was from the Tribe of Benjamin (I Samuel 9:1-3).  Jesus was from Judah, but both were Jewish kings.  Saul was a king and Jesus is the king of kings.  Both started their ministry around the same time.  Saul became king at the age of thirty.  Jesus began his ministry around the age of thirty.

2) Both started their ministry at the age of thirty.

Both started their public ministry around the same time.  Saul became king at the age of thirty (I Samuel 13:1).  Jesus began his public ministry around the age of thirty (Luke 3:23).

3) Both Jesus and Saul were anointed

Both were not only kings; they were anointed kings.  Saul was anointed by Samuel with a flask of oil.  Jesus was also anointed.  He was anointed by Mary of Bethany.  He was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the word “Messiah” means “anointed one.”

4) Both Jesus and Saul were Spirit-filled

When they began their ministries, the Spirit of God came on them.  The Spirit came on Saul.  When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. (I Samuel 10:6 NIV).  When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. (I Samuel 11:6 NIV)

The same was true of Jesus.  When Jesus began his ministry, He was baptized, and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove (Luke 3:22).  Luke 4:14 says that he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.

He went to Nazareth, entered the local synagogue, stood us and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV).

5) Both Jesus and Saul defeat a powerful enemy

Saul defeated Nahash, the king of Ammon.  Nahash in Hebrew (nah-hash) means “serpent”.  Nahash was the serpent king.  He was a wicked king.  He was a powerful king.  He was intimidating.  He wanted to poke people’s eyes out and mutilate them.  Saul defeated the serpent king and so did Jesus on the cross.

6) Both Jesus and Saul delivered their people

They both delivered Israel from their enemies.  Saul delivered the Israelites form the Ammonites.  The word “save” or “salvation” is found three times in this chapter (I Samuel 11:3, 9, 13).  Saul is a savior in a military sense. He had a great victory.  He was the savior king, but Jesus is the real Savior King.

He is the savior of the world.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He delivers people from their sins, but Jesus will also deliver people in a military sense.  At the Second Coming, when He returns, people die.  His robe is dipped in blood.  The Battle of Armageddon takes place.

7) Both Jesus and Saul were humble

The first king of Israel was not proud, ambitious.  He is humble.  He is humble in I Samuel 9, I Samuel 10 and I Samuel 11.  We see this quality repeatedly in Saul.

When Samuel said to him, “to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?” 21 Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” (I Samuel 9:20-21 NIV)

In I Samuel 10, his uncle asked him what Samuel said to him when he saw him (I Samuel 10:15).  He did not take that as an opportunity to talk about his own political future.  He completely sidestepped the question.  He did not tell him anything about him being king (I Samuel 10:16).  When he was chosen by lot to be king, he was hiding among the baggage (I Samuel 10:22).

We see this at the end of I Samuel 10.  Not everyone likes Saul.  Some worthless fellows said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent (I Samuel 10:27 NIV).  We also see this quality of Saul in I Samuel 11.

12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.” (I Samuel 11:12-13 NIV).

This seems like the character of Christ.  Saul was not mean and vindictive.  It is what we see in Jesus.  He was gracious.  He was compassionate towards sinners.  He was compassionate to the worst of sinners.  He was meek and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:29). He prayed for His enemies and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

8) Both Jesus and Saul were tested

A month after he became king, Saul was tested.  He faced a major crisis.  He passed the test.  He will not pass some other tests.  Jesus also was tested immediately after the Holy Spirit came on Him in the form of a dove.  He was tested by Satan in the wilderness.

9) Both Jesus and Saul receive vindication

Saul is publicly celebrated as king by the people.  He becomes a war hero.  Jesus will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Everyone one will day be forced to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.

2. This chapter has a valuable message for us about anger

Anger is a big problem in our day.  A spirit of anger has gripped the nation. Husbands are angry.  Wives are angry.  Children are angry.  Drivers on the road are angry.  Politicians are angry.  Protesters are angry.  People are out demonstrating with a spirit of anger.  Some preachers are angry.  They are always screaming, yelling and hollering.  There are some hate-filled preachers in some churches.

Many preachers have gotten it wrong on anger.  Some says that anger as always bad.  They say that anger is always sinful.  I Samuel 11 teaches something very different.  This chapter will go against what a lot of people believe.  It goes completely against what a lot of preachers say.

Not only is anger not always wrong, sometimes anger is good.  We know that because Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5).  I Samuel 11:6 says, “When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger” (NIV).  What do we learn about about anger from I Samuel 11?

1) Some events caused us to become angry

Something happened in the world, Saul heard about it and got angry.  He got really angry.  It says that Saul burned in anger (NIV).  He did not just become angry, he became “very angry” (NASB, NLT).  His anger was kindled GREATLY (KJV).

He was angry at Nahash.  He was angry at the Ammonites.  He was angry at and how God’s people were being treated.  He was angry at what was done to the people of God by the enemies of God right within the borders of Israel.

2) Anger leads us to take certain actions

Saul got angry and he did something.  Some people get angry and just talk about how bad things are.  Saul got angry and did something.  He was not just passive.  He acted and he acted decisively.  He cut a couple oxen into pieces and sent them through Israel.  Here you have to know the history of Jabesh Gilead.  Saul did not cut up a concubine in pieces and sent it to the other tribes like the Levite did in Judges 19 but he did cut up some oxen.

Then he organized an army and attacked the enemy.  He did not just get angry and talk about it (like we often do), he did something about the situation.  Is anger led to a military operation.  This is where it gets interesting.  Anger can lead to actions.  Sometimes the actions are sinful and wicked but not always.

3) Anger can be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. (I Samuel 11:6 NIV)

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he got angry.  This was God-inspired rage.  It was Spirit-directed and God-inspired. This was holy anger.  There is such a thing as an anger prompted by the Spirit.  The Spirit of God led Saul into righteous anger.  This anger was a direct result of the Holy Spirit coming upon Saul.

4) Anger can be sinful

Anger can also be sinful. Most of the time when we get angry, it is not because the Holy Spirit comes on us, it is because our sin nature (our flesh) comes on us.  Anger can be a work of the flesh.  How do you know when anger is sinful?

When anger is sinful, it is uncontrolled.  It controls you.  You do not control it.  That kind of anger does not come from the Holy Spirit because self control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).  When anger is sinful, it is excessive.

If you want to see sinful anger, you just need to watch the news every night.  People on the street are protesting the death of George Floyd.   Anger over racial injustice in the 1960s.  It was combined with self control.  The protests during the time of Martin Luther King were peaceful and nonviolent.

The anger over the death of George Floyd has turned into an uncontrollable rage.  It has led to rioters and looters and arsonists and murderers.  Anger that comes from the Holy Spirit results in justice, not injustice.

[1] http://dssenglishbible.com/1%20samuel%2011.htm

How to be Used by God

We are studying the Book of I Samuel and we come to an exciting part of the book.  Israel gets its first king.  This was like America getting its first President.  His name was shah-ool or Saul.  Saul was the first Jewish king.  The whole second part of I Samuel is all about Saul. The first part is about Samuel.   Before we look at our chapter, we have to do a quick review.  We have to go back a few chapters.

In I Samuel 8, the nation asked for a king.  They did not just want a new leader.  They wanted a whole new form of government.  They wanted a monarchy.  Rule by a judge was old fashioned.  It is antiquated. They wanted something more modern and up to date.  They wanted to be ruled by a king.  That is what the other nations had.  They were really rejecting God but God gave them what they wanted.

In I Samuel 9, the Prophet Samuel gets a revelation.  God reveals to Samuel who the first king will be.  He meets him.  He eats with him.  He honors him.  He gives him the best food and the best seat at the table.  He took him to his home and showed him some hospitality.

Samuel was the leader of the country and Saul is going to take his place, but he is not bitter.  He is not jealous.  He is not angry.  He is not vindictive.  He supports him.  He encourages him.  He wants him to succeed.  He consecrates him.

In I Samuel 10, Saul becomes king.  Both Samuel and Saul make history.  Saul becomes the first king of the Jews.  Samuel becomes the first one ever to anoint a king.  That that had never been done before because Israel never had a king before. 

Priests in Israel had been anointed before this, but this was the first king ever to be anointed and he was anointed by a prophet.  Samuel takes a flask and pours some holy oil on his head. 

Samuel actually anoints two people as king.  Later in the book, Samuel anoints David with oil.  Saul was anointed privately.  He was anointed in secret.  No one was around.  David was anointed in the presence of his family (I Samuel 16:13). 

In I Samuel 9, Saul & Samuel found out who the next king would be.  In I Samuel 10, the nation finds out.  Samuel does not just call the nation together and make an announcement and tell them that Saul will be their new king.  He lets them find out by lots. 

It is a little like drawing straws and pulling out the big straw or like writing names on sticks and randomly pulling out a name. Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (NIV).

Lots were used to show that God is the one who chooses Saul.  Saul was NOT selected by Samuel.  Samuel had never met him before.  Saul was NOT selected by the people.  This was not a democracy.  The people were not given a list of candidates and vote for the candidate of their choice.  That is the way we would do things.  It is what we will do in about ninety days.

God chose Samuel.  The tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot.  Saul’s family was chosen by lots and he was chosen by lots.  The people recognized that this was God’s choice, and they were happy with the choice.  Most of them were.  They said, “Long live the king” (I Samuel 10:24).

Unfortunately, no matter who the leaders are, no matter how good they are, no matter who chooses them, even if God chooses them, there will always some who don’t like them.  But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. (I Samuel 10:27 NIV).  In every crowd of people, there are always some critics and skeptics.

Samuel did not just tell the people that now they have a king and the king could do what he wanted.  Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. (I Samuel 10:25 NIV)

That is interesting.  The Jews got a king, but the kings could not do anything they wanted to do.  The king was the top leader in the nation but even the king was UNDER authority.  They were not to be absolute dictators and tyrants.  They were not to rule the country like Adolf Hitler.  Saul was appointed by God.  He was a minister of God and he was under the authority of God.

When these kings started to act on their own authority and do whatever they wanted to do, they could be replaced.  That is what happened to the Babylonian king Belshazzar.  His kingdom will be taken from him.  He saw the handwriting on the wall and his time was up.  That’s what would happen to Saul.  How does this chapter apply to us today?   The fact is that is that much of it does not apply to us.

We don’t have kings in our country.  We have a President.  None of us will rule as kings. 

We will never be chosen by lot for a leadership role.  In fact, we do not even use lots today to determine the will of God. 

None of us will ever have olive oil poured over our head by some old prophet.  Who wants to have a greasy head? 

We will never meet a prophet like Samuel.  Most of the prophets in churches today are not anything like Samuel.

How does any of this apply to us today?  Saul had the opportunity to be used by God to do something that had never been done before in Israel.  He had the opportunity to serve as king.  We also have an opportunity to be used by God.  In I Samuel 10, we see four things we have to do to be used by God.

1) To be used by God, you have to be CALLED

To be used by God, you have to have a call.  Saul did not become a king because he was born a king.  He did not become a king because he wanted to be a king.

He had no desire to be king.  He was not out campaigning to be king.  He did not go around and tell people to vote for him.  He was not out promoting himself, like politicians do today.  He did not become a king because people elected him to be king.  That is the way it works in our system.  His name was not on the ballot.

The ONLY reason that Saul became king was because God chose him to be king.  He was called by God to be king.  How did he know that he was called to be king?  He was anointed by the prophet Samuel.  Samuel took a flask and poured some holy oil on his head.  It is a strange custom.  We do not do this today, but Saul had an anointing for leadership.

This anointing was symbolic. Saul had a special call of God on his life for service that no one in the nation had and the oil consecrated him and set him apart.  He was divinely commissioned.  He was chosen by God. 

Today, we talk about “an anointed speaker” or “an anointed worship leader.” That refers to someone who has a special gift or ability or a special call of God upon his or her life.  Whatever God calls you to do is what He has anointed you to do.

Everyone is not called to public office or politics, like Saul was.  Everyone is not called to be a leader.  Everyone is not called to preach but we are all called to do something. 

In fact, the Bible says that God called us to do some things before we were born God said to the Prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)

The problem today is that people try to do a ministry without a call.  They are just doing it.  They do it because it is something they want to do, or someone else wants them to do it.  It is something that they were pressured into doing but God never told them to do it.  Someone might have pressured them to do it.  

I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied (Jeremiah 23:21 NIV)

You have to have a call.  Saul knew he was called because a prophet showed up and anointed him.  The king was chosen by lots and his name came up.  We have the Holy Spirit inside us, and we can recognize God’s call in our lives.  God will reveal our call a different way than He revealed it to Saul, but we are all called to do something.  Saul was called to be king. 

2) To be used by God, you have to be WILLING

It is possible to be called by God and NOT willing.  To be used by God, you have to be, not only called, but willing to serve.  You have to accept the call. There are examples in the Bible of people who accepted their call.  Peter and Andrew did.

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20 NIV)

Isaiah also accepted his call.  8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).  Not everyone accepts the call of God on their life. 

Some MAKE EXCUSES why they could not do what God called them to do.  God called Moses to lead the Jews out of the promise land and he made all kinds of excuses why he couldn’t do it.   He said, “I am not the right man for the job.  I am not qualified for the mission.  I don’t know your name.  No one will believe me, and no one will understand me because I have trouble speaking.”

Some RUN FROM their call.  That is what Jonah did. God says to go one in direction, and he went in the exact opposite direction. God wanted him to go east, so he went west.  People do that today.  God calls them to do one thing and they do the exact opposite.

Some PROCRASTINATE when they are called.  They put it off.  “Maybe, I will get to it later but not now.” That is what Saul did.  Saul had the biggest moment of his life at Mitzpah.  His name comes up by lot.  He wins the lottery.  He was the number one pick in the draft, but he was not quite ready to accept it.  The idea terrified him.  To be king means you have the responsibility of the whole nation on your shoulders.  Saul was just a farm boy.

When his name was called, he did not step forward.  It is a rather funny picture.  Saul’s name was called by lot but there was no answer. The people looked for him.  They called his name but Saul could not be found anywhere.  He was MIA.  That is a little strange, because Saul was not an easy guy to miss.  He was so tall.  He stood head and shoulders over the crowd, but they still could not find him. 

Where was he?  He was hiding. That is strange.  How do you hide someone who is that tall?  How do you hide Yao Ming in a group of people?  Samuel couldn’t find him.  He had to ask God where he was, and God said that he was hiding (I Samuel 10:22).

He was hiding in the luggage, which is interesting behavior for an anointed king.  This is a strange picture of Saul hiding in the luggage, hiding with the Samsonite.  Saul could hide from the Jews, but he could not hide from God.  He knew exactly where he was.

Why was he hiding?  We are not told but the impression you get is that he was terrified.  He did not want to be king.  He did not choose to be king and he may have had an inferiority complex, like some of us do.  He was impressive on the outside, tall and stately but, on the inside, he was a completely different picture. 

He was reluctant.  He was hesitant.  He was terrified.  He did not immediately accept his divine destiny.  That spirit does not come from God.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (II Timothy 1:7 NIV).

Many of us are like Saul today.  We are naturally timid.  We have a spirit of fear.  We have all kinds of insecurity.  We hide in the luggage.  God wants us to step up and we want to step back.  Are we willing to do what God has called us to do or do we make excuses why we can’t do it and try and avoid it?  Are we going to choose the baggage or the blessing?  

3) To be used by God, you have to be EMPOWERED

Those He appoints, He anoints.  Those He calls, He equips. To be used by God, you have to be equipped. You need divine enablement.  You need supernatural empowerment.  You need the Holy Spirit. 

Before God uses you, He has to equip you and prepare you for service.  He does that in many different ways. God will equip you for whatever He has called you to do.  He will give you supernatural power to do it.

Many do NOT want to wait for that to happen but before we serve God, we have to be prepared.  Moses had to wait eighty years to be prepared for ministry.  God uses many things to prepare and equip people for ministry. 

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. (I Samuel 10:9-10 NIV)

Saul was equipped by God to do what He called him to do.  He was equipped by God to be the first king of Israel.  The Holy Spirit came on Saul.  He did not just come on him.  He came upon him POWERFULLY.  He was completely changed.  He was transformed by God. 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8 NIV)

You can’t do God’s work without God’s Spirit.  If God’s Spirit does not come on us, we can’t be witnesses or do anything else, because we will not have any power.  Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do NOTHING” (John 15:5 NKJV).  We cannot be used by God greatly and serve God in our own strength. 

4) To be used by God, you have to receive CONFIRMATION

Those God calls, He anoints but those He calls, He also confirms. We all know that one person who thinks they are gifted and called to do something but no one else feels that way.  It is like the person who goes on American Idol who thinks they are the best singer in the world and they cannot sing at all.

In I Samuel 10, God not only calls and anoints Saul to be king, He confirms it.  He confirms it to Saul, and He confirms it to the nation.  Saul needed some confirmation of this call and so did the nation.  There is a public and private confirmation. 

Samuel told Saul that God had chosen him to be king.  That might have sounded crazy to him.  It was all very sudden and unexpected.  He was not quite ready to hear that.  Maybe he did not even believe him, so Samuel gave him three signs.  Saul did not just get one sign.  He got three. 

Three Amazing Signs

Samuel gave Saul three signs that would confirm and exactly what he said.  They were proofs that he would be the next king.  What is lost will be found.  Your hunger will be fed, and you will join in praise to God. 

These proofs were very specific.  They took place at a specific time in a specific place.  One would be near a TOMB.  One was near a TREE and one was in a TOWN.  These signs all happened on the SAME DAY (I Samuel 10:9).

The first sign is some NEWS he will receive.   He received the news near Rachel’s tomb.  Rachel was his great, great, great grandmother.  He will meet two men near this tomb with a specific message for him.

When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?” (I Samuel 10:2 NIV)

The second sign is some GIFTS he will receive.  Saul will receive these gifts from three men.  God will take care of him.  He will take care of his donkeys and he will take care of him with bread and with wine.  He will provide for his needs and He will provide for our needs as well.

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them. (I Samuel 10:3-4 NIV)

The third sign is supernatural POWER he would receive.  Saul will not see two or three men but more.  He will meet a group of men (at least four).  Saul will be given divine enablement for service.

5 “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. (I Samuel 10:5-6 NIV)

Confirmation is not always supernatural or miraculous. How do you know if God has called you to do something?  Often, God will confirm His call in your life.  He will confirm it to you and to other people.  When I was a young man in college, I hung out with two other men in church.  All of us wanted to go into the ministry.  Two of them ended up going into the ministry.

One became a missionary and one became a pastor, although neither one of them are in the ministry today.  I always felt that I somehow missed my calling and that I should have been a pastor.  The reason that I never did is because I never received any confirmation.  Looking back on it, I am convinced that it was the right decision.  Have you ever received confirmation for what God has called you to do?  Saul did.

What does this say to us today?  If God is calling you to do something, he will confirm it to others as well.  That doesn’t mean, if you are called to go into the ministry that you have to be ordained.

Many famous Christians were never ordained.  Some of the most famous preachers in church history were never ordained.  D. L. Moody was not ordained, but he was still greatly used by God.  C. H. Spurgeon was not ordained.

