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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Tempted, But Not Just Once
Text:1 Samuel 26:1-25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal)

137 - In Doubt and Temptation
389 - Not What My Hands Have Done  
464 - Christian, Dost Thou See Them?
455 - In the Hour of Trial
(Before the Scripture reading): By way of background to this chapter, David had been anointed king over Israel when he was about 15 years old (1 Sam. 16:13). But it would be 15 more years before he became king at the age of 30 (2 Sam. 5:4). During those years King Saul repeatedly tried to kill David. Yet, even when David had opportunities to retaliate and take Saul’s life, he did not give in to that temptation. Instead, he waited on the Lord, trusting that God would open the door for David’s kingship, at God’s time and in God’s way.
We first read of David sparing Saul’s life in 1 Samuel 24. And then, later on, David again spared Saul’s life as recorded here in 1 Samuel 26.
* 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
“Tempted, But Not Just Once”
1 Samuel 26:1-25
When we moved from Oregon to Florida many decades ago, we had a Dodge Aspen station wagon. We had bought it when it had a little over 100,000 miles on it. Over the years we added 120,000 more miles to the car. The body was in a good shape, a west coast car with not a speck of rust. The front bench seat was worn out, but I found a deluxe front seat with a fold down center arm rest from a top-of-the-line “Special Edition” Dodge Aspen at our local “You Pull-n-Save” junk yard.
Those Special Edition models had a hood ornament - an emblem right in the center of the hood that sticks up like on a Mercedes Benz - so for an extra dollar, I grabbed that too. When you sat in the new seat and looked over the hood you felt like you were in the top-of-the-line Special Edition Dodge Aspen instead of the plain Jane model that it was.
Although it had served us well, we had bought another car, so I parked the white wagon in a vacant lot at an intersection in Ocala with a for sale sign, and waited for the phone to ring.  I got quite a few calls. The car looked good, and I was only asking $700. But one of the first questions people would ask is, “Does the car have 120,000 miles?” 
They asked that question because they could look in the window and see 20,000 miles on the odometer.  Back in those days, of course, odometers didn’t go past 100,000 – because most cars didn’t. And you could see the mileage with the engine off. As soon as I would say, “Well, actually, it has 220,000 miles” they would hang up the phone.
At first it didn’t bother me too much, but after a dozen or more people hung up when they heard the real mileage, I realized that the Lord was putting this pastor to the test. It became very easy for me to understand why a used car salesman would be tempted to change an odometer figure. After all, the car ran good. It looked good. Not a spot of rust. Nice top of the line seat and a Special Edition hood ornament. It was tempting, oh so tempting, to say, Well, it must have spun around at least once, I guess. But it still runs really good!”
It became tempting to lie because the opportunity was put before me repeatedly, again and again. And that’s how temptation works, doesn’t it?  We aren’t tempted just one time to do what is sinful.  We are tempted again and again, and as those temptations repeat themselves our sinful nature – with the devil’s promptings and the world’s approval – tempt us to fudge the figures, or cheat on our taxes, or slander our neighbor, or – in David’s case – kill the crazy king who kept pursuing him like a someone pursuing a flea, or a hunter pursuing a partridge. That is what David compares Saul’s pursuit of him to. In verse 20 David says, The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”
And as Saul pursued David “as one hunts a partridge in the mountains”, David had another opportunity to retaliate. This chapter is reminiscent of 1 Samuel 24 in that David spares Saul’s life when he has an easy opportunity to take Saul’s life. You might remember that the last time David had an opportunity to take Saul’s life was when Saul came into the same cave where David and his men were hiding out. Saul proceeded to relieve himself, and became what a hunter would call “a sitting duck.”
David’s men saw this as God’s hand of providence giving David the opportunity to become king right then and there. 1 Samuel 24:4 describes how David’s 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.’”
But David did not give in to that temptation. He refrained. 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.”  (1 Sam. 24:6)
And now the same opportunity was put before him again. But this time it was even more tempting because David wouldn’t have to do the dirty work. Before, when he was in the cave, his men had urged him to kill Saul with his spear. When David refused, they offered to kill Saul, but David had rebuked them. (1 Sam. 24:7)
But now David was with his nephew – his sister’s son, Abishai – and Abishai comes across as a very eager “hit man.”  In Verse 8 Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice.”
