1 Sam. 19:8-10; 20:1-4; 24:8-10;
Do you have any enemies? Let me answer that for you. Yes, you do. Some of you have other people as your enemy. It could be a coworker that irritates you every day, a boss that won’t let you move up the ladder, an ex-spouse that continues to bring up the past and make the present miserable, someone who used to be a friend and now holds a grudge, someone you competes unethically against you in business, and sometimes it may be someone someone you are in a power struggle with at church or in the community.
Your enemy could be a disease that has invaded your body or the body of someone you love. Thankfully, some diseases like Polio have been almost completely eradicated from the earth. But cancer hasn’t. Diabetes hasn’t. Heart disease hasn’t. Aids hasn’t.
Death is our enemy. We have a thirst for life and for quality of life. Though we often deny that the enemy of death lurks somewhere in our future, the Grim Reaper will come for us all one day.
There are researchers who are trying to find a way to curb the aging process in humans. Still others are freezing people with the belief that one day they will be able to be revived and continue living on this earth. In spite of these efforts, death will always be an enemy.
ometimes, we are our own worst enemy. We abuse our bodies with drugs. We overeat and under exercise. We work without proper rest. We fail to cultivate good relationships with others. We get too far in debt. We gamble away our savings and our health. We become obsessed with habits that are sinful.
In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, David is constantly confronted with enemies. Many of his Psalms are written asking God to help him deal with his enemies.
Most of the enemies of David mentioned in these chapters are people. The Philistines are his enemies. The Amalekites are his enemies. King Saul was his enemy.
Have you noticed as long as the enemy can be reduced to nameless, faceless person, it’s easier to fight them, to wound them, and to take revenge against them? It’s a lot harder to deal with your enemies when you know them by name.
David’s greatest enemy wasn’t the Philistines or the Amalekites. His greatest enemy was someone he knew, someone he served, someone he respected: King Saul.
Following David’s victory over Goliath and his subsequent victories against the enemies of Israel, David’s popularity grew among the people. The more popular David became, the more jealous King Saul became. David, who once played the harp to sooth Saul’s frayed nerves, who once served as his armor bearer, became Saul’s most hated enemy. Ironic isn’t it, how two people can start out with mutual love, admiration, and respect for one another, and end up as each other’s enemy?
Saul’s jealousy grew to the point that he once tried to kill David with his spear while David was playing his harp. Soon thereafter, Saul made it publically known that he wanted David to be killed. He employed his soldiers to hunt down David like a pack of dogs chasing down a coon.
Have you ever been on such a chase? Do you know how it feels to be a part of a pack, in hot pursuit of a common enemy? Perhaps you know what it feels like to be the hunted, as people you thought were your friends put you in their cross hairs, hoping to get rid of you.
David knew what it felt like to be both the hunter and the hunted. David had little problem being the hunter. The Bible tells us how he attacked the Philistines and saved the city of Keijah. The Bible says that he and his men inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines in saving the city. He was so successful in defeating the enemy that the women danced in the streets and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands.”
But the same man who stood bravely to protect his sheep against predators like the lion and the bear, the same brave man who stood fearless in facing the armored giant Goliath, who defeated the armies that opposed Israel at every turn, reacted quite differently when he was the one being hunted by King Saul.
Friends who turn into enemies are the worst kind of enemies because their poison tipped arrows hurt worse than those sent by total strangers. King Saul was after David’s life and even though Saul never succeeded in taking David’s life, he almost drained David emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
How David survived these attacks from King Saul is worthy of our attention.
You need to know what David had in his survival kit because one day someone you love and respect may turn out to be your worst enemy. If that day comes your survival may depend on these things:
Friends: During those times in life when the enemy is close on your heels, you will discover who your true friends are. Fair weather friends abandon you during a time of crisis. They will allow people to speak untruths about you without defending you. Fair weather friends will leave your side when the arrows start flying.
Peter and the rest of Jesus’ twelve disciples were fair weather friends. The women turned out to be Jesus’ true friends. Only one of his disciples, John, was with the women at the foot of the cross. The other disciples abandoned Jesus after he was arrested. Fair weather friends leave when you need them the most. They may even believe the rhetoric of the enemy and sometimes even join the enemy in efforts to hurt you.