Jesus wasn’t ordained. The Pharisees did not ordain him.  The Sadducees did not ordain him.  The Jewish rabbis did not get together an ordain Jesus to preach.  He was ordained by God.  He was anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Ordination has become meaningless.  Today, you can get ordained off the Internet.  In fact, even atheists can become ordained so they can perform weddings.  You don’t have to be ordained but if God has called you to be a pastor or do any kind of ministry, He will confirm it to you and to others.

Was Saul Saved?

I Samuel 10:9-10 raises a very important question.  It is a question that has led to a lot of debate and controversy.  When the Spirit of God came powerfully on Saul, did he get saved?

Many preachers think that Saul got saved in I Samuel 10.  Some Christians believe this (e.g., Chuck Missler).  It certainly sounds like it on the surface. There are five things in I Samuel 10 that look like salvation.  They look like conversion.  Notice five things we are told about Saul.

1) The Holy Spirit came down on Saul (I Samuel 10:10).

He came down on him “MIGHTILY.”  He came down on him powerfully.  When we get saved, we get the Holy Spirit

2) God “changed his heart” (I Samuel 10:9 NASB, NIV).

Saul’s heart was completely changed.  He was transformed.  When we get saved, God changes us.

3) Saul was given “another heart” (I Samuel 10:9 KJV, NKJV, ESV).

Saul was given a heart transplant.  The old heart was gone, and he was given another heart.  When we get saved, we get another heart as well.  It happens at the new birth.

4) Saul was changed “into another man” (I Samuel 10:6 NASB, KJV, NKJV).

He became a different person.  When we get saved, we become a new creation.

5) Saul prophesied (I Samuel 10:6).

He exercised the gift of prophecy, along with other prophets in his day.  When we get saved, God gives us spiritual gifts.

Not everyone agreed that this is talking about salvation.  Some say (and I tend to agree with them) that this is not talking about salvation but kingship.  God did change Saul.

He changed him to make him king.  Saul went from a farm boy to king.  He was given another heart with respect to kingship, but he did not necessarily get saved at this point.

The fact that he prophesied is not even proof of salvation.  Balaam also prophesied.  He delivered prophecies about the coming Messiah.  The Spirit of God came upon him and he was not a true believer.

In the NT, the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas uttered a genuine prophecy. He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (John 11:48-50) but he was not saved.  There are some who have prophesied who will end up in Hell (Matthew 7:21-23).

Dan Corner believes that Saul must have been saved because he was chosen by God and it is inconceivable that God would have chosen an unsaved man to be king over His people.[1]

This is wrong in a number of ways.  God gave Israel the king they wanted, not necessarily the most spiritual one available.  Saul was chosen to be king, not chosen for salvation.  Jesus chose Judas to be an Apostle and he was unsaved.  Jesus called him “a son of perdition” (John 17::12 KJV) and “a devil” (John 6:70 ESV, KJV).

[1] http://www.apostasia.net/images/Daniel_Corner-The_Believers_conditional_Security.pdf (p. 163).

Case Study in Providence

The one doctrine that many people, including many Christians, have trouble accepting is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.  The Bible teaches that God works all things out according to the purpose of his will, but this doctrine raises all kinds of questions.

Is God sovereign over our free will?  Is God sovereign over everything?  Is He sovereign over the big things in your life, like world wars and worldwide pandemics (COVID-19)?

Is He sovereign over little things?  Is He sovereign over the petty, little, mundane things of your life, like when you lose or misplace something?  Could God possibly be involved in that?

Is He sovereign over your problems?  We all have different problems.  Is He sovereign over our problems?  Is He sovereign over Satan?  Satan is described in the Bible as “the god of this world.”  Is God sovereign over Satan?

The answer to all of these questions is Yes.  We all have free will, but our free will does not cancel out God’s sovereignty.  He is sovereign over our problems.  He is even sovereign over our sins. Joseph’s own brothers sold him into slavery.  They did something terrible, but God was sovereign over their action.  He used their evil action to get Joseph to Egypt.  That was part of His plan.  He brought good out of evil.

In the last chapter, we saw how Israel asked for a king.  It was not a good request.  It was a bad one.  They did not want God ruling over them.  Even though their motives were not right, God was sovereign over their request.  He brought good out of it.  He brought the Messiah out of it, who was born a king.  Jesus is a David King.  Even though the request was wrong, it was part of God’s plan.

God is even is sovereign when people reject Him.  He is sovereign even when people do not get what is best for them.  He is sovereign even when people get second-best.

Today we come to a great chapter that illustrates the sovereignty of God.  We will see that clearly here.  It gives us a case study in divine providence.  We are going to look at how God worked in Saul’s life and what He did in Saul’s life, He does in our life but first we need to do some quick review.

In the last chapter, the nation is dissatisfied.  They are dissatisfied with their leaders.  They are dissatisfied with their government.  They are dissatisfied with God and they wanted a change.

They came to Samuel’s house. Knocked on his door and said, “Sam, you are old.  It is time for you to step aside.  We do not want you ruling.  We do not want your sons ruling us anymore.  In fact, we do not want a judge.  We want a king.”  Why did they want a king?  Peer pressure. They wanted to be like everyone else.

Samuel goes to God and says, “What do I tell them?”  God says, “Give them exactly what they want but warn them.”  So Samuel says to them, “You can have a king but this king will cost you.  He will take away your freedom.  You will be slaves to this king.”  They said, “We don’t care.  We still want one.”

In I Samuel 9, we find who the first Jewish king will be.  His name in English is Saul.  In Hebrew, his name is shah-ool (which means “asked.”)  The first part of the book was all about Samuel.  The second part of the book is all about Saul.  The book ends with his death.  If you know the Bible, you know that there is another very important man named Saul in Scripture.  The other one is found in the NT.  There are two Sauls in the Bible.  They actually have many similarities.

The Tale of Two Saul’s

1. Both were Jews

In fact, both were from the same tribe.  Saul was from the Tribe of Benjamin (I Samuel 9:1-2, 21) and so was Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5).

2. Both were leaders

Both were leaders of God’s people.  One was a political leader and one was a religious leader.

3. Both were called by God

Both were called to do great things.  Paul was called to be an apostle.  Saul was called by God to be king.   Saul is called in I Samuel 9.  Paul is called in Acts 9.

4. Both were supernaturally empowered

Both men were supernaturally empowered for service at the beginning of their ministry. The Spirit of God came powerfully on Saul (I Samuel 10:10). The Apostle Paul was filled with the Spirit as soon as he got saved (Acts 9:17).

5. Both tried to kill God’s people

The OT Saul killed some priests.  He tried to kill King David many times.  The NT Saul killed some Christians.

6. Both went through radical changes

Both went through radical changes, some for the better and some for the worse.  One Saul started off good and ended up bad and the other Saul started off bad and ended up good.  One ends up dying a martyr.  The other commits suicide.

Providence in Saul’s Life

God promised the Jews a king.  In this chapter, Samuel finds out who will be king.  He meets Saul.  He has dinner with him.  He gives him the chief seat in the meal.  He gives him the best food.  He invited him to his house and secretly he tells him that he will be king.

Samuel was a prophet but he did not know everything.  This is interesting.  Samuel told the people that they could have a king but did not tell them who it would be.  Even Samuel did not know who it would be.  Then God gave Samuel a revelation.  He said, “In twenty-four hours, you will meet the king.”  He still did not know who he was.  He had never met him.  About twenty-four hours later, he saw a man walking toward him about and God told Samuel, “That’s the man.”

How did these two men meet?  They never met before.  They never knew each other.  What brought them together?  They had a divine appointment to meet.  This is where it gets very interesting.   They met by divine providence.  They met by a rather strange set of circumstances.

God used some lost animals to arrange this meeting.  He used some stubborn donkeys to accomplish this purpose. He used a personal problem to accomplish this purpose.  He used a financial loss to accomplish it.  When you think about it, they would never have met unless several things just happened to take place.

Ten Surprising Things God Was In

1. Saul’s dad just happened to lose something important to him.

Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost (I Samuel 9:3 NIV).  Some donkeys ran off and they were valuable.  This was not like losing your shoes or your belt. These donkeys were like cars.  If he did not lose these donkeys, the two would have never met.  God was in their misfortune.  He was in their personal tragedy.  He was in their LOSS.

2. Kish just happened to send Saul to look for it and he agreed to go (I Samuel 9:3).

Those two points were crucial.  If Kish sent someone else or if Saul refused to go, he would not have met Samuel.  God was in Saul’s MISSION.

3. Kish just happened to send a servant with him to look for them.

Saul’s dad said, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” (I Samuel 9:3 NIV).  If the servant was not sent or a different servant went on the mission, Saul would never have met Samuel.  Saul would never have found Samuel without this particular servant.

This servant knew all about Samuel.  He knew that he was a man of God.  He knew that he was highly respected.  He knew that everything he said came true and he knew where he lived (I Samuel 9:6).  God was in Saul’s HELP.

4. The two men just happened to not find the donkeys.

Donkeys are big animals.  More than one of them were lost but they could not find them (I Samuel 9:4).  If they found them, Saul would NOT have met Samuel. God was in their lack of success. God was in Saul’s FAILURE.

5. When they could not find the donkeys, they just happened to keep looking.

So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. (I Samuel 9:4 NIV)

They looked for three days.  That is important.  If they gave up looking after one day, they would not have ended up in Samuel’s city.  God was in their PERSISTENCE.

6. They just happened to try one last thing to find them.

When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” 6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” (I Samuel 9:5-6 NIV)

The servant has one more suggestion and Saul agrees to try it.  If the servant did not suggest this or if Saul said, “No,” he would not have met Samuel.  God was in the LAST STRAW.

7. Saul’s servant just happened to have one silver coin in his pocket.

Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” (I Samuel 9:7-8 NIV)

The servant had one last suggestion before they went home and that was to ask Samuel if he knew where they were, but Saul had an objection.  He said that they did not have any money to give him.  Why did he want to give him money?  OT Prophets were supported by personal gifts and donations (I Kings 14:1-3; Ezekiel 13:19).

The servant just happened to have a coin in his pocket.  If the servant did not have that coin, they may not have met. God was in their POCKET CHANGE.

8. The Prophet Samuel just happened to be in town that day.

We are told that in I Samuel 9:12. If they were there they day before, they would not have found it.  They just happened to be there on the right day. It just so happened that Samuel was in town that day and it just so happened that they happened to meet him in the street.  If they came to the city a day earlier or came into town an hour later, they would NOT have met Samuel.  God was in their TIMING.

9. The two men just happened to meet some people who knew Samuel’s exact location in the city.

11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?” 12 “He is,” they answered. (I Samuel 9:11-12 NIV)

When Saul and this servant climb up a hill, they encounter some young women out to draw water.  They ask them about Samuel and they knew all about him.  If they did not meet them, the outcome may have been different.  God was in their CHANCE ENCOUNTER with complete strangers.

10. The Prophet Samuel just happened to know what happened to their donkeys.

Samuel had never met Saul or his donkeys and yet he was able to help them.  He not only had the answer; he gave them the answer BEFORE they asked him the question (I Samuel 9:20). He got the answer by divine revelation.  Samuel had a Word of Knowledge.

What could have happened is that Saul spends three days trying to find the animals and finally finds Samuel who says to him, “I have no idea where your donkeys are.  God has not spoken to me.  Keeping looking.  Depart.  Be warm and filled.” but he did not say that.  God was in this MYSTERIOUS REVELATION.

There is incredible irony in this story.  Saul and his servant went looking for some lost donkeys.  They never found the donkeys but found a prophet instead. Have you ever lost something, spent time looking for it and you never find it but you find something else instead?  Saul went looking for something small and found something big.  He went looking for donkeys and found kingship instead.

God used the lost donkeys to bring Saul to Samuel. People might say that this was all chance.  It was all coincidence.  It was an accident, but this was more than chance.  It was divine providence at work.  God works through divine providence.  God often works through the ordinary circumstances of life.  He used straying donkeys to bring about this meeting between the two men.  God worked providentially to bring Saul to Samuel, and He works providentially in our lives as well.

Providence in My Life

God has worked providentially in my own life.  I would never have met my wife unless several things took place.

It just so happened that Anne and I lived in the same city in the 1980s.

It just so happened that we both went to the same church in that city

It just so happened that we both went to the same university.

It just so happened that my dad was a music professor at this school.

It just so happened that she was a music major in this school

It just so happened that we broke up many times.  She kept breaking up with me.

It just so happened that I chose to go to get as master’s degree in religious studies from Western Kentucky University, a school she told me not to attend because it was a secular university.

It just so happened that because I went to that school, we ended getting back together and getting married.  One of the professors at that school was a godly man, William L. Lane, who gave us some counseling and eventually performed our wedding.

Saul Character Study

Before we leave this chapter, we need to do a quick character study on Saul.  Saul is the first king.  What do we know about Saul from this chapter?  What type of person is he?  We see four things about Saul from this chapter.

1) Saul’s FINANCIAL state

There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul (I Samuel 9:1-2 NIV)

Saul was rich.  He had some money.  His family was not poor.  They were wealthy.  He owned land.  He owned slaves.  He owned donkeys and donkeys were like cars in our day. They were modes of transportation and cargo.   His dad was wealthy.  He was prominent.  He was influential in the community.

2) Saul’s PHYSICAL state

2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. (I Samuel 9:2 NIV)

He was also physically impressive.  He looked great on the outside.  He looked like Mr. America or as they would have said “Mr. Israel.”  He was tall.  In fact, he was the only Israelite in the Bible said to be tall.  He would have made a great basketball player.  He would have been the Jewish Yao Ming.  No one would have been able to get the rebound.  He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else.

He was physically intimidating.  He was also good-looking.  He was tall, dark, handsome and wealthy.  We gravitate to good-looking people.  We judge things by how they look on the outside.  We judge by outward appearances.  That is what really impresses us.  That is what most look for in a spouse before anything else.

That is what many look for in a leader.  We always vote for someone who looks presidential.  We would never vote for someone that does not look like what we think a president should look like.  If we can’t picture them in the office because of how they look, we rule that person out.  Saul looked like a king.  He was every inch a king (to use the language of Shakespeare).

3) Saul’s MORAL state

When most of us think of King Saul, we think of an evil king who was psychotic and demonized.  He ordered the execution of some priests.  That is like killing a bunch of pastors today.   He tried to kill his own son-in-law David many times.

When we think of Saul today, we think of someone who sought out witches. He visited what we would call today a psychic to communicate with the dead in direct violation of God’s Word.   What type of character do we see in this chapter?  We see a lot of very good traits.

  • He was OBEDIENT. When his father told him to do something, he did it.  He did not argue with his dad or say, “Send someone else.  I am busy.”  He just went.
  • He was HARDWORKING. He tried hard to find these lost animals.  He was not lazy.  He went to several different cities looking for the animals.
  • He was PERSISTENT. He looked for a long time.  He looked for three days for these animals.  He could have gone back after the first day and said, “We tried to find them but we were not successful.”  He did not give up easy.
  • He was CONSIDERATE. He is out looking for his father’s lost donkeys, not his own lost donkeys.  He wanted to get back home because he knew his father would be worrying about him (I Samuel 9:5).
  • He was FAIR. He believed that if a man worked for you or provided a service that you should pay him.  You should compensate that person.   Saul wanted to give the prophet something for his services (I Samuel 9:7).  He was willing to do this even if it meant going hungry.  Their food was gone but they were willing to give their last coin to Samuel (I Samuel 9:7-8).
  • He was HUMBLE. He was so humble that even willing to take advice from a servant, who was lower in rank than he was.  When Samuel told him that he would be king, he said that he was just from the small tribe of Benjamin (I Samuel 9:21).  He came from a prominent family in Benjamin, but he was still humble.  He was so humble that when he went home, he did not tell anyone that he was even anointed king (I Samuel 10:13-16).

Saul started out great.  He didn’t do anything wrong in this chapter.  Everything he did was right.  Had Saul remained like this he would have been a good king.  Saul had a lot of potential, but Saul changed.  After he becomes king and gets power, he changed.  Power often corrupts people.

What is the lesson?  Good beginnings do not guarantee good endings.  Don’t judge by how things start.  Judge by how they end.

Many people start out great.  They make a profession of faith but in a few years, do not even know if they still believe in God.

Many churches start out great.  They are on fire but end up lethargic and lukewarm.  Some end up completely dead.

Many Christians schools started out great but did not end great.  They end liberal and apostate.

Many marriages start out great.  There is love and passion but a few years later, the two can’t stand each other.

4) Saul’s SPIRITUAL state

Saul had a lot of positive traits, but he was not a spiritual man.  The people didn’t want a spiritual king.  They did not want some great prayer warrior.  That was Samuel.  They wanted a worldly king and they got exactly what they wanted.  Saul was not a spiritual man.  How do we know?

First, he has a big crisis and yet never once is seen praying in his crisis.  Saul spends three days looking for his dad’s lost donkeys.  He looks everywhere.  Not once are we told that he prayed to ask God where they were.  He was not a man of prayer.

Second, he didn’t seem to know who the Prophet Samuel was.  Saul was from the Tribe of Benjamin, which was where Samuel lived.  Saul did not know where Samuel lived or who he was.  His servant had to tell him.

When Saul finally talked to Samuel, he did not know who he was (I Samuel 9:18-19).  That is strange because everyone in the country knew about him (I Samuel 3:20).  He was the most famous man in Israel.  He was the greatest prophet alive and he lived nearby to Saul and yet Saul did not seem to know much about him.

Third, he had no reputation for spirituality.  When the Holy Spirit finally fell on Saul and he began prophesying, people who knew him said, “What happened to Saul?  What is he doing prophesying?  When did he get religion? What is he doing in church?” (I Samuel 10:9-11).  It shows that this was completely out of character for Saul.

Fourth, he just happened to be from Gibeah.  That is where he lived in Gibeah (I Samuel 10:26).  It is where he will set up his capital.  That was like saying that he lived in Sodom.  Gibeah was the place where the worst atrocity in the history of the nation was committed.

It was the place where a woman was raped to death (Judges 20:4-6).  This woman was not only gang raped and murdered but her body was dismembered.  It was cut up into twelve pieces and sent all over the country.  This monstrous crime did not happen to long ago (Judges 19-21) and that led to a civil war.

We will be off next week but in two weeks, we will be in I Samuel 10.  Saul is anointed to be king.  He is introduced to the nation.  God calls Saul to do a job.  We will look at how he calls us to do things today.

Leadership 101

In this Sunday School class, we have been studying the Old Testament, because most Christians do not know it very well.  We have been looking at the book of I Samuel.  I Samuel is a book about two men – Samuel and Saul.  One was a prophet, a priest and a judge and the other was a king.  One was righteous and one was wicked.  One was blessed by God and one was judged by God.

So far, we have seen the life of Samuel.  He was the boy who was not supposed to be born.  His mom was infertile.  He was born as a result of her intense prayers.  He grew up in the Tabernacle.  He became a priest.  He became a prophet.  He became a judge.  Now he is an old man but he is still the top leader in the nation, which brings us to I Samuel 8.

