VIRTUOUS REALITY SERMON SERIES
PAY BACK OR PULL BACK? – DAVID AND SAUL
OCTOBER 8, 1995
What is at the forefront of every person’s mind in this audience this morning? The Verdict, the most watched, live television event in history. Throughout the nine months of the OJ Simpson trial, one family captured the attention of millions of Americans as we witnessed their agony, pain and grief. I am referring to the Goldman family. On Tuesday morning they sat in a packed L.A. courtroom and heard the words, not guilty. When those words echoed around the courtroom, the Goldman’s didn’t just stand up, gather their things and say, “It’s over, that’s it.” No. The Goldmans are seeking revenge. They want to pay back injury for injury, insult for insult, heartbreak for heartbreak. Revenge effects us all, not only in tragic situations like the Goldmans are experiencing but in our everyday lives as well. That spouse who moved out unexpectedly. That business associate who ripped you off. That son or daughter who routinely rages all over you. What do you do, what do I do when those opportunities for revenge present themselves? Do we pull back or do we pay back?
Today I am continuing a series on the life of the Biblical character, David. David dealt with revenge. He had many, many opportunities to seek revenge and over the next few moments his life is going to show us what we should do when we are tempted to seek revenge. Briefly let me set the context of David’s life. King Saul, that schizophrenic man from Israel had one agenda, one mission in his life, and that was to kill David. Saul wanted to rub David out, so he hired 3,000 of the best trained soldiers in the world to go after David. Now it is one thing to have a contract out on you, it is another thing to have the most powerful man, backed up by the most powerful military in the world, hunting you down day after day after day. This is what occurred in the life of David. It is staggering to realize that only a few years earlier David had saved the day for the nation of Israel. He had killed Goliath, he had single-handedly delivered the Israelites over their archenemies the Philistines. Saul had hired him as a military leader, everything he touched was successful. Even the old soldiers loved David. He was the man, the toast of the town, the most popular man in Israel. Saul got jealous. He looked at David with that eye of envy and jealousy turned to bitterness, bitterness to rage and rage turned into motivation to murder God’s man. With one snap of his fingers Saul knocked all the props out from the life of David. Have you ever felt like all the props have been knocked out in your life? Saul took away David’s wife and his rank. David lost his relationship with his spiritual mentor, Samuel and also his intimate friendship with Jonathan. He lost it all. It was so bad for David you could write a Country and Western song about his plight, that is how bad it was. David was on the run, he was a fugitive.
The Bible says that David was hiding in a region known as En Gedi which is near the Dead Sea. I have been there. And in that area there are literally thousands of caves. One afternoon it was really, really hot and David plus about four hundred renegade men he had collected while being a fugitive decided to hide in a cave. Saul was after them. He was in high speed pursuit with three thousand troops. He was searching for David and he knew David and some men were in the vicinity, when something very ordinary happened to Saul, something very natural. You won’t believe what happened. Look at the first verse on your outline. Before I read this text don’t ever say or don’t ever let a person say that the Bible is just not realistic. If you don’t think the Bible is realistic you listen to my words very, very carefully. I Samuel 24:3. “A cave was there and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave.” The Living Bible says Saul went in the cave to go to the bathroom. We might say that Mother Nature tapped him on the shoulder. Get the snapshot, the most powerful man in the world walking into a Biblical rest stop, a cave, and the cave that Saul picks happens to be the same cave that David and all of his renegade men are in.
What do you think they said when they saw Saul coming in? The Bible says the men told David that God had delivered Saul into his hands. They told David to take him, that he was in a most vulnerable position. And read the whole story this afternoon. I did not list all the scripture verses on your outline, but David began to sneak up on Saul. And can’t you see that sword in his hand? And I am sure rushing through David’s mind were thoughts like, “With one thrust of my sword I could be King of Israel. No more running. No more sunburn. No more goat burgers. I can do it.” And he probably thought about what Saul had done to him, totally abused him. All of the charges brought against him had been unrealistic, they were from la la land. David was loyal to Saul. Right before David could kill Saul, he did something that was so counter-cultural, so unique, yet so Holy Spirit driven. David, instead of seeking revenge, pulls back and cuts a piece of Saul’s robe off and takes it with him far back in the shadows. Then Saul exits the cave.
