The Shepherd King – Part 15 September 27, 2016

In the previous lesson, we saw David exercise great restraint when he had opportunity to kill the man who was out to kill him, King Saul.  David spared the king’s life and even gave evidence of his loyalty to the sovereign.  As we move into the next chapter of I Samuel, Saul is nowhere to be found but instead we meet new individuals who impact the life of David.

In verse 1 of this new chapter we are told that the prophet Samuel has died – a very significant event in the history of Israel.  A rare treasure of a man, Samuel had faithfully served the Lord from his childhood.  His death was keenly felt by the people, including David, but no further mention of him is made in the rest of this chapter.

Instead we are introduced to a man who about as opposite the prophet Samuel as anyone could be.  Wealthy but nasty and mean, Nabal is a difficult man, very hard to get along with and unappreciative of others.   When David and his men had been in the area of Nabal’s property, they were careful, according to custom, to protect Nabal’s many herds and his workers.  At the time of the harvest, David sent some of his men to ask for food in return.  Nabal’s response was insulting and harsh.  He could care less that David and his men had been solicitous over his possessions and his shepherds.  He sent them away empty-handed.  (I Sam. 25:10-11)

For all of his good points, David had no patience for the ungrateful and especially if they abused his men after they had shown kindness.  On receiving the report about Nabal’s behavior, he ordered his men to ‘Put on your swords.’  Four hundred of them rallied.  Nabal had no idea what was coming at him!

Meanwhile, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, was intelligent, beautiful and wise.  One of the servants who had overheard Nabal insulting David’s men, rushed to tell Abigail how “night and day they [David’s men] were a wall around us”.  He pleaded with Abigail to do something because certain disaster would strike the household of Nabal for his rudeness and lack of kindness.  “He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him!” the servant cried.

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Abigail immediately went to work.  She prepared food and other gifts for David and his men and hurried out to meet them before they could arrive at her home.  When she saw David, she bowed low before him and asked for forgiveness for her husband.  Further, she presented him with her ‘gift of thanks’ for all he and his men had done for the servants.  Her words to David are intensely meaningful and demonstrate the heart of a godly woman.  She was not just concerned about her own welfare and that of her household.  She had a higher issue in mind.  Look at what she said:

Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD’s battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live.  Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master 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.  When the LORD has done for my master every good thing He promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.  And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant.  I Sam 25:28-31

David was impressed.  Asking forgiveness on behalf of her husband was the shortest part of her statement.  She urges David to avoid bloodshed lest it stain his soul and he bear the guilt of it over the years.  She echoes the prophecy of Samuel that God has chosen David to rule Israel and assures him that the LORD his God will guard and protect him against all adversaries so that he will fulfill the destiny for which he was born.  Only at the end does she request that he remember her when he ascends the throne.

Abigail could hardly be seen as self-centered.  She voices more concern that the chosen of the LORD should maintain his virtue than she does about what may happen to her household.

David, for his part, recognizes immediately the wisdom of her words and agrees to spare her husband.  He praises God – and Abigail – with these words:

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me; and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you,who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand.  vs. 32-33

Though called to be king, David remained teachable and did not take offense at correction but quickly humbled himself to acknowledge how right she was.  He accepted her gifts and sent her home in peace.

The law of sowing and reaping acted quickly with regard to Nabal.  When Abigail arrived home, her husband was very drunk, partying with his friends.  The next morning she told him what she had done and the scripture relates ‘his heart died within him so that he became as a stone.’  Many commentators interpret this verse to mean that he had a severe stroke and was completely paralyzed.  Ten days later he died, not by David’s hand, but by the LORD’s.  Far better that the LORD should fight David’s battle than he fight it himself.  The same is true for us, my friends.

When David heard that Nabal had died, he understood that the LORD had dealt with Nabal. Remembering the wise woman who kept him from sinning, after the appropriate days of mourning according to Hebrew custom, David sent a message to Abigail and asked her to be his wife, a proposal she willingly accepted.

Sounds like such a happy ending, doesn’t it?  Yet the very next words give us pause.

