140223 I Samuel 26:7-25

Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: I Samuel 26:7-25
Theme: The Lord's Love Makes the Impossible Possible

(Long pause.) It was that quiet as David and his nephew Abishai made their way down the mountain under cover of darkness. Outside of the crackling of burning wood and the heavy breathing of sleeping soldiers, the night was completely silent. The two spies moved through the camp without making a sound until they reached their destination. In the middle of the camp was King Saul, and lying nearby was Abner, the commander of his army. Both men were asleep. Neither was aware that they were being watched.

Abishai's eyes opened wide as he looked down at the enemy. It was a gift. It was a sign. He was sure it was the Lord's way of telling David that now was the time to take what was rightfully his. And he told David so: "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won't strike him twice" (8).

It must have been so tempting for David. It must have made so much sense to David. He was tired, tired of waiting, tired of running, physically and mentally exhausted from trying to stay one step ahead of the men who were pursuing him. And he could have ended it right then and there. He could have given Abishai the order to assassinate Saul and made himself the king the Lord had promised him he would be.

But he didn't. Instead of giving his nephew permission to kill Saul, David gave Abishai a lecture: "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives, the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed" (9-11a). And instead of taking Saul's life, the two men took the king's spear and water jug and left as quickly and quietly as they had come.

How did David do it? How was he able to spare the life of the man who was trying to take his? And how can we be like him? How can we obey Jesus' command (in today's gospel lesson) to turn the other cheek? How can we love our enemies and pray for the people who persecute us? I don't know about you, but I'm not wired that way. My brain doesn't work that way. I don't know if I should even try to show that kind of love to my enemies because I just can't.

If you feel like David has set the bar too high for us, if you think that Jesus is asking too much of us, if you are convinced that loving your enemies is impossible, it is. It is impossible... for us. But nothing is impossible with God. The Almighty can do anything, and today he uses this encounter between David and Saul to remind us that...

THE LORD'S LOVE MAKES THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE

We aren't told what David was thinking about as he made his getaway from Saul, but maybe he remembered the events that had brought them together in the first place. David was a young shepherd boy, sent by his father to visit his brothers who were fighting the Philistines. Saul was the leader of Israel's army, and he was facing a big, no a giant problem. His men were being taunted and intimidated and humiliated by Goliath, and Saul didn't know what to do.

Even though he had very little fighting experience, even though it was a huge mismatch on paper, David volunteered to fight Goliath. And he was confident that he would prevail because the Lord was on his side. To make a long story short, God did give David the victory, the first of many military victories he enjoyed.

After the battle David became Saul's personal attendant, and later one of Israel's most decorated warriors. Life was good for David, until the king stopped seeing him as a loyal subject and began viewing him as a rival to the throne. And as David grew closer to God, the Lord and the king were drifting farther and farther apart.

Eventually Saul's jealousy got the best of him, and he could no longer hide his hatred for David. He put the needs of his kingdom on hold and poured all his time and energy into keeping the crown. And the only way he could do that, he reasoned, was if David was out of the picture. With an army of 3,000 men Saul chased David all over the Judean wilderness, and after several near misses he was closing in on his target when he pitched camp in the Desert of Ziph.

All this background information makes David's decision even more amazing. He had been nothing but loyal to Saul. His actions had been nothing but honorable. And Saul was treating him like an outcast, like an outlaw, like the number one enemy of the state. Saul didn't want his men to capture David. He wanted blood. He wanted David dead.

David could have turned the tables on Saul that night. He could have taken revenge in the darkness. Maybe you are thinking to yourself that David should have taken Saul's life when he had the chance. At the very least he should have called Saul the vile and despicable man that he was, but David referred to him only as "the Lord's anointed." And because the Lord had placed the crown on Saul's head, David left it up to the Lord to decide when to take the kingdom away.

By refusing to kill Saul, David showed amazing restraint. In the conversation that followed across the chasm, David showed love and concern for his enemy. It wasn't the reaction most people would anticipate. That isn't the way the world works. What David did was unexpected, some might even say impossible, but the Lord's love makes the impossible possible.