I Samuel 8 is a short but an important chapter.  The leader Samuel is faced with a big crisis.  He faced one of the biggest crises of his leadership.  As a result of this crisis, the nation does not just a get new leader, it gets a completely new form of government.

In I Samuel 8, the nation moves from judge (Samuel) to king (Saul).  It is a transitional chapter.  In II Samuel, the nation will go through another change and another transition.  It will not be ruled by a just a king but by a dynasty.  Israel will not just be ruled by a king but by a whole line of kings from the same family.  It will be ruled by a dynastic king (House of David).

This chapter is important practically.  It tells us how to deal with a crisis, as we see how Samuel dealt with the biggest crisis of his life but this chapter is also important politically.  The whole political system of the nation changed after this chapter.  It could actually tell you how to vote.

Let’s do a little review.  It has been a long time since we have been in I Samuel.  In the last chapter, revival broke out in the nation.  The whole nation fell into revival.  They were on fire.  They confessed their sins.  They repented.  God blessed them.  He delivered them from the Philistines and brought peace to the Israelites.  Everything was going great.

When we come to I Samuel 8, twenty or thirty years have passed and everything has changed.  Samuel is old now (I Samuel 8:1).  By the time we get to I Samuel 12, Samuel is grey haired.  His sons are not children anymore.  They are leaders (I Samuel 8:1).  They are in ministry.

The red-hot revival is over.  Revivals do not last forever.  That is why we need to keep having them.  The people are dissatisfied.  They are dissatisfied with their leaders.  They are dissatisfied with their government.  They were dissatisfied with God. The leaders come to tell Samuel how they feel and what the solution should be.

Five Leadership Principles

I want to look at this chapter through the lens of leadership.What does this chapter say to leaders today?  Let’s look at five leadership principles that come right out of this chapter.

1. Real leaders do NOT have perfect families

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did NOT follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. (I Samuel 8:1-3 NIV)

Samuel was not only a prophet; he was also a parent.  We would love to think that that the great Samuel had a perfect family but he didn’t.  Samuel at this stage in his life was a lot like Eli the High Priest, if you compare I Samuel 2 with I Samuel 8.  There are a lot of parallels between the two men.

Parallels between Samuel and Eli

1) Both were leaders

2) Both were godly men

3) Both were old men

4) Both had two sons

5) Both appointed their sons to leadership

6) Both had sons who were wicked

Sam’s sons were Joel and Abijah.  Eli’s sons were Hophni and Phineas. Eli’s sons were priests.  Samuel’s sons were judges.  Both were wicked.  Samuel’s sons were not sleeping with everyone in the town, like Eli’s sons.  They were not promiscuous, but they could be bought (I Samuel 8:3).

They took bribes.  They were greedy. They were more interested in money than justice.  There are crooked politicians today who are just like them.  They lacked the character to be in the ministry, as many pastors do today.

That is why character is an important qualification for church leadership.  People who are greedy are disqualified.  Paul said in the NT that an elder is NOT be “a lover of money” (I Timothy 3:3).  Deacons who pursue dishonest gain (I Timothy 3:8) are disqualified from leadership in the church.

It looks like history is repeating itself. Samuel’s two sons Joel and Abijah came from a godly heritage.  They had some good role models.  Their father Samuel was godly.  Their grandmother Hannah was godly.  Samuel was a man of prayer.  Hannah was a woman of prayer.

Both sons had godly names (Joel and Abijah). Joel means “Jehovah is God” (Yo-el in Hebrew). Abijah means “Jehovah is my Father” (avi-yah in Hebrew). They did NOT have Egyptian names like Hophni and Phinehas.  They had good Jewish names, but they were not godly.  They were crooked.

What we like to do in our day is to assign blame.  Some criticize Samuel here.  Many commentators assume that he must have been a terrible parent.  He must not have raised his kids right.  Samuel grew up under Eli the High Priest.  Eli was not the best parent.  Samuel must have learned bad parenting skills from him.

Samuel must have blind to the faults of his kids, like many parents today.  Some kids today can act like devils, but their parents think they are little angels.  They argue that he should never appointed them to be judges in the first place.  This must have been nepotism.  All of that might be true but the interesting thing is that the Bible does not criticize Samuel.

It does NOT say that he was a bad parent.  He might have been a good parent.  All it says is that Samuel’s sons did NOT walk in his ways (I Samuel 8:3).  They were not anything like Samuel and they were judges down in Beersheba in the southern part of the country, seventy miles south of Ramah.  They were away from their father’s influence. He was not even near them.

The lesson is that Samuel’s kids were not like him and our kids are not always like us.  That is because of something called free will.  Children are not always like their parents.  Sometimes they are completely different.  That can be good, and it can be bad.  They can have different talents and abilities.  Your kids can have all kinds of gifts and abilities that you do not have.

Children are often different from parents spiritually.  That also may be good or bad.  A wicked parent can have completely righteous children.  A righteous parent can have completely wicked children.  There is no guarantee that a godly father or mother will automatically have godly children.

Godliness is not genetic.  The old English preacher Joseph Parker once said that “Grace is not hereditary.  When we see a good man, we expect his children to be like himself. But grace does not descend in the family line. The father may be an apostle, the son may be a blasphemer.”[1]

2. Real leaders have to deal with CRITICISM

Sometimes criticism is valid and sometimes it is not, but leaders have to deal with criticism.  If you don’t want to deal with a lot of criticism, then don’t be a leader.  It comes with the territory.  Look at how much criticism Trump gets as President from the media.  Leaders are not always popular, even good ones.

So ALL the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (I Samuel 8:4-5 NIV)

The leaders get together. They call an emergency meeting and they pay Samuel a visit. They come to his home in Ramah.  Samuel hears a knock on the door, and it is the leaders of Israel, not some of them but all of them.  A bunch of old men (the elders) come to talk to another old man (Samuel).

Samuel did not come to them.  They went to him and said, “Sam, your kids are rotten.  They are complete idiots.  You are old.  It is time for you to step aside and retire.  We do not want them ruling and we do not want you ruling us.  In fact, we do not want a judge anymore.  We want a king.”

This chapter probably describes the worst day of Samuel’s life.  Let’s try to put ourselves in his shoes.  Samuel was faithful to God all of his life.  He was consecrated by his mom as a Nazarite.  He had given his life to the nation.  He had worked hard.  He had not had any scandals.

He led the nation in revival, the greatest revival in its history.  There is peace in the land.  God had blessed them and now the leaders come to him with nothing but criticism.  They criticize him.  They criticize his sons and they criticize their government. If you are a leader or plan to be a leader, be prepared to face some criticism.

3. Real leaders must be able to face REJECTION

Here is an important life lesson.  Leaders, even good leaders are not always appreciated by people.  They are appreciated by God but not always by people.  Joseph was not appreciated at first.  Moses was not appreciated.  Jesus was not appreciated.  They said to him. “We will not have you rule over us.”

Jesus came to His own and his own people rejected him.  I have experienced rejection.  I have had several leaders who worked with me as apprentices who got up and walked out.  Samuel was a godly man.  He was a man of integrity, but the people were tired of him and wanted someone else in charge.

The people did not just want a new leader; they wanted a new government.  They wanted a whole new political system.  They wanted a king.  They knew that God was their spiritual King, but He is invisible.  They did not want judges over different areas of the country.  They wanted to have ONE KING over the whole country.  Israel had been a nation for four hundred years or so and never had a king and they wanted one.

The people who came to Samuel were not open minded.  They did NOT ask for a king.  They DEMANDED it.  They wanted one and were NOT taking no for an answer.  Their mind was made up.  They were not open to any suggestions.

They did NOT ask Samuel what he thought of the problem.  They did NOT ask God what the solution to the problem was.  They didn’t care what God wanted.  They wanted what they wanted.  They said, “Give us a king.  We do the same things with God.  Today, we do not say, “Give us a king.”  We say, “Give us something else and give it to me NOW.”

That is why it is always important to pray “not my will but you will be done.”  Many in charismatic circles do not like to pray like that.  They do not believe in praying like that.  They say that it is a lack of faith, but Jesus prayed that way (Mark 14:35-36) and He had plenty of faith.  We should never want something unless it is something that He wants.  He knows what is good for us.  We don’t.

Samuel was not too happy about this.  But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this DISPLEASED Samuel (I Samuel 8:6 NIV).  He was offended.  He was hurt. He took it personally.

You can’t really blame him but he later found out that this was NOT personal.  It was spiritual. God told Samuel, “it is NOT you they have rejected, but they have rejected ME as their king” (I Samuel 8:7 NIV).  Now this is interesting.  The ones who rejected God were not pagans.  They were not Philistines.  They were the Israelites.  They were the people of God.  Many of them might have been saved people.

Can a Christian today reject what God wants to do in his or her life?  Yes.  It is something that an individual can do.  It is something a church can do.  It is something a nation can do.  It happens all the time.  Do we reject God in our life?  Do we reject Him in certain areas of our life?

The reason they wanted a king is because they wanted to be like the world.  They wanted one simply because everyone else had one. God intended the Jews to be DIFFERENT from the other nations.  Two times we are told that they wanted to be LIKE THE OTHER NATIONS (I Samuel 8:5, 20).

and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”  (I Samuel 8:5 ESV)

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (I Samuel 8:20 ESV)

They did NOT want to be different from everybody else.  They asked for a king so they could be LIKE the world.  Christians have the same problem today.  They do not want to be different from anybody.  Many Christians want to be like every other Christian.  They listen to the same music, dress the same way, use the same language, have the same views about sex, morality and politics that the world has.

Many churches want to just like every other church in the city.  The world has permeated the church.  Many buzzwords proclaimed by mobs in the street are repeated verbatim in church, often preached in the pulpit.  What the world says, the church says and the world often sets the agenda for some churches.  Many Christians want to be just like the world.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

We are all tempted to be conformed to the world.  We want to be like the world.  We want to fit in like everyone else.  Are we conformed to this world or are we different from the world?  How do we avoid doing this?  We have to renew our minds.  Exposing us to God’s thoughts on a daily basis helps us not to think and act like the world.

4. Real leaders must SEEK GOD in a crisis

How do you deal with a real crisis?  Samuel had a real crisis on his hands.  How did he deal with this crisis?  Notice what he does NOT do here.  He did NOT blow up and lose his temper.  He did NOT get angry and lash out at them like we might have done.  He did NOT argue with them and try to debate them.  He did NOT get bitter and sulk.  He did NOT go and talk to other people about it.  He talked to God about it.  He prayed.

They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; SO HE PRAYED TO THE LORD” (I Samuel 8:5-6 NIV).

He took the matter directly to God.  When Samuel was hurt, he went and poured out his heart to God in prayer.  He went straight to God in prayer, just like his mom did.

The people came to Samuel with their request, but he said in essence, “I am not going to give you an answer.  I need to go and pray.  When I get a word from the Lord, I will come back and talk to you.”[2]  That is what we see in this chapter.  The people talk to Samuel and Samuel talks to God.  He talks to the people again and he talks to God again.

How do you deal with disappointment?  Do you do the same thing when people say things to hurt you?  Do you do the same thing when people don’t appreciate you?  Do you do the same thing when you are disappointed or frustrated?  Life is full of disappointment.  Do you go to God or do you go to other people?  Do you lash out in anger and frustration?

5. Real leaders do NOT look for simple solutions to problems

Leaders should not always look for a political solution to problems.  We look for political saviors today.  The Israelites, like many do today, thought their problem was political.  “If we just had a new government, if we just had a king, our problems would be solved.” Today we would say, “If we could just get a Democrat in the White House or just get a Republican in the White House.”

Just changing political forms, like going from a judge to a king, is not the answer.  It may solve some problems, but it creates others.  Samuel gives a warning against big government.  This doesn’t mean that Samuel was a Republican, but he does give an important warning here against a large centralized government that is still applicable today.

I Samuel 8 gives a biblical basis for the concept of limited government.  Government is good.  It is established by God.  Human government is a divine institution, but government can be abused.  Power corrupts.  That is why government must be limited.  That is one of the reasons we came up with the idea of a president, rather than a king, in our American political system.  Our whole government is based on a system of checks and balances.

Samuel went before God and told Him that the people wanted a king.  Samuel expected God would be against the idea.  He expected God to say “No.”  Instead, He said, “Yes”.  God said to “Listen to ALL that the people are saying to you” (I Samuel 8:7 NIV).  The ESV reads, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you.

God tells Samuel to give them what they want but then he adds this:  Now listen to them; BUT WARN THEM SOLEMNLY and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (I Samuel 8:9 NIV)

They got a king but that was only going to cause other problems.  Not every answered prayer is a blessing.  In some cases, it is a curse, when God gives us what we want.  Sometimes God gives us what we want in judgment.  Has this ever happened to us?  Have we ever asked for something and got it but it turned out to be a curse, not as blessing?  That is what happened here.

Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will TAKE your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will TAKE the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will TAKE a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.

16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will TAKE for his own use. 17 He will TAKE a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (I Samuel 8:10-18 NIV)

Samuel warned that, if you want a king, he will not be a giver but a taker.  We see the word TAKE five times in the passage (I Samuel 8:11, 13, 15, 16, 17).  He will not just take your fields.  He will take THE BEST of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.

He will start the draft for war.  God says, “You give a tenth to me in tithes.  Your king will also want a tenth in taxes.  He will TAKE a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. He will take a TENTH of your flocks.” 

Worst of all, he will make you all his slaves.  He will take a tenth of your flocks, AND YOU YOURSELVES WILL BECOME HIS SLAVES” (I Samuel 8:17 NIV).  Samuel warned that if they wanted a king, it would cost them.

Don’t expect government to solve all of your problems.  Many people look to government to do everything (education, health care, etc.).  Many today believe in big government.  Many think that big government is the answer to all of our problems.  Our faith should not be in our political leaders.  Our faith should be in God alone.

[1] Parker, Joseph. The People’s Bible. Kindle Edition.

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfwju0u0D-M

Biblical Revival

We come today to I Samuel 7.  It is a short chapter, but it is profound.  This chapter is deep.  Three things happen in this chapter.  First, Israel has a big revival.  One of the greatest revivals in the Bible is the revival under Samuel at Mitzpah.  Samuel is a revivalist in this chapter.  He leads a whole nation in revival.  This chapter tells us what a biblical revival looks like.

Second, Israel wins a military victory against their enemy.  The Philistines were their big enemy.  They had beaten them in battle numerous times.  They had controlled the country for twenty years.  They finally lose in battle, territory was regained (I Samuel 7:14) and we are told that “there was peace between Israel and the Amorites” (I Samuel 7:14 NIV).  The chapter ends with peace.

Third, the Israelites commemorate and memorialize this victory with a pile of rocks and they name these stones “Ebenezer” (I Samuel 7:12). Ebenezer was the place where Israel lost the battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 4:1).  The very place of defeat and judgement becomes place of victory.

When we think of Ebenezer today, we think of Ebenezer Scrooge.  We may think of Charles Dickens. There have been a lot of churches names after Ebenezer, especially in the African American community.  Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King was the pastor. The word means “stone of help.”

I Samuel 7 is a chapter that is all about revival. Revival is important.  We need a revival.  The church today needs a revival. One of the greatest needs of the church in America is for a real revival.

Revivals in American History

We have had several revivals.  Historians have identified five revivals major revivals in American History.  The list is not exhaustive but below is a list of some famous revivals.

1. The First Great Awakening (1730s-1740s) led by John Wesley, George Whitfield and Jonathon Edwards.

2. The Second Great Awakening (1795-1835) led by Peter Cartwright and Charles Finney.

3. The Third Great Awakening (1857-1920) led by men William Booth and D.L. Moody and Jeremy Lanphier (the Prayer Revival).

4. The Azusa Street and Welsh Revival (1904-1906) led by Evan Roberts and William Seymore.  Seymore was a holiness preacher and was the child of emancipated slaves.

5. The Fourth Great Awakening (1960s-1970s) led by Billy Graham.

How do the revivals in the history books compare to revivals in the Bible?  What does a biblical revival look like?  There are a lot of myths about revivals.

When many people think of revival today, they think of a big sweaty preacher in a suit hollering at people.  We think of a lot of emotionalism.  We think of a lot of people crying and screaming.

When we think of a revival, we think of a good old-fashioned Baptist revival in some tent meeting.  This was not a Baptist revival with the song “Just as I Am”.  It was a Jewish revival with animal sacrifices.

When we think of a revival, we think of people coming to the altar to get saved.  We think of unbelievers getting converted and coming to faith.  Revival is not the same thing as evangelism.  Revival is for BELIEVERS, not unbelievers.  The people getting revived in this chapter were not the Philistines but the people of God, the Israelites.

The word “revival” means to live again.  It comes from a Latin word.  Unbelievers are spiritually dead.  They have never been alive in the first place.  The dead do NOT need revival.  They need resurrection.

What we see in I Samuel 7 is not the revival of a person or the revival of a church but the revival of a nation.  This revival did not happen to just a few people in the country but to the whole nation.  Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord (I Samuel 7:2 NIV).

How did that happen?  What can we learn from it?  Why don’t we see revivals today?  Why are so many churches spiritually dead?  Let’s look at six important revival truths.

Six Important Revival Truths

1) A revival is an extraordinary work of God

Revivals do not happen every day.  They are rare, exceptional.  They are supernatural.  They are works of God, not works of people.  They are a special movement of God’s Spirit. There had not been one like this in years.

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord (I Samuel 7:2 NIV).  Something was different in the people.  There was a softness and an openness to spiritual things.  Samuel didn’t do it.  God it.  It takes a work of God to start a real revival.  It is not just something that you can put on the church calendar and plan for the Fall.

The ark had come back to Israel, but Israel had not come back to God.  Idolatry was practiced by the nation.  God’s people were worshipping false gods.  This went on for years.  It went on for twenty years.

Samuel spoke to the nation, prayed for the nation but nothing happened.  There was no change.  He must have been discouraged.  Twenty years have gone by with no change.  Then God did something amazing.

You may be in a difficult situation and have waited for a long time for a breakthrough.  You may have waited years.  You may have waited decades.  Don’t give up.  Prayers are not always answered immediately.  Sometimes, we need to wait for an answer.  After twenty long years, something happened.

After twenty years, the nation was finally ready for revival and this revival was real.  It wasn’t fake.  It was genuine.  It was sincere.  It was heartfelt.  They got right with God.

2) Revivals happen in times of great sin and darkness

We like at look at how bad things are.  Things may be bad in your family. Things are bad in the world and things are bad in the church.  and they have been that way for a long time.  Revivals happen when things are really bad.  When things get really bad and really dark is the time revivals usually take place.  They take place right after bad things have happened,

Often revivals are preceded by great tragedy.  Whenever there is a national tragedy (e.g., 911 or the assassination of a president), more people start going to church and have an interest in spiritual things.  When times get really bad and sin seems to be ruling in the country, when the church seems completely apostate, when it seems like a dark time is when a revival can take place.

