David and Saul

1 Samuel 18


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17 Aug 2015

Luke Nelson

Luke is the Lead Pastor of City on a Hill Melbourne West. He joined City on a Hill in its early days, serving as the Community Pastor in Melbourne, before being asked to lead a new church plant. Having grown up in Melbourne’s western suburbs, he has a deep knowledge of and passion for the area, and a great desire to see the gospel bring transformation. A gifted communicator, he loves the work of pastoring a church, opening God’s word each week and seeing the Spirit work. Luke graduated with a BA (Hons) from Melbourne University, has a Grad Dip in Divinity and a Masters of Ministry from Ridley College. He is an ordained Anglican minister in the Diocese of Melbourne.

16 Aug 2015

Andrew Grills

Andrew is the Lead Pastor of City on a Hill Geelong. He has spent most of his life as an officer in the Australian Army. Graduating with the Sword of Honour from the Australian Defence Force Academy, he served in Infantry and Intelligence, including operations in East Timor with the commandos. He holds a postgraduate degree in International Relations from Oxford University and an MDiv from Ridley College. Andrew later became an Army Chaplain at the Australian Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka, before leaving the full time Army in 2013 to plant City on a Hill Geelong. Andrew has been married to his beautiful wife Danna for over 20 years and has five young children. He loves the ocean, traveling, camping, playing with his kids (including attending their innumerable sporting matches), and reading military history.

11 Aug 2015
  • Transcript

    As soon as 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. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul, and Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war, and this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants.

    As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments, and the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.

    The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand, and Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him, twice.

    Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand, and he went out and came in before the people, and David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.

    Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord's battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father's clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul's daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

    Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king's son-in-law.”

    And Saul's servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king's enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

    And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king's son-in-law and Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David's enemy continually.

    Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out, David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed. [1 Samuel 18]

    Good morning, everyone. It is fantastic to be with you this morning. As you heard I'm the lead pastor of City on a Hill Geelong so I bring you the greetings of your brothers and sisters down there in Geelong. And I am excited to be here because last time, it was about five months ago, I was meant to be here, but my wife very inconsiderately decided to go into labor in that exact moment. So you’re stuck with me this time. It cannot happen.

    So would you pray with me as we come to God’s word and preach out your prayers as we ask Him to speak through this Word to us. Let’s pray.

    Father God, we come to Your word this morning, and we see on one hand David, and we see on the other hand Saul, and we pray, Lord, that You would speak to our hearts this morning. And I pray, Lord, that You would speak through my words, because they’re not my words, they are Your words, and I pray Lord that You would hide me behind the cross of Jesus Christ, and You would lift up Your son so that all people would be drawn to Him. So would You work through this time we ask it, in the name of Jesus, Amen.

    So as we begin this morning, I want to ask you a question. It is a serious question, this is a serious test. What is the very worst thing that can happen to you in all of your life? What comes to mind? I don’t mean here the slow internet connection, the bad coffee, the late train, or your losing footie team. I mean, what is the very worst thing that could happen to you? What comes into your mind? Would it be perhaps the death of somebody that you love? Or could it be living alone by yourself as you live out your days? Or could it be the failure of your marriage, bankruptcy of your business, death of one of your children, injury that leaves you a quadriplegic? I don’t know what it is for you.

    But I wanted to ask you that question as we begin. What is the worst thing that you can ever imagine? And whatever that thing is as we come to the text this morning, I think you going to see that there is something far worse than any of those things. Come with me now to the Book of 1 Samuel, and we are going to find out.

    And today we pick up the story of David and Saul, and we’re going to find that on 1 Samuel Chapter 18, and I want to set the scene for you. Your heard it in the reading, but a great victory has been won. David and King Saul, King Saul with his young acolyte David, they come into the main street of the town.

    You can picture the ticker tape is falling, the band is playing, the people are cheering and laughing, but something changes in that moment. Do you know what it was? Yeah, it was country music. It changes it. Did you notice that? It says, “The women came out of all the towns of Israel and they’re singing this song.” It was kind of innocent enough, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands.”