A cave was there and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. What a chance for revenge and he didn’t take it. Here is the first principle I want you to grasp in thinking about the temptation of revenge. Prepare for the snare. Prepare for the snare, because the snare for revenge, the snare to pay someone back is real and it is going to be there and oftentimes God will deliver your Saul, that person who has really abused you, that person who has taken advantage of you, that person who has really messed you around, God, oftentimes will deliver them to your cave and you will have a chance, an opportunity, to really get back at them. Prepare for the snare. You have got to prepare before you get into the situation where you will be enticed to get that person back. And Jesus tells us how to prepare for the snare. Before I read this next verse, I want you to say this word with me. Ouch. Ouch. Because this verse hurts. This is a verse that is not popular, this verse hurts me, this verse hurts you because it really cuts to the quick. Matthew 5:44. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus has given us two things to do in order to prepare for the snare, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. David did that. Study the life of David. David was a man of prayer, a man who knew how to talk to God. I believe that when someone hurts us or takes advantage of us, the first thing we should do is start praying for them. Write their name out in our prayer journal and begin to pray. If we don’t, if we wait, if we let it fester, if we let it churn, then when that person is delivered to us we are going to jump on them and nail them because we have waited too long to prepare. We have waited too long to prepare if we wait until the opportunity for revenge presents itself. We have got to start preparing the moment the person has hurt us. We have to start saying, “God, I don’t want to love this person. I don’t even want to like this person. In fact, God, this person makes me sick, but Your word has told me I should pray for them.” And when you start praying for the person, God will give you an infusion over time of supernatural love and you’ll begin to love your enemy and that will help you prepare for the snare. Pray about it, then the love will come. And for many of us we are going to have to act like we love the person, because it is much easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action. We act our way into the feeling because it is right. It doesn’t feel right but it is right. Prepare for the snare.
Every time I see the word snare I think about a couple of years ago when we had a mouse problem in our house. We had a serious mouse problem. The mice were everywhere. One of my closest friends is paranoid about mice so I won’t call his name out, he is here in this service. Mice are kind of weird and spooky creatures, aren’t they. They have little beady eyes, little teeth, little paws. They were eating up all of my oat bran cereal. I got mad at them. I went to Tom Thumb and bought three mouse traps and I did what a typical mouse hunter would do. I put cheese on the traps. For three straight nights I set the traps with the cheese, woke up the next morning and looked in the pantry. The cheese was gone, oat bran was gone, these things were making me hot. So I began to talk to some people, some other mouse hunters and they told me that I needed peanut butter. They told me to put the peanut butter on the trap, which they love and which is rather sticky and chewy and will keep them at the trap. I even went one step further since we live in Texas and I love Mexican food. I put a little bit of tortilla
along with the peanut butter on the mouse traps. So I made three mouse fajitas on the three mouse traps and left them side by side. We had been in bed twenty minutes when we heard three loud bangs, the greatest sound in the world for a mouse hunter, I ran in and sure enough there were three of them. Kind of gross. What happened? They could not resist it. And because it was so chewy, and that Peter Pan peanut butter tasted so good, they couldn’t get away from it. And the traps nailed them. When that snare is there to really seek revenge, to really go after someone, it looks inviting so most of us rush into it and we chew the person out, we just get into it and we get into it too much. Revenge becomes part of us and bitterness and rage takes over. It is a matter of time before that giant trap will come down and get us. And we are wondering what is holding us back, and why we feel like we are dragging all this stuff around in our lives. It is because of the revenge factor. Prepare for the snare.