Israel was in a dark place as well.  The nation had lost in battle.  There were mass casualties.  Thousands of people were killed.  Their religious leaders were completely corrupt.  Their high priest was killed.  The Ark of the Covenant was stolen by pagans and set up in the Temple of Dagon.  For seven months,  the ark was in one place and the Tabernacle was in another place. When it finally came back to the land, more Israelites dropped dead.  Twenty years later, deep revival broke out in the land.

3) Revivals are characterized by anointed preaching

Almost every revival has been characterized by fiery preaching.  God has to raise up a preacher for revival to take place.  He raised up Samuel.  Samuel was a preacher.  He was not just a preacher; he was a traveling preacher.  He was an itinerant preacher.

From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. (I Samuel 17:16 NIV).

Samuel has been called “the first circuit-rider.”  He was a circuit-riding JUDGE and a circuit-riding PREACHER.  The people came to Samuel and he had a word from the Lord for the message.  He gave a message to the people. God usually uses preachers during a great revival.

You have to hear the voice of God.  God has to speak to people.  His Word has to be preached.  This is where it gets interesting.  Not every pastor preaches the Word.  Our topic is biblical revival.  Not all revivals are biblical.  Some revivals are counterfeit.

Hank Hanegraaf wrote a book called Counterfeit Revivals.  To have a genuine revival it has to be biblical.  Worship must be in spirit and in truth.  A revival that is all spirit and NO truth is counterfeit.  A revival that is ALL emotionalism is not a biblical revival.  On the other hand, a biblical revival will show some emotions.  All the house of Israel lamented after the Lord (I Samuel 7:2 ESV).

4) Revivals begin with a deep sense of sin

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” (I Samuel 7:5-6 NIV).

Why do we not see revivals today?  People have no sense of sin.  Karl Menninger  was a distinguished psychiatrist.  The American Psychiatric Association once called him “America’s great living psychiatrist.”  He wrote a number of influential books.  In 1973, he wrote the famous book entitled Whatever Became of Sin?

Menninger said this in his book: “The very word ’sin,’ which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human being’s life plan and lifestyle. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?”[1]

What he said is still true today.  Sin has disappeared from American society.  DRUNKENNESS is called substance abuse, not sin.  PREMARITAL SEX is called shacking up or cohabitation, not sexual immorality.  ADULTERY is just having an affair.  It is just a fling.  HOMOSEXUALITY is just an alternative lifestyle.  ABORTION is not murder, just a choice.  SWEARING even among Christians is not seen as sin.  Nowadays, profanity and vulgarity is just called “salty language.”  Sadly, this attitude has carried over into the church.

There is no sense of sin in most churches.  Many pastors no longer preach against sin.  They are more like cheerleaders today.  They do not preach negative hellfire and brimstone messages.  They preach soothing, positive, uplifting, and encouraging sermons.  Many pastors today are like the High Priest Eli.  Eli was too nice and too weak to preach against sin or stake a stand against it.

As a result, believers today have no sense of sin.  They have no sense of shame.  They have no sense of guilt.  There is no mourning or weeping before God.  Without a deep sense of sin, there can be no revival.  In this revival, there was a genuine sense of sin.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” (I Samuel 7:5-6 NIV).

5) Periods of revival are followed by genuine repentance

This is repentance among saints, not just repentance among sinners. If there is no repentance, there is no revival.  It is not enough just to have confession of sin.  Confession has to be followed genuine repentance.  It is not enough for a person to say the words “I have sinned.”  Judas said those words.  King Saul said those words but neither one genuinely repented.

The book Whatever Became of Sin? Should have been followed up by a sequel called Whatever Became of Repentance?  Repentance is a word we NEVER hear preached in the church but that is strange because it is all through the Bible.

It is in the OT.  It is in the NT. Jesus preached repentance.  John the Baptist preached repentance.  Jesus preached repentance.  They both said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).

Peter preached repentance.  Paul preached repentance. The OT prophets preached repentance and yet you can go from church after church and never once hear that word.

When Peter preached to the Jews in Acts 2 and accused them of crucifying their Messiah and they were pricked in their heart, they asked him what they needed to do and he said to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.

Repentance has been removed from the gospel.  People today a gospel without repentance.  It is the free grace gospel or the hyper grace gospel.  It turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. You cannot get into the kingdom unless you repent.  Jesus said, “Repent or perish”.  Ezekiel preached the same thing to his people.  He said, “Why will you die? Turn and live.  Repent and turn away from all of your offenses” (Ezekiel 18:31, 32, 30).

Notice what Samuel says here.  People came to Samuel and said that they wanted to turn to the Lord and follow Him.  Samuel did not immediately praise God.  He did not immediately rejoice and thank God that his prayers were answered.

He was skeptical at first.  He did not believe it.  Twenty years had gone by and they had not followed the Lord.  When people today make a profession of faith, we usually accept it.  Samuel told them to repent.  He told them to prove it with actions.

Repentance can involve sorrow.  It can involve tears but repentance is more than sorrow, regret and tears.  It involves ACTIONS.

So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, THEN rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (I Samuel 7:3 NIV).

This is interesting.  Samuel did NOT say to the Israelites.  You have been believing in false gods.  You have been putting your faith in Baal and Ashtoreth.  Instead, you need to start believing in Yahweh.  Samuel does not just tell them to stop believing in these false gods.

He tells them to put them away.  He tells them to get rid of them.  He tells them to throw them away.  Burn all of your idols you have been worshipping.  That sounds a little harsh.  It sounds intolerant.  It was not very ecumenical of Samuel.  It was not politically correct.  It sounded a bit extreme.

It may not have been easy.  They may have been attached to some of these idols.  These were fertility gods.  Pagans believed that they helped with fertility and they helped your crops to grow.  These gods were popular in that time.  Everyone else was worshipping in the ancient world.  Their shrines covered the land.

Samuel says to put them away.  He tells them to DO something.  Words were not enough.  Commitment was not enough.  Sincerity was not enough.  Profession of faith was not enough.  Concrete actions were needed.  Faith without works was dead, as James says in the NT (James 2:17, 20, 26). 

What three things did Samuel tell them to do?  “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, THEN rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (I Samuel 7:3 NIV).

He told them first to get rid of the idols.  That involved repentance.  Second, He told them to commit themselves to the Lord.  That involved a personal commitment.  Third, he told them to serve the Lord alone.  That involved worship.  It involved exclusive worship.  They were the worship the Lord ALONE.  The interesting thing is that they did it.

So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. (I Samuel 7:4 NIV)

The Philistines got rid of the ark but they did not get rid of their false god.  They did not get rid of Dagon.  They may have thought that Yahweh was a stronger god than Dagon but they still worshipped Dagon, even though they had to glue him together.

Samuel tells the Israelites to get rid of their idols.  That raises the question.  Do we have any idols in our life that we need to get rid of?  Idols come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  There are many different kinds of idols.

The NT tells Christians to keep themselves from idols (I John 5:21).  An idol is anything that comes before God or takes the place of God in our life.  An idol can be a person.  They can be a thing.  They can physical, but they can also be mental.

None of us are dumb enough to bow down to a statute of some pagan deity.  We would never worship a golden calf but there are some modern forms of idolatry.  Ezekiel 14:3 also speaks of idols of the heart.  The NT says that covetousness or greed is idolatry.  Do we have any idols we need to get rid of?

6) Revivals are followed by God’s presence, power and blessing

Samuel was a great revivalist but he was not all negative.  He was not just a hellfire and brimstone preacher.  He has some good news in this chapter.  Samuel gave the nation a promise.

Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and HE WILL DELIVER YOU OUT OF THE HAND OF THE PHILISTINES.” (I Samuel 7:3 NIV).

Every time they fought the Philistines, they lost and now they won.  It is the first time in their history that they beat the Philistines in battle, and it was not because they had better weapons or a stronger military.  The Philistines were not defeated by a sword.  They were defeated by repentance and by prayer.  Revival led to victory.  It led to victory for the Israelites and it can lead to victory in our own lives.

The whole nation gathered in one spot for revival (I Samuel 7:5-6).  The Philistines thought they were going to attack them.  They thought a revolt was taking place and went up against them (I Samuel 7:7).  What was the reaction of the people?

And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. (I Samuel 7:7-9 ESV)

This is interesting.  Twenty years before Israel fought the Philistines and lost but they approached that battle very different.  They took the ark into battle and were led by wicked priests.  They were exciting.  They were shouting.  They believe they were going to win and they lost miserably.  They were massacred.

This time they were not confident.  They were terrified.  They asked Samuel to pray for them.  Samuel was a prayer warrior, just like his mom Hannah.  It was a biblical prayer.  Samuel was a prophet.  He told them that if they repented, God would deliver them and now Samuel prayed for God to deliver them.  He did not just pray; he cried out to the Lord (I Samuel 7:9).  When was the last time you cried out to the Lord and poured out your heart to God.  Samuel prayed and God answered him.

But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. (I Samuel 7:10 ESV)

The Philistines thought that their god was the storm god.  They thought he was in charge of the storms but they found out the one in control of the weather was the God of Israel.

What have we learned about revival?  What are the steps to revival from this chapter?  How can revival occur when days are dark morally and spiritually?  What does it take for God to do an extra ordinary work among a church or among a nation?

God has to raise up a special man who is anointed by the Spirit to preach the Word of God.  People have to respond in genuine confession and repentance.  They have to come before God based on the sacrifice of the blood of Christ.  They have to go to God and cry out to him with all of their heart in order to have a genuine revival and the result will be spiritual victory in different areas of your life.  That is what biblical revival looks like, based on I Samuel 7.

[1] Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin, p. 14.

God Comes Home

We have been studying I Samuel and we come today to the sixth chapter. It  is a strange chapter.  It deals with golden rats and golden hemorrhoids or golden tumors.  What is that all about?  What does this chapter have to do with us today?  What does it say to us today?

I Samuel 6 actually runs into the first few verses of I Samuel 7.  In I Samuel 6, God comes home.  I Samuel 6 deals with the topic of the Ark of the Covenant.  It is the third chapter in the book dealing with what we call today the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  Let’s review the two chapters before this one.

In I Samuel 4, God judged Israel.  The Philistines beat the Jews  in battle, so they took the ark into battle and they beat them a second time and stole the ark.  The Israelites were wicked, especially the leaders and God judged them.  The High Priest was killed.  He let them lose in battle, not once but twice and He let the ark be taken out of the country into a pagan land.

In I Samuel 5, God judged the Philistines.  They sinned in taking the ark home.  Then they to set it up in a pagan temple dedicated to a false god.  That was a big mistake.  God not only defeated Dagon in his own temple; He humiliated him.

The Philistines found their god decapitated and mitigated, lying face down on the ground before the ark.  God judged their god Dagon.  He also judged the worshippers of Dagon and this judgement was severe.  His hand was heavy upon them.  It was heavy on young people and old people.  No one escaped.

We saw that it was a great tragedy for the Israelites to lose the ark, but it was a greater tragedy for the Philistines to take it.  Whatever city it was it, it led to suffering, disease and death.  People were getting these painful tumors spread by rats or mice, just like the Bubonic Plague was spread and they knew what or who was causing it.

In I Samuel 6, they come up with a solution after seven of suffering.  Their solution was to send the ark, not just to another city but to another country.  They wanted to send it back to Israel.  They said.  “Get God out of here.  We don’t want him.  Let’s send him away.”  They didn’t want God’s presence among them.  In the NT, some did not want Jesus’ presence among them.  They begged him to depart from their region (Mark 5:17).

The Philistines realize that they have to get rid of the ark.  They took the ark but now they have to admit defeat and send it back.  They have to send it home.  They sent it to different cities in the country but that did not help, so they finally decided that it was time to send the ark back to Israel.  I Samuel 6, the ark finally comes home after seven months.

A New Plan

The chapter begins with a dilemma.  The Philistines want to send the ark back and need to send the ark back, but they don’t know how.  Who did they ask?  They asked their religious leaders.  They asked the professional clergy (I Samuel 6:2).

There were not any priests of Yahweh living there, so they had to ask the priests of Dagan.  They also asked some diviners (which we would call fortune tellers today).  The Bible tells Jews not to practice divination (Leviticus 19:26-31; 20:6).  What did they tell them?

They said not to be like the Egyptians.  They heard about how God judged the Egyptians with ten plagues.  Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? (I Samuel 6:8 NIV).

They also said, “If you want to be healed, you have to send the ark back with a gift.”  Notice I Samuel 6:3. They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a GIFT; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you” (NIV).

Why a guilt offering?  Some Bibles read “trespass offering” (KJV) and some read “guilt offering” (NIV, ESV).  A trespass offering was required when someone stole something from its rightful owner.  The Philistines stole the ark from the Israelites.  This required some form of restitution or compensation.  The compensation involved gold.  This was not just any offering.  This offering was costly.  That is why they are send it back on a NEW cart and with tumors and rats made of GOLD.

They also came up with a plan that involved a miracle.  There is a miracle in this chapter.  They not only wanted to send the ark back, but they wanted to know without a shadow of a doubt that God was the one who sent it back.  They wanted it to take a real miracle for the ark to return to Israel, so they came up with a test and the test involved some cows.

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way (I Samuel 6:7-8 NIV)

Miracle Cows

These were not ordinary cows.   They were miracle cows.  We know that because of four things.  First, they had never been yoked before.  There were yoked for the first time.  It takes time for animals to work together.  It takes time for two people to work together as well.

Second, these cows had just given birth and they wanted to be with their babies.  The Philistines locked their babies up and sent them off on a mission.  The mission went against their maternal instinct.  It went against their natural instinct.

Third, these cows walked straight all the way to the land of Israel.  They did not turn back.  That is strange.  Cows do not walk in a straight line.  They walk in circles.  These cows kept walking until they got to their destination.  They did not turn back to check on their babies.  They did not even turn aside to eat.  They kept walking.

Fourth, they walked without any guidance.  No one was leading them.  No human hand guided them.  They had no GPS and yet they got to their destination without getting lost.  They were led by a higher power.  When they got there and completed their mission, they died.  When they got to Israel, the Israelites chopped up the wood from the cart and offered the two cows in sacrifice.  It is a picture of complete submission to the will of God.

We are on earth to do whatever God has called us to do and then we are gone.  These cows were not completely sanctified.  They were mooing.  They were crying.  They were in distress.  They complained the whole way.  They were not happy and for good reason.  Everything inside them told them to go back and take care of their babies but they kept walking.  They did the will of God despite what they wanted to do and, in the end, gave up their life.

These cows had a very important job.  They had a big responsibility.  These cows were not Levites but God used them anyway.  If God can use two cows in His service to do His will, He can use us.  God used these two cows to transport the ark, carrying the two tablets of stone for miles. They cows transported the ark all the way to Israel.  It made its way to the field of a man named Joshua (I Samuel 6:18).  Some workers in the field see it returning to Israel.

Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. (I Samuel 6:13 NIV)

Now this may not seem like a big deal to us but to the Israelites, this was huge.  The ark was a national treasure.  It had some sacred relics in it.  It has the Ten Commandments in it.  It also symbolized the presence of God.  God’s presence and glory filled this box.

It was not a magical box but it was a supernatural box.  It was a holy box.  It was so holy that it could never be touched with human hands, not even by the priests.  It was so holy that you could not even look at the box.  Levites could not look at it either.  When the priest carried the box on poles, it was to be covered, so no one saw it.

An Unexpected Ending

Now after seventh months, the glory of God is returning to Israel.  God was coming back.  It is the reversal of Ichabod.  Some have called this the Second Exodus.  This time, God’s people were not in captivity.  The ark was and now the ark has an exodus.  The chapter ends with a surprise ending.  It does not have a Hallmark ending.

The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. (I Samuel 6:14 NIV)

But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them. 20 And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” (I Samuel 6:19-20 NIV)

Now this is a little strange.  Everything looked great.  The ark was back in the land of Israel after seven months.  It was safe.  The people sacrificed to God.  They were rejoicing.  They were celebrating.  Then seventy people suddenly drop dead.  Their rejoicing turns to morning.  The party is over.

Some Bibles say fifty thousand were killed (KJV, NASB) but that is almost certainly a scribal error.  First century Jewish historian Josephus says only seventy died (so NIV, ESV).  Beth Shemesh was a small farming community.  It was an agricultural community, not a big city.  It didn’t even have fifty thousand people in it.  It may have had a few thousand.  The people were so terrified, when this happened, they did what the Philistines did.  They shipped it off to another city.

They asked two questions.  The first question was “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” That is one of the main questions of the Bible.  How can sinners stand before a holy God?  The second question was, “To whom will the ark go up from here?”  In other words, How can we get rid of this thing? (I Samuel 6:20).

Message for Today

This is an interesting story but does it apply to us today?  What does it say to us today?

1. God is sovereign over everything

Some preachers do not like the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.  One thing is clear from these chapters and it is that God is completely sovereign.  God is sovereign over rats.  He is sovereign over mice.  He is sovereign over cows.

He is sovereign over disease.  He is sovereign over sickness.  He is sovereign over tumors.  He is sovereign over hemorrhoids.  He is sovereign over bad things that happen in your life.  He was sovereign over Joseph being sold into slavery, falsely accused of a sex crime and sent to prison.

He is sovereign over corrupt religious leaders (Hophni and Phinehas).  He can take them out at any time.  He is sovereign over corrupt political leaders.  He is sovereign over war.  He is sovereign over national tragedies (ark being stolen by pagans).  If that is true, He is sovereign over EVERYTHING that happens in your life.  That is rarely preached today.

2. God alone decides how He is to be worshipped

People think that they can worship God any way they want.  They think that  all religions worship the same God but it is a lie.  Cain brought God one sacrifice.  Abel brought him another sacrifice.  One was accepted and one was rejected.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. (Leviticus 10:1 NASB)

God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.  There are two offering in this chapter.  The Philistines offer a guilt offering.  The Israelites offer a burnt offering.  Neither offering was biblical.  The Philistines worshipped God with IMAGES.  They had some golden mice and golden tumors in their guilt offering.

We do not come before God today with golden mice or with golden tumors.   We do not need to worship God with images. False religion and cults do some stupid things, like make some golden hemorrhoids as an offering to God.  They have some absolutely crazy beliefs.

Rats and mice were unclean animals (Leviticus 11:29).  The Bible says that it is NOT golden tumors or golden mice but BLOOD (sacrificial blood) that atones for the sin of people.  God required an offering of blood, not an offering of gold.  In fact, the Bible says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

The Israelites also worshipped God incorrectly and they should have known better.  They sacrificed a cow.  They sacrificed two cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.  Leviticus 1:3 says if you offer a burnt offering, you have to offer a male without defect.  They offered two females.  Are we worshipping God correctly?  Is our worship biblical?  Do we worship God in spirit and in truth?

3. God judges human hearts

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7 NIV)

I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:11 NIV)

That is good and it is bad.  It is good because God is the only one who really understands you.  When no one else understands you, God does.  He understands you perfectly.  It is bad because God can see the things that no other person can see.  He knows your every thought.

The Philistines sent the ark back on a brand-new cart that has never been used before.  The put some golden tumors and golden rats on the cart.  Some Bible say “golden hemorrhoids.”  The Philistines were pagans.  They were not saved.  They didn’t worship the true God.  They were idol-worshippers.