    But in that moment as Saul heard that song, the smile which before was probably genuine became fixed. David was no longer the deliverer of Saul’s throne from Goliath and the Philistine army. David now became a challenger for the throne of Saul. That’s not the beginning of the story of David and Saul, but I think this chapter marks the turning point, and it’s the beginning of the end to the story of Saul. From here it’s all downhill.

    Now, it didn’t seem like that as this event happened to anybody. I’m sure it didn’t seem like that anymore than if you can’t cast your mind back to the 23rd of June 2010. Remember that? Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was giving his speech to the press gallery. Julia Gillard is at home watching it on TV. All the power is with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, yet in reality, the prime minister’s power had already evaporated like water. The decision had already been made, and only awaited its final execution.

    This is the situation here. The old King Saul is still reigning, but he’s been rejected. The new soon-to-be King David has been anointed, but he is not yet reigning. The situation is summed up Verse 12, Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but He had departed from Saul.

    Now in 1 Samuel, you’re going to see time and again that the writer contrasts these two men, Saul and David. He wants us to see that contrast. On one hand, we see the rise and the rise and the rise of that young shepherd boy who becomes the greatest king in Israel’s history. On the other side, we see a king who started so high and falls so low.

    This relationship of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd lasted for less than 24 hours before Julia Gillard was Australia’s Prime Minister. But in this instance for David, it lasted 15 years, 15 chapters of 1 Samuel, and this contrast is not just history. It’s not just an interesting political narrative. It is those things. It’s far more than that, and I want you to see this morning that as we come to this text, it happened a long time ago, the Spirit of God who inspired it is the same Spirit who wants you to learn from it. Each one of us, there are things in this we need to hear.

    So let’s come back now into Chapter 18, and let’s pick up the story again before we fast forward to the way the story ends. So 1 Samuel 18, on one level, these kinds of things are a familiar story, doesn’t it? It’s the story of the wolf pack. You know, the old wolf getting weaker, losing his grip, and then a young challenger coming up from amongst the wolves. There’s going to be a fight and it will end with one of them dead. It’s a familiar story.

    Stories like this abound. They abound in history, they abound in our sporting contests. The ageing superstar confronts the young upcoming champion, but this is actually not what’s happening here. What is happening here is that Saul is not being rejected because of his weakness or his failing political strength or military strength. He’s actually at the height of his powers, and David is not some young challenger who wants greatness. No, the text tells us Saul has been rejected by God, David has been chosen by God, and in that gulf, that is the theological imprint that is laid on our story today. It is that tension that the writer brings to us again and again.

    Now, let's look at Saul for a moment. You may remember that Saul was the king, Israel’s first king, who was chosen after the desires and the intent of the people. “So we don't want you Samuel, we want a king just like the other nations, and Saul is that king.” And God gave them Saul, and Saul did achieve some of what his potential promised, he became a great warrior, he united Israel socio-politically, he instituted some reforms. But when we come 1 Samuel 18, Saul’s rejected, David has been chosen.

    So now Saul hears the song and his suspicions mount as that parade marches into town that this guy David, he’s the one that might replace him. And the very next day, the text 1 Samuel 18 tells us that Saul who was a man that was taller than anyone else by head and shoulders in Israel, a warrior. He sees David playing the lyre in front of him and he seizes his spear and twice he tries to pin him to the wall, but David eludes him. I presume Saul claims temporary insanity for that when he goes to court, but he doesn’t go to court, he’s the king, but he would have claimed that.

    But after this point, we see in 1 Samuel that this contrast in the next chapter, it’s always Saul trying to get David. And it plays out across various scenes and various things, but from this point on, Saul’s intent is clear, “I am going to kill him,” and at first, it’s subtle. In 1 Samuel Chapter 18, Saul actually makes use of the law of averages. He does his statistics, and he figures out that, “I’m going to send David into the army. We’re going to put him in combat, in combat, in combat. Eventually, the law of averages is going to catch up with him. Somewhere on some of field of battle, a stray arrow or a stray spear is going to kill David, and when that happens, I, Saul, will shed some very public crocodile tears at the funeral, and then the problem will be gone.”

