Because of King Saul's disobedience, there was a new king anointed in Israel and Saul faced quite a dilemma. The Lord's spirit departed from him, an evil spirit began tormenting him—the solution to Saul's predicament was incredibly ironic. We'll hear about it today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg's teaching from 1 Samuel chapter 16.
Well, in what sense can this be the case? Because we know that God is not the author of evil, nor does he tempt anyone to evil. Well, it is surely in this respect that God sweeps that which is opposed to him and opposed to his people—and opposed, in this case, to his servants—that which may be in the exercise of chastisement or full-on punishment in order to achieve something that would not be achieved otherwise. So the source is clear. God reveals himself through the prophet in Isaiah when he says, I bring prosperity and I create darkness. And so this is exactly what is unfolding here. There's nothing in the text to suggest that what we now have by way of description in the balance of the story concerning Saul is simply his predisposition. No.
What is being said is very straightforward. Saul is confronted by a power outside of him that is harmful. It stirred up feelings inside of him—ideas, imaginations—that drove him at times to the border of madness. And this was external to him. It was in the absence of the present activity of the divine Spirit that in that vacuum he faced this reality. Now, what we cannot do is call Saul as a witness and say, Now, Saul, we're glad you're here this morning, and we would like just to get it, as it were, from the horse's mouth.
How do you explain this period in your life? Well, he said, I can explain it very, very simply, and that is that I rejected God, and God rejected me. In other words, he says, Don't let anybody fool you that it was a psychological issue.
It was entirely a theological issue. Now, we have to be very careful. We're dealing with Saul. We're not dealing with the affairs of our present congregation, nor are we about to extrapolate from this to make determinations that would be unwise and, in many cases, unhelpful. Nor is this an opportunity for us to delve into the question, Well, was he really a true believer, and if he was a true believer, is he not a believer now, and so on. That's not an issue here.
That's not even a cause for concern. If you want my take on it, I take it that he was a true believer, but he was a troubled one. True but troubled. He was troubled by his own sin. Because sin will always make you restless. Sin will always uncover you. Sin will never be accompanied by the presence and the peace and the power that God intends for those who are indwelled by him. And if we ever make it to chapter 26—there in 26, in a conversation with David—I think you have the absolute statement to this end, where he looks at David, and he says to him, I have sinned, I have acted foolishly, I have made a great mistake.
That's good. You see, because that's the turning point in a life. That was the turning point in the story that Jesus told, wasn't it?
After he told about the lost coins and the lost sheep and then the lost boys—one, a kind of superficial snob in the back garden, and another one who decided to kick it over and try it on his own—what was the turning point? I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. And what happened?
A party. You might be here this morning. You say, This is me. I have sinned. I have acted foolishly. I have made a great mistake.
Let me tell you something. The love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind, and the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind. For he is the God who pursues the rebel.
He is the God who comes by his Spirit to disarm us. And many times it will be in contexts that may actually be almost akin to this. Well, that's the source.
We can't avoid this. The symptoms we don't need to delay on. There was a volatility about him from this point. He did some really crazy stuff, throwing spears around and going nuts half the time. He was miserable. He lost his joy. He was restless. Restless. Yeah, you know, you see, when a man or a woman abandons God's plan and purpose, restlessness is an inevitable consequence. The Bible talks—I think I mentioned it in my prayer—that the wicked are like the tossing of the sea.
It's always throwing stuff up, bits and pieces, from here and there. And the story of the Bible is actually the story of God providing rest for his people. Right at the very beginning, and all the chaos that leads up to Noah and the ark, the reason he's given the name Noah, because the name sounds like rest, so that his parents and the people around him would have said, Well, maybe there's going to be rest. Maybe this man is the key to rest. And then you go on through the Bible and the prospect of the promised land.
What is it? It's the promise of rest—a place flowing with milk and honey and nice and fruit trees and rest. And still there's no rest. And on and on and on and on in the restlessness of our world. And eventually a king, another king, an anointed king, an enabled king, enabled by the Spirit. This is my beloved Son.
Listen to him. And the Spirit of God comes upon him, and he issues this amazing invitation, Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. This is part of our apologetic in our world today.
You needn't be embarrassed about this if you're a Christian. Go on the underground, go on the bus, go anywhere you choose, and ask simple questions of people, and press just a little and say, How are you doing? How is it going? How are you feeling? Would you say that you're contented? Would you say that you're restful?
And if they're honest, they'll tell you and say, I haven't had a decent night's sleep since the fourteenth of February, or whatever it might be. Or this is that, or my that is that. Do you know that Jesus is the one who provides rest for your souls?
