Sunday, January 12, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Cutting Corners"

“Cutting Corners”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
January 12, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 24:1-22

Our current sermon series (of which this is message #15) is called “A Heart for the Heart of God” and we’re learning together what it means to be man or a woman after God’s own heart.

We’ve learned about a prophet named Samuel who had a heart for God, and his mother Hannah who had a heart for God.

And we’ve also learned about a king named Saul who did not have a heart for the heart of God.

And since chapter 16, we’ve been learning about a new king, a king-to-be named David who had a heart for the heart of God.

And strangely enough the first anointed king is chasing the second anointed king with designs to kill him.

David is on the run. He has been now, for 5 chapters!

Last week, we called him “the Fugitive.”

And we said that David is going to be a fugitive for the entire rest of the book.

On the run from Saul.

Chased but not...what?  Caught.

Chased but not caught.
Chased but not caught.

That was the life that David lived for quite some time.

And it was not easy.

We saw last week David’s fear for his family.
We saw David’s friends be hurt and killed because they were connected to him.

And he felt responsible.

We saw David get betrayed and have to duck from one place to another all over the middle east.

It was really, really hard.

Life stunk for David.

But he was not caught. At least...not yet.

And when we left off last week, David had just about been caught by Saul on the side of a mountain called Sela Hammahlekoth.

But Saul got called away to attend to a problem with the Philistines, and David got away to the strongholds of En Gedi on the west shore of the Dead Sea.

That’s where our exciting story picks up today because Saul gets intelligence of where David has fled to. Chapter 24, verse 1.

“After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, ‘David is in the Desert of En Gedi.’ So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.”

Do you see how there’s no let-up for David?

He’s constantly on the run. He’s dogged at every step.

And now there is a force of 3000 chosen men that are after him in the desert of En Gedi.  Back to Saul. V.3

“He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave.”

Oh boy, this just got exciting.

Saul has to go to the bathroom, and he picks the one cave in all of that region where David and his men are hiding.

Saul is all alone.

And David is hiding right there in the dark.

What do you think he’s going to do?

What would you do?

Your enemy is right there in the dark and you know it and he doesn’t.

He wants to kill you, he’s been trying to kill you[!], and you don’t deserve it.

What are you going to do?

Now’s your chance, right?

That’s what David’s men think. Listen to them whisper in verse 4.

“The 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.'’”

This is the day! We’re gonna to be free!

You’re gonna be king! God is doing it! Get out your sword!

And here he goes. V.4

“Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.”

That’s probably very symbolic. Just like it was symbolic when Samuel’s robe tore at Saul’s hand. Just like it was symbolic when Jonathan gave David his royal robe.

It probably was a symbol of rebellion. It was probably the first step toward cutting the kingdom away from Saul, undermining him, revolting against him, and ultimately taking his life.


But just after he did it, he regretted it.

David stopped and didn’t go forward with any more rebellion.

He backed quietly through the cave and whispered to his men. V.5

“Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 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.’ With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.”

What a moment! What a story!

He had him right there in his grasp.

One more second and the whole thing would have been over.

But David’s heart, David’s conscience wouldn’t let him.

In fact, it beat against him for just cutting off the edge of his robe.

And he went back and stopped his men from attacking their enemy.

The NIV says, “did not allow.” The old King James says, “suffered them not.”

But the Hebrew word is really strong here. It really means, “he tore them apart.” David had to use force to stop his men from killing Saul.

I’m sure they thought that he was crazy!

I’m sure they thought he was a crazy as King Acish thought he was last week!

What are you thinking?

That’s Saul. That’s your enemy. That’s the guy whose trying to kill you.

David, says, “I know. I know. I’m really tempted. But it would be wrong.”

Today’s sermon title is a terrible play on words.

The pun is intended today.

The title is “Cutting Corners.”

Which is what David literally did and also what David was figuratively tempted to do.

How often are you and I tempted to cut corners in life?

We know what God wants us to do, but we grow impatient and decide to do it our way.

To take matters into our own hands.
To short circuit God’s way and do it our way.
To cut corners.

