Allen Jackson - King David - Part 1
You know, we have a representative form of government, so that the reality of this is if you watch the evening news and the people you're watching aggravate you, it's really the condition of our hearts that is aggravating, because watching those that we have selected to lead us is like looking in the mirror. I promise. You say, "Well, not my mirror". But more than you know, if we're going to have change in leadership, and the way they behave, we'll have to have changes in the hearts along Main Street. I would love to have choices between multiple candidates, all who honor the Lord. Would that not be a blessing? And there is no politician, nor political party, nor ideology that can solve the problems that face us as a people. The solutions lie in the kingdom of God; and for those solutions to break into the open, we will have to have a vibrant, effective, outspoken, influential church of Jesus Christ.
So, I don't think that the problem is in the leadership. I think the problem is the ineffectiveness of the church, and my prayer is that God will awaken his people from coast to coast and border to border. God called this nation into existence. It was not born in the will of a human being. He has uniquely blessed us. We have had the privilege of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the nations of the world. It doesn't mean we're perfect. It doesn't mean we've gotten everything right. There's no perfect collection of people, because people aren't perfect. But there is no question that the hand of God has been upon our nation. But without God's help, the liberty, and freedoms, and opportunities that we know will not come to our children and grandchildren.
God is the arbiter of those things; and if we turn our back on him, we will lose our freedom. If we separate the church from the state, the state will increasingly become an authoritarian force in our lives and limit our freedoms. The church is the conscience of our culture. Amen? We're going to begin a new series this weekend. We're gonna take 2 or 3 weeks and explore this idea of standing in the gap, and I don't mean the Cumberland Gap, although it's not a bad place to stand. It's a biblical phrase, and it's been often used. I doubt it's a surprise to you. It's derived from a passage in the book of Ezekiel. God is speaking to the prophet. It's Ezekiel 22. God said, "I looked for a man among them, who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I wouldn't have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they've done, declares the sovereign LORD".
This is God's message to the Hebrew people, to his covenant people. It's not a message to a pagan nation, to a godless nation, to a Gentile nation. It's to the covenant people of God. God said, "I looked for someone across the nation who could stand in the gap on behalf of these people, and I couldn't find anybody. So now I'm gonna pour out my wrath upon them". Are you prepared to believe that God pours out his wrath on his people? We talk a great deal about mercy, and grace, and the love of God, and I believe in those things, and I'm happy with those messages, but they're not the total message. Of equal significance and of equal weight is the justice of God and the truth of God and the judgment of God. To talk about grace and mercy and not talk about judgment and truth is to deny the character of God. So, it's a sobering statement in one way. God said, "I looked for somebody who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land, and there wasn't anybody".
Look at Jeremiah 4:15. A different historical context, Jeremiah is a prophet in Jerusalem when the Babylonians are coming, and God is bringing the Babylonians. They are going to be his agent of judgment. They're going to destroy Jerusalem, and destroy the temple, and slaughter many of the inhabitants of the land. "And the LORD said to Jeremiah: 'Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence.'" And Moses and Samuel have been long dead, but their story lives on in the imaginations of the people. And God said to Jeremiah, "If Moses and Samuel stood here, it wouldn't help today. There is such a void of people standing on my behalf amongst these people that Moses and Samuel couldn't stem the tide".
Now, I want to contrast that with 2 Kings 19. Again, it's a different historical period. This time, the invading army is Assyrian. The Assyrians are the dominant world force. They've already destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. They've conquered the entire region, and they've brought their formidable armies to the gates of Jerusalem, and they're threatening that city, and God responds through the prophet. "He says, 'I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.' And that night, the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp". What is Rutherford County, 230,000 people, 250,000 maybe at the top? Can you imagine 185,000 people in Rutherford County not waking up in the morning? Think there'd be a little tension around town? God did that. It's true God is a God of love, but it's also true that he's a God of justice, and we need to live with the awareness on both sides of that equation, but I want to call your attention to the first sentence in that passage. God said, "For the sake of my servant David I will defend this city".
