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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:The path to the throne isn't what you might think
Text:1 Samuel 24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5:1-2

Hymn 5:3-4 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 57:1-3

Psalm 142

Psalm 146:1-3

Scripture reading: Acts 9:1-22

Text: 1 Samuel 24

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

The Bible is full of wonderful promises.  One of those promises has to do with thrones and kingdoms.  In Matthew 25:34, the Lord Jesus speaks of those who will hear the King say, “Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.”  And in 2 Timothy 2:12, the apostle Paul writes that those who persevere will reign with Christ.  In Revelation 5, the apostle John hears a song which sings of believers reigning on the earth.  God promises a throne to all who believe in Christ. 

However, we’re told in Scripture that this throne is a future reality.  We share in Christ’s anointing; we’ve been anointed as kings.  But we don’t yet reign with Christ.  That’s something still in the future.  We’re on a pilgrimage, a journey, a path to the throne.  What does that path look like?  How do we travel this path?  Our text answers those questions.  It does so as it speaks about David and as David points to Christ, the one whose anointing we share.  So, I preach God’s Word to you with the theme:  The path to the throne isn’t what you might think

We’ll see that it is a path:

  1. Strewn with temptation
  2. Travelled through righteousness
  3. Paved in invincibility

We all know the story of David and Goliath, how God used David and his slingshot to take out the Philistine giant.  After that momentous event, David naturally became famous in Israel.  David went on to become a decorated soldier and whatever battle he fought, he won.  David’s reputation began to weigh on Saul.  Not just once, but several times, Saul went so far as to try and kill David.  As a result, David became a hunted man and he always lived with one eye over his shoulder.  In chapter 18, Saul tried to kill David.  In chapter 19, he tried to kill David.  In chapter 20, Jonathan received confirmation that his father Saul was set on killing David.  And it goes on and on.  Saul was madly obsessed with taking David down. 

And that brings us to the end of chapter 23 where Saul had David surrounded.  It looked like it was all over for David and then suddenly, out of the blue, comes this report that the Philistines had invaded the land and Saul’s pursuit of David gets called off.  He goes off to fight the Philistines and David lives another day. 

Chapter 24 begins with Saul returning from his pursuit of the Philistines.  We’re not told what happened there, but we can assume he was successful.  Then things pick up where they left off as a report comes to him of David’s whereabouts.  David is reported to be in the area of En Gedi, an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea.  This is a rugged wilderness area with a lot of caves, a great place for hiding out.  Saul responds to the report by choosing three thousand of his best soldiers – the ancient equivalent of a special forces unit.  They’re on a search and destroy mission.  Their orders are simple:  find David and neutralize him, take him out.

They arrive in the general area and find some sheep pens.  Nearby is a cave and though Saul’s the commander in chief, he still has regular bodily needs, so he goes into the mouth of the cave to take a toilet break.  Obviously, a squatting man is in a vulnerable position.  Little does he know that deeper in the cave is the very quarry he’s been pursuing.  David and his men had been hiding out at the back of this cave and now the proverbial hunter becomes the hunted. 

David’s men encourage him to take the full tactical advantage.  They know the word of God means a lot to their leader so they appeal to what God had said.  God said he was going to give the enemy into David’s hand and then David could do as seemed good to him.  Now the opportunity was here.  “Come on David, your enemy is squatting and totally focussed on something else, here’s your chance to stop running and take the throne that’s rightfully yours. We won’t have to live in caves anymore and spend our lives on the run.  We can get back to our wives and kids.  Come on David, this is it.”

David gets it, he sees it.  This is the day his men have been waiting for.  This is the day he’s been waiting for.  So, quietly, like a mouse, David sneaks up on Saul as he’s squatting and doing his business.  He takes his dagger and his men are watching eagerly.  Remember they’re at the back of the cave.  Saul is at the mouth.  So, they see the silhouette of Saul hunched over and David slowly creeping up.  You can imagine their anticipation as David lifts his dagger and then...does nothing, nothing except cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.  What?!!  David, are you okay, are you thinking straight?  You blew it, you blew it for all of us!

