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Way of Grace Church

God's Way to the Throne (I Samuel 21:10-22:5)

Crying for a King

God's Way to the Throne
Samuel 21:10-22:5
May 1st, 2011
Way of Grace Church

I. The Royal Life

What does it look like to be on your way to the throne? Well, this past Friday, the whole world got a look at one young man who is second in line to the throne of England.

In a wedding that cost $65 million, Prince William married his girlfriend of eight years, Kate Middleton. Let me give you a few more numbers in order to better describe this spectacle that consumed the world's attention this past week:

$35 million: that's how much of that $65 million was spent for public services (e.g. police, security, crowd control, clean up).

$375,000: that's the value of the diamand and sapphire engagement ring that William gave to his bride-to-be, a ring that once belonged to his mother Diana.

$47,000: that's the cost of Kate Middleton's wedding dress.

5000: the number of bells that rang out in celebration of the wedding.

187: the number of groomed horses that participated in the processional.

21: the number of chefs who worked to feed the royal wedding party after the wedding.

This is what it looks like to live a royal life, isn't it? Isn't this what all of think about when we think of living like a king, or a soon-to-be king.

But this morning we return to the book of I Samuel and we discover another soon-to-be king. His name is David, and from the moment we first meet David in I Samuel chapter 16, after he is anointed as the next king of Israel, from that point on, everything seems to be falling into place in terms of being on his way to the throne: he defeats Goliath, he is befriended by the crown prince, he is promoted by the king, he is loved by the people...he even marries the king's daughter.

This is what it looks like to live a royal life, isn't it? Turn with me this morning to I Samuel 21.

II. The Passage: "Is Not This...the King of the Land" (21:10-22:5)

This morning we will begin in I Samuel 21:10. Before we read, let me remind you about what has happened just before this.

You may remember that even though everything seemed to be going great for David, unbeknownst to him, Saul, the reigning king of Israel, was descending ever deeper into a pit of jealousy and hatred because of David, because of David's success and popularity.

You see, Saul had been rejected by God, because even though he was called to lead God's people, he consistently rejected God's leadership in his own life. And when we meet David in chapter 21, he is no longer the darling of the royal court. He is a fugitive. He has fled from Saul because Saul wants him dead.

A. At Gath (21:10-15)

In verses 1-9 of this chapter, we learned how, as David fled from Saul, how God provided for David's needs through Ahimelech the priest. So let's look together at the rest of chapter 21 as we follow David's escape route:

And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, "Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, 'Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands'?" 12 And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, "Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?"

So David, fearing for his life because of Saul, escapes to the one place where Saul would never think to look for him: he runs to Gath, which is a Philistine city. And it isn't that just any Philistine city. It's the hometown of Philistia's once great warrior, Goliath.

So here's David, the young man who killed Goliath, the young man who now carries Goliath's sword (see verse 9 above), here's David walking into Gath in order to find refuge from Saul. Talk about desperation!

Now, I think it might have been the case that David tried to go into Gath incognito. Maybe he hid Goliath's sword outside the town somewhere, so it wouldn't attract attention. Or maybe he went into Gath boldly, in attempt to convince the Philistines that he was defecting to their side.

We don't know. But what we do know from the text here is that the counselors to Achish, the ruler of Gath, they recognize David and warn Achish about his presence among them. They know that no one Israelie was responsible for more Philisine casualties than David. In light of his fame and reputation, they even call him the "king of the land" in verse 11.

Now notice the phrase in the middle of verse 13, "in their hands". I believe this indicates that David was quickly captured by these Philistines because of the threat that he posed. But notice from that verse how David responds. Because he is afraid of what the Philistines might do to him, he tries playing the insanity card. He scratches the doors of the city gate, he drools...maybe he even rolled around in the dirt or made sounds like a monkey...who knows.

What is clear is that Achish, the king, takes the bait. He believes David's little act is for real. He truly thinks David is crazy and, because he seems to have a surplus of crazy people, he wants nothing to do with David. So look at what happens next.

B. At Adullam (22:1, 2)

Look with me at chapter 22, verses 1 and 2:

David departed from there [from Gath] and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. [now, let's stop there for a minute]

So David uses his acting skills and escapes from the Philistines in Gath. Now, Gath was about 25 miles southwest of Nob (Nob being only a mile or two north of Jerusalem), and the cave of Adullam would have been about 10 miles southeast of Gath, back over the border into southern Judah.