They didn’t have a Bible.  They did not have any theological training.  They were ignorant and superstitious, but they did some things right.  They responded correctly to the revelation they had.  They responded correctly to what God did to the Egyptians.  They did not want to be like Pharaoh with his hard heart.  They also got four things right.

One, they knew that they were sinners.  They knew that they did something wrong.  They knew that they did something to incur God’s wrath.  They acknowledged their guilt.  They knew that they needed a guilt offering (I Samuel 6:3). 

Two, they knew that God’s wrath was real.  They knew that God judges sin.  They experienced it firsthand for seven straight months.  They knew what it was like to have the hand of God heavy upon them (I Samuel 5).

Three, they knew that this wrath needed to be appeased.  They know that they have sinned against God.  They have offended him.  He is mad at them and have to give him an offering to satisfy His wrath   Before they thought they conquered God.  Now they know that they need to appease him.  They didn’t have to appease Dagon.  They had to appease the God of the Jews.

Four, they knew that Yahweh was greater than Dagon.  They offered him by a trespass offering.  You don’t offer a trespass offering to someone who is inferior to you.   They had to offer him some kind of sacrifice.  They knew that they needed a trespass offering and they were not giving this offering to Dagon but the God of the Jews.

When the ark came into the land of Israel, they disobeyed Him, He struck the dead.  Seventy Jews dropped dead.  It is not that God has two sets of standards, one for Israelites and one for Philistines but He judges people based on the light they have and how they respond to it. God is harder on believers than on unbelievers. The Bible says that “to much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). The Israelites had a Bible.  They knew what God expected and chose to disobey Him.

The Bible talks about the goodness and severity of God.  The severity of God is on full display in this chapter.  This is a chapter about divine judgment.  This time He is judging His own people.  People do not like to hear about the judgment of God.  It is not popular.  Many preachers do not talk about this topic but it comes right out of the Bible.

But THE LORD KILLED seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the LORD. And the people mourned greatly BECAUSE OF WHAT THE LORD HAD DONE. (I Samuel 6:19 NLT)

4. God takes disrespect very seriously

Disrespect is a big deal to God.  It is not a big deal to people today.  It is very common in society.  Kids disrespect their parents.  Students disrespect their teachers.  Young people disrespect old people.  Citizens disrespect their country and their flag.  They disrespect law enforcement officers (police officers).  They disrespect their President. Comedians disrespect God.  They think it is a good thing to be irreverent.

Some in the modern church have abused the concept of reverence but reverence just means respect and respect is biblical.  In fact, it is in one of the Ten Commandments.  The truth is that reverence is a big deal to God.

Seventy people in this chapter died because of a lack of reverence.  Seventy people died because one man lifted up the lid on a box and looked inside it. The Jews wanted the ark.  The Philistines didn’t want it.  The Jews just got it back and as soon as they got it, it killed seventy people, not seventy Philistines but seventy Israelites.

They may have looked out of curiosity.  They may have looked to see if the tablets of Moses were still there and the rod and jar was still there.  They may have just looked to see if the Philistines stole anything out of the ark.

Not all curiosity is wrong but the law prohibited on penalty of death looking at the ark.  They were not to look in the ark or they would die.   They were not to touch it, or they would die. The priests were not allowed to see it.

God is not dwelling on earth in a theocracy today.  He is not in a building.  We do not have a sacred piece of furniture but we should still obey God.  We should still have a  reverence God.  We should not only have a reverence; we should have a fear of God. These Israelites had no fear of God.  Do we?

5. God alone one can open a human heart

We can’t just argue someone into the kingdom.  We cannot just present all kinds of facts and expect them to believe.  Josh McDowell wrote a book on Christian apologetics called Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  It is a good book on apologetics, but that book alone will not convict people.

Jesus went around healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons but everyone did not follow Him.  In fact, some people hated Jesus and wanted to kill him.  God’s Spirit must work to convict and draw people to Jesus.  We see this in I Samuel 6.

Anyone who is completely open-minded, and objective could see that Yahweh was greater than Dagon.  He kept beating him up.  He not only defeated him; He humiliated him but they never came to the conclusion that Yahweh was the true God.  They continued to worship the god Dagon.

In I Samuel 7, they came up with a plan.  The plan was completely impossible.  There was no way it should have worked.  It was a crazy plan to take two cows who have just given birth, separate them from their babies, yoke them for the first time to another cow they have never worked with and expected them to go all of the way to Israel on their own without any direction.

Why did they come up with such a crazy plan?  It was a scientific experiment.  It was a test to determine one thing.  Was God working or was chance working?

Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then THE LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us BY CHANCE.” (I Samuel 6:8-9 NIV).

The amazing thing is that the plan worked and it proved conclusively that this was a God thing.  God was involved in the judgment of the Philistines.  God was involved in the judgment of their god Dagon.  God was involved in leading the cows back to Israel.  Despite all of this, there is no evidence that any of these Philistines became worshippers of the one true God.  God is the only one who came change the human heart.

Lessons in Arkeology

We are studying the Book of I Samuel.  Last week we looked at chapter four, which was the lowest point of the nation.  It was Israel’s darkest hour.  Nothing but bad things happen in that chapter.  The nation was defeated in battle to its arch enemy.  There were mass casualties.  Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed.  Priests were killed.  The High Priest was killed.

A baby was born but his mother dies in the process and he is given a depressing name which no one wants to have (Ichabod) and something happens in that chapter which had never happened before.  The ark of the covenant was captured.  The ark had been around since the time of Moses and was hundreds of years old.  This golden box symbolized the presence of God and had some holy relics in it, like the Ten Commandments.

Then two wicked priests did something stupid.  They took it to Ebenezer into battle.  They thought it would be a good luck charm.  It was captured by the enemies of God and taken to a foreign land.  It was raided, not by the Nazis (as Stephen Spielberg portrayed it) but by the Philistines.  Today, we will see the rest of the story or at least the next chapter of it.  Where did it go?  What happened to it?  What does it say to us today?

Today, we are going to look at I Samuel 5.  It is a short chapter.  It is only twelve verses long. Our topic for today is “Lessons in Arkeology.”  Some have entitled this chapter “Arkeological Discoveries.”  It is a play on the word “archaeology.”  The title is not original with me.

What can we learn about the ark from this chapter?  What does it say about God?  What do we learn about man from this chapter?  It is very interesting to see man’s response to what God does.  We will go through the chapter and then look at some applications.  There are some great lessons from this chapter.

Yahweh vs. Dagon

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. (I Samuel 5:1 NIV)

Let’s try to put ourselves in their mind at this point.  The Philistines are on top of the world.  They are gloating.  The Hebrews have become a laughingstock. The Philistines just beat the Jews. The Jews may have beaten the Egyptians and the Canaanites, but the Philistines beat the Jews in battle, not once but twice.  Let’s try to put ourselves in their mind at this point.The Philistines had the momentum.

The sin of the Israelites was PRESUMPTION.  They took the ark into battle and assumed it would help them.  The sin of the Philistines was PRIDE.  They thought because they beat the Israelite in battle that they beat their God.  They captured “God in a Box” and took it as spoils of war.  They brought it home as a trophy and paraded it through the city.  Both the Israelites and the Philistines made a big mistake.

The Israelites made the mistake of thinking the ark would help them in battle, if they brought it.  It didn’t.  It actually hurt them.  More people died when they brought the ark into battle.

The Philistines made the mistake of thinking that if they defeated the Jews; they defeated their God.  They made the mistake of thinking that their military victory proved that their god was superior to Yahweh.  We will see in this chapter that this was not true.

So what did they do the ark?  They put the ark in Dagon’s temple.  Dagon was the main god of the Philistines.  In pagan mythology, he was the father of Baal.  The Philistines added Yahweh to their pantheon, with Dagon prevailing over Yahweh, as the Philistines prevailed over Israel, as the vanquished before the victor.

Notice what the Philistines did not do to the ark.  They did not try to destroy the ark.  They did not smash the ark with a sledgehammer.  They did not try to steal the gold off of it.  They were not complete barbarians.  They were very religious.  They were pluralists, like secular man is today.  They believed all religions and all faiths are good.  Yahweh is good.  Dagon is good but they did not just teach that Yahweh was equal to Dagon.  They believed that Dagon was superior to Yahweh.

When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place (I Samuel 5:3 NIV)

Idol falls on its face.  Dagon is in the dust. The text says Dagon fell on his face on the ground BEFORE the ark of the Lord.  The ark is put in a pagan idolatrous temple in an inferior position to Dagon.  The next day, Dagon falls prostrate on the ground as though worshiping before the ark.  That brings to mind Philippians 2:9-11.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. (I Samuel 5:4 NIV).

After the first day, Dagon’s worshippers get a big shock.  They come into Dagon’s temple and find Dagon lying is facedown and prostrate in the dirt.  His worshippers had to come in and put him back in his place.  They did not get the message, so on day two, he not only fell down before the ark but was DECAPITATED and MUTILATED.  He was executed and his head was cut off. He became a headless god, a decapitated god. Not only was his head chopped off; his hands were chopped off.

They were not broken off but cut off or chopped off.  This was not accidental.  It was intentional and deliberate.  Why the head and hands?  This is often happened to kings in the Ancient Near East who were defeated.  Their head or hands were cut off to show their inferiority.  After David killed Goliath, he chopped off his head (I Samuel 17:54).  After Saul was killed, his head was cut off by the Philistines (I Samuel 31:6).

Something supernatural has happened two days in a row.  Two days in a row, Dagon falls facedown on the found BEFORE the ark in a subservient position and on the second day, there was no question what was going on here.  It was clear to anyone objective that Yahweh was superior to Dagon.  The facts were undeniable.  It happened two days in a row.  It wasn’t a fluke.

What was the result of this?  Did revival break out?  Did the Philistines repent?  Did they change religions?  Did anyone finally realize that Dagon was a false god?  Did they realize that he was really weak, impotent and powerless?  Did anyone start worshipping Yahweh?  No.

They had the opposite reaction.  They said, “Make sure you don’t walk anywhere Dagon’s head or feet touched because the ground is now consecrated.  It is sacred, so don’t touch it.”  Dagon fell on the threshold (I Samuel 5:4). That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold. (I Samuel 5:5 NIV). They got rid of the ark but bad things continued to happen.

The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. (I Samuel 5:6 NIV)

But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.  (I Samuel 5:9-10 NIV)

As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. 12 Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven. (I Samuel 5:10-12 NIV)

Not a single Philistine repented.  Not one became a believer in the true God.  This is amazing.  The Philistines suffered greatly, and they knew where the suffering came from.  They knew that God’s hand was heavy upon them.  They felt bad about it.  They grieved.  They wept.  They cried out but they did NOT repent.  They REFUSED to repent.

Unfortunately, God can do all kinds of things in people’s life.  He can do all kinds of things to get people’s attention. They can have all kinds of revelation and still reject him.  Jesus performed all kinds of miracles, raising people from the dead and they still didn’t believe.

The Philistines were dumb, but they weren’t stupid.  They were dumb enough to worship a god who did not exist, even after his hands and head were cut off but they were smart enough to know how to stop the suffering that was taking place. They knew that they had to get rid of the ark.  Their solution was to get rid of their problem, not to get rid of their sin or to repent.

They just treated the ark like a game of hot potatoes.  Everyone who touches the hot potato gets burned, so you try to get rid of it and throw it to someone else.  The RAIDERS of the lost ark became TRADERS of the lost ark. Let’s look at some applications from this chapter.  What lessons stand out clearly here?  What does this chapter tell us about God?

Applications for Today

1) God is all-powerful

The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” (Psalm 135:6 NIV)

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. NOTHING is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17 NIV)

With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

Why are all things possible with God?  Because He is all-powerful.  He is omnipotent.  God is not impotent or weak.  He is all powerful.  Even when the ark was captured, God was all-powerful.  Even when God’s people are defeated and killed, He is still all-powerful.  Even when bad things happen in your life, He is still all-powerful.

Even when He was in a foreign land, God was all powerful.  Even when God looked defeated and powerless, He is all-powerful. God looked like He was a captive to the house of Dagon.  Jesus looked defeated on the cross.  It looked outwardly that the Romans won, and Jesus lost but the reverse was true.  God always wins.

The ark is in the hands of the enemies of God, but God is not sitting on his hands saying, “When will someone get me out of here?  When will someone come and help me?”  God does NOT need Israel to come help him.  He does NOT need an army to rescue him.  In fact, God does NOT need any of us.  He uses us but he does not need us.

God defeats Dagon in his own country, on his own turf, and in his own temple.  Dagon had the homefield advantage and he still lost.  Dagon and Yahweh go two rounds. They square off against each other and there is no contest.  Dagon is not even real.  He is decapitated and mutilated.  He is headless and handless.  He can do nothing without his head or hands.  He cannot think.  He cannot speak.  He cannot act.  He cannot even stand up.

The Philistines defeated the Israelites in battle, but they haven’t defeated God.  Dagon’s hands were chopped off but the hand of the Lord was still intact and was powerful.  After Dagon’s hands were cut off, we are told this four times.

 The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity (I Samuel 5:6 NIV)

his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god. (I Samuel 5:7 NIV)

The Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. (I Samuel 5:9 NIV) 

For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. (I Samuel 5:11 NIV)

2) God judges sin

God judges sin.  He judges sin in the Israelites.  He judges sin in the Philistines.  God judges sin in His own people.  In fact, I Peter 4:17 says that judgment must begin at the house of God.  In the last chapter, God judged the Israelites by killing many of them and by letting the ark of the covenant be captured by the enemy.

In this chapter, God judging the Philistines for taking the ark.  It was a great tragedy of the Israelites to lose the ark.  The ark was a national treasure, but it was a greater tragedy of the Philistines to capture it. They find out it is a terrifying box.  It caused them all kinds of pain, suffering and even death.

The sin He judges in this chapter is false religion, and idolatry.  God not only judges false religion, He judges false worshippers. I Samuel 5:7 says, “When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us AND on Dagon our god.”

God did not just judge Dagon; He judged Dagon’s followers.  Judgment came on people who were young and old (I Samuel 5:9).  They were under the judgment of God and the Bible says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).  The Philistines thought that the Lord fell into their hands but in reality, they fell into his hands.  This was not a light affliction.  It was a HEAVY AFFLICTION.  We see that twice in this chapter (I Samuel 5:6, 11).

How did He judge them?  He judged them with three things.  First, He judged them with DEPRESSION.  They had panic and anxiety (I Samuel 5:9, 11).  People were filled with terror and dread.  They were terrorized.  Second, He judged them with DISEASE.  Does God cause some diseases?  That is not popular among prosperity preachers: God causing sickness, but He caused some sickness in this chapter.  He caused some tumors.

We are told this four times in the chapter.  This disease was not just caused by germs or bacteria.  It wasn’t natural.  It was supernatural.  God sent it.  This was not just bad luck.  It was divine judgment.

THE HAND OF THE LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and HE terrified and afflicted them WITH TUMORS, both Ashdod and its territory. (I Samuel 5:6 ESV)

And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for HIS HAND is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” (I Samuel 5:7 ESV)

But after they had brought it around, THE HAND OF THE LORD was against the city, causing a very great panic, and HE afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that TUMORS broke out on them. (I Samuel 5:9 ESV)

They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. THE HAND OF GOD was very heavy there. (I Samuel 5:11 ESV)

What specifically was the disease?  We don’t know for sure.  Some old versions say “emerods” (KJV, Young’s Literal Translation, Douay Rheims, JPS Tanakh 1917).  What are emerods?  It is an archaic term for hemorrhoids, which is what some translations actually say (NAB, Darby Version, Kempton Translation, Jubilee Bible 2000) but this is unlikely, because hemorrhoids don’t kill people.  Hemorrhoids are painful but they won’t kill you.  This was terminal.  People who get these tumors died.

Other people say that it was the Bubonic Plague or Black Death (so TLB) because mice or rats are mentioned four times in I Samuel 6 and they were carriers of that disease.  Fleas would get on a rat and then on a person and they would get a bacterial infection, which would lead to inflammation and huge blister boils in the lymph nodes.

Third, He judged them with DEATH.  Many died.  This is a scary passage.  God is not just going to judge the false religion of the Philistines.  He is going to judge the false religion in our own day.  The planet is full of people who worship a false god.  Just being religious is not enough.  The Philistines were religious, but God still judged them.  As we saw last week, God only accepts worship that is in spirit and in truth.

3) God alone is to be worshipped

The Bible is very different from pluralism.  Pluralism teaches that all religions are good.  All religions are true.  You should respect all religions, but the Bible doesn’t do that.  It doesn’t teach that all religions are true.  Jesus said, “I am THE way and THE truth and THE life. NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”

In Acts 3, Peter heals a man who was lame.  Then he says, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed… Salvation is found in NO ONE ELSE, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10, 12 NIV)

The Bible does not respect the god Dagon.  It mocks him.  This chapter shows the utter foolishness of idolatry.  It shows the folly of worshipping things made by human hands.  It is one of the funniest chapters of the Bible.  It shows that God has a sense of humor.  It is a divine comedy.  You can’t read this chapter and the one after it and not laugh.  You have to laugh at false god Dagon on its face in the dirt with its head and hands chopped off.

The silly Philistines who have to pick their god up when he falls down and prop him up.  Dagon had fallen and he could not get up, like the old lady in the commercial.  He is weak and powerless and has to be helped by his followers.

This god is so weak he cannot even stand up by himself.  He can’t even get up.  The next day, his followers come to the temple and their god is a stump.  When its head and hands fall off and they have to try to glue the parts together.

A real God does not fall apart.  A real God does not have to be glued together.  A real God does not have to be sent to the shop for repairs.  A real God does not have to be helped to stand up.  A real God is able to walk and move. A real God is able to act and do things.

We are not dumb enough to make a statue and bow down to it.  We are to sophisticated for that but it is just as foolish for us to put other things in our life above God and make idols of them and worship them instead of God.  Do we worship God alone or do we worship idols?  I John 5:21 tells Christians to keep themselves from idols.

Israel’s Darkest Hour

I Samuel 4 is a very important chapter.  It is NOT a chapter about success.  It is a chapter about FAILURE.  It is a chapter about God’s people being defeated.  It is NOT a chapter about God’s people winning but of God’s people losing, not once but twice.  It is a chapter about the glory of God departing from the nation.

It is a dark chapter. It is a depressing chapter. It is a sad chapter. Nothing good happens in this chapter. This chapter is bad news after bad news after bad news. In fact, the news is so bad that it causes other bad things to happen. The only good news in the chapter is that a baby is born. Everyone else in the chapter, except a baby, but the baby is named Ichabod and symbolizes the judgment of God.

I Samuel 4 was perhaps lowest point in the nation of Israel.  It was Israel’s darkest hour. What happens in this chapter?  A nation is defeated in battle twice.  They do not just lose; they are completely humiliated.  They were running from the Philistines. Tens of thousands of people are dead.  Morale is low.

