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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Losing All and Gaining Everything
Text:1 Samuel 20:1-42 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2012
Added:2021-01-15
Updated:2021-02-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

359 (Red) - Be Thou My Vision

Scripture Reading (no RR) 1 Samuel 20:1-23  (Page 451)

169:1-4, 9 - My Song Forever Will Record

437 -  More Love to Thee, O Christ

453 (Red) - Faith Is the Victory

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 20:24-42 (Page 453)

* 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
09/23/2012
 “Losing All and Gaining Everything”
1 Samuel 20:1-42
 
There is an old saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree. It means, of course, that a son is a lot like his father. But that expression did not apply to Jonathan and his father Saul. You would have to look long and hard to find a father and son more opposite than Saul and Jonathan.
 
We certainly see their differences in this chapter. And the differences that we see between Saul and Jonathan show us the difference between those who have faith in God and those who reject Him. Saul was clearly an unbeliever while Jonathan had unwavering faith in God.
 
Saul’s unbelief is seen in multiple ways, including that he certainly knew God had chosen David to be the next king of Israel. Samuel had told him point blank, back when Saul made a burnt offering because he was tired of waiting for Samuel, “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel.” Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you...’” (1 Sam. 15:26, 28)
 
In 1 Samuel 16 we read of how Samuel anointed David and “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Sam. 16:13).  By the grace and power of the Lord, David killed Goliath, destroyed the Philistines, and escaped the numerous attempts on his life made by Saul.  God’s will was crystal clear.  Saul would lose the kingship; David would be his successor.
 
Yet although Saul knew what the Lord’s will was, Saul continued to fight against God’s will.  Saul continued to make every effort to kill David.  The previous chapter records four separate attempts to kill David. And this chapter begins the same way with another attempt.  Verse 1: “Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, ‘What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?’”
 
By contrast, Jonathan accepted the Lord’s will for his life, even though humanly speaking he had more to lose than Saul. Jonathan was a prince, the king’s son, yet he would never become king. From a strictly human perspective you might expect some jealousy on the part of Jonathan. Or worse yet, you might expect Jonathan to be helping his father kill David. After all, there was obvious truth in Saul’s exclamation in verse 31, “As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!”
 
Yet remarkably, Jonathan relinquished all. He accepted that God had chosen David and not him to be the next king of Israel. There was no jealousy on his part.  No self-pity.  No complaints.  Instead, he befriended David, protected David and relinquished all so that David could be king. 
 
Why? The casual observer might remark that it was because of this unique and wonderful friendship that Jonathan had with David. It was indeed a unique and wonderful friendship, but the friendship was there because Jonathan accepted God’s choice of David to be king without any hesitation. In other words, it was because of Jonathan’s love for the Lord that he had such a great love and friendship for David.
 
Kicking Against the Goads
 
As this chapter unfolds it teaches us, by way of application, that those who follow Saul’s example of rejecting the Lord are invariably frustrated in this life. Picture Saul in your mind and you will picture someone who was totally frustrated.  Saul had been given much.  Physically he was tall in stature, a foot above everyone else, and in power he was also above everyone else. He was the king. He had the troops of Israel at his beck and call. He directed the nation of Israel from his palace.  He was blessed with looks, power and wealth. It was no small thing to be king. He was well off financially.  If anyone should be happy and content, even in the challenges of kingship, it should be Saul.
 
Yet when we look at the various people portrayed in the pages of Scripture, Saul is among the most frustrated of them all. He was frustrated when Samuel didn’t show up promptly to offer the burnt offering (1 Sam. 15:12-19). And he was frustrated when Samuel told him that because he offered a sacrifice without waiting for Samuel, the Lord would remove the kingship from him (1 Sam. 15:20-29). 
 
He was frustrated by the confrontation by Goliath, and frustrated by David’s victory over him. He was frustrated that the people liked David more than him, frustrated that the women would sing “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”  (1 Sam. 18:7)
 
And, of course, he was deeply frustrated by all these attempts on David’s life that failed. Six failed attempts to kill David have been recorded at this point in 1 Samuel. And many more attempts at taking his life are recorded in the chapters to come.
 