Number two. Show the way, don’t repay. That is what David did. I Samuel 24:6-8. “He said to his men, (David said to those 400 men renegade men with him after he had returned from cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe) the Lord forbid that I should … lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” David did not respect Saul as a person, he did, however, respect his position. David was loyal to Saul. God often puts someone in His chain of command over us, it could be the tyrant at work, it could be the unfair teacher, it could be the coach who is a jerk, it could be the parent who seems like they are out to Mars, whatever it is, God puts this person in our chain of command to teach us some things. He is going to see if we tear apart the person and the position or whether we respect the position. Do we respect God’s chain of command? Are we loyal in this realm? David was loyal to Saul. Even though we would say he should have taken him out. He was loyal to Saul. With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Then David went out of the cave. What a great opportunity to teach and David seized it. The men had told him to take Saul out, but David doesn’t, he comes back and he models to the men some true authenticity. He models to his men how to handle the urge to seek revenge. He models to his men how to pull back instead of pay back.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” Have you ever thought about this? What if God said this? What if God said, “You know what, I’m going to start repaying evil for evil. None of us would be here, not one because any sin, any little white lie, any little off day is abhorrent in the eyes of God and sin demands a punishment and if God had not sent Jesus Christ, He would have had to punish us for it and we wouldn’t be here. God did not repay evil for evil, he repaid evil with good by sending Jesus Christ to take the punishment on the cross for all of our sins. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” We have many, many people who are believers here, and some who are not, and if you are a believer this is the place for you and if you are a seeker, this is the place for you, but we pray that you will come into a personal relationship with Jesus. But let me talk to Christians for a second. If you are a Christian, you have people who are watching you. You have scores and scores of people who are watching your every more, your every word, where you go, what you say, what you do, what you don’t do, if you pay back or if you pull back. Parents are you teaching your children how to handle revenge properly? Are you modeling to them pulling back instead of paying back? I do not mean we are not to stand up for what we believe in. I do not mean that we should cower or back into the shadows and never confront anybody. Instead, I am talking about that selfishness, that one-upmanship, that revenge factor that infiltrates all of our lives. Are you teaching your kids how to deal with it?
As I read this verse this past week in studying for this message, I thought about how many, many times I have blown it as a Christian in my life. I have been around a lot of people who don’t know Christ, someone has hurt me and they have seen that I have been hurt and most of the time I have fallen into the temptation of slandering them, agreeing with them, laughing with them about this person instead of saying, not in some pietistic, super-spiritual tone, but in saying that we should love this guy or this girl. They matter to God too. I want to help them and I want to encourage them. How are you doing with that?
Romans 12:20. I want to prepare you for something here. Romans 12:20 freaked me out this week, because I had totally misinterpreted this verse. Let me read it. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Throughout my Christian life, and I have gone to seminary, have my master’s degree, studied Hebrew and Greek, I though that this verse meant that if someone has been mean to you, you are nice to them back, you feed them and give them something to drink and when you do that you are burning them up. You are taking hot coals and putting them on their head and you are just burning them up. And it is eating their lunch that you are being so nice to them. That is what I thought about that verse. How many in here thought about that verse in the same way? Well we are all wrong. Let me tell you what this text means.
This is a picture of a mid-eastern family whose fire has gone out. A fire was very, very important to those folks who lived thousands of years ago. If your fire had gone out back in Biblical times, you would often walk to a neighbor’s house, knock on the door and say that your fire had gone out. And if you had a really good neighbor, the good neighbor would pour some of their coals in an extra pot that they had, heat the coals for you, put a pad on your head, lift the pot of hot coals onto you head and your would carry the pot home. And everyone in the neighborhood would look at you carrying that pot of burning coals and they would know that you had a really great neighbor. “Their neighbors have really helped them by putting hot, burning coals on their head.” So you see when we return good for evil we are helping people, we are giving a Christ-like example, we’re showing people, we are heaping hot, helpful, burning coals on their heads.
Number three. Step back and let God act. That is what David did. Step back and let God act. When David walked out of the cave, listen to this, he had the piece of robe in his hand. Saul had gone a short way and he called out to him. I am sure Saul turned around astonished. The Bible says, “Saul said, Is that you, David, my son?” David turned and said, “Hey, Saul, see this piece of your robe?” And this evidence was not planted. And he began to talk to Saul. He began to share with Saul. And he shows respect to Saul. Do you know what Saul did? Saul begins to cry. He confesses, claims David as he son and begs forgiveness. He promises to never go after David again. If you study the life of Saul, he confessed his sin more than any other character in the Bible. Saul confessed his sin more than any other character in the Bible. More than Paul, yes. More than John, yes. More than Matthew, yes. More than Jonah, yes. Saul did. In fact, you skip over a couple of chapters to I Samuel 26, David had another chance to kill Saul. Saul and his men were asleep. He sneaks through the camp. Saul has a giant spear right by his head in the sand and David could have easily taken the spear and pinned Saul to the sand. He didn’t do it, though. The Bible says that he backed off and he let God act. He let God deal with him. David called to Saul again saying that once more he had had a chance to kill him, but had not done it. And Saul cried again in I Samuel 26 that he was so sorry. Saul confessed his sins, he felt sorry for his sins but, here is the kicker, he never repented. You can cry all day long, you can do the Saul thing week after week after week. You can confess your sins to God but unless you turn from your sins and repent, make an about-face, freedom will never occur. Purpose will never occur. A clean conscience will never occur. Negative behavior patterns will never be broken. You have got to confess it, turn from it, repent and then go the opposite way.
