Exploiting the Death of the King

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08 Oct 2023

Exploiting the Death of the King

Passage 2 Samuel 1:1–16

Speaker Steve Nichols

Service Evening

Series David: Following the True King of Israel (no livestream was recorded)

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Passage: 2 Samuel 1:1–16

After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honour.

‘Where have you come from?’ David asked him.

He answered, ‘I have escaped from the Israelite camp.’

‘What happened?’ David asked. ‘Tell me.’

‘The men fled from the battle,’ he replied. ‘Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.’

Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, ‘How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?’

‘I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,’ the young man said, ‘and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. When he turned round and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, “What can I do?”

‘He asked me, “Who are you?”

‘“An Amalekite,” I answered.

‘Then he said to me, “Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.”

10 ‘So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.’

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, ‘Where are you from?’

‘I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,’ he answered.

14 David asked him, ‘Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’

15 Then David called one of his men and said, ‘Go, strike him down!’ So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, ‘Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, “I killed the Lord’s anointed.”’

New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

You. The word is taken from the second book of SAmuel, chapter one, verses one to 16. That is page 305 in the Church Bible.

After the death of SAul, when David had returned from striking down the AmaleKites, DaVid remained two days in Ziglag. And on the third day old, a man came from Saul's camp with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell on the ground and paid homage. David said to him, where do you come from? He said to him, I have escaped from the camp of Israel.

And David said to him, how did it go? Tell me. And he answered, the people fled from the battle, and also many of the people were fallen under, dead. And SAul and his son Jonathan are also dead. Then David said to the young man, who told him, how do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?

And the young man told him, and by chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa. And there was SAul leaning on his spear. And behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, here I am.

And he said to me, who are you? I answered him, I am an Amalekite. And he said to me, stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers. So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I brought them here to my lord.

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men that were with him. And they mourned, and they wept, and they fasted until evening for SAul and for Jonathan his son, and for the People of the Lord and for the House of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. And David said to the young man, who told him, where you come from? And he answered me, I am the son of a sojourner, an amalekite. David said to him, how is it that you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the lord's anointed?

Then David called one of the young men and said to him, go, execute him. And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, your blood be on your head, for from your own mouth has testified against you, saying, I have killed the Lord's anointed. This is the word of the Lord.

Thank you, Jonathan, for reading for us. It's a solemn reading. This morning, isn't it? Before we look at it, can I just kind of add my greeting to steve? Say how lovely it is to see you here.

I hope you've had a good weekend and it's lovely to meet together as a church family today, to sing God's praise, to hear his word, to pray together for our world in its great need. We're so aware of it at the moment, of course, aren't we? But at all times, and just to encourage you again to pray this evening at our Christianity explored series in our evening services. Maybe you came last week. If you did, you would have seen a lot of people here, certainly many I didn't recognise.

And it was wonderful to have so many here. Please, would you pray that they'll come back this evening? And maybe if you're not able to be here, why not set an alarm on your phone to pray this evening at 06:00 would you do that? It'd be lovely to know there's just an army of prayers around Linfield praying for this evening, praying that the Lord would open eyes, open hearts, to hear and receive God's word. So can we do that?

Be wonderful to do that together. Anyway, this morning we are in two Samuel, chapter one. And if you haven't got a Bible, you might find it helpful this morning. So if you would like one, please just raise a hand. There's Tim, ready and poised.

So, John here in the transept. And some of us have it on our phones. I realise that some of us bring our own bibles, but it is helpful to have it open and we're going to do a Bible study together this morning, everybody. As I've been studying this chapter this week, I have found it, I must say, one of the most chilling chapters in the whole Bible, one of the most chilling and frightening chapters, because it teaches us, as we'll see. I think that it warns us that it's possible to use the death of Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed one, for our own ends.

It's possible to use the death of the Lord Jesus to push ourselves forward. Well, I'll try and explain as we go through this chapter why I think that is the case. But if you're here for the first time this morning, warm welcome to you. We're following a series on the life of David. Perhaps David was the most famous king of Israel, but at this point he's not yet king.

And I'd like us just to give us a little background so we might set this in context. We're in Israel. It's about a thousand bc. And a man called Saul is the king. He's the king of Israel.