Now, if you're just reading that casually, you might think David is king on the throne in Jerusalem, but David has been dead for hundreds of years by the time God makes this statement. David has been dead longer than the United States has been a nation, and God said, "I will defend Jerusalem for the sake of my servant David". David's standing in the gap hundreds of years after he's gone. You know, King David is a hero in Jerusalem today. David was king on a throne in Jerusalem about 1,000 years before Christ or 2,000 years after that event, so there's a 3,000-year gap of time in Jerusalem today. The Jewish people still revere David as a hero, and his enemies are still frightened of him. You're a bad man if 3,000 years after you're gone there's folks still lining up for you or standing against you. Standing in the gap, it's the topic we're going to explore a little bit. Throughout Scripture, we find these men and women who are labeled in this way that they stood in the gap, they made a difference.
Now, it's equally obvious from the study of Scripture that in some generations there are no such people. Oh, there are the people of God, the people with a covenant, the people with the forms of worship, but there's nobody to stand in the gap. So, what I want to suggest is we take the next 2 or 3 weeks and gather some insight about the characteristics associated with men and women who are able or capable of standing in the gap, difference makers. I'm inviting you to a little different imagination of discipleship. I'm certainly inviting you out of the boundaries of just imagining a personal salvation.
See, I believe in the new birth, salvation, conversion, being born again, whatever label you use for that initiation into the kingdom of God. Jesus said it's a prerequisite. I believe him. But we have presented Christianity in contemporary American evangelicalism is if you repeat the prayer, get dipped in the pool, you're done. But I'm here to tell you from a biblical perspective that's deception. That's simply the starting line, the beginning point. Jesus, when he taught us to pray, he said, "Pray this way: Your kingdom come, your will be done on... as it is in heaven". Who do you suppose is gonna be about the will of God on earth? That would be the people of God. It's our prayer. It's our heart cry. It's our daily assignment.
So, this is more than a recitation of a prayer and sitting in church for a few minutes on Sunday morning. But here's the good news. God is still recruiting men and women. Look at 2 Chronicles 16. "The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him". The eyes of the Lord are searching the earth, not the people that sit in church, not the people who embrace a dress code, or a beverage list, or a set of vocabulary words, but a people to serve him. And then in 2 Timothy 2, we're given a bit of the nature of this invitation. "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ".
That is not the imagery that I have held of serving the Lord. But I never served in the military. I didn't. My path went a different way, but I've had a lot of friends who have, and I've had enough birthdays to observe quite a bit, and I have gained a tremendous respect for those who serve. But I have come to understand something: that we borrow militaristic language to try to add value and significance to things that are very different. When you enlist in the military, you forfeit your privilege of self-determination. You go to bed when you're told. You get up when you're told. The tasks of the day are handed to you. You eat what you're served. And you may not like it, but you'd better be happy about it. Is that a pretty close approximation? And you're going to stand in harm's way. That's the nature of the service. If you want to stay secure and unexposed, then you'd better not serve in that capacity.
Now, I know we borrow militaristic language so we can talk about business or sports, and it may help us make a point, but it's not the same. When you go to battle on the basketball floor, at the end of the battle you soak in a hot tub. You don't have to have triage. It's not the same. And you may imagine that the business environment is competitive, and you've gotta make your best effort, and I'm not opposed to that, but it's not combat. You come home with all your limbs and your digits. Paul is using that analogy when he's coaching his young man he's mentoring in the faith, Timothy. And he said, "Endure hardship like a good soldier". Look, he's not talking about going to church. Daily Bible reading is not the kind of intrusion he's talking about. He's talking about an orientation of your life and gives a place of primacy, of significance to Jesus of Nazareth. I am developing a whole new understanding of what it means to stand in the gap, of what that really means.
