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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Strength in the Lord
Text:1 Samuel 29:1-30:31 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment

From Out of the Depths I Cry

God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

 “Strength in the Lord”
1 Samuel 29:1-30:31
We should all be able to relate to David’s dilemma recorded in chapter 29. We should all be able to relate because to get out of a bad situation, have you ever told one little lie? It is just one lie. It seems quite harmless, but then you have to tell another lie to cover up for the first lie, and before you know it you are caught up in a terrible web of deceit.
Unfortunately, you probably know exactly what that is like because as sinners we have all told our “little white lies,” and lived to regret it. We are simultaneously both justified and sinners, as Luther put it in his famous quote, “simul justus et peccator” – simultaneously justified and sinner. And the same is true for every Christian. By God’s grace through saving faith in Christ alone, we are declared righteous. But until the moment we die a physical death, we remain sinners. Consequently, in this life, we are both justified and sinners.
That was certainly true for David. While he is, on the one hand, a man after God’s own heart and at times an excellent foreshadow or type of Christ, on the other hand, David was a terrible sinner. We see both aspects in our study of God’s grace in the life of David. We have seen multiple times that he was justified and simultaneously a sinner, just like you and just like me.
In chapter 29, we see that his sin of deceit caught up with him. You may recall from 1 Samuel 27:10-12 how David had deceived the Philistine king, Achish.  He led King Achish to believe that whenever David and his men went on raiding parties they raided the towns of Israel and Judah and destroyed them. But in actuality David and his men were killing the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, destroying their cities and killing even their women and children. David, with his lies, had totally deceived Achish. Verse 12 of chapter 29 describes how Achish trusted David and said to himself, ‘He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever.’”
Achish trusted David so much that he made him his bodyguard for life, as described in 1 Samuel 28:2. But now King Achish and the Philistines were waging war against Israel, and David and his men were in with the Philistine troops. It was a terrible situation for David. The last thing that he and his men wanted to do was kill their own people, but he had thoroughly deceived Achish, and the king was counting on him and his men to join them in battle against Israel. 
David had dug himself into a deep hole, into a web of deceit. He was now entangled in his own lies. However, God, in his gracious providence even to sinners like ourselves, spared David from fighting against his own people.
Although Achish fully trusted David, the commanders of the Philistines did not. In 1 Samuel 29:3-5, we read of their concern that David would turn against them. If God had not providentially intervened, David and his men would have undoubtedly fought against the Philistines rather than killing their own people. David and his men would have been greatly outnumbered. Verse 2 describes the Philistine rulers as marching out with their units “of hundreds and thousands.” Their army was large and powerful. David had, at that point, about 800 men, from the description in 1 Samuel 30:9-10. Could such a little group overpower the Philistines and pull off a surprise attack? With God’s help, they certainly could. Ever since David faced Goliath, he knew that through the Lord he could be victorious against even the greatest of odds.
However, it wasn’t in God’s plan to have David attack the Philistines from the inside, as a bodyguard to their king. As we see in chapter 31, God used the Philistines to bring Saul to the end of his life. In order to do so, he allowed these Philistine rulers to force Achish to send David back to Ziklag.
Many of the commentaries point out that David must have been ecstatic at this turn of events, yet David was a great actor, and in verse 8 (of chapter 29) he questioned Achish as to why he wasn’t allowed to go with the Philistines into battle against Judah. As S.G. De Graaf notes: “David acted offended, but there must have been a song in his heart!” (Promise and Deliverance, Vol. 2, pg. 142).
Not only did the Lord use the distrust of the Philistine commanders to get David out of the terrible situation that he had brought on himself, but God in gracious providence also restrained the Amalekites from killing their captives. When David and his men came back to Ziklag, they discovered that the Amalekites had raided their town, burned it to the ground and taken all the women and children captive.
The impending war between the Philistines and Israel was a golden opportunity for the Amalekites. It was the opportunity they had cherished. It was payback time. David and his men were gone, marching off to war with the Philistines. And their wives and children, their livestock, and all their possessions were there in Ziklag, unprotected. In our vernacular, it was like taking candy from a baby; it was a simple thing for the Amalekites to go in and plunder Ziklag.
However, in 1 Samuel 30:1-2 we read an amazing statement: They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.”       
What makes that statement so remarkable is that the Amalekites were ruthless, blood-thirsty people. That they would spare the women and children is beyond human comprehension. After all, this was payback for what David had done to them, and David, as we read in 1 Samuel 27:9 was ruthless: 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.”