    Saul thinks in Verse 17, “Let not my hands be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” That’s the whole issue with this bizarre foreskin thing. Saul is going to use the hand of the Philistines to kill his major rival. But I don’t know if you noticed this; Saul is beating his head against omnipotence. God has chosen David, he has rejected Saul, and the more Saul tries to fight against that, it’s a tragedy, the more you see him bringing about his own destruction. Did you notice that?

    He sends David off to fight these battles with the Philistines so he would be killed, and what happens? David wins every battle he encountered. He becomes more and more famous. He thinks, “I’m going to trap him by getting him with Michal. He would probably be killed trying to get the foreskins. If he doesn’t, we’ll have someone on the inside.” And he ends up, and you can picture this scene, gritting his teeth as he walks down the aisle with his daughter to give her away to David. He has made his rival the king’s son-in-law.

    It’s a tragedy. Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we see Saul more and more getting caught up on this web of paranoia, of conflict and of murder. Saul is sinking ever deeper into the darkness, and Verse 28 says, “So Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.”

    But throughout these chapters, Saul is David’s enemy, David is never Saul’s. If you read them, you’ll see that time and again David refuses to lift up his sword against God’s anointed king, which is Saul.

    But I want to fast forward now to the end of this story. I want us to see how this ends because there is something here in this tragedy, which I believe we each need to hear. So if you have your Bibles or on the screen, you will see 1 Samuel 28, and I’m going to pick it up at Verse 3, “Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem, and Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa.

    When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly, and when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.’ And his servants said to him, ‘Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.’

    So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night. And he said, ‘Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.’ The woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?’ But Saul swore to her by the Lord, ‘As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.’ Then the woman said, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ He said, ‘Bring up Samuel for me.’

    When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.’ The king said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. What do you see?’ And the woman said to Saul, ‘I see a god coming up out of the earth.’ He said to her, ‘What is his appearance?’ And she said, ‘An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.’ And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.

    Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ Saul answered, ‘I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.’ And Samuel said, ‘Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as He spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbour, David, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord."

    I mean, picture yourself standing there with Saul. The battle is about to start. You stand on a hill, perhaps you’re overlooking it. You can see the forces of the enemy spread out before you, vast, and Verse 5 says, “When Saul saw that vast enemy army, he was afraid. Terror filled his heart."

    So Saul inquires of the Lord. But in Verse 6, we are told that the Lord doesn’t answer Saul, by either of the means He usually does. Saul had come to the greatest crisis of his life. He can hear the shouts of the Philistines and God’s response to him is…

    What’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you in all of your life? It's to be abandoned by God. And Saul has been abandoned by God. So you notice in the face of God’s deafening silence, he looks elsewhere. He’s going to go to medium. He’s going to go to a necromancer. He’s going to try and bring up Samuel who in the past has been the bearer of God’s word to him.

    So he makes this bizarre trip on the night before the biggest battle of his life to see an occult practitioner. The writer doesn’t want us to get caught up in mechanics of how. What he wants us to see is the tragedy that has become King Saul.

    Turn back in your Book of 1 Samuel, you’ll see Saul as the young king, stepping forward into the daylight, into the sunlight of God’s favour and His blessing. Now we see, in the darkness, in the darkness of a seance, saying some of the saddest words in the entire books of Scripture. Did you hear those words? Verse 15, this is what they say. Hear them carefully, let them sink into your soul.

    Verse 15, “I am in great distress. The Philistines are fighting against me. God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, even with prophet’s dreams. I’ve called on you to tell me what to do.”

    Can you hear the desperation in that? As the noose starts to close on Saul’s neck, he can hear the voices of the Philistines, but God’s voice he cannot hear. God has nothing to say to him.

    See that answer to our question? What is the worst thing that can happen in all of your life? The Scripture says this is the worst thing. But the question that’s on your mind, and I know it’s on your mind because it's on my mind too, is why? Why has God abandoned Saul? Isn’t Saul at this moment trying everything he can do to speak to God, to communicate to God, to get God’s guidance? Why is God silent? Won’t God always be there when I call to him? Doesn’t He say that He will be? Why has God abandoned Saul?

