It was Chekhov, the Russian dramatist, who once said: ‘any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out!’ And that’s true, isn’t it? And this is issue I want to address this morning – how can we live, richer, deeper ordinary everyday lives? Lives full of responsibility and routine – which are at the same times full of richness, purpose and the eternity of God? How can we touch the heart of God where we are now?

Last Sunday we left David at a moment of miraculous triumph, didn’t we? Goliath lay dead -after his threats where challenged, answered, by a mere child with a catapult.

Well, he was more than just a child, wasn’t he? As I was saying last week, David was a boy with a God-dominated imagination, rather than a Goliath-dominated one. And as a result he could see through the threats and intimidation, to what was real, to what was God, and could act upon that. And it worked! He won!

And now, with Goliath dead, you can just see Saul’s troops running forward – and David being hoisted on their shoulders, shouts and cheers – he’s the hero, the victor. But, as we’ll see today, such elation, well, it wasn’t to last.

If you read through the next part of the story from ch 18 of 1 Samuel, all the way through to our passage for today, in chapter 24, you will find recorded the account of a long downward spiral in the life-experience of David. It recounts months, if not years, of drudgery, hardship and danger.

The problem is Saul. David’s success leaves him feeling threatened and with good reason. He sees the writing on the wall, that David will eventually be King – but he is not going to go down without a fight – he is going to do everything in his power to make David’s life as nasty possible.

And Saul starts almost at once, in ch 18 v11, by trying to kill David, twice. Just out of nowhere, Saul hurls his spear at him. David escapes but Saul’s hatred of him just grows. He’s even willing to use members of his own family, just to get back at David – look at ch 18 v 20! When Saul hears that Michal, his younger daughter, has fallen for David, what is his response? “Ah, a second chance. I’ll use Michal as bait to get David out where the Philistines will make short work of him.”

And what makes it worse for Saul, is that everyone loves David; the people, the soldiers – even members of Saul’s own family – Jonathon, his son, and Michal his daughter – Michal who was supposed to Saul’s secret weapon! She is so much on David’s side she helps him escape from yet another of Saul’s murder plots. Such is David’s popularity at home that Saul has to resort to foreign mercenaries, whenever he tries to bump him off.

Eventually, after yet another two attempts on his life (in ch19) David can’t simply hide, keep a low profile at court anymore, he has to run – leaving everything behind: friends, family, food, weaponry everything.

In ch 21 David runs to the city of Nob. There he consults Ahimelech, the Priest, who scraps some food and weaponry up for him. But David is made, he’s spotted and has to run – for by this time Saul is hunted David like he would hunt an animal. No one connected with David is safe. Look in ch 22 when David tries to find safety for his Father and Mother, by asking the King of Moab to grant them asylum.

By ch22 the situation has got so bad that David is forced to the very margins, to the wilderness areas, to live in caves because of Saul. People join him, yea, but as the Message translates in (ch22v1) – So David got away and escaped to the Cave of Adullam. When his brothers and others associated with his family heard where he was, they came down and joined him. Not only that, but all who were down on their luck came around-losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts. David became their leader. There were about four hundred in all. So David has company – but what company!

And Saul well, he gets even worse! When he hears how Ahimelech helped him – in revenge, he slaughters him and all his family. God is nothing but a word. And Saul just turns up the heat, for months and months – ch 23:13 so David ‘…kept moving, going here, there, wherever-always on the move.’ Can you imagine what that would be like?

And that’s how and why we find David and his companions in the wilderness of En Gedi at the beginning of today’s reading in ch 24. He’s hiding from Saul and his mercenaries, scratching a living, living rough. And then something extraordinary happens:

Chapter 24 v3 – there is a group of them (with David) hiding in cave, when, who comes in but Saul! He doesn’t see them in the shadows, because he’s got other things his mind is on other things! He’s desperate for the loo. He’s come for a dump!

David’s companions are elated! ‘David – do you know what this means? This just can’t be a coincidence – Saul choosing this cave, of all caves! – God has given Saul into your hands! Look his guard is down (so to speak!) You can just end this now!

So what does David do? Well, he does get out his knife – but not to kill Saul, just to cut a slice out of his clothes.

And the big question of the passage is why? Why doesn’t David kill Saul when he had the chance, as his companions urge? Surely this would be the most sensible thing to do – Saul was, after all, David’s enemy. He had used every opportunity to try and murder David. And in doing so had turned into a monster – abusing his family at will, slaughtering the innocent, neglecting his country – if anyone deserved to be dead, to be stopped permanently, it was Saul. Saul, the only one standing in David way of taking his rightful place as Israel’s King. No one who have blamed him, would they? In fact, quite the opposite, there would have been bunting, celebration – ‘long live King David’ and a short, rather dark chapter of Israel’s history gratefully brought to a close.

So why doesn’t he? Well, the answer comes in verse 6: He [David] said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”

Why didn’t David kill Saul? Well, it was an act of holiness.

Here’s the logic. The word ‘holy’ literally means ‘other’ or ‘beyond’. It describes, in essence, what God is like – totally pure, totally loving — ‘beyond’, holy. And David doesn’t kill Saul for one reason, and one reason alone: he recognises, identifies ‘holiness’ in Saul, an action of God – specifically, when God chose Saul to be King – anointed him. And his thought process is something like this: ‘if this is one whom God has blessed who am I to injure him, to do the opposite, to negate what God has done for him?’ How can I set myself up as ‘anti God’, undo what God has done?

