By Dr. Gene Scott
Preached December 21, 1975
David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam . . . And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.
1 Samuel 22:1-2
I WOULD TALK TO YOU about an Old Testament picture story. Everything in the Bible is written for us today. It is God’s covenant to us; His Testament; His writing of the terms by which we relate to Him and have an inheritance in His Kingdom. When you read Old Testament stories, they are not just history. God elected a people. They were called “God’s elect.” They changed the meaning and put the emphasis on privilege, but as with many biblical and spiritual concepts, if you go to ordinary language you come closer to the meaning. We elect people to responsibility. We expect them to do something. God elected a people with a responsibility. They were His oracle. God would reveal Himself to them. His covenant would be written in them, through them and with them. As His elected people, God would treat them as His instruments on the stage of history until they became the elements in a drama, sometimes in spite of themselves. And though their lives were real and historic, God was injecting a control into their lives that would make them act out truths that are eternal.
Abraham sent his servant Eliezer with gifts to find a bride in a far country for his son Isaac. Rebekah, with the gifts and in the presence of the servant, would travel a long journey, eventually to be joined with the bridegroom she had never seen. That is more than history; that is a picture of God the Father sending His servant, the Holy Spirit, to seek out a bride. The bride, laden with gifts brought by that servant, journeys to be united one day in joy with the bridegroom. In the story of Ruth and Boaz is another such drama. In God’s covenant, the redeemer had to be a near kinsman. In this story of redeeming a lost inheritance, Boaz elects to pay the price of redemption when another kinsman wouldn’t pay the price. That is a story of our Lord and Savior who not only had the means to redeem and wanted to redeem and paid the price, but was also one near of kin. These stories are dramas God uses to reveal aspects of Himself.
In 1 Samuel 16, there is a familiar passage. God’s prophet, Samuel, pours anointing oil onto David’s head. Samuel had gone to select a king over God’s people in that day. David, the shepherd boy, was the choice; and when Samuel poured the anointed oil onto the head of David and anointed him to be king over God’s people Israel, it became as established fact in that instant. David became God’s true king. In that moment of anointing and God’s declaration, the fact was established. However, while David became king over all of God’s people in that day, he did not yet have a material and seen kingdom to offer; another sat on the throne. David was anointed, he was god’s choice and the fact was established, but he was not yet crowned. Years went by before David actually sat on the throne.
In between the anointing and the crowing, several people had contact and different kinds of relationships with David. He was God’s king, but the seen world did not tell that story: he had no material prosperity to offer, he had no power to give; he had no wealth to dispense. Through many of those years he wandered, rejected of men in the kingdom, hiding in wilderness places; he had no throne on which he sat in fact. Some made him king; others did not, before the fact in the seen world was established. David was God’s king, but not everybody accepted it. The way each person treated David during the period between the anointing and the crowning determined his place in the kingdom when it came.
How like our King: anointed, not yet crowned, rejected of men; the New Testament says, “no place to lay his head.” But as David was established as king, just so it is established in eternity that one day Jesus will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. As you follow the drama of David’s life between the anointing and his crowning, you begin to see some people in the Bible that you recognize in today’s world. Let us look at a few of these and let their examples speak today to those who have a chance to make God’s King their king while anointed but not yet crowned. The world rejects Him. He doesn’t look like a King to them; neither did David.
Please turn to 1 Samuel 25:2, and let’s look at one who is in the minority. “There was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great.” He was named Nabal. He was a man of great wealth. If you read the history behind this chapter you will find that he was of the family of Caleb. So the inheritance that he had was a result of that man of faith, Caleb, and the result of God’s blessings. You will also find in this chapter that David, the anointed king not yet crowned in fact, became an instrument to save some of the possessions that Nabal had. At this time, David was still wandering in the wilderness, and David sent ten young men, who probably were not too imposing in appearance. The only credential they had: they came in his name. And they came to Nabal asking that Nabal would share his blessings with David through these young men. Nabal said, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse?”
