Expository Sermon on 1 Samuel 18
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 8/29/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the entire worship service on YouTube, click the link just below. The sermon begins at the 58:07 mark.)
Please open your Bibles to First Samuel 18.
If you’ve been tuning into these Sabbath morning live-streams, you’ve noticed that I’ve been preaching a series of sermons on exile. That’s because, to me, the COVID-19 virus itself is an “exiler”—something which banishes us not only from going to certain places we’re accustomed to going, but from living normal life itself.
One of the really difficult dilemmas of this pandemic is when a second major “exiler” comes along and makes things worse. The lurking virus is bad enough, but it makes it even more miserable when Hurricane Laura (which is now Tropical Depression Laura) barrels across the middle of the right-hand half of the United States, dumping several inches of rain, while just above it, in states like Michigan, people are about to feel more of those horrendously high-speed winds which a few days ago flattened 10 million acres of Iowa corn.
And of course there are the fires. The Palmer fire in northern Washington got to within five or 6 miles of where my brother and his wife now live, but from what I understand, it’s about 75% contained.
More and more these days I’ve been thinking, “What would Shelley and I do if the local authorities suddenly evacuated us? What would we take with us? And how can we make sure we can put our hands on these things in just a few minutes?”
Shelley ordered a book on Amazon called Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for any Crisis Big or Small, by Kathi Lipp. It came within the last few days, and let me just read you a few of the chapter titles in the table of contents: “Get $100 one-dollar bills and a jug of water.” “Make a five-minute plan.” “Take a financial inventory.” “Store two weeks worth of food.”
It sounds like it’s going to be a sensible book to read. And of course there’s a lot of other similar information online. “Let us watch and be ready” isn’t only good spiritual advice.
In these “exiles” sermons, I’ve been hunting up Bible people who were exiles, and studying their lives, hoping to learn something from their experience.
This morning I like to look at a segment of the life of David. David was actually exiled twice in his life. The first was because Saul was jealous and afraid of him taking over the throne, and the second was when David had to escape from his son Absalom, who was trying to take his throne.
I’ve called today’s sermon “David’s Keys to Exile Readiness.” First Samuel 18 does not show a David in exile yet. But it does show at least four keys I believe he possessed, to get him ready for those difficult months and maybe years when he was pursued by King Saul.
I believe that these are important keys for us today. You and I don’t know what exiles we might yet have to go through before the Lord returns. And I think the reason David survived at least this first exile–and maybe the second exile–with his faith intact was what he brought into the exile experience.
I think David had at least four key qualities already present in his personal psychology which we should take a serious look at, and then adopt for ourselves. And these four qualities carried him through his entire life – and they kept him from being drowned in chronic discouragement, or defecting from God’s plans for him.
Let’s look at these four keys this morning, and see how we might be able to possess them ourselves.
First Samuel 18 is the chapter just after the David-and-Goliath chapter. Young David was the catalyst for giving the armies of Israel courage to defeat the Philistine army. David is very popular, not only because of this but because he seems to have been a genuinely likable person. As chapter 17 ends, he gets better acquainted with Saul’s son Jonathan.
And within David’s heart are four keys to be ready for the exile he soon will experience.
1 Samuel 18:1 – 4 [NKJV]: Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
If you’re taking sermon notes, here comes Sermon Point One, right up front. What is David’s first key to exile-readiness?
David stayed open to friendship.
And as we’ll see in a minute, David didn’t restrict his friendship to just Jonathan. I imagine David was the type of person who when he walked into a room, or down a street, he brought with him such a cheerful attitude that people just wanted to go up and talk to him. He was probably the type of guy who just unconsciously convinced everybody who spoke with him that they were his best friend.
Back in my freshman year of college I took a required history class. The class happened in a largish amphitheater in the campus library. The teacher was a man named Dr. Irwin Thomle. Dr. Thomle was probably retired or nearly retired, and he was very crippled up with arthritis, but here he was, teaching this history class.
Every day at the beginning of class he would enter the room from the rear of the auditorium, and it took him two or three minutes to hobble painfully from the rear down to the front.
But as he hobbled, he had a good-humored smile on his face, and he would greet students as he walked along. And by the time he came to the front and turned to face us, we adored him. And we adored him even more when he started telling fascinating and humorous stories about great historical characters.
And as a lowly freshman, I would have been much too shy to go up and talk to Dr. Thomle, but I suspected that he would have been just as charming and just as interested in me as he seemed to be in front of the whole class. And that’s what David must’ve been like, minus the arthritis!
So why is staying open to friendship a key to exile readiness?
Well for one thing, being genuinely friendly to people is the way to build up an enthusiastic mutual support system. In fact, later on, David turned out to be a magnet for everybody in Israel who was discouraged or discontented or a castoff from other people’s society. He ended up with 600 such men in his band of exiles. And they weren’t all easy people to get along with!
So how can I become more open to friendship the way David was?
Well, first of all, I need to look out for what is likable in people, and to try to bring that likability out of them. During your lifetime you’ve probably met someone who at first seemed they weren’t fun to be with. But then you gradually discovered their sense of humor, and the more time you spent with them, the more you got to be friends.
