The King Israel Wants

I. Introduction

We’ve been studying the bible chronologically this year, and we’ve covered a lot of ground.  God desires a relationship with man, but Adam sinned against the Lord and was cast out of the Garden of Eden, demonstrating man’s fallen nature.
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God continually reaches out toward man, but man continues rebel.  Cain slew Abel.  Men were so evil, the Lord flooded the earth and began again with Noah.  The Lord promised Abraham his children would be as numerous as the stars, but Abraham got impatient and slept with his maid.  Jacob was thrown into a well and sold into slavery, and the Lord reached out to rescue His people from Pharaoh through Moses.
And the people wandered in the wilderness until the unfaithful generation died off, then the people enter the Promised Land and begin the cycle that Chris taught about last week – rebellion leads to ruin, leads to repentance, leads to rescue, then repeat.

II. God’s Word about a King

All the way back in Deuteronomy, Moses gave the word of the Lord to the people that the day will come that they will need a king.  Deuteronomy 17:14-20,
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.  The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.”  He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
In other words, the king should not build an army of horses which may give the people a false sense of security, nor build wealth.  He wasn’t to have multiple wives so as not to turn his heart from the Lord.  In short, this king was to be chosen by God from the people and lead by example of how to be a model follower of Yahweh.

III. The People’s Word about a King

So in 1 Samuel 8, the people finally ask the prophet Samuel for a king.  The Lord tells Samuel this is a bad idea – a king will take their sons and make them join the military, he will force them to serve the king with weapons and food and the best of their flock and their grain and the people will become slaves.  And the people will cry out to the Lord to be saved, but the Lord will not answer.
The people’s response?  “All the cool nations have kings, we want one, too!”
Samuel: “What about Deuteronomy 17, about a humble king chosen by God?”
The people: “Pfft.”
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The people wanted a king for all the wrong reasons, a king to lead them and fight battles.  The Lord pointed out to Samuel that the people were turning from their true, heavenly King to a human king.  But like so often happens between us and the Lord, I mean, between Israel and the Lord, the Lord gave them what they wanted, not what they needed.
The people chose Saul to be their king.  Not because Saul was devout, or humble, or obedient to the Lord.  No, the people chose Saul because he looked good.  1 Samuel 9:2 says,
Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
Instead of being the model servant of God, the people chose the man on the cover of the Israeli GQ magazine.
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Well, like I said last time I taught, if you can’t be a good example, then try to be a horrible warning.  What did Saul do wrong as Israel’s first king?  And if we study Saul as a horrible warning, what lessons can we draw that would help us live as good examples?

IV. Failure to Follow God’s Commands

First, Saul fails to follow all of God’s commands.  In 1 Samuel 15, the Lord has put Saul in charge of punishing the Amalekites.  Who were the Amalekites?  We have to go all the way back to the Exodus era in Exodus 17 to understand who the Amalekites are.  They’re one of the many -ites that trouble Israel over the centuries.  The Amalekites, the Amorites, the Canaanites.  The Meteorites.  The Snakebites.  The Parasites.  The Kryptonites.  Oh and the Off-whites.
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So the Israelites, led by Moses out of Egypt through the Desert of Sinai, are attacked from the rear by the Amalekites who are killing women and children that are straggling at the rear of the line.  You may recall Joshua led a battle against the Amalekites while Moses held his hands in the air.  Moses’ arms get tired so his arms are held up by Aaron and Hur.   Joshua wins that battle, but our God isn’t pleased that while leading His people to freedom that they are attacked.  In Exodus 17:14-16,
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.  He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
God’s justice will remove the Amalekites and blot out their memory.  Anybody here know any Amalekites?
So after Israel asks for a king, God chooses their king Saul to wipe out the Amalekites; 1 Samuel 15:1-3,
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.  This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”
The time for justice to be delivered to the Amalekites has come, but listen to how Saul carried out these instructions in 1 Samuel 15:7-9 –
Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt.  He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.  But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.  (April 13th, pg. 402)
In 1100 BC, capturing the king during a war meant riches for the winner.  The king could be ransomed off for a handsome profit.  And it would be a shame to kill all the animals, too, when there were so much better uses for them.
God sent a clear command to Saul through Samuel to completely wipe out the Amalekites and King Agog as an act of judgement.  Completely, in their entirety, leaving nothing.  Instead of obeying the Lord’s command, Saul keeps the spoils of war for himself.
Saul displayed a key character flaw during his time as king: he failed to fully obey the commands of God.  Saul had a habit of listening to God’s commands, and only following them halfway or sometimes not at all.  If Saul thought that he knew better than God, then he would do as he pleased.  Saul did this multiple times in key moments of his rule over Israel.  This disobedience from Saul grieved the heart of God so much so that God began to regret ever allowing Saul to become king over Israel.
Before we judge Saul too harshly, every one of us is tempted to disobey God.  There are many times that the commands of God and the teaching of Scripture will seem inconvenient, untenable, or unpalatable to us.  I see it in the news and it grieves me when entire churches decide which of God’s laws are acceptable and which ones are optional.  When we come across a truth from God that doesn’t make sense to us, we become tempted to either ignore it or only partially obey it.  We do this at our own risk.  God’s laws are not given to us to be restrictive or to make life difficult, but they are given to protect us, to help us thrive and become the people that God made us to be.  When we ignore God’s laws or pick and choose which law we will obey, it leads to destruction and pain for ourselves and those around us.

