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The kings and The King

May 14, 2017 | Todd Stiles

Man on the Run (Part 4) | FFCA

It appears that few things are going David's way. In reality, however, God is actually accomplishing much more than meets the eye, both internally and externally. Understand more about how God prepares his people in this fourth and final message from 1 Samuel 21-29.

Sermon Transcript

That's called providence, isn't it? Say it with me: providence. And we're going to look more at that this morning in three chapters in 1 Samuel, 27 to 29. It's been the overarching and underlying theme since chapter 21 so not only is that true in Mark and Mary's life and how it's weaving itself through all of their different adventures, we'll call it, it was true for David as well and God's providence was weaving itself all through David's life, especially we see in these last, I would say, 8 or 9 chapters as David's been on the run. This is our fourth week in this, you might call it, a miniseries and we're looking at David on the run and these chapters this morning, 27, 28 and 29, aren't some of his better days. They're, again, maybe the downward slide of his roller-coaster life, okay? But remember what we've said for three weeks now. The point of this narrative isn't David, it's really about God's providential power not because of David but in spite of David. We're going to see this again played out in these three chapters, 27, 28 and 29.

I think at times this morning you're going to feel like you're in a classroom so prepare yourself for that. Other times you're going to feel like you're in a revival meeting so prepare yourself for that, okay? We'll try to do both perhaps. I'll take a few questions at some point and which the answer this morning will be, "I don't know," to every one of them probably. We're delving into a very deep cavernous doctrine called the doctrine of God's providence but it's healthy for us to swim in these waters, alright, because this is really what's highlighted in this last section that describes David's run. This is the last section before he actually rescues his family and then we go to 2 Samuel and he's king. So let's see how God accomplishes that. It'll be shocking and surprising all that God does, not because of these guys but in spite of them.

Let's read through a few verses in these three chapters, can we? My goal is to, first of all, just kind of walk you through the narrative. I won't give a ton of explanation. I just want you to kind of hear the story and how it connects in the overall picture.

Chapter 27, it all kind of begins in verse 1. I think that verse kind of sets the stage for what we're about to see. Look with me, 27:1, "Then David said in his heart, 'Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines.'" Now that's interesting that he's thinking that he's going to be killed by Saul even though he's got a number of assurances that that was not going to happen, not only from God himself speaking to David but from David's friends: from Jonathan, from Samuel when he was alive. And yet for some reason here, David's emotions take a turn and I believe they take a turn downward and he begins in some way to start trusting himself again as opposed to God's sure promise.

Part of that is he's going to escape to the land of his enemies. I'm sure he's thinking of his own safety but this is not a good idea. His reasoning, however, is in the remainder of verse 1, "Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand." What I think is humorous about this is this: he's thinking this on the heels of Saul actually paying him a compliment. Look at the last verse of chapter 26, look at 26:25. This is after Saul realizes that David has spared his life and what does Saul say to David? "Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them." But David hears that as, "He's bound to kill me."

Now, he had good reason to mistrust and doubt Saul. I don't doubt that at all, but do you see David's emotions kicking in here? Do you see David starting to trust himself, maneuver, manipulate, leverage again? This is like going into your boss's office for your annual review and he tells you a number of good things you did right, that you're doing well, and then you leave thinking, "Man, I'm about to get fired." That's kind of what that's like. David hears one thing but he knows another. He believes another. And it affects his actions.

What are they? Well, let's track his actions. Let's track the last part of this running journey via a map this morning because I think the locations can help us kind of put a picture in our mind about how this looks. David, first of all, escapes to a place called Ziklag. We'll see in a few minutes then Saul has another incident going on in Endor. And then we see later another incident with David in a place called Aphek. Let's just track this together, can we?

Here is David's flight to Ziklag, again, just the narrative aspects. Let me read chapter 27 for us, the bulk of it. Follow with me, would you? It says he arose after realizing that he thinks Saul is going to kill him, he rises and he goes over with 600 men, "And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives. And when it was told Saul," verse 4 says, "that David had fled to Gath," he had left the country, "he no longer sought him." So actually David is wrong in verse 1. Saul is not going to kill him and his plan apparently works on the surface. He seems to be safe.

