Sunday, February 02, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "He's Still There"

“He’s Still There”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
February 2, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2

In our current sermon series, entitled, “A Heart for the Heart of God,” we’ve been following the anointed but not yet king David as he’s been chased around Israel by King Saul.

David has been chased but not caught now for 8 long chapters.

And he’s had a few very close calls.

One commentator I read this week said, “It’s the stuff that makes great movies but takes its toll on real people.”

And David was a real person.

This kind of living must have been exhausting.

Especially now that his family has grown. David’s got two wives and probably some kids and 600 fighting men[!], many of whom also have families with them. I’m sure that David was feeling the heavy burden of this responsibility.

And he was still on the run.

Even though Saul has said that he would stop chasing David, David didn’t believe it for a minute.

So in this chapter, David decides to go live with ... catch this... with the Philistines.

I know. It’s crazy!

The Philistines are his enemies. He killed the biggest Philistine there ever was. And at least hundreds more!

And if you remember, he already tried this strategy before, back in chapter 21. And he got out of that by pretending that he was bonkers.

But here he goes again.

And this time, it’s a little different.

This time, he’s not pretending to be crazy. He’s pretending to be rebellious and mercenary.

David brings a 600 man mercenary army to King Achish, and this time, Acish salivates at the idea.

In chapter 27, David becomes kind of a like a double agent.

If the last few weeks have been like an action movie, this chapter is a bit more like a spy thriller.

David convinces his enemy that he’s a turncoat who can now be trusted to fight for his old enemies.

But we know that he’s not.

So, it’s like he’s a secret agent, a double agent for the Israel.

Now, I don’t know what you think about that concept. I’m not sure what I think about that concept.

I read and re-read this chapter so many times this week.

And I read and re-read all of my commentaries on it, too.

And they don’t agree on whether or not David’s actions here are right or wrong.

The narrator doesn’t give us much to go on. The narrator reports what David does but not whether or not it was a good thing.

I’ll tell you right now that it seems to be successful, at least in the short-run.

But we’ve learned that success is not the best indicator of righteousness.

Some things work (at least in the short-run) but are not good.

So, what do you do with that?

I think it’s interesting that God is not mentioned in this chapter.

God is not named. He’s not talked to or about.

But...and here’s the title for today’s message.

“He’s Still There”

Even when God is not mentioned, not named, and seemingly not involved in the story, He’s still there.

I realized this week that I might not be able to say with full certainty whether or not David’s actions were good or bad, but I can say that God’s are fully good, and that His fingerprints were all over David’s story.

The chapter begins with David talking to himself. V.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.’”

Now, I know one thing that David got wrong in this chapter.

He tells himself in verse 1 that “one of these days” Saul was going to destroy him.

Is that true?

Would that be consistent with what David has been told by God?

I don’t think so.

I think that when Samuel anointed David that God was promising that one day he would be king.

I think that Samuel has reminded him of that.
That Jonathan has said the same thing.
That Abigail has said the exact same thing.
That Saul himself has said the exact same thing.

But David, at this point in his difficult life, isn’t thinking about that.

He’s thinking about how hard it is to live on the run.

He’s thinking about how difficult it is to be chased and one day, he’s sure, caught.

So, he comes up with an alternative plan.

Now, I’m not sure if the plan is good or not, but David’s thinking here was faulty. His motivation is faulty.

Of course, it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback!

Tomorrow, we’ll know everything that the coaches and the players did wrong in tonight’s Superbowl. We’ll have perfect perspectives in hindsight.

And it’s much easier for us to judge David than it was to be David in that situation.

You and I wouldn’t have done any better, but I do think that we can learn from this that we need to return again and again to the promises of God.

We have to remind ourselves and preach to ourselves the truth of what God has said that He will do.
David “thought to himself.”  And we’re thinking to ourselves all the time.

The question is whether or not we’re thinking the truth to ourselves or believing lies.

David thinks that the territories controlled by Saul have gotten too hot for him, and he’s better off to escape to the land of Philistines. If he does, then Saul will call off the dogs. V.2

“So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath. David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal. When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him.”