David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel and they both were his wives.  (vs. 43)  Hmm…. When did that happen?  We’ve been following David’s life step by step.  When did he sneak in a wedding and we didn’t know about it?  And doesn’t it say in Deuteronomy 17, that the kings of Israel were not to take ‘many wives’?  The word in Hebrew is ‘raba’ which means to multiply, to increase to have more.

The kings were also commanded in the Torah to personally write out a copy of the Torah and have it with them at all times so that they would follow it carefully.  Surely, David knew what the word of God said?

Was David’s mistake here that he interpreted a promise as a possibility?  The LORD had promised David protection and favor along with the throne of Israel. He had just demonstrated His faithfulness in keeping that promise of protection over him in the conflict with Nabal.  David even gave thanks for that.

But hearing that Nabal was dead and having been impressed with the kind of woman Abigail was, he apparently interpreted Nabal’s death as more than evidence of God fighting his battles for him.  It became a ‘possibility’ in addition.  “She’s a widow – now I can marry her,” he must have thought because that’s exactly the message he sent her.

Unfortunately the time will come when David’s heart will be led astray – the very thing that writing out a personal Torah scroll was meant to prevent. What does this tell us?

Every compromise – no matter how small it may seem – leads to another compromise and then another after that.  For now, we can thank God that His mercies are new every morning, yet never make that truth an excuse for going our own way.

Application

Compromising God’s Word is a dangerous thing to do.  If we are aware of any compromising that we are doing in our day to day life, now is the time to repent and turn back to the God of David, the Holy One of Israel.

 

The Shepherd-King Part 14 September 20, 2016

I Samuel 24 reveals a unique test in David’s life.   We read that David and his men were hiding in yet another cave near Ein Gedi when King Saul entered the very same cave to relieve himself. What a golden opportunity for David to put this cat-and-mouse saga to an end.  He could easily have killed Saul then and there.  Even his men whispered to him, ‘Now is your opportunity!’

But he didn’t.

The text tells us that he crept up silently and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe and the king never heard him.  After all the grief and pain Saul had inflicted on David, the shepherd-king refused to take revenge. Admirable, indeed.

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Yet, David’s tender conscience regretted that he had even cut a piece of the king’s garment.  He said to his men:  The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.  I Sam. 24:6

This is an amazing declaration.  Consider: 1) The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and fallen upon David.  How easy would it have been for David to consider that Saul was no longer the ‘anointed of the Lord’?  But David knew his God Whose character and nature is such that He does not withdraw His giftings even when His leaders fall into sin.  Their individual character has failed but God’s faithfulness does not.  What we sometimes forget is that no individual ever deserved God’s giftings; therefore a man or woman’s failures are no reason for God to withdraw them.  Rather, God works in various ways in that person’s life – in this case, Saul – to draw him to repentance so that he can be restored to function in the gifts which reside within him but may at present be stifled because of his sin.   This is why it is so important to guard our tongues and our attitudes about leaders who experience a moral or spiritual failure.  God does not stop loving them; neither should we.  Our responsibility is to pray for their restoration, keep our tongues from gossip and guard our own hearts against transgression. 2) All David did was slice off a small corner of Saul’s robe when he could have killed him!  Yet his conscience rebuked him for even that ‘small’ action.  Why? Again, because David had an intimate relationship with his LORD and recognized that small though it may be, it was an act of disrespect to his king.  He repented openly to his men, thereby demonstrating his humility.

His men could well have thought he was crazy!  Especially in light of what he did next!

After Saul had left the cave and gone his way, David came out and shouted after him, ‘My lord, the King!’ And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.  Then he shouted to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you?’  24:9

He then went on to demonstrate to the king that while he had the chance to kill him easily, he didn’t do it but snipped off only a piece of his robe in order to prove his loyalty to the king.  In his words to the king, he even calls Saul ‘my father’.

When David finished speaking, Saul began to cry and confessed, ‘You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil.’ 24:17  Saul acknowledges David’s kindness, declares that he knows David will be king after him and that Israel will flourish under David’s rule.  He further asks that David not harm his family once he becomes king.  David promised with an oath to care for Saul’s descendants.  Then Saul went home and David and his men returned to their stronghold.

