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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:God's providences never run counter to His promises
Text:1 Samuel 22:21-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

From 1984 Book of Praise

Psalm 57:1

Psalm 34:3,4

Psalm 3:1,2,3,4

Psalm 52:5,6

Hymn 65:2

Read:  1 Samuel 21,22; Psalm 52.

Text:  1 Samuel 22:21-23.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many of the Psalms of David were written as a response to a particular event that took place in David’s life.  Their setting is in the real world of joy and grief, of triumph and surrender. 

Psalm 52 was written by David as a Holy Spirit-filled response to the terrible event of Doeg the Edomite telling Saul that David had been helped by Ahimelech the priest and the subsequent killing of all the priests of Nob.

In this Psalm David confessed his trust in the steadfast love and mercy of the LORD.  He looked beyond the destruction of the priests of Nob and he looked beyond the precarious position both he and Abiathar, the last remaining priest of Ahimelech’s family, were in, and he confessed that God would fulfil His promises and make all things right.  The wicked Edomite Doeg and all those with him would be destroyed, while David and God’s chosen ones would flourish like a green olive tree in the house of God.

Psalm 52 is a beautiful psalm of faith, hope and triumph.  But this confession of David did not come easily.  Before he arrived at this point, there was a time when his faith had wavered.  There was a time when David had despaired and effectively forgotten the sure promises of God, causing him to be afraid, to run and to lie.  There was a time when David lived as though the promises and blessings of God were irrelevant, when he lost sight of them and in a blind panic tried to find his own way out of the troubles he was in.

And we can understand that.   For us too, there are many times when we fail to see things clearly, when we fail to see things as God sees them, and when we are terrified of the demonic attacks of the evil one, and when our faith falters in the face of tragedy and turmoil.  The problem occurs when the things that we experience do not seem to match the things that we anticipate.  The problem occurs when God’s providences seem to run counter with His promises.

God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  He has promised to avert all evil or turn it to our benefit.  He has promised that those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength and shall mount up with wings like eagles.  But what He promised does not always seem to match reality.  There are times when we feel all alone.  There are times when the forces of evil beat a path to our door.  And there are times when our strength is sapped as on a summer’s day and we can’t even get up off the floor – let alone fly like an eagle.  And then we may find ourselves floundering.  And then we might ask, Where is the LORD?  Where is the evidence that He is true to His promises?  Where is the assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us?

But the LORD comforts David with the assurance that His promises are sure and steadfast and that He would work in and through all things to accomplish His purposes.  And so I preach to you the Gospel as we have read it from first Samuel and Psalm 52 under the following heading:

The LORD assures David that His providences never run counter to His promises.

1.    David’s Fearful Confusion.

2.    David’s Faithful Confession.

1. David’s Fearful Confusion.

There are times in our lives when we are all faced with question:  Do you trust God?  Will you wait for Him and walk in His ways?  Are you confident that you will receive those things that God has promised and are you sure of that which you do not yet see?  Do you believe that the LORD is both willing and able to do all that He purposes to do, and do you believe that God will hold on to you?

In 1 Samuel 21 David was faced with that challenge.  David had received a number of very specific promises concerning the future.  He had been anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel.  And he had received the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable him to be such a king.  He had also experienced God’s presence and His blessing in times of trouble.  It was not that long ago that he had been looking after his father’s sheep and the LORD had delivered him from both the lion and the bear.  (1 Samuel 17:37)  It was not that long ago that David had, trusting in God, stood up to the giant Goliath, with nothing more than a sling and a stone.  It was not that long ago that David had fought the Philistines and had been victorious, even killing 200 of them at one time.  And David had also experienced the protection of the LORD in his struggle with Saul.  It was not that long ago that, on two occasions, Saul had tried to kill David with a spear but David had escaped.  And it was not that long ago that in 1 Samuel 19 the LORD stopped Saul in his tracks, caused him to humiliate himself before the people and to prophecy, thus preventing him from attacking David. 