    The dead Samuel himself reminds Saul of the answer to that. In Verse 18, “You did not obey the Lord. You did not obey the Lord.” If you read the story of Saul, you see time and again he wanted to use what God could give, but he didn’t want God. He made a show of repentance. He said the right things, but his heart was not with God. He refused, he ignored the word of God.

    But the result of this shouldn’t really surprise us. The Bible is very clear on this, if you despise God’s word, eventually God will take that word away from you. If you persistently refuse to endure the sound of God’s voice, one day you will endure the sound of His silence.

    Now, there are three applications I think from this story. The first two are very serious. And the first is to the person who today is perhaps here at the invitation of a friend. They’re not a Christian. You’re not a Christian here this morning as you sit or as you podcast this, you had a friend that brought you along, you thought, "Oh, I'll check out this weird cinema, the church that meets in a cinema." Or maybe your mom forced you, but whatever reason you are here this morning, and you’d say, “Look, I’m probably not a Christian. I’m investigating. I’m interested. I’ve got an open mind.”

    I say to you, “you are welcome.” It’s great to have you here with us this morning. As we come to this place, it’s great that you are podcasting this if you are, but this text tells us that you’ve got a choice. This text tells us, the Bible tells us that when God’s word is preached, it’s not just the voice of the preacher. Underpinning that is the voice of God the Holy Spirit. God is speaking to you, and if you’re here this morning saying, “I’m not a Christian,” then be certain that God is speaking to you. He wants to communicate to you. He’s calling you.

    And if that is you, I want this first application, I want you to hear the urgency of that call. Because I know, I’ve been there. “There’s another day to respond to this. There are so many other urgent things that have to be done and things in my life are so busy. I want to have some fun. Look, later on, I’ll think about this call. Later on maybe I’ll respond to this call. Look, God, I know I can hear you speaking to me now, but not now, this is not the time.”

    Well, the urgency of this text as we see Saul’s example is, if you persistently refuse to listen to God speak to you, you will endure His silence, and this is no game. If God is speaking to you this morning, if it is a game, it’s like the game of Russian roulette. You know that game? You get the 6-shooter pistol with the six chambers. You get one bullet, five empties. You put one bullet in, you spin that chamber, and then at a random point you stop, you put it to your head and you pull the trigger.

    I mean, every time God speaks to us, every time God speaks to you and you refuse to listen, you refuse to obey, you spin that chamber and you put it to your head and you pull the trigger, except this is far more serious than ending your human life. The stakes here are eternity.

    Do you see the seriousness of this? This example of Saul tells us that if you are not yet a Christian, you need to take this seriously. If you are going to reject the offer that is given to you, if you are going to reject the voice of God, at least reject it on the basis of the evidence that you spent time to investigate and learn. Don’t reject it just because you can’t be bothered or you think it’s unimportant. It’s not unimportant. The stakes are high. You need to respond to this. That’s the first application, if you are not yet a Christian.

    But look, I know many of us, most of us, the overwhelming majority of us in this place, or podcasting or wherever we are, we are Christians. After all, we came to a church service. In other words, we’re just like Saul. Saul never signed up on the atheist convention. Saul would have said, “Oh, I believe in God.” Saul knew the right language to use. He went to church, the service equivalence. Did you hear him in the seance? Even pulled out the God word a couple of times. Swore by the name of the Lord. Saul was religious.

    But the example of Saul tells us that there is a trajectory. Each opportunity we have for a choice, and we all have them, we stand at the crossroads, and those crossroads go very different directions. So, young men, older men, young women, older women, each of us stands at a crossroad this morning. We all do. You know that God is speaking to you through His word. You know that He has asked you to follow Him in humble obedience, but you teeter. Maybe it’s that alluring, attractive sexual opportunity that you get in your workplace. Maybe it’s the click of the mouse. Maybe it, like Saul, is something of a mission. You know God is telling you to do something, but you close your ears and you say, “Oh, Lord, another time. I mean, how's it going to hurt. God is gracious. God understands. God will forgive you. He’d always be there for me, won’t he?”