V. Giving Praise to Ourselves instead of to God

The second character flaw that Saul exhibited was his pride instead of humility.  Saul believed it was all about him.  In 1 Samuel 15:10, the Lord tells the prophet Samuel that the Lord is grieved because Saul didn’t carry out His command to wipe out the Amelekites, so Samuel goes to see Saul.  Let’s see what Saul is up to, 1 Samuel 15:10-12,
Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel:  “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”  (April 13th, pg. 402)
Samuel went to Saul find out how the battle with the Amalekites ended.  Samuel found out that Saul had won the battle and then built a monument to himself instead of worshipping God.  Saul awarded himself a participation trophy.
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We get another glimpse into Saul’s character flaws as a leader.  Not only did Saul not fully obey the command of the Lord, but he also had the gall to build a monument to himself after his disobedience.
Saul’s priorities were not with following the Lord or honoring Him.  Instead, Saul wanted to lift himself up to increase his own esteem and notoriety in the world.  Saul was overtaken by the deadliest of sins: pride.  Saul’s role king made him think that he was more important than anyone else in the world, and it is clear from his actions that he actually thought himself more important than God.  His first instinct was to do what he wanted to do and to have people honor him.  Saul wanted to worship himself instead of the God who gave him every good thing in his life.
Pride and self-importance are perhaps the deadliest traps for any of us who find ourselves in a place of leadership.  A true leader looks to the best of others and seeks to accomplish the task at hand.  An ungodly leader uses his status to elevate himself above others.
This trap lies in wait for any of us.  Why do we serve?  The bible has specific warnings to teachers who elevate themselves and who like to hear themselves talk, but the warnings are applicable to anybody who serves.  If we serve because we think we will gain the recognition and approval of others, then our service to the Lord actually offends the Lord.  Jesus tells us the same thing in Matthew 6:1-4,
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
In other words, it’s not about you.  We must all learn to walk in humility and do everything possible to avoid the trap of pride.