David was able to do what he did because the Lord had led him to recognize three spiritual truths. First, David recognized that there was a time when he had been the Lord's enemy. The great king who conquered the enemies of Israel and unified the tribes of Israel and established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that was the same man who broke the sixth commandment when he took another man's wife and then broke the fifth commandment when he took the man's life. Later in his own life David came to grips with his depth of his depravity when he wrote: "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5).

When David looked down at the sleeping Saul, he didn't see his enemy. He saw a man who was troubled by his sins, a man who couldn't make up for his sins, a man who deserved to die for his sins. When David looked down at Saul, he saw himself. He knew that he wasn't any better than Saul. He knew that he was just as guilty as Saul. David understood that he needed God's grace just as much as Saul did...and it showed in his life.

Now I want you to think about the Saul in your life. It's probably not someone who is trying to kill you, but maybe it's a co-worker who cheats and steals and always seems to get away with it. Maybe it's some kids at school who have made it their goal in life to make your life miserable. Maybe it's another member of this congregation who just rubs you the wrong way.

God's Word is clear. God calls you to love that person. God tells you to pray for that person. If you don't think you can do it, if you are thinking that you don't really want to do it, let me encourage you to do what David did. The next time you see that person I want you to see yourself. See your faults and flaws. See that your sins are just as bad. See that in the eyes of God you are no better. Recognize your sins. Repent of your sins, and then give thanks to God for the gift of a Savior.

There is a reason why David didn't put as many miles as possible between himself and Saul when he left the king's camp. There is a reason why David called out to King Saul in the darkness, even though it was tactical mistake. The Lord led David to recognize that Saul was not his real enemy. David could see that Saul was being controlled by a much greater enemy, the sworn enemy of God and God's people. David wanted Saul to free himself from the death grip the devil had on him before it was too late.

And for a brief moment, it looked like David's calls to repentance were getting through. When David confronted Saul, he confessed: "I have sinned...Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly" (21).

Saul's story didn't have a happy ending, but there is no reason why yours can't. Remember your own personal Saul again, that person who gets under your skin, the person you can't stand, someone you might even consider to be your enemy. Before you write that person off, before you condemn that person to the hottest fires of hell, remember what David did. Remember that your enemy is not the real enemy.

Every person on this earth was created by God. Every human being has a soul Jesus died to save. It might seem like a stretch, a long shot, maybe even impossible, but the Lord's love makes the impossible possible. And the Lord may reach out to that person, he may touch that precious soul through you.

Finally and most importantly, David was able to love his enemy because he recognized that the Lord had conquered his greatest enemy. For David, it was a promise for the future. For us, it is a prophecy fulfilled. David looked forward to the day when the seed of the woman would crush the serpent's head. We open up our Bibles and see that battle unfold in the pages of Scripture.

Satan did everything in his power to derail God's plan of salvation. The prince of darkness tempted the Son of God to take the easy way out, to take revenge on his enemies, to abandon God's plan and forsake God's people. But Jesus remained strong. He refused to give in. He repelled every one of the devil's attacks, and he responded to the devil's hatred with love.

On Good Friday, Jesus reached out to Pontius Pilate. He asked God to forgive the men who nailed his hands and feet to the cross. He assured a dying criminal that he would see him in paradise. He spoke kindly to the mother who loved him and the disciple he loved. Even on Good Friday, even as he was dying on the cross, everything Jesus said and did was motivated by love.

Living a perfect life and loving all people, including his enemies? Impossible, but not for Jesus. Sacrificing his life to pay for the sins of the world? Impossible, but not for Jesus. Rising from the dead to declare victory over death and the devil? Impossible, but not for Jesus. Giving Christians the faith to trust him, to follow him, to be like him, to love like him? Impossible? Not for David, and not for us, because the Lord's love makes the impossible possible. Amen.

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