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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother
Text:1 Samuel 17:55-18:30; Prov. 18:24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

311 - We Praise Thee, O God         

RR - Psalm 94 

124:1,2,5 - God Shall Arise and by His Might

436 - What a Friend We Have in Jesus              

 75 (Red) - Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners        

Dox: 326:1-2 - Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name                                 


* 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
“The Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother”
1 Samuel 17:55-18:30; Proverbs 18:24
Some of you may have had this experience:  You meet someone and there seems to be that instant bond. You expect that you will be close friends, but as time goes by you see a whole different side to that person. Sometimes that happens when you are the new student at school or when you are new to a job. At those times you meet many people, and you sense that some will be close friends and others will be hard people to get along with.
But then as time goes by, something strange happens. You begin to realize that the people you expected to be good friends, are not your friends at all. And some others, maybe even some who you were initially wary of, become true close friends.
In a sense David had that experience with Saul.  Initially, back in chapter 16 we read of how David was hired to play the harp for Saul, to soothe his angry moods.  Then in chapter 17 we read how David killed Goliath and Saul was impressed.  In the closing verses of that chapter Saul is asking who David is because he wants to know his family background.
Obviously, Saul knew David as the one who played the harp, but he wanted to know more about his family.  In the view of some commentators, he wanted to know David’s family background so that he could be assured of having David in his army.  By knowing who his father was – that he was not a man of position or power – Saul also kept David from returning home to watch his father’s sheep (18:2).
From verse 1 of this chapter, we see that David spent time talking with Saul (1a), but it doesn’t take long to see that Saul turns on David.  Instead of a friend, he becomes a great foe, trying to take David’s life. But by contrast, Saul’s son, Jonathan, became an exceptionally close friend to David, as verse 1 notes, “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” As the life of David progresses we will see that he was greatly blessed through this friendship with Jonathan. 
This chapter also highlights Saul’s jealousy and anger toward David. As we read of David’s successes we see the jealousy of Saul intensify with every success:  Verse 5: “Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well.”  The military successes of David “pleased all the people” including Saul’s officers, and that led to jealousy in Saul’s heart.
However, verse 6 and 7 describe what really got Saul upset: After the battles that Saul and David had with the Philistines, the “women came out from all the towns of Israel ... with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes.  As they danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’”
Verse 8 and 9 explain: “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’  And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”
Jealousy and anger are such highly charged emotions that they destroy anyone who is given over to them. Jealousy and anger are part of the bitterness that Hebrews 12:15 describes as “a bitter root.”  We have all noticed how big roots get. Any of you who have dug a tree out of your yard, even a small tree or bush, know how extensive and deep those roots go.  Many times, we see the roots above ground. They aren’t just underneath the ground, but some of them come to the surface and are visible through the grass.  Anger and jealousy spread and grow, just like those roots.
The Bible teaches the importance of self-control; that is, in fact, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Its importance is evident in every area of life, and as this passage demonstrates, self-control is crucial when it comes to thoughts of jealousy and anger.  Without self-control, jealousy and anger grow larger and larger until they completely consume a person.  Saul was so consumed by his anger that when his own efforts to kill David failed twice (10-11), he made several other efforts to harm him.
In verse 17 we find him trying to get David to marry his eldest daughter, but it wasn’t David’s happiness or blessing that he was looking for.  Instead, Saul was looking to destroy David, as he said to him, “‘I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.’ Saul said to himself, ‘I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!’”
When David refused to marry Saul’s oldest daughter, he went to “Plan B”. Verse 20 and 21: “Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. ‘I will give her to him,’ he thought, ‘so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.’”
As we read in the previous chapter, receiving Saul’s daughter hand in marriage was supposed to be part of the reward for killing Goliath. But instead Saul, consumed by jealousy and anger, gave yet another stipulation to David.  Saul instructed his servants, in verse 25, to say to David, “‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’ Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.”
In the chapters to come, as we continue to see Saul’s efforts to kill David, we will see the result of uncontrolled jealousy, anger and bitterness as those emotions consume Saul and lead to his complete ruin.
A third truth of this chapter, a truth of great comfort, is that the Lord’s constant presence was always with David. Three times over – in verse 12, 14, and 28 – we read that phrase, “the LORD was with David,” and two of the three times it speaks about the success David had because of the Lord’s presence. 
The word translated “success” and “successful” in vs 5, 14 and 15, is a hard word to translate into English.  The Hebrew word is “sakal”, and as you may have noticed from the footnotes, it denotes wisdom. David did not always have outward success; but he had wisdom from God which gave him success. The wisdom from God gave him success as it enabled him to be prudent and to have insight into the complicated situations he faced.
In this chapter we read where David lost his family ties. In verse 2 it tells us that “Saul... did not let him return to his father’s house.”  In later chapters we read where David lost his position as a military commander. He also lost his wife, he lost his friend Jonathan, as well as the prophet Samuel. And when he was on the run in Gath he lost his self-respect, as he feigned insanity.