He gets to the land of Gath here with Achish and he asked for a place to live and the king gives him a place called Ziklag. Well, he's here 16 months, verse 7 says. A long time. Kind of stationary now. What happens in these 16 months? Well, verses 8 through about 12 tell us and it's pretty horrific. I don't have a lot of explanation for it. I can't account for it in the sense of explaining why. I think it's one of David's darker days. Verses 8 through 12 explain how David would go up. He was a double agent essentially. He would go up and the day he would do battle against enemies of the Philistines but when he would return, he would say he was doing battle against the enemies of Israel. Excuse me. Backwards. I'm even getting confused. I'm a double-minded man here. He would leave in the day and he would take on the enemies of Israel, the Amalekites and places like that, but when he would return, he would tell the king he was living with, "Hey, I destroyed your enemies." So he was doing one thing and saying another.

Now, here's how horrific it got. Verse 11, "David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, lest they should tell about us and say, 'So David has done.' Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines." In other words, it was his normal practice for months to tell the king one thing and then do another, and what he was doing was destroying whole towns and villages so that no one could report back, "Hey, David didn't do what he told you he did." He's trying to cover every single base because he thinks Saul's going to kill him.

But he doesn't know what chapter 28 reveals, that Saul's not concerned with David anymore. Saul is concerned with the Philistines so while David is living 16 months in Ziklag, he's trying to be a double agent, Saul is a troubled agent. He knows the Philistines have gathered and they're going to battle him now and so he's fearful. This is what chapter 28 lays out for us.

Samuel had died and Israel had already mourned for him and Saul apparently in verse 3 has somewhat of a personal revival. He kind of does a really good thing here, he puts out all the witchcraft, the mediums. He puts those out of the land. That's a good sign and yet even while he's trying to do the right thing, it appears and we're not sure why he was, the Philistines have gathered and they're going to fight against Israel and verse 5 says that Saul now was afraid, "his heart trembled greatly." What he doesn't know is that David is actually with this Philistine army. I mean, the very Philistines that David is kind of fighting for on the surface, they're the ones who are now gathering to fight against Israel. David's in a bad situation, actually. He's going to find himself to be a man in the middle, kind of ambushed by his own people and the Philistines. We'll get there in a minute.

So Saul's not aware of this. He just thinks the Philistines are going to fight him. They've gathered for battle. He's not sure what to do. He sees that the Lord is silent to him. There's a reason for that. So what does Saul do? He goes back on his word. He actually disobeys the very law he put into place, or I should say the application that God put in place. He disobeys it and he says, "Seek me out a woman who is a medium," a witch, "that I may go to her and inquire of her." In other words, God is not telling me what I should do in regards to the Philistines gathered to destroy me. Find me someone who can help me understand what to do.

So he disguises himself. He goes up to Endor. This is Saul's plight now. It's further north than David's place there at Ziklag. You'll see this. You really can't see the city on this map, by the way. It's up in the area of Manasseh so it didn't really show the whole thing but just know it's further north. There is a good bit of geography between these two right now. They're really not aware that they're this far apart.

Saul is up here, he's disguised himself. He finds this woman who can summon the dead, we'll call it. She doesn't know it's Saul and so he orders her to bring up Samuel there in verse 11. When the woman sees it's Samuel, she cries out with a loud voice and somehow she says now, "You're Saul." So I don't know if Samuel told her, "Saul's in front of you." I don't know if she understood who Saul was or what.

But she's scared and she says, "You've deceived me. You're going to punish me now for disobeying the law." And Saul says, "No, don't worry. I've got my own agenda here to try to figure out." So he gives her a reprieve from that and she sees a god coming up out of the earth which is really Samuel. She's obviously not aware of anything of Israel's history or past. Saul knew it was Samuel so he bows with his face to the ground and pays homage.

Now, there's a lot in this narrative that I don't know how to answer for, okay? There are just some difficult Scriptures here. This woman calling up Samuel from the dead. He's speaking. God's using it. That's a load of information to process. Could you nod your head and say, "Yeah, no kidding, Todd"? At least you're out there and not up here, right?