And we've seen over previous weeks that the role of the king was hugely significant. It's important for us to understand that today the role of the king for what unfolds in our chapter. The kings of Israel were meant to be human signposts pointing to the real king, the true king, the Lord himself and his anointed, his promised Messiah. And if we want to explore that a little bit more, we could look at one Samuel, chapter eight.

One day, Jesus would be born king of the Jews. He was and always has been the real king. But the human kings were signposts. However flawed they were, they had an important role to play. And the way that they behaved was important because of who they pointed to.

And the way that other people related to them was important because of who they pointed to. And Saul was the first king of Israel. And he starts well, he starts well. But in chapter 15, the Lord told him to bring his judgement on a group of people called the Amalekites. And again, if you want to find out a little bit more about the amalekites, Exodus chapter 17 will be the place to turn.

If you ever seen those nature programmes on the BBC. The Amalekites were like the hyenas that are always lurking around in the background, trying to pick off the smallest and the weakest, the most frail. And when the Israelites came out of Egypt and were going through the wilderness, there were the Amalekites in the shadows, picking off those at the back. They were vicious, abusive, violent. They had plagued the Israelites for generations.

And the Lord said, is enough, is enough. Judgement will come on the Amalekites. And he instructed Saul to put them to death to bring his judgement. But Saul doesn't finish the job. Saul spares some of the Amalekites, including their king, and he takes the Amalekites treasure and lines his own pockets with it.

Saul fails to be a good signpost at that point. He doesn't point to God's messiah very well. And the Lord rejects Saul and lines up the next king, David. And if you were here, you remember we looked at David being anointed. And even though Saul is trying to murder David and pursues him, and David has to run for his life, David won't lay a hand on Saul, even when he has the opportunity, because he knows that Saul is a signpost king.

He's God's anointed king. He's pointing to the real king and David will not lay a hand on him.

And it's because he is a signpost king that what the amalekite does in our chapter this morning is so wicked. So here we are. That's all the background. Let's look down now at two Samuel, chapter one. And let me read a verse or two to you.

Two Samuel, chapter one, from verse one. After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. On the third day, a man arrived from Saul's camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. Now, there had been two battles going on in Israel at this same time. Up in the north on the mount of Gilboa, Mount Gilboa, there was Saul and the israelite army, and they had just fought a battle with the Philistines.

Meanwhile, down in the south, at the same time, David had been fighting the Amalekites, David's battle is over. David had been doing what Saul should have been doing, bringing God's judgement on the Amalekites. And he's won a victory. He's returned to his base and there he is. And he doesn't know what's happened up north with King Saul and the Philistines.

But as he's resting, a man stumbles into his camp. And you can picture the scene, can't you? His clothes are torn. There's dust on his head. Maybe he's blood stained.

He stumbles into David's camp and he is desperate to see David, or perhaps, as we'll see, he's desperate to make sure that he gets to David before anybody else does. What's happened? David asks him. Tell me verse six. I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa, the amalekite says.

And there was Saul leaning on his spear. The Philistines were almost on top of him, and he saw me. And he said to me, verse nine, stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me and yet my life lingers. So I stood beside him and killed him because I was sure he could not live after he'd fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.

Well, what do you make of that? At first glance, it looks like a straight report of the battle. But the problem is there's another account of this battle in the chapter before, in one Samuel 31. And the two accounts do not match up. We've seen over the previous few weeks that Saul's reign has begun to unravel.

And in one Samuel 31, the narrator records its sorry end. If you would just turn back or look across the page to one Samuel 31, we'll read a few verses and just see if you can spot the differences. So this is a record of the battle and of Saul's death. Now, the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malkeshua, the sons of Saul.

The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armour bearer, draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through and mistreat me. But his armour bearer would not do it, for he feared greatly. Then Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armour bearer saw that he was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him.

Thus Saul died and his three sons and his armour bearer and all his men on the same day together.

So there is Saul taking his last stand, and he sees that all is lost. And when no one will help him, he falls on his own sword. He takes his own life. And the narrator makes it clear there were witnesses to that. Saul's armour bearer sees that he's dead in verse five.

