Sermon: Baptism of Our Lord , 7 January 2018, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

On the Run- Psalm 59, 1Samuel 19

-I’m sure every single one of us has had those times in life where things have been going bad.

-We’ve all experienced times when it seems we just can’t take a trick,

-Everything is stacked against us,

-Success is elusive.

-And then one morning you wake up,

-The sun is shining,

-The birds are singing,

-And suddenly everything gets worse!

-Welcome to the world of David,

-A man after God’s own heart.

-If you read through the stories of David,

-You get to see that life wasn’t always beer and skittles for him either.

-You’d think that if you’d been chosen by God to be king over his people,

-That your life would be easy.

-Yet what we get to see is that David’s life is just like ours,

-He makes some good decisions and he makes dumb decisions,

-People treat him with honour,

-And some with disdain.

-Some things go his way,

-While others turn to dust.

-He’s obedient to God and he’s foolishly rebellious.

-Every decision he makes,

-Event that occurs,

-Choice he makes,

-Has impact on and consequences for his life,

-For good and ill.

-The book of Samuel gives us the bare facts,

-But then in the Psalms we catch a glimpse of David’s heart.

-And here in Psalm 59 we see the complexity of David’s life.

-Above the first line of this Psalm is the sub-title;

“Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.”

-1Samuel 19 provides the background which prompted David to write;

“Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.” Psalm 59: 1-2

-Saul has given the command to his son Jonathan and all his attendants that they’re to kill David.

-Back in 1Samuel 18:7 you see what’s prompted this jealous rage.

-It seems that everywhere Saul goes he hears the people praising David.

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 1Samuel 18: 7

-Saul is furious,

-‘They’ve credited David with ten thousands,

-‘But me with only thousands.’

-And his jealous heart does a paranoid calculation,

“What more can he get but the kingdom?” 1Samuel 18: 8-9

-And from that time on he keeps a distrustful eye on David,

-That finally erupts into this murderous command.

-The king’s son Jonathan comes to David and warns him of the murderous intent of his father.

-Jonathan is a good friend to David.

-He goes to his father and gives him three solid arguments,

-That offer Saul the rational, moral and theological considerations for sparing David’s life;

“The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?” 1Samuel 19: 4-5

-‘Why would you kill someone who has given you so many benefits?

-‘That’s crazy

-‘Why would you kill someone who has done you no harm?

-‘That’s immoral.

-‘Why would you kill someone who God is clearly using?

-‘That’s clear ignorance of the nature and character of God.’

-So Saul wisely relents.

“Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood. See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offence or sin of mine, Lord. I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight!” Psalm 59: 2-4

-Before he wrote these words into his Psalm,

-David may well have been praying them to God.

-And through the intercession of Jonathan,

-His prayer is answered,

-For a little while.

-Because life’s events take another dramatic turn for David.

-Jonathan calls David and tells him of the positive conversation he’s had with his father.

-He takes him back to the palace,

-And life continues in the royal court as if nothing has happened.

-But then international events careen David back into the realm of chaos.

-The Philistines attack.

-The nation is once more plunged into war,

-And it’s David who goes out to meet this opera hating, ballet loathing enemy,

-Maybe with this prayer rising in his heart;

“You, Lord God Almighty, you who are the God of Israel, rouse yourself to punish all the nations; show no mercy to wicked traitors.” Psalm 59: 5

-And God does rouse himself,

-David launches a heavy attack on the Philistines and they flee before him.

-But this is not going to be good news for David.

-Sure enough,

-An evil spirit comes upon Saul and in another jealous fit,

-He hurls his spear,

-Trying to pin David to the wall.

-So much for Saul’s oath to Jonathan that,

“As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” 1Samuel 19: 6

-Once again David has to flee for his life.

-Escaping the throne room he now has to escape the palace.

-But Saul is one step ahead,

-And he sends his men to watch David’s house with orders to kill him when he comes out in the morning.

-But again it’s a member of Saul’s own household that steps in to rescue David.

-In Psalm 59:9-10 David writes;

“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, 10 my God on whom I can rely. God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me.” Psalm 59: 9-10

-In 1Samuel 18 we see Saul precede his overt act to kill David with his spear,

-By a covert plot that would enlist the unsuspecting Philistines into the task of ending the threat David posed to Saul’s kingship.

-Let me read the plan to you;

“Saul said to David, ‘Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.’ For Saul said to himself, ‘I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!’ 18 But David said to Saul, ‘Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?’” 1Samuel 18: 17-18

-The humility of David shines through his response to the duplicity of Saul,

-A duplicity that only surfaces when Saul reneges on the deal with David,

-And marries off his eldest daughter to someone else.

-Why Saul did this we don’t know,

-But in the plans and purposes of God,

-Another opportunity arises for Saul to use a family member to place David in a dangerous position with Israel’s enemies.