Does it sound as though all the frustrations in his life made Saul unique, that maybe no other person was as frustrated as Saul?  In actuality, the frustration in Saul’s life is shared to some degree - usually a large degree - by all those who reject the Lord, disobey His Word, and refute His will, as Saul did.
    
When we don’t obey the Lord and follow His Word, if we suppress the truth and fight against God’s will, then we, like Saul, will find intense frustration in life.  We see that many times over in Scripture. 
 
In one of our Bible studies on Genesis, we came to Genesis 38, and read there of how Judah disobeyed the Lord.  Judah refused to obey God’s Word and do His will, and great frustration came into Judah’s life because of that.
 
Or consider Jonah.  Here was another man who rejected the Word and the commands of the Lord, and as a result, Jonah’s life was a life of great frustration and sorrow. Even after the city of Nineveh repented, we find Jonah on a hillside by a withered vine in total frustration, all because he was a reluctant prophet who did not want to wholeheartedly obey God.
 
Perhaps the ultimate example of frustration brought on by rejecting the Lord is the example of Judas Iscariot. He knew who Jesus is. He knew God’s Word and God’s will.  Yet he suppressed the truth of God, betrayed the Lord Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and what did he receive? He received such immense frustration and worldly sorrow (not godly sorrow such as in 2 Cor. 7:10), that he took his life.
 
Also, do you remember the words of the apostle Paul as he recounted his conversion from being Saul of Tarsus - the persecutor of the church - to the Apostle Paul, the great benefactor of the church?  In Acts 26, as he recounts his conversion to King Agrippa, he tells how a great light appeared from heaven, how it blinded him and his companions. They all fell to the ground, and Paul said, “I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:14)
 
Goads are sharp sticks used to prod oxen.  If you stub your toe against a blunt object, especially in sandals, it hurts.  But if you kick, and your foot hits a sharpened goad used to prod oxen, it will really hurt!  The Lord was saying to Saul of Tarsus, in effect, “As long as you resist Me and My will, and disobey My Word, it will be hard for you, frustrating and painful. “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
 
We should all be able to relate to that. We have all kicked against the goads at times, haven’t we?  Like Saul we have often advanced our own cause and tried to suppress the truth of God’s Word.  We have all been disobedient, and with that disobedience we have all experienced frustration and sorrow, as we find that the so-called “pleasures of sin” are empty, hollow, and unfulfilling. As Romans 6:20 puts it: “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!”
 
Unrepented sin, such as Saul had in his rejection of the Lord, leads to eternal separation from God. Unrepented sin leads to death not just in the physical sense, but the eternal reality of separation from the overflowing fountain of all good, God Himself. As John 3:36 points out, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
 
Saul is a tragic example. He stands as a tragic example of the frustration and damnation that awaits all those who reject the Lord. His epitaph is recorded in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”
 
Jonathan’s Example of Faithfulness
 
But as we look at his son, Jonathan, we see a remarkable difference.  Sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree!  By God’s grace Jonathan is an example of those who put their faith in God. Although his father rejected the Lord’s will, Jonathan sought to do God’s will in his life, and in the process he put the Lord, His Word and His will, above all else.
 
As we have already seen, Jonathan had more to lose than his father. He was the prince; he was the heir of the throne; he could be king, basking in all the prestige of kingship.  He could have worldly acclamation and wealth.  He could have life in the palace.  He had a lot to lose, humanly speaking.
 
But Jonathan put the Lord’s will above all that he had to lose. He fit the description that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians about:
 
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 2:7-11)
 
That is an attitude that we should see in all those who have saving faith in Christ – in Paul, Jonathan, and in you and me – and all other true believers.  When by God’s gift of true saving faith, we believe in Jesus alone for salvation, then He alone becomes the focus of our life. Our jobs, our studies, our relationships, our worldly wealth – all things become subservient to Him. 
 
Even our family ties must become subservient to Christ. Jesus pointed that out in Matthew 10:34-39: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn
         ‘a man against his father,
               a daughter against her mother,
           a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,
              a man’s enemies will be the members
              of his own household.’
 
    “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” 
 
Those verses accurately reflect Jonathan’s attitude toward his father, and those verses reflect Jonathan’s faith in the living and true God. 
   