“Shall I?” Watch the personal pronoun in verse 11: “Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? My, my, my, and mine. He refused to share of his possessions with David, God’s true king. As you read on in this chapter, you will find that God smote him; he died and he never made it into the kingdom. Now, I am talking about a man with riches. Some people think that riches keep you out of the Kingdom, and they quote that statement by Jesus that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than it is for a rich man to go into heaven (Matthew 19:24, Luke 18:25). Now, if He meant riches, you have had it! Because there is no camel that is going to go through the eye of any needle I have ever seen. I have heard everything done to this verse of Scripture. I have heard it preached that there is some hole in the wall called “an eye of a needle” in the city in the Holy Land that required a camel, in order to get through that hole in the wall, to take everything off of its back and go through stripped. I don’t know what would happen if camel sizes changed, but I have never found the hole. I seriously doubt that is what Jesus was referring to because that would mean in order to make it in you have to get rid of what you have.
The Aramaic and the Hebrew languages are pictorial. If you go into old Aramaic Scriptures, the symbols used in writing convey picture images as well as abstract meanings. In all the old Aramaic and Syriac Scriptures you find something common when they write this verse. There were two figures in the Aramaic that were almost identical, except for one little “curly-Q” at the bottom. One of the symbols meant “a camel,” the other symbol meant “a very coarse thread made of camel’s hair.” And without exception in the Aramaic renditions of this verse, the symbol that is used always referenced the thread made of that coarse camel’s hair. That means it was the kind of thread you had to work at to get through that eye of a needle. It was a difficult task to thread the needle with that kind of thread, but not impossible. Taking that meaning, it suddenly makes sense: in philosophy we call Jesus’ statement “axiomatic,” self-evident. It is harder for a rich man to make it in than it is to thread a needle with that coarse difficult thread, because it is just tough. Why? Because the terms of the Kingdom demand that you cannot be possessed by what you possess. And I have learned that it is much easier to serve God when you are abased than when you abound. That is why revival comes in times of persecution.
Nabal is a type of those who have been blessed by God but who begin to forget the source of the blessing. God’s Word is very clear; it says in the Old Testament, “God gives you the power to make wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). There is nothing wrong with riches: it is your attitude concerning them. Nabal was possessed by what he had. He was focused in on himself, like the one in the New Testament who would build barns and take his ease while forgetting ultimate and eternal realities. Nabal says “my bread and my flesh . . .what I have.” David didn’t need what Nabal had. That is what we have been saying as we take offerings: God doesn’t need what we have; He created these worlds. Jesus brought forth money out of a fish’s mouth. He can make stones praise Him if we will not.
As C.S. Lewis says, the mystery of grace is that God who needs nothing would covenant a plan that would let us stumble along and share with Him in His Kingdom, and would covenant a plan where God would take delight in my miserable gifts to Him when he created it all. It is an act of grace. Nabal was given the opportunity of his life, but he missed the opportunity. He failed to understand with spiritual ears attuned that his was the great opportunity to share with God’s true king. Nabal was so wrapped up in what he saw and what he had that he missed the opportunity. God smote him, and he died; he never made it into the kingdom.
There are rich people today who can no longer listen with a simple, sensitive ear to God’s whisper, God’s tug on their heart. They are pulled so many directions because of their riches that they build a shield and miss the opportunity when God comes by. Businessmen would empty their pockets to pay the bill to send Elijah to Mt. Carmel, where all the excitement was going on and the activity was obvious; but they wouldn’t give him a penny to send him to Cherith, where the brook dried up. He was just as much in God’s will going both directions.
There is nothing wrong with riches; it is whether or not you look at those as your
possession or whether or not you are the Lord’s completely and wholly, and alert to that which God would give as an opportunity to share in His Kingdom. Nabal missed it.
Let me tell you, God is going to do something with this church. Some of you are aware of the great things God had done and without that foundation and platform we could not go from here, but God has only just started. I want you to know that. And the true King gives the same opportunities today.