Real friends stay with you and help you survive the onslaught of the enemy. They speak to the truth in love, objectively sharing any truth present in the words of the enemy. But they do not abandon you. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/207236020328147398/true friends
The truth is we are not strong enough to withstand the enemy on our own. We need people willing to stand with us and by us come hell or high water.
Such unreserved loyalty is what true friendship is all about. Relying on the help of friends is one way we are able to overcome the enemy.
Remember, there are very few of these kinds of friends to be found.
David had one such friend. Ironically, it happened to be King Saul’s own son, Jonathan. Jonathan passed on to David the news that his father wanted to have David killed. David trusted Jonathan explicitly. Jonathan became David’s salvation as he found out detailed information about his father’s plan to kill David. He even put his own life in jeopardy in order to help David.
Have you ever been that kind of friend to someone in need? Has anyone ever loved you enough to stand by you during difficult times, even if it meant drawing criticism for doing so?
The second thing we need to in order to survive the pursuit of our enemies is prayer . As a caveat, let me mention that in two weeks I will begin an eleven week series of messages on the prayer life of Jesus according to Luke’s Gospel. I am hoping that this focus on prayer is going to have a great impact on your life and our church.
How did David react? He prayed for guidance.
In the twenty-third chapter of 1 Samuel we read that after David had liberated the city of Keilah, he consulted with Abiathar the priest. Together they prayed to God: “O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.” 1 Samuel 23:10-11
The Lord answered David’s prayer. He left the city as led by God. Saul heard he had left, so the people and the city did not come under attack.
In 1995, Captain Scott O’Grady was shot down over Bosnia by a Bosnian-Serb ground-to-air missile. After six days of hiding in enemy territory, he was rescued by helicopter. He never hesitated to attribute his survival and rescue to God. After three days without water, he prayed to God for rain. After it rained that night, he recognized that there was more than just his own prayers involved. https://www.pinterest.com/rvenable777/prayer-warriors/
After being rescued he said to America, “When I was out there, I heard your prayers. I heard them all. All I want to say is God bless America, and I love you all.”
After being rescued he said to America, “When I was out there, I heard your prayers. I heard them all. All I want to say is God bless America, and I love you all.”
Prayer is the greatest equalizer to our enemies we have. Friends are great. But help from the Lord is better.
Did you notice that David consulted a priest with whom he prayed? You and I need to learn from David. When the enemy is plowing through our fields, we need to consult a Christian friend who will pray with us. Find a trusted friend, find a minister, but above all, find Jesus and pray.
Remember the words to this well known hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus/ All our sins and griefs to bear/ What a privilege to carry/ Everything to God in prayer/ Oh, what peace we often forfeit/ Oh, what needless pain we bear/All because we do not carry/ Everything to God in prayer.
What? Attack our enemies? I didn’t think we were supposed to attack our enemies.
David had confronted the Amelikites and the Philistines through physical confrontation. It was the only way that Israel could have any hope of living in peace. David was a warrior when he had to be. There are times that you and I have to do battle with the enemy.
If we serve our government in the military, our battle may actually be a physical one. If someone breaks into our home, our battle may actually be a physical. Thankfully, we have people trained to physically protect us from violent people. We live in a very violent world.
However, our confrontations with our enemies are more likely to be in a competitive job market, over a different political agenda, because of competing values, or because of people’s drive for power or popularity.
However, meek doesn’t mean being spineless. The non-violent movement of the civil rights act was anything but spineless. It was confrontational but in a non-violent way.
There are times when we must do battle with our enemies, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. It’s been said that one sure way for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing. Sometimes we must move into action with passion to put down the enemies that are opposed to God’s ways.
We can use Jesus as an example. Jesus did not stand idly by when the people who were profaning the temple of God by cheating worshipers out of their money by charging unfair prices for sacrificial animals. These people had set themselves up as enemies of God in the temple courts of all places. Jesus took action by overturning the money changer’s tables and driving the animals out of the temple courts with a whip in hand. But before we engage in such righteous indignation, we need to be 100% sure that our actions are holy and just.