Outwardly, David was not always successful, but because of the Lord’s presence in his life, he had wisdom to deal with the conflicts he had, and in God’s plan, he was successful. The same is true for all God’s children. We see it in the lives of many Biblical characters. Consider, for instance, Joseph.  Before becoming the right hand man to Pharaoh in Egypt, a position of great success, we read where Joseph was sold by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, thrown into prison, forgotten by the cup-bearer of the king so that he languished in prison for two long years.
Yet frequently in those accounts of Joseph’s life, through the hardships as well as the good times, the Scripture says, “and the LORD was with Joseph.”  Because of the Lord’s presence – whether in Joseph’s life, David’s life, your life or mine – we are given the wisdom and the strength to have spiritual success even when circumstances are anything but favorable. In David’s case, God’s blessings came even as he was on the run from a ruthless madman consumed by jealousy and anger.
And that leads to our first application:  The Lord’s presence in David’s life is given to all who, like David, place their faith in Him.
Immanuel, God with Us
In the previous chapter we read that the key to David’s victory over Goliath was his faith in the Lord.  When Saul had said to David that he could never go into battle against Goliath David had said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliverer me from the hand of this Philistine.” We saw that same demonstration of faith in the Lord in the actual battle as well. Throughout David’s life we see, for the most part, his focus of faith in the Lord.
For those who focus on the Lord in faith, God promises His protection and care, strength and wisdom for all the various trials of life. Thus, the author of Hebrews quotes from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Psalm 118:6-7, as he writes: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Or consider the assurance of Psalm 91:1-2: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Those verses are a few of many that remind us that the Lord is always with His people. He is with us by His Word and Spirit. Through the Word of God, by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, we see Christ. In the words of Jesus, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Our triune God is always with us through Christ. He whose name is Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins”, is also called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:21, 23), and God has promised, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Heb. 13:5).
While the comfort of God’s presence is given to all those who by God’s grace place their faith in Him, we also see in this passage that when people reject the Lord, then the Lord gives them over in their rejection of Him.
Saul had such a promising beginning.  When he was chosen king over Israel he was held in high regard by all the people.  He was literally and figuratively a head taller than all the others; he was a tall handsome king who had so much going for him. But he rejected the Lord. In 1 Samuel 15:26 we read how “Samuel said to him, ‘...You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!’”
When people reject the Lord, then the Lord gives them over in their rejection of Him.  This is true not only for individuals, like Saul, but it is true for entire nations. In Romans 1, Paul gives a graphic description of a whole nation - a whole culture and society - being given over to their depravity and destruction precisely because they have rejected the Lord.  
Romans 1:18-20: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Then in vs 26: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.”
   v. 28: “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
   v.  32: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
The first chapter of Romans is a graphic picture, not only of first century Rome, but also a graphic picture of what is going on in our own culture, right before our eyes today.  We don’t need to look 1000 years before the birth of Christ to the reign of King Saul to see that those who reject the Lord are also rejected by God and given over in their depravity.  We see it in our own nation and culture today.
A third application is that no matter how cruel the king, or how depraved the culture, those who trust in the Lord have an omnipotent, faithful Lord, Savior and Friend who will see them through.
That was certainly David’s experience.  He would lose his friendship with Jonathan.  Other close friends would fade away, or die, or be moved out of the picture, just as what happens with us many times.  But the Lord is the closest friend any of us will ever have.
Proverbs 18:24 speaks about a friend who sticks closer to us than a brother. That “friend” is Jesus Christ.  He is our Savior from sin and the Lord of our lives, two aspects of who He is that we are never to lose sight of.  But amazingly, and wonderfully, He is not only our Savior and Lord; He Himself calls us His friends. John 15:13-15 records these words of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
As Wilbur Chapman wrote in his well-known hymn:
Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end. 
That is the truth of Scripture, Old Testament and New.  Abraham, the spiritual father of all who have faith, is described as being God’s friend. James 2:23: “And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.”
Galatians 3:29 assures us that if we believe in Christ, then we are Abraham’s seed, we are of the Israel of God, (Gal. 6:16) and thus, we too, have the Lord Himself as our Savior, as the Lord of our life, but also as a friend who sticks closer than a brother; He is the only One who will never leave us nor forsake us.
We can be thankful that none of our friends have turned against us the way Saul turned against David.  We can also be thankful for the friends that God puts in our lives. But above all we have great reason to thank God that He considers those who by His grace trust in Him, to be His friends. And that He, in turn, is an eternal, faithful friend to us! Amen.
                                    - bulletin outline -
In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with
him. – 1 Samuel 18:14
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who
sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
             “The Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother”
                       1 Samuel 17:55-18:30; Proverbs 18:24b
I.  Three themes of this passage include:
     1) The friendship between David and Jonathan (1-4)
     2) Saul’s jealousy and anger toward David (5-30)
     3) The Lord’s presence with David (12, 14, 28)
II. Applications:
     1) The Lord’s presence in David’s life is given to all who, like David,
          place their faith in Him alone (1 Sam. 17:37; Heb. 13:5-6, Matt. 1:23)
     2) When people reject the Lord (12, 1 Samuel 15:26), the Lord
          gives them over in their rejection (10; Romans 1:18-32)
     3) The Lord is the closest friend any of us will ever have (Proverbs
          18:24; John 15:13-15; James 2:23)


* 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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