But David doesn’t see it that way.  You see, David has a conscience.  His conscience smacked him and told him that this was not the way to go.  Slicing a piece of a king’s robe was not as bad as killing the man, but it was still the wrong thing to do.  In the ancient near east, chopping off part of a king’s robe would have been regarded as rebellious.  So, David speaks to his men and he says that the LORD, Yahweh would not be pleased with this.  Saul is still the anointed of Yahweh, he is still David’s master and so David isn’t permitted to raise his hand against him.  The fifth commandment means that we’re to respect and honour those whom the Lord has set over us, even if they do us wrong.  David understands that and so he refuses to allow his men to rush out and do what David didn’t have the audacity to do.  In fact, in verse 7, we’re told that David persuaded his men.  Literally in Hebrew it says that David tore them apart.  He ragged them out and told them that they had no business touching Saul, despite everything he’d done.  They obeyed David and Saul finished his toilet break and went his way.

Do you see the temptation that came across David’s path?  Here he spent all of this energy serving Saul and his people.  David had been a trusted soldier and even married Saul’s daughter Michal.  But what did he get for it?  He might have expected a medal on his chest, but instead he nearly received metal through his chest.  He was nearly gored by Saul’s spear on several occasions.  He was chased and hunted.  He had a death sentence hanging over his head.  Meanwhile, God had promised him the throne of Israel.  David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king.  David knew it was coming, he just didn’t know when or how.  And then an opportunity presented itself – was this the way that God was leading him to the throne?  Was this providence or a temptation?  David realized that it was indeed a temptation.  He was being presented with the opportunity to take a short cut.  Get the throne without the suffering.  Get the throne without having to wait.  Get the throne without having to endure more of Saul’s persecution.  Now it’s true that David began to give in to this temptation.  His knees were dirty from sneaking up on Saul.  He had the corner of Saul’s robe in his hand.  But he didn’t go all the way and take the short cut that presented itself.  He resisted and ultimately did the right thing.

However, David wasn’t totally faithful in resisting the temptation to take a short cut to the throne.  There was obedience, but it was obedience stained with sin.  David was the anointed of God, Messiah, but he was not the Messiah.  He couldn’t be the one who would smash the skull of the serpent.  Years later, the great Son of David was led into the rugged wilderness to face a similar temptation.  He too was presented with an opportunity to take a short cut to the throne.  Of course, it was all a mirage, all a lie.  But yet the message was the same:  Jesus, do things my way, and you can have it all and rule right now.  No more suffering, no more waiting, no more of this lurking in the background.  You can have it all and have it now.  He resisted.  Unlike David, Jesus didn’t even begin to contemplate wavering.  His heart was entirely set on doing the right thing and following God’s path to the throne, a path that is strewn not only with temptation, but also with suffering.  Brothers and sisters, look to Christ in faith again this morning.  Trust in him.  Rest in him.  He was perfectly obedient and the gospel tells us that it was on our behalf.  Likewise, the gospel tells us that he went to the cross and took our place there too, enduring the wrath of God against our sin.  My sin.  Yours.    

Loved ones, he lived and died for us, for people who so often grow impatient.  Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, once said, “Every sin is to be ascribed to impatience.”  Think about that.  “Every sin is to be ascribed to impatience.”  It’s true, isn’t it?  We want it all and we want it now.  That holds true for little things, but it can also hold true for the most important things in life.  Martin Luther often contrasted a theology of glory with a theology of the cross.  Our human nature wants glory and wants it now.  Our pride tells us we have a right to be exalted now.  Our culture cheers us on.  That’s a theology of glory.  But Christ’s way to the throne is a theology of the cross.  Through humility and suffering to glory.  The way up is the way down.  The last shall be first.  Those who humble themselves will be exalted.  Jesus told us to take up our crosses and follow him.  He warned us that the way which leads to life would be difficult.  We enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.  There may be temptations to take a short cut, especially when things get hard.  But look to Christ and live out of your union with him.  Resist the temptation.  Follow his path, because it is the best and wisest path.

