Living Theology | 1 Samuel 22
Living Theology is a blog series that draws out the theological principles of each week's sermon text and thinks through how we can apply them to our personal lives. In other words, this series asks how we can live out the theology of Scripture each day.
Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 22
You can watch Pastor Brian's sermon on 1 Samuel 22 here.
In 1 Samuel 22, Saul's paranoia over the inevitable rise of David continues to grow amongst shifting loyalties. Saul even goes so far as to order the slaughter of the priests of the LORD and the destruction of their city and everyone who lived there—something he was not willing to do to the enemies of God's people even at the command of the LORD:
"On that day, he killed eighty-five men who wore linen ephods. 19 He also struck down Nob, the city of the priests, with the sword—both men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen, donkeys, and sheep." [1 Samuel 22.18–19, CSB]
Nevertheless, despite Saul's pursuit of David and numerous attempts on his life, God keeps David safe and continues to increase his favor among the people.
God will always preserve a faithful remnant of his people.
When God saw that human wickedness had become great upon the earth, he would have been justified in wiping us out. But he preserved faithful Noah and his family through the waters of judgment in the ark (Genesis 6–9). When Israel was unfaithful to God in the wilderness, God led them to wander for 40 years until that unfaithful generation had died. But he preserved Caleb and Joshua along with a new generation of Israelites and led them into the land of promise (Numbers 14:20–38). And when God’s people continued to reject his covenant after he had brought them into the land, he sent them into exile (1–2 Kings; 2 Chronicles). But he preserved a remnant and brought them back into the land (Ezra; see also Acts 2). Similarly, the kingship of Israel was disloyal to God through the actions of Saul (1 Samuel 13–15), but God has chosen and anointed his new king (1 Samuel 16), and he will preserve his life against the attacks of the wicked.
There is a sense in which faithful Christianity is on the decline in our society. We must always remember that our faith is a global faith—that Jesus purchased by his blood a kingdom from every tribe, language, people, and nation—and that the presence of the church increases and decreases from one area to another. But in America, over the last century, faithful Christianity has endured several challenges. There have been numerous religious sects and movements that have jettisoned various tenets of orthodox Christianity over this time. The early 1900s saw the rise of theological liberalism in several mainline denominations. The eighties and nineties saw a boom in prosperity preaching. Over the last 25 years there has been a significant surge in the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation. Even many who were raised in the faith are abandoning it. We had the “new atheists,” then the rise of the “nones,” and more recently prominent Christian leaders are “deconstructing” their faith and even de-converting altogether (the old word for this is “apostasy,” but that doesn’t sound as cool). For some it’s a true crisis of faith that leads them away. For others the circumstances of life demonstrate that they never believed in the first place. Whatever the cause, it is always painful to see people walk away from the hope of the gospel.
When we look at our society today, we can be easily discouraged by those who oppose the church, those who abandon the church, and those who deceive the church. But God will always preserve a remnant of his people. When people walk away because they no longer believe that a good God could allow the evil and suffering that we see in this world, God will preserve a remnant. When churches allow secular ideologies to supplant the truths of the gospel, God will preserve a remnant. And when our leaders break faith and abandon their responsibility to God and to us, when they put us in harm’s way and are only looking out for themselves—in other words, when they follow the pattern of Saul—we can trust that God is still working behind the scenes, preserving his people, and slowly raising up faithful leadership.
So what should we do in the meantime?
Applying God's Truth
How should we live in the light of the truth that God will always preserve a remnant of his people—even in the midst of evil, error, and faithlessness?
Speak out. To be sure, we should not keep silent. Part of our responsibility as the people of God is to stand up for truth, to stand up for what’s right, and to speak out when people oppose these things, especially when it happens within the church. So we should confront error and evil, again, especially when it happens within the church. And we should reach out to those who walk away from the faith. The letter of James ends with these words: “My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19–20, CSB).
Inspect your own faithfulness. Obviously, that’s not to say that we can’t speak out until we are perfect. Error is error, and it needs to be exposed. But if we expect others to respond to correction, then we ourselves must also be willing to be corrected where appropriate. It doesn’t do me much good to point out the errors of others when I’m unaware of (or even clinging to!) my own. A voice of correction must be open to correction. Furthermore, we ought to really think about the various reasons why people abandon the truth of the gospel and honestly ask ourselves whether or not we are susceptible to those same reasons. Often times, the decision to de-convert or walk away is the result of a long series of challenges to our faithfulness over time. Ask yourself, “Where is my faith weak? Where is my loyalty to God wavering?” And then talk to someone about it! Talk to your pastor; talk to a believer that you trust and respect. Whatever you do, don’t cover it up. Don’t hide it, and don’t run from it. There are answers. There are others who have had the same experience, the same questions, the same doubts. Talk to someone. You can contact our pastors here.
Stay calm. Not quiet but calm. Because we know that God will always preserve a faithful remnant of his people, we don’t need to panic. We don’t need to be afraid. Steady faithfulness is the best way for us to navigate the opposition that we face from the world. We don’t have to defeat the enemy. We don’t have to win the battle. Our job is to keep marching. God, and his truth, will win. This is not quietism, this is faithfulness. At this particular moment in our society, there are about 2.6 quadrillion things courting our anxieties and fears. Filter your input. Take a break. Breathe. Pray. And be steady.