- Matthew 6:19-24
- 1 Samuel 18:1-16
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
We are still in our series, “The king is dead; long live the King”. In this series of sermons we learn that all earthly kings are human beings; we can not put our trust in any earthly leader. and Even when Israel asked for a king, history teaches us that their exceptions for their king came to nothing but disappointment. Saul, their first king, was a disaster.
The Israel monarchy serves as a pointer to Jesus Christ, the One born as a the descendant of David, whom God called “for Himself” (1Samuel 16:1). God made Christ king. Of Him the Bible teaches that He is Kings of kings. What does it entail, what does it mean, when we call him our King? Hear this illustration:
From boyhood, one of my favourite stories has been the forty martyrs of Sabaste. These forty soldiers, all Christians, were members of the famed Twelfth Legion of Rome’s imperial army.
One day their captain told them Emperor Licinius had sent out an edict that all soldiers were to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. These Christians replied,
“You can have our armour and even our bodies, but our hearts? Allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ.”
It was midwinter of A.D. 320, and the captain had them marched onto a nearby frozen lake. He stripped them of their clothes and said they would either die or renounce Christ.
Throughout the night these men huddled together singing their song, “Forty martyrs for Christ.? One by one the temperature took its toll and they fell to the ice.
At last there was only one man left. He lost courage and stumbled to the shore, where he renounced Christ. The officer of the guards had been watching all this. Unknown to the others, he had secretly come to believe in Christ. When he saw this last man break rank, he walked out onto the ice, threw off his clothes, and confessed that he also was a Christian.
When the sun rose the next morning, there were forty bodies of soldiers who had fought to the death for Christ. (Good News is for Sharing, Leighton Ford, 1977, David C. Cook Publishing Co., p. 16)
If Christ is our King it means He has our total allegiance. To be a follower of Christ means that as soldiers we go where He commands; what He desires becomes our command. What we say, think and do are under the control of his will. Our reading this morning taught us:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24, NIV)
With this in mind the Bible puts the question to us: What is Christ to you, King or rival? If you call Him your King, what do you mean by that?
The in-between background
We have the Bible neatly divided into chapters. We heard about Saul and his disastrous initial years, but the flow of the events are broken with the introduction of David as God’s choice for Himself to be king. We today read of the defeat the David Goliath, and we understand that he could do so because God had chosen him, but at the time David had probably not been anointed, his brothers did not know, Jonathan did not know, and Saul had no idea who this young boy was.
Somewhere in-between, chronologically, Samuel anointed David as king in the presence of his father and brothers (1Samuel 16:13) The story was out: the new king was anointed. Jonathan, his sister and the people loved David, but Saul hated him.
Jonathan, a servant of the future king
Jonathan was the logical choice to succeed his father as king. His heart was in the right place as he feared the Lord; He was second in charge of the army; he established himself as a natural leader; he lead the army into at least two battles and defeated the enemy. Then he met the future king.
The Bible tells us that his heart was “knitted to the soul of David”. This expression is also used in Genesis to describe the Jacobs love for Benjamin (Genesis 44:30).
The Bible further tells us that Jonathan loved David as his own soul (18:1, 20:17).
Jonathan bound himself in a covenant to David. This was a covenant of allegiance that he would protect David’s life (20:16), even if it meant that it called him to turn against his father should circumstances call for it.
And we read that he did nothing short of abdication in favour of David. He stripped himself of his royal robe and gave it to David; he gave his armour to David, and he handed him his sword, one of only two in Israel.
His love for David went to the extend that he dethroned himself and put his full trust in David. When he further appear before his father, Saul, he would do so without his sword and without his royal robe. This was a clear message to Saul: his son’s allegiance was with another king.
The sad fact of history is that, although David was extremely successful, he also failed. After all, he was just a human being. David by faith understood one thing clearly: from his loins would come the ultimate King, Jesus Christ.
