When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats' Rocks. 3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe. 5 And afterward David's heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul's robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed.” 7 So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way. 8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? 10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord's anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.” 16 As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father's house.” 22 And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
Dear Fellow Redeemed:
Remember that God’s Old Testament people in Samuel’s time had chosen against God’s will, to have a king. God granted it with the warning that the king would be a tyrant. Saul was the king whom the LORD anointed. He soon began to become that tyrant. He led the LORD to say, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” Samuel passed the word onto Saul: The LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel (1 Sam. 15:26).” David would be the next king.
We have heard about the early days of David’s service to the king in our texts from the past couple of Sundays.
* His playing of music calms the king, who is being tormented by a harmful spirit that the LORD has sent in judgment (1 Sam. 16:14). Then David
* defeats Goliath, as we heard about last week, and becomes a valued commander of the king’s armies.
But the king comes to envy and hate David. The text says, Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul (12). All Israel and Judah loved David (16), the text says.
There’s a lot more of this account of Saul and David; but you know enough now to understand what is happening in our text. King Saul has heard where he can find David, and has gone there with three thousand chosen men to kill him.
But, as it turns out, instead, David has an opportunity to kill the king. If we were speaking in worldly terms, we might say the king’s luck has run out. He wanders alone into just the particular cave in which David and his men are sitting. They are so close to him (there in the darkness) that David is able to cut off a corner of the king’s robe without the king knowing it. David’s men even point out to him, this is your opportunity!
It’s an interesting situation. What could seem more clear? David’s men even see this as the LORD’s giving of Saul into his hand. The guy’s been trying to kill him. He’s sort of a lame duck king anyway; the LORD is against him. David’s next in line. Now, here he is on a silver platter in a dark cave, alone, unsuspecting, completely vulnerable. David can be king today, with everything that comes with that. The people already love him. What could be easier?
If you look in the hymn book, in the Trinity 1 section that we are singing hymns from today, you’ll note that it says as today’s theme: HEAVENLY RICHES. David distinguishes himself here from Saul, in that he chooses heavenly riches (Now, it should be noted that David did not always chose heavenly riches - he was a sinner like all of us; but he did in this case).
Saul had lost the LORD’s favor partly because when the LORD ordered him to devote to destruction everything in a certain place - not keeping anything - he kept a bunch of things. He chose this world’s things over the LORD’s clear direction (and therefore, over the LORD Himself). We teach our kids in the First Commandment, You shall have no other gods. Nothing else in this world can be more important to us than the LORD. Whenever we are doing something that the LORD has forbidden us to do, we are making that thing more important than the LORD. We are choosing it over Him.
David chooses differently from Saul here. He can’t take the throne like this. The LORD has anointed Saul as king. He has set Saul in his position. David must honor that. In his mind, he must honor it even though, most likely, this person will continue to try to kill him (so it won’t necessarily be an easy thing to honor the LORD and do His will). Even though it would seem right for David to be king now, he has to honor the LORD’s will above his own. HEAVENLY RICHES. He chooses the Lord’s will over whatever he could gain for himself in this world.
We might wonder, in general, what it looks for us to choose the Lord’s will over whatever we could gain for ourselves in this world. What does it look for us to have in mind HEAVENLY RICHES.
Well, it looks like what John describes in our epistle lesson, for sure. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. God has loved us first. He has redeemed us in His Son, Jesus - the only One Whose mind was always on Heavenly Riches. He redeemed us. That means He bought us back from being in the possession of the devil because of our sins. He punished His own Son on a cross instead of sending us to hell where we belong. He invited us in Baptism to know Him according to His mercy. We don’t have to be afraid of Him. We don’t face an angry judge who keeps a record of our wrongs. Jesus was punished for all of them, so that we are forgiven for all of them.
The Holy Spirit lives in us now, leading us to love the LORD with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As believers we look like people who love, then. That’s what a person looks like when he has in mind HEAVENLY RICHES. A person who loves is what we should be seeing in our mirrors.
