Sunday, 12 March 2017

1 Samuel 30: 'The Christ is Kind'

There was a great Methodist minister in London during the last century by the name of William Sangster.  He was a kind man.  One of his friends said, ‘whenever he met someone, his attitude seemed to be, “how can I help this person?”’  When Sangster died, his wife received over fourteen hundred letters.  Over a thousand of those letters mentioned some particular kind act Sangster had done.

The passage that we are looking at this morning encourages me.  You see, in this chapter David acting with kindness.  Now remember that David is the king that God chose for himself (1 Samuel 16:1).  He has been anointed by Samuel (and the word christ/messiah means anointed one).  When David acts as he is called to act he gives us a picture of what God’s King and Christ is like.  This verses tells us that Christ is kind!

The Christ who cares (1-4)

David had got himself in a mess.  He had gone over to Gath, and served the Philistine king, Achish.  However, when the Philistines decided that they were going to attack Israel, God rescued David from his mess.  The Philistine commanders didn’t trust him, and so he was sent back to Ziklag—where his and his men’s families were stationed.  However, they were in for a nasty surprise.  When David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive (3).  They wept until they had no more strength to weep.

I don’t know if you grew up being told that big boys don’t cry, but God’s people shed plenty of tears.  David wept because he cared about the suffering of those taken into captivity and he cared about his men.  The Son of David also wept.  Jesus feels pain when his people suffer.  We may not be able to answer all the questions that are raised by our troubles, but we can be sure that we follow a Christ who cares about our suffering.
The Christ who looks to God for strength (5-6)
David’s men weren’t all that impressed by his tears.  They became angry with him.  They talked of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul (6a).  Yet I think that there is grace in the fact that he did not walk away from his angry people.  Sometimes our pain turns to anger, ‘Jesus, how could you let this happen to me?’  But Jesus is patient with us.

The Son of David endured so much anger.  However, ‘when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly’ (1 Peter 2:23).  David entrusted himself to God as he strengthened himself in the Lord his God (6b). 

Look at David seeking God’s strength.  Look at the many occasions in the gospels where Jesus takes himself off to find strength in his heavenly Father.  Then ask yourself this, ‘if they needed God’s strength, don’t I?’  An awareness of need provides a great motivation for prayer.  You just can’t live a life pleasing to God without continually looking to him for strength.  So cry out to him who is willing to do in you what you can’t do for yourself!

Christ is kind to the weary (7-14)

Now we come to my favourite part of this chapter, where David is kind to the weary, and we see the contrast between how Christ treats people the world treats people.

Having been assured of success, David and his men set off to rescue their people.  But, two hundred men stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.  After all, they had just completed a sixty-mile march to Ziklag.  They had done that march in three days.  It was understandable that some would be too tired to go off to battle.  David is sympathetic about their exhaustion. 

Do you realise that the Son of David cares about your weariness?  Do you remember that Christ knew what it felt like to be tired, and to need time to be restored?  Have you ever heard his invitation to rest?  He does want you to drive yourself into the ground.  He is the sort of king who does not break a bruised reed.

Look at what a contrast this is to the way the world operates.  They found an Egyptian … servant to an Amalekite … whose master had left him behind because he had fallen ill.  That’s what the world does.  When you are no longer of use, you get thrown on the scrap-heap. 

The church must not be like the world.  We must look after our wounded.  We must not be critical of the tired.  We must be patient with those who are struggling.  We must be gentle to those who are ill.  We must not value people only for what they can do for us.  In contrast to the Amalekites, David welcomes the Egyptian and cares for him. 

The Christ is given God’s victory (15-17)

God’s greatest kindness was sending his Son to the cross for us.  We see a picture of the cross in the account of David’s battle.

I am sure that David’s soldiers were involved in the fighting, but the author describes the battle as David’s victory.  David struck them down from twilight until evening of the next day (17).  In defeating his enemies he freed those who had been taken captive.  The Apostle Paul tells the Colossians that, on the cross, Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them (2:15).  Satan’s accusations are emptied of their power for Jesus has paid for your sin.  When he reminds you of your sin remember Jesus who has freed you from all guilt.

The Christ restores what was lost (18-20)

There is a repeated emphasis on the fact that David recovers everything that was lost.  Jesus said, ‘this is the will of him who has sent me, that I shall lose none of those he has given me, but raise them up on the last day’ (John 6:39).  While David’s people had to pass through a time of trial, everything was restored.  The world may take the Christian’s comfort, reputation and popularity.  The world even martyrs many who love God’s king.  Yet in this life there are so many blessings to being one of his people.  In the life to come our Christ will not only restore what was lost, he will give us an exceeding abundance.  For Christ is gracious.

The Christ is gracious (21-31)
When they return to the two hundred who were too weary to fight, all the worthless and wicked fellows among the men who had gone with David said, ‘because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children and depart’ (22).  The primary reason they are ungracious is that they don’t see that it was God who gave the victory—they speak of the spoil they recovered.  There are always those who associate with the Christ who do not get the concept of grace.
These worthless and wicked fellows want what they deserve.  But what do they really deserve?  They deserve to be reminded of how they, along with the rest of David’s men, wanted to stone him.  They deserve to be told that it was the Lord who gave the victory through David, and that they have no prior claims to the spoils of battle.  They deserve to be told to depart, because they were wicked and worthless.
Yet David graciously recognises that the weary had looked after the baggage and enabled the rest to go off and fight.  Then he kindly divides the spoils evenly.
Raja Wijekoon pioneered the ministry of Christian drug rehabilitation in Sri Lanka.  He had been converted in prison while he was serving a sentence for armed robbery.  In prison he had been given a Bible and was struck by the words of Jesus, ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’  Jesus’ kind invitation led him to yield his life to Christ.  After his release, he began a ministry with drug dependants.
At his funeral three former drug addicts spoke of his ministry.  They each talked of his kindness.  He had always accepted them back, even after they had fallen and returned to drugs.  One of the men shared that he had ten relapses into his addiction before finally experiencing lasting freedom.  Every time he returned to the rehab centre, Raja took him back in the hope that this would be the last time.
Where does such kindness come from?  It came from constantly remembering Christ’s kindness to him and depending on the Holy Spirit.  The Apostle Paul tells us to put away anger, malice and slander, and put on compassion, kindness and humility (Colossians 3:1-12).  Strengthening yourself in the Lord your God, that he might make us kind.   

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