Remember when the devil tempted Jesus and took him up to see all the kingdoms of the world? And he said that they would be Jesus’ just for the asking. All he had to do was bow down to Satan.

That’s cutting a corner, in the extreme way.

“Jesus, you can skip the Cross. You can skip the trial. You can skip beatings, the scourgings, the spittings, the nails.

All ya gotta do is bow down to me.

Just cut the corner, and you’ll have what you want.”

Now, when it’s Satan saying “bow down to me,” it’s not as obviously tempting.

But we are all tempted to cut those corners.

We get impatient with God and decide to speed things up a little.

I just read this week about Abram and Sarai and their idea of surrogate motherhood with Hagar. How did that one work out?

“Well, God had promised a son. We just need cut this corner here so that we can get that son.  Hasn’t happened yet God’s way!”

Now, you and I shake our heads at that.

But how are we actually tempted to cut corners?

I think that just about every time we sin, we are doing that.

So, when we lash out at our enemies–maybe an ungodly Facebook rant–we are cutting a corner like that.

Christians are called to love their enemies yet often we complain about them, make fun of them, sound off about how bad we’ve been treated, and try to get back at them.

Instead of resolving the problem, we take our case to Facebook.

Cheapshots are cutting corners.

So is just plain old fighting. When our kids get to fighting, what’s going on? Normally, there’s been some perceived injustice that’s happened, and instead of working it out or getting help to work it out, one kid decides to work it out! Pow!  And then the other decides to get justice for themself. Pow back!

And it’s not just kids that fight, is it?

How about yelling at our children? Isn’t that cutting a corner?

I’m annoyed at your behavior, and instead of kindly asking you to stop–I skip right to yelling. Cutting the corner.

Or nitpicking and nagging your spouse. Instead of lovingly confronting a sinful or careless behavior and then talking to God about it when it isn’t resolved–we can nag or nitpick or henpeck or scold. A constant dripping.

That’s the easy way. Cut the corner.

How about sleeping with your boyfriend or your girlfriend?

Yeah, I know that God wants us to stay pure and save sex for marriage. But that’s not really reasonable to expect nowadays. That’s difficult.

I don’t know when my boyfriend might propose.
I don’t know when we might have enough money to get married.
I’m not sure if this is the girl for me for life yet.

So, we’re just going to live together for now.

That’s cutting the corner.

Any time we get impatient with God–that he’s not doing things fast enough, bring enough blessing, saving us from our troubles and trials and then do things our way, we’re cutting corners.

Do you see that?

Getting drunk, doing drugs, overeating with food, binging on social media, indulging in pornography and masturbation. Those kind of escaping sins are cutting corners, as well.

Because life hurts, and God doesn’t seem to be fixing it!

So we cut the corner.

We take matters into our own hands.

We short circuit God’s way and try to hot-wire things our own way.

Where are you tempted to cut the corner right now?

There it is right there in front of you.

You know you want it.  Take it!  Grab it.

Carpe Deum. Seize the day.

God is giving it to you!

“This is the day that the LORD” is giving your enemy into your hand.

It’s totally understandable. In fact, it’s from God.

David was so tempted. In fact, he started. But then he stopped.

Why? Because He had a big view of God.

Three points this morning.


That’s what he says in verse 6.  “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.”

The key word there is LORD.

David was thinking about God.

David didn’t care that much about whether or not he killed Saul. He’s killed other men, and Saul has definitely acted as his enemy.

But David does care what YHWH says. What the LORD thinks. What the LORD wants.

God forbid that I would rebel against God!

He sounds like Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, right?

She’s all sexy and wants him, and nobody needs to know.

And Joseph says, “God would know. How could I sin against GOD that way? How could I sin against your husband that way, but even more God?”

The key to not cutting the corner is to think about the God who does not want the corner cut.

“The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing.”

David knew what was right and what was wrong. Even though Saul was in the wrong, he was still David’s king.  The transition had not yet occurred.

And David was not supposed to take the kingdom by force.

