Worship Helps for Epiphany 7
Art: David Spares the Life of Saul
Worship Helps: The Savior’s Sermon: Love your enemies! What could be more counterintuitive? Yet Christ calls his disciples to a love for our neighbor that models itself after Jesus’ love for the world. As Luther said: Christi sumus in nominativo et genitivo (We are Christs—with and without the apostrophe). A heart like Christ’s has no room for vengeance, but is filled with love for all.
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 26:(1-6) 7-25
The Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, “You should know that David is hiding at the Hill of Hakilah, which is near the badlands.”
2So Saul set out and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph with three thousand men, who were hand-picked from Israel, to search for David in the Wilderness of Ziph. 3Saul set up camp near the road at the Hill of Hakilah, which is near the badlands. David, however, stayed in the wilderness. When he heard that Saul had come into the wilderness after him, 4David sent out scouts, who confirmed that Saul had come.
5Then David moved out and came to the place where Saul had set up camp. David saw where Saul lay sleeping near Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was sleeping inside the defensive perimeter of the camp, and the rest of the men were camped around him.
6Then David responded to the situation by saying to Ahimelek the Hittite and to Abishai son of Zeruiah, the brother of Joab, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?”
Abishai said, “I will go down with you.”
7So during the night David and Abishai went through the people in the camp, and they saw that Saul lay sleeping inside the defensive perimeter of the camp, with his spear stuck into the ground beside his head. Abner and the rest of the men were lying all around him.
8Then Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand today. Please let me strike him and pin him to the ground with my spear. One time, that’s all I’ll need. I won’t need to strike him a second time.”
9But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” 10David continued, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come and he will die, or he will go down into battle and be swept away. 11May I be cursed if I stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Now go and take the spear that is beside his head and the jar of water, and we will go.”
12So David took the spear and the jar of water that were next to Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw them. No one knew anything. And no one woke up. They were all sound asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen on them.
13Then David moved over across from the camp and stood on the top of the mountain some distance away. There was a lot of space between them. 14Then David shouted to the people and to Abner son of Ner, “Abner, are you going to answer?”
Abner responded, “Who are you to be shouting at the king?”
15David said to Abner, “Aren’t you a man? Who is like you in Israel? So why haven’t you kept watch over your lord, the king? For someone came into the camp to destroy your lord, the king. 16This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because all of you have not kept watch over your master, the Lord’s anointed. Now look around! Where are the king’s spear and the jar of water that was next to his head?”
17Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is this your voice, David, my son?”
David said, “It is my voice, my lord, the king.” 18He added, “Why does my lord pursue his servant? What have I done? What evil is there in my hand? 19So please, let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, let him accept an offering. But if it is other people, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out today so that I cannot remain in my share of the Lord’s inheritance. They keep saying, ‘Go, serve other gods!’ 20Now therefore, do not let my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of the Lord, for the king of Israel has come out searching for a flea, or like someone who hunts for a partridge in the mountains.”
21Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son, for I will not harm you anymore, because my life was precious in your eyes today. I have acted like a fool and have made a terrible mistake.”
22David responded, “Look, here is your spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. 23May the Lord deal with every man according to his righteousness and his faithfulness, because the Lord handed you over to me today, but I would not stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. 24Just as your life was precious in my eyes today, so let my life be precious in the Lord’s eyes, and let him deliver me from all persecution.”
25Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son. You will certainly accomplish great things, and you will certainly endure.”
So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his own place.
1. Why did David go down into Saul’s camp?
2. Contrast David’s attitude with Abishai’s.
Epistle: Romans 12:9-21
9Do not just pretend to love others. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another with brotherly love. Think of others as deserving more honor than yourselves. 11Do not be lagging behind in zeal, but be fervent in spirit, as you continue to serve the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope. Endure trials patiently. Persist in prayer. 13Share with the saints who are in need. Be quick to welcome strangers as guests.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who are rejoicing; weep with those who are weeping. 16Have the same respect for one another. Do not be arrogant, but associate with the humble. Do not think too highly of yourselves.
17Do not pay anyone back evil for evil. Focus on those things that everyone considers noble. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, maintain peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20But:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him a drink.
