1 Samuel 22 Luke 18: 1-8
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
This morning, even though it is of course Mother’s Day and of course I do know how much it is typically a tradition to have a sermon that connects us to our mothers and to the care that they give, and then afterwards we all feel cozy inside because of that, our sermon this morning is actually not focusing on mothers but rather we’re going back to where we left off from in First Samuel. And this by no means and in no way denotes the importance of mothers and motherhood, we’re honoring our mothers today in several other ways, but I just very simply don’t want us to lose track of where we are in First Samuel. And seeing as we didn’t hear from First Samuel last week because of the baptism – and that was a great joy in no uncertain terms – I’d like to take a few minutes to catch us all up to where we are now.
You’ll perhaps remember from a couple weeks ago now that when we last were in First Samuel we were taking a look at the story of David and Goliath, when David is able to defeat that giant like Philistine soldier. The lesson of that story for us was clearly that we all have Goliath sized problems in life to deal with and that it’s not about the problems that you have, but rather how it is that you deal with them, how you learn from them and then just how it is that you adjust yourself after the problem is put behind you. After David defeats Goliath he is clearly the big hero for the Israelites and he’s put up on this pretty tall pedestal by everyone. People are singing about him, about how he kills so many enemy soldiers, more even than Saul… But then, that ticks off Saul. Saul, the one who has clearly gotten a very big head now because of having been made king by Samuel, is pretty taken aback that such a reaction to David even takes place. Saul’s the king, everyone should have him up on the highest pedestal. Saul becomes jealous of David.
And whereas you would think that that’s pretty wacky, here David has not only saved you from destruction, but has become your son in law and is then made the head of your personal guard, and so you would think that most people wouldn’t really think too much about how highly this person is thought of by others, or perhaps they’d even be happy about that. ..Jealousy, though, is a crazy, wacky emotion that makes people think and do just insane things.
And so after where we left off, David clearly gets into this very important and powerful position himself, put there by King Saul. But, as I’ve said, Saul becomes jealous and he doesn’t know how to handle this jealously of David and so he decides to try and have David killed. That would solve it all. The story of David and Goliath takes place in chapter 17, and now we’re skipping to chapter 22. In the in-between chapters we see the deterioration of the relationship of David and Saul because of Saul’s jealousy. I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s also some other stuff going on inside of Saul’s head too, he’s becoming pretty unhinged.
He sends David into battle against the Philistines and he thinks that David’ll definitely get killed because he knew that the Philistines would be a much more overwhelming force to his own. But to his great shock, David comes back victorious. Then Saul tells David that he wants from him 100 body parts from 100 Philistine soldiers..to the shock of Saul and everyone, David fulfills the request. Then Saul tries to get his servants and his son to assassinate David. Instead, Saul’s son Jonathan begs his father to not hurt David, telling him that he really doesn’t have a reason to be feeling the way he’s obviously feeling about this man that everyone considers to be such a loyal and good friend. Saul agrees to his son’s request to not touch David, but really, Saul was just telling him that, and now instead is even more incensed because now he sees his son as taking sides with David against HIM.
Next, Saul sends soldiers to David’s house and David’s wife, Saul’s daughter, kind of fudges things and is able to get David out a window before the king’s soldiers can actually do anything to him, clearly he’s able to escape. And all of this just makes Saul crazier and crazier, he sees everyone as against him, siding with who he sees as his mortal enemy, even seeing his own children as against him. But he keeps trying to go after David anyway, he keeps trying to entrap him, keeps trying to kill him, but everything he does is to no avail. Finally, David knows that he just has to leave and get out of town.
First he goes to the king of the Philistines in the city Gath, and that’s pretty shocking to say the least because the Philistines would probably love to kill David, but David says he has a secret message for the king from Saul, that’s how he gets into the king’s court. He explains his situation to the king asking him for protection and for a place to live. But King Achish of the Philistines says ‘no thanks.’ Can’t really blame him. And so then David leaves the Philistine leader and goes off to make another plan.
Listen now for what happens next, and for the word of the Lord… -READ 1 SAMUEL 22
If anyone wants to think that Saul had not become completely unhinged, I’m afraid that that would mean that you have a total lack of ability to have an understanding of reality on any level. Saul now has become paranoid and even sociopathic. When David had first arrived in Saul’s court, you’ll remember that he had gone there because of Saul’s tormenting spirits. And you’ll remember that when these spirits would overcome Saul, that David would be able to sooth Saul with his harp playing. Now, in First Samuel 22 from where I just read, this is probably at least ten years after David’s arrival to Saul. Those tormenting spirits have obviously increased in nature and severity and seem to be essentially a permanent part of who and what Saul has become.
Now this is clearly something of an extreme situation, as well as an extreme example of someone having to deal with another who is experiencing at least A form of mental illness. And whereas this is clearly not a typical situation, I still have to ask the question of just, how do we deal with another when they have become ‘unhinged’ as such?
