I have never done a completely righteous thing in my life. Even as I stand here, hoping that my words will inspire you to love God, I am also hoping that they will inspire you to think that I am a good preacher. My ego is so fragile that if Caroline gives this sermon the thumbs down I will likely spend the afternoon filled with self-pity.
Do you ever do something nice for someone, and hope that they think that you are a really decent person? Do you ever do something kind, and hope people will notice? Of course you do! We are self-centred and self-absorbed. Indeed, when you do manage a secret act of kindness you get puffed up with self-congratulation. All of my best deeds are tainted by my massive ego.
Yet, although I have never done a completely righteous thing in my life, I can stand here with confidence and tell you that God delights in me. My Heavenly Father loves me as much as he loves his Son, Jesus. Even though I experience defeat every day in my Christian life, I am as much a child of God as the godliest of people. If you think that the righteous judge of the world will have any reservations about accepting you into his heaven then you have not grasped how amazing his grace is!
This morning we are going to see how the Son of David makes us righteous.
My David refused to take the easy route to the throne
This is the second time that the Ziphites have informed Saul on David’s whereabouts. Saul goes with three thousand of the best and bravest soldiers in search of him. When Saul is asleep David, Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai approach him.
Hittites weren’t a part of Israel. But Ahimelech has found refuge with David and his men. Throughout the Old Testament we see people from the nations finding a place amongst God’s people. In the New Testament Jesus sent the disciples to the ends of the earth. We are a part of a beautiful multi-ethnic people that God is gathering around his Son. Abishai was the son of David’s sister Zeruiah—he will turn up later in the story as a rather blood-thirsty man.
This passage has similarities to the events that took place at the cave at Engedi. There Saul was vulnerably placed before David, David’s men urged him to take Saul’s life and David refused to kill Israel’s king. Now Abishai says God has handed Saul into David’s hand and he offers to do the dirty deed for David. But David is going to ascend to his throne in God’s time and in God’s way.
The temptation that is being presented to David is to take an easy route to the throne. Kill Saul, and then you will no longer have to spend life on the run. Something similar happened in the wilderness, when Satan offered Jesus a throne. Satan was saying, ‘you don’t need to go to your throne via the cross.’ Later, Peter tried tempted Jesus not to take his throne via the cross, and received the rebuke, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Christianity without the cross is what the devil wants. For without the cross there is no justification of the ungodly. If Jesus only serves you as a good moral example then you are still a guilty wretch.
Before we look at the exchange of words between David and Saul, notice the reason why no-one woke up when David approached: a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen on them (12). Yet again, God is protecting his man.
My David makes me righteous
While David addresses Saul’s commander, Abner, from a safe distance, Saul recognises David’s voice. ‘Is this your voice, my son David?’ These are the same words that Saul used to address David outside the cave at Engedi.
David protests his innocence and Saul admits that he has played the fool. Fools are what we are when we centre our lives on anything other than God. So often we are foolish. We foolishly forget that God always wants what is best for us and that it is in obedience to him that we experience spiritual blessing and joy.
‘Here is your spear, O king.’ This was the spear that had whistled by David’s head three times as Saul tried to kill him. This was a spear that David would not let Abishai drive through Saul.
Then David explains that ‘the Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.’ David has acted righteously in valuing Saul’s life and trusting the Lord with his own life.
Of course, David’s righteousness is imperfect, like ours. David would later pen a psalm in which he admits that he was sinful from the time his mother conceived him. In the very next chapter of this story, David doubts and acts deceitfully. But this righteous act of David looks forward to the perfect righteousness of the Son of David. Jesus is the only person who has every acted with complete rightlessness and he alone deserves the title ‘Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14).
Indeed, because the Son of David refused to take the easy route to the throne, but went to the throne via the cross, we can receive the gift of his righteousness. The Apostle Paul explains to the Christians in Philippi, ‘I don’t have a righteousness of my own, but I have a righteousness that comes through faith in God’ (Philippians 3:9). The Christian is someone who is comfortable admitting their many sins because we do not have to justify ourselves.
Not only does Jesus make us righteous, he makes our sin-stained attempts to please our Heavenly Father righteous. Even though sin taints everything I do, grace cleanses my deeds of their sin, and so the Father is pleased with them. Grace enables us to bring a smile to his face.
Jesus is my David. Like this David, my David (and your David, if you trust in him) refused to take the easy to the throne, but went via a cross where he died to make me righteous. While this David acted righteously on this occasion, my David always acted righteously, and because I am in him, God sees me as righteous. My David takes my weak, imperfect, impure deeds and purifies them by his blood so that they please my Heavenly Father.
Have your really grasped that righteousness is a gift? Rosie Marie Miller knew the gospel for years before an understanding of grace made its way into the marrow of her bones. It was during a communion service that she had a new realisation that Christ had been broken for her.
‘Before that Communion service I saw myself as basically a good person with a few flaws. I had felt guilt before—lots of it and all the time—but it was guilt over my failures more than guilt because I had sinned against God. I was now utterly humbled that my sins were all forgiven because Christ had died for me. He loved me—me, the unloving one. I longed to know more about him from the depths of my heart.’
What was the result of such a realisation of grace? She began to experience a freedom and joy that had never been there before. Her view of God changed. She experienced confidence before God. She became more gentle and loving. She became less judgemental and legalistic. She no longer felt the need to run about proving she was a good Christian. Now she was free to love.