So David avoids the towns and finds refuge in a desert cave. But somehow word gets out about his presence in the caves, and we read here that he has two sets of people who come to him. First, his family comes down to him from Bethlehem. While they certainly loved David, their coming to him might have been a necessity because of Saul. Because of David, his family might have been in the king's crosshairs. Maybe he was threaten to take their land or have them arrested. It isn't clear.

But notice how the writer describes the second group of people here. The ESV uses three "Ds" to describe this people: the Distressed, the Debt-ridden, and (from the footnote) the Discontented. Like David, these were people who were suffering under Saul's reign. And they came, four hundred of them came, to David for leadership.

C. At Moab (22:3-5)

But look at the next three verses with me. We've seen what happened to David at Gath. We've seen what happened to David at Adullam. Look at where David goes next:

And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, "Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me." 4 And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. 5 Then the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah." So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.

So David is concered about his elderly parents. That can't live the life of fugitive. They can't be running around in the desert and living in caves. So again, David leaves Israel and goes to another foreign kingdom, this time to the southeast. He goes to Moab, that nation on the east side of the Dead Sea.

And as we see from verse 3, he goes there to seek a sanctuary for his aging parents. Why would David go to Moab? Well, you may or may not remember that David has some Moabite blood coursing through his veins. His great-grandmother was from Moab. You can read all about here in the book that bears her name: Ruth.

So maybe David uses some family connections here in order to take of his parents. But with his parents in a safe place, David then camps out in someplace called the "stronghold". It's clear this stronghold is not in Judah, because as we read in verse 5, Judah is where the prophet Gad calls him to return. The stronghold was probably another hideout in the rocky terrain around the Dead Sea, on the border between Moab and Judah.

We don't know a lot about this prophet Gad who shows up out of the blue. He appears here and at the very end of Samuel in II Samuel 24 where he is described as David's seer. Now, why David is called by God to return to Judah is not clear from the text, but David obeys and travels with his men into the forest of Hereth.

III. Perspective: A Cross before a Crown

You know, as we stop and consider the verses we've looked at this morning, I think what stands out is the frantic pace of this whole section. In a matter of just weeks, David is uprooted from his wife and his home and goes from Gibeah (the city of Saul) to Nob (the city of priests) to Gath (a city of the Philistines) to Adullam (a cave in desert) to Mizeph (a city in Moab) and finally to a forest called Hereth. He is always moving. This is life on the run.

But as David lay in his bed in Gibeah, only weeks earlier, do you think he ever imagined that this is what it looks like to be on your way to the throne? Shouldn't the royal trappings be increasing? Shouldn't David's power be on the rise? Where is the kingship for which God anointed him?

In the presence of foreign kings, he doesn't negotiate or feast, he drools and pleads. Instead of a royal chamber, he sleeps in a cave. Instead of being surround by a court filled with Israel's best and brightest, he is surrounded by the outcasts, the disgruntled, the misfits. Instead of lavishing his parents with ease and enjoyment in their final years, he is forced to leave them in a foreign land. And even though he emigrated to Philistia and lingered in Moab, now God himself was calling him back into Judah, into the very place where Saul held sway.

Is this really what it looks like to be on your way to the throne? If Prince William found himself, next month, hiding out in Tripoli with Qaddafi, and then living in the middle of the Sahara desert somewhere, and then leading a group of questionable character in doing who knows what, wouldn't all of us think that something somewhere went horribly wrong? There's no way that could be what it looks like to be on your way to the throne!

To make sense of David's frantic travels as a fugitive, we need to remember that nothing has ever suggested to the ancient or modern reader of Samuel that God is no longer with David. In fact, it's very clear that God is still very much "with David". We might be tempted to write verse 5 off as "par for the course" when it comes to the Old Testament. But remember what we've already seen in I Samuel about God speaking to His people.