The religious establishment of the nation is decimated.  Several ordained ministers drop dead in this chapter.  Two priests are dead.  The High Priest is dead.  Finally, it records, the ark being captured by idolatrous pagans, who are the enemies of God.

The lowest point in our country in recent years was 911.  What happened to Israel in this chapter was far worse than 911.  On 911, we lost 2,977 people.  They lost much more that we did.  There are several disasters that take place in this chapter.  There is a national tragedy.  There is a personal tragedy and there is a spiritual tragedy.

National Tragedy

What is the national tragedy?  Military defeat in battle.  Israel loses in battle.  Israel fights its arch enemy twice and loses.  They do not just lose; they are slaughtered.  It is a massacre. Thirty-four thousand people are dead.

There are two battles in this chapter.  In the first battle, the Israelites lose four thousand.  In the second battle, they decide to take the ark with them.  This time they lose thirty thousand more people and they lose the ark.  When people finally got the news, we are told that “all the city cried out” (I Samuel 4:13 ESV).  You can picture mothers screaming for their sons who were killed in this battle and wives are crying for the husbands that they would no longer see again.

Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2 The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did THE LORD bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? (I Samuel 4:1-3 NIV)

Notice that they blamed God for their defeat.  The enemy was not just stronger than they were militarily.  The Philistines were a nation of warriors. Israel was a nation of farmers and herdsmen.  The truth was that God defeated them.  God was on the side of the Philistines.  He was supposed to be on their side.  They were the people of God.  The Philistines were idol worshippers. What was their battle plan?  Take the ark into battle.

Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” (I Samuel 4:3 NIV)  What was the ark?  What do we need to know about the ark?

Facts about the Ark

It was a SMALL BOX (three and a half feet long and two and a half feet wide and high.  It was a small box or chest.

It was a FANCY BOX.  It was made of wood but it was covered with gold inside and out.  It was gold plated and it had a top that was made, not of wood, but of pure gold and it had some decoration on the top of it.

It was an OLD BOX.  This box was made during the time of Moses.  Joshua put it in Shiloh.  It has been there for hundreds of years through the time s of the judges.

It was a HOLY BOX.  It contained some holy relics (e.g., Ten Commandments).  This box contained the law of God and other things used in miracles (Aaron’s Rod).  God’s presence and glory filled this box.  It symbolized the very presence of God.  It was the place of Presence.

This box was not just in a holy house (the Tabernacle).  It was in the holiest part of the Tabernacle (the Holy of Holies).  The ark was so holy that it could NEVER EVER touched by human hands.  They could not even touch it accidentally.  In fact, if you did touch it, you would die.

Six Common Mistakes Today

What was wrong with taking the ark into the battlefield?  There were six problems and these six problems are common mistakes people do today.

1. They PLANNED but they did not PRAY

The Israelites had a problem.  They were defeated by their enemies and they were defeated BY GOD but they did not go to God to ask why.  They did not pray.  They did not turn to the Scriptures to ask what God has to say about this.  They did not turn to the Prophet Samuel to see if he had a word from the Lord.  He had the reputation throughout the whole country as a genuine prophet of God.

The elders did not do this.  The priests did not do this.  The people did not do any of these things.   They just grabbed the ark and went off into battle.  Two wicked priests who do not know the Lord took it out of the Holy of Holies and took it on the battlefieldWe can criticize them but how often do we do the same thing.  We have a problem in our life, but we do not turn to God.  He may be the last one we turn to.  We come up with our own plan instead and wonder why it does not work.  Do we pray when we have problems?

2. They tried to MANIPULATE God, rather than OBEY God.

God did not tell them to take the ark into battle; they just did it.  They thought that if they took the ark into battle, they would have to win, because there was no way that God would let the ark be taken by complete pagans.

Satan tempted Jesus to do the exact same thing.  He took him to the highest point of the temple and told him to jump off because the Bible says that angels will protect you.  He told Jesus to just try to kill himself and watch the angels go to work supernaturally to protect him (Matthew 4:5-6).  That was trying to test God.  It was trying to manipulate God and force His hand.

Of course, Jesus did not give in to this temptation.  He didn’t do it. God cannot be manipulated.  Many of us today are just like the Israelites.  We want a God we can control and we can manipulate.  We want a God who does our will, rather than His will.  We do not want to worship a God who is sovereign. We want a God who acts like a genie in a bottle.  Do we try to manipulate God?

3. They put their trust in a THING, rather than in a PERSON.

They did NOT turn to God; they turned to the ark.  They put their trust in the wrong thing.  The were worshipping the ark, not God.  They needed God, not a box.  We often turn to things to solve our problems, rather than to God Himself.  Is our trust in things?

4. They confused the SYMBOL with the REALITY

The Israelites knew they lost because God was not with them, so they thought if they brought the ark that God would be with them. What good was it to have the ark with them if the nation and the leaders of the nation forsake God?  The ark becomes meaningless.  They confused the symbol of God’s presence (the ark) with the reality of God’s presence.  Many people do this today.  The have many outward symbols of religion.

Many churches are big on symbols and rituals, especially liturgical churches, but the symbols of water baptism and communion (taking the bread and the cup) are absolutely meaningless without genuine faith.  Paul said that some had a form of godliness but denied its power (II Timothy 3:5).  Lots of people have an outward form of godliness but they are not godly.

“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord.

“I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?

13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! (Isaiah 1:11-15 NIV)

This is a strange verse.  God is not against sacrifices and worship and prayer but He hates meaningless rituals and ceremonies.  He hates empty sacrifices and worship.  He does not like vain prayers.  He says in Amos 5:21 that some church services are a big stench to Him.  He can’t even stand the music in these places (Amos 5:23).

He hates people who live wicked lives but are real religious on Sunday.  Their hands are full of blood but they lift their hands in prayer.  These are people who want the symbol without the substance.  They want religion without morality.  Does that describe you?

5. They confused HOLINESS with MAGIC

The Israelites used the ark as a good luck charm.  They used it like a rabbit’s foot.  They thought that if they took the ark with them into battle, they could not lose, as long as they had the magical box with them.  If they had the ark, they thought that they would be invincible.  The ark was a holy box covered with gold with angels on top of it.

One preacher gave a sermon on this chapter called “Rabbit’s Foot Religion.”[1]  Much of religion is just superstition.  There are many superstitious Christians.  They wear religious beads.  They wear a cross around their neck.  They put some holy water on them for good luck. Do we know the difference between holiness and magic?   Do we know the difference between religion and superstition?  Are you superstitious?

6. They confused EMOTION with TRUTH

When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6 Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?” (I Samuel 4:5-6 NIV).

Now this is very interesting.  The Israelites took the ark into battle and were all excited.  They were shouting.  They had loud music.  It was so loud that the Philistines heard it.  They had hands raised.  They were emotional.  They were passionate.  They were confident.  They all had faith but none of it mattered.

Jesus said that God is spirit, and his worshipers MUST worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24 NIV).  No matter how much enthusiasm you have, no matter how much on fire you are in worship, it has to be based on truth.  Many Muslims can show all kinds of emotion in worship but that does not make their worship genuine.  God wants passion and excitement, but he also wants truth.  Do we worship God in spirit and in truth?

Spiritual Tragedy

I Samuel 4:11 says, “The ark of God was captured” (NIV).  If God was gone from the nation, there was nothing left.  That was what made Israel unique from all other nations on the planet.  They had God.  Now, God was gone.  Israel’s national treasure was stolen by the enemy.  It was not the Nazis but the Philistines who become “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  When the Philistines took the ark, they thought that they had defeated the God of the Israelites.  They saw Him as God in a box and now they had the box and now they were celebrating.

Personal Tragedy

The chapter ends with a personal tragedy.  It ends with two personal tragedies.  First, a dad loses two sons.  They die on the same day.  Then, a wife loses her husband and father-in-law.  Let’s look at the first one.

Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”  17 The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”  18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. (I Samuel 4:16-18 NIV).

Eli was blind but he was not deaf.  He could hear the whole city in an uproar and asked what was going on (I Samuel 4:14).  A messenger tells him four things.  They are all bad news (Israel fled before the Philistines, the army has suffered heavy losses, your two sons, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured) but did not respond until he heard about the ark being captured.

He loved his sons, but he expected them to die.  Two prophets told him that they would die soon.  He probably had a premonition of their death but what he was not prepared for was the loss of the ark.  When he heard that news, the old fat high priest fell backwards, broke his neck and died.  Eli had a few health problems before he died.  He was old (ninety-eight).  He was fat and he was blind.

Much has been made about Eli being fat.  We live in a day in which people are obsessed with weight loss.  Churches today have weight loss programs.  Some equate a thin waistline with spirituality.  The Bible does not have that perspective.  In fact, many times in the Bible fat is looked in positive light.  Joseph had a dream about skinny and fat cows in Egypt.  The fat cows were the healthy ones and the skinny cows were the unhealthy ones.  In the Bible, it was a sign of blessing.

Eli was fat for a different reason.  He was fat not because he was blessed but because he was disobedient.  Eli got fat on the offerings that should have gone to God.  Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’ (I Samuel 2:29 NIV).  Eli ate the fat portions of the offering that were to be burned and, as a result, he became fat, which ultimately led to his death.

There is a second personal tragedy.  A pregnant woman goes into premature labor and dies in childbirth.  We are not told the name of the woman, but we are told that she was Phinehas’ wife.   Her husband was wicked.  He was greedy.  He was immoral.  He cheated on her.  He committed adultery.  He had sex in the Tabernacle with women who worked there.

Phinehas’ wife was godly.  She apparently was not like her husband at all.  She was godly.  Her husband was the priest.  He was the ordained minister.  He had the prominent position, but she was the one who was godly.  She also like her father-in-law was more concerned about the glory of God than her own family.

His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. 20 As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. (I Samuel 4:19-20 NIV)

Here this poor woman is feeling terrible.  She is pregnant and then she gets really bad news and goes into labor.  She loved God more than she loved her husband and father-in-law.  As she lay dying, more concern about God’s glory than her own life.  What made the most impact on her was not losing her husband or losing her father-in-law but losing the ark. Twice, she says, “The glory has departed from Israel!’ because the ark of God had been captured” (I Samuel 4:21-22 NIV)

She is sad and depressed.  She is devastated.  She is crushed.  The birth of a baby is supposed to be a joyous occasion.  It is supposed to be a time of celebration, but this mother is not celebrating.  She is not happy.  The midwives try to cheer her up.  She did not care if her baby was a boy or a girl.  As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. (I Samuel 4:20 NIV).

After the ark was taken, nothing else mattered. She became completely hopeless.  She had no reason to live and she dies.  We could learn from this poor woman.  This woman was passionate about the glory of God.  She lived for God’s glory.  That was the only thing that mattered in her life.  Wouldn’t it be great if that was true of us?

She was not perfect.  We should never be without hope.  The glory of God was removed from the nation, but it was only temporary.  The Philistines only had the ark for SEVEN MONTHS (I Samuel 6:1).  God wasn’t confined to a box.  He is bigger than a box.

Her final act before she died was to name her son.  She named him Ichabod, not Ichabod Crane, just Ichabod.  Ichabod Crane was a character in Washington Irving’s classic short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820). It is not a true story.  In I Samuel 4 we hear the story about the real Ichabod.  One preacher entitled this section, “God, Glory and Sleepy Hollow”[2]

What do we know about Ichabod?  His name was (ee-kah-vode) which means “no glory.” EE means “without” or “no.”  kah-vode means “glory.”  It is only found in the book of I Samuel in the Bible. We do not know what happened to him, but you have to feel sorry for this poor baby boy.

Ichabod was given a terrible name that no one would want to have.  He was born into a family that was cursed by God.  His father, mother and grandfather all died just before he was born.  He came into the world as an orphan with a bad name in a family that was cursed and under the judgment of God.  He was born with the deck completely stacked against him.

Applications for Today

1. God keeps His Word

Whatever God says, comes to pass.  It may take some time, but it will take place. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 NIV).  How do we see this here?  In I Samuel 2, one prophet predicted the judgment on the house of Eli.  In I Samuel 3, another prophet predicted the judgment on the house of Eli (little Samuel).

In I Samuel 4, the prediction comes to pass.  It is fulfilled. In fact, in the last chapter we are told something very interesting about Samuel.  The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. (I Samuel 3:19 NIV).  All of his predictions came true.  The OT Law said that if a prophet made a false prophecy, they were to be put to death.  Prophets in the OT had to bat a thousand.

But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ 21 “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ 22 If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NIV)

It is very different for today.  We have all kinds of people who claim to be prophets in churches who make false prophecies today.  In the last election, some claimed that they had a word from the Lord which said that Hillary would be in the White House and defeat Donald Trump (e.g., Brian Carn, Vonda Brewer).  They didn’t just say that she would win.  They said that God told them this.  Once she lost, these YouTube posts were suddenly taken down.

2. God judges sin

He often judges it severely.  He not only judges sin, He judges sin in His own people.  Judgment must begin at the house of God (I Peter 4:17).  All the people who died in this chapter were ISRAELITES.  They all worshipped the true God.  God does not just judge sin in His people, He judges sin in leaders.  Some ordained ministers in this chapter die.  God took out the top three religious leaders in the country.

The top three priests suddenly drop dead and their death was NOT an accident.  They did NOT die of old age or natural causes.  Their death was not an accident but a judgment of God.  His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death. (I Samuel 2:25 NIV).  Why?  We are told in the same chapter that “this sin of the young men was VERY GREAT in the LORD’s sight, for they were treating the LORD’s offering with contempt” (I Samuel 2:17 NIV)

These priests were corrupt.  They were completely apostate.  They were immoral.  Their sin was flagrant.  They engaged in temple prostitution.  They did not even try to hide it.  Their dad tried to rebuke them, but they just laughed at them and God judged them.  We do not think God does this today, but He does and often judges sin in the church.

The head of the church is not the pastor or elders.  It is Jesus.  The Pope is not the head of the church.  Jesus is the head and He judges sin.  Sin has consequences.  Sin does not just affect your personally.  It may also affect your family.  An entire nation can be affected as well.  It is very dangerous to live with unconfessed sin in your life.  It is especially dangerous to be a leader and to live with unconfessed sin in your life.  This chapter is a warning to us today.

3. God removes His glory

This is where it gets very interesting.  God can disappear.  His presence can depart.   Sin causes God’s glory to depart.  It can depart from a nation.  It can depart from a church.  It can depart from a ministry.  A nation can lose its glory.  Has the glory of God left America?  America used to be a shining city on the hill.

A church can lose its glory.  God can remove his glory from a church.  It is one of the worst things that can happen to a church.  Many churches have seen God do great things but, in some churches, he has stopped working.  In fact, He is no longer present. Ichabod is written over the doors of many churches today.  You can run God out of your church.  One Fundamentalist pastor preached a sermon on this chapter entitled, “Ichabod Baptist Church.”[3]

Ichabod Churches Today

How do you know if your church has Ichabod written on the door?  What are some of the signs?  There are several signs to look for in this kind of church.  Some of you may already know this because you have been to a church like this.

1) The leaders engage in great sin in an Ichabod church

Ichabod Churches today have leaders like Hophni and Phineas who engage in great sin.  These are churches in which sin is tolerated.  It is covered up whenever it occurs.  The church is soft on sin.  They never preach against sin.  The sermons are always positive and uplifting.  There is no church discipline in the church.  That is the sign of an Ichabod church.

2) God is no longer working in an Ichabod Church

These churches have no power.  Nothing supernatural is taking place.  You cannot see the power of God in these churches.  Miracles never take place.  God is not doing anything great. There is no growth.  There is no revival.  There is no prayer.

God’s Word is not preached, and the services are dull and boring.  You want to fall asleep in them.  These churches are dying.  That is the sign of an Ichabod church.  As my pastor says, “We need more than theology to live, we need the power of God.”

3) The church is in decline in an Ichabod Church

They are no longer what they used to be.  Many churches, like many Christians, start off great.  They are on fire.  They are great soul-winning churches, great bible-teaching churches, great praying churches, great worshipping churches, great miracle-working churches but, as time goes on, they cool of and become just a shell of its former self.  That is the sign of an Ichabod church.  Their glory is gone.

[1] https://www.sermonaudio.com/saplayer/playpopup.asp?SID=129141733298

[2] http://www.notbyworks.org/God-Glory-And-Sleepy-Hollow

[3] https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=211081831286

Hearing God Speak

Today, we come to one of my favorite chapters in I Samuel.  It is one of the most famous chapters in I Samuel.  It is a short chapter, but it is a powerful chapter.  Every child knows this chapter.  Every kid in Sunday School has heard this story.  This chapter raises all kinds of important questions.

Does God speak?  Is He speaking today? How is He speaking today?  Does He speak to people personally?  If he speaks to people personally, can you hear His voice? How do you know when you hear God’s speak?  How do you know for sure if you are hearing the voice of God or the voice of someone else?

How many times have we thought that we were hearing God speak but it turned out not to be God but someone else?  We thought we were hearing God’s voice, but we were just hearing our voice.  Whole religions are based on some supposed revelation from God that did not come from God.

Samuel had the opposite problem.  He thought God was not speaking to Him when He was speaking to him.  He spoke to him and even called him by name, but he thought that Eli was talking to him.  He mistook the voice of God for the voice of a man, not once but three times.  God was speaking to him, but he did not recognize the voice of God.  How do we recognize when God is talking to us?  We will look at that topic.

Before we begin, let’s do a little review.  We are studying the life of Samuel.  We saw his BIRTH in I Samuel 1 and how he was born as a result of intense prayer on the part of his mother and a radical vow.  We saw his CHILDHOOD in I Samuel 2.  We saw how he ministered to the Lord in his linen ephod in the Tabernacle.  In this chapter, we see his CALL to prophetic ministry.  He became a prophet to kings.

In this chapter, there is an old man and a young boy.  Samuel was a boy.  Jewish tradition places him around twelve at this time.  Eli was in his nineties and was blind (I Samuel 3:2).  He needed help.  Samuel helped the old blind priest in the Tabernacle.

The setting of this story is SHILOH, where the Tabernacle and the ark of God were located.  Samuel did not just go to church and work in the church, which was where he ministered (cf. I Samuel 3:1), he grew up in the church literally.  He lived in church.  He slept in the church.  Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. (I Samuel 3:3 NIV).  In the middle of the night something happens.

Then the Lord called Samuel.  Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” (I Samuel 3:4-5 NIV).  God calls his name and he thinks that Eli is calling him.  Samuel’s job was to help Eli.  Eli is blind and he is thinking that the needs something and the text says that RUNS to Eli.

Samuel wakes Eli up in the middle of the night and Eli says, in essence, “I didn’t call you.  Stop bothering me.  Go back to sleep.”  Samuel thinks that Eli is calling him and Eli thinks that Samuel is hearing things.  It happens three times.  By the fourth time, Eli realizes that something supernatural is going on here.  God is speaking.  Eli had bad physical vision.  He was blind but he had great spiritual vision.  He had great spiritual insight.