Look closely at what happened here.

Saul cried out: You have repaid me good for evil.  Can you imagine how many interpersonal conflicts would be avoided if we did this one thing that David did?  If we returned good towards those who may have done evil towards us?

David’s conscience pricked him and his response was to change his behavior.  The Spirit of God does the same with us.  He will nudge us in one way or another when we are not doing right.  We know it; we recognize it but do we do as David did?  Or do we push aside the prompting of the LORD and continue doing what we want?  Our choice to respond to or to ignore our conscience gives evidence of our inner character.

By his behavior, David teaches us that he feared God more than he feared men.  Remember his words: The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing…’  He did not allow himself to kill Saul out of respect for God, not Saul.

The Book of Proverbs tells us: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.  Prov. 9:10

It also tells us: The fear of the LORD prolongs one’s days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.  Prov. 10:27

The fear of the LORD is not a matter of being scared;  rightly understood, the fear of the LORD is an attitude of profound respect and honor towards the Holy One, coupled with an inner reluctance to offend Him.

Application:

What is our attitude towards people who have offended or hurt us in any way?  What does David’s example tell us about how to respond?

How much do we let the ‘fear of what other people think’ influence our behavior, rather than being concerned, as David was, with what God thinks?

The Shepherd King – Part 13 September 13, 2016

In the continuing study of the life of King David, we are now at the point described in I Samuel 23.  David continues to avoid capture by King Saul but even in his time of hiding, his thoughts are with his people.

In chapter 23 of I Samuel we learn that the Philistines were attacking the Israeli town of Keilah. When David hears about it, he is conflicted.  Should he take the men who’ve gathered around him and go defend his fellow Israelites who lived in Keilah?  Or should he remain hidden?

His heart tells him what to do: he finds a quiet place in the cave and seeks the LORD’s guidance.  God’s answer is recorded for us: ‘The LORD answered him, Go attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ I Sam. 23:2

When he relays his decision to his ragtag army, they are hesitant.  ‘Here in Judah we are afraid.  How much more if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces?’ they said. I Samuel 23:3

David’s response to their fear is to turn back to the Lord Who repeats His directive that they should go defend Keilah.  Apparently the men are emboldened by God’s confirming word and they go.  Their efforts are successful and Keilah is saved. I Sam. 23:4-6

What David does in this instance gives us pause.  There’s an important lesson to be learned.  Notice that he does not rebuke his men for ‘doubting’ that he had heard from the LORD.  Instead, he goes back and inquires of the LORD again.  Significantly, God does not rebuke David for asking a second time, nor does He show any displeasure towards the men either.  After all, this mission was life threatening to all of them.  It was no small thing.

There is a difference between doubting God and doubting whether we have heard Him correctly!  It is one thing to hear what God says about a situation or issue in our lives and quite another to comprehend not only what God is saying but when and how we are to implement what He is saying.

David did not seek God a second time because he doubted what God had said.  He did so to confirm to himself and to his men that he had understood correctly and NOW was the time to move out.   You see, to hesitate to obey God when His directive to us is clear constitutes disobedience.  However to seek confirmation – particularly in serious and or life/changing matters – is not only wise but it is also biblical for the scriptures say that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall anything be established.

David followed this pattern not just once but twice.  When King Saul heard that David had successfully defended the city and overcome the Philistines, he mustered his forces, thinking that at last he would capture David by invading Keilah.  When David heard that Saul was coming his way, he sought the LORD again, posing two specific questions to Him.  David wanted to know whether Saul was in fact coming with the express intent to kill him and would the people of Keilah, whom he had just saved, repay the favor and protect him?

God answered straightaway.  Yes, Saul was breathing murder against David.  No, the people of Keilah would not protect him.  So David and his men quickly fled into the desert.