The Israelites see that he's dead in verse seven. And the Philistines verses 810, they see as well. But in our passage, two Samuel, one, the Amalekite rushes into David's presence with a different story. According to the Amalekite, I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa. No mention of the armour bearer.

And there he sees King Saul fatally wounded, who, according to him, begs him for mercy, begs him to end his suffering. He says, I only did what he asked. It was a mercy killing. You should be grateful, David. I helped him in his final moments.

And David hears the crown.

Well, what do you make of it? The two accounts don't match up, do they? Now, there are those who say, well, the Bible is full of contradictions. So I'm not surprised if anybody says that to you. The Bible is full of contradictions.

My response is always, give me your top three.

And I've yet to hear them.

These two accounts don't match. But before we accuse the Bible of contradicting itself, perhaps there is another solution. The Bible is without error in all that it affirms. It is without error in all that it affirms. Where the Bible records a lie, it records that lie perfectly without error.

And I think that is what is going on here. The Amalekites report is a lie. We're not meant to believe him. He didn't kill Saul, but what he's doing in two Samuel one is every bit as chilling. For him.

The death of the lord's anointed, the signpost king, was simply an opportunity to get ahead.

The truth is he had probably slithered around on the battlefield like a coward. And seeing Saul commit suicide, he'd robbed the body and he ran as fast as he could with the crown jewels and presented them to David. He sees his opportunity to get advancement himself. He is using the death of the Lord's anointed to get what he wants. And as he bows down before David and offers him the crown, he must have thought his future was made.

He must have thought David would be delighted. David had been waiting for this moment for years. And finally I can present him with this good news.

Well, plenty of people have tried to use the death of the Lord's anointed for their own ends. Judas Iscariot did that. Judas Iscariot saw the death of the Lord's anointed king, Jesus the Messiah, as a way to satisfy his greed. For him, the death of Jesus was worth a bag of 30 silver coins. Simon the sorcerer in acts chapter eight, he sees people receiving the Holy Spirit through the ministry of Peter and John.

And he offers them money if they'll only give him that ability as well.

Sometimes it's position using Jesus as a stepping stone to positions of power and influence. So in Mark, chapter ten, do you remember James and John, those disciples of Jesus? They try to use Jesus as a platform for themselves. Let one of us sit at your right and one at your left in your glory. They say in three.

John. A little letter. Near the end of the New Testament, we come across a church member called diotrophes. And all that it says about him in the Bible is he loved to be first. What a record to have against your name.

He loved to be first. But how many of us are the same? We love to be noticed. We love to be first. A missionary friend told me once that in shame cultures around the world, when somebody becomes a Christian from another faith background, they're frequently rejected by their family and bring great shame on their family and on their community.

And to compensate, she said, it's not uncommon for that new Christian to go looking for a position or status in the church to overcome the shame.

I think there's something of the Amalekite lurking in all our hearts, isn't there? There's something of the amalekite in all of us. When we try to look good or get ahead or impress other people, when church becomes a place for other people to notice us.

John Stott used to say that the pulpit is a dangerous place for a son of Adam.

It is. And so is the connect group leaders chair and the seat on the church council and the responsibility for leading us in public prayer. And I'm so grateful for our musicians, our choir, who are so self effacing as they lead us in our music. But it is possible, a musician friend told me, the temptation for it to become an opportunity for a performance. None of us wants that, least of all our musicians.

I know you don't have to be in a position of leadership, of course, to use the Lord Jesus and what he's done to use his church as a platform. What about when we tell stories to one another to make ourselves look better than we really are? We go to a meeting to get our own way rather than to listen to the wisdom of others? It's possible to use Jesus and what he's done to serve ourselves.

It's possible to use the death of Jesus another way. Of course, we might accept his forgiveness for our sins, and yet life goes on just the same.

We accept God's forgiveness, but we don't allow him to change our lives. We come to church. We join in with all that goes on here. But at home, in our relationships, nobody would be able to tell that we were a Christian. We live just the same.

Our life hasn't changed at all. We treat the death of Jesus maybe just as a free pass. Cheap grace, a nice hobby for a Sunday.

Paul says in romans six, when we trusted in Jesus, we were united to him. We died to sin. We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer, using the death of Jesus to serve ourselves? Life goes on just as it has before.