David said in I Samuel 24:12, “…may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.” Saul is the king of confession, but it never happened for him.
Romans 12:19. “Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath.” Don’t you like that one? Leave room for God’s wrath. Right now we are painting the interior of our home. As we prepared to paint the interior of our home we, well mostly Lisa to be honest, moved the furniture away from the walls and took down the pictures to make room for the painters. You don’t leave everything in place and have the painters paint around it. You have to make room for them. When we get into a situation where we want to really pay someone back, back off and leave room and let God deal it. “..for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” The basic problem is, we don’t wait on God, do we? We don’t wait on Him. Here is the principle. Every time we don’t wait on God, it will cause gaping holes in our lives. Did you hear that? Every time we don’t wait on God, it will cause gaping holes in our lives.
When I was thirteen years old I wanted one thing for Christmas; a boat. And my parents went down to K Mart and they purchased a boat for me, a 12-foot, aluminum john boat. We lived out in the country, fifteen miles from town. My father and I on Christmas morning carried this boat down our driveway, across the newly paved street, about 500 yards through some woods, put it in the lake. I fished, had a wonderful time. This went on for about three weeks. But you see a plain john boat was not enough for me. I like some flash, I’m kind of an artsy guy. I watch fishing shows a lot. I saw their boats were all painted up with these leaping bass on the side. I decided that I was going to paint my boat up like I was a professional fisherman. That way I knew my fishing would be improved, that I would catch bigger bass. So I told my father and he though the idea was great, he encouraged me and told me it was a creative thing to do. He promised that he would come home from work and help me carry the boat from the lake up to the house. He said he would arrive about 6 PM. I promised that I would wait. I had the paint out, the brushes ready to do. I started waiting for him early. When he didn’t arrive and didn’t arrive I decided to get the boat myself. I go down to the lake and pick the boat up by the handle on the front and drag it through the woods and across the street. Now when I am dragging this boat across the street I look back and I see sparks flying up. I think, no big deal. I drag it up our driveway, and we had a big, old, long driveway. Finally, my little arms are about to die, I take the boat and put it in the grass. I had the stencil and was painting and look up to see my Dad driving in. “Hi, Dad, how are you doing?” “Great. How did you get the boat up here by yourself?” “Dad, I pulled it.” He began to look at the artwork that I was creating, then walked to the back of the boat. He looked down and said, “Son, what is this hole doing back here in the boat? Come back here and look.” I looked and saw a gaping hole in the bottom of my brand new, K Mart, 12-foot aluminum john boat. I had ruined it. I had to buy some stuff to fill in the hole and it never worked. We had to sell the boat. It was horrible. What happened? I went before my father. I went before him. I didn’t listen to him. I waited for awhile and then I couldn’t stand it any more and I put it in my own hands, took care of it my own way, and it resulted in a gaping hole in my craft.
We all do the same thing when we go before God, instead of stepping back and letting God act.
Briefly just thumb through the photo albums of your mind. Look at those snapshots of people that you want to seek revenge on, those people you want to pay back. Do you have a good picture? Who is it? Who is it? Because God is going to deliver that person to you, He is going to give you a chance either to pay back or pull back. It is going to be a test, and if we pass the test, if we pull back, if we pray, if we love our enemy, it will build great character into our lives. If we don’t, we will end up dragging a trap around for the rest of our lives. Pay back or pull back. Revenge or reconciliation. The choice is up to you.