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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:When Fear Overcomes Faith
Text:1 Samuel 27:1-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested
 
Preached:2012
Added:2021-09-15
Updated:2021-09-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Selections from the blue Psalter, unless otherwise noted):

8 (Red) – Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim
155:1-4, 7 - Now to God, Our Strength and Savior
94 - God Be Merciful to Me
441:1,2,5 - Jesus, Priceless Treasure
 
    
* 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  
11/18/2012
“When Fear Overcomes Faith”
1 Samuel 27:1-12
 
When thinking about David, have you wondered at times how someone who is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22) could also be such a great sinner?  Perhaps we question that most often when we think of David’s sin with Bathsheba. While that may be the most common thought concerning David’s sin, he also had many other blatant sins which jump off the pages of Scripture and make us wonder again, “How can this man be called a man after God’s own heart?”
 
Just as David was zealous in his pursuit of godliness, telling of his desire to praise the Lord with all (his) inmost being” (Psalm 103:1), so also, unfortunately, he plunged into sin with that same zeal. That should give each one of us a stark warning, a true reality check. Our zeal can be used for good. And it should be. But our zeal, when it is controlled by our sinful nature, is a terrible force that can do great damage to us, to others, and certainly to the honor of God’s name and God’s kingdom.
 
So although in our study of David’s life we often see that he is a type of Christ, here in this chapter we see him, in the words of S.G. De Graaf, as an anti-type of Christ. In this chapter David serves as a negative example in a number of ways.
 
First, his fear appears to have been greater than his faith, and this comes as a great surprise. The chapter begins by revealing David’s inner thoughts. Verse 1: “But David thought to himself, ‘One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.’”
 
Yet in the previous chapter we read these confident words of David, recorded in 1 Samuel 26:10, “As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him (Saul); either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.’” And in verse 24 David added, “As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”
 
After all, David was the one who at a young age went out with nothing more than a sling and a stone to take on a nine-foot Philistine giant.  David had said, in full assurance of faith, The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:3)
 
Admittedly, this is not the first time that we have seen David’s faith, so strong, yet flicker and be so weak and wavering.  It was before Achish (perhaps the same king or a different one) that David had feigned insanity, letting the salvia dribble down his beard like a madman. (1 Sam. 21:12-13)
 
These different reflections of David, both a man of strong faith, and at times a man overcome by fear, should not surprise us. Are they not reflections of our own selves?  Isn’t it like looking in a spiritual mirror? Isn’t it true that at times our faith is strong and robust, and then, over minor things, or apprehensive thoughts, or repetitive sins, or some other assault – our faith wavers just as David’s did? Has your faith wavered as David’s did, and as Peter’s faith wavered when he was walking on the water of the lake, and then took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the waves and felt the wind and began to sink?
 
Even John the Baptist wavered; in prison he had doubts concerning the true identity of Jesus and sent messengers to ask Him, “Are you the One to come, or should we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3)
 
When those inevitable fears and doubts come up in our lives, then we must focus more fully on Jesus Christ and the promises of God’s Word. When Peter’s faith wavered, and he began to sink while walking on water, he called out to Jesus, “Lord, Save me!” Scripture describes how “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31)
 
Likewise, when the anxieties of life take root within us, focus in faith on Christ and the promises of His word. In Matthew 6 Jesus describes how His Father in heaven cares for the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field. Jesus assures us, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
 
And He adds, “…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:26, 31-34)
 
Instead of anxiety and fear, focus in faith on Jesus. One of His most frequent greetings to His disciples was “Fear Not!” Jesus greets all who have saving faith in Him with the same words. And He speaks to us the same words He spoke to the synagogue ruler in Mark 5:36, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
     
The Influence of Our Environment
 
A second thing that David did, which comes as a surprise for a person who was a man after God’s own heart, is that he purposely moved out of Israel to an ungodly land. Israel was where God’s people dwelled in Old Testament times. Israel and Judah were lands given to God’s people. To move out of Israel to the land of the Philistines was to move out of the favor of the Lord. God loved Israel. Even in all their sin He was patient with them and provided for them, even as He disciplined them in love. Through the line of Judah, He would bring His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior from sin. So it comes as a surprise that David would move out of “God’s country” to the ungodly land of the Philistines. 
    