Some commentators think that Jonathan was naive about his father because in verse 2 he seems to be defending Saul. I tend to agree with other commentators who say that Jonathan wanted to think the best about his father and was giving him the benefit of the doubt in this incident. 
 
But when Saul’s intentions to kill David were clearly revealed, as Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, Jonathan clearly put the Lord’s will over family ties. After that incident, verse 34 tells us how “Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.” And then, through the placement of the arrows (vss. 35-40), he signaled David to run for his life.
      
True believers, like Jonathan, will put the Lord’s will above family ties, and secondly, true believers will also strive to be faithful to their commitments and promises. Consider David’s words to Jonathan, “As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the Lord. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?” (v. 8)
 
That is a reference to the covenant promise recorded in 1 Samuel 18:3 where “Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” And again, he had that biblical, self-sacrificing love for David because he believed in the Lord and loved the Lord, and his commitment was based on the Lord, for it was “a covenant…before the Lord” (v. 8). 
 
There are several other references in this chapter to the commitment – the covenant – that Jonathan had made before the Lord concerning David. As he shot the arrows beyond the boy who was fetching them, he showed his commitment to David, which was really commitment to the Lord.  Jonathan sets an excellent example for us in his faithfulness to the promises he had made.
 
A third application of this chapter is that true believers, like Jonathan, may lose all in this life, but gain all in the life to come. Many of you are well aware of how Jonathan’s life went after this chapter. His life was far from easy and it ended violently as he was killed in a battle along with his brothers and his father (1 Sam. 31:2).
 
Many people in the world would say, “What a shame that it ended that way. How sad that he did not stand up for himself. He was a prince who held destiny in his hand. He was a prince whose father, the king of Israel, wanted him to succeed.  He had every opportunity to be king.  He didn’t need his father to kill David. He could have simply stood up for his rights to the kingship and used force to bar David from living in Israel. Or, he could have just mis-shot the arrows. If he had not pulled the string on the bow so hard, he would have been king!
 
“But instead, he befriended the one who would take his crown. He befriended the one who would live in the palace in his place. Jonathan was a loser,” many in our world would say. “He lost everything for David.”
 
It is by grace through faith that you and I do not think or see as the world thinks and sees.  It is by grace that we know the meaning of the words Jesus spoke, in Mark 8:34-37, when He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
 
What good would have it been to Jonathan to gain the kingship, to be in the palace, to have the acclamation of Israel, and lose his soul as his father Saul did?  Instead, by losing all, Jonathan gained everything. 
 
But what about you and what about me? Are we willing to give up all for Christ? Or are we still holding on to our own self interests and putting our plans and our will above the plans and will of our heavenly Father?
 
By God’s grace and indwelling Spirit, through faith in Christ alone, may you and I be willing to lose all, in order to be faithful to Him who sacrificed all for us!  Amen.
 
                        
                                    - bulletin outline -
 
“As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your
 kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he
 must die!” - 1 Samuel 20:31
 
                    “Losing All and Gaining Everything”
                                    1 Samuel 20:1-42
 
I.  This chapter shows us the difference between Saul and Jonathan.
     It is the difference between those who have saving faith in God
     and those who reject Him, suppressing the truth:
      1) Saul knew that God had chosen David, yet he continued to
           make every effort to kill David, contrary to God’s will (1)
 
 
      2) Jonathan had more to lose than Saul. Jonathan, a prince,
          would never become king; he relinquished all for the sake
          of God’s choice of David to be king (31)
 
 
II.  Applications:
      1) Those who follow Saul’s example in rejecting God are
           invariably frustrated in this life (Acts 26:14) and punished
           in the life to come (Matthew 13:41-42; John 3:36)
 
 
      2) Those who follow Jonathan’s example of faith in God:
            a) Put the Lord’s will above family ties (Matt. 10:34-39)
 
 
            b) Are faithful to their commitments and promises (8, 16,
                23, 42; cf. 1 Samuel 18:3, 22:8) 
 
 
            c) May lose all in this life, but gain all in the life to come
                (Mark 8:34-37)
                
 
 

 




* 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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