Martin Luther, commenting on our Gospel lesson writes: For from this faith man knows God, how he is good and gracious, that by reason of such knowledge his heart becomes so tender and merciful, that he wishes cheerfully to do to every one, as he experiences God has done to him. Therefore he breaks forth with love and serves his neighbor out of his whole heart, with his body and life, with his means and honor, with his soul and spirit, and makes him partaker of all he has, just like God did to him.
That isn’t what the rich man looks like in our gospel lesson though. He evidently doesn’t love like that. Well, he loves himself plenty. That’s what the being clothed in purple and fine linen and feasting sumptuously every day indicates. He sees very well to all of his personal desires (not every rich person lives like this, by the way; but this one did). If we look at King Saul in the moment of his plundering of the things the LORD forbade, we see a man similarly self-focused, this-world-focused. He isn’t concerned about HEAVENLY RICHES. Even after he’s in hell, the rich man is still trying to give self-serving orders; do you notice that? Send Lazarus to cool my tongue (Lazarus - the one who was dying outside his door for who knows how long as he feasted sumptuously every day). Oh, he can’t come here to see to my immediate needs? Then send him to my brothers, at least, so they won’t have to come here.
Lazarus, the poor man, on the other hand, had in mind HEAVENLY RICHES, evidently. I say evidently because he was in heaven. People don’t go to heaven because they’re poor (just as people don’t go to hell because they’re rich; God makes people rich and poor). People go to heaven because they have faith in Jesus. So Poor Lazarus had faith in Jesus. We don’t know much of his life’s story - only this little glimpse in our Gospel lesson. But we know from Paul’s words that a person is saved by God’s grace, through faith, as God’s gift because of Christ’s sacrifice, and not because of anything the person is, or has accomplished (Ephesians 2:8). So, while Poor Lazarus was groaning outside the other man’s door - out there in the gutter, we have to reasonably assume he was also rejoicing in God’s grace in Christ, and anticipating his heavenly home. He knew that his sins are forgiven in Christ. That’s what everyone knows who is in heaven.
It behooves us, then, to have HEAVENLY RICHES in mind, to never allow ourselves to become distracted by whatever we might gain for ourselves in this world. But we have been, and we continue to be. The temptation to grab the kingship for himself now (that David had there in the cave), the temptation to experience the world’s pleasures now (like the rich man in our Gospel) - that temptation is strong for us too, my friends. Satan tempted Eve with this same sort of thing. He tempts us with it. Neighbor! When am I going to get mine?! What about me? Why do I always have to wait? This sort of thinking doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. Rich people think like this, and poor people think like this. Every one of us has the same sin. And it’s been the case for you, and for me - even though the Spirit is leading us in the other direction. Our sinful nature clings to this world, and to its self-seeking motivations. We have sin for which to repent.
But as John writes in our epistle for this morning, we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. And we cling to that love in confidence for the day of judgment. Though we have sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory, we are not afraid of God. His perfect love has cast out our fear. We won’t be punished because Christ has been punished for us. Your sins are forgiven in Him.
So when we look in our mirrors, we see those who are loved by God. That’s a joy that loosens our lips, isn’t it. It loosens our lips to speak with love to others around us. It’s a joy that loosens our clutching hands that grip this world’s things. It does so, so that we can be generous to others around us, empathizing with them. Our minds are on HEAVENLY RICHES by God’s grace, and by the Spirit’s power in Word and Sacrament, because God has loved us first in Christ our Savior. He is the only one Whose mind was always on HEAVENLY RICHES. In a moment in which, from a human perspective, He seemed likely to gain from going His own way - in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before He was to be arrested, He said to His Heavenly Father, Not mine, but your will be done (Luke 22:42). Like the poor man in our Gospel lesson, we rejoice in God’s grace. We rejoice in it in this life - whatever it looks like for each of us - and we anticipate the day when that grace will carry us to Abraham’s side, where all are who trust in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. Amen.
Other Lessons from this Sunday:
The Epistle - 1 John 4:16-21
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The Holy Gospel - Luke 16:19-31
"There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house- 28 for I have five brothers- so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"