One of the many things that is no longer stressed in most churches today, as it should be, is that when people move to another area of the country their first priority should be that there is a good Bible-believing and teaching church there.
 
Those of us who grew up in conservative churches that were Reformed to the Scriptures probably remember sermons on that. Members of congregations were warned not to do as Lot did. He moved to the well-watered plains of the Jordan River because he wanted the fertile land in order that he and his flocks could prosper. But he didn’t think of his spiritual life, or that of his family. Because on the plains of the Jordan, of course, were the notorious towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. While Lot himself was spared, his life was ruined; and by that move he certainly contributed to the destruction of his wife and the corruption of his daughters. Yet today, how many people will relocate for the sake of a job, of financial opportunity, without any consideration which church they will attend and whether there are Christian schools for their children?
     
When I was in the eighth grade my father died. My oldest brother was away at school. My other older brother was in the Navy, so it was just my mom and myself. I was content where we were, especially when we lived near Sidney, a little farm town outside of Champaign-Urbana. I had good friends in school, and, like many of my friends, I worked on a farm. I worked for a farmer who owned the farmhouse we rented, and he taught me how to drive his pickup truck and his tractors. How great is that, when you are 14 years old and you can drive an old Ford pickup with a “three on the tree” – the three speed stick shift on the steering column – and a John Deere tractor too!
 
But one day, out of the blue, my mother said to me, “We need to move, and since it affects you, I want you to pick between these three places: Miami, Florida, Denver, Colorado, and Paterson, New Jersey.” You see, we had moved to the Champaign-Urbana area just two years prior, because my dad, who was a bacteriologist, was offered an excellent opportunity with the University of Illinois. There was a small Christian Reformed Church in Champaign, but no Christian School. Since my father had died and my brothers were out of the house, my mother, who always wanted me to be in a Christian school, especially wanted me to receive a Christian education at that point in my life. And each one of those areas she listed had a large Reformed community with good schools and churches.
 
Our environment does affect us. Just as Sodom had a negative effect on Lot, so Philistia had a negative effect on David. We cannot escape our society, which is getting more like Sodom, Gomorrah and the land of the Philistines all at once. But we can and must seek places to live where we can worship with other believers and grow spiritually. We are in the world, but not of the world. And we need to seek fellowship with other believers so that as we commune with each other and with the Lord we do not conform to the godless society in which we live. 
 
Temporal Consequences of Sin
 
A third negative example that David sets in this chapter is that in his raids on the Geshurites, Girzites and the Amalekites he was ruthless; he was brutal. The devastation he inflicted on the people he raided is almost beyond our ability to comprehend.
 
Some commentators believe that he stripped his victims naked. They deduce that from verse 9 which says, “Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.”
 
Most commentators believe that it goes without saying that he also killed the children. The text mentions women as well as men, and that he did not leave a man or woman alive.”  It appears that all witnesses were killed, including children. Verse 11: He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, ‘They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’ And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory.”
 
When we come to 1 Chronicles 22:8-9 we will read how David desired to build a house for the Lord, but the Lord said, “You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for My Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight.”
 
There are consequences to sin, even when it is forgiven. Our prisons are filled with many people who know that their sins can be forgiven, but they still have to pay for the consequences of their crime. Many people with sexually transmitted diseases know that their immoral conduct can be forgiven, but they still live with the consequences. Sin is forgiven, but the temporal consequences of sin remain.
 
David also found that out. He was certainly forgiven for all his sins, but David’s desire to build the temple was denied because of bloodshed that this chapter, and others, describe. As David took lives, he became callous toward life. Sometimes we may wonder how David could be so callous in setting up the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. But it was incidents like the ones recorded in this chapter that were already making him callous toward the shedding of anyone’s blood. 
     
A fourth brazen inconsistency for “a man after God’s own heart” is that he lied brazenly to Achish. Verse 10 describes how “When Achish asked, ‘Where did you go raiding today?’ David would say, ‘Against the Negev of Judah’ or ‘Against the Negev of Jerahmeel’ or ‘Against the Negev of the Kenites.’”
 
