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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Leaving Judgment with the Lord
Text:1 Samuel 24:1-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Song Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal):   

222:1-3 - O Give the Lord Whole-Hearted Praise
105 - O God, Be Merciful to Me
143:1-3 - To Thee, O God, We Render Thanks
484 - Lead On, O King Eternal

* 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
“Leaving Judgment with the Lord”
1 Samuel 24:1-22
Dr. Derek Thomas, in his series on David’s life, has an interesting title for his sermon from this chapter. The title?  “A Call of Nature vs. a Call of God”.  
It is an interesting title because it sums up this passage where we find Saul still in pursuit of David. At this point in David’s life, Saul has made more than ten attempts to kill him. David is hiding out in cave once again. It is a very large cave, large enough to hide David and his 600 men. And as they are hiding in the cave Saul has a nature call. He has to go to the bathroom, but, of course, there are none nearby, so he goes into the cave totally unaware that David and his men are hiding out in the very spot where he is relieving himself.
In those days men wore robes, but in today’s vernacular Saul was caught with his pants down. Talk about a sitting duck. He was one hundred percent vulnerable.  David could have taken Saul by surprise, ended his life, and gone on to be the triumphant king. His men were certainly advising it. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” (4a)
Since the opportunity was certainly there why didn’t David protect himself from this madman who made so many attempts on his life?  Why didn’t he follow the advice of his men? The main reason is that David, as we have seen in many other instances, is a type or shadow of Christ. In this instance, as he refuses to retaliate against Saul, he is a shadow or a type of Jesus in that he did not retaliate, but left judgment to the Lord. That is exactly what the “greater David,” Jesus, did. We see that at many times in his life. He put into practice “turning the other cheek,” even when he was arrested. Although he could have called ten legions of angels, he said, “But how then would the Scripture be fulfilled that say it most happen this way?” (Matt. 26:54), and allowed himself to be arrested, to be crucified.
And as the spectators mocked him while he was on the cross, he prayed for them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” As Peter observed, in 1 Peter 2:23, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
S.G. De Graaf, in his series on the Old Testament entitled Promise and Deliverance, writes:
David was to be a type of the one who did not threaten others when he suffered but submitted his cause to God, the righteous Judge. By following that path, the Christ became the Savior of his people. And if David was to become the deliverer of Israel, he would have to follow a similar path. The Spirit of the Christ would truly have to dwell in him.  (Vol. 2; pg. 131)
As the Spirit of Christ dwelled in David, we see that David recognized God is sovereign over all earthly kings. In verse 6 David said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”
As Christians who are Reformed to the truths of Scripture it is probably quite easy for us to acknowledge that our God is sovereign over the nations of the world. We have no problem accepting that intellectually, for the Bible repeatedly tells us that all earthly rulers are appointed by God and thus we are to render obedience to them (Rom 13:1). Scripture is clear that the Lord holds the heart of the king in his hand and directs him however he wishes (Proverbs 21:1). As Daniel puts it: “The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.” (Daniel 4:17, 25; 5:21)
Intellectually we can accept that truth. But on a practical level, it is a lot harder to put that truth into practice by submitting to politicians and governments with whom we disagree. While that is true for all nations, we who live in the United States have grappled with that concept repeatedly in our recent history. All of us who are Christians wish – and pray – that the motto stamped on every coin we use would not be a statement of hypocrisy, but a proclamation of honest truth, that “In God We Trust.”
Instead, we have seen a forceful and well-organized effort in our nation, by politicians and the media, to denigrate God and portray his people as hateful. Instead of focusing on trust in the Lord, the emphasis in our nation has been to trust in government. Our elections increasingly determine whether our nation will go down the path of socialism, with government “providing” everything, or whether individual effort and free enterprise, which is part of the Biblical work ethic, continues to be the rule for our land without undue regulation and interference from a bloated and often corrupt government.
But in every election, no matter who is elected, we as Christians are called to acknowledge – as David did with Saul – that he or she is anointed of the Lord, for God allows those who have power to be in the place where they are, either for judgment on a nation or to be a blessing to that nation.
