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Saved from Himself

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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May 15, 2024 4:00 am

Saved from Himself

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 15, 2024 4:00 am

The expression “caught between a rock and a hard place” aptly describes David’s predicament in 1 Samuel 29—and he had only himself to blame! On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg points out how God’s mercy remains steadfast even when we make a mess of things.


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You've probably heard the expression being caught between a rock and a hard place. That's where we find David today on Truth for Life, and he has no one to blame but himself. We'll see how God's mercy remains steadfast even when we make a royal mess of things.

Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter 29 in 1 Samuel. The final conversation that took place between Saul and David is recorded for us at the end of chapter 26. And David on that occasion declared to Saul that he was confident that God would deliver him from all of his troubles.

He didn't know all that awaited him, but he was confident in saying that. Well, of course, and then an astonishing thing happens. And that is, as we saw in chapter 27, David has a fainting fit. David has a meltdown, we might say. And it is actually hard for us to believe, as we thought about it when we studied it, that what you have in chapter 27 is the same man who has just avowed this commitment to the delivering hand of God at the end of 26. And we saw how deliverance gave way, essentially, to depression. That is, faith gave way to his fears, and that he has gone, then, to seek security, actually, in the company of the enemy. And you may remember there in chapter 27, where it just simply says of David, "'And David arose and he went over.'" And I think, as we said in passing, he went over in more ways than one. Achish is absolutely convinced that David has burned his bridges, that what he has done—because this is what he has told Achish he has done—will have so made him a stench in the nostrils of his own people that there would be no possibility of him being able to return, and certainly to assume the role of the king.

And as we're reading that, we find ourselves saying, Yes, this is quite remarkable. I wonder how he's going to extricate himself. Did he still at this point believe that God would deliver him? And if we assume that he did, as we must, then how was he going to deliver him?

Now, the story is pretty straightforward, and I'm attempting to summarize it under three headings. First of all, to consider David's unprovoked dilemma, and then to look at what is an unforeseen deliverance, and then finally, and just, I think, in a word or two, to say something concerning his unheralded departure. What we have here, as it is outlined for us, is a mess of David's own making. Back in 27, you remember, it began, Then David said in his heart, Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. So on the one hand, he says, The LORD is in charge of my great deliverance, and then immediately I am going to perish at the hand of Saul. He talked to himself, but he talked nonsense to himself. This idea of saying in his heart, ruminating on things.

He's between a rock and a hard place, as we say. And the reason is because he established a pattern, and he established a pattern of deception. It was his custom back at the end of 27. It was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. He just kept doing it again and again. It became ingrained in him.

He probably thought, you know, I can slip this by, it won't matter too much in the end. Now, what we discover in this, of course, under this heading that it is an unprovoked dilemma, is that David's biggest problem is David. That ought not to be a surprise to any of us. David is handsome, he's gifted, he's brave, he's brave enough to fight a giant, but he's still a man with a nature like ours—which is, of course, what James says of Elijah in James chapter 5. He was just a man, and he was a man like you and me. In our elders' meetings, we're reading a book by Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God. It's essentially a wonderful explanation of the doctrine of sanctification.

And in our meeting time before last, I think each of us was struck when we came to a paragraph which begins as follows. It is always a shock to our pride when we discover that we are sinners and not merely people who occasionally sin. That sin is not simply some kind of infrequent aberration, but that although we have been saved from sin's penalty and although one day we will be saved from sin's presence, we are daily in need of being saved from sin's power. And so it is that when we take up our Bibles, when we look into the mirror of God's Word, we are so often dismayed by what we see. We understand, we echo Paul's words in Romans, Romans 7, when he's talking about the good I want to do I don't do, and the bad I don't want to do I end up doing.

In other words, we understand how you get from 27 into 28. Oh, what a wretched person I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Now, of course, we know the only answer is that Jesus delivers us from the body of death, so that we are simultaneously righteous in his sight and at the same time sinners in ourselves.

Now, you see, David has been saved from Saul, but actually here he needs to be saved from himself. People sometimes ask me, Who is the person who's given you the most trouble in thirty-seven years at Parkside Church? I answer immediately, Me!

Me! There's no question about that. That's not false modesty. And if you want to chat with my wife, she would concur immediately. Now, David has been saved from lions, bears, Sauls, armies, everything. But he needs to be saved from himself.

And so do you and I. So, it is an unprovoked dilemma. And then we notice this unforeseen deliverance. Who would have thought that the way in which he would be relieved of the predicament would be by the agency of those who were his enemy? Now, the commanders in verse 3 are asking the obviously right question. When they realize that David is in a kind of pole position here with the rearguard and in the presence of the king himself, they said, What are these Hebrews doing here? And I think the inference in that is disparaging. What are these Hebrews doing here?