You see, by being merciful what David is in fact doing, and is seeking to do, is to replicate, to copy the actions of a holy God. That’s why he doesn’t to the obvious, what his soldiers are clamouring for him to do – why he doesn’t kill Saul. Not because he couldn’t bring himself to kill him, or wanted to keep any laws, or because he wanted to be nice, or liked or accepted – no, David didn’t kill Saul because he was sharing in what God was and is doing. In other words ‘holiness’!

And that is extraordinary considering what David has gone through! The months, years of grinding oppression, of fear, of being the victim of hatred! That David could show this degree of love and mercy toward the one who was causing it all; the one whose death would make it all stop! That is just extraordinary! For do you know what this means? By doing this what David was doing was actually deliberately participating in, sharing in the very nature and attitudes of God!

Christ Church I don’t want to be Sunday religious, or know my bible backwards. I don’t want nice or pleasant. Instead I want to be holy. Not simply in title but in experience, like David, in the way I live my life and relate to all.

Sadly for us, the word ‘Holy’ when it is used to describe a person has become a spoilt word. It’s a ‘pasty-faced’, ‘polyester’ kind of a word – that speaks of ‘an otherworldliness’ that is cold and useless because it withdraws. It’s self-indulgent.

But that isn’t David’s holiness – it is ‘otherworldly’ but only because it is so vibrant, beautiful and on a different track to what everyone else is thinking. And it’s a holiness that conversely makes David more authentically human and alive not less. So that now, even now in this incident at En Gedi, we see that David is not part of the problem instead he’s the solution, the cure. I want to be like that!

The New Testament too, is rather hot on holiness. To be holy, to display clearly in what we do and what we say, the attributes and attitudes of God is, according to Paul, (writing to the Ephesian church) what we were made for. In Eph 1v4 Paul declared that God ‘…chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’

How? Well, in the same way that David was – through the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In David’s day, it was only Kings and Prophets that God inhabited, that God’s Spirit filled – but now, because of all that Jesus has done, all who trust in Jesus have this gift.

So if the capacity to be Holy is there in all of us who believe – how let it rip? How do give the Holy Spirit full reign – to get to work in our ordinary lives, to transform the way we live. How do we unbolt the doors and give God the Holy Spirit the freedom to let us be Holy too.

Well, that is where the experience of David can help again. A friend of mine, a church leader in the States, was once speaking to a lady who was going through a tough time. As the meeting began she said ‘I suppose you want to hear about my sex life – all the counsellors I have even been too want to hear about my sex life.’ To which my friend replied ‘well if you want to talk about sex we can do that, and I suppose the reason why all your counsellors have said that is that they know that it is your most intimate relationship that reveal the most about who you are. If you want to talk about sex we can – but what I most want to hear about is your prayer life, because for me, I think that this shows best what is really happening within you.’

I think that that’s true. I think that our prayers are a brilliant indicator of where we are up to when it comes to our world, ourselves and our God.

And you know what? We have the equivalent of David’s prayer journal covering precisely this incident at En Gedi. It’s Psalm 57. Let’s look at it.

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.

2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who vindicates me.

3 He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me-
God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.

4 I am in the midst of lions;
I am forced to dwell among man-eating beasts,
whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

6 They spread a net for my feet-
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path-
but they have fallen into it themselves.

7 My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.

10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

It is the pray of someone in distress, isn’t it? He’s not hiding from the reality of the danger he is in. God help! I’m terrified! I’m hiding – v4: I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among man-eating beasts, whose teeth are spears (remember Saul threw spears at him all the time) and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

But for me, I think the defining character of David’s prayer, is his understanding of his utter dependence upon God, no one and nothing else. Verse 1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

David was a brilliant fighter, a master strategist. He had four hundred men with him, and the support of the overwhelming majority of people at home, including most of Saul’s family. But he knew that this was never going to be enough. If life was going to be lived to it’s fullest – then only God was capable of doing this.

He truly understands his fragility – we even see him reminding himself of God (v7, 8 and 9) because he knows he forgets, goes off at tangents.

But what is more, what is more and what is truly striking about this prayer is that David has not lost his awe of God, his wonder that God should care for support himself. Even though God, the Great God has proven his faithfulness to David over and over again – David never takes God for granted, never moves from Him serving God – to expecting God to God serve him. And as a result David’s vision of God remains large and awesome. God still fills his fills consciousness, dominates his vision. And this understand I believe is the key to letting holiness loose in our lives. For it enable David to see and respond to the action of God that he saw in Saul’s life – instead of Saul’s hatred of him and his evil deeds. David saw God’s perspective and responded to that – and lived holy as a result.

Christian’s it is so easy for us put God in our back pockets. To forget that we are only here by God’s sheer grace. Nothing we have done, or could ever do to deserve God’s favour and faithfulness. Through our presumption we reduce God to our level and we miss him, in ourselves and in others, at work and at home. David didn’t and he lived a holy life.

Mark Twain once said that ‘…many people were like the Mississippi, two miles wide and an inch deep’. To be holy requires that we let God be God, in all his awesome scary splendour. As the Psalmist was to say in Psalm 111: The good life begins in the fear of God – Do that and you’ll know the blessing of God.

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