Can’t you just hear the enthusiasm in Abishai’s voice?  You can be sure that he had sharpened his spear! He is ready to defend Uncle David. In fact, nothing would make Abishai happier than to thrust that spear through Saul, deep into the ground.
And, if Abishai put his spear through Saul, David would be off the hook. Not only would Saul no longer be hot on his heels to kill him, but David would have a wonderful excuse: “Abishai did it. It was just one stroke. Before I knew it my nephew had thrust the spear right through Saul into the ground!”
That is how temptation works. It knocks on the door of our soul repeatedly. And when it fails to seduce us into sin, it comes with a variant. It comes with a little different angle. The temptation seeks the same result, but it approaches us from another direction. That was the situation David was in. He had the same temptation to kill Saul, but now he had a “hit man”. Abishai would do the dirty work for him. The temptation was all the more attractive.
But in this enhanced temptation to do away with his oppressor, David didn’t give in. In this instance, David didn’t give in to a new angle on an old temptation, even when it was put before him in an ideal setting. Instead, in verse 9 David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?”  
David had the same focus on the Lord as before, when Saul was in the cave relieving himself and David’s men encouraged David to take his life (1 Sam. 24:4). When David faced the repeated temptation to retaliate against Saul, David focused on the Lord. And David trusted God’s promise that one day he would be king of Israel. He trusted that the Lord would open the way for kingship in His way and at His time.
David also realized that revenge is not for us to do, but the Lord will judge at His time and in His way with perfect equity and justice. In this way David is a foreshadow of Christ who suffered greatly, even though He was innocent, yet refused to retaliate, leaving us an example that we are to follow, just as Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:19-23.
David’s focus on the Lord during times of temptation also sets an example for us. Instead of looking at temptation, we are to flee from temptation. If you continue to focus on temptation you will be captivated by it and will plunge into sin. Instead, focus on the Lord, on the truths of His Word, the magnitude of His mercy, the sacrifice of His Son, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Fatherly love that He lavishes on us.
When, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, we focus on the Lord instead of on the repetitious temptations in front of us, we come to the point that Joseph was at. When his brothers sold him into slavery, he undoubtedly confronted many temptations. The Scripture tells us that Joseph was “well built and handsome.” He was an attractive target for Potiphar’s wife. She was no doubt an expert at temptation and seduction. The setting was ideal. They were alone. No one else was in the house. But when she enticed him, Joseph focused not on the woman who desired him, but on the Lord whom he loved. And he said, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9)
In the temptations of life which come not just once, but repeatedly – whatever they may be, whatever angle they come, and no matter how often they present themselves – focus not on the temptation but on Christ, your faithful Savior and Lord.
Resisting Temptation
A second principle in facing repeated temptation is to replace the evil action that temptation presents with godly action. Instead of doing what is negative, do what is positive. In David’s case, instead of taking Saul’s life, David took Saul’s water bottle and Saul’s sword.
The water bottle represented life. The desert was dry and parched. You didn’t live long without the water bottle. Water was, and still is, essential for life. The sword, by contrast, represented death. By taking both items David showed that he held Saul’s life and death in his hands. By taking them, he also incriminated Saul’s bodyguard. How would you like to be Abner and explain to King Saul what you were doing when the water bottle and the sword disappeared?
But more importantly, by taking them David showed Saul his innocence once again. The knowledge of David’s innocence convicted Saul, as it did back in chapter 24. Saul realized that David had spared his life again. And it was by God’s gracious providence that David was able to take Saul’s water jug and spear, as the Lord put Saul and his men into a deep sleep. (v. 12)
Even though David had been given another golden opportunity to attack Saul, he had refrained. He replaced the temptation put before him by Abishai, by focusing on how he could help Saul rather than hurt Saul. In the words of Romans 12 he had heaped burning coals on his head.”  Saul was convicted and said, in verse 21, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.”
