Expository Sermon on 1 Samuel 24 and 25
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 9/19/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the entire YouTube broadcast of this worship service, click youtube.com/bellevueadventist. The sermon begins at the 46:30 mark.)
Please open your Bibles to First Samuel chapter 24.
If you’ve been staying somewhat in touch with these sermons over the last few months, you know that I’ve been speaking about “exile,” because the pandemic we’re going through is something like an exile. And for the past week or so, the bad air has added another layer to our exile. Let’s thank the Lord that the air is getting better, and the rain is starting to fall—and let’s keep all the fire victims on the west coast in our prayers.
During this sermon series I’ve been looking at various Bible people who went through this or that kind of exile, and trying to figure out how they got through those difficult times. Today is the third sermon on the life of David, because as you might remember, he suffered at least two major exiles in his life.
For the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at qualities he had which helped him be ready for his first exile, and maybe even for his second exile, although we are not going to be looking at that one. Today’s sermon will be the final one on David.
A couple of weeks ago we watched David as he actually entered that first exile, the one where King Saul was pursuing him with his army. Saul actually knows that God’s plan is that David will become the next king, which is exactly why he wants David to die. It’s sort of like King Herod wanting to destroy the baby Jesus.
Anyway, last week we looked at First Samuel 23, and discovered one new exile-readiness key. Today we’ll be looking at two more. All three of these keys – last week’s plus this week’s – have a common theme of “staying power.”
Last week, for example, we discovered that “David stayed in step with God.” During every major decision at this time in his life, David sought counsel from God, mainly through prophets or priests.
And it makes sense that as you and I face whatever exile we are going through, we need to stay in step with God as well. King Saul did not stay in step with God. Instead, he just went ahead and did what he wanted to do, hoping—or maybe not even caring–that God was okay with it.
Anyway, let’s find the next “staying power” key which sustained David during this time. Watch for something extremely interesting.
1 Samuel 24:1 – 4 [NKJV]: Now it happened, when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, “Take note! David is in the Wilderness of En Gedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats. So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave.) Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’ ”
A chill runs down my spine when I hear what David’s men are saying to him. Why? Well, do you notice that they seem to be quoting the words of the Lord? Now, if they were truly quoting the Lord, Bibles with references in them would have a little letter of the alphabet at the start of that quote, and you’d look in the margin, or down at the bottom, and you would find how to get to the Bible verse which shows you where the Lord said that.
But the Lord didn’t say that! These guys are putting words into God’s mouth! Remember how the devil did that as he tried to tempt Jesus? Satan even used real phrases from Scripture, but quoted them incompletely, and out of context.
Here’s a little footnote of my own. You and I need to be careful that we don’t get jerked around by somebody else who is either making Bible up, or incorrectly using real Bible. A chilling number of people do that. It has happened down through the centuries. We need to be like the Bereans, who didn’t simply hero-worship Celebrity Paul and assume everything he said was right. Instead, they checked out everything he said with real Bible print.
Well, back in that dark cave, the Bible doesn’t show David “calling out” his servants on their manufactured quote. Instead, he might have chuckled and whispered, “Good try, guys.” But now watch what happens. This will lead us directly toward another of David’s exile-survival keys.
Let’s pick it up with the last part of verse 4:
Verse 4: . . . And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
I can imagine that the guys who fabricated the quote from God are delighted when they see David creeping forward with his sword. But instead of killing Saul, he snips a piece off the king’s robe and tiptoes back to join them.
The men of course are indignant. They probably whisper to him, “What are you doing? Why didn’t you cut his head off the way you cut off Goliath’s?”
And David responds.
Verses 5 – 7: Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe. And he said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.” So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way.
Here comes today’s first “staying power” sermon point, but I’m going to add in the one from a couple of weeks ago. What is another exile survival key David used?
Not only did David stay in step with God, but David stayed sensitive to the sacred.
I grew up in a home with devout Christian parents. I think I was about six or seven when one day I was in our living room, and I gathered some books into a stack on the table. Mom happened to notice me stacking the books, and she said, “No, don’t put anything on top of the Bible.” And she readjusted the stack so that the Bible was on top.
I’ve never forgotten that. And since then I have never consciously or deliberately put anything on top of a Bible.
Now, there’s nothing in the Bible itself that says not to put anything on top of it. We do know that the stone-carved 10 Commandments were placed in the ark of the tabernacle, and the 600-plus written laws which God had dictated to Moses were placed in some kind of pocket or compartment close to the ark. So these written or engraved words of God were considered sacred enough to be in His presence. After all, He had spoken or inspired them.