It's wonderful. Not a program. Some mechanistic idea. No, Saul was restless. And so is man, absent the abiding presence of God. So the source is from the Lord, the symptoms are as stated, and the solution, which comes from God via David, is quite fascinating.
I mean, this little part of this is… I hope we can capture this before we wrap it up. The servants. Incidentally, the servants. Don't you love the servants? People say, Well, you know, nobody knows me in the kingdom of God. God knows you in the kingdom of God.
That's what really matters. So, for example, Naaman has got leprosy, and he doesn't know what to do. And one of the servant girls, who's a domestic help in the house, says, If my master, if my Lord would go and see the man of God, then that would be a good idea. So the word of this servant creates the opportunity. He then doesn't like the idea.
He's actually annoyed by the idea. And when he's getting ready to get his chariot entouraged and just take off for home again, the servant said to him, the servant said to him, My Lord, if you'd been asked to do something huge, you would probably have done it. The servants. And the servants said to him, You are facing a harmful spirit from God.
You're tormented. So let our Lord—that is, you—now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man. Now, those of you who are a Lord will remember that this is how we start at the beginning of chapter, and where he says, For I have seen for myself a king.
Verse 1—the recurring verb here. Seek out a man who's skillful in playing the lyre. In other words, let's institute some musical therapy. Let's do musical therapy.
That's what we'll do. Somebody who can play the guitar, and when the harmful spirit is upon you, he'll play it, and you will be well. Well… And then, just with that in mind, Saul says, Well, okay, let's go with that program. Verse 17. And then, out of the blue, one of the young men says, Well, I've got the man for you.
And the other servants must be looking around like, What do you mean you've got…? He only just said, Find somebody. And now you've found him, but we didn't even look for him. God is a way of providing as necessary. He works in ways that are surprising. Now, it wouldn't be the first time in Saul's life that he would have occasioned to benefit from the counsel of a young man. In fact, the whole story had begun like that, remember? First time we meet him, he's out looking for donkeys.
Can't find any of the donkeys. He's got a young man with him. He says, I'm going home, this is a waste of time. The young man says, Hang on, there is a man of God.
Fast-forward all through the years. Saul is now tormented, and the young man says, There is a man, the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. And then he describes him. Notice, skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, a man of good presence, and most crucial of all, And the LORD was with him. I've got just the man, he says. Now, what I find striking—and I hope you do too when you read that—is you say to yourself, goodness, that's quite a description compared to what we saw back in verse 13—or verse 12, actually—where, when David is brought into the proceedings, he's described as ruddy—that's presumably either his hair coloring or he had a pale complexion, and he got ruddy in the sun. He had beautiful eyes, and he was handsome.
Okay. We put up a little picture last Sunday night just for the fun of it, to make the point that even though that young fellow looked pretty good, he looked really good, but he didn't look like a king. And so he said, Isn't it remarkable that God does that? Now we've got the description here, which advances the ball considerably, doesn't it?
This is quite a resume that is presented. Now, let me do something with you, and this is for the honors students only. All right? Okay. So, if you're not doing the honors part, you can just go nah nah nah nah nah for a moment or two.
That makes all of you want to be in honors. I understand that. But so this is not a main and a plain thing.
This is not a main and a plain thing. But the challenge, as I've said to you in going through 1 Samuel, is in part dealing with the chronology of it. And especially in moving from sixteen into seventeen, how is it that Saul apparently knows him or doesn't really know him or whatever else it is? Now, one of the things that we can't tell is how much of a gap there is from section to section. So, for example, we don't know how long has elapsed between what we read in verse 13 about the Spirit rushing on David and what we read in verse 14 about the Spirit departing from Saul. The fact that the verse comes right after the verse does not necessarily mean that it happened instantaneously.
Now, again, this is not main and plain. But the chances are, the possibility is, that a significant period of time exists between thirteen and fourteen. That the section that we're dealing with, fourteen to twenty-three, is placed here not chronologically but is placed here thematically. In other words, the writer is making a point very clearly that this transition is between the presence on the one hand and the departure on the other hand. Now, if that is actually the case—if that is the case—then it is possible that chapter seventeen actually fits inside this section. It's actually called recursive something in when you go to school. And an actual fact that seventeen precedes this section in sixteen, because it's placed here thematically. All right, not main and plain, back on track.
Whatever the explanation regarding the timeframe, David, the son of Jesse, is the one for whom Saul sends. Musical therapy. Some of you are involved in this. I had a little musical therapy this week myself.