Although David held Saul’s life and death in his hands, he left the judgment with the Lord. In verse 10 and 11 David said, As surely as the Lord lives, the Lord Himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”
It undoubtedly helped that the experience with Nabal was fresh in David’s mind. Perhaps you remember Nabal from the previous chapter. He was an unruly, unkind, bitter man who refused to help David even though David and his men had helped Nabal and his shepherds on numerous occasions.

The previous chapter describes how God had sent Abigail to prevent David from killing Nabal and all his helpers. Many people would have been killed had the Lord not intervened by sending Abigail to David. David realized what a blessing it was that Abigail had kept him from destroying every male in Nabal’s household. And then, after refraining from retaliation against Nabal, David saw how the Lord brought about justice and righted the wrongs. 1 Samuel 25:38 describes how about ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.”
With this fresh in his mind David realized all the more keenly that God would judge the situation and deal with Saul as He – God – saw fit. In verse 23 and 24, David said to Saul, The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.  As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”
In David’s dealings with Saul, he set an excellent example. He resisted the repeated temptation to take Saul’s life. He resisted even though his men repeatedly encouraged him to do so; and they even invoked God’s providence as a motive, saying, “Surely this is the day the Lord spoke of when he said, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish’”  (cf. 8; 1 Sam. 24:6). But David resisted because he kept his focus on the Lord and trusted the Lord too work through the circumstances in His way at His time. 
In that way David is a foreshadow or “type” of Christ who resisted temptation, not just from men, but from the devil who focused his tempting power on Jesus Christ throughout His life. In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the devil approached Him in the desert. At His weakest moment, famished from a forty day fast, alone without any encouragement, the devil attacked Him with powerful, repetitious temptations. But each time Jesus resisted the temptation by quoting from the Scriptures (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). His example is a graphic reminder to memorize and use Scripture in times of temptation. As Psalm 119:11 puts it: “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
Toward the end of His life on earth, before His trial and crucifixion, even His own disciples tempted Jesus not to go through with the cross. When Jesus described the suffering He would undergo, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him saying, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to You!"  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:22, 23)
Later, at Gethsemane, Jesus was left alone. The temptation to forsake the cross was set before Him; His disciples were asleep, and He knew He had a way out. Shortly after His betrayal, when Peter cut off the ear of a servant, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place… Do you think that 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)
But Jesus never called for the angels. Jesus refused to succumb to temptation. Instead, “for the joy set before Him (He) endured the cross despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) Jesus set the only perfect example in the face of temptation. Only Jesus, tempted in every way as we are, is without sin. And He is the one to focus on in all the temptations of life, for as Hebrews 2:18 points out, “because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” 
While David set an excellent example in resisting the temptation to take Saul’s life, he failed miserably in his fall to temptation when he saw Bathsheba bathing. When that temptation caught his eye, and captivated his mind, it took over his will and one sin led to another after another, even to the “hit job” on Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite.
Sin always leaves ripples. It affects not only us, but others around us. Like a falling domino, it causes many others to fall. That is why we need to look to Jesus for strength when facing temptation, and when we fall, look to Jesus for forgiveness. His blood is sufficient to cover every sin. And His grace and mercy toward sinners is immeasurable. As Hebrews 4:14-16 puts it:
 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 
Leaving Matters in God’s Hands
By way of further application this chapter reinforces in our mind and heart, that in all situations of life we are to leave matters in God’s hands. It doesn’t mean that we become a proverbial “door mat.”  David actively protected himself. He wasn’t hiding in a cave this time. He was looking for Saul, and he was ready to verbally defend himself before Saul.
After taking the water bottle and the sword, he had the opportunity to defend himself and said, in verse 18 to 20, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may He accept an offering. If, however, men have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord! They have now driven me from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’”
Yet his trust wasn’t in himself, or in his verbal defense before Saul. His trust was in the Lord. As he said in verse 24, As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” 
We see in this chapter, through David’s experience, that in all situations of life – no matter what the temptations or circumstances – we are to focus not on the temptations, but on the Lord, leaving matters in God’s hands, and waiting upon Him.