    The story of Saul screams at us in warning. God has made you free. You have significant freedom. This morning as God speaks to you, you have the power. You have the freedom to close your ears to His voice. You have the freedom to choose the broad, easy way where everyone else is going. You’ve got the freedom to do that. You’ve got the freedom to resist the voice of God as He speaks to you. He’s given you that freedom. You have the freedom to deny His purposes, His good and perfect purposes for your life because you’re going to choose something else. You’ve got the freedom to do that, but why does this text warns us so severely? It’s when we see the example of Saul, we see where that ends.

    If you want to see where it ends, flip forward a few chapters in the Bible to 1 Samuel Chapter 31 and you will see what happens to Saul. He dies abandoned and forsaken, lost and without hope in this world on Mount Gilboa the very next day. It doesn’t end well to Saul. He tells himself he can come back, but he can’t.

    If you continually harden your heart to God’s voice when He calls you, eventually God will harden your heart to His voice. If you will not listen to God’s voice, you will endure the sound of His silence, and you know it starts small. You know it always starts small, doesn’t it? It started small for Saul. He just simply rejected a few commands of the Lord’s, and when you read what those commands were earlier in 1 Samuel, you’ll probably think, “That’s no big deal.” In fact, what he actually did kind of makes sense, but to reject God’s word is to reject God himself.

    The pastor and commentator Dale Ralph Davis puts it like this, he says, “If we are to have accurate thinking about sin, Saul’s or ours, we must see behind the polite exterior to what is beneath the surface or behind the scenes. Saul did not listen to Yahweh’s voice; he did not obey Yahweh’s clear command. One does not call that an alternate religious understanding, or an expression of theological pluralism, or a quest for finding one’s true identity. It is rebellion. It is arrogance. It is idolatry. Because you have rejected Yahweh’s word, He has rejected you from being king. To reject Yahweh’s word is to reject Yahweh himself. To reject His authority, in a word, is to reject His kingship.”

    I want to get personal here. What’s the issue of our day that screams at you to reject God’s word, just to push it aside? What is the issue? What’s the elephant in the room? You all know what it is. With our culture in our time, it’s the issue of gay marriage. Don’t you feel that relentless pressure day after day? I do, and look, I’m a Facebook Philistine but I do go on there sometimes, and I have seen some of you with those rainbow Facebook pages, and I’d like to think you probably don’t understand the issues. I’d like to think that what you’re wanting to say is, “You know what, if you’re gay we love you, just like Jesus loves you and accepts you.”

    And we do, you’re right. If you’re someone who struggles with same sex attraction and you’re here today, you are so welcome. There’s no one who has complete obedience in every area of their life all the time. None of us do, and if you’re struggling with that issue, welcome, you’re just as welcome as if you’re struggling with fornicating with your boyfriend or your girlfriend that you're not married to, or you have committed adultery, you’re welcome here.

    But for the Christian to accept or promote gay marriage, that’s to say something different. That’s to say that that’s okay. And if you come here this morning and you are a heterosexual who is immoral, this church and God’s word would say to you, “You need to repent. We serve a holy God who sees your heart. He knows. No else might, He knows.” And exactly the same way, if you come here today and you are a homosexual, you’re someone who’s same sex attracted and you are acting on those attractions, God’s word would say to you, you need to repent.

    Do you see the difference? The serious issue of gay marriage puts it so clearly before us. Are you going to call good what God calls sin? It may seem loving to do that. It may seem culturally attuned. It’s certainly the easiest part. It’s what Romans 1:24 says, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

    Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them, but they give approval to those who practice them. Do you really think that God is okay with you disobeying His word? Do you think that God is okay with you in the workplace when you give the thumbs up to this? Do you think that God doesn’t mind, that He overlooks your disobedience? Saul’s example tells us that if we persistently refuse to listen to God’s voice on any issue, we will eventually endure His silence.

    But I want to close with a third application, and that is, I want you to be encouraged this morning. I especially want you to be encouraged that as I’m going through this and as we’re looking at God’s word, you’re thinking, “Yeah, it’s me, I’m rejected.” You’re thinking, “Oh man, my life is so busted up. Yeah, I’m like Saul. I’m rejected. There’s no way home for me. I’ve gone too far down that road. I know where that route in the road leads, and it’s too late.”