-Saul hears that his younger daughter Michal is madly in love with David,

-And makes a second offer to David to be his son-in-law.

-David may have been a little more sceptical of Saul by now,

-But Saul encourages his unwitting attendants to butter up David,

-Telling him that the king is pleased with him,

-And that he should become the king’s son-in-law.

-David raises an objection that Saul is only too eager to use to his advantage;

“Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.” 1Samuel 18: 23

-Through his servants Saul sends back the message;

“The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.”’ 1Samuel 18: 25

-Gruesome but cunning,

-Saul’s plan was for David to fall by the hands of the Philistines.

-The only glitch in Saul’s plan was that he’d made David a commander of a thousand,

-And a thousand men to ambush a hundred Philistines is not bad odds,

-So David doubles it,

-Beats the deadline,

-Survives the trap,

-Increases his reputation,

-And wins the bride.

-The very bride who later warns David about her father’s assassins lurking outside,

-And lowers him from their bedroom window.

-So David once more escapes the ‘snarling dogs’, Psalm 59: 14-15

-But as we’ll see throughout this series,

-The life of David seems to follow a pattern of ‘out of the frypan, into the fire’.

-In God’s plan the young shepherd is moved from minding sheep and fending off bears and wolves,

-Frypan!

-To playing harp in the king’s palace.

-David steps up when all others quake before the giant Goliath,

-His victory with nothing more than a sling and five smooth stones,

-Won him the attention of the king and a high rank in the army.

-Fire!

-As David becomes more successful,

-The king becomes more jealous.

-Frypan to fire,

-Fire to frypan.

-How demoralising that must that have been.

-Yet as we’ll see as we continue this series,

-Things will not get much better for David even when he finally becomes king.

-God is the only one who has the perfect clarity to see us as we are.

-But we can know what’s going on inside when a person reveals it to us.

-That’s what we see in David’s Psalms,

-We see into the heart of a man facing the struggles and joys of life,

-And we see what keeps him going.

-Read through Psalm 59 and you see David’s judgement of his situation.

“See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offence or sin of mine, Lord.” Psalm 59: 3

-King Saul,

-His royal assassins.

-It’s personal hatred.

-And mixed in with the personal dangers are the corporate threats.

-The Philistines probably didn’t hold a personal grudge against David,

-He was just one of their nation’s enemies.

-But David recognises them as a danger and threat;

“I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me (Lord); look on my plight!” Psalm 59: 4-5

-In this Psalm we see that David is a realist,

-He’s no Pollyanna,

-No rosy eyed optimist,

-He’s correctly judged his position in a fallen and broken world.

-Stuff happens,

-But it happens because God allows it or he actively initiates it.

-Philosophers want to dissect the finer nuances of allowing or initiating,

-But the bottom line is that God is the one who’s in total control,

-Otherwise what would be the point of asking;

“Deliver me from my enemies, O God;” Psalm 59: 1

-Or;

“You, God, are my fortress, 10 my God on whom I can rely.” Psalm 59: 9-10

-If there were areas of life where God wasn’t in control?

-Where God was powerless?

-Where God could not be relied upon?

-David is a realist who knows that in this life there’ll be ups and downs and they’ll be relentless.

-He underlines this relentlessness by repeating twice the line;

“They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.” Psalm 59: 6, 14

-But in the face of relentless troubles,

-David trusts in the one who is a fortress,

-So he again repeats himself,

“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, 10 my God on whom I can rely.” Psalm 59: 9-10

-He watches.

-Why?

-Because God will be there for him,

-God will come through,

-His trust will not be in vain,

-There will be vindication of the faithfulness and power of God over the circumstances of this world,

-And that vindication will result in praise of God.

-This story and the insights of David’s Psalm should challenge our view of comfort and blessing.

-Because of our individualistic, materialistic, consumer culture,

-We’re led to believe that comfort and ease are our right.

-Any setback is a personal affront to our autonomy and control.

-We believe the lie of the Devil and our culture,

-That loss and pain and suffering are a burden to be avoided.

-But as followers and disciples of Jesus,

-We need to follow the insights of David and the example of our Lord.

-Until Jesus returns and brings in the New Creation,

-We’ll live in a relentlessly evil and broken world.

-But should we despair?

-No,

-Because we see in the death and resurrection of Jesus,

-God’s victory over the forces ranged against him and us.

-What could be more designed to bring despair, fear and pain than a Roman cross,

-Yet Jesus walked that path for us.

-If David the King of Israel,

-If Jesus the King of Glory,

-Could walk the path of suffering,

-Relying and trusting in God,

-Then we too can turn our eyes from the lies of our culture,

-The taunts of our neighbours,

-The doubts of our hearts,

-To the God who is our strength and fortress.