He knew that. That was God’s marching orders.

Who I am to go against the supreme commander?

That’s how Jesus defeats Satan, isn’t it?

It is written. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

We’ve got our marching orders, and they say to go all the way around the corners.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

It’s actually really hard.

Because it hurts, right?

Last week we said that following God by faith can be really really hard.

Life as a disciple of Jesus can really stink at times.

Chased but not caught. Constantly chased.

And here, if he just got out his sword, it would all be over.

Just like that.

I’m sure that whatever corner your tempted to cut right now seems really hard to go all the way around.  It hurts, doesn’t it?

But God is worth it.

And David knew that. David had a heart for the heart of God.

In fact, this is proof right here that David is the right kind of man for the job of king.

He has a heart for the heart of God.

He wants to please God.
He wants to obey God.
He wants to want what God wants.

And when finds that he hasn’t, he repents.

And here, he withholds his hand. And Saul walks away. V.7

“And Saul left the cave and went his way.”

But their interaction was not over. V.8

“Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, ‘My lord the king!’”

Woo. That was a little risky.

There are 3,000 men nearby who are after him.

But David wants to talk.

Imagine Saul’s head whipping around when David calls: “I know that voice. How did he get over here?” v.8

When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. [Honor.] He said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen when men say, 'David is bent on harming you'?

This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.'

See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.

May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.

As the old saying goes, 'From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you.

‘Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.’”

What a speech!

He sounds like a defense attorney at his own trial. “And your honor, I am not guilty and you know it. Here’s the evidence.”

In fact, he doesn’t treat Saul as the judge. He says that the LORD is going to judge.

Point #2. THE LORD JUDGE. V.12

“May the LORD judge between you and me.”

Do you see what David is doing?

He is entrusting judgment to the LORD. He has decided that he will not take it into his own hands.

He is trusting in God’s justice in God’s timing.

Let the LORD judge.

Listen to what Paul told us in Romans 12.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends, [that’s cutting the corner!] but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Even when it hurts?

That’s Christianity.

We don’t make our own justice.

We wait for God’s.

Now, that doesn’t rule out the earthly judicial system or parental rule at home or anything like that.  But we know that those human systems of justice are very fallible.

And we don’t cut the corner and take justice into our own hands.

Not even in our hearts and words.

We leave the condemnation up to God.

All injustice will be repaid either at the Cross or in Hell.

The LORD judge.

He’ll do a much better job of it. I don’t have to. V.15

“May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

I’m not going to cut the corner.  V.16

“When David finished saying this, Saul asked, ‘Is that your voice, David my son?’ And he wept aloud. ‘You are more righteous than I,’ he said. ‘You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.

When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today.

I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father's family.’

So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.”


Saul cannot believe what has just happened to him.

He would never have spared David’s life. That’s not what you do!

That’s supernatural. That’s a God thing.

And he ashamed that David is such a better man.

He has to admit that he knows in his heart (just like Jonathan said in the last chapter, that in his heart he knows) that David is going to be the king.

Saul has regret and he asks for David to promise to not hurt his family.

And David, a man after God’s own heart makes that promise, and then Saul walks away.

You can’t trust him. Saul didn’t even really apologize!

David doesn’t go home with him. There is not trust there, and it’s a good thing, as we’ll see.

But for a time, Saul comes to his senses and sees that David has not cut the corner.

He has done the right thing, and he blessed David and calls upon God to reward him v.19

“May the LORD reward you well for the way you have treated me today.”

And that’s from Saul!

Saul knows that David deserves to be rewarded for waiting.

How much more can we expect that from the LORD Himself?

There is great reward for doing things God’s way.

It comes in God’s timing, but it’s as sure as the sunrise.

The LORD rewards those who trust in Him and obey him and love Him and do things His way.

The LORD rewards those who wait on Him.

It’s hard. But He is good to those who do not cut the corners.

Trust Him and do it His way.

You will not be disappointed.


A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord
11. The Lord Looks at the Heart
12. The Battle Is the Lord's
13. May the LORD Be With You
14. The Fugitive