But in 1 Samuel 20, Saul had demonstrated to his son Jonathan just how deeply he hated David – to the point that he swore at Jonathan and threw his spear at him because Jonathan had defended David before his father Saul.  David now knew that he would have to flee for his life.  He also knew that Jonathan could not come with him but that he would have to flee on his own.  He became a fugitive on the run, doing what he thought he had to do in order to survive, making self-preservation his highest goal.  And then in 1 Samuel 21, we see how David’s confidence gave way to fear.  The man who as a boy fought the lion and the bear, the man who stood up to Goliath without a sword or spear in his hand, took his eyes off the LORD and His providential care, and began to panic.

David needed help – fast – and so he went to the village of Nob, to the place where the priests of the LORD lived and there he met the high priest, Ahimelech.  But then David did something very wrong.  Instead of telling Ahimelech the truth, he lied.  David assured Ahimelech that all was well between himself and the house of Saul.  In fact Saul had just ordered David away on some secret but important business; but his business was so urgent that he did not manage to go home first to get his sword and his spear, nor any money or something to eat.  And so David had come to Ahimelech with the request for bread and a sword.

 Ahimelech was clearly uneasy with David’s sudden, secretive appearance, but he accepted David’s lies and believed that should he help David, he would be helping Saul and the kingdom of Israel.  And so Ahimelech gave to David the holy bread, bread that had been dedicated to God, and he gave him the sword of Goliath.  And so David now had what he thought he needed most. 

But did David need the sword of Goliath so much that his lie to get it was justified?  Hadn’t the LORD delivered him from the lion and the bear without one?  Hadn’t the LORD given him the victory over Goliath without a sword or a spear?  But now it appears that David’s trust in the LORD had wavered.  Now he was on his own, finding his own way out of the trouble he was in.

But going your own way and not in the strength of the LORD is always wrong.  And 1 Samuel 21:7 gives us a hint that things would turn out badly, for in that place there was an Edomite, Doeg, the servant of Saul.  And Doeg saw and heard all that had taken place.

Now that David had food in his stomach and a sword in his hand, he was ready to keep running.  Verse 10 says that on that very day he arose and fled from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath.  And here we see further evidence of David’s fearful confusion.  Here was David, the Philistines’ greatest enemy, with the sword of Goliath – a giant who had come from Gath – strapped to his side.  And he looked for safety and political asylum in the Philistine city of Gath.

What David could be thinking by walking into Gath with the sword of Goliath in hand, we don’t know.  Perhaps he had thoughts of making an alliance with Achish, king of Gath, against Saul.  Perhaps he was thinking of finding his own way to see Saul toppled from his throne.  Perhaps he thought for a moment that he would not be recognized, that he could get away with such brazen deception.  We do not know the extent of David’s panicked plans, but he can not be excused for seeking protection among the enemies of God’s people.  He should have been looking to the LORD and the house of the LORD for his protection.  He should have remained in Israel, trusting that God would protect him, would keep him safe from the hand of Saul. 

But David’s escape to the Philistine city of Gath soon proved to be a failure.  He was recognized as the one whom the women of Israel sang “David has slain his ten thousands” and his life was once more in danger.  The instinct of fear and self-preservation took control of David again, and he pretended to be mad, scratching – or scribbling – on the doors of the city gate and dribbling into his beard.   This too was not the LORD’s way.  This would not give Achish or the men of the Philistine city of Gath any reason to view the LORD of Israel as the great God to whom they should bow, nor to respect David, the man anointed to be king.  David was living not by faith but by fear.

But don’t we often do the same?  We have every assurance that the LORD is with us, that He hears us when we call, that He guides our steps, that He will provide us with all things necessary for body and soul.  But when troubles come, when danger threatens and we feel trapped in a corner, then in our fear, in our panic or in a moment when we don’t even stop to think, we look inside ourselves and search for our own solutions to our problems.  And so we often do things or say things that we later regret.  We make sinful choices or say sinful things that lead to other consequences – even consequences that we had not even anticipated.