VI. Failing to Acknowledge Mistakes

Does Saul have any other character flaws we can learn from?  I’m glad you asked.  Remember, the Lord’s instructions to Saul were to utterly destroy the Amalekites.  Leave nothing.  And instead, Saul captured King Agog and kept the best livestock as spoils of war to make himself rich.  In 1 Samuel 15:13-15 –
When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”
But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
Or in other words,
Samuel: So Saul, did you obey the Lord?  Did you destroy all the cattle?
Saul: Why yes, I did.  Completely.
Cow: Moo.
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Saul refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his disobedience to the Lord.  First, he told Samuel that he had obeyed the Lord, and he said that he only kept the animals in order to sacrifice to God.  Saul’s denial is a form of “partial obedience.”
But did Saul obey?  Saul is in denial about his obedience.  “The Lord bless you, I have carried out the Lord’s instructions,” he says.  As Christians today, we have specific instructions, too.  But partial obedience is the same as disobedience.
If you told your child to do the dishes, how many dishes would he have to do for you to consider him to be obedient?  One?  Ten?  Or all of the dishes?
How faithful does a spouse have to be to be considered faithful?  Most of the time?
The scripture says we are to abstain from sexual immorality.  And yes, that includes weekends.
Scripture says God hates gossip.  God says we are to be patient.  God says we are to be kind.  God says to forgive one another.  Not occasionally, not sometimes, not unless we have a good excuse, but all of the time.
Samuel’s question to Saul – if you obeyed, why do I hear cows? – is a telling one.  First Saul denies he was disobedient, then Saul justifies to Samuel that partial obedience is more than enough.  1 Samuel 15:20 –
“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.”
That last sentence is almost incoherent.  I obeyed except when I didn’t.  The Lord said to destroy the Amalekites; Saul said of course he destroyed them except their king.
But you know what?  If we want to live a godly life, if we want God’s blessings to flow, if we want to avoid sabotaging God’s plan for our lives, we will read the scripture, we will put on the whole armor of God daily, we will do our best to be obedient without excuse.  We all have Amalekites of sin in our lives.  Yet, too often, we believe that we can pick and choose among God’s instructions, and then we act as though God should be appreciative of the bits and pieces that we do.  God defines obedience as total obedience.  We obey mostly, but we leave entire Amalekite kingdoms of sin in our lives.
Colossians 3:5-6 says –
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
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When Samuel further confronted him, Saul then shifted the blame to the men who fought with him, saying that they kept the animals.  1 Samuel 15:21,
The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.
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Saul thought he could appease the Lord by giving Him sacrifices, and then when that explanation didn’t fly, he decided to blame those under his leadership.  Worse, he claims his disobedience is actually for the Lord’s benefit.  But if we are not careful, we can blame our own disobedience on others.  I did obey the Lord, but the soldiers didn’t do right.   I had this great plan to serve the Lord, but somebody else messed it up.  Of course I made a covenant with my spouse for better or worse, but you don’t know my spouse.  Of course I can forgive my friend as soon as she asks for forgiveness. Sometimes we even blame God.  I lost my temper, sure, but God made me that way.
This disobedience is literally the oldest trick in the book.  Adam blamed his disobedience on Eve.  “It’s her fault!” And the Eve blamed it on the serpent.  The serpent, of course, didn’t have a leg to stand on.  But we cannot blame our own disobedience on somebody else.  God will see through that every time.
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I was recently reminded that this temptation to avoid taking responsibility and lay blame on others is ever present.  Last week, I returned from a business trip to Japan.  It was almost entirely business, but the weekend did have its benefits.
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But eventually it was time to return, and that morning, I was responding to last-minute emails since I would be traveling for the next 14 hours or so.  Then I shutdown, pulled the power plug (I always do that first since I read that is the most common thing left behind at hotels) and put it in my backpack.
Diane asked for some last minute assistance, a lidocaine patch for her shoulder to minimize pain on the return trip, and I was happy to help.  Then grab our bags, then catch a taxi, then transfer to an airport bus, then the airport ticket counter, then customs and immigrations, then security.  And if you have a laptop, you have to take it out of you bag for separate screening.
Imagine my shock when I opened my bag and there was no laptop.  Did somebody somehow steal it?  No, it was in my possession the whole time.  I looked in every section of the bag, and resisted the urge to check even the tiny pockets on the side that were too small anyway.
I called the hotel, who transferred me to housekeeping, who confirmed I had left my laptop in the hotel room.  Nothing that a dozen emails over the weekend and a credit card charge for a $200 to DHL couldn’t fix.  Definitely not a laughing matter, but my laptop was returned to me within the week.
But when I told co-workers – and in a situation like this, you *must* tell co-workers, unless you can explain why you’re just sitting at your desk and staring at a blank wall for the next 3 days – I was surprised at some of the reactions.  One person bluntly told me I should try to keep it a secret and not let anybody know I made a mistake.  That never even crossed my mind, I never claim to be mistake free.  I only claim to learn from my mistakes.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never leave a laptop behind again.
But when they asked me why I left it behind, I found I was tempted to say it was because I was distracted.  I was out of my routine.  I was helping my wife.  I felt the urge to find an excuse.  Certainly those things were true, but the mistake was entirely mine, and the right thing to do was to own up to it.  To be that horrible warning.
Saul, as our horrible warning today, first tried to claim he was obedient.  And when that explanation didn’t fly, he threw others under the bus.  If he failed, Saul reasoned, it was because of others.
God expects better of us.  God wants our heart.  1 Samuel 15:22-23, Samuel tells Saul what God thinks of Saul’s disobedience:
But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”

VII. Conclusion

In the life of Saul, we see an example of someone who wasted the opportunities given to him by the Lord.  Saul had all the natural tools to successfully lead the people of God, but he failed because he did not obey the Lord.  But we can use Saul as an example of a horrible warning because we are all capable of ignoring the Lord.  God has a calling for each one of us, and if we are obedient and trusting and loving, then we can experience fulfillment and joy.  However, if we are stubborn, selfish, and disobedient to the Lord, then we will lose our way and our walk with Him, just as Saul lost his opportunity to be a successful king of Israel.
Look to the Lord for His guidance, trust in His leadership, and be obedient to His Word.
To God be the glory.

 

A Harsh Word, A Gentle Word

   I.      Introduction

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there lived a husband and a wife named Nabal and Abigail.  This is a story of their lives in the land of their king, King David.

II.      Nabal

Now Nabal was a very wealthy man.  He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep.  I’m not exactly sure what one does with 1000 goats; make tons and tons of goat cheese, I guess.  I am not rich like Nabal; I myself do not have 1000 goats, nor would I want 1000 goats.  The closest I have to that is 1000 goat jokes. Slide2

Like, “What do you call a goat with one ear?  Vincent Van Goat.”