And of course you and I need to show that we are friendly. Not friendly in an artificial way, using people-manipulating techniques we might learn in a high-powered success seminar, but genuinely friendly because you genuinely love them because they were created by the One who gave up His life for them.
Now let’s look at another of David’s keys to exile readiness. As I mentioned, he’s not in exile yet, but he will be. And that exile will be extremely stressful.
For the second key, look at verse five.
Verse 5: So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
Here’s what I think is David’s second key to being ready for a possible exile.
Not only did David stay open to friendship, but David behaved wisely.
When you stop and look at it, verse five is staggeringly amazing. David can’t be very old yet. Sure, he killed the giant with a slingshot and changed the course of the nation’s history, but he is not the most experienced warrior in the Army. Yet suddenly he is a four-star general, in charge of all the troops.
You can just imagine all the grizzled, battle-hardened veterans watching him cautiously, ready to privately ridicule him and undermine his authority if he makes a false step. Yet David behaved wisely. What is that mean?
This week I went hunting for which Hebrew word this was. I was assuming that it’s the same word for “wisdom” that shows up in the verse that says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But it’s not the same word. It’s a whole different word. So I did some more digging to see how this word is used, and I came up with some interesting findings.
This word for “wisely” is the Hebrew word sekal. It means “wisdom,” but it’s not lofty, philosophical wisdom. Instead, you could almost call it “street smarts.” Other translations of this word are “understand,” “have insight,” “keen, clever,” and so on. In other words this is a sensible wisdom, and active wisdom. In fact, the NIV and other recent translations use the word “success.” This is wisdom that works.
Psalm 119:99 uses that same word when it says “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.” In other words, reading God’s Word gives you sensible wisdom, street smart wisdom, boots-on-the-ground wisdom, which will make you successful if you follow it. The teacher might have the book learning, but the Bible will give you empathetic, progressive, working wisdom you can’t get anywhere else.
And that’s what David had. Verse 5 tells us that he moved carefully and intelligently through each day, showing respect to everyone, showing friendliness to everyone, so that gradually their defenses collapsed and they realized that he could be not only a close friend but a team player they wanted to follow.
Well, that’s great, but how do I get more of this kind of wisdom? One thing we can do is read through Proverbs. There’s a lot of subtle street-smarts there.
Also, we need to study people who are wise in this way. We need to notice what they say and what they do. I also need to show that I am not a prima donna, but someone who knows how to work hard, and be pleasant, for the good of the company, or the team, or the Sabbath school class, or the family.
And by all means we need to avoid doing what Psalm 1 tells us to avoid doing: “sitting in the seat of the scorner.” In other words, we need to not get into the habit of privately ridiculing people. We need to assume people mean well until we have a great deal of reason to believe otherwise.
Another thing I think we need to do is to practice “starting over.” I think the older we get, the more we actually learn to do this. What I mean by that is that, say, somebody behaves a bit snippily toward you on a certain day. This bothers you, especially if you don’t think you deserved it.
But then you meet this person another day. How do you behave toward that person? Are you a bit chilly? Is it your turn to be snippy to them? I think we should just “start over” each new day, with a blank slate. Now, obviously, if that person is a real pain, and gets to the point where they’re taking advantage of you, then you’ll need to confront that. But I think we need to roll with the punch more than we sometimes do.
Now let’s move on to David’s third key for exile readiness. Let’s start with verse six.
Verses 6 – 10: Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward. And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul . . .
This might be a good time to pause and take a look at that “distressing spirit from the Lord.” The Holy Spirit departs from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord comes to him instead.
This doesn’t seem really fair, does it? It sounds as though God might be a little bit at fault for sending this distressing spirit. It’s sort of like, did God harden Pharaoh’s heart, or didn’t He?
One answer to this problem might be to remember that God was constantly having to deal with people who believed in other gods, and worship those other gods as though they were truly powerful.
A number of Bible scholars think that in order to get it into people’s minds that God alone is the only true God – that He is the only one who has supreme power – that God might have temporarily taken responsibility for things He actually didn’t cause, until people could grow out of their superstitious idolatry.
After all, James 1:13-14 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”
So this seems to be what happened to Saul. Saul was sinning away the Holy Spirit, and finally the Spirit left him. And some kind of evil spirit came in and filled the vacuum left behind–whether it was a literal demonic force or a mental condition. The absence of the Holy Spirit made it possible for the evil spirit to enter Saul’s heart.
So, Saul tries to murder David by pinning him to the wall with a spear, but David escapes. Let’s pick up the story at verse 12.
Verses 12 – 14: Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him.
What was David’s third “exile-readiness” key?
Not only did David stay open to friendship, and not only did he behave wisely, but David was a life-member of God’s team.
Every once in awhile I see a bumper sticker or license plate which proclaims that someone is a “life member” of this or that organization. Usually what this means is that the person has made a pretty large investment in this organization. A “life member” has literally bought in to what the organization stands for.