And the problem is that we seem to forget that God’s providences never run counter to His promises.  The problem is that we forget our confession that the LORD is in full control and that nothing ever takes Him by surprise.  We forget the His sure promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that no one can snatch us from His hand.

 You see, the problem is that we too often fail to see the bigger picture.  The problem is that we become so consumed with the troubles that face us that we fail to take our eyes from them and lift them to the throne room of God.  We fail to confess that God sees and knows everything that is happening, and that He is both willing and able to work all things for the good of those who love Him.

This was David’s problem in 1 Samuel 21.  He was driven by fear not just because Saul was a dangerous enemy but also because he failed to remember God’s promises and he failed to remember that everything that happens to us is part of a bigger picture.

 But Satan saw something of the Big Picture.  And Satan had hopes not just of bringing David down, but to bring down the tabernacle worship, to bring down the entire people of God and ultimately to frustrate God’s plan to send the Saviour.

When David went to see Ahimelech the high priest in the tabernacle, someone else was there:  An Edomite, a descendant of Esau named Doeg.  The Bible says that Doeg was Saul’s chief herdsman, and he was “detained before the LORD.”  How and why this Edomite was at the Tabernacle is unclear.  What is clear is that he was not a godly man and some time later, when Saul abused his servants for siding with David, Doeg saw his chance.  “I can tell you something about David”, he said.  “It looks as though he has the priests on his side and helping him.  I saw him at Nob and Ahimelech did three things for him: he inquired of the LORD on behalf of David, he gave him bread, and he gave him the sword of Goliath.”

When Saul heard this, he was furious. and decided to made an example of Ahimelech and all the priests of Nob.  In spite of Ahimelech’s words defending both himself and David, Saul declared that not only Ahimelech but all his father’s house would be executed.  And so Saul, the anointed king and protector of God’s people, ordered that all the priests of Nob be killed.  Satan had so controlled the heart and mind of Saul that Saul ordered Doeg to kill all 85 priests with the sword and then to annihilate the entire village of Nob.  And there we see that Satan was attempting to do far more than cause the death of David:  Satan wanted to destroy the seed of the Woman so that the LORD God would no longer have a people for His own possession.  Satan wanted to upset God’s plan and His promises and so keep the promised Deliverer, the Messiah, from coming to save His people.

It was only when Abiathar came to David with the terrible news of the murder of the priests of God that David’s eyes were opened and he saw what was really happening. 

“It was my fault,” said David.  “When I saw Doeg the Edomite standing there, I knew he would tell Saul.  I have caused the death of all the persons of your father’s house.”

Was it all David’s fault?  On the one hand it was not his fault at all.  It was the result of Satan working his wickedness in the heart of Saul and of Doeg.  But on the other hand David was right in taking some responsibility for what had happened.  It was an unintended consequence of David’s fearful confusion.  It was an unintended consequence of David’s lies and half truths that he told in an effort to escape from Saul.  It was an unintended consequence for David trying to find his own way out of the trouble that he was in.

Sin does that.  Sin often has repercussions and unintended consequences.

But sin does not frustrate God’s purposes.  What He determines will happen.  In fact, the Almighty God is even able to use a sinful situation to fulfil His Word.

2. David’s faithful confession.

One of the surprising things about how God works in this world is that He is able to see that His will is done in every situation.  The murder of the priests of Nob by Doeg at the command of Saul was the most evil and wicked crime one could commit.  Not only were so many innocent people slaughtered by the one who was supposed to be their protector, but this was a direct attack on the priesthood and so on the covenantal relationship that Israel had with Holy God. This was the work of one who was given over to Satan and his evil works.  In the murder of the priests of Nob the people of Israel received full confirmation that the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul.

But the death of the priests of Nob was also something else.  Ahimelech was the son of Ahitub, and Ahitub was the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli.  And in 1 Samuel 2 and 3 the LORD had said to Eli that because his sons despised Him, the day would come when the household of Eli would all die.  Disaster would come upon them and it would be so great that the ears of everyone who heard it would tingle.