I couldn't help but think about it. I had to have a very minor procedure that involved miserable injections, which I don't like, and after they had done their best for me, they left me for a long while just lying in the room. And as I lay in the room, they had left music playing for me, which I didn't really like. But I couldn't get off my thing to get a hold of it, and so I had to endure it.
Well, they were very kind to me, and the doctor actually at one point came back and brought me a coffee, which I thought was very nice, and he said, Is everything okay? I said, Everything except the music. And he said, What's up with the music? I said, Well, it sounds like somebody left a piano accordion lying in the street, somebody found it, tried to play it, and the fellow who's trying to play it can only play it with one finger. And he says, So you're telling me you like it? I said, Yeah, exactly. He said, Well, I could fix that for you.
So I'm lying there just looking ahead, and he did something on the computer, and then he walked out the door. You know what he changed it to? Changed it to The Psalms of David.
Changed it to Shane and Shane. I said, Well, maybe there is something in this musical therapy. Depends on the music.
Depends on the source. Now, our time is gone, so let me hasten to a conclusion by pointing out the irony that is contained in what now unfolds. It is absolutely inescapable. Saul, the depleted king, has now, without his knowing, invited the neighbor who was better than him. Your kingdom has been torn from you.
It's being given to a neighbor who's better than you. Wonder who that'll be. He still doesn't know. We've seen a man. He's this, he's that, he's the next thing. He plays the guitar.
It's beautiful. Bring him in. So he's invited him in. The rejected king, namely Saul, has invited the anointed king, namely David, to come and ease his troubled mind. The anointed king comes in obeisance, guided by his father Jesse, and bringing all the things that you would bring as an expression of your recognition of the person to whom you come. And as the issue is established, Saul, who momentarily is going to hate him, declares his love for him. He loved him greatly. And he put him in a position as his armor-bearer that was crucial to his security and also gave him the potential for his companionship on a daily basis.
He sent word, then, to the family to say, I would like to keep him, because he has found favor in my sight. And so, verse 23, whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David applied the medicine, took the lyre, and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. Outwardly, Saul is still the king.
Privately, David is a harp-strumming, good-looking man of valor. From God's perspective, things are radically different. Now, we can come back to this, but many years later, Zerubbabel, who was a descendant of King David, was assigned the task of overseeing the rebuilding of the temple. And Zechariah, the prophet, comes to him, and he says, Let me tell you how this is going to be accomplished.
Let me tell you how you'll be able to do this. Zechariah 4.6. Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. He didn't choose David because of David's qualities. He chose David because God is sovereign. He didn't choose his apostles because they were such an august and magnificent group.
Even a cursory reading of the Bible tells you that they were an interesting bunch. But it is to them he gives the assignment to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. But remember what he says. But of course, don't go yet. Because you will receive power after the Holy Spirit, has come upon you.
And then you will go. What is the great dilemma—a great dilemma? Personally, and also in terms of the church in contemporary America, it is the temptation to think that I, that we, can achieve apostolic ends without apostolic means. How much of my life is dependent upon the abiding presence of the Spirit of God? How much of the programmed life of church depends upon the abiding presence of the Spirit of God?
The songs that are sung the prayers that are prayed the ministries that are exercised. And Jesus said, And if you, even though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? There is no beginning to the Christian life apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. There is no ongoing usefulness in the Christian life apart from the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. And there is no prospect of that great welcome and that abundant entry into heaven apart from the work of God the Holy Spirit. That's why his presence is crucial, and his absence is dreadful.
That's something that all of us as believers need to keep in mind. You're listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life. Alistair will be back shortly. All of Alistair's teaching is available free to download and to share. If you enjoyed today's message and you'd like to save it to your device to listen again, you can download it without cost at truthforlife.org. The title of today's message is The Spirit Descending and Departing. Now, there are only a few days left for you to request your copy of the book Man of Sorrows, King of Glory. It's a book that'll have you singing the great hymn, Hallelujah, what a Savior, as you read it. This book and each chapter takes its title from various verses of this popular hymn, but the book isn't about the song. It's about Jesus' journey from the humiliation of the cross to his exaltation at the right hand of the Father. Ask for your copy of Man of Sorrows, King of Glory.
When you give a donation to Truth for Life, you can do that through the mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate, or you can call us at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Dear God, please forgive us as a church if we think that we've got things so buttoned down that we can pretty well handle it on our own, as if somehow or another the work of the Spirit was just a little extra, as opposed to it being the very foundation. Help us to this end. Come, Lord, and descend upon us afresh, we pray, for Christ's sake. Amen. I'm Bob Lepin. I hope you'll join us again tomorrow as we continue our study in 1 Samuel, discovering how weakness can triumph over strength. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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