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” (I Samuel 3:8-9 NIV).  Samuel goes back to bed.  God calls him again and Samuel says, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

God does speak and gives a prophecy of judgment against the house of Eli.  Samuel wakes up, immediately rush to Eli and say, “I must be special.  God spoke to me last night.  I had a word from the Lord.”  It was a terrible message that a twelve-year-old boy would have to give to a ninety-year-old man.  It was horrifying.  It was a shocking prophecy.  He did not immediately go tell Eli the bad news that his whole family was under the judgment of God, because he was a terrible parent and did not restrain his wicked sons.

God gave Samuel an ear-tingling word.  He gave him a word of judgment.  It was negative, not positive, uplifting or comforting. Samuel wakes up and does what he normally did.  He opened the doors of the Tabernacle so people could come in (I Samuel 3:15), like nothing had happened.  Samuel does not want to tell him the prophecy.  Eli has to threaten him to get him to tell it.

“What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.”  (I Samuel 3:17 NIV).

We are told, “So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him” (I Samuel 3:18 NIV)  Samuel tells Eli that because he did not restrain his sons, God was going to judge his family forever and there was nothing he could do about it.  Sacrifices would not work.  Nothing would work.

Eli’s response is an example to us today.  Samuel gives his terrible news from God and he is completely submissive to the will of God.  He does not argue with God.  He does not shake his fist at God.  He does not say that this is unfair.  He does not say, Why?  He accepts it.  He said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (I Samuel 3:18 NIV).  Few Christians today respond this way to bad news.

Why This Story Matters

It is a very important chapter. It is not just a good Sunday School story for kids.

1) This chapter is important because God SHOWS UP

He makes an appearance.  He shows up and He shows up unexpectedly.  Most people think this is just a story about God talking to Samuel in the middle of the night. God does not just talk to Samuel; He appears to Samuel. The Lord CAME and STOOD THERE, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” (I Samuel 3:10 NIV). The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh (I Samuel 3:21 NIV). This is a theophany.

What is strange is that God does NOT show up and speak to the priests Hophni and Phinehas.  He did NOT appear to Eli, the High Priest.  He bypassed the religious establishment.  He bypassed all of the religious leaders.  He bypassed all of the old people and went straight to a little boy.  This is a good verse about God speaking to the youth.  We sometimes underestimate youth.  God can use young people to do great things.  Sometimes they can do more than adults can do, especially when the old people drop the ball and do not do their job.

2) This chapter is important because Samuel gets SAVED here

He has a conversion experience.  Apparently, he was not saved before this.  Now Samuel did NOT yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had NOT yet been revealed to him. (I Samuel 3:7 NIV).  He gets saved as a boy.

Samuel was like a lot of professing Christians today.  He believed in God.  He was religious.  He went to church.  He even did some type of ministry, like many do today, in his linen ephod, but he did that without knowing God.  He knew about God, but he did not know God personally.

He did not have a relationship with God.  God had never spoken to him.  He probably thought, like many Christians today thought, that was not even possible. God does not do that.  He had some reason for thinking that.   We are told, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (I Samuel 3:1 NIV)

Samuel has a personal encounter with God for the first time and it changed his life.  He heard God speak and he responded to it.  He could NOT just live off the experience of Eli the High Priest.  He could NOT just live off of the spiritual experiences of his parents. He had to have his own experience with God.  We need to have our own personal encounter with God.

3) This chapter is important because Samuel gets his CALL to ministry here.

Samuel found out what God wanted him to do with the rest of his life and what his call was.  He tells him what his lifelong ministry will be.  He learned that as a boy.  Many adults do not know what God has called them to do but Samuel found out very early. God calls a lot of people in the Bible to be prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel).  This is the only time that He called a child.

This ministry was different than what he was already doing.  Samuel already had one type of ministry.  He was training to be a priest.  He was working as an apprentice at Shiloh under Eli.  Now, God is giving him a different ministry.

What is interesting is that Samuel is a young boy when God calls him, but he does not wait until his is grown to begin his ministry.  He started it right away.  Samuel is the only boy prophet in the Bible.  I Samuel 3 gives us Samuel’s first prophecy.  He hears the Word of God (I Samuel 3:8-10) and he speaks it (I Samuel 3:11-18).  He RECEIVED the message and then he REPEATED it.  He delivered it.  He RECEIVED a message FROM God and DELIVERED a message FOR God.

Samuel gained a reputation as a prophet.  He did not just claim to be a prophet.  It was confirmed by others.  The whole nation from Dan to Beersheba recognized him to be a prophet.  That is like saying he was recognized as a prophet from the North to the South or from New York to LA.

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. (I Samuel 3:19-21 NIV)

God is not just calling Samuel to be a prophet; He is starting something brand new.  He is beginning a new type of ministry.  Samuel begins a new prophetic ministry.  He starts a prophetic school, a school of the prophets.  God is going to start sending prophets to people.

Applications for Today

We have seen that this chapter matters but why does it matter to us?  What are the applications to us today?

God still CALLS people today.  If you plan to go into ministry, you have to have a genuine call from God.  God said in Jeremiah 23:21 says, “I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied” (NIV).

He knows us all by name and He calls us by name, like He did Samuel.  He does not call us all to be prophets or preachers.  He does not call us all to be pastors.  He gives us all a job to do.  Sometimes his call is unexpected.  Sometimes He calls us to do new things and start new ministries, like Samuel did.  The way God worked in one day may not be the same way he works in another day.  There is something else that applies today.  If we are genuinely called to do something and if God’s hand is on us, other people will recognize it.

God still SAVES people today.  He saves people of all ages including young boys and children.  He wants people to know him and have a personal relationship with Him.  God especially wants people who minister for Him to know Him with Him, because they represent Him.  He still REVEALS Himself to others.

God still SPEAKS to people today.  He speaks to them in a lot of different ways.  He primarily speaks today in His Word but that is not the only way God speaks.  He spoke to Samuel audibly in Hebrew. Samuel did not hear a voice on the inside.  He heard a voice on the outside.  He thought Eli was calling him.  He did not hear a voice in his heart.  He heard a voice with his ears.  It woke him up.  God can still do that today.

Does he speak to people in dreams and visions today?  In I Samuel 3:1 it says there were not many visions.  Some believe that there are not any today.  Some believe that in OT times, there were dreams and visions and in the last days, there will not be any, because we have a completed Bible today. The Bible says the exact opposite.

No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the LAST DAYS, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see VISIONS, your old men will dream DREAMS. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will PROPHESY. (Acts 2:16-18 NIV).

On the other hand, this is NOT the only way that God speaks.  It was not the only way that He spoke in Bible times.  He also spoke with a still small voice (I Kings 19:12).  God can speak to us on the inside as well as on the outside.  We have the Holy Spirit living inside us who leads us.

How to Recognize God’s Voice

I Samuel 3:1 rises a very interesting question.  It says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”  It is very similar to what Amos 8:11 says.  “Behold, the days are coming when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11 ESV).   Does this describe today?  Is there a famine of the words of the Lord today?

No.  There is NOT a famine of the words of the Lord today for most of us.  There may be a famine in some parts of the world that are closed to the gospel but there is a big difference between the time of I Samuel 3:1 (the time of the judges) and today.

At the beginning of the chapter, God was not speaking.  Today, He is speaking.  We live in a day of incredible revelation.   We live in a day of a closed canon.  God has written sixty-six books of Scripture.  Samuel did not have that. There is more access to sermons, more access to preachers, and more access to bible teachers today than at any time in history.

We can pull up any version of the Bible on our phone and access any sermon on the Internet.  If we do not know the Word, it is our own fault.  We have all of the resources.  Our problem today is not that God is not speaking.  Our problem today is that we are not listening.  We are not open to hear His voice.

God primarily speaks to us through His Word, but He also speaks to us primarily through a still small voice today.  He can still speak audibly but that is rare.  How do we know that are actually hearing the voice of God today?

1) If the voice you hear is from God, it will be consistent with Scripture

If the voice you are hearing contradict Scripture, it is not from God.  God gave a revelation about judgment on the house of Eli to the boy Samuel in I Samuel 3.  In I Samuel 2, he gave the same revelation to another prophet, an unnamed prophet.  What God said in I Samuel 3 was consistent with what he said in I Samuel 2.  We have to always compare everything we hear with Scripture.  God will not say something to you that will completely contraction Scripture.

2) If the voice you hear is from God, you may hear it more than once

God had to speak to Samuel four times before he got the message.  God uses repetition.  If we call someone and leave a message twice on a phone, we don’t continue calling that person.  God is persistent.  If He is speaking to you and telling you to do something, you may hear that voice more than once.

3) If the voice you hear is from God, it will be confirmed by others

How did Samuel know that God was speaking to him?  Eli told him. He learned it from an older more mature believer.  We really need people who are older than us spiritually around us.  We need their godly counsel and advice.  Eli was more spiritually sensitive.  Samuel learned to be more sensitive to God as he got older.

4) If the voice you hear is from God, you must be open to hear it and obey it

When Samuel finally realized who was speaking to him, he said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:9).  That is the right response.  Samuel was completely open to anything that God had to tell him.  Are we?  Some of us are open to hearing God’s voice and some are not.  Samuel did not argue with God or object.  He didn’t protest or complain.  He received what God told him and what God told him as unpleasant.  So Samuel told him EVERYTHING, hiding NOTHING from him. (I Samuel 3:18 NIV).  Do we obey the same way when God speaks to us?

Bad Leaders in the Church

We have been studying I Samuel and the first three chapters deal with the birth, childhood and call of Samuel.  In I Samuel 1, we see Samuel’s BIRTH.  In I Samuel 2, we see Samuel’s CHILDHOOD and in I Samuel 3, we see his CALL as a prophet.

There are three sections of the chapter.  Most of the chapter deals with bad leaders.  We are going to look at some bad leaders in this chapter and how to identify them today.  Many churches have bad leaders, leaders who sin openly. What are some of the signs to look for?  How do you identify bad leaders?  We will find out.  The NT says that there are certain people in the church that we are to look out for and stay away from.

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to WATCH OUT FOR those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. KEEP AWAY FROM them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. (Romans 16:17-18 NIV)

What are the three sections of this chapter?  First, there is the SONG OF HANNAH (I Samuel 2:1-10).  It is also a prayer.  We will look at the kind of prayer it is and what we can learn from it.

Second, there is the SINS OF THE PRIESTS (I Samuel 2:12-25).  There is great wickedness in this chapter.  It is said to be “very great” (I Samuel 2:17) and it is done by the priests.  It is done by religious leaders.  What was this sin?  We will see what it is.

Third, there is the SENTENCE OF JUDGMENT ON THE HOUSE OF ELI (I Samuel 2:27-36).  There is a prophecy regarding Eli’s house.  A mysterious prophet shows up in this chapter (I Samuel 2:27ff.). Who was he?  No one knows.  He does not have a name, but he showed up unexpectedly and gave a word of prophecy to Eli.

Dr. Whitcomb of Grace Theological Seminary used to say that these OT prophets were almost ubiquitous.  A man would be minding his own business and then suddenly without warning a prophet would pop up behind the bushes with a word from the Lord.

The Song of Hannah

I Samuel 2:1-10 give us what scholars call “the song of Hannah.”  It is also a prayer.  In I Samuel I, she was BROKEN and BITTER.  In I Samuel 2, she was BLESSED.  In I Samuel 1, she prays out of PAIN.  In I Samuel 2, she prays out of JOY.  She said, “My heart EXULTS in the Lord…I REJOICE in your salvation” (I Samuel 2:1).  What kind of prayer is this?

One, it is a PRAISE PRAYER.  In I Samuel 1, her prayer involved PETITION.  In I Samuel 2, her prayer involved PRAISE. There is no petition in this chapter.

Hannah knew how to PRAY to God and she knew how to PRAISE God.  We are very quick to pray to God for things but we are not as quick to praise  and thank God when our prayer is answered and that is exactly what Hannah does here.  She spends more words on her thanksgiving in chapter two (264 words) than she did on her petition in the first chapter (55 words).

Two, it is a PROPHETIC PRAYER.  It is not only a prayer, it is a prophecy.

Hannah said, “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth” (I Samuel 2:10).  He has not done that yet.  She said that the Lord “will give strength to his king.”  Hannah lived in the time of the judges when there was no king.  This prayer is prophetic.

Three, it is a POETIC PRAYER.  There is a lot of poetry in this prayer.  God is called a rock (I Samuel 2:2).  God is not a literal rock.  This is a metaphor.  Hannah says, “my horn is exalted in the Lord” (I Samuel 2:1).  People do not have horns.  This is poetry.

Four, it is a MESSIANIC PRAYER.  It is the first time that we see the word “anointed one” in the Bible.  The word anointed is used before this time.  It uses priests being anointed with holy oil (Numbers 35:25) and altars being anointed with oil (Numbers 7:88).  This is the first time we see the word “anointed one” or “messiah” and it is described as a king.  It is actually used twice in the chapter.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (I Samuel 2:10 ESV)

And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. (I Samuel 2:35 ESV)

Five, it is GOD-CENTERED PRAYER.  This prayer does NOT focus on Hannah.  It is not a prayer just about fertility and reproduction.  This prayer is not just about having children.  She doesn’t talk about herself.  She talks about God.  This prayer is all about God.  No one is like him (I Samuel 2:2).  God is called a rock (I Samuel 2:1, 10).  He is stable.  You can trust Him.  He is a God of knowledge (I Samuel 2:3), so you have to watch what you say about Him.

The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.6 THE LORD kills and brings to life; HE brings down to Sheol and raises up.7 THE LORD makes poor and makes rich; HE brings low and he exalts. 8 HE raises up the poor from the dust; HE lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. (I Samuel 2:5-7 ESV).

God can completely change your circumstances.  If you are on top, He can put you on the bottom.  If you are on the bottom, He can put you on the top.  God can reverse any situation in life, no matter how bad it looks.  He is the God of reversal.  What God did for Hannah, He can do for other people today.  Keep in mind that Hannah did not pray one time and get her request answered.  She prayed over a long period of time.

The Sins of the Priests

The next scene in the chapter is a picture of Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They were sons of Eli (I Samuel 1:3).  They were young men (I Samuel 2:17).  They had Egyptian names.  They did not even have Hebrew names.  They were extremely wicked.

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. (I Samuel 2:12 ESV).  Thus the sin of the young men was VERY GREAT in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord WITH CONTEMPT (I Samuel 2:17 ESV).

One preacher called these “The Bad Boys of Shiloh.”[1]  It is not good when the bad boys of the town happen to be the religious leaders of the town.  Hophni and Phinehas were priests! They grew up in church!  Their father was a priest.  Their grandfather was a priest.

Their dad was not just the pastor of a church.  He was High Priest.  He was the spiritual leader of the whole nation but these two boys were completely rotten.  Some of the worst kids are preacher’s kids (PKs).  There is an irony here. In the last chapter, Eli mistook Hannah for a wicked woman, when in fact it was his own sons who were wicked.

What is the message for us today?  It tells us that religious leaders can be corrupt.  Pastors can be corrupt.   Elders can be corrupt.  Hophni and Phinehas were priests.  They were in the ministry.  They represented God in an official capacity to people.

It also tells us that not everyone knows God and some of the people you think know God and you expect to know God, may not.  You can come from a Christian family and NOT know the Lord.  You can come from a long line of Christians, going back hundreds of years, and NOT know the Lord.  Your dad can be a pastor or missionary and you NOT know the Lord.

You can be religious and NOT know the Lord.  You can be educated, got to seminary and not know the Lord.  You can be ordained and in ministry and NOT know the Lord.   You can preach sermons and not know the Lord.  There are many people behind pulpits who do not know the Lord.

You can know all kinds of things about God and NOT know the Lord personally.  I know a lot about Donald Trump but have never met him personally.  The question to ask is this.  Do you know the Lord?

Two Kinds of Kids

This chapter is not just about Hophni and Phinehas.  They were both in the same family.  It is about Samuel.  Samuel was adopted into this family. Anyone who has kids knows how different they can be.  They can live in the same house, be in the same environment and be completely different in appearance, personality, temperament, and character.  They can be polar opposites.

The same was true of Eli’s kids. They had some things in common.  Both came from a good lineage.  Both were descendants of Aaron.  Both were brought up in Shiloh.  Both were raised by Eli, the High Priest.  Both went to church.  Both learned the Law of God.  Both worshipped God.  Both had some ministry.  How did Samuel minister as a child?  We do not know but they both served the Lord in some capacity.  Both served in the Tabernacle but there were big differences.

1) They had a difference in AGE

Hophni and Phinehas were much older than Samuel was.  He was a child and they were adults.

2) They had a difference in CHARACTER

Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. (I Samuel 2:18 ESV)

Hophni and Phinehas were wicked but Samuel was righteous.  Samuel did not have the best role models around him.  He did not have the best environment.  Her had to rebellious older brothers, but he stayed faithful to God.  That is an encouragement to us.  Noah lived in a really bad environment.  Everyone around him was wicked but he stayed righteous and walked with God.  As Swindoll says, “environment does not determine outcome.”[2]

Hophni and Phinehas were completely wicked.  They were sexually immoral.  They were committing temple prostitution.  Little Samuel was sexually pure.    Samuel was a picture of purity.  He was a Nazarite and was completely dedicated to God, ministering before the Lord in his linen ephod.

3) They had a difference in REPUTATION

And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is NO GOOD REPORT that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. (I Samuel 2:23-24 ESV)

Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and IN FAVOR with the Lord and also WITH MAN. (I Samuel 2:26 ESV)

Hophni and Phinehas had a terrible reputation, and Samuel had a great reputation.  All of the people loved little Samuel and thought well of him. Samuel’s reputation got better over time.  He grew in favor with people.  Hophni and Phinehas’ reputation got worse over time.

4) They had a difference in SPIRITUAL STATE

One was saved and two were lost.  One was a child of God.  The other two were children of the Devil.  The KJV gives a literal translation in I Samuel 2:12. It says, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial.”  It follows the Hebrew.  That is never used of saved people.

Samuel knew God.  He had a relationship with him.  God spoke to him.  He grew in favor with God.  He was blessed by God.  Hophni and Phinehas did not know God (I Samuel 2:12).  They did not have God’s favor.  They were not blessed by God.  They were cursed by God.  God wanted to kill them (I Samuel 2:25).

The Sentence on the House of Eli

27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ (I Samuel 2:27-29 ESV)

This is interesting.  An unknown prophet shows up and gives Eli a strong warning.  He has a word of impending doom, because of the wickedness of his sons.  He doesn’t confront the sons.  He confronts Eli because he is the High Priest.   God blessed Hannah’s family in the beginning of the chapter and now He judges Eli’s family. Eli honored his sons above God.  Hannah honored God above her son.  She wanted a son more than anything else in this world but, when she got one, she gave him back to God.

What the judgment on the House of Eli?  Three promises are given.  First, he promised that the descendants of Eli would die at an early age (I Samuel 2:31).  Second, he promised that Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day (I Samuel 2:34).  They do not die naturally or accidentally.  Their death is a divine judgment for sin.

It is bad enough that they would both die but this prophet says that they will both die on the same day.  Third, he promised that Eli would lose his ministry.  Another family of Aaron would be given the office of high priest (I Samuel 2:35).  His family would lose the opportunity to be in the priesthood.

