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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:God's Providence and Our Protection
Text:1 Samuel 19:1-24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal, unless otherwise noted:

330 - O Jesus, We Adore Thee       

RR: Psalm 59 

107:1-3, 9 - Protect and Save Me, O My God

260 - To the Hills I Lift Mine Eyes

36 (Red) - God Moves in a Mysterious Way 

Scripture: 1 Samuel 19:1-24 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“God’s Providence and Our Protection”
1 Samuel 19:1-24; Psalm 59:1-17

Have you ever wondered about the extent of God’s providence – that He knows us so completely and watches over us in such a way that He even knows the number of hairs on our head? And have you ever wondered how God, in sovereign omniscience, ordains seemingly random events to become crucial experiences in our lives?

In this chapter we read of four separate attempts on David’s life; in the previous chapter there were two attempts to kill him. In those death threats we see that David was a type or shadow of “the greater David,” Jesus Christ. How many attempts were made on His life, the life of our Lord? Consider how often the chief priests, teachers of the law and the Pharisees tried to put an end to Jesus.

However, just as God by His own set purpose and foreknowledge allowed His only begotten Son to be nailed to the cross with the help of wicked men, so here in this chapter we read how each time David had a threat on his life, God, by His invisible providence through a means of His choosing, protected David. No casual observer would see God’s providence at work in the death of Jesus. I’m sure that the crowd at Pentecost was surprised by the statement of Peter in Acts 2:23, This man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. Just as God invisibly, behind the scenes, used those who crucified His Son so that our sins can be forgiven - just as that work was invisible - so, too, the work of God preserving David, here in 1 Samuel 19, would be invisible to the casual observer.

Intervening Providence

In the first attempt on David’s life, Jonathan intervenes and Saul’s wrath is quelled. As the chapter opens we read: Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there.  I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” But who brought Jonathan and David together as friends?  Was that all of Jonathan’s or David’s doing?

To the casual observer, yes, a friend in need is a friend indeed and Jonathan was there for David. If it hadn’t been for Jonathan, David would have been killed already there in verse 1. But for those of us who know something of God’s providence, there is that certain knowledge that the Lord bought David and Jonathan together.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism describes God’s providence as “His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions” (A. 11). And the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us:

Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which He upholds, as with His hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty— all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from His Fatherly hand. (Lord’s Day 10; Answer to Q. 27).

We understand, then, that it was by God’s providence that David and Jonathan became friends. And yes, it was by God’s providence through the friendship of Jonathan, whom God had brought into David’s life, that David was spared in that first attempt to kill him.

The Second Attempt

The second attempt to kill David, recorded in verse 9-10, could be attributed by those who know nothing of the providence of God, to David’s agility. We read: But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.

David was obviously physically fit. He had cared for the flocks and protected the sheep. He had fought off the lion and the bear, he had killed Goliath, he was a mighty warrior who had killed, according to the song of the women in 1 Samuel 18, tens of thousands of Philistines. Saul hurls the spear. David dodges. Chalk up another victory for David. Physically fit, mentally alert, always one step ahead of the enemy.

But David didn’t see it that way. In the 59th Psalm, which has its roots in 1 Samuel 19, David writes: “O my Strength I watch for You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. God will go before me...” (9, 10a)

Do you remember when King Ahab died? 1 Kings 22 describes how Ahab, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. (29-30).The king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, “Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.” When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, “Surely this is the king of Israel.” So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him. (31-33)

Then in 1 Kings 22:34(a) we read: But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The arrow shot “at random,” was yet directed by the Lord to pierce King Ahab between the sections of his armor. In much the same way this spear hurled by Saul misses David, not just because of His agility, but because of God’s gracious work of providence which includes the protection of His people through the various trials and storms of life.