Or this one: A farmer found out his pig had been murdered in the barn.  The only witness was a rabbit.  The farmer lined up all the suspects, the cow, the horse, the goat, the rooster.  The farmer asked the rabbit who did it, and the rabbit stared right at the goat.

The goat said nervously, “I didn’t do it!”  And the farmer said, “Hare’s looking at you, kid.”

So I’m not a wealthy man like Nabal with his 1000 goats and 3000 sheep.  Thank goodness.

All this wealth did not make Nabal a happy person.  In verse 1 Samuel 25:3 – oh, I forgot to tell you this is a bible study, so open your bibles to 1 Samuel 25.  In verse 3 in the NIV, Nabal is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.”  The NASB calls him “harsh and evil.”  The King James calls him “churlish”, whatever that is, but I’m guess it’s surly and mean and harsh and evil.  Or it means he owns goats.Slide5

Historians aren’t sure that Nabal is his real name.  The word “Nabal” occurs 42 times in the Old Testament.  Twenty-two occurrences are in this chapter, describing this man.  The other 20 times the word “nabal” is translated “stupid, foolish and wicked”.  As in Jeremiah 17:11,

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
and in the end they will prove to be fools (nabal).

Slide6So it’s possible that the writer changed the name of the man to “fool” because he didn’t want to honor this man throughout history.

Then I went on a rabbit trail.  Who *was* the writer of the books of Samuel?  Was it Samuel the prophet?  Let’s look at the first 3 words of this chapter, 1 Samuel 25:1,

Then Samuel died.

I’m thinking if Samuel wrote this entire book, then Samuel had help.  Most scholars believe that chapter 1-24 were indeed written by Samuel the prophet, but starting in 1 Samuel 25, Nathan, the son of Saul, probably completed the books.

In says in verse 2 that Nabal was shearing his sheep in Carmel, and I don’t believe for a moment that Nabal was shearing the sheep himself.  I think he ordered his servants to shear the sheep.Slide8

Carmel was a small town in the hill country of Judah, about 10 miles south-southeast of Hebron, near the bottom of the Dead Sea.  Remember 3 weeks ago when we heard of Saul’s partial obedience in killing the Amalekites, but he spared the best of the cattle for himself and then build a monument to himself to proclaim how good he was?  That was at Carmel.  Saul is still nearby; Saul sometimes proclaims how great David is and other times tries to kill David, and right now there seems to be peace between them.  The point is that Nabal would know everything going on at this point since he’s living and working at the heart of this conflict.

Nabal is also a distant relative of David, because verse 3 says Nabal was of the house of Caleb.  He was a Jew, though his parents aren’t mentioned anywhere in scripture.  Caleb, you might remember, was one of the 12 spies representing the tribe of Judah, and David, too was descended from the line of Judah.

III.      Abigail

Now Nabal the fool was married to Abigail the beautiful and wise.  I know she was beautiful and wise because in verse 3 it says Abigail was beautiful and wise.   Abigail, too, was a Jew, though it’s not clear in the passage.  Her lineage is real confusing.Slide10

2 Samuel 17:25 Abigail is listed as the daughter of Nahash, whose name means “serpent.”  It’s not exactly clear who this Nahash is; there is a Nahash, king of the Amorites in 1 Samuel 11 who routs Jews at the city of Jabesh-gilead and threatens to put out the right eye of every male Jew until Saul, recently appointed king, kills all the Amorites and possibly Nahash.  I say possibly because 40 years later, Nahash, king of the Amorites, is a friend to David in 2 Samuel 10.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, in 1st Chronicle 2:1-16, we find out that Abigail is a sister of David.  Some scholars think Nahash and an unnamed woman had a daughter, when Nahash died, Jesse married her and adopted Abigail.  Others think this is a completely different Nahash and might even be a woman, the name of Jesse’s wife.  Still other scholars think that Nahab might even be another name for David’s father Jesse.Slide13

I spent way too much time on this.  Let’s just say Abigail was beautiful and wise and David already knew her.

 

IV.      David

Then there’s David, son of Jesse, King of Israel if Saul would quit horsing around, slayer of Goliath, and a man’s after God’s own heart.  And it’s that last description that makes this passage so crazy.  David wants to kill Abigail’s husband, Nabal.  And like a good CSI:Israel show, let’s review the plot and motive to see how a man’s after God’s own heart went into a murderous rage.

See, while Nabal was in Carmel, he had his 3000 sheep with him and it was sheep-shearing time.  No doubt this was long hard work.  Sheep wool is thick and difficult to cut, and they had hand tools, so I’m certain it took days or even weeks to shear all the sheep.  Unless you’re Matt Smith from New Zealand and you set the world record for sheep shearing, 731 sheep in 9 hours averaging one every 44 seconds, like this:

Some days I have trouble staying focused on the lesson.  Let’s just say that shearing Nabal’s 3000 sheep took a lot longer than 44 seconds.  It was such hard work, but apparently it’s also a festival time, because 1 Samuel 25:8 says it’s a feast day.