But even these days, when the worship service is over, and if I’m not using a briefcase, I will go out to the car and put my sermon and my Bible in the back seat, and I’ll make sure that the Bible is on top. If I take off my suit coat and put in the back seat, I will make sure that the suit coat does not cover the Bible.
Again, this isn’t something the Bible itself specifically says to do. But what I’m trying to do is to stay sensitive to the sacred.
Okay, why is staying sensitive to the sacred an exile survival key? I think one reason is that when things get really disorienting or frightening or terrifying, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture of a God who is in control and who will get us through or stay with, us no matter what happens. Instead, we are tempted to flip into survival mode, and quickly throw out God’s principles in order to stay alive.
Down through the centuries, persecuted believers have faced a choice – either stay true to God no matter what, or abandon God and join the enemy’s side.
So what are some “sacred’s” that you and I should stay sensitive to?
Well, first of all, anything God tells you to do is a sacred duty. If God says “remember the Sabbath,” we need to remember the Sabbath no matter how difficult our exile becomes. A number of you have let me know how much you have appreciated our live stream broadcasts during this time. There are a lot of other Sabbath-honoring things to do, or to watch, if the bad air has kept you inside the house.
I can’t say enough thank-you’s to Patrick Phelps, who had our YouTube live streaming process going well before the pandemic banished us from the sanctuary. Dave Meythaler, chair of our audiovisual department, has kept us supplied with quality microphones and other equipment, which is why you are hearing me as clearly as you are. Augusto Gurdian, who’s also back at the sound board today, is someone else who is helping us worship in a clearly audible and visible way on Sabbath morning. And thank you to Shelley, whose ideas and recruiting help make these online services what they are.
A lot of people might say, “Well, since I can’t go to church, I’ll just sleep in on Sabbath morning.” But you didn’t do this. You are staying sensitive to the sacred. You remember that Luke chapter 4 says that it was Jesus’ own custom to go to a place of worship on the Sabbath and even take part.
And there are nine other commandments in the 10 besides number four. It’s a sacred duty for us to worship God only. It’s a sacred duty to not take God’s name in vain – in other words, we shouldn’t speak about God, or use God’s name, in a way that makes Him less than He is. If God’s name is nothing more to us than a way to add dramatic emphasis to a curse, then we are not staying sensitive to the sacred.
God said not to commit adultery, and Jesus said that this can happen in the heart and mind as well as physically. Another thing mom and dad taught me was that marriage – and sex – were “sacred.” They used that very word.
God said don’t bear false witness. Don’t lie. If we carelessly pass along retweets and other information without making absolutely sure that this information is true, we are being insensitive to the sacred.
Shelley checked out a children’s picture book from the library yesterday, and it taught the kids the “THINK” test—if something isn’t True, Helpful, Necessary, or Kind, don’t say it (or email it, or Tweet it, or Facebook it.) True, Helpful, Necessary, or Kind. So what does the “I” stand for? It stands for me, and it stands for you. I need to insert myself into that THINKing habit. True, Helpful, Necessary, Kind.
God said that the tithe is holy to the Lord. It belongs to Him. If we neglect returning what is His, we are not staying sensitive to the sacred. I was here at the church last week at one point, and one of our members stopped by to pick up her Sabbath school quarterly and a quarterly for someone else, and before she left, she said, “Wait. I need to pick up some more tithe envelopes.” I would consider that staying sensitive to the sacred.
And David knew that the Lord had specifically chosen and anointed Saul as king, and David considered that sacred. He knew that Saul himself was not holy by any means. But David stayed sensitive to the sacred, so he decided that since God had set Saul up as king, it was up to God to remove Saul as king.
So Saul leaves the cave, and while he’s still walking back toward his army, David comes out. Listen to how passionate the future king is about staying sensitive to the sacred.
Verses 8 – 22: David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down. And David said to Saul: “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Indeed David seeks your harm’? Look, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’ Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it. Let the LORD judge between you and me, and let the LORD avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A flea? Therefore let the LORD be judge, and judge between you and me, and see and plead my case, and deliver me out of your hand.” So it was, when David had finished speaking these words to Saul, that Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. Then he said to David: “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil. And you have shown this day how you have dealt well with me; for when the LORD delivered me into your hand, you did not kill me. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely? Therefore may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Therefore swear now to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s house.” So David swore to Saul. And Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
David, of course, is nobody’s fool. Saul sounded repentant, but in all his speaking and weeping he did not specifically promise that he would avoid pursuing David in the future. So David goes the other way.
Now let’s look for just one more exile readiness key which sustained a David when he was on the run from Saul. And I think this key, if we remember it, will help us deal with our difficulties too. In the story that follows, a very smart woman is going to place this key in David’s hand – and it’s going to save him a lot of grief.