You see, for a long time, I taught standing in the gap was about community and fellowship and serving, helping one another and being an encourager. And I believe in those things. I think they're an important part of our faith. Can I borrow Mark and Jennifer for a second? Y'all come up here. This was not scripted, so pray for them. All right, y'all turn around and face the congregation. Step apart just a little bit. See, my imagination of standing in the gap is that if I saw somebody that I knew that was living life and honoring the Lord, and they came to a difficult place, then you step into the gap, and you lock arms, and we're going to stand together for a little season. Maybe Mark's not feeling well, and so I'm going to mow his yard. Or Jennifer's got a challenge, and so we'll deliver a casserole at supper time. I'm gonna stand in the gap. It's kind of like the Christian equivalent of Red Rover. Huh?
We're gonna lock arms, and you may be going through a rough space. And, you know, the enemy's gonna send his best at you. We're gonna stand here; and if Jennifer wobbles a little bit, I'll help her back; and if I wobble, Mark's gonna help me. And, bless God, we're gonna stand in the gap. Sound about right? That's what I thought. Thank you. Didn't they do a good job? Their blood pressure will come back down. I promise, okay? So, you know, in that notion, what I want to suggest is that really isn't, that isn't standing, and that's not something extraordinary. That's Christianity. If you're not doing that, you need to consider yielding your life to Jesus. To me, that's just the normal stuff of life. We do that with another, for one another. It's who we are. It distinguishes us.
We're a community of people. But I think we've confused that locking of arms and playing Red Rover, and we've even bumped it up a little bit. There's safety in numbers. You get a few more of us together, we're a little bolder. You know, there's courage in the crowd. There's even magnificence in the mob. If we can get a big enough group, we get really bold for Jesus. I don't think that's what's being described when the Bible talks about standing in the gap at all. I've come to imagine it, to understand it to mean that it's a consistent display of choices to be a difference maker for the kingdom of God. It's a 24/7 thing. It affects who you are in your home, and who you are in business, and who you are when you recreate.
Standing in the gap means others will experience God and his purposes in new ways, because someone was willing to stand in that gap. It's more than the use of a weed eater or a casserole dish. It doesn't necessarily have to be about large numbers or recognition. It's about people who take a place, who turn up the light, who are willing to express the truth, to lift a prayer, to forgive boldly, to pursue God through adversity, and to walk with others who are walking through adversity. It's a different orientation in the world. And I'm not asking you to make a commitment to be one of these unique people casually. In fact, I'm not going to ask for that commitment this weekend at all, but I'm going to ask you to begin to consider it with me.
If you've imagined that sitting in church with enough routine that you're considered a part of the community was an adequate service to God, I want to invite you to a new imagination. I'm not signing you up for something or passing out pledge cards. I'm asking you to be a difference maker in this generation. This is our watch. I will not stand silently by while the name of Jesus is denigrated, removed from the public square, taken away from the mouths of our children, and the unborn are unprotected. We've got to decide what kind of people we're going to be. God will respond to us for the good or for judgment. God is not neutral. He has not withdrawn from the arena, but we are at the center of his attention. His people, his church is at the center of God's purposes in the earth.
Now, what I hope to do is walk with you through a number of case studies in these weeks. We're going to look at some individuals, some well-known, some maybe not so much, and see what we can understand, if we can assimilate a list of characteristics, responses of these individuals who stood in the gap, to inform our own choices. I want to start this weekend with David, because I thought he was very familiar to many of us, that we wouldn't have to do a lot of background work. We were going to be setting the invitation for this, and I wanted to be able to get to at least one case study. So, we'll start with David in 1 Samuel 16. It says, "The LORD said to Samuel, 'How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?'"
Samuel is a transitional character, a pivotal character in this story of Scripture. Samuel is the last of the judges. He's a prophet. He's a leader of Israel. From the time that the children of Israel, the Hebrews, occupied the promised land for 400 years, they had no central government. They didn't have a capital city. They didn't have a central point of authority. There was no some form of taxation. They were 12 independent, loosely-connected tribes. And when there was a threat that was so significant that it required tribal cooperation, God would raise up a leader. That's what the book of Judges is аbout: Gideon, Deborah, Jephthah, Samson. They were all leaders of Israel that God raised up and gave unique abilities to repel an enemy that was threatening the well-being of God's people. Samuel is the last of those judges.