What has David been doing lately, besides hiding out from Saul?  Among other things, David and his soldiers have been near Nabal’s flock of sheep, and since they’re armed fighting men, nobody dares attack Nabal’s herd.  Nabal’s getting free protection.  Now that the sheep-shearing feast day has arrived, David and his men are hungry, and, well, here’s 1 Samuel 25:4-8,

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.’”

Basically, David’s saying, hey, we’ve been guarding your flock for free, and now that you’re having a feast for those who have been helping you, how about a little something for me and my men, whatever you can spare.  We like BBQ lamb.

Nabal’s response is mean, verse 10-11,

“Buzz off, Goat-breath.”

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And in the NIV translation,

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?”

The response is both mean and a lie.  If Nabal doesn’t know who David is, how does he know he’s the son of Jesse?  He’s saying that David is just a runaway slave and Nabal is not even going to provide bread and water.

When David’s men return and tell David, David goes ballistic.  Not literally, because they didn’t have bullets back then, but you know what I mean.  David tells 400 of his men to grab their swords, they are going to slaughter Nabal and every male that belongs to him.  So sayeth the man after God’s own heart.  We’re going to come back to that in a moment.

One of the men approached Nabal’s wife, and says, “Dear Abby, King David asked for a little food during the sheep shearing feast, and Nabal was verbally abusive and insulting to David.  Now David wants to slay every male here, including me.  What should I do?  Signed, Confused in Carmel.”Slide19

I’m certain that I’ve mentioned that Abigail was beautiful and wise, and she demonstrates her wisdom this night.  Abigail gathers a feast of bread and wine and lamb and raisins and figs, and meets David who is in full battle mode.  And Abigail dismounts off of her donkey, falls at David’s feet and says,

Dear Confused,

My husband is an idiot.  Please don’t kill us.  Here, have a sandwich.

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This is from Michael’s paraphrased edition, of course.  The longer version says Abigail fell on her face before David, and she said her husband matches his name, he is ignorant and he is a scoundrel.  But I, Abigail, didn’t know you needed help, I didn’t see the men you sent, please forgive me.  I know that the Lord is with you and will defeat your enemies.  If you spare us, then the Lord will remember your goodness, and then when the Lord has dealt well with you, please remember me.

And David listens and blesses the Lord for Abigail convincing David to stay his hand and from coming to bloodshed.  And he accepts her sandwich.

Abigail has done both a good thing and a bad thing; she has definitely disobeyed her husband, but her disobedience is outweighed by the good.  She’s avoided bloodshed and she’s obedient to David the future King of Israel.  But now she has to go home and tell her husband Nabal why they’re out of mayonnaise.  She’s made sandwiches for King David and all of his men, despite her husband saying they should be sent away hungry.  Her husband is mean and an idiot, what shall she say to him?

In verse 36,

Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light.

Ok, she’ll wait until the morning to tell him, after he’s slept off his drunken gluttonous stupor.  Verse 37,

So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.  Then it happened, after about ten days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.

Um, I guess that’s good news.  This sounds like Nabal first had a stroke and then died 10 days later.  This was certainly good news for David, who then gave thanks and praise to the Lord for protecting David from doing evil, verse 39,

So when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and has kept His servant from evil! For the Lord has returned the wickedness of Nabal on his own head.”

And in the remaining verses in 1 Samuel 25, David sent for Abigail and then proposed to her.  She accepted and became David’s wife, and they all lived happily ever after.

  V.      Various lessons

I enjoyed studying for this lesson, and I hope you enjoyed today’s story.  However, trying to find an application of this particular story to our daily lives was a challenge.  There is not a single, coherent theme that runs through this chapter.  Instead, I found a great many smaller lessons.

And isn’t that the way our lives go?  In my own life, I often don’t see God’s Grand Plan being lived out through me day to day.  Instead of being called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, I’m asked to love my neighbor.  Instead of building an ark and saving all animals and humanity from the flood, I’m asked to love my enemy.  Instead of facing my giant with nothing more than a sling, I’m asked to trust in the Lord for my daily bread and know that He will provide for my needs.

Nabal is the least likeable person in this story, and for good reason.  Besides being mean-spirited, he’s not smart, and he’s given to overeating and overdrinking.  And all of this brings about Nabal’s destruction.

I think Proverbs 15:1 illustrates all 3 people very well,

A soft answer turns away wrath,

But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Slide24

Nabal has a harsh word for David.  David gets furious and wants to kill Nabal.  Abigail provides gentle words for David, and David’s wrath is calmed.  Perfect illustration of this proverb.