I Samuel 3:1 reminded us that the word of the Lord was rare in those days. That is, until Samuel was raised up as a prophet for the people. But as Saul constantly rejected God's leadership, and God subsequently rejected him as king, we know from I Samuel 28:6 that Saul was cut off from divine guidance. That verse tells us that when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

But look at David. David is receving guidance from God, even when he is not seeking it. God is with David. And because He is, we know that God has a plan for David. God has carefully crafted David's path to the throne.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, when it comes to those whom God has raised up to reign, the way to the throne is always marked by suffering. Before that future glory there is shame. Before that authority there is adversity. Before that triumph there is a hard-fought battle. And as the greatest son of David demonstrated for us so beautifully, before that crown there is a cross.

Maybe we lay awake at night and savor God's promises to us. Maybe we relish the fact we are children of the King of heaven because of God's grace in Jesus. But maybe, just maybe our view of the path ahead is not realistic. Maybe like that royal wedding last Friday, maybe we've romanticized things. How should things be, how should things go if your are a Christian? Remember what Paul told Timothy:

[Timothy,] Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him... ( II Timothy 2:8-12)

Paul had to endure sufferings because of his faith in Jesus. And as he did, he held tightly to a saying he describes as "trustworthy". "If we endure (if I endure)...we will also reign with him..."

If you belong to Jesus Christ through faith, then there is a crown that awaits you. It's the "imperishable crown" Paul talked about in I Corinthians 9:25. It's the "crown of righteousness" Paul goes on to talk about in II Timothy 4:8, the "crown of life" James mentions in James 1:12. Is this a crown made of some heavenly metal? No, it means we will be crowned with righteousness. We will be crowned with life.

But before the crown, there is a cross. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Brothers and sisters, every path that Jesus walked while on this earth, even the road that led up to Calvary, to Golgotha...every path was a path to His throne. And if we endure, we will reign with Him.

This morning, your life might seem to be moving at a frantic pace. Or maybe you feel that way on the inside. David went from Nob to Gath to Adullam to Moab to Hereth in only days or weeks. Maybe you've gone from Crisis to Loss to Rejection to Temptation to Burden at what feels like the same exact speed.

But don't let the pace or the path push you into despair. Don't let it deceive you and convince you that you've done something wrong or that God has abandoned you. There is a cross that comes before the crown. We so often want to think only in terms of the crown. There are even preachers and churches today who only talk about the crown, about health and wealth and prosperity.

We might not go to that extreme, but all of us are tempted to think about gain, and power, and victory before we think about loss, and weakness, and defeat. But God has a place for all these things. He even gives us profit in our loss, and makes us strong through our weakness.

Look at your life this morning, look at all the challenges and pain and difficulties and trials and loss and suffering. Is this really what it looks like to be on your way to the throne? Absolutely. Could you be suffering because of your won foolish choices? Absolutely. But if we move forward with a clear conscious, and still find difficult terrain, we shouldn't be afraid.

IV. Practice: "Till I Know What God Will Do for Me"

When it comes to practically living in light of God's path to the throne, I think it's helpful to remember what David told the king of Moab: "Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me." In our most difficult times, we must move forward with an expectation, not that everything will go back to normal, not that we will figure things out, not good karma is bound to come our way. No, we move forward with an expectation of what God will do for us as we walk this strange path.

David waited expectantly for God to work out His plan according to His schedule. This morning, are you waiting to see what God will do for you?

Along this kind of path, at this kind of frantic pace, our biggest enemy will be fear, the same kind of fear David felt in Gath. One of the wonderful things about the story in I Samuel 21:10-15 is that God's word gives us two other passages connected with David's time in Gath. Both Psalm 34 and Psalm 56 are listed as being written by David during this time period, and/or written in reflection on this episode in Gath.

Psalm 56 is listed as "A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath" and Psalm 34 is described as "Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech (another name for Achish), so that he drove him out, and he went away."

But listen to what both of these psalms tell us about how David practically handled the frantic pace of his path to the throne:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (Psalm 34:4-6)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?...You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:3, 4, 8-11)

Brothers and sisters, as we go into a new week, filled with the very challenges and trials we should expect in light of God's word, let's go seeking the Lord; let's go putting our trust in God; let's go praising His word.

We don't need to be afraid, do we? We don't need to scratch the gate or drool on our on beards. Jesus Christ has endured. Jesus Christ now reigns. Let's go this morning with thankfulness for Jesus. God has a glorious future for us if our faith is in Jesus Christ as our only hope.

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