1 Samuel 25:1 – 9: Then Samuel died; and the Israelites gathered together and lamented for him, and buried him at his home in Ramah. And David arose and went down to the Wilderness of Paran. Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel, and the man was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings. He was of the house of Caleb. When David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep, David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. And thus you shall say to him who lives in prosperity: ‘Peace be to you, peace to your house, and peace to all that you have! Now I have heard that you have shearers. Your shepherds were with us, and we did not hurt them, nor was there anything missing from them all the while they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David.’ ” So when David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and waited.
And now it is up to Nabal to respond with typical Middle Eastern hospitality. After all, in the next few verses we will see that Nabal is going to be giving a lavish feast. He’s got plenty of money. He could just as well reward David’s freelance security force for protecting his shepherds.
On a side note, I think it’s very interesting that David’s followers – which number about 600 men at this point – treated the shepherds so honorably. We need to remember that David’s followers weren’t all model citizens. But evidently, they have all pretty much adopted David’s moral character. He was a leader who knew the difference between right and wrong, and made sure that his followers knew it as well.
Again, the next move is Nabal’s. How is he going to respond?
Verses 10 – 11: Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”
On the one hand, you could say, this is sensible human logic. Nabal technically doesn’t owe David’s men any thank-you gift for what they’ve done. If they had come to him first, and signed a contract, that would be one thing. But they have provided him a service, and they are operating under the rules of the generous hospitality of that era.
Abraham did the same thing when he was visited by God in human form along with a couple of angels when they were on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah. They had done no service for Abraham – and were about to put Abraham’s nephew in grave danger – but Abraham opened his home and his food supply.
So, Nabal has made his chess-move, and it’s David’s turn. Watch carefully what happens.
Verses 12 – 13: So David’s young men turned on their heels and went back; and they came and told him all these words. Then David said to his men, “Every man gird on his sword.” So every man girded on his sword, and David also girded on his sword. And about four hundred men went with David, and two hundred stayed with the supplies.
Bad move by Nabal, and bad move by David. The Bible doesn’t give David any permission to take revenge for this contemptuous breach of hospitality.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things are happening very quickly.
Verses 14 – 22: Now one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.” Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. And she said to her servants, “Go on before me; see, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.”
But then suddenly a group of Nabal’s servants start arriving with quite a bit of food. And following them is a woman riding on a donkey. And with her she carries another “staying power” key.
And watch as Abigail pushes exactly the right buttons as she responds to David. What you’re about to hear is a masterpiece of persuasion.
Verses 23 – 31: Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground. So she fell at his feet and said: “On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
And now that she has handed David this “staying power” exile-survival key, he reaches out, and takes it, and uses it.
Verses 32 – 35: Then David said to Abigail: “Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!” So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.”
And a crisis is averted. So, what is this last exile-survival key David used? Here it is.
Not only did David stay in step with God, and not only did David stay sensitive to the sacred, but David’s “stance” stayed loose.
What do I mean by that?
Back when I was a kid, I got a paperback book on the art of karate. The instructor, a man by the name of Bruce Tegner, had filled the book with hundreds of photos of him in various karate poses, fending off someone attacking him with a knife, or someone trying to strike him with a stick.
But at the beginning of the book, Bruce Tegner told us that right at the start, it was important to learn the correct karate stance. I’m sure there are a number of stances a person could use, depending on the teacher, but Tegner’s stance was one he called the “T position.” Basically, you position your feet so that if you brought them together, they would be at right angles, with the heel of your left foot touching the center of your right foot so that it would look like a capital T. Naturally you would never put your feet that close together, but that should be the basic position, the basic stance, you should aim for, to make sure that you have the best chance of staying in balance.
So what do I mean by “stance” in a spiritual sense? Well, Nabal made his stance clear: “I’m going to keep my money and never let go of any of it, no matter how much hospitality requires a response.”
And when David got the jolting news about Nabal’s inhospitable reply, he implulsively took the wrong stance. That stance said, “My men and I have been grossly offended by this ungrateful farmer, and we have the right to take vengeance.”
But that wasn’t David’s real stance. His real stance had always been, “I will carefully consider sensible opinions, and change my plans if I need to.”
So what’s my take away from David’s last exile-survival key? I need to keep my stance loose. I need to rise above my personal grievances. I need to shrug off any grudges in order to be a servant of God.
And I can do that not only because of David’s example, but because of what the rest of the Bible – and my own personal experience, and the experiences I’ve heard from other people – say about how good and generous we need to be.
I can be good to others, because God has been good to me. “Christ was treated as we deserve that we may be treated as He deserves,” said Ellen White on page 25 of her book The Desire of Ages. “He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His.”