Though we have this example of Jesus rising up to confront his enemies through a physical and verbal barrage, by far the way Jesus most often battled the enemy was by turning the other cheek.
The day the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Jesus showed mercy to his enemy and healed the ear of the soldier.
Then, after Jesus was nailed to the cross by the soldiers the encouragement of the Pharisees, he did not have any angry, bitterness, or revengeful words to say to them. Instead, he prayed to God, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus demonstrated what he had taught to his disciples: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-29 (NIV)
On two occasions, David showed this kind of love to King Saul. On two occasions David actually had an opportunity to kill Saul. On one occasion as King Saul and his men closed in on David, David went into a cave to hide. Saul, not knowing David was in the cave, went in to relieve himself. David quietly crept up behind the king and cut off a piece of his robe.
When the king left the cave, David went out to confront him. He called out to Saul: “‘My lord the king!’ When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen when men say, David is bent on harming you? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.” 1 Sam 24:8-13 (NIV)
The Civil War had just ended, and the opportunistic scalawags were busy lording it over their fellow Southerners. A hot-blooded contingency of die-hard former rebels gained an audience with President Lincoln. His gentle, friendly manner soon thawed the ice, and the Southerners left with a new respect for their old foe.
A northern congressman approached the president and criticized him for “befriending the enemy,” suggesting that instead of befriending them he should have had them shot for the traitors they were. Lincoln smiled and replied, “Am I not destroying my enemies by making them my friends?”
The struggle of African Americans to break free of oppression through the Civil Rights Movement produced a passion. There was hate exchanged between racial lines and still is, but Martin Luther King, Jr. said that we should not let any man pull us so low that it would cause us to hate another.
I’ve not seen this portrayed any better in film than in the movie “Unbroken,” which depicts Olympic hero Louie Zamperini who endured 47 days in a raft in the ocean after being shot down in World War II. He was rescued, but unfortunately his rescuers were Japanese. For two years he was incarcerated and endured very cruel treatment from a Japanese sergeant who was jealous of the will Zamperini had, which he could not break.
Near the end of the movie, the prisoners are loading coal barges. Occasionally one of them falls from exhaustion and is carried away to die. One day after Louie sprains his ankle and is unable to work. Watanabe, the sergeant tells him to lift a giant piece of wood, and orders a guard to shoot Louis if he drops it.
Louis successfully lifts and holds up the wood, and the entire work yard stops and watches the scene unfold. Then, as if God gave him Samson like strength, this shell of a man, weakened by two years of being underfed and beaten unmercifully by this sergeant, lifts this heavy beam over his head. It’s as if this former Olympian, who ran the last lap of the 5,000 meters in record time in the 1936 Olympics, is suddenly been given super human strength and transformed into a power weight lifter.
For his defiance and for the shame that it brought the Japanese sergeant, it earned him another beating, but it also earned him something more, a witness, the opportunity to be a witness that our enemies can be overcome and defeated without a sword but with defiance, without revenge, but with passion and determination to defeat them with something within us, an inner strength fueled by love and passion that God can provide us that the world doesn’t understand.
Louie died last year at age 97, but he lived out his promise to devote his life to God and forgave his war-time captors, meeting with many of them. Watanabe, the Japanese sergeant, was one of those who refused to meet with him.
God wants to provide that kind of strength to all of us, to help us overcome our enemies. Sometimes we have the upper hand like King Saul did, giving us an opportunity to show mercy and sometimes we are abused like Louie Zamperini, giving us an opportunity to show our resolve, forgiveness, grace, and love. It also gives us a chance to show that God gives us the power to fight and the resolve to rise up and show a defiance that says, “I will not be broken.”
But even if we should break, because we are human after all, God will come to our aid, God will be our defender, God will bind up our wounds. God will heal our souls.
Prayer: When we are hated, help us to show love. When we are abused, help us to find refuge and we pray that justice will be done. When we are wounded, help us not to take revenge. Help us to swords into plow shares. May the ground we turn over and the seeds we plant grow peace and harmony, forgiveness and love.