Three Powerful Applications

How does this chapter apply to us today?  What does this chapter say to us today?  What can we take from it?  This is where it gets interesting.  There are some big lessons from this chapter for us today.

1) Discipline your kids

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24 ESV)

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15 ESV)

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 24:13-14 ESV)

Eli was not all bad.  He had some good points.  Every time the man opens his mouth and utters a prophecy or would bless people, good things happened (I Samuel 1:17; 2:20) but he made some big mistakes as a parent.  He failed as a father.  The NT says that you cannot be a leader in the church if you cannot even lead your own family (I Timothy 3:5). We can learn here from Eli’s parenting mistakes.

What was Eli’s method of parenting?  He was a PASSIVE parent.  He was a PERMISSIVE parent. Like many parents do today, Eli indulged his kids.  He spoiled his kids.  He didn’t discipline his kids.  He honored his sons more than he honored God (I Samuel 2:29).  Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37 ESV)

We should love our kids, but we should not love them more than we love God.  We should not honor them more than we honor God.  That is idolatry.  That is the secular approach to child-rearing.  It is child centered.  Everything revolves around the child.  They come first.  God should come first in our families.

2) Exercise church discipline

Eli failed, not only as a father; he failed as the high priest.  He failed as a father and he failed as a minister.  He failed as a leader.  He was the High Priest.  He did not supervise the priests under him very well.  His sons committed big crimes right under his nose and Eli did not even know about it.  He had to be told by others what was going on (I Samuel 2:22).  He closed his eyes and looked the other way.  Once he heard about it, what did he do about it?  What was his response?

22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. (I Samuel 2:22-24 ESV)

What did he do?  He talked to them about it.  he reasoned with them.  “Boys you ought not to do that.  Rumors are spreading that you are being bad?”  There is a place for REBUKE.  There is also a place for CONSEQUENCES.  Eli took no disciplinary action.  He allowed them continuing to minister as priests.  They were not removed from their position.  Eli gave them a slap on the wrist and said “bad boys” but did absolutely nothing to stop them.  It was his job as the High Priest to remove bad priests from the priesthood.  Notice what God said.

And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did NOT restrain them. (I Samuel 3:13 ESV)

There are churches today that do the same thing Eli did.  When a leader is caught in sin, tolerate it.  They ignore it or try to hide or try to cover it up, instead of dealing with it and removing the individual from ministry.

Many churches today do not address sin.  They are soft on sin, even in leaders.  They do not practice church discipline, but church discipline is biblical (see I Corinthians 5).

If we do not deal with the sins of our children, God will.  If we do not deal will the sins of our church, God will.  God removes some people from leadership in His church who abuse that leadership.  Eli did not deal with his kids.  He lost his ministry.  He lost his kids.  He lost his life all.  Discipline seems hard.  It is actually the best thing that can happen to a family or church, when it is done in a loving way.

3) Beware of corrupt religious leaders

In Samuel’s day, the people did not have much of a choice.  They had to go to Shiloh to worship.  That is where the Tabernacle was located. Today, we have more choices.  We do not have to stay in a church with corrupt leaders.  We live in a day in which abusive pastors are quite common.

Leaders in some churches have done some of these things that Hophni and Phinehas did.  There are pastors today who act just like these two men.  What do corrupt religious leaders look like?  What are some of the signs?

Six Signs of Corrupt Religious Leaders

1) Corrupt religious leaders are sexually immoral

Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (I Samuel 2:22 ESV)

A clear sign of a false teacher or a corrupt leader is a leader who is immoral.  They took advantage of their position as priests and not only sleep with women who were serving in the Tabernacle, they committed adultery.  They were both married men.  We know that because when they both died, one of the son’s wives went into labor (I Samuel 4:19-22).  They used God’s house as a house of prostitution, which was forbidden in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 23:17).

Sexual immorality is not just a problem for priests in the Catholic Church, many evangelical ministers have committed sexual immorality.  Some have been caught doing human trafficking of children.[3]

2) Corrupt religious leaders reject Scripture

Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” (I Samuel 2:15 ESV)

Hophni and Phinehas lived in a time of the judges when everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  Even the priests did what was right in their own eyes.  God gave the priests some of the meat in the sacrifices, but these two men were not satisfied with God’s provision for them.  They wanted more.

They rejected what God said they were allowed to eat.  They rejected how god said that they were supposed to live.  False teachers always reject Scripture.  There are whole denominations that reject what Scripture says about some topics (e.g., marriage, homosexuality).  They think that some passages are outdated. 

3) Corrupt religious leaders are abusive

And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you MUST give it NOW, and if not, I will take it BY FORCE.” (I Samuel 2:16 ESV)

I Peter 5:3 tells elders not to lord it over the flock.  Some pastors are like dictators.  They abuse their people by bullying and intimidating people.  They can even use force and threats.  It is the exact opposite of how they are supposed to act.  They are supposed to serve people. Some of the leaders of big famous mega churches have been removed from office for this very reason.

4) Corrupt religious leaders are self-centered

The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take FOR HIMSELF. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. (I Samuel 2:13-14 ESV)

Samuel ministered for the Lord.  They ministered for themselves.  They wanted the choices meats for themselves. They used ministry to serve self, rather than to serve God.  They went into the ministry for what they could get out of it, rather than how they could help people.  They used the worship of God just as a means to fill their pockets and satisfy their lusts.  They lived lives of unrestrained lusts.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. (Romans 16:18 NIV).

5) Corrupt religious leaders are not open to criticism

And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would NOT listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death. (I Samuel 2:23-25 ESV)

They did not listen when the people told them what they were doing was wrong (I Samuel 2:16).  They did not listen when their own father told them this (I Samuel 2:23-26).  There are some people that do not listen to anybody.  They always want their own way.  You can’t tell them anything.  They do not take any advice, suggestions or criticism.  Proverbs 29:1 says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed-without remedy” (NIV).  That is what happened to Hophni and Phinehas.

6) Corrupt religious leaders showed contempt for the things of God

Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord WITH CONTEMPT. (I Samuel 2:17 ESV)

They were NOT big on respect.  They had complete disrespect for God and the things of God.  How they treated the offering showed what they thought of God.  They stole from the offerings.  They were actually stealing from God.  They did not just steal; they stole from God. The fat in the offering was to be reserved for God alone. All the fat is the Lord’s (Leviticus 3:16 KJV).

It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.” (Leviticus 3:17 ESV).  Leviticus 7:25 says, “For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the Lord shall be cut off from his people” (ESV).

It was to be burned on the altar as an offering to the Lord.  The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. (Leviticus 7:31 ESV).  Can we do this today?  Yes.  We can steal from God.  We do not steal from God today by eating fat.

God does not want fat or meat today.  It is not the smell of roasted meat today is a pleasing aroma to God.  He does not like barbecue.  It is our lives.  We are to be living sacrifices for God (Romans 12:1-2).  He wants everything we have given to him as a sacrifice.


[1]
https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=42611924160

[2] The Swindoll Study Bible NLT. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/us/ohio-pastor-sex-trafficking.html

Lessons from Hannah

Last week, we looked at the introduction to the book of I Samuel.  I Samuel is one of the most interesting chapters of the Bible.  I Samuel is a book of thirty-one chapters and covers three great men (Samuel, Saul, & David) but this chapter is NOT about a great man.  It is about a great woman.  The main character in this chapter is a woman, not a man.

In fact, all the men in this chapter blow it.  Hannah’s husband blows it in this chapter.  He does not really understand Hannah and what she is going through.  The high priest at Shiloh blows it.  He does not understand Hannah either.  He thinks she is doing something bad when she is actually doing something good.

I Samuel 1 introduces us to one of the greatest women of the Bible. Hannah was one of the greatest mothers of the Bible, the mother of Samuel.  This is a famous story in the Bible.  What is in this chapter?

The first part of the chapter deals with Samuel’s parents and their lineage.  Elkanah was Samuel’s father and Hannah was his mother.  They were ordinary people.  They were not famous.  They were not rich and powerful.  They were just normal people who lived in the country (I Samuel 1:1).  Elkanah’s lineage goes back five generations.

The home life is described.  It was a RELIGIOUS home. They made an annual trip to Shiloh. They worshiped together.  It was a POLYGAMOUS home.  Elkanah is married to two wives.  It was also an UNHAPPY home.  You can have a religious home and still an unhappy home at the same time.  It was a DYSFUNCTIONAL home.

The conflict in the home is described.  It is a conflict between two women, Elkanah’s two wives.  It is initiated by Peninnah.  Hannah cannot have any children and Penninah provoked her and tormented her because of it.

The prayer in the Tabernacle by Hannah is described and her rebuke by the High Priest, followed by a blessing from the High Priest.  Hannah leaves Shiloh, gets pregnant and has a baby.

Elkanah continues to make his yearly trip to Shiloh but Hannah refuses to go.  She does not want to go to Shiloh and come back with Samuel until she can drop him off for good.  After he is weaned, he is dropped off at Shiloh for a lifetime of service to the Lord

What does this story say to us today? This story about a barren Jewish woman three thousand years ago has a lot to say to us today.  Some of these principles or applications may sound shocking to us.

Principles for Today

1. Good things can happen to bad people

As you look in the world today, you see that the wicked prosper.  The Bible recognizes it.  Read Psalm 73.  Some of the most blessed people on the planet are the most wicked.  They have lots of money.  They live in a big house.  They have a great reputation in the world and they live horrible lives.

As you read I Samuel 1, you can see an example of this.  One of Elkanah’s wives was named Peninnah.  She was not godly.  She was not spiritual.  She was jealous.  She was rude.  She was insulting.  She was hurtful.  She was cruel.  She was mean.  She was one of the biblical mean girls, but God blessed her.  She not only had children, she had a lot of them, boys and girls.

2. Bad things can happen to good people

This is unpopular teaching.  It doesn’t seem fair.  You won’t hear it preached much in churches today.  Some seem to think if you are spiritual and live a godly life, you won’t have problems.  If you live the abundant Christian life, you won’t have any medical problems.  You won’t have financial problems.  You will not have any marriage problems.  You won’t have car problems.

Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33 NIV).  You will have suffering.  You will have trouble.  You will have trials.

If any chapter of the Bible refutes that theory, it is I Samuel 1.  Hannah was a godly woman, but she had some problems.  She had two problems.  Her first problem was INFERTILITY.  She struggled with infertility for years.  She wanted to have kids and could not have any.  God seemed to be blessing other people but not her and she was devastated.

That is not a problem today. Many parents today don’t like kids and don’t want them but Hannah lived in a completely different culture.  In her culture, there was a stigma placed on a barren Jewish woman.  Children were considered a sign of God’s blessing.

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (NIV).  A woman with NO children was considered a CURSE.  Women in that day found their identity in child bearing.  That was how they got their identity.  They got it from their ability to reproduce.  A woman with no children felt like she had no purpose in life.

Her second problem was RIDICULE.  Hannah had an enemy.  There was someone who hated her and, what makes it worse is that this person was in her own family.  There was hostility, strife, competition, and jealousy in the home.

Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. (I Samuel 1:6-7 NIV)

Not only is Hannah infertile, but Elkanah’s other wife, Penninah, teases her.  She provokes her.  She mocks her.  She tries to make her feel bad about something that she cannot even control.  She says to Hannah, “Why don’t you have children?  God has blessed me with children.  Why hasn’t He blessed you?  What is wrong with you?  Doesn’t He love you?”

Hannah is infertile, feels bad about it and Peninnah rubs it in.  She pours salt in the wound, just to hurt her even more.  Peninnah bullies her to make herself feel better because she was not the favorite wife.  Hannah was.  She got the double portion (I Samuel 1:5).

This goes on for years.  It even goes on in church.  It is pretty bad when you do not even feel safe from abuse in church and yet that is what happened to Hannah.  The yearly pilgrimage to the Tabernacle was when some of this took place.  Are there any Peninnahs in the church today?

What effect did it have on Hannah?  It caused her to be sad and depressed.  She wept.  She got to the point where she could not eat but she did not stop going to church (where some of this abuse took place).  She continued to pray and she continued to worship.

3. Some bad things come directly from God

This is also something that you will almost never hear in church.  In church, you will often hear the exact opposite preached.  Good things come from God (blessing, prosperity).  Bad things come from Satan (suffering, sickness).  What is the problem with this theory?  It is FALSE.  Samuel says that is not true.

5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. (I Samuel 1:5-6 NIV)

Two times in the text we are told that God is the one who closes the womb.  He is the one in charge of conception.  He is the creator of life.  It wasn’t an accident that Hannah could not have kids.  She did not just have a medical condition that prevented conception.  God stopped her from having kids.  Hannah also says that trouble can come from God.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. (I Samuel 2:6-7 NIV).

That is a shocking verse.  God sends poverty and wealth.  He brings death and makes alive.  He humbles and exalts people.  Many other verses say the same thing.  This may go against the theology of some people, but it is what the Bible teaches.

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11 NIV).

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. 9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:7-10 NIV)

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7 NIV).

4. Take your problems to God in prayer

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

How do you respond when you have problems?  How do you respond when you have debilitating trials?  Where do you go?  What do you do?  Hannah knew what to do with her problems.  She knew where to take them. She took her problems to God in prayer.  She was upset.  She was hurt.  She was sad.  She was depressed.  She was bitter but she prayed.  She had a burden that no one else understood and she took that burden to the Lord.

Hannah was not the first woman in the Bible to struggle with infertility.  She was the fourth.  There were three women before her who struggled with the same problem (Sarah, Rachel & Rebekah) but she is the first one who prayed about the problem.  The Bible says that Isaac prayed for his wife when she was barren (Genesis 25:21) but it never mentions Sarah, Rachel or Rebekah praying for a child.  It does mention Hannah praying for a child.  In fact, Hannah is the ONLY woman in the OT specifically said to pray about anything.

She could have blamed God.  She could have become bitter and angry.  She could have said, “I serve you faithfully.  I keep your commandments.  I come to your Tabernacle every year and offer sacrifices. Why haven’t You given me a son?”

She could have turned completely away from God, like many do today when bad things happen to them, but she didn’t do that.  In fact, Hannah’s PROBLEM only led to Hannah’s PRAYER.  Whatever problem we have, we can bring before God.

Instead of praying, she could have talked to friends.  Friends are important but they could not solve this problem

Instead of praying, she could have turned to a psychiatrist to deal with her uncontrollable depression?  Steven Cole says that “Hannah could have gone to a Christian therapist, who would have said, “You’re crying all the time. You’re depressed. You have an eating disorder. It’s obvious that you’re sitting on a lot of anger and suffering from low self-esteem.

You need to let out all of your rage toward God. Hannah, you’re co-dependent and you need to set some boundaries. You’re enabling your husband and this other woman to carry on. You can’t really love your husband until you learn to love yourself. You need to start looking out for your own needs for a change. Let’s get you started on Prozac.”[1]

Instead of praying, she could have turned to a doctor.  That is what we would do today.  That is what we would do today.  That raises this question.  Is it wrong for a Christian to see a fertility specialist?  No.  God is not against modern medicine or doctors, but our faith should not be the doctors but in God.

God uses doctors today, but He is the one who is charge of conception.  Instead, she prayed.

5. God answers impossible prayers

This chapter is a testimony to the power of prayer.  It shows the power of prayer.  It shows us the power of a praying mom.  This prayer got God’s attention.

This prayer was not only answered but Hannah got more far than she asked.  She prayed for a son, but she got a prophet.  She gets a ruler.  She prayed for a son but got one of the greatest men who ever lived.  There is no evidence that Peninnah’s kids ever amounted to anything to did anything or did anything great in life.  None of her sons were prophets but one of Hannah’s was one.

What is the Hannah Prayer?

What kind of prayers does God answer?  He answers prayer like Hannah’s prayer. This chapter is all about prayer.  Hannah’s prayer is one of the ten greatest prayers of the Bible.  What was Hannah’s prayer like?

1) The Hannah Prayer is SPECIFIC

It was a very specific prayer.  It was not general or vague.  Prayer must be specific.

Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:30-34 NIV)

2) The Hannah Prayer is BIBLICAL

It is a prayer consistent with the heart of God.  God loves children.  He created them.  He blesses people with large families.  Hannah was asking for something that was completely consistent and in line with the will of God.  Jesus loves little children.  He said, “Suffer the little children to come to me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:14 KJV)

3) The Hannah Prayer is PASSIONATE

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. (I Samuel 1:10 NIV)

Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears. (I Samuel 1:10 HCSB)

Genuine prayer does not have to be eloquent.  It has to be from the heart. It has to be genuine, not fake.  Genuine prayer is not rote.  It is not mechanical.  Many of our prayers are not passionate.  They show little emotion. They have no power because we are not praying from our heart.  You can tell a big difference between Christians who pray passionately and those who do not.

Hannah prayed from her heart.  She prayed from the depths of her soul.  Hannah’s prayer came out of pain.  She prays in deep anguish.  Her prayer was passionate.  It was so passionate that Eli thought she was drunk.  If she prayed the way most Christians pray today, he would have thought she was going to sleep.

This prayer came from Hannah’s heart.  That is why it did not involve any words.  Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. (I Samuel 1:13 NIV). It was passionate. It was intense.  It was emotional.  It involved many tears (I Samuel 1:10).  She was sobbing uncontrollably.  It was so passionate that she prayed like this in public and did not care what people thought of her.  She was completely broken before God.

Jesus prayed the same way.  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7 NIV)

4) The Hannah Prayer is PERSISTENT

In this chapter, we only see Hannah pray one time, in the Tabernacle but this could not be the first time that she prayed.  She was harassed for years and prayed for years.  Even though she received no answer, she kept praying.  She was persistent.

5) The Hannah Prayer is BELIEVING

Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” (I Samuel 1:13-17 NIV).

Hannah prays.  Eli sees it and thinks she is drunk.  He had sen a few drunks in his line of work.  Here Hannah is doing something good and Eli thinks she is doing something bad and rebukes her and even insults her, calling her a drunkard.  Apparently even religious leaders (high priests) can judge people incorrectly.  We need to be slow to judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions and immediately slandering other believers.

Hannah goes down as the woman who corrects the high priest.  She does it respectfully.  “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” (I Samuel 1:15-16 NIV)

Eli does not apologize to her, but he does pronounce a blessing on her.  Eli says, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (I Samuel 1:17 NIV).  Hannah took this as a word from God for her situation and went home happy.  Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. (I Samuel 1:18 NIV).

She entered Shiloh sad, but she leaves happy.  Perhaps for the first time, she believed that God was going to answer her prayer.  The next day, she worshiped, went home, made love to her husband and got pregnant.

Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. (I Samuel 1:19-20 ESV).

6. The Hannah Prayer is SACRIFICIAL

Hannah did not just pray, she made a vow in her prayer.  She is the only woman in the Bible to make a vow.  She vowed that if God gave her a son, she would make him a Nazarite.  There are three lifelong Nazarites in the Bible (Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist).  God told John the Baptist parents and Samson parents that their son would be a Nazaire from birth.  Hannah is the only one to choose