Nabal’s not a likeable character.  I mentioned a moment ago about loving our neighbor and loving our enemy, and Nabal illustrates the opposite.  Even though David and his men had been guarding Nabal’s sheep and men and lands, David’s request to Nabal was pretty reasonable, I thought.  “Hey Nabal, you’re having a feast, can you spare a bite to eat?”

And rather than give David a little of his surplus, Nabal thumbs his nose at David.  Harsh words stir up anger, and David is mad.  David probably had a right to demand some of the food; after all he was the future king of Israel.  But his anger is stirred not by righteous anger for the Lord, but by personal  selfish anger.

And Abigail is disobedient to her husband, but obedient to the Lord.  It is righteous submission to the Lord’s will, and her soft answer turns away David’s wrath.

And did they live happily ever after?  David proposes and marries her, but David was already married.  When David defeated Goliath, Saul gave his daughter Michal to David as his wife.  David went on to marry Abigail, and then later married Bathsheba, after having an affair with her and sending her husband to the front lines of a battle in order to kill him off.  And then David married Ahinoam.  And Maacah.  And Haggith and Abital and Eglah.  We know David had at least 8 wives, and in 2 Samuel 5:13 we are told David has other wives in Jerusalem.  Also there were concubines.Slide25

It’s important to remember when we are studying the bible that everything recorded in the bible is not approved in the bible.  Polygamy may be recorded in the bible, but it’s clear from Genesis that says the “two will become one flesh,” not more than two.  And thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife from Exodus 20:17, not thy neighbor’s many wives.   It’s clear from scripture that God’s plan is for man to have a single wife.  God seemed to allow it in the Old Testament sort of the way He allowed divorce – because men’s hearts were hard.

And in David’s life, these multiple marriages came back to cause all sorts of grief later, family infighting, greed and jealousy, and murder.  One could only imagine how David’s life would have gone if he was not only a man after God’s own heart, but also a man after God’s own will.

VI.      Conclusion

Our story today was the story of the fool who was also gluttonous and a drunkard.  It was the story of the beautiful and the wise with a soft word that turns away anger.  And it was the story of a man after God’s own heart who demonstrates his own flaws, his own anger, and his own mistakes.Slide26

Somewhere in our story, we may also find our own story.  We are flawed, we make bad decisions sometimes.  As Christians, our goal is to live according to the will of God despite our circumstances.  If we are not invited to a feast, we don’t assemble an army to kill them, of course not.  We let the Lord’s will prevail in our life and in theirs, leaving justice to the Lord and practicing forgiveness and gentleness.

And, regardless of our flaws or our actions or our emotions, there is a happy ever after for those who place their faith and trust in Christ the Lord.

To God be the glory.

Facing Our Giants

  I.      Introduction

Have you ever heard the story of David and Goliath?  That’s exactly what I thought – everybody has heard this story.  Christians have heard this story since they were children.  Even non-Christians have heard this story.  It’s inspiring, about an average David standing up to a giant.  We all know this story.

They even made a cartoon about it, a boy named Davey and his talking dog Goliath.  Only Davey could hear the dog talk, so I sort of wonder whether Davey was just hearing voices.  Fun facts about this series, it ran on television from 1960 to 1965, although several specials were made all the way through 2004.  The series was created by the same guy that created Gumby, and was produced by the Lutheran Church of America.Slide2

Perhaps during our study today, we can learn some new insights about this famous battle.

II.      David

Let’s take a look at David first.  You know, in my early Christian days, I was always amazed at the number of people named David in the bible.  There was David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba, David the man after God’s own heart, Jesus from the line of David… it wasn’t until I actually read 1st and 2nd Samuel that I realized they were all the same David.Slide3

Like this sculpture of David by Michelangelo.  I had seen picture of this sculpture over the years, and then I was blessed to work in Florence Italy briefly a few years back.  Most people will see the replica of the stature outside in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, but the original is inside the Galleria dell’Accademia.  It was only when I was reading the history of the sculpture that I realized David is holding a sling over his shoulder, and this is the same David as the David and Goliath.

Which is probably why Goliath was defeated so easily.  Goliath was probably thinking, “Hey, this guy that came out to fight me is naked as a jaybird!  What does he think he’s doing?”  ***thwaaack****

In our study of 1 Samuel 17 today, David is still a young boy.  He looks like this picture of David by Michelangelo.  Ok, he probably doesn’t, the Renaissance artists weren’t exactly known for being authentic when depicting figures from the bible.  Last week, Theresa taught us how Samuel was in communion with God, and almost selected Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, but the Lord told Samuel that the Lord will look to a man’s heart, and not his outward appearance.  Then Samuel interviewed all the remaining sons and finally had to send for the youngest, David, from the field where he had been attending sheep.  The Lord confirmed to Samuel that the Lord had chosen David to be the future king of Israel, and it says in 1 Samuel 16:13 that Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers.  That’s an important statement and we’ll discuss this shortly.