Well, the amalekite delivers the crown. He must have thought this was his moment. This is what David wanted. This is what he'd been waiting for. But he doesn't get the reaction he's expecting, does he?

Rather than celebrating that, Saul, his tormentor, is dead and the throne is now his. David and his men, what do they do? They tear their clothes. Verse 14. David asks, how is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord's?

Anointed.

David believed that the amalekite had killed Saul. It didn't matter that he hadn't. The amalekite had used Saul's death as a stepping stone for his own selfish ends. And to show such contempt for the Lord's signpost king was to show contempt for the one the signpost king was pointing to, God's promised Messiah. Strike him down, David said.

So he struck him down and he died.

Well, if the amalekite is a warning as we end, David is an example to us. However flawed Saul was, David doesn't celebrate Saul's downfall. And I wonder what your reaction, and mine is when we hear of a christian leader's downfall, and there have been so many in recent months and years, it's very easy for us, perhaps, to say, do you know what? I'm not surprised. Or at least to think that, well, you know, the network, they move in, you know their background.

I'm not surprised. You know, it's hardly surprising. He was always a bit prickly whenever I spoke to him. He's part of that crowd.

If we're tempted to look down on those who've fallen, to think it could never happen to us, then we should take to heart Paul's warning in one corinthians ten. If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall over. The last couple of years at all Saints, we've been looking at our own church life and culture here. We've been looking at one of the reports, or a report made by a safeguarding organisation, 31 eight into abuse at a church in Wimbledon. And we've been examining if there are lessons that we need to learn as a church family here.

We want this church to be as safe a place as it can possibly be. But we would be naive to think it could never happen here. No, we take safeguarding very, very seriously and we want the gospel of God's grace to sink into our hearts and to permeate our relationships.

Saul's death wasn't just a personal tragedy for David, it was a tragedy for God's people. And David knows that and he mourns in verse twelve.

But the true king was coming. David's greater son, the true king of the Jews, was coming. And Jesus never pushed himself forward. Jesus never used other people as a stepping stone to his own glory. In fact, the Bible says he laid aside all his rights and his privileges when he came to earth.

He humbled himself and became a human being. He became obedient to death. He came into this earth to die, taking on himself at the cross. Our pride, our selfishness. All those times when we have taken for granted the Lord's death, he took that on himself.

You see, there's a wrong. Taking advantage of his death like this amalekite. But there is. The Bible says, a right. Taking advantage of Jesus' death.

The Lord gave his life for us and wants us to take advantage of that for ourselves.

Jesus said to Peter on one occasion, Peter, unless I wash you, unless I wash you, you have no part with me. He was talking about his death and the cleansing from sin that his death would bring. Unless you take advantage of this, Peter, you have no part with me. Unless we rely on Jesus' death to forgive us and to wash away our sins, then we remain enemies and strangers to him. Unless we take advantage of what Jesus did for us, then our guilt remains.

But if we rely on him, if we rely on his downfall, if we can put it like that at the cross, if we say, Lord Jesus, I am guilty. I know I am. I know that so many times I have pushed myself forward. I have been selfish and self seeking. I've been judgmental of others.

I've been proud, and I'm not proud of myself. If we say that to him, then he promises that he will forgive us. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

I wonder, maybe there's somebody here this morning who's never taken advantage of Jesus' death in that way, as he wants us to, to rely on him. He died for me. Well, the one place he says he will meet us is at the cross.

So this morning. If you have never done that before, then as we pray, why not thank the Lord that what he did at the cross he did for you.

All those times we have used his death wrongly, taken it for granted, and life goes on the same. All those times we have used church as an opportunity to push ourselves forwards, to impress others, to get ahead, we ask his forgiveness. Shall we have a moment of quiet? In a moment, we're going to sing this wonderful hymn of Isaac Watts.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Let's have a moment of quiet, and then I'll lead us in prayer.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, your word reminds us that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Please forgive us when we have tried to use the death of Jesus for our own ends. Forgive us when we have tried to impress other people and push ourselves forward. We thank you that your son, the Lord Jesus, came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Thank you that he died for us. And we ask for your cleansing, your cleansing this morning, and grace, Lord, to love and serve one another in the week ahead. And we ask these things in Jesus most precious name. Amen.