So, it worked!

David and his men are settled. That hasn’t happened in a very long time.

I’ll bet David even took a nap.

Saul stopped chasing him.

Of course, now he has to live with Achish.  V.5

“Then David said to Achish, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?’ So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.”

David thinks that Achish would probably not like to have him and his men so close by all of the time. And David certainly doesn’t want to live so close to the uncircumcised pagans himself. It wouldn’t fit with his plans.

So he suggests that David’s army be settled in a border community named Ziklag.  Close enough to be called upon when needed, but far enough away so as to not get on each other’s nerves.

Now, what I want to point out is God’s fingerprint on this.

He’s Still There.

He may not be mentioned by name, but He’s still there in the story. Look at verse 6 again.

“So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.”

Ever since.  This story is going to change, eventually the Philistines will be defeated once and for all.

But the land of Ziklag will continue to belong to the kings of Judah.

Who was supposed to own the town of Ziklag?

Anybody know?

If you have an iPad or Smartphone with you and call up Ziklag on the Bible App search bar, it will come up in Joshua 15 and Joshua 19 before it comes up in 1 Samuel 27.

And in both of those chapters, the town of Ziklag is listed as being given to the tribe of Judah and more accurately Simeon whose land was located within the land allocated to Judah.

This was originally Israelite territory, but it had fallen into Philistine hands.

Guess whose hands it’s back in now?

The young lion of the tribe of Judah, named David.

Now, was that because David was so shrewd?

God used David’s shrewdness, sure.

But we know that God was up to something here.

Even if He’s not mentioned by name, He’s still there.


Keeping His promises and building His kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of that over and over again.

God is at work building His kingdom, even when He isn’t mentioned and doesn’t get the credit.

Even when it doesn’t seem like God is around.

This afternoon at Windy Hill Nursing Home, I’m planning to preach to the residents on God’s presence even when it doesn’t feel like it.

God is here.

And He’s not just present, He’s active. He’s building His kingdom.

Nowadays, His kingdom isn’t so much about land as it was in the Old Testament, but about people.  God is building His kingdom in the lives of people.

One person at a time.

I need to be reminded of that when I see people walk away from the Lord.

One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is loving and continuing to pray for and care about and even try to shepherd folks who are seemingly not interested in following the Lord in faith and obedience.

I need to be reminded that God is still there, and He’s still at work building His kingdom.

And I’ve decided today to call that the “Ziklag principle.” Pretty catchy, huh?

If I’m ever moping around and acting like God has vacated His throne, you have permission to say to me, “Don’t forget Ziklag.”

V.6 “So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.”

He’s still there. V.7

“David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months. Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.)

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.

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.’

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.”

Do you see what I mean about being a double agent?

David goes on a mission, he attacks and kills everybody in a town. The town is full of Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites.

When he gets home, he has bring some plunder and report in to the evil boss, and David would say that he was in regions populated by Israelites.

This is a dangerous game that he’s playing.

That’s what the movie trailer would say, “He’s playing a dangerous game.”

Now, I’m not sure what you think about his actions here.

This commentator, whom I resonate with, says that David is in the wrong here because he’s lying and he’s killing more people than necessary.

He says, “I have argued earlier that the text seems to reflect a certain sympathy and understanding for David. Yet the writer does not hide how calculating and ruthless David was while a ‘Philistine.’ David the raider is one thing, David the butcher is another. In 27:9, 11, David seems to be practicing overkill even bin the customs of his time.” (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 286).

This commentator on the other hand, whom I also respect, disagrees and argues that deception is biblically justifiable in warfare. He writes, “We may be tempted to label the events of this paragraph as ‘disreputable’ and to deplore David’s use of deception in his dealings with Achish. But the text is not included as a means of critiquing David’s actions, no matter how questionable those actions seem to us today. Rather, in typical ancient Near Eastern fashion, the text celebrates the shrewdness of our protagonist and his ability to ingratiate himself to both his own people and to the Philistine overlord....the text reports David’s actions, and by implication, approves of his methods” (Bill Arnold, pg. 363-364).