We should learn from Jonathan as to how we should live before this King: his desires must be our command, our souls must be knitted to Him, before Him we should be stripped of ourselves; our earthly standing and who we think we are, and what we have is nothing in comparison with service to Him. Yes, we must take the crown from our hearts, from where we want to reign and control our own lives, and place it at his feet and declare our will to serve Him and Him only, we need to crucify ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. That’s the price of discipleship.
Horatius Bonar writes about people finding it difficult to come to Christ. He says the essence of the problem lies in self-righteousness. Man clings to self.
It is man’s determined self-righteousness that really constitutes the difficulty. He is unwilling to let this go; and he says “I can’t!” to cover over the guilt of the “I won’t!” Deep down in man’s depraved being lies this awful evil, which only God can remove, this determination not to give up self.
He deceives himself sadly in this matter, in order to cover his guilt and to cast the blame of his unbelief on God … He wants to do the great thing, and to get the credit of doing it; and because God has declared that the great thing is done, “once for all,” never to be done again, he retires into himself, and tries to get up another great thing within himself, by the right doing of which he will please God and satisfy his own conscience. (Bonar, H. (1881). How Shall I Go to God? And Other Readings (pp. 52–53). London: The Religious Tract Society.)
Is Christ your King? Have you surrendered your throne, have you abdicated, do you love Him more than anyone or anything? Give Him what you might consider as your royal robe, and clothe yourself with his righteousness. And when anyone or something else demand your loyalty, do as Jonathan, serve the King.
Saul, rival of the future king
After Saul’s acts of disobedience, as we have learned from the previous chapters, God instructed Samuel to tell Saul that his kingdom will be given to a man after God’s own heart. Samuel had to anoint David as the king God provided for Himself (16:1), because God said:
“How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1, NIV)
The Spirit of God departed from Saul and “rushed” upon David (16:13-14). Saul was plagued with and evil spirit from God and became suspicious, paranoid and embittered. He was not only rejected by God, but his people was terribly disappointed in him who was supposed to rout the Philistines.
It was without knowing who David really was that his servant employed him to calm down the king with his lyre during his bouts of rage.
After David’s victory over Goliath, Saul “took him”. Can you remember how Samuel warned that they king would take the children of Israel to work for him? We see this happening now, and also as described in 1Samuel 14:52:
…whenever Saul saw a mighty or brave man, he took him into his service. (1 Samuel 14:52, NIV)
Jonathan gave himself away into the service of the future king; Saul owned him.
Saul hear the women sing: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry, because this song displeased him no ends.
“They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:7–8, NIV)
He openly treated David as a rival: he first wanted to personally kill David with is own spear, but was unsuccessful. He worked out another scheme. He made him commander of a thousand to fight against the Philistines in the hope that Israel’s enemy might kill his enemy. God was with David and he only went from strength to strength. On top of that, the people loved David.
Saul came up with another plan: if David could pay him a bride’s price of one hundred Philistine foreskins he could marry Saul’s daughter Michal who was madly in love with David. You can just imagine the danger in the task—no Philistine would willingly donate a foreskin. David brought 200 foreskins, he himself unharmed!
Saul’s whole life afterward was consumed with one purpose: to get rid of David! He and the Philistines were not on the same side, but he became their partner in killing God’s appointed king.
To what lengths would a sinner go in his effort to get rid of Christ! Why? Christ is in essence his rival. Instead of abdicating in favour of the King, the battle of control for one’s own life becomes all consuming. Look at the apostle Saul: he had one thing in mind and the was to destroy the church of Christ. He thought he could control his destiny, but then there was this day on the way to Damascus. Christ knocked him out and helplessly he was in the hands of others who led him to Christ.
What is you attitude towards the King: does He have the control of your life, your love, your mind, your soul, your money, your future plans, or do you see Him as your rival? Are you willing to abdicate the power of your life, or do you still want to cling to control of your life? My friend, this can be a life-long battle which no sinner will ever win, and in the process you will remain restless and your heart disturbed.
Christ invites you:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29, NIV)
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 22 October 2017