1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 2) – Church Outreach: It’s A Model Not And End To Itself

Posted: March 14, 2018 in Book of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 2 of 3)
Jonathan Helps David

I promise that we will get to the characters in this story in the next two of what will now be four blogs instead of three on this passage. But I am still kind of fixated on this festival thing for a second straight blog. So bear with me one more day.

The thing that struck me today was something that my former senior pastor taught me and has stuck with me going forward from there. As many of you know, Elena and I were heavily involved in our church’s community outreach events when we were at LifeSong in Lyman, SC. Over the years there, we helped prepare, stage, and lead community events for our church. The key thing Jeff Hickman told us as to why we did these over the top events for the community like the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway. At this event where we gave away turkeys and all the fixings for a complete Thanksgiving meal to the 500 or more families that showed up at the church on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Most churches would invite people to the church for a cafeteria style meal where the less fortunate would eat a Thanksgiving Meal in an assembly line fashion. We did it differently in that we gave away 500 or more turkeys and boxes and cans of food for a thanksgiving meal that the family could take home and cook and have a meal in the privacy of their own home or home a friend or whatever. It was a whole church, all hands on deck kind of event.

The reason that we did this event and others around the community (pop-up bible schools for kids in apartment complexes during the summer, giving away free hot dogs at the community Halloween festival in the mill village, fireworks show at Byrnes High School, going into to neighborhoods and giving away free groceries, having a completely free and open to the community fall festival on our campus with rides, games, etc., giving our people cases of water to give away in their communities on a hot August Sunday afternoon, you name it) was to model the way we should be living our lives every day, according to Pastor Jeff. We did these things to get our people to understand that these events were not an end unto themselves but rather practice for us to reach people with the gospel. Sure, the events would pique people’s interest about our church and would bring us people that would not have encountered the love of Christ otherwise. That was for sure half of why we did it. We needed to encounter people with uncommon love that would draw them to our church where they would then hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and hopefully change their eternal future. The other half of the coin was that these events were for our people as well. We needed them to have a practical example of how we need to love the world in uncommon ways and always be at the ready to help people without expectation of payback, love people without expectation or requiring that it be returned, to love like Jesus did, sacrificially.

Most of our people took that to heart. And these events were so impactful in their maturity in Christ. They took the lesson and began loving people in their daily lives in the same way. It was awesome to see people take the lesson and run with it. And learn that we are all ministers each and every day wherever we go. We love the world around us not so that we can be seen doing it but rather because we love Jesus. We do not need to be tapped on the shoulder to do a project. We just see ways each and every day of how to love the world around us in such a way that they are brought toward an encounter with the gospel.

However, as with anything, there are those who saw the events that we did as a church their service to the neighbor. They simply participated in the events as a checkoff list item for having “done their good deed.” There were those who just didn’t get that it was a model for how they should live their lives every day. It was simply to them about checking off their good deed list. It was about hanging out with their buddies from church. It was about being seen. It was about us vs. them – you know that mentality where church people act churchy and see others outside the church as “’them”. As with anything that humans do in the name of the Lord, there are those who simply go through the motions and are not wholly affected by participating in a gospel outreach event.

That was what I saw of Saul in this passage today. That idea of just going through the motions of being an outwardly righteous person but who is just really going through the motions for the show of it is what I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Samuel 20 again this morning for this second time.

Let’s read the passage with that idea in mind (we will deal with the actions of the characters, David, Jonathan and Saul in the next two blogs on this passage/chapter):

Chapter 20
1 David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”

3 Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”

4 “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.

5 David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. 6 If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. 7 If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. 8 Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!”

9 “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”

10 Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?”

11 “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. 13 But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,[a] saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile.[b] 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. 23 And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.”

24 So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him[c] and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”

30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!”[d] he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.

34 Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.

35 The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. 36 “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. 38 Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. 39 He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. 40 Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town.

41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile.[e] Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.

42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

In this passage, we see that the Israelites celebrated a new moon festival. It involved making a sacrifice to God (Numbers 28:11-15). Those attending the festival had to be ceremonially clean according to God’s laws (Exodus 19:10, Leviticus 15, Numbers 19:11-22, Joshua 3:5). This cleansing would involve washing the body and clothes before approaching God to offer a sacrifice. The outward cleansing was a symbol of the inward desire for a purified heart and right relationship with God. Surely, many Israelites who loved God took the process seriously, the cleansing acts that were required before approaching God with sacrifices. However, there were just as many who went through the motions and offered the sacrifices because, well, that’s just what you do. Not much has changed. The same is true today.

Today, our hearts are purified by faith in God through the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf (Hebrews 10:10 and 10:22) and by reading, understanding, and applying God’s Word to our daily lives (John 17:17). True believers take their relationship with Jesus Christ seriously. True believers live out the faith and are truly submitted to Jesus Christ in their daily lives. The fruits of the spirit bear witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The question that we must ask ourselves is do you perform certain rituals of the church without really understanding why we do them? Do we participate in church events that help people outside our walls because we see that event as our good deed checklist item? Do we participate in church events because we just want to hang out with our church buddies? Do we do churchy things but really are not given over to Christ fully in our hearts? The purpose of the cleansing before making sacrifices to God in this the Old Testament rituals was not just to force some robotic response. It was to remind us of our sinfulness. It was to remind the Israelites that they were unworthy to even approach God without some symbolic outward display of what was needed on the inside. It was to remind us and humble us of our pride of how good we think we are but seeing that our best is still filthy in the presence of God. It was to remind us that we need cleansing. Jesus represents that to us today. In the absence of Jesus we are but filthy rags before a beautiful and pure and righteous God.

Are you and I like Saul here in this passage, are we just participating in a ritual because it’s what you do. It’s a checklist thing. Saul whose heart was rotten at this point thought that participating in a ritual would by itself make him right. But his heart was not right. His heart was not focused on the why of the festival. He was just going through the motions to make himself look upright and righteous. How often do you and I do that?

Let us remember that most if not all church rituals or activities have a spiritual purpose that if taken seriously can deepen our understanding of God and of our extreme need for Jesus Christ. Let us remember that church activities are often to teach us about how we are to be living our lives each day and not just and end unto themselves that we can take off and set aside like a coat until the next event. Church activities are to teach us that we are to be loving, and caring, and sacrificially giving to the world around us each and every day. Church events are to teach us and model for us of how we are to be living our lives by the minute in the world outside the church. We need to encounter the world around us with the gospel through our uncommon love each and every day. It is not us vs. them. It is us FOR them. It is us PURSUING them to make them one of us – sold out, all in, fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

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