You might also remember from 2 weeks back that Saul, the current King of Israel, had a son Jonathan.  Saul put Jonathan in charge of 1000 men, and then Jonathan attacked a Philistine outpost, which really ticked off the Philistines, and the Philistines have decided to eliminate the Jews from the land.

III.      Goliath

So at the beginning of 1 Samuel 17, the Philistines have arrived.  Verses 1-3,

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah.  Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.  The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

Now, even though the Philistine army outnumbered the Israelites, the Israelites had chosen a good defensive position for their camp.  The Philistines would have to fight uphill against the Israelites.  So the Philistines stopped at one side of the valley, and the Israelites at the other side of the valley.  Stalemate, neither side wanting to fight uphill.

Slide5

So the Philistines selected a champion named Goliath.  I’m going to use the Contemporary English Version for this verse because all the sheckels and cubits are translated into measurement that make sense in Texas.  1 Samuel 17:4-7,

The Philistine army had a hero named Goliath who was from the town of Gath and was over nine feet tall.  He wore a bronze helmet and had bronze armor to protect his chest and legs. The chest armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds. He carried a bronze sword strapped on his back, and his spear was so big that the iron spearhead alone weighed more than fifteen pounds. A soldier always walked in front of Goliath to carry his shield.

Slide7This was a big guy, a very big, strong guy.  This is JJ Watt on steroids.  His armor and weapon weighed at least 140 pounds.  Since there was a standoff between the two armies, Goliath would come and stand in the Valley of Elah and taunt the Israelites.  Goliath challenged the Israelites to find somebody to fight him, winner take all.   It says in verse 11 that Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.  This giant of a man is just too big and too strong to fight.

And this goes on for 40 days, every day a fresh taunt from Goliath.  Goliath would say, verses 8- 11:

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me.  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”  Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”  On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

Goliath would continue with taunts like,

  • You’re such a weakling. You need to get two friends to help you change your mind.
  • When they were giving out heads, you thought they said beds, and you said “I’d like something soft.”
  • Your armpits smell so bad your teacher gave you an A for not raising your hand.

Ok, those taunts are funny, but I want to reflect a moment here.  We all face giants in our lives, a problem that is just too big to overcome.  A disrespectful kid.  An abusive coworker.  A bill collector.  The loss of a job.  In Theresa’s case, she shared her giant with us, multiple myeloma and the resulting bone lesions.  These giants stand between us and our goals, and they taunt us every day.  And the next day.  And the next day.

The response of the Israelites was to shake with fear.  Now, I’m no motivational speaker and I don’t have answers for all of life’s problems, but “shaking with fear” isn’t exactly a solution, is it?  Yet, we all do it in the face of our giants.

We’ve heard David was a man after God’s own heart, and David is going to enter our story now.  David’s 3 oldest brothers have followed Saul off to war and are facing the Philistines.  I don’t know what brothers 4-7 were doing, the scripture is silent, but the youngest, David is tending sheep.  No doubt Jesse is worried about his older sons, so he packs a picnic basket of bread and cheese, gives it to David and says, “take this to your brothers and bring back to me word of how they are doing.”  Let’s read verses 20-24,

Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.  Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other.  David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were.  As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.  Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

When I first read these verses, I saw this scene in my head.  David arriving at the battle front just as Goliath comes out to taunt them again.  David with his picnic basket dropping off the bread and cheese, all the Israelites quaking with fear.  But there’s more in these verses; remember, these are the actions of a man after God’s own heart.

First of all, David is being obedient.  His father asked him to do something, so David took care of his responsibilities, making sure the sheep were cared for, grabbing the supplies and delivering a basket of goodies to grandmother’s house, deep in the woods.  The giant has come out to fight, but not David.  David is just trying to be obedient to what has been asked of him.  When we are facing giants in our lives, just continuing with our lives bravely and being obedient is a suitable offense.

David is also serving others, he’s brought food for his brothers that are fighting.  Or, actually, his brothers are not fighting, they’re cowering, but you know what I mean.

And finally, I noticed that line that says, “David left his things with the keeper of supplies.”  In other words, David left his baggage behind.  Carrying around old baggage is not helpful when getting ready to face our giants.

Slide11

IV.      Facing Our Giants

There are many reasons given to David next why he should fail when facing the giant.  First is the discouragement from others in verse 25,

Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

Others around you may say, “Of course you’re going to fail.  It’s just too hard.  There are too many obstacles.  Just give up and give in, you can’t win.”  Let’s face it, the world can be a discouraging place.  Even well-meaning Christians can be discouraging as long as they preface their discouragement with “Bless your heart.”  “Bless your heart, having to deal with a coworker like that.  You should just quit.”