Just a note in passing: God may also send the storms that He protects us from. God cannot be charged with wrongdoing, as James 1:13 declares: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone. Yet God sent this evil spirit to Saul (9), much as He allowed Satan to be sent to Job, to teach us that evil, though it is strong, malicious and eternally destructive, is nothing compared to His power and redeeming grace. At times in our lives, He sends us the storm so that we can echo the words of David: “O my Strength I watch for You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” And say with the same confidence of David, “God will go before me...” (Psalm 59:9, 10a)

The Third Attempt on David’s Life

In verse 11 we read of the third attempt on David’s life: Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.”  So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped.

1 Samuel 17 records the account of David’s battle with Goliath and how Saul had offered rewards to anyone who killed Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:25 describes how Saul promised to give great wealth to the man who kills (Goliath). He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel. At that time, we noted that a few commentators have pointed out, tongue in cheek, that Saul’s daughter was no prize, but the wealth would be nice, and exemption from taxes was a really good incentive!

We see in these verses why Saul’s daughter was no prize. Instead of believing in the one true God revealed in Scripture, as her husband did, she clung to her worthless idols (v. 12). Later we read of her disdain for David when he danced before the ark of the Lord when it was returned to Jerusalem. Her disdain led to her judgment; 2 Samuel 6:23 tells us she was childless as a result. Why? Because her disdain was not just directed at her husband. Her disdain was directed toward the God whom her husband believed in and rejoiced in.

Yet God, in sovereign providence, as He works out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose uses her, and her idols and her deceit, to spare David’s life yet again.

The Forth Attempt Uniquely Thwarted

Verse 18 to the end of the chapter records how when Saul heard that David had escaped and gone to see Samuel at Ramah, Saul sent men to kill David there. But a very curious thing happens. The men who go to get David see Samuel and a group of prophets prophesying, and the Spirit of God comes on them, and they too begin to prophecy. Saul hears about it, and he goes there, and the Spirit of God comes on him and he also starts prophesying.

By prophesying, they were speaking about the Lord. In the Old Testament a prophet was not only a “fore-teller” but also a “forth-teller.” And in our New Testament times today, since we have the whole canon of Scripture, prophesying isn’t foretelling, but “forth-telling” - it is speaking forth God’s Word.

Thus, in the familiar analogy, we who believe in Jesus Christ share His three-fold office of prophet, priest and king. We are like a priest when we pray, interceding for others as He intercedes for us. When we bring our faith into every area of life we are like a king, bringing the rule of God’s Word into every sphere of society. And when we speak about the Lord, we are like a prophet speaking forth the Word of God.

And God, by the general operation of His Spirit, may allow unsaved people to speak His Word in a way that leads to the salvation of others. There have been instances of preachers who preached the Word of God accurately and yet did not believe in the Word they preached with a saving faith. I believe it was J.C. Ryle who gave, in one his many excellent writings, a serious warning to preachers as he described the agony of preachers who would spend eternity in hell because they had not taken to heart the Word they had preached to others. And he described how their congregations would be in the glory of heaven even as the preachers who proclaimed the gospel to them spent an eternity in hell.

Another writer, an inspired one, also wrote to the Corinthians about that. In 1 Corinthians 9 after describing how living the Christian life is like running a race - a race that requires training and endurance, a race in which every runner must run to win the prize - Paul writes: ...I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27).

God used Saul to be a “forth-teller” of His Word, not in a saving way, but in a way that would spare David’s life as Saul was distracted. It would also bring greater judgment on Saul, for he clearly knew who God is, was counseled by God’s prophets and by God’s Word, but he refused to obey Him with a saving faith. (cf. Romans 1:5).

Four attempts are made on David’s life in this chapter. With each attempt God, behind the scenes, through His work of providence, intervened to protect David. That in itself is a remarkable truth, one that alone would make this a fascinating chapter for anyone who looks beyond the death threats to see the hand of God at work behind the scenes.

But this chapter is also written about in the Psalm we read responsively, Psalm 59, by David himself. The subscript to the Psalm says that it was written when Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. That is a direct reference to 1 Samuel 19:11. In David’s response to that particular death threat, and all the others he received, he sets an example for our response to all the calamities and hardships we encounter.