In 1 Samuel 23 there is another personality. He is nothing like Nabal; rather, he has come to symbolize friendship. His name is Jonathan. Remember, God is communicating the eternal with the drama of these lives. Jonathan didn’t doubt David’s kingship. Jonathan was the son of Saul, so in the natural he was the true inheritor to the kingdom. He had to take quite a step within himself not to resent David, but he didn’t’ resent David. He loved David. He recognized that David was the true king. He wanted David to be the king. He even expected to be in the kingdom when it came. When David needed help, Jonathan was always running there to help him. As a good man he was hard to beat. He himself abdicated in spirit what he had in the natural a right to claim. He went to David one time when David was in trouble and said, “You are the true king. You are going to be king. The Lord is going to make you king and I will be next unto you.” That was not pushing himself up but putting himself down under the true king that God had anointed.
There are lots of people in today’s world who are cut from that kind of cloth that inspire respect and love and admiration. I have learned sometimes I can count on men outside the church when trouble comes who rise to the challenge and want to help the Lord more than some within the church. In terms of quality and character I have to be honest and admit that sometimes there are people outside the church more tenacious in their everyday business and moral activities than some inside the church who are forever crying out to God for mercy. Jonathan typifies that kind of person: a friend of God, one who even wants to be in the Kingdom when it comes. And anytime the Lord needs a helping hand, the kind of good person who will go and help Him out is a Jonathan.
“David was in the wilderness” in trouble and Jonathan went to him there “into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not.” Jonathan encouraged David. “The hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee.” Jonathan puts himself down under David. “And that also my father knoweth.” Jonathan was a friend in need; he was a believer, one who expected to make it in. “And they two made a covenant before the LORD.” But here is the tragic word: “And David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.” He loved David, but when the crux of the decision came, “David abode in the woods, Jonathan went to his house.” He went back to the house of Saul. He wouldn’t make that total, complete, 100 percent commitment and identification with David in the wilderness where he was. He went back to the house of Saul; he died with Saul on Mount Gilboa. I am not talking about the man Jonathan’s eternal position in the Kingdom. I am talking about the drama God made him play. The friend in his friendship wasn’t enough. He wouldn’t make the 100 percent commitment. Yet he made it in.
Read 1 Samuel 22 closely: “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam.” Now focus in on the second verse: “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented . . .” Isn’t that a miserable band: distressed, indebted, discontented? They “gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.” Miserable Adullamites! Four hundred men who were in distress, in debt beyond their means, and discontented! Each one was at the end of his rope where nothing else gave hope, so he went to David. These men made David their captain. That act of commitment did not perfect them in a stroke. You will see as you read, they continued to be a problem band. They got discontented on occasions and murmured. They never really understood David’s purposes. They didn’t even share an understanding of the values he tried to project as characterizing his kingdom, but they made him their captain. They stayed with him, and he changed them. In that relationship with David, they became his mighty men. Later they are catalogued in their exploits, the ones “not having attained,” up to the top three, but all of them became mighty men in his kingdom (I Chronicles 11). Now isn’t that like Jesus?
I can find a “Jonathan” in the New Testament: the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18). Jesus loved him. From his youth up he had kept the law, but when the crux of decision came, which was total abandonment of self in identity with the true King, he couldn’t pay the price. On whom did Jesus build the Kingdom? Fishermen, unlearned in speech and way; a cheating tax-collector named Matthew; a fighting zealot named Simon; a doubter who continued to doubt clear on to the Resurrection, named Thomas. Men you and I would reject; men who would have a hard time passing a membership committee in most churches! Yet Jesus chose them. Luke 6 says, “It came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles.” These disciples are duplicates of the Adullamites.
What made these men different? They had forsaken all and made Him master. Does Jesus or God prefer the distressed, discontented, debtors and the have-nots? Some people think that God prefers the ignorant and the have-nots. That’s not true. But what God does want usually eliminates everybody else. It isn’t that God prefers the have-nots: but he prefers something that tends to eliminate everyone BUT the have-nots. God will have nothing less than all of you: your talents, your gifts . . . and a part of you is not enough. It is 100 percent. I have said for years, if I could somehow conceive of a Christian commitment that would require only 90 percent of one’s life and let people keep the key to a 10 percent room in their house I could “win more to the Kingdom.” But Jesus said, He “that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
There are no “volunteers” in the Kingdom. On every level, this is the commitment. It is morally wrong to subject any child in Sunday school to a teacher who thinks he is doing God a favor to teach. There is no such thing as “your work” and “His work.” You are either His 100 percent or you are not His, and it is all His. You have no family: you raise your family for His glory. You don’t have a business: you are a steward managing your business for Him. You don’t’ have a career or a future: you are His to command! There is no church that is mine or yours; it is His.