Saul did reach Keilah and was frustrated that David had escaped. But Saul’s son, Jonathan – David’s best friend – went looking for David, albeit clandestinely, and finding him at Horesh, encouraged him greatly with these words:

Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. ‘Don’t be afraid, ‘ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’ The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home but David remained at Horesh.  I Sam. 23:16-18

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What a precious example of the power of true friendship.  At the risk of his father’s displeasure, Jonathan searches and finds his beloved friend for the purpose of encouraging him and reconfirming God’s call upon his life.  Notice that Jonathan helped David find strength in God; he pointed his friend’s attention back to the only real source of strength, the Holy One of Israel.  And he affirmed his own loyalty to God’s Word and to David, his friend.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to our friends is precisely this: encourage their faith and confidence in God and re-affirm our loyalty to them no matter what they are going through.  It is also the greatest gift we can receive from our friends.

David was smarting from the pain of betrayal by the people whose lives he had just saved. But when his best friend showed up, pointed him back to God and to His call on David’s life, as well as assuring him of his own undivided loyalty to David, what an incredible comfort that must have been.

Application

Friendship is a wonderful gift and anyone who has even two or three intimate friends in life is abundantly blessed.  Today, take a moment to thank God for the good friends He has given you, let them know what they mean to you and commit to be the kind of friend who always points others to the LORD by word and example.

 

The Shepherd King – Part 12 September 6, 2016

Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it does!

Perhaps that is what David was thinking after this makeshift army of indebted, discontented and distressed men gathered to him in the cave of Adullam where he was hiding from the wrath of Saul.

A few lessons back we mentioned someone named Doeg and said he would show up again.  Well, here he is, the infamous tattletale.  Doeg reported to Saul that Ahimelech had helped David in his escape.  Furious, King Saul sends for Ahimelech and all his family.  Standing before the throne of Saul, the priest, Ahimelech, courageously defended David and assured the king that David was loyal to the throne.  Seething with rage, Saul ordered the murder of all the priests but his guards refused to carry out such a heinous order.  So Doeg, the Edomite, volunteered to do the dirty work.  He single-handedly murdered eighty-five priests and all their family members with them – women, children and even infants.  Only one escaped, Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech.  He hurried to where David was and informed him of the mass murder of the priests, including his own father.

Grieved, David responded, ‘That day when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul.  I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family.  Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also.  You will be safe with me.’  I Sam. 22:22-23

We get a glimpse of David’s horror and sorrow over the massacre of the priests from Psalm 52 which in some Bible translations has the subtitle ‘When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him, David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?  Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit.

You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.

You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin; He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.  Psalm 52:1-5

One might think that David has Doeg in mind as he writes these verses but in vs. 7, we learn exactly who he’s thinking of.  Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others.  Ps. 52:7  He is clearly talking about King Saul.

This last verse highlights a horrific character flaw in Saul. He ‘grew strong by destroying others.’ Putting other people down in order to make oneself look good is the ultimate manifestation of extreme insecurity.  It is also sin!  We are commanded to love our fellow man, not destroy him. Jealousy and rage motivated Saul to seek to destroy anyone in his path whom he perceived as a threat.  Have you ever know someone like that?  The reality is that when putting someone else down, we say more about ourselves than we do about the other person. By God’s grace may none of us ever behave in such a way!

Now look at vs. 8: But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.  I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.  Remember now – David is in a cave, on the run from the king who wants to kill him in cold blood!  Yet look again at his personal response to the tragic news. He recognizes that God is not the author of destruction – Saul was. He reminded himself that it is God who repays evil and that our hope must be in Him.  He also declares that no matter how bad things look, God is a good God.

We are seeing increasing horrors going on around our world at present – beheadings, murders, violence and destruction of property.  It could – and may – get worse.  How do we handle such misery?

The only way we can is the way David did.  We must focus our thoughts on the God who sees all and knows all.  His revealed Word is an anchor for us when we feel as though we are being tossed about by every wave of wickedness.  Holding on to one’s faith in the face of unexpected and un-explainable tragedy is the grace God offers us in this hour. Maintaining a consistent attitude of gratitude for all that God has already done for us strengthens our faith in difficult times. For…God is GOOD…ALL the time.

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Application:

Though others may criticize or ridicule you for keeping faith in the face of horror, be assured that you will be richly rewarded for your faith and that your stand is deeply pleasing to the God you love.  Be strong, as Moses said to Joshua.  Be courageous, for the Lord is with you as He was with David!