No matter what nation we are in and no matter who is in power you and I must be faithful in prayer for that person. As Paul told Timothy “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim. 2:1,2)
That is the harder part of acknowledging God’s sovereignty. Intellectually it is easy for us as Reformed Christians to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all nations and their rulers. But on the practical level of honor, respect, payment of taxes and faithful prayer for authorities, it is much harder to acknowledge.
David set quite the example, then, for his men hiding out in the cave so long ago, and for us today as he left judgment of Saul with the Lord, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord” (6).
Trusting in God’s Promises and His Timing
Secondly, in this passage we see that David trusted God’s promise that one day he would be king. In verse 20 Saul even acknowledged that. He said to David, “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.” He even asked David, in verse 21, to safeguard his family after David became king.
David didn’t retaliate against Saul because he realized Saul was king by God’s appointment. But he also didn’t retaliate because he trusted God’s promises. Had Samuel not sought out David and anointed him as recorded in 1 Samuel 16:13? Would God not be true to his promises?  Was God not able by his power to bring David to the throne of Israel?
So often we want to retaliate because we don’t look beyond the situation to see the sovereign hand of God. When we trust, as David did, that our sovereign God will judge all matters in equity and righteousness, then we, too, can leave retaliation and vengeance with him. And that is what the Lord tells us to do. Romans 12:19-21:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
By contrast, when we take revenge, we are running ahead of the Lord and his providential hand. David realized that. He trusted in the Lord’s promises that one day he would become king, and he trusted in the means that God would use to achieve that purpose.
We see, thirdly, that David waited for the Lord’s timing and means to deal with Saul. He is, after all, the same writer who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to conclude Psalm 27 with these words: “Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
As he waited on the Lord, David realized that what seems like an “open door”, an excellent opportunity, is not always in God’s will. Just because a door is open doesn’t mean that it is God’s will that you go through it.
Because we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives, and because we know that in his providence he both “opens doors” and “closes doors,” we often expect that any opportunity put before us is of the Lord’s doing. That was the case with David’s men in verse 4 when the men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when He said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”
But David had the wisdom to test his counselors. Sometimes we need to let advice in one ear and out the other. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us that there is wisdom in many counselors, and there certainly is. What a blessing to have the counsel of wise, godly friends especially when we are at a crossroad and seeking direction and trying to discern the will of God for our lives!
But Scripture also reminds us to test the spirits, or, as Proverbs 18:17 says: “The first to present his case seems right till another comes forward and questions him.” We always have to weigh the advice and counsel we receive from others on the scales of God’s holy and infallible Word. David did that. He realized that instead of taking matters into his own hands, he had to “wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
The open door doesn’t always imply that it is God’s will for you or me to go through that door.   David recognized that, even when his tormentor was literally given into his hands.
By way of further application, we see that there is great blessing in following David’s example. There is peace in leaving judgment with the Lord. One of the most heart wrenching emotions is that of anger when we’ve been wronged. Our first instinct is often to get even, to retaliate. And it’s a terrible feeling. We have all been there.
But there is great peace when we can give that over to the Lord, and pray, “Lord, I’ve been wronged, and you know I’ve been wronged, and you are the great Judge. I will rest in your judgment, not mine.”  There is a great peace for our soul when we give our thoughts of retaliation over to the Lord.
When David even thought about taking matters into his own hands, he was conscious stricken. Verse 5 describes how “afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”
To us the cutting of the robe might seem like a trivial act, and a good lesson for Saul.  However, in Old Testament times, the robe was symbolic of royal authority.  By cutting the robe, David, in his mind, by his thought process, was encroaching on God’s will.
David was thankful that he had not taken his men’s advice to kill Saul, because although he was conscious stricken at cutting the robe, he had a clear conscience regarding Saul’s life.  In verse 11, he called out to Saul, “See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.”