I mean, this is ridiculous. It's certainly incongruous, given the fact that the Philistine army is preparing to overturn Israel. We're amassing our troops in order that we might go and destroy Israel, and Achish says, And I've got here David, the prince of Israel, and six hundred of his men, and they're going to be in my division here as we go out. Now, the fact is, of course, that there is something about Achish here that is gullible in the extreme—that his naivety is not even attractive, I don't think. He was conned, quite amazingly, by David's award-winning performance when he pretended that he was actually, you know, a madman.

That's all the way back in chapter 21, remember? He pretended to be insane. And in that condition, Achish either was too preoccupied to worry about it or he was actually swallowed by it, but anyway, he was convinced. And once again, you will notice that he is convinced that having David with him is actually a good idea. That he is absolutely certain that David, having done what he's done—which, of course, he lied about, remember?—he thinks that what David has been doing is hammering his own people in these raids. But of course, he wasn't. And there's no way back for David.

It's perfectly fine that he's here. His allegiance has shifted. You will notice he uses the very word, doesn't he? Deserter. He's the deserter. David, the servant of Saul, the king of Israel—I'm surprised it even uses that terminology. You would think that would be a red rag to a bull, who's been with me now for days and years. Well, we know that he was only there for sixteen months, so this is an exaggeration as well.

And since he deserted to me, I have found no fault in him to this day. In other words, Achish says, David is the real deal. But this only infuriates the commanders, and they are angry with Achish, verse 4, and they have reason to be angry because they would recollect the fact that there was precedence for Hebrews getting up to their tricks. We're not going to backtrack all the way, but I'll remind you of it. Back in chapter 14, when Jonathan defeats the Philistines, you'll remember that in that context there, the Hebrews pull a very clever stunt. And as a result of that, the Philistines were defeated.

Well, these commanders said, We're not going to go for that again. And furthermore, this song that they keep playing, as it were, on the radio keeps coming up again and again. It's amazing the power of a song, isn't it? The fact that it comes up on each occasion. When Saul first heard it, it infuriated him, because he realized the disparity between the accolades that were coming to David and those that would accrue to him.

And then later on, again, it comes up. Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands. Well, they're not mentioning that because they care about what it means to Saul. They care about what it means to them. The song was about how many Philistines got killed.

That was what it was about. Therefore, they say, it is very hard to imagine how David would be able to reconcile himself to Saul. It just doesn't seem right, they said. The only way that he would be able to reconcile himself to Saul would be by producing a few heads of the men here. What an irony, of course, that somebody who had taken off the most famous head of the most famous giant would then be made the headkeeper, as it were, of the king of the Philistines. And these fellows understand that.

They say, You've got to be crazy. If you think he's gonna watch over your head, the only way in which Saul will know that he hasn't capitulated is if he takes off a few of our heads. Isn't this David, the one? Well, Achish then has had a little bit of sense knocked into him. And he's a somewhat weak king, I think.

His leadership does not appeal. Achish then called David, verse 6, and he said to him, As the LORD lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out, and in with me in the campaign. I hold you in high esteem.

I've found nothing wrong with you, but I've got a problem. The LORD's, they do not approve of you. Well, isn't it quite interesting, too, that he uses that little phrase, As the LORD lives? He's either just ingratiating himself with David, or he's actually perhaps, as a result of the influence of David, begun even to consider the impact of Yahweh. What is striking, I think, is the fact that in the space of eleven verses, the only time that Yahweh is mentioned is when it comes on the lips of the Philistine king. David doesn't mention him.

David actually hasn't been mentioned in him for a while. No, because, you see, he's been relying on his own insight. There has been no checking with the Urim. There has been no seeking of the prophet. There has been no determining what God wants.

No, no. David said in his heart, Saul'll kill me. Talk to himself nonsense to himself.

And the rest follows. Now, David had done such a good job of deceiving Achish that Achish could find no fault in him. John Woodhouse gives us a very wonderful little insight when he says, in another sense altogether, there was no evil in David, because he had been honest to his obligations to Saul and to Israel even while he was deceiving Achish. Now, you say, Well, I have to think about that.

Well, of course you should think about that. Because again, back at the end of 26, we had that emphasis, The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness. And in this peculiar drama, although he was deceiving Achish, he was actually still acting righteously in relationship to his own people. Now, you would have expected—I would have expected—that when the word is given to him in verse 7—"So go back now and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines," you would think, David goes, Beautiful! I didn't know how I was going to resolve this.

This is better than I could have hoped for. I can just… You mean I can just leave? Achish would have said, Yeah, I'd like you to go quietly and swiftly.

But he doesn't do that. Now, we're not going to delay on this, and you can ponder it on your own. Now, David responds with one of his favorite questions. What have I done?

What have I done? You remember the first time that came, when his brother said, What did you come down here for? Why did you come?

Just to see the battle? And David says, What have I done? On another two occasions, he asked the very same question. What have I done?

And in both cases, it is a protestation of his innocence. But what's happening here? That's the question. What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my Lord the King? Are you crazy, David?