After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honour.

‘Where have you come from?’ David asked him.

He answered, ‘I have escaped from the Israelite camp.’

‘What happened?’ David asked. ‘Tell me.’

‘The men fled from the battle,’ he replied. ‘Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.’

Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, ‘How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?’

‘I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,’ the young man said, ‘and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. When he turned round and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, “What can I do?”

‘He asked me, “Who are you?”

‘“An Amalekite,” I answered.

‘Then he said to me, “Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.”

10 ‘So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.’

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, ‘Where are you from?’

‘I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,’ he answered.

14 David asked him, ‘Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’

15 Then David called one of his men and said, ‘Go, strike him down!’ So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, ‘Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, “I killed the Lord’s anointed.”’

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and therefore may not be 100% accurate

You. The word is taken from the second book of SAmuel, chapter one, verses one to 16. That is page 305 in the Church Bible.

After the death of SAul, when David had returned from striking down the AmaleKites, DaVid remained two days in Ziglag. And on the third day old, a man came from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell on the ground and paid homage. David said to him, where do you come from? He said to him, I have escaped from the camp of Israel.

And David said to him, how did it go? Tell me. And he answered, the people fled from the battle, and also many of the people were fallen under, dead. And SAul and his son Jonathan are also dead. Then David said to the young man, who told him, how do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?

And the young man told him, and by chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa. And there was SAul leaning on his spear. And behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, here I am.

And he said to me, who are you? I answered him, I am an Amalekite. And he said to me, stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers. So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I brought them here to my lord.

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men that were with him. And they mourned, and they wept, and they fasted until evening for SAul and for Jonathan his son, and for the People of the Lord and for the House of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. And David said to the young man, who told him, where you come from? And he answered me, I am the son of a sojourner, an amalekite. David said to him, how is it that you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the lord’s anointed?

Then David called one of the young men and said to him, go, execute him. And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, your blood be on your head, for from your own mouth has testified against you, saying, I have killed the Lord’s anointed. This is the word of the Lord.

Thank you, Jonathan, for reading for us. It’s a solemn reading. This morning, isn’t it? Before we look at it, can I just kind of add my greeting to steve? Say how lovely it is to see you here.

I hope you’ve had a good weekend and it’s lovely to meet together as a church family today, to sing God’s praise, to hear his word, to pray together for our world in its great need. We’re so aware of it at the moment, of course, aren’t we? But at all times, and just to encourage you again to pray this evening at our Christianity explored series in our evening services. Maybe you came last week. If you did, you would have seen a lot of people here, certainly many I didn’t recognise.

And it was wonderful to have so many here. Please, would you pray that they’ll come back this evening? And maybe if you’re not able to be here, why not set an alarm on your phone to pray this evening at 06:00 would you do that? It’d be lovely to know there’s just an army of prayers around Linfield praying for this evening, praying that the Lord would open eyes, open hearts, to hear and receive God’s word. So can we do that?

Be wonderful to do that together. Anyway, this morning we are in two Samuel, chapter one. And if you haven’t got a Bible, you might find it helpful this morning. So if you would like one, please just raise a hand. There’s Tim, ready and poised.

So, John here in the transept. And some of us have it on our phones. I realise that some of us bring our own bibles, but it is helpful to have it open and we’re going to do a Bible study together this morning, everybody. As I’ve been studying this chapter this week, I have found it, I must say, one of the most chilling chapters in the whole Bible, one of the most chilling and frightening chapters, because it teaches us, as we’ll see. I think that it warns us that it’s possible to use the death of Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed one, for our own ends.

It’s possible to use the death of the Lord Jesus to push ourselves forward. Well, I’ll try and explain as we go through this chapter why I think that is the case. But if you’re here for the first time this morning, warm welcome to you. We’re following a series on the life of David. Perhaps David was the most famous king of Israel, but at this point he’s not yet king.

And I’d like us just to give us a little background so we might set this in context. We’re in Israel. It’s about a thousand bc. And a man called Saul is the king. He’s the king of Israel.

And we’ve seen over previous weeks that the role of the king was hugely significant. It’s important for us to understand that today the role of the king for what unfolds in our chapter. The kings of Israel were meant to be human signposts pointing to the real king, the true king, the Lord himself and his anointed, his promised Messiah. And if we want to explore that a little bit more, we could look at one Samuel, chapter eight.