The tribal leaders come to Samuel and say, "We want to be like all the other nations. We want a king". And God says to Samuel, "It's okay. I will show you who to anoint". And Samuel anoints Saul to be the first king of Israel. God's choice. And then Saul's heart turns away from the Lord. He becomes overwhelmed with pride and arrogance, and God says to Samuel, "I have rejected Saul". We just read it: "How long will you mourn for Saul"? Saul is still alive, but Samuel is grieving Saul's choices. And God said, "I have rejected him as king". Do you have room in your imagination, in your theology for God to select you and for God to reject you? Serious business. "Now, fill your horn with oil and be on your way. I'm sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king".
Now, I know this is in the Bible, and we read it like that's normal. But if I'm the one that's being commissioned for this anointing service for the new king, my preference would be to know the name before I leave the house. Right? I mean, if you've heard from the Lord enough, if he said, "How long are you going to mourn about Saul? I want you to go to a specific city in Bethlehem, to a specific house, Jesse's house. He's got boys. I want you to anoint one of his boys to be king". I know what I'm gonna say next: "Which one"? Right? My mouth's gonna get me in trouble. It's not a new thing. Which one? And I'm gonna be tempted, if I don't hear anything on which one, to say it must've been indigestion that said Jesse to begin with. Does that sound about right to you? Because after all, I mean it's kind of out there on a limb, anointing kings. That's not like just going to the grocery store for something you left off the list.
You see, if I'm reading this with the integrity of my own life at heart, I'm not moving until I get full disclosure. I'll keep the dialog alive with the Lord. Well, who is it? Which one? He's got a house full of boys. I've seen them. He's got his own ball team. Bethlehem's got the best little league team in the whole country, and most of them are Jesse's kids. Which one of those boys are you gonna send me over there for? And there's no answer. Well, I must've imagined the whole thing. And I don't think I'm that unique. What if we only follow God when we have complete information? We'll never follow. You see, there is vulnerability in following with incomplete information. There's trust involved in that.
Now, this isn't something bizarre. You live your life this way. You've birthed children, and you have no clue what's coming. Right? You make a covenant of marriage with no idea what's entailed in that covenant. You live your life making significant choices with incomplete information. Why do you assume this faithless, stubborn, rebellion posture with God that says, "I will not cooperate until you show me the entire journey". I want a better response in my heart. Verse 2, "Samuel said, 'How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.'" Saul was very much still king. And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I've come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I'll show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.'"
You know, I've read my Bible enough times, and many of you have, as well. There are times when God smites his enemies with blindness. Right? And I'm reading this, and I'm thinking, okay, my choice on this day would be blindness to Saul and all of his advisers. Because if he knows I've gone to anoint another king to displace him, my life is not going to be worth sawdust. And so I'm thinking, okay, God, as soon as I hear that Saul is deaf and blind, I'm moving. But God gives Samuel a different response. He gives him a response of wisdom, but not the supernatural. He says, "Listen, take an offering with you. If anybody asks, just say, 'I'm here for a sacrifice.'"
How many times have I said, "God, I'm not doing this unless you provide supernatural attestation that that was you," for the sixth time, because those first five could've been coincidences. Verse 4, "Samuel did what the LORD said. And when he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. And they asked, 'Do you come in peace?'" This intrigues me. Did you hear it? When Samuel got to Bethlehem, the most influential people in the city trembled at his arrival, trembled at the arrival of the person of God. Clearly he's more than a convener of Bible studies. He's more than a voice for a heightened morality. They recognize an authority, a power present in his life. May I humbly submit to you that we have cared so little about the power of God that we have been content to be conveners of studies. And we desperately need the power of God in our world.
Before we go, I want to pray that God will give you a revelation, a vision of who Jesus is that will change your future. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for your Word and the value it has in us, but I ask that by your Spirit, you would open our hearts to understand you and your kingdom as never before. In Jesus' name, amen.