When I was a boy growing up in South Dakota, I would listen to the Minnesota Twins’ baseball broadcasts on the radio. I was a true Twins fan. I can still sing the team song, the one the people in the stadium sang along with as the organ played.
My sister was a Twins fan too. She was such a Twins fan that when a mother cat produced a litter of baby kittens in the barn, my sister named them after players on the Twins team. There was catcher Earl Battey, MPV shortstop Zoilo Versalles, ace pitcher Camilo Pascual, and right-fielder and home-run king Harmon Killebrew. These kittens kept their names as they grew into adult cats. It was a bit of a surprise when Camilo Pascual gave birth to her own litter of kittens.
The reason I’m bringing up the Minnesota Twins is that I remember how jolted I was when Zoilo Versalles let himself be traded to another team! True, the Twins struggled all through the years we listened to them, but I figured that Zoilo and the rest of them were sort of like life-members of the team. It was a real blow.
One thing we discover when we read all the way through David’s fascinating story is that David was a life member of God’s team. Sure, he was a sinner – sometimes a revoltingly bad sinner – but he never left God’s team.
King Saul did. When you think of it, Saul doesn’t seem to have made the kind of gross errors in judgment that David did, but Saul hadn’t committed to being a life member of God’s team. Saul would never have said (like Job) “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
David, on the other hand, when he was shown his sins, immediately repented of them, sobbing out his genuine grief before the Lord, and he gave the Lord a chance to forgive him. In one instance wrote a whole Psalm of wholehearted repentance. Saul never did that.
And as David led that ragtag group of 600 discontented, discouraged, and sometimes criminal men through those months and months of exile, David always made it clear that he was on God’s side. The other guys would try to get him to murder Saul when he had the chance, but David wouldn’t do it. He always stayed true to God’s way of thinking.
Well, how can we become and remain life members of God’s team? One way is to read stories like David’s. The Bible gives the David’s story a whole lot of airtime. David’s story was the theme of last summer’s Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
We can take courage from David’s story. You and I will never be called on to kill a literal giant, but we will be called on to show that we are life members of God’s team. The devil will launch a lot of challenges at us, and we’ll be tempted to defect, but we need to remain on God’s team no matter what.
One reason to read the Bible a lot is to find out what God is doing and follow along with it. David wanted what was best for God, and he most often knew what that was. David was so full of zeal for the Lord that he just assumed the Lord would come through for him when challenges like that giant needed to be neutralized.
Another thing we need to do is to find out what the Lord has chosen us to do, and be rock-steady in doing it. Ask him to reveal to you what He wants you to do. You can pray, “Lord, lead me to someone who needs me today.” If you keep praying that, and if the Lord believes you are starting to mean it, you might be surprised what will happen.
Let’s discover one more of David’s keys to exile-readiness.
Verses 14 – 24: And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” So David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But it happened at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife. Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. So Saul said, “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall be my son-in-law today.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Communicate with David secretly, and say, ‘Look, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now therefore, become the king’s son-in-law.’ ” So Saul’s servants spoke those words in the hearing of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing I am a poor and lightly esteemed man?”
Do you know what I think is David’s next key to exile readiness? Here’s what I think it is.
Not only did David stay open to friendship, and not only did he behave wisely, and not only was he a life-member of God’s team, but no matter what, David stayed humble.
I mean, just imagine what it would have been like for David if he had had any ego at all. He goes to the army camp to bring food for his brothers. He asks about the roaring giant. Soldiers tell him that the king has said that if anyone is able to take out that giant, the king will give one of his daughters to the hero as his wife.
David kills the giant, and the king doesn’t keep his promise. It’s only at verse 17 that Saul gets around to giving up one of his daughters to David, but his reason isn’t to reward David for killing Goliath. His reasoning is that the daughter is sort of a bribe for David to keep fighting the Philistines, so that maybe this overwhelmingly popular young man will die in battle.
So in verse 18, David humbly responds that he and his parents’ family are not worthy of this honor. But he’s assuming, evidently, that he and Merab will be married. But suddenly Saul gives Merab to someone else.
And again, if David had had any kind of a feeling of self-importance, he would have reacted differently than he did. After all, he has already been anointed as Israel’s king. So why not engineer a military coup?
And finally, when Saul’s other daughter Michal falls in love with David, David doesn’t gloat in quiet triumph. When Saul’s servants tell David the news, David again stays humble. No matter what, David stays humble.
So how can staying humble help us prepare for exile? It saves us from feeling that we’re entitled to something, that we are owed something—we are owed status, owed power, owed wealth.
David didn’t assume anything like this. He stayed humble, as his descendant Jesus would. Jesus often told His disciples that whichever of them wanted to be the greatest must become a servant. Because the most eternally important work that Heaven does for us is the work of a servant. God sustains us minute by minute by acting as our servant, sustaining us, keeping us alive. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, and then died to take their sins—and our sins—upon Himself.
Are you ready for any exile—real or symbolic—that might come your way this week? Would you like to ask the Lord to open your heart to true friendship with others, to help you behave wisely in every situation at home or away? Would you like Him to seal you as a life-long member of His team, and would you like to demonstrate whose team you’re on by your no-matter-what humility?