Well, verse 15 says that Samuel then says to Saul and here's kind of the point of what's happening. Here's what God is doing through this. Make no mistake, God is using this. God is using this evil to bring about his purpose.

"Why do you disturb me by bringing me up?" Samuel says. Saul answered, "I'm in great distress for the Philistines are warring against me." He's not worried about David anymore, he's worried about the Philistines. "And God has turned away from me. He answers me no more either by prophets or by dreams. What shall I do?" And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy?" It's almost like this, "Saul, you should have known this was coming. The Lord has turned from you. He took the kingdom from your hand long ago and he told you this. He's given it to David but you refuse to believe it. You continue to run after David like he's your enemy but David's not your enemy, God is, and you will not prevail against God."

This distresses Saul, for sure. He realizes the Lord is going to tear the kingdom from him. He didn't obey the voice of the Lord against Amalek and that's why. Notice how many times it describes this action to the Lord. Look at verse 17, "The LORD has done to you." Look at the bottom of 18, "the LORD has done this thing." Verse 19, "Moreover, the LORD will give Israel." Look at the end of 19, "The LORD will give the army of Israel."

Church, with all we don't understand about this narrative, let's understand this: God was in it. God was doing something in spite of what other people were doing. Historically it's this right here: he was judging Saul and installing David. Isn't that what God had promised earlier? "Saul, you will not stay king. David, you will be king." God is accomplishing his purposes even in the midst of and often even through the evil that people do.

Well, this is why verse 20 says that, "Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel." I mean, you can see why. Saul realizes, "There is nothing I can do to stop God's purposes." In fact, what Samuel had described would be the fact that Saul would die tomorrow. This is actually Saul's death eve, if you want to call it that. Samuel tells him, "Tomorrow you're going to be with me, you and your sons." I mean, the amount of information, the heavy weight of this news is crazy. Saul's in a bad way.

Then it ends, basically the rest of the chapter with him eating and it's kind of almost factual. He realizes, "Wow, I cannot stop God's purposes." So he has a meal and he goes on his way. He must go on his way back to the area where Israel's army is gathered because this now becomes the focus of 29. You have David's flight to Ziklag in 27, Saul's plight at Endor in 28, and now you have David's might at Aphek in 29.

Saul must return back to where the camp is. He knows he can't stop God so he's going to go to war. That's what kings do. Meanwhile, David's trapped. Does he go with the Philistines? He's been there 16 months. The king thinks he's killing the Philistines' enemies which would be the children of Israel, at least. Does he go to battle against Israel? Does he fight against his own countrymen or does he kind of turncoat in the middle of the battle and slay the Philistines? What does he do? What's in his mind?

Well, the text begins in this chapter by basically saying that he lines up with his Hebrew men to go to war and some of the lords of the Philistines spot this. They're like, "Hey, we've got some Hebrews here with us. This isn't wise. We're going to go battle Hebrews and we've got Hebrews in our army. This is a disaster waiting to happen. This is a sabotage. This is an ambush."

So the commanders of the Philistines here, they talk to the king and they appeal to him, "Don't let David and his men fight with us." Well, the king actually goes to bat for David. This begins in verse 6. David was called by Achish and Achish said to him, "As the LORD lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines." But David said to Achish, "What have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?" Now, really there's an answer to that question: if the king really knew what he had done, he would have reason to not let him fight because he had been a double agent. So here he's kind of like a muzzled agent. He can't really say anything about what his situation is. He can't tell the king what he's really been doing but he can't tell Israel what's going on. He's a man in the middle. Kind of ambushed. Kind of trapped.

The king says to him in verse 9, "I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God," which is actually an untrue statement. David wasn't blameless. He had been deceiving the king and destroying villages to kind of make sure he was under the radar still. But what's happening? God is allowing, permitting, God is ordaining that David not get to fight in this battle so he can go back to Ziklag.