God will have nothing less than all of you. And that God would take such stuff on which to build His Kingdom as typified in the Adullamites and illustrated in the disciples tells me that it means a lot to Him to have 100 percent. He will start over with such as these, like the parable Jesus told of a certain man who made a great supper and sent invitations. And all those invited made excuses. One had a wife, another had a yoke of oxen to look at, another had a piece of ground. The man said to his servant, “Bring in the lame and the halt” (Luke 14:16-24). When God calls, He wants all of you; that is a serious side of this message.
That God would take such as these means He will have nothing less. You might, on the surface, be head and shoulders above the Adullamites. You might be a giant in character and deed like Jonathan, and you might help God more than some of those miserable complainers that came and made him captain; but they made him captain. There is nothing mystical about that; you just stop being the boss and let Him be the boss. That’s all it is.
In every dimension He won’t have anything less. You can’t bargain with Him. You can’t hold back. It is 100 percent or He will take the lame and the halt and the distressed and the debtors and the discontented who have nothing to lose but giving their all. That is the way it is. That is the tough side. Turn the coin over for the bright side: all He wants is you. The thing I fight as a preacher across this land is some inherited perfectionism out of Puritan New England. I have got friends all over the country who say, and it is admirable on the surface, “When I come to God, I’m going to live it.” They are going to be worth what they think they should be if they give themselves to God. If God demanded us all to be of the caliber of Jonathan or the rich young ruler it would eliminate some of us, wouldn’t it? But when I see Him build His Kingdom on these Adullamites and on those disciples, I say we all have a chance!
All He wants is you. All He wants is you 100 percent. The terms will never change. Bring your problems! Bring your faults! Bring your sins! Bring your debts! Bring you!
Are you going to let Him abide in the woods while you go back to the house of Saul? Or while He is anointed, not yet crowned, and while the world doesn’t accept Him as King, will you make Him the Captain of your life?
The Adullamites had David, and he changed them. When you make Him the Captain, you have got Him. And the Scripture says, “In thy presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). When the disciples were with Jesus, he described it as a “honeymoon party.” William James has described some deep religious truths and given them a name. He said they have an ineffable quality, that is, they have a quality that can’t be understood until you undergo it or experience it. These mighty men had David; that’s why they became mighty. And the disciples had Him.
Are you going to make Him your Captain today, 100 percent?
Prayer Requests for February, 2011
For Betty Price who has lung cancer, and for Sandy Boyd who has breast cancer.
For Robert Ross, Lexington, Oklahoma, who would like to hear from his children.
For Richard Burns, Menard, Illinois, who has diabetes and takes daily injections.
For Frank Randolph at the Varner Supermax at Grady, Arkansas, who has a habeas petition in the courts.
For Thomas Bible, Ina, Illinois, who just lost his brother.
For Alfredo Ramos, Pontiac, Illinois, for health.
For Ed Ewing, Visalia, California.
For Mike Long, at Larned, Kansas, for health. He has a problem retaining fluids.
For Cleveland Cook, Buckeye, Arizona, that he can be baptized soon.
For Willie Davis at the Cook County jail in Chicago, who is being retried after an appeal.
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, who just filed his appeal.
For Roger Best at Holdenville, Oklahoma, who has Somnambulism (sleep-walking).
For Johnny Carruthers, Florence, Arizona. He finally had hernia surgery and is recovering well.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for health, and for a better understanding of the Word.
For Jimmy Huff and his ministry at Colorado City, Texas.
For Willie Clark, Iowa Park, Texas, who wants to be transferred closer to his family in the Houston area.
For Michael Small’s step Mother, Suzanne, for health, and that her cancer will stay in remission. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, for his health, and that he stays “cancer free.”
For Willie Harper, Joliet, Illinois, that his cancer stays in remission.
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for health.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread.
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