    I want you to hear something here. Or maybe you’re a Christian this morning and you’re thinking, “Well, because I’m suffering and my life is so difficult, maybe that is saying I’m rejected. I call out to God when things are tough and He doesn’t seem to answer, therefore, I’m rejected.”

    Well, maybe you had a romantic idea of what it was like for David. You know David, those 15 years? I think sometimes I’ve had this. I’ve imagined David kind of like a long extended camping trip. I love camping. Or maybe I’ve imagined it a bit like David and the Knights of the Round Table, on these lovely horses and armour and having a real tour around the beautiful areas of rural Palestine, but that’s not what it was.

    When you read the Scriptures, you see that year after year, David is hunted. Have you been hunted? I have, on an army exercise and it is no fun, even in an exercise. He’s hunted everywhere, and David is pushed out into the wilderness. If you’ve been there, I have. It’s a terrible blasted, sun-scorched, waterless waste, much of it. David is there, dirty, nowhere to go. Not only that, his marriage is broken. You read that Saul rips his bride away from him. He splits his marriage in two. He got to live with a bunch of outlaws. He flees as a refugee to an enemy nation, the Philistines, where he has to pretend to be insane. He’s worried about his father and mother being killed by Saul.

    Indeed on the very same day that we see Saul at his great crisis, as he stands on that hill and he looks down, we see David at his greatest crisis, at very same moment. So, 1 Samuel 30 Verse 1, listen to this, “Now when David and his men came to Ziklag,” that’s their home, “on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken into captivity.”

    So David arrives at his home and he finds it torched. Wife and family gone, and Verse 5 says that, “When David and the people who were with him raised their voices and they wept until they had no more strength to weep.”

    Can you see the men lying on the ground, tears streaming out, everything has been destroyed? But it gets worse for David. Verse 6 tells us, “And David was greatly distressed,” same word said of Saul, remember? Saul said to Samuel, “I’m greatly distressed.” David says, “I’m greatly distressed", for the people spoke of stoning him, “because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters.”

    You see, do you think that following God’s king is easy? So was David abandoned in this moment? He sure felt like it. He wasn’t abandoned. In fact, if you read that chapter, you’ll see that it says, “David strengthened himself in the Lord, his God.” David turns to God and he asks for guidance and God gives it to him, and the sun does not descend into darkness as it did for Saul. The sun rises on a new day for David.

    But you know what, David is the king-in-waiting, he’s been anointed, but for 15 years, he has to wait. We serve a King who’s been anointed too, but has yet to fully reign. For his followers, serving a king who’s in the transition is a dangerous thing. The king of this world does not like his subjects to turn and follow the new king. He hates it. He rages against it. So David is cast out into the wilderness and hunted.

    The reality is if you’re going through tough times and you are following Christ, you’ve put your trust in him, that doesn’t mean you’ve been abandoned. That may actually suggest that you're exactly the opposite, that you have been permitted to walk through the wilderness like David before you, like another One that entered the wilderness there for 40 days and 40 nights, and it might actually be a sign of God’s favour.

    Now, what does that look like for you? It may be that this issue I’ve spoke of before, gay marriage is the issue that’s going to bring suffering for you, it could. If the legislation passes or the resolution passes within the Labor Party from 2018, it will no longer be possible to be a member of the ALB Caucus and believe that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.

    Do you see that that potentially is going to be an issue of suffering? There’s a line in the sand, and you have to choose to cross one way or the other. Now, the reformer Martin Luther once said, “If you preach the Gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues which deals specifically with your time, you are not preaching the Gospel at all.”

    So it may mean that this morning, you are suffering maybe, for a number of different reasons, but that does not mean you were abandoned. Jesus himself said, “If you’re of the world, the world would love you. But if it hated me, it will hate you, but woe to you when all people speak well of you because that is how they treated the false prophets who were before you.”

    I sometimes meet Christians that say to me, “I don’t think I can walk with God because life is so hard. God has let this happen to me.” You know, I feel that. When we suffer, we often say, “Well, God, have you abandoned me?” But I sometimes think, “Haven’t they read the Scriptures? Don’t they see that following the King in transition means going through the wilderness within, that it means suffering as he did?”