David’s Prayer

First, David prayed to the Lord. As we read the Psalm responsively, I’m sure that you noticed that it is a Psalm that is both a song to be sung, written “for the director of music,” but it is also clearly a prayer that is raised up to the Lord in a time of great trouble and grief. Verse 1 and 2: Deliver me from my enemies, O God; protect me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from bloodthirsty men.

Those verses are reminiscent, in some ways, to one of the best loved and familiar hymns of all time, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Most of us know that hymn by heart, but do we also put it into practice, as David put prayer into practice in this 59th Psalm?  The hymn writer notes:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer! (Vs. 1).

David wasn’t about to forfeit the peace that only God can give in circumstances beyond our control. Death threats had been made against him. By God’s providence, he had been spared, but now Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. The context is 1 Samuel 19:11, and David sets the example for us in whatever trials we have in our lives: Instead of worry, or doubts, or questions, or self-pity, he prays. In the first two verses he prays “Deliver me...Protect me... Deliver me...Save me...”

And when we echo that prayer from the heart, then we don’t need to be anxious, worried, self- pitying, or questioning of the Lord. We can simply pray and trust. All of Scripture commands us to do just that. James 5:13: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. David, in Psalm 59, in the face of all the death threats described in 1 Samuel 19, both prayed and sang.

Wait on the Lord

A second way that he sets an excellent example for us in all the problems of our lives is that he waited on the Lord. David knew that he was in over his head. Saul had far more power than David. Saul was guilty, David was innocent, yet the tables had been turned against the innocent one - another shadow or type of Christ, for He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22), yet He was nailed to the cross.

David, as a shadow of the greater David - the innocent persecuted by those who are evil - writes in verse 3 and 4, See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, O Lord. I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight! In verse 6 he likens them to snarling dogs.

He was in “over his head.” And the same is true for each one of us. No matter what trial or trouble we face we are totally dependent on our God. David recognized that. Verse 9: O my Strength, I watch for You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. - Verse 10a: God will go before me.

We so often run ahead of the Lord. We see the troubles and problems in the circumstances of our lives and we try to fix them on our own, in our own strength and wisdom. And we fall; we fail; we sin because we do not watch and wait on the Lord as we ought. In a more familiar Psalm, the 27th Psalm, also written by David in the context of many problems, he concludes the Psalm by writing: Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

Our True and Faithful God

As David waited on the Lord, he found God to be, as His Word declares, true and faithful. David was delivered from the many attempts to end his life. And so, as the 59th Psalm concludes, David praises God for His strength, love and protection.

In verse 14 and 15 he again speaks of those who are trying to kill him as being like snarling dogs, but in verse 16 and 17 he writes: But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.

As William Cowper eloquently wrote in his hymn entitled God Moves in a Mysterious Way:

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
(And in the verse not in our Psalter):
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

David found that out. I’m thankful that you and I are not in the same predicament David was in, with a madman like Saul in deadly pursuit. But we all have various other trials, struggles and hardships.

In whatever circumstances we face may we follow the good example of David who prayed to the Lord with confidence and faith, who waited on the Lord trusting God to see him through, and praised the Lord, recognizing that He is indeed our strength, our fortress, our Redeemer from sin and our refuge in all the adversities of life and attacks of the evil one. Amen.

 Bulletin outline:
              O my Strength, I sing praise to You.
                    You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. - Psalm 59:17
                           “God’s Providence and Our Protection”
                                          1 Samuel 19; Psalm 59
I.  Four attempts are made on David’s life in this chapter (1-3; 8-10;11a; 19-20a)
II. In each case God, in gracious providence, intervened to protect David (4-7; 10;11b-17; 20b-24)
III. David’s response is recorded in Psalm 59, which is written in reference to 1 Samuel 19:11. 
    His response sets an example for our response to all the calamities and hardships we encounter.
       1) Prayed to the Lord (1ff)
       2) Watched (and waited) for the Lord (9, 10a; Psalm 27:14)
       3) Praised God for His strength, love and protection (16-17)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Ted Gray

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