The Example of Jesus
When we follow David’s example of not retaliating, we are also following the example of Jesus. He taught us to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
But Jesus did not just teach with words. He demonstrated the truth of his words by his actions. If there was ever a time Jesus could have repaid evil with the complete, righteous, all-consuming wrath of the triune God, it was there at the cross. All the forces of evil were unified against Him. He had been betrayed with a kiss. He had been set up in a sham trial, falsely accused, whipped, spit on, blindfolded and struck repeatedly by tormentors who mocked him; and ultimately, he was led out to be crucified in a humiliating and painful death.
But through that entire painful process, Jesus knew that he had all the resources to retaliate. As he said to Peter, after Peter had struck the servant of the high priest with his sword, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:52, 53)
He could have called 12 legions of angels. He could have repaid each one, then and there, for their taunts and jeers and the humiliation they laid on Him. He could have been vindicated in one swift, awesome act of divine power. 
But instead of repaying evil for evil, he repaid evil with the greatest good the world has ever known. He repaid each one of our evil deeds and each one of our evil thoughts and words, along with our innumerable sins of omission, by offering himself as the propitiation – the covering – of everyone who by his grace has saving faith in him alone for salvation. And in the process, he prayed, not for retaliation, but instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
And the Holy Spirit teaches us to follow his example. 1 Peter 2:18-25:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
        “He committed no sin,
          and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
When we follow the good example of David, and the perfect example of Jesus, when we leave judgment with the Lord, and don’t retaliate, we are also fulfilling the New Testament command of Romans 12:14 which tells us, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” And Romans 12:20 adds, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Long before those words were written, David exemplified them. David, by being kind to Saul when Saul was in an extremely compromising situation and posture, heaped “burning coals on his head” instead. That unique phrase in Romans 12:20 is a quote from Proverbs 25:22. Many commentators believe that it means that our kindness will cause those who are harming us to repent, to feel ashamed of their evil in the light of our good. 
If you ever wondered what the reaction is of someone who has experienced “heaping coals on his head,” hear the anguished words of Saul in 1 Samuel 24:17-19. After weeping loudly, he said to David, “You are more righteous than I... You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today...”
David’s kind treatment of Saul brought grief and remorse to Saul, at least for the moment. But as the chapter ends and Saul returns home, David and his men wisely return to the stronghold.  David realized that Saul’s remorse would be short-lived. In other words, just because David was kind to his enemy, he wasn’t going to be gullible and allow himself to be taken advantage of by returning to Jerusalem with Saul.
I like Dr. Derek Thomas’ title for his sermon on this passage. It is catchy and quite comical, “A Call of Nature vs. a Call of God”. His exposition of the passage is, as always, excellent. The passage reminds us that we must follow the command of God not to retaliate, even when we have a golden opportunity to do so. Instead, we are to follow the good example of David and the perfect example of the greater David, Jesus Christ. We are to leave judgment, and all thoughts of retaliation, with the Lord, for “‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.  (Rom. 12:19)
Those words are not an empty warning; they are a certain reality. As 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 puts it:
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
Are you among those who have believed God’s testimony concerning judgment and salvation? By God’s grace and indwelling Spirit do you know Jesus Christ as “the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul?” (1 Peter 2:25). By saving faith have you taken the words of Jesus to heart when he says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.”?
If so, then leave thoughts of retaliation with the Lord. Prayerfully wait on him to execute perfect and eternal judgment, in his way and at his time. Amen.
Bulletin outline:
“May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May He consider my
 cause and uphold it; may He vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
                                                                                                 1 Samuel 24:15
                      “Leaving Judgment with the Lord”
                                      1 Samuel 24:1-22
I.  David is a type of Christ in that he did not retaliate against Saul,
     but left judgment to the Lord (15, cf. 1 Peter 2:23).  David:
     1) Recognized God is sovereign over all earthly kings (6, 10)
     2) Trusted God’s promise that one day he would be king (20;
          1 Samuel 16:13)
      3) Waited for the Lord’s timing and means to deal with Saul
           (15; Psalm 27:14)
II. Application: We are to follow David’s good example (15), and
    the perfect example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:23), leaving judgment
    with the Lord (Romans 12:14, 17-21; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)



* 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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