For by doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
3. Zeal is important. But “spiritual fervor” must accompany zeal. What is spiritual fervor, and why must it always accompany zeal? Verse 12 captures the essence of the Christian life. Describe the lives of Christians who shape their lives according to Paul’s words in this verse.
4. Paul tells us to be devoted to one another in brotherly love. How does that shape the way we view our fellow worshipers on Sunday morning?
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I tell you, do not resist an evildoer. If someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40If anyone wants to sue you to take away your shirt, give him your coat too. 41Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46Indeed if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even tax collectors do that, don’t they? 47If you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the unbelievers do that? 48So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
5. What important aspect of divine love does Jesus emphasize in these verses?
6. How does Jesus summarize his words in Matthew 5?
1. The first time David had a chance to spare Saul’s life, it had been in a cave. The Lord himself brought David and Saul together. David had the chance to kill Saul, but he only cut off the hem of his robe, and for that he felt conscience stricken. This helps us understand David’s motive for going into Saul’s camp. He once again wanted to take something belonging to Saul (which he would return) to show Saul that he was no threat to his life. He wanted to repay evil with good and heap burning coals on Saul’s head. (See Romans 12:19-21.)
2. Once again, David’s men did not see things in the spiritual light in which he saw them. Abishai argued that God was fulfilling his promise to David, namely, to give David’s enemies into his hands. But David saw the matter through spiritual eyes. The Lord alone had raised Saul to this position, and the Lord alone would remove him from it.
3. Zeal is intense concern for some person or cause. Zeal can be misdirected. Spiritual fervor (“spiritual” in the true sense of the term) is focused on Christ and on acting out of love for him. Spiritual fervor is the rudder that gives zeal its direction.
We are filled with hope because of our joy in Christ. We know suffering accompanies our Christian lives, so we bear with it patiently. We know the power of prayer, so we pray faithfully for the growth of the church and our own faith.
4. We see our fellow members as brothers and sisters in Christ. Personality issues fade away, as does competition and favoritism.
5. Jesus reminds us that we are created and commanded to love not only those who are “lovable” or who return our love; that is the so-called “love” of this world. Divine love is unique because it extends even over our enemies. In fact, the essence of divine love displays itself in gaining nothing in return. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8).
6. Jesus shows us that the fulfillment of God’s law means perfect holiness and sacrifice of self-interest. Sinners can’t attain such perfect. We need a Savior, and we have a perfect Savior in Jesus.
Putting your faith into action
Some of Jesus’ lessons are difficult for us sinful mortals to accept. We work hard for our money, right? Shouldn’t it be enough to give it to our congregation and maybe to friends or family if they really, really need it and we are sure of being repaid? And don’t we have our rights? If someone does us wrong, does Jesus actually expect us to just let it go, or even worse let it happen all over again? But he was very clear: turn the other cheek, give more than is asked for, go the extra mile. Everything—every good thing—we have is a gift from our heavenly Father, a gift we have done nothing to deserve. This includes our eternal salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection. If he could go to the cross for our sins, surely he can ask us to freely share his gifts and his love with others, with no strings attached.
5] These things cannot occur until we have been justified by faith, and, regenerated, we receive the Holy Ghost: first, because the Law cannot 6] be kept without [the knowledge of] Christ; and likewise the Law cannot be kept without the Holy Ghost. But the Holy Ghost is received by faith, according to the declaration of Paul, Gal. 3:14: That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 7] Then, too, how can the human heart love God while it knows that He is terribly angry, and is oppressing us with temporal and perpetual calamities? But the Law always accuses us, always shows that God is angry. [Therefore, what the scholastics say of the love of God is a dream.] 8] God therefore is not loved until we apprehend mercy by faith. Not until then does He become a lovable object. – The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Article III Of Love and Fulfilling the Law (paragraphs 5-8)
Hymns: 493; 492; 464; 498; 388
1 Though I may speak with bravest fire
And have the gift to all inspire
And have not love, my words are vain—
As sounding brass—and hopeless gain.
2 Though I may give all I possess
And, striving so, my love profess
But not be giv’n by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.
3 Come, Spirit, come; our hearts control.
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide ev’ry deed;
By this we worship and are freed.
Text: Hal H. Hopson, b. 1933. © 1972 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.