The area that David describes is a large area, and he led Achish to believe that he was killing Israelites who were living in those remote regions. But in reality, he was killing Canaanites. Achish didn’t investigate, because in the words of verse 12, he trusted David: Achish trusted David and said to himself, ‘He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever.’”
____
 
Although we see the negative example that David sets in this passage, there are Christians who exonerate David, even with the violence and deceit recorded in this chapter.  Although I personally don’t take their view, I appreciate some of their reasoning. As an example, Dr. Derek Thomas, in his treatment of this passage, asks his congregation to be the jury on a case against David. He points out, among other things, that the people David killed were people whom God had commanded the Israelites to kill when they first came into Canaan.  David was doing what leaders before him should have done. Consider this command of the Lord in Deuteronomy 20:16-18:
 
“In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.”
 
Dr. Thomas points out that deceit is part of war. You don’t tell your enemy what your tactics are or what your strategy is. David was looking out for Israel, so naturally he didn’t let Achish know what he was really doing.
 
Dr. Thomas also views the condemnation of David as bordering on Phariseeism, of passing judgment in an area where God alone is judge. As 1 Corinthians 4:5 puts it: “...Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
 
Dr. Thomas writes:
“I have been trying to judge David all week long. For my part, I think I pretty much exonerate him on all counts for my part.
 
But maybe, maybe you come down on the other side and maybe, maybe you’re saying tonight, “Guilty on all four charges.”
 
I don’t want you in my jury. I really don’t want you in my jury. Beware, beware of the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees that somehow we place ourselves on a model plane that somehow or other makes us better than David. These are extraordinary circumstances, incredibly difficult circumstances, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to sort of condemn him.
      
For sure, he’s not my Savior. For sure, he’s not Jesus. We need a Savior and it’s not David.”
                (From “Lying Your Way Out of Trouble”, a sermon on 1 Samuel 27; fpcjackson.org)
 
He concludes by pointing his congregation to Christ, the greater David in every way. And you cannot have a better conclusion than that!
    
While I appreciate his reasoning, and highly recommend his teaching and preaching, I tend to agree with S.G. De Graaf on this chapter. In his series, Promise and Deliverance, he points out that God was forsaking His people. He writes:
 
“The people were being forsaken so that the Lord could reveal how He would remember them again in David out of free grace. David’s kingship and the deliverance by his hand were rooted not in his own excellence but in God’s favor. Many times David was an antitype of the Christ. Whatever he might become to the people he would become only through Christ.” (V-2; pg. 137)
 
Many other commentators agree with De Graaf; they are in agreement that David stands as a warning to us in this chapter. For instance, Matthew Henry writes in the preface to his commentary on this chapter: “David was a man after God’s own heart, yet he had his faults, which are recorded, not for our imitation, but for our admonition…” (A Commentary on the Bible; V-2; pg. 426).
 
This chapter reminds us of the truth that Luther spoke about in his famous phrase “simul justus et peccator”meaning we are simultaneously both justified and sinners. We are justified, forgiven and imputed with the righteousness of Christ through the gift of saving faith in Him alone. But simultaneously we are yet sinners, struggling with temptations, fears, doubts and conflicts brought on by our three sworn enemies: The devil, the world and our own sinful nature. Our sinful nature causes us to often be our own worst enemy. And it was no different for David.          
___
 
So often we think our faith is strong, when in actuality, we waver and are weak, just as David was. His life, while serving many times as a wonderful example, also at times serves as a serious warning reminding us, in the words of 1 Corinthians 10:12, that “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”
   
May we always take that warning to heart, and focus in saving faith on the greater David, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
 
 
bulletin outline:
 
But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand
of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then
Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his
hand.” – 1 Samuel 27:1
 
                                  “When Fear Overcomes Faith”
                                              1 Samuel 27:1-12
 
I. Although David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22),
   and a shadow of “the greater David,” Jesus Christ, he also serves as a warning.
   When he sinned, it was with the same zeal as when he sought godliness. In this
   chapter he serves as a negative example since:
     1) His fear appears to be greater than his faith (1-4)
 
 
 
     2) He purposely moved out of Israel to an ungodly land (5-7)
 
 
 
     3) In his raids he was ruthless (8-9, 11)
 
 
 
     4) He lied brazenly to king Achish (10-12)
 
 
 
II. Application: Some Christians exonerate David’s actions in this chapter,
     reminding us to leave judgment with the Lord (1 Cor. 4:5), but most see
     him as a warning, that If you think you are standing firm, be careful
     that you do not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
 
 

 




* 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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