One day, Jesus would be born king of the Jews. He was and always has been the real king. But the human kings were signposts. However flawed they were, they had an important role to play. And the way that they behaved was important because of who they pointed to.

And the way that other people related to them was important because of who they pointed to. And Saul was the first king of Israel. And he starts well, he starts well. But in chapter 15, the Lord told him to bring his judgement on a group of people called the Amalekites. And again, if you want to find out a little bit more about the amalekites, Exodus chapter 17 will be the place to turn.

If you ever seen those nature programmes on the BBC. The Amalekites were like the hyenas that are always lurking around in the background, trying to pick off the smallest and the weakest, the most frail. And when the Israelites came out of Egypt and were going through the wilderness, there were the Amalekites in the shadows, picking off those at the back. They were vicious, abusive, violent. They had plagued the Israelites for generations.

And the Lord said, is enough, is enough. Judgement will come on the Amalekites. And he instructed Saul to put them to death to bring his judgement. But Saul doesn’t finish the job. Saul spares some of the Amalekites, including their king, and he takes the Amalekites treasure and lines his own pockets with it.

Saul fails to be a good signpost at that point. He doesn’t point to God’s messiah very well. And the Lord rejects Saul and lines up the next king, David. And if you were here, you remember we looked at David being anointed. And even though Saul is trying to murder David and pursues him, and David has to run for his life, David won’t lay a hand on Saul, even when he has the opportunity, because he knows that Saul is a signpost king.

He’s God’s anointed king. He’s pointing to the real king and David will not lay a hand on him.

And it’s because he is a signpost king that what the amalekite does in our chapter this morning is so wicked. So here we are. That’s all the background. Let’s look down now at two Samuel, chapter one. And let me read a verse or two to you.

Two Samuel, chapter one, from verse one. After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. On the third day, a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. Now, there had been two battles going on in Israel at this same time. Up in the north on the mount of Gilboa, Mount Gilboa, there was Saul and the israelite army, and they had just fought a battle with the Philistines.

Meanwhile, down in the south, at the same time, David had been fighting the Amalekites, David’s battle is over. David had been doing what Saul should have been doing, bringing God’s judgement on the Amalekites. And he’s won a victory. He’s returned to his base and there he is. And he doesn’t know what’s happened up north with King Saul and the Philistines.

But as he’s resting, a man stumbles into his camp. And you can picture the scene, can’t you? His clothes are torn. There’s dust on his head. Maybe he’s blood stained.

He stumbles into David’s camp and he is desperate to see David, or perhaps, as we’ll see, he’s desperate to make sure that he gets to David before anybody else does. What’s happened? David asks him. Tell me verse six. I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa, the amalekite says.

And there was Saul leaning on his spear. The Philistines were almost on top of him, and he saw me. And he said to me, verse nine, stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me and yet my life lingers. So I stood beside him and killed him because I was sure he could not live after he’d fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.

Well, what do you make of that? At first glance, it looks like a straight report of the battle. But the problem is there’s another account of this battle in the chapter before, in one Samuel 31. And the two accounts do not match up. We’ve seen over the previous few weeks that Saul’s reign has begun to unravel.

And in one Samuel 31, the narrator records its sorry end. If you would just turn back or look across the page to one Samuel 31, we’ll read a few verses and just see if you can spot the differences. So this is a record of the battle and of Saul’s death. Now, the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malkeshua, the sons of Saul.

The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armour bearer, draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through and mistreat me. But his armour bearer would not do it, for he feared greatly. Then Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armour bearer saw that he was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him.

Thus Saul died and his three sons and his armour bearer and all his men on the same day together.

So there is Saul taking his last stand, and he sees that all is lost. And when no one will help him, he falls on his own sword. He takes his own life. And the narrator makes it clear there were witnesses to that. Saul’s armour bearer sees that he’s dead in verse five.

The Israelites see that he’s dead in verse seven. And the Philistines verses 810, they see as well. But in our passage, two Samuel, one, the Amalekite rushes into David’s presence with a different story. According to the Amalekite, I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa. No mention of the armour bearer.