David follows Saul out of the cave and calls out to him, “My lord, O king!”  Saul looks behind him and no doubt was shocked to see David stretched out on the ground.  A moment ago, Saul was vulnerable, though he didn’t intend to be.  Now David makes himself vulnerable in front of Saul.  He begins with a question:  “Why?  Why do you listen to the people who are telling you that I have it in for you?  God gave you into my hands today in the cave.  There were voices telling me to go ahead and kill you, but I resisted because you are the anointed of Yahweh.  Look, I have the corner of your robe to prove how close you were to death!  But I didn’t do it, I’m not guilty of any wrong doing against you.  You’ve been hunting me down.  But I trust that God will be the judge between us.  I’ll never harm you because that ancient proverb was right:  evil deeds proceed from evil men.”  And then in verses 14 and 15, he puts the question again to Saul:  what are you doing?  Why are you doing this?  Why are you persecuting me?  I’m like a dead dog or a single flea, I’ve never shown any intention to hurt you.  May God judge, may God vindicate, may God deliver me from your hand.”

In these words of David we hear righteousness, a desire to loyally follow God’s law.  Where does this righteousness come from?  David trusted in God’s promises, which for an Old Testament believer was the same thing as trusting in Jesus Christ.  David lived out of faith.  David was filled with God’s Holy Spirit and it was through his union with Christ by faith and the Spirit that David did what was right here and spoke words of truth and righteousness.  David knows that the path to the throne of glory is travelled through righteousness.

This is exemplified most powerfully in the ministry of Christ on earth.  He was the perfectly righteous man who lived righteousness and spoke righteousness.  Jesus Christ was the one who was publicly vindicated by his Father.  At his baptism the voice was heard, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  At his transfiguration, Peter, James and John heard God say it again, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  This was and is a perfectly righteous Saviour.            

Saul pursued David for no good reason.  Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin.  Years later, another Saul would be born in the tribe of Benjamin.  Like his forefather with David, Saul of Tarsus would persecute the Son of David for no good reason.  He simply had a mad obsession to destroy Christ and his message.  Jesus would stop Saul on the road to Damascus and echo the words of David, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  But unlike Saul the son of Kish, Saul of Tarsus came to recognize the kingship of Jesus and submitted to it.  The great Son of David poured out amazing blessings on this Saul.  Through God’s powerful Spirit and Word, Saul became Paul the Christian and Paul the apostle and he became a mighty instrument in God’s hand to preach the gospel and extend his church throughout the Roman world. 

Paul in turn became one of the persecuted.  Like in our text, the hunter became the hunted.  He entered into the sufferings of Jesus and travelled the same path to the throne.  He did so with sin and weakness, but also in righteousness, in the righteousness of Jesus which bore the fruit of righteousness in his own life.  And so it will also be in the lives of everyone who believes in Christ.  Looking to Christ and his perfect righteousness means that our lives will bear the fruit of righteousness too.  This is because of our union with him.  What does that look like in practical terms?  Well, if you want one example, listen to what Paul says in Romans 12:14-21 [read].

After David finished his address, Saul responded.  He asked, “Is this your voice, my son David?”  And then he began weeping.  For a moment he realized the insanity of what he’d been doing.  He acknowledged the fact that David had been in the right.  Saul had treated David badly, but David didn’t respond in kind.  Who ever heard of a man doing such a thing?  He expresses his wish that God would reward David for what he’d done.