As for me, with that old Dodge Aspen wagon, sitting in a vacant lot at the intersection of SE 24th Street and 36th Avenue, I was, by God’s restraining grace, able to refrain from misrepresenting the mileage. I put up with all the people hanging up on me when they heard the actual mileage on my nice-looking white wagon. It was only by God’s grace, because in my mind I had many devious answers that I was tempted to use when people asked the inevitable question, “Does the car have 120,000 miles?”  
And then one evening a fellow called, and when he asked the inevitable question that I knew was coming, and dreaded more and more with each passing day, he didn’t flinch a bit at my answer.  Instead, he said, “Could I meet you there and give it a test drive?”
You can’t begin to imagine how eager I was to meet him there! He was already by the car when I got there; he was a young fellow in his thirties or so. He looked the car over, as good as he could since it was dark. He took the key and cranked the starter. And cranked the starter. And cranked the starter. And I sat in the passenger seat convinced that the only one who ever came to look at the car surely wouldn’t buy it.
I explained that the car had a slant six-cylinder engine. Those engines were characteristically hard to start on the first turn of the starter, but once they got going they had good power and great gas mileage. And they were well known for their durability. I pointed out that the car had a four-speed stick shift, a “four on the floor” with fourth gear being overdrive. I told him how once the engine got going and you got it in fourth gear – overdrive – you could get 28 to 30 miles per gallon out of it. And that was great mileage in those days. After all, gas was already spiking in 1993; it was close to one dollar a gallon! 
He didn’t say much. He just kept cranking the engine. Fortunately, the battery held out and suddenly the car started. He drove it for a mile or so and returned it to the empty lot there at the corner of SE 24th Street and 36th Ave. He hadn’t said much the whole time; I figured I would never sell the car. And then he asked, “Would you take 600 for it?”
It was music to my ears! He had the cash and paid me on the spot. And then, as I was signing over the title, he said, “My dad has a slant six engine in his Dodge pickup. His takes a while before it starts too, but he has over 300,000 miles on it. He is a member of this car club in Ocala for slant six owners, but you can only join if your car has over 200,000 miles. Now,” he said, breaking into a big smile, “I can join the same slant six car club as my dad!”  And he drove away, the second happiest man in Ocala.


In the last sentence of 1 Samuel 26, David and Saul go their separate ways. They will not meet again. Saul’s pursuit of David will finally end. But through Saul’s relentless pursuit, David dealt with the temptation to take matters into his own hands. By his resolute determination to leave matters in God’s hands he served as a shadow – a type – of Christ, who left all things in His Father’s hands.
By resisting the temptations to retaliate, David set quite the example for his men, even as they repeatedly encouraged him to kill Saul. He also sets an example for us. By his conduct David reminds us that in all the temptations and circumstances we face, we are to focus on Christ and leave matters in God’s hands. He blesses obedience, and will work His sovereign will in His time and His way. We are to obediently wait upon Him, repenting when we succumb to temptation and fall into sin, trusting and knowing that He will always be merciful and faithful to us for the sake of Christ, our precious Lord and Savior. Amen.
bulletin outline:
Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands.
Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him
twice.”1 Samuel 26:8
                                             “Tempted, But Not Just Once”
                                                     1 Samuel 26:1-25
I.   In this chapter we see that we are tempted, but not just once. Certain temptations
      continually knock on the door of our soul. David dealt with the repeated
      temptation to retaliate against Saul:
       1) David kept Abishai from killing Saul (8-9)
       2) Instead of retaliating, David took the water bottle, representing life, and the
            sword, representing death (12)
       3) Although David held Saul’s life and death in his hands, he left the judgment
            with the Lord (10-11, 23-24)
II. Applications:
       1) We overcome repetitious temptation by looking to Jesus who was tempted in
            every way as we are, yet is without sin and ever lives to intercede for us
            (Heb. 4:14-16). When we give in to temptation, and sin, we find forgiveness
            and cleansing only through saving faith in Christ (Acts 4:12)
     2) In temptation, and in all situations of life, we are to leave matters in God’s hands.
         Although David actively protected himself (3-5), and presented his case to Saul
         (18-20), he yet trusted God to deliver him (24) and thus overcame the temptation
         to retaliate against Saul 


* 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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