And there he sees King Saul fatally wounded, who, according to him, begs him for mercy, begs him to end his suffering. He says, I only did what he asked. It was a mercy killing. You should be grateful, David. I helped him in his final moments.

And David hears the crown.

Well, what do you make of it? The two accounts don’t match up, do they? Now, there are those who say, well, the Bible is full of contradictions. So I’m not surprised if anybody says that to you. The Bible is full of contradictions.

My response is always, give me your top three.

And I’ve yet to hear them.

These two accounts don’t match. But before we accuse the Bible of contradicting itself, perhaps there is another solution. The Bible is without error in all that it affirms. It is without error in all that it affirms. Where the Bible records a lie, it records that lie perfectly without error.

And I think that is what is going on here. The Amalekites report is a lie. We’re not meant to believe him. He didn’t kill Saul, but what he’s doing in two Samuel one is every bit as chilling. For him.

The death of the lord’s anointed, the signpost king, was simply an opportunity to get ahead.

The truth is he had probably slithered around on the battlefield like a coward. And seeing Saul commit suicide, he’d robbed the body and he ran as fast as he could with the crown jewels and presented them to David. He sees his opportunity to get advancement himself. He is using the death of the Lord’s anointed to get what he wants. And as he bows down before David and offers him the crown, he must have thought his future was made.

He must have thought David would be delighted. David had been waiting for this moment for years. And finally I can present him with this good news.

Well, plenty of people have tried to use the death of the Lord’s anointed for their own ends. Judas Iscariot did that. Judas Iscariot saw the death of the Lord’s anointed king, Jesus the Messiah, as a way to satisfy his greed. For him, the death of Jesus was worth a bag of 30 silver coins. Simon the sorcerer in acts chapter eight, he sees people receiving the Holy Spirit through the ministry of Peter and John.

And he offers them money if they’ll only give him that ability as well.

Sometimes it’s position using Jesus as a stepping stone to positions of power and influence. So in Mark, chapter ten, do you remember James and John, those disciples of Jesus? They try to use Jesus as a platform for themselves. Let one of us sit at your right and one at your left in your glory. They say in three.

John. A little letter. Near the end of the New Testament, we come across a church member called diotrophes. And all that it says about him in the Bible is he loved to be first. What a record to have against your name.

He loved to be first. But how many of us are the same? We love to be noticed. We love to be first. A missionary friend told me once that in shame cultures around the world, when somebody becomes a Christian from another faith background, they’re frequently rejected by their family and bring great shame on their family and on their community.

And to compensate, she said, it’s not uncommon for that new Christian to go looking for a position or status in the church to overcome the shame.

I think there’s something of the Amalekite lurking in all our hearts, isn’t there? There’s something of the amalekite in all of us. When we try to look good or get ahead or impress other people, when church becomes a place for other people to notice us.

John Stott used to say that the pulpit is a dangerous place for a son of Adam.

It is. And so is the connect group leaders chair and the seat on the church council and the responsibility for leading us in public prayer. And I’m so grateful for our musicians, our choir, who are so self effacing as they lead us in our music. But it is possible, a musician friend told me, the temptation for it to become an opportunity for a performance. None of us wants that, least of all our musicians.

I know you don’t have to be in a position of leadership, of course, to use the Lord Jesus and what he’s done to use his church as a platform. What about when we tell stories to one another to make ourselves look better than we really are? We go to a meeting to get our own way rather than to listen to the wisdom of others? It’s possible to use Jesus and what he’s done to serve ourselves.

It’s possible to use the death of Jesus another way. Of course, we might accept his forgiveness for our sins, and yet life goes on just the same.

We accept God’s forgiveness, but we don’t allow him to change our lives. We come to church. We join in with all that goes on here. But at home, in our relationships, nobody would be able to tell that we were a Christian. We live just the same.

Our life hasn’t changed at all. We treat the death of Jesus maybe just as a free pass. Cheap grace, a nice hobby for a Sunday.

Paul says in romans six, when we trusted in Jesus, we were united to him. We died to sin. We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer, using the death of Jesus to serve ourselves? Life goes on just as it has before.

Well, the amalekite delivers the crown. He must have thought this was his moment. This is what David wanted. This is what he’d been waiting for. But he doesn’t get the reaction he’s expecting, does he?

