Tuesday, 6 December 2016

How do you deal with being let down? (1 Samuel 23:14-29)

How do you deal with being let down?

Perhaps you have found that a friend has been criticising you behind your back.  Maybe someone showed no concern for the fact that you were going through a hard time.  Often people are insensitive towards us.  Sometimes the people who let us down are those who are very close to us—like a parent, child or spouse.  You feel angry.  You feel hurt.  How do you cope?
A man feels let down, and so he decides that he will be more careful who he trusts.  Another person has been treated unlovingly, and now keeps people at a safe distance.  Sometimes we are so wounded that we find ourselves regularly recalling what the person has said. 
But there must be a better way than simply protecting ourselves.
This morning’s passage is framed in the context of David being let down.  In fact there are three things that happen here: betrayal, encouragement and rescue.  We will examine how these three themes relate to three people: David, the Son of David (Jesus) and you.  We will then finish by applying what we have learned to our feelings of being let down.
1.   This is a story of betrayal.
Last time we looked at the life of David we saw that he had taken a great risk in coming out of hiding and rescuing the people of Keilah from the hands of the Philistines.  How do the people of Keilah respond to their saviour?  When Saul comes looking for David, they prepare to hand him over.  He is let down by those he came to save.
So David has to go on the run again!
He flees to the desert of Ziph.  But the Ziphites also let him down.  They are scared of Saul’s power and so they go to Saul and tell him where David is.
This story finds a parallel in Jesus’ life.  No-one knows what it is like to be let down more than Jesus does.  He was betrayed by those he came to save.  He came with a message of forgiveness, but the religious people of his day opposed him.  One of his closest friends sold him for money.  His disciples showed so little concern for him that they slept as he wept in Gethsemane.  The crowd cried ‘crucify!’  His followers deserted him.  Peter denied even knowing him.  Yet he continued to love and forgive.  He did not become cynical, or keep people at a safe distance.  He sets the example for us to follow when we are let down.
We can all recall painful experiences concerning those who have let us down.  It hurts.  It is hard to let go.  It is hard not to become protective or cynical.  But remember that not only have we been let down, we have let down loads of people.  We have all gossiped and said things that we should not have.  We have all failed to care about those who are going through hard times.  We have all said, ‘I’ll be praying for you’, and then forgot to pray!
More significantly, we have let down the Son of David.  The Bible says that the natural mind is hostile to God.  We would have been among the crowd that cried 'crucify'.  As those who have been accepted as his friends we continue to fail him every day. 
We are in this story.  We are like the people of Keilah, who let down the one who rescued them.  We are like the people of Ziph who betrayed him because of worldly pressure.  We need to remember that God has forgiven us many more betrayals than he asks us to forgive!
2.   This is a story of encouragement.
After David was let down by the people of Keilah, his best friend Jonathan comes to help him find strength in God.  ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jonathan says, ‘my father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You shall be king over Israel and I will be second to you.’
He is reminding David of the promise of God.  David had already been anointed as the next king of Israel.  God will be faithful.
Jonathan’s promise to be second in command is amazing.  He was the eldest son of the reigning king.  He could have expected the throne.  However, he is submissive to the will of God and a willing subject of the Lord’s anointed.
There is a sense in which the Son of David knew encouragement.  He found his encouragement in prayerful intimacy with his heavenly Father.  We see him regularly going away to be on his own in prayer. 
Jesus also came as the great encourager.  He is like Jonathan.  He is the one who continually said, ‘don’t be afraid!’  God’s presence with us is meant to change everything.  Jesus’ life and death proves that God is faithful, and that guilt and death have been defeated.
I love the way Jonathan encourages David.  He helped him find strength in God.  Encouragement isn’t simply telling people they are great; it is reminding them that their God is great.  We are to remind each other of God’s promises of grace.  He will not treat us according to our wickedness but rather in light of his loving-kindness.  He rejoices over us with singing.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Max Lucado writes, ‘Even if you’ve fallen, even if you’ve failed, even if everyone else has rejected you, Christ will not turn away from you.’  These are the truths we tell God’s people.
3.     This is a story of rescue.
After the Ziphites betray David, he goes on the run.  David and his men are hotly pursued by Saul’s troops.  As Saul and his forces were closing in on David, a messenger came to Saul saying, “Come quickly!  The Philistines are raiding the land.”  So Saul has to quit chasing David.  Do you think that this was a coincidence?  Of course not!  Our reading began by telling us that God did not hand David into Saul’s hands.
In the gospels we read of how God rescued the Son of David.  Like David, Jesus was pursued.  Yet when the people of Nazareth try to hurl him down a cliff he walked right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4:30).  When the religious leaders tried to stone him he slipped away (John 8:59).  On another occasion they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp (John 10:39). 
However, the Son of David not only experienced God’s rescue, he became God’s rescue.  He voluntarily laid down his life so that betrayers like us could be embraced in his love.
You have been like the people of Keilah, who betrayed the one who came to save them.  You have been the people of Ziph, who feared the powers of the world and so were disloyal.  There is even a sense in which we are like those being pursued in the wilderness—by the accuser, our own guilt and eternal death—and God turns our enemies back.  The Son of David is our rescuer!
So, how do we deal with being let down?
Many of us are far too sensitive.  I count myself among this number.  Sometimes we treat legitimate correction as if it is unfair criticism, and when we are treated unkindly we find it hard to let it go.  So how should we deal with being let down?  We need to learn that death is the currency of love.
We want to inflict hurt on those who wound us.  Maybe we give our husband or wife the silent treatment when they say things we don’t want to hear.  That’s just a way of punishing them.  God forbids such revenge.  We have to put to death the desire to pay them back.

Church is a family where people wound each other at times.  So what should we do?  We are not to keep people at a distance.  Love won’t allow that.  We must put to death the desire to protect ourselves from insensitive words.
But is it reasonable for the Son of David to demand that show such love to those who betrayed us?  Absolutely!  Like David, Jesus was betrayed by those he came to save.  Jesus even saved those who betrayed him, including us.  So we acknowledge to him our feelings of bitterness, and pray for him to replace these feeling with his love.  So, as forgiven betrayers, we ask God to help us forgive those who betray.

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