For David, he clearly flees for his life, he essentially had to. He ends up having a lot of people join him for one reason or another and is able then to form his own army. He could consider taking revenge on Saul, he could attempt to take over the kingdom from him. But he knows that that is not what God wants for him to do or how God wants him to approach Saul and this situation.
David becomes the leader of a pretty big band of rebels. One day, while Saul is hunting for David to kill him, he’s learned that David is in Engedi – Engedi is a desert oasis down near the Dead Sea. Saul arrives there and goes looking for him. And it’s there that a situation occurs in which David would easily be able to kill Saul and take his place as king. But instead, after going to God in prayer, he realizes that how he needs to confront Saul is with compassion, not hatred or resentment, and that he has to live by faith, especially when being confronted with situations where others are driving you to a breaking point. The bottom line is that God will handle everything and everyone in his own time, and in a way that is ultimately positive for all involved. David ends up coming out of hiding calling after Saul and proves to him how he could have just killed him. How this obviously proves that he would never harm him, that he knows that Saul is God’s anointed, and that he loves and respects him and is there for him. Saul then actually breaks down and realizes that what David is telling him is true, and that he has been wrong all along. He tells David, “Truly you are a man of God, you have paid to me goodness, where I have paid to you only evil.”
I think it can be said, that yes David certainly was a man of God and that the real meaning of relationship with God was coming through in David, the meaning of God that the rest of the world only got to know much later when Jesus Christ arrived to show us by actual example how it is that God wants us to be.
In the Luke reading we have a parable being told to us by Jesus himself, in which a judge is being driven kind of crazy by this woman who is seeking justice. She’s persistent and won’t leave him alone, he tries to ignore her but she keeps coming back to him demanding what it is that she wants. Now she’s not deranged or unhinged, and she’s not looking for something that he can’t help her with, but rather she’s just really annoyingly persistent. In the end, the judge essentially deals with her just to shut her up, not out of love or compassion, but just for the simple reason of trying to finish from the issue. At the end of the parable Jesus asks the question, “When I return to you here, how many will I find who have faith?”
Now you may be wondering where the connection between the two stories is, ..but I’m gonna tell you where it is. David was in a state in which he was literally on the run for his life because of a Saul that really had lost it, his self-centeredness and ego had completely taken over and because of the level of power that he had as king, there was essentially no stopping him. David prayed and remained faithful and approached the situation with love and compassion.
In Jesus’ story, the judge was being really annoyed by this woman, but he didn’t approach the situation with prayer, love and compassion; he just did what he did in order to shut her up, ..what was easiest because he could. I’m sure that Jesus was seeing lots of that happen within the people where he was in ministry. And I know that it’s something that all of us do too, and in fact, on a very regular basis. How often are we confronted by someone or some situation that we just try to give in to, and often times with a very conscious effort of appeasement? Knowing that that is not the best way to ultimately handle the situation. It may be our child placing demands that we know are ultimately bad for them, it may be our raging mother’s upset about something that they’re unhappy with us doing or having done, it may be a crazed spouse that’s just not understanding the way things need to be…but we just give in and do or shut up and admit fault in order to stop the escalation of the issue. And yes, there are a lot of other examples I could give.
..Now sometimes the effort of creating space or a cool down period is necessary, just like with what David did when confronted with a very unstable Saul. But how often do we pray about those situations in front of us, how often do we truly put our own wants and desires aside and approach that bigger picture occurrence with simple compassion and love? And how often do we allow such situations – which we all have and there’s no denying it – but how often do we allow those situations to leave us disgruntled, ticked off, building resentment, arguing inside your head (or out loud) about how unhinged and out of touch with reality the other person is? And how often do we allow some of the crazier situations that we’re confronted with to really rock our faith, and fill us with doubt about God’s intentions and even existence? I know that in my own household, I am often feeling that I am living with some of the most unhinged people there are. I on the other hand am always logical and clear headed….
Our goal for today is to learn from not only Jesus, but also David. When having to deal with something or someone who either you just disagree with or who is just kind of off their rocker – and hopefully that’s just temporary - approach it all prayerfully, and at the very least ask God for patience and wisdom. (Lord knows that’s one of my most common prayers…) Approach them with compassion, knowing that they are a child or children of God, and perhaps most importantly, approach it all with love, that most powerful weapon in our arsenal. It may not always be the most convenient or easiest weapon to prepare for launch, but it will clearly be the one that wins the battle every time. And then last, but certainly not least, always remain faithful that God’s timing is not often matched with the one that we have in our heads. That God’s plans are most often NOT understood by us. But that God’s intentions are always for the positive, even if we are having trouble seeing that. Faith is never easy, but it is always necessary.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.