Rather than celebrating that, Saul, his tormentor, is dead and the throne is now his. David and his men, what do they do? They tear their clothes. Verse 14. David asks, how is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord’s?

Anointed.

David believed that the amalekite had killed Saul. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t. The amalekite had used Saul’s death as a stepping stone for his own selfish ends. And to show such contempt for the Lord’s signpost king was to show contempt for the one the signpost king was pointing to, God’s promised Messiah. Strike him down, David said.

So he struck him down and he died.

Well, if the amalekite is a warning as we end, David is an example to us. However flawed Saul was, David doesn’t celebrate Saul’s downfall. And I wonder what your reaction, and mine is when we hear of a christian leader’s downfall, and there have been so many in recent months and years, it’s very easy for us, perhaps, to say, do you know what? I’m not surprised. Or at least to think that, well, you know, the network, they move in, you know their background.

I’m not surprised. You know, it’s hardly surprising. He was always a bit prickly whenever I spoke to him. He’s part of that crowd.

If we’re tempted to look down on those who’ve fallen, to think it could never happen to us, then we should take to heart Paul’s warning in one corinthians ten. If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall over. The last couple of years at all Saints, we’ve been looking at our own church life and culture here. We’ve been looking at one of the reports, or a report made by a safeguarding organisation, 31 eight into abuse at a church in Wimbledon. And we’ve been examining if there are lessons that we need to learn as a church family here.

We want this church to be as safe a place as it can possibly be. But we would be naive to think it could never happen here. No, we take safeguarding very, very seriously and we want the gospel of God’s grace to sink into our hearts and to permeate our relationships.

Saul’s death wasn’t just a personal tragedy for David, it was a tragedy for God’s people. And David knows that and he mourns in verse twelve.

But the true king was coming. David’s greater son, the true king of the Jews, was coming. And Jesus never pushed himself forward. Jesus never used other people as a stepping stone to his own glory. In fact, the Bible says he laid aside all his rights and his privileges when he came to earth.

He humbled himself and became a human being. He became obedient to death. He came into this earth to die, taking on himself at the cross. Our pride, our selfishness. All those times when we have taken for granted the Lord’s death, he took that on himself.

You see, there’s a wrong. Taking advantage of his death like this amalekite. But there is. The Bible says, a right. Taking advantage of Jesus’ death.

The Lord gave his life for us and wants us to take advantage of that for ourselves.

Jesus said to Peter on one occasion, Peter, unless I wash you, unless I wash you, you have no part with me. He was talking about his death and the cleansing from sin that his death would bring. Unless you take advantage of this, Peter, you have no part with me. Unless we rely on Jesus’ death to forgive us and to wash away our sins, then we remain enemies and strangers to him. Unless we take advantage of what Jesus did for us, then our guilt remains.

But if we rely on him, if we rely on his downfall, if we can put it like that at the cross, if we say, Lord Jesus, I am guilty. I know I am. I know that so many times I have pushed myself forward. I have been selfish and self seeking. I’ve been judgmental of others.

I’ve been proud, and I’m not proud of myself. If we say that to him, then he promises that he will forgive us. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

I wonder, maybe there’s somebody here this morning who’s never taken advantage of Jesus’ death in that way, as he wants us to, to rely on him. He died for me. Well, the one place he says he will meet us is at the cross.

So this morning. If you have never done that before, then as we pray, why not thank the Lord that what he did at the cross he did for you.

All those times we have used his death wrongly, taken it for granted, and life goes on the same. All those times we have used church as an opportunity to push ourselves forwards, to impress others, to get ahead, we ask his forgiveness. Shall we have a moment of quiet? In a moment, we’re going to sing this wonderful hymn of Isaac Watts.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Let’s have a moment of quiet, and then I’ll lead us in prayer.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, your word reminds us that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Please forgive us when we have tried to use the death of Jesus for our own ends. Forgive us when we have tried to impress other people and push ourselves forward. We thank you that your son, the Lord Jesus, came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Thank you that he died for us. And we ask for your cleansing, your cleansing this morning, and grace, Lord, to love and serve one another in the week ahead. And we ask these things in Jesus most precious name. Amen.

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