Then interestingly, he acknowledges that David’s path to the throne is invincible.  David can’t be stopped.  In chapter 23, Jonathan comes to David at Horesh and encourages him to find strength in God.  Then he says, “Don’t be afraid.  My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.  Even my father Saul knows this.”  Saul would try to lay his hands on David, but he would never succeed.  Like the later Saul, he was kicking against the goads, resisting the inevitable.  David was headed for the throne and the gates of hell could not prevail against him.  Even though Saul later went back to his ruthless pursuit of David, at this moment he gets it right and speaks a word of truth.  God once spoke truth through the mouth of Balaam’s donkey and now he speaks through David’s enemy.  David will surely be king and the kingdom will be established in his hands.

Likewise, Jesus travelled the path to the throne with the invincible promise of God paving the way.  God had promised to crush the head of the serpent.  God had promised that the sceptre would not depart from Judah until he came and took it up.  Today, Jesus reigns over heaven and earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  John hears the seventh angel in Revelation 11 say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”  His reign isn’t yet recognized by all, but someday it will be.  His kingdom is invincible – it cannot be stopped, it cannot be resisted, it cannot be thwarted.  King Jesus reigns and no one can stand in his way.

Because we are in him, because we have union with him through faith and the Spirit, we can be sure that our path to the throne, our path to glory is likewise invincible.  We have a doctrine of grace called the perseverance of the saints.  It’s a wonderful, biblical doctrine.  Unfortunately, the name “perseverance of the saints” isn’t the best.  It makes it sound like perseverance, sticking with it till the end, that’s something the saints, that believers, do on their own.  It’s better to call it the preservation of the saints, placing emphasis on the fact that this is God’s doing – that it’s a doctrine of grace.  “Preservation of the saints” -- God preserves believers in the Christian faith and leads them to the throne, leads them inevitably onward and upward to the glory that will be ours in the age to come. 

There are many beautiful statements in the Canons of Dort, but one of the most beautiful is found in article 8 of chapter 5.  We confess there that God’s “counsel cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be frustrated or destroyed.”  Awesome!  One of my catechism students once called that sentence, “The Cannots of Dort.” 

Similarly, the Belgic Confession says in article 26, “There is no creature in heaven or on earth who loves us more than Jesus Christ.”  Since he loves us, we can be sure that he will govern us by his Word and Spirit, and defend and preserve us in the redemption obtained for us.  Loved ones, isn’t it great to know that?  Isn’t it great to have these doctrines of grace that assure us of God’s love and power in our lives?  Praise God that we have his invincible power paving our path to the throne!

Our passage concludes with Saul begging David to swear an oath that David would not cut off Saul’s descendants and his family when he would finally attain the throne.  Notice how David agrees.  He swears an oath by Yahweh to his enemy, the man who’d been trying to kill him.  Then they go their separate ways.  Saul returns to his home, but David goes back to his stronghold. Though David has done right by Saul, and there seems to be some measure of reconciliation, David still doesn’t quite trust him.  For good reason we might say.   In the following chapters, Saul tries again to kill David.  It seems like an endless, uphill battle.  But in the end, despite Saul’s mad obsession with killing his successor, God keeps his promise and David attains the throne.  God keeps his promises and the Son of David attained the throne in his time.  And in due time, we too will reign with King Jesus.  It’s guaranteed to all who believe in him.  AMEN.


Heavenly Father,

Your promises are so precious to us.  They’re more valuable to us than diamonds and gold and all earthly riches.  Your promises strengthen and encourage us.  Your promises lead us outside of ourselves to you the God of grace.  Your promises point us to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King.  We thank you for his reign over all things, also his reign over our lives.  We thank you that he travelled your path to the throne, that he did not turn to the right hand or to the left, took no short cuts, but faithfully followed your way.  We give you glory, O God, because of what Christ has done for us and in our place.  With your Holy Spirit, please help us to rest and trust in him.  Help us also to live out of our union with him and so travel the path that you have set for us to reach the glory you promise in your Word.  We pray that you would bring each one of us to reign with King Jesus over all creatures in the age to come.  In the meantime, please help us with your Word and Spirit to fight against sin and the devil with a free and good conscience.                

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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