You've just got the chance to walk, and now you're protesting this? Is he feigning this commitment in order that he might just rub Achish's nose in the embarrassment of it all? Or, or, when he talks about fighting against the enemies of my Lord the King, is Saul the Lord and King that he has in mind? In which case, the Philistines are the enemies. Now, you remember Saul has told his people—he said, You'd better be careful with this guy, David, because he is very cunning.

And frankly, he is so cunning that it is difficult for us as readers even now to determine what he's up to. You see, the question was, first of all, what are these Hebrews doing here? The question then comes from the lips of David.

And what is it that I have done? Because remember, he had said to Achish, when Achish says, I'm going to include you with my troops and make you my guard and so on, he said, Well, you'll see. You'll see what your servant will do. He wanted to know himself what he was going to do. What are the Hebrews doing? What is David doing? The more important question is, What is God doing? What is God doing? When you read this, do you understand the way that this is the unfolding drama of God's purposes, not only for the kingly rule of Israel but for his ultimate plan for all of time in all of the world in the one who is the ultimate King? You realize that God is not and never is a bystander in an unfolding drama like this. Who has known the mind of the Lord?

What man shows him counsel? Isaiah 40. For your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways. My ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55. Now, we actually know, because we've read 28, that God's plan is that Israel will be given into the hands of the Philistines. Look at verse 19 of 28. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be dead. That was the word from Samuel.

We know that. David doesn't know that. David wasn't there. So Achish claims that his hands are tied. Despite his testimony to David's goodness, I'm going to have to side with my commanders, he says. And so, quite amazingly, deliverance comes by way of the enemy. Now, when you stand far enough back from it, you realize what's happening here—that the very same Philistines who will finally remove Saul—and that's in chapter 31. The very same Philistines who will finally remove Saul are the ones who are unwittingly rescuing David from his dilemma.

Surely God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. Well, that brings us finally, and just briefly, to David's unheralded departure. Go back. Now go back peaceably, verse 7. Verse 10. Now rise early in the morning with the servants of your Lord.

Isn't that an interesting phrase? Who is this Lord? The servants of your Lord who came with you. Start early in the morning.

Depart when the sun comes up. It's a new day dawning. In all of the deception, David again still had done nothing to compromise his righteousness and his faithfulness towards Saul and Israel. And it may be that he had actually in mind how it would be possible for him, in such a strategic position at the rear end of this army, to seek then to become the catalyst to turn and defeat the Philistines. Which, of course, would be contrary to the will of God, wouldn't it? Because we know that in 19 of 28, the Philistines are going to win. Ah, the heart of the king is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord.

He turns it wherever he will. And we're not going to pause on this, but if you squeeze your eyes together, as it were, or if you take up your biblical telescope and look through it and look into the future, you may find yourself saying, This reminds me of something that happened later. Here we have a weak-willed king affirming David's innocence.

And fast-forward, and there you have a weak-willed pilot declaring of the king, I find no fault in him. Bidden or unbidden, God is present. Bidden or unbidden, God is present. The ways of God are inscrutable.

They're beyond our searching. And how marvelous is it that God chooses to use even those who are opposed to us in order to bring about resolution? That the mercy of God is phenomenal. That when, like David, I have made a mess, and it is a mess of my own doing, I find that I have a heavenly Father who does not abandon his children. That he doesn't treat me as my sins deserve. That when I make a royal hash of things, it doesn't exhaust his kindness, nor does it evaporate his mercy. The fact is that David needs saved from himself.

And so do you and I. And we are not strong enough to escape from the hand that holds us fast. Because God, our heavenly Father, is committed to keeping us kept. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled, Saved from Himself. I hope you have been benefiting from our study in 1 Samuel from the insights it provides for us into God's providential work in and through the life of David, and how all of this foreshadows Jesus. We're going to be wrapping up this study on Friday, but if you'd like to hear the story from beginning to end, you can purchase the complete series that takes you through 1 and 2 Samuel on a single USB. More than 100 sermons preached by Alistair, and the price for the USB is just $5.

To purchase your USB, visit slash store. By the way, today is the last day we'll be recommending a booklet titled, How to Memorize Scripture for Life. If you listen regularly to Truth for Life, you've probably heard me mention that this helpful guide explains the benefits of memorizing passages of the Bible, and it will walk you through simple steps that make it easier for you to retain and recall God's Word. You can even memorize entire books of the Bible. You can get started right away. Ask for the booklet, How to Memorize Scripture for Life, when you donate to support the Bible teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can give a gift through the mobile app, or online at slash donate. Thanks for studying with us today. There are some people who think God's promise of deliverance means that they will be protected from sorrow or sadness. Tomorrow we'll learn what's wrong with that way of thinking as we continue with David's story. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-15 05:18:41 / 2024-05-15 05:27:16 / 9

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