Now, I lean towards this one (Davis), but I quote both to show you that when God’s perspective is not clearly and obviously stated, it’s sometimes hard to read history.

Both commentators have a point.

I’m not 100% sure if David was shrewdly wise or shrewdly unwise here.

But I am pretty sure that I see God’s fingerprints.

Even though He’s not directly mentioned, He’s Still There:


Who were these Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites?

They were some of the Canaanites whom God had told Israel to drive completely out of the Promised Land.

Do you remember last year when we studied the book of Judges? The first message was called “Unfinished Business.”

Israel’s downward spiral began because they did not finish what the Lord had told them to do with people like the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites.

These people had gone too far too long and were to experience the righteous judgment of God.

But Israel had not completed their mission and it had dogged them to this day.

In chapter 15 of this book, King Saul had a chance to make things right by destroying the Amalekites, but he, too, failed to obey.

One thing that God is doing here in verse 8 is finishing His unfinished business.

Just because they had escaped for a time doesn’t mean that they were off the hook.

God’s justice is perfect. He does not forget. And He does not fail.

Last week, we were reminded to do the right thing because we can trust God’s justice.

Well, here, I think, is an example of that justice at work.

I can think of two reasons why you and I might need that reminder this morning.

One is that we might be tempted to think that we can get away with something.

But the Bible says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Nothing is hidden from God.

And if it isn’t forgiven, then it’s unforgiven and judgment awaits.

So, turn from your sin and trust in the Savior. Don’t think you can harbor hidden sin and go unpunished forever.

Jesus died for your sins, trust in His provision for you.

The second reason why we might need to be reminded that God is always there finishing His business is that it might feel like God’s justice has miscarried.

It seems like somebody is getting away with murder!

...But they’re not.

God is working all things to His glory including the judgment of the wicked.

It may come slower than we would like, but His justice is perfect and couldn’t be improved upon in the slightest.

Don’t worry. God always gets His man (or His woman).

He’s Still There finishing His business.

And number three. He’s Still There:


That’s an old phrase that means that God uses even the bad things that imperfect people do to achieve His good purposes.

Even if David is making mistakes here, God is going to use it all to achieve His good and perfect plan.

David’s plan has completely fooled Achish, but it’s about to backfire. V.12

“Achish trusted David and said to himself, ‘He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever.’ [Chapter 28] In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, ‘You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.’

David said, ‘Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.’ Achish replied, ‘Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.’”

As Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh roh!”

Achish is so taken in by David’s deception, that he plans for David to fight right alongside him against Saul and his army.

And we know that David won’t raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed.

But he can’t say that to Achish, not at Gath!

So he cleverly says, “You’ll see for yourself what your servant can do.”

And Achish thinks that means, “I’m in.”  So he says, literally, “I will make you the keeper of my head.”

What’s going to happen?

Tune in next time!

The author of 1 Samuel pulls a cliffhanger on us.

He doesn’t tell us!

But even if you don’t know the particulars, you know that God has good plans for David. He’s said so.

And even if God is not mentioned here in chapter 27 by name, you know that He’s still there.

And He’s up to something good.

Even with something bad.

God can write straight with a crooked pencil.

God will use crooked Achish. And God will use even crooked David to accomplish His good plan.

Remember when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery?

Was that straight or crooked?

It was crooked.

But what did Joseph say many years later when his brothers were afraid that he would retaliate?

He said, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

God used even your evil to accomplish His good plan.  It’s no excuse for being evil or doing evil, but it’s a great reason to praise God!

Dale Ralph Davis says this about our story for today, “The Bible does not claim that God’s servants are dipped in Clorox so they will be infallibly sin-free and attractive to you. The living God does not have clean material to work with...remeber it’s only sinful (i.e. sin-full) clay the Potter works with. We should not criticize the Potter because of the clay but rather marvel that he stoops to work with such stuff” (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 287).

Our hope is not in a sinless David, but in a God Who writes straight with crooked lines.

A God Who finishes what He starts.

A God Who keeps on building His kingdom, no matter what.

A God Who even when He is not mentioned or named is still there.


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
15. Cutting Corners
16. A Tale of Two Fools