    But if you’re still thinking this morning that God rejects you, that He has abandoned you like Saul, well, there are two things you need to hear. It’s possible that you are well down the track towards that final end. It’s possible that God has been speaking to you time and again, you refused to listen. Beware, we never see how that trajectory widens.

    If that is you and God is speaking to you and you are rejecting His voice, it’s a very good question to ask, “Am I abandoned?” But if you are someone who is listening to the voice of God, you have put your trust and your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Holy Spirit indwells you, you are trying to follow Him. Imperfectly, yes, we all do. That you are saying, “God, I want to follow you. I want to fight sin. I want to go with you in this wilderness so that I can reach that endpoint”. If that is you, then you need to know that you will never, you will never be abandoned by the One who has given it all for you.

    How can I say that with such confidence? Because you know there was Someone who went out in the darkness before the greatest crisis of His life. There was Someone who went out in that darkness, knowing that the next day they’re in anguish because they would be abandoned by God. There is Someone who was abandoned by God in a physical and spiritual darkness more than we can ever grasp. There was One who cried out in that darkness, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”

    Have you ever heard those words, “Why have you forsaken me?” His name is Jesus, and He was forsaken. As He hung on the cross, He was abandoned by God. What has He done? Why was He abandoned? Why was He forsaken? The Scripture tells us because we need never be, because in that moment of forsakenness, God opened the door wide so that we would never be. Our sins were paid for. Our rebellion was eliminated. Our hearts were captured and won for Him. He was forsaken that we might be accepted. Jesus chose to carry the sins of the world. David’s greatest Son has made a way that we need never be rejected.

    So for this morning, if you are hearing this and you’re saying, “I’m trying to follow Jesus, but He’s rejected me,” if you’re trying to follow Jesus, He hasn’t rejected you. He’s bought you. He’s bled for you. He saved you, and He will call you home.

    What’s the worst thing that could ever happen in all of your life? It’s being abandoned by God for eternity. But the great news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that everything is being done to ensure we need never experience it. God loves you so much He sent His Son, whoever listens to Him, obeys Him, might not die, but have eternal life. God will never abandon us. He Himself says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    As the band comes up now, you have an opportunity to respond in worship. You have an opportunity to sing to our God, to express the emotions on our hearts. For some of us, that will need to be repentance. God has confronted you with an issue that needs to change, listen to him. Don’t play that game. For others of us, this will be the comfort that we need to hear, that in the midst of suffering and difficulty, we’re like David in the wilderness. Like David, weeping, asking, “God, where are you? That we’re not forsaken.” We’re going to affirm those two things as we sing. But before we do it, let me pray for us.

    Father God, we’re gathered in this place to hear your word. Father, we ask that I’d be hidden behind the cross and that Jesus would be lifted up, and we pray that that would be the reality of what has happened in these minutes, and now, Lord, as we turn to You in prayer and in songs, Father, would You please comfort those of us who are afflicted. Show us Your never-ending love and Your grace, and would You please afflict those of us who are comfortable, who think that we can go through life and reject Your words, but not harm our relationship with You or reject You. Oh, Lord, would You do those two things, and as we sing and praise and worship You now, would You minister Your grace to us because You love us and You’ve done everything for us, and it’s in the name of the Lord Jesus that we ask You, Amen.

Andrew Grills

Andrew is the Lead Pastor of City on a Hill Geelong. He has spent most of his life as an officer in the Australian Army. Graduating with the Sword of Honour from the Australian Defence Force Academy, he served in Infantry and Intelligence, including operations in East Timor with the commandos. He holds a postgraduate degree in International Relations from Oxford University and an MDiv from Ridley College. Andrew later became an Army Chaplain at the Australian Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka, before leaving the full time Army in 2013 to plant City on a Hill Geelong. Andrew has been married to his beautiful wife Danna for over 20 years and has five young children. He loves the ocean, traveling, camping, playing with his kids (including attending their innumerable sporting matches), and reading military history.