And now it happened.  Saul was still responsible, and so was Doeg, and even David had a part to play in the death of the priests of Nob.  But the murder of the priests of Nob was not outside of the providence of God.  Also in this event, the LORD saw to it that His purposes would come to pass.

How much David knew of this prophecy and how much he understood of the bigger picture that was going on, we don’t know.  But by now David had begun to see clearly once more.  Now David’s fear gave way to faith.  And he confessed that God’s Word could be trusted and that He would keep His promises.  And so he said to Abiathar, the one priest who escaped,

“Stay with me; do not fear.  For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”  (1 Samuel 22:23)

Abiathar would be safe with David, because the LORD was with him and the LORD had promised that one day David would be king.  The steadfast love, the mercy of God would endure forever and all God’s covenant promises would come to pass.  “Stay with me, Abiathar, and you will be safe.  Because with the LORD I am safe.”

But it was not just a blessing for Abiathar to be with David; it was also a blessing for David to have Abiathar with him.  Abiathar was now the legitimate high priest of Israel, and from 1 Samuel 23 we learn that with Abiathar came the Ephod, the Urim and the Thummim through which David could enquire of the LORD at any time.  And in addition to Abiathar, 1 Samuel 22:5 tells us that a prophet of the LORD, Gad, was also with David.  And so, in the company of the prophet and the priest of the Lord, David had the direct Word of God to guide him every step of the way. David would no longer have reason to be immobilized by fear or to worry what to do, for the LORD was with him and the LORD would guide him.

And for us too, like David, we can be confident that God’s providences do not run counter to His promises.  Like David we may be confident that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion.  Like David we may be like olive trees in the house of God, trusting in God’s mercy forever and ever.  No, we don’t have an Old Testament Prophet, Priest and King with us, for they were just the shadow of what would come later.  What we have is the complete and all-sufficient Word of God and the full Spirit of God who has anointed us to be prophets, priests and kings.  In faith we can be confident that God will bring to pass every promise that He has given to us.

And why can we be so confident in the promises of God?  Because with respect to the promises that God had given to David, we know the rest of the story.  We know that David was redeemed from every trouble and that He did receive the crown and be king over God’s people Israel.  And even more, we know that from David’s line came the fulfilment of God’s promise when God sent us His Deliverer, Jesus Christ, the One who came to save His people from their sins.  We remember Jesus  and all that He endured.  We remember how He responded when He was opposed by all the forces of evil.  We remember that He did not run away in a panic but lived in full obedience and submission to the Father.  We remember that He never doubted God’s promises or His providences.  We remember that when He faced His accusers, He did not open His mouth.  He did not plead insanity by pretending to be mad, but stood calmly and resolutely before them.  The spittle on his face was not his own, but came from others.  The scribbles and scratchings on that plaque above His head were not written by Him but by those who did not know what they were doing.  In Jesus Christ, the light shone in the darkness, but the darkness did not overcome it.  And now, looking to Jesus Christ, we have full confidence to wait on the LORD and put our trust in Him. 

Like David, who still had a long road ahead of him, we will still face trials and tribulations.  We will still experience fear.  Our faith will regularly be put to the test.  But in Jesus Christ we have a firm foundation, a sure anchor, the ultimate pledge that God will be faithful until every last promise of His is fulfilled. 

In John 16:33 our Lord Jesus said,

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

He has overcome the world.  Nothing will take Him by surprise.  Nothing is outside His providence and care.  Nothing will hinder or prevent Him from keeping His promises to us.  For He has overcome the world.  And that is the confidence that we may hold on to when all seems lost.  That is why we too may take Psalm 52 on our lips.  And that is why we may sing,

“I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.

I will praise You forever,

Because You have done it;

And in the presence of Your saints

I will wait on our name,

For it is good.”  (Psalm 52:8b,9)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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