We should be attentive to our own words and be careful what we say to somebody going through tough times so that we do not discourage.  I love the way Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us,

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.”

What day is it?  Yes, it’s today, again.  Seems like every day is “today,” now that I think about it.  What is David’s response?  Verse 26,

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

What kind of unholy sin dares to stand up to the Living God?  Or as Romans 8:31 says,

If God is for us, who can be against us?

When we fear our giants, we demonstrate that we have little faith in our God.  We see a big giant, and think our little god can’t handle it.  We see a storm and complain how big the storm is instead of telling the storm how big our God is.  David is astounded that this uncircumcised Philistine is still standing in the Land of Israel.

Remember David’s brothers?  Samuel anointed David as the future king of Israel in front of David’s brothers, yet David’s brothers have no faith in the Lord acting through David.  They belittle him.  Verse 28 says,

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

But what day is it?  It is today, the day the Lord hath made.  We should rejoice and be glad in it, and we should encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today.

Saul, the current king of Israel, hears of David’s faith and sends for him, and David tells Saul that David will answer the challenge of Goliath.  More discouragement follows, for Saul tells David that the battle is hopeless, Goliath is going to win because he’s more experienced and David is just a boy.  But David knows the Lord has equipped him for this battle.  He tells Saul in verse 34-37,

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Slide18

David’s God is bigger than the storm.  What does David have to fight Goliath?  David is a young sheepherder, not a warrior, but the Lord has been equipping David for this battle.  David has protected his flock from lions and tiger and bears (oh my), and the Lord has protected him.  That same strength from the Lord will protect him now.

Your giant may also seem too big for you to handle.  And you may be surrounded by people that tell you that the battle is hopeless.  But the Lord does not stand idly by to watch His children fail.  The Lord is my banner, Jehovah Nissi.  The Lord is Almighty and All-Sufficient, El Shaddai.  Slide19There is no battle bigger than the Lord, and He has been with you your entire life, through your triumphs and through your failures, through your joy and through your sorrows.  And the Lord has brought you to today to face your giant and he has spent a lifetime equipping you.  Who is this uncircumcised Philistine in your life that should defy the army of the Living God.  You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

I suppose Saul sees the strength in David, or he just wants the battle to end, I’m not sure.  Saul continues in verse 37-38,

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.  David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

If it’s not bad enough that others around us discourage us and tell us that the battle is lost, when it’s clear you’re going to fight anyway, they then try to load their baggage on us and weigh us down.  David is a boy; Saul was a king and a warrior.  Saul is saying to David, look, you cannot win, but if you’re going to fight, you need to be weighed down with all the same baggage that made me afraid.   David immediately recognizes the problem, one that cannot be solved by wearing heavy, unfamiliar armor.  Remember, when we face our giants, the battle belongs to the Lord, and the Lord has equipped us for today.  We do not need to place our trust in man-made bronze helmets.  We need to place our trust in Almighty, all-powerful Jehovah God.

“I cannot go in these,” David said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

Win or lose, David is going to battle with the tools that God has already given him.  There is truth and wisdom listening to the advice of others, but once you have considered all the options and you have prayed to our father in heaven, God has equipped you for exactly the giant you are facing.  Don’t let others, no matter how helpful they are trying to be, load you down with weight.  Don’t let them tell you that you need to pray more, or tithe more, or give more, or serve more.  Let the Lord tell you what He desires, and He will equip you to fight the battle.

Goliath, the giant facing Daniel, curses and discourages him again, in verse 41-43,

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.  He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him.  He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

Your giant doesn’t respect you, either, by the way.  But it matters not, if the Lord is on your side.  David responds with what I think is one of the greatest declarations of faith I have ever heard in verses 45-47,

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

 

David took his sling, fitted it with a single smooth stone, slung it and killed the Philistine giant.  For David knew that that battle wasn’t his alone.  David knew the giant wasn’t standing there against God’s will.  David knew the giant was not invincible.  David knew the Lord was with him, and would equip him as necessary.  David’s God was bigger, far far bigger, than any giant the Philistines could put in front of him.

  V.      Conclusion

How is your giant looking now?  Does it still loom huge in front of you, taunting you, calling you names, discouraging you?  David teaches us that our giants are not invincible and cannot defeat us.  As David was obedient in caring for his sheep, we should continue to be obedient in caring for those God has place in our path.  As David was serving others, we too should continue to do the Lord’s work as He leads in our lives.  And rather than let taunts discourage us or let others weigh us down with unnecessary baggage, like David left his baggage with the keeper of supplies, we can leave our baggage at the feet of Jesus.  And when the devil curses us, we can stand firm so that all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give our giants into our hands.  For we know the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, we put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.

We don’t tell our God how big our giant is.  God knows.

We tell the giant how big our God is.

Slide24

To God be the glory.