God’s Grace Revealed in His Providence
Why did the Amalekites, in their payback, not do the same as David?  Why did they spare the women and the children? Why did they refrain from harming them? In God’s providence, he restrained the Amalekites. He restrained them for the sake of David, and the greater David, Christ, and the people of Israel and Judah, through whom the eternal Christ would be born in human flesh.
The Lord restrained them in gracious providence through what we often call common grace. Part of the concept of common grace is that God restrains the reprobate. Although they are evil, they are not as evil as they could be, which is also true for those of us who are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. We too are evil, but not as evil as we could be. Although the Amalekites had a golden opportunity to pay back David and his men by killing their children and wives, as David and his men had done to them, they were restrained. The only reason for that restraint is the gracious hand of God’s providence exerting his common grace upon them.
Several men of our congregation have been robbed at gunpoint and are still here to tell about it. Our church in Oak Lawn historically has had many men who worked the garbage trucks in the early morning hours on the south side of Chicago and northward into the loop. They were frequently robbed, and most of the time they had a gun pointed at them.
I was also robbed at gunpoint when I worked the midnight shift at a gas station in New York City many years ago. It was 4:00 in the morning. The streets were empty. I was the only one working at the station. The gun was pointed at me. I was outnumbered two to one. I had no money. All the money and credit card receipts were put in a large safe that was right next to the gas pump. The robbers weren’t smart, but they were furious. They were ready to do me in. 
Why didn’t they pull the trigger? Why wasn’t I another statistic on the crime sheets of New York City? And why weren’t the men in our congregation who were held up at gunpoint not another statistic on the crime sheets of Chicago? Why weren’t Ahinoam and Abigail, David’s wives, raped and murdered?
It is because of God’s providence and restraining grace. In this fallen world of evil and hatred, (where we have witnessed just this past week the horrific killing spree of 27 people, 20 of them little children), in this world God is yet at work in gracious providence restraining sin, keeping it from being even more atrocious, deadly and evil than it already is. As we often sing:
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied, And earth and Heav’n be one.
God’s Intervening Providence
A third intervention of God’s providence is in verses 11-16. Those verses describe how David came across an Egyptian slave who revealed the location of the Amalekites. David was at his wit’s end. Verse 6 tells us David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.”
At this point, David did the right thing. In Verse 7 David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, ‘Bring me the ephod.’ Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?’”
 “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”
Because David sought the Lord, through the use of the Urim and Thummin, which was in the ephod of the priest – and certainly he sought the Lord through prayer – the Lord led David, in gracious providence, to this Egyptian slave.
The slave had been abandoned by his Amalekite owner. We get an insight into the attitudes of the Amalekites toward human life from verse 13 where the slave says, “My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago.” As the slave received food and drink, he was revived and more than willing to give David the location of the Amalekites, even leading David directly to them.
1 Samuel 30:16-20 describe how the Amalekites were in high spirits because of all the plunder they had taken, and they were caught off guard by David and his men. David and his men took them by surprise and fought them from dusk until the evening of the following day. Everything was recovered. None of David’s troops were killed in the ambush and all the flocks and herds were spared and returned as well. 
This, too, was a result of God’s gracious work of providence. We often think of God’s grace in relation to his redemptive love for his people. And he has redeemed us with grace that is truly immeasurable. We will spend all eternity discovering the magnitude of God’s grace, mercy, and love for his people. But his grace is equally rich and immeasurable in relation to his work of providence. Even when his providence is hard, allowing sorrow and suffering to pierce our lives, he yet works his providence for our good, drawing us closer to him as we realize our complete dependence on him alone, realizing that he does indeed work all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
Strength and Redemption Through Saving Faith in Christ
How else do we apply these two unique chapters that took place long before the birth of Christ? First, in all struggles of life, we are to find our strength in the Lord, just as David did. In verse 6 the men are talking about stoning him. His loved ones had been captured and taken who knows where. And we read at the end of the verse, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
We certainly don’t face the same struggles as David did. I for one am glad that 800 men aren’t talking about stoning me, at least not that I know of. I’m thankful that my wife has not been kidnapped and I don’t have to chase after the Amalekites. But we all have a different set of problems. Your problems may not be identical to mine, and mine may be different from yours, and together they vary by time and circumstance from David’s.
But the biggest problem we all face is our burden of sin. David was in the predicament he was in because of sin. It is no different for you and for me. Every problem and hardship we face is on account of sin, sin in the world, and sin in our lives. But just as the Lord delivered David from his troubles, he also delivered him from his sin. David looked ahead to the greater David, Jesus Christ. Old Testament believers were saved by grace through faith in Christ alone just as we are. They didn’t have all the details of Mount Calvary, the way we have them. But they had the same assurance, the same saving faith expressed by the father of the faithful, Abraham.
Do you remember that haunting question of Isaac as he accompanied his father on the three-day journey to the mountains of Moriah? Genesis 22:6-8:   
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
On the Mount of the Lord it was provided, not only a sacrifice for Abraham as his son Isaac was spared, but on Mount Calvary where “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). Christ offered himself as the only acceptable sacrifice for sinners. He shed his blood to propitiate – cover – the sins of all who by his grace have saving faith in him alone. And having covered our sin with his precious blood he imputes to us his perfect record of righteous obedience so that we stand before his throne spotless and without blame, clothed in his righteousness. He has dealt with the biggest problem all of us face. He has dealt completely with the burden of sin for everyone who by his grace and Spirit’s power has saving faith in him alone.
A second application: We are to seek our direction from the Lord. That’s what David did when he called Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod. The Urim and Thummim, meaning literally “lights” and “perfections”, were carried in the high priest’s ephod and were used to receive answers from God. Many commentators believe that they were two pieces of stone or wood, one representing “Yes” and the other “No.”  
They would be tossed out of the pouch in which they were carried in the breastplate of the ephod. If both pieces showed “Yes” or “No”, the direction would be clear from the Lord. If one showed “Yes” and the other “No” it meant that the Lord was not willing to reveal his will at that time in that particular situation. 
I’m sure that we all wish that when we go to the Bible and read God’s Word, or when we invoke him in prayer seeking guidance, our answer would be as clear as the answer given to David in verse 8: “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”
Although God does not reveal himself audibly, or in response to Urim and Thummim today, his voice is clearly understood through Scripture. His Son is the Word who became flesh, in the words of John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In the Word – in the Holy Bible – Christ is revealed to us. He is revealed in the shadows of the Old Testament and revealed with clarity in the New. As Hebrews 1:1-3 puts it: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
We have all the guidance that we need in the Holy Bible. In the pages of Scripture, Christ is revealed to us and he is indeed “the word become flesh.”
What the Lord has Given Us
A third application: We are to share with others what Christ, the greater David, has given us. There is an interesting difference in the description of the plunder in verse 20 and verse 23. In verse 20 David’s men, speaking of the plunder, exclaim, “This is David’s plunder.” 
But when some of the men who had gone after the Amalekites did not want to share the plunder with the 200 men who were too exhausted to go, David says, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us.” (23)
David recognized that what he had was not his. All he had was from the Lord. And further, he realized that when the Lord blesses us, then we are to share the blessing with others. He recognized that the Lord doesn’t bless us with prosperity so that we can live an extravagant life, or bask in a perceived notion of security brought on by material blessing.  Rather, David understood the truth that would later be written by Paul to Timothy:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
As the chapter closes, we read how David sent some of the plunder to many of the towns in Israel. Some commentators surmise that David was the ultimate politician, that he was seeking goodwill through the giving of gifts, which, since he would be the next king of Israel were somewhat political in nature.
Other commentators commend David for wisdom in laying the groundwork for his future kingship through the sharing of plunder. I tend to agree with the latter. David showed both compassion and wisdom in the way he distributed the plunder, recognizing above all that it was not his, but the Lord’s, “what the Lord has given us.” (23)
In your life and my life may we learn from David, imitating his godly, wise, and brave actions, and guarding against the times when he sets a negative example. By learning from both his sins and his godly actions may we, by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work within us, be conformed more and more after the likeness of the greater David, Jesus Christ! Amen. 
Sermon outline:
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was
bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord
his God. – 1 Samuel 30:6
                                               “Strength in the Lord”
                                                  1 Samuel 29:1-30:31
I.  In these chapters we see God’s grace, not only in redemption but also in providence
     as the LORD:
          1) Spared David from fighting against his own people (1 Sam. 28:1-2; 29:1-11)
     2) Restrained the Amalekites from killing their captives (1 Samuel 30:2) even
         though David had been ruthless in his attacks on them (1 Samuel 27:8-9)
      3) Led David to an Egyptian slave who revealed the Amalekites’ location
           (1 Sam. 30:11-16)
II. Applications for us:
       1) God is our help in the daily struggles of life (1 Sam. 30:6), but above all, He
           is our help in that Christ forgives and has borne the sins of His people, imputing
           His righteousness to us (2 Corinthians 5:21)
      2) We are to seek direction and guidance from God’s Word (1 Sam. 30:7-8)
      3) We are to share with others, as Christ, the greater David, has done for us
           (1 Samuel 30: 20, 23; Ephesians 4:7-8; 1 Timothy 6:17-18)


* 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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