So David does not get his way. Listen to this, church, listen very carefully: David actually didn't get his way and that was God's will. Often we think, "Well, I didn't get my way in that one." Well, maybe that was God's will because here David is forced to go back to Ziklag with his servants. This is about a two or three day trip, it says. He sets out the next morning real early and we'll see next week and we'll see in chapter 30, when he gets back, his actual countrymen have been attacked and taken hostage and he has to fight that battle and free them. If he had gone to battle against his own countrymen, he would not have been available to fight that battle.

So David's might here in Aphek, I use that in quotes because really that's what caused him to be discovered, kind of uncovered. In fact, in chapter 29 it was said that the lords of the Philistines knew that David had had a song written about him. Saul has slayed his thousands, David his ten thousands. This is at least probably 5, 6, 7 years after Goliath if not more, and yet this song is still circulating. So don't underestimate David's military prowess. Don't underestimate his valor. David was known to be a fighting king and they knew for that very reason, "Your reputation, David, goes before you. If we get into battle with you, you'll take us out. We're not taking you with us." So his actual might is what kind of gave him away.

So, again, we'll just lay it out via the map. Here's the narrative in the Bible. David flees to Ziklag and there he is about 16 months of some horrific dark days I think as a double agent trying to find safety within himself and his own means, but God is using it, positioning his family. God is in this directing. It's hard to understand how and why exactly. While that's going on, Saul's in his own plight in Endor but God's in that. God's using it even though Saul is actually making terrible evil choices and that culminates in this place where David is somehow released from having to fight his own countrymen at Aphek, and though he's disappointed, it's actually God's providential way to get him back to Ziklag so he can rescue the people who are living with him there.

Now listen very carefully: in each scenario, there are items I don't fully understand. I'll prove this to you when we take questions. Most of my answers will be, "I don't know. I don't know." I know you've got a lot of questions like I do. These are tough narratives and in each scenario there are items I don't fully understand. Why did God permit an alliance with an enemy king? I don't know. Why did God speak through an unlawful and evil source? I don't know. Why did God allow the enemy to uncover David? Ready, I don't know. I think a lot of the answer, though, is rooted in what we learned last week from Pastor Travis about the definition of providence.

Here's what I do know: that in each of these scenarios, God saw ahead. I don't know all the details for every question, every situation, but I know that God was seeing ahead, positioning David to be king, Saul to be judged, so that God's purposes, so that God's word would prove true in spite of man, not because of man. And this is what the narrative shows, that even with both David and Saul's workings, manipulations, leverages and trying to do whatever they could, God's will was accomplished. David became king and Saul was judged. So the immutable, unstoppable will of God, wow, that's what we see in this passage and this narrative, that they lived under the subtle sovereignty and powerful providence of God just like you, just like me. They and us, we live under the subtle sovereignty and powerful providence of God and through it, through his direction, control, governance, ordination, allowance, all of that through is providence, he prepares his people i.e. David to be king, and he brings about his purposes.

Is this easy to grasp? And the church together said, "No." But is it true? And the church says, "Yes." And I think this is really what the narratives are designed to show. I'm not trying to minimize seminary conversations and debates over dinner about some of these intricacies. I welcome that in a different form, but when you look at the book as a whole and you take the chapters and you say, "What's going on?" In ten years, David is on the run. God is showing that he's preparing David to be king. He's removing Saul as king. And he will get this done. This is called the providence of God. It's a deep, cavernous doctrine. Now watch this: that actually is not a license to sin or to disengage, it's actually a comfort that in spite of even our best or worst efforts, God's will will be done. It's not God's maybe, amen? It is God's will.

And that's why we trust his promises, not man's success or failures. And I put that in there on purpose because sometimes we only say, "Well, let's trust God because man's plans fail." Hey, we should trust God when man's plan succeed. God is working his plan in both failures and success so don't trust man regardless of how he fares or shows, let's trust God and his promises because his will will be done regardless. Period.

Now because I know that is a lot to try to grasp and I've kind of opened up a window and you're like, "Whoa, I didn't know that doctrine is so deep. If I fall into that, will I survive? If I swim in those waters, will I find any air?" Let me take a minute and can we just enter into a classroom situation and I want to show you some things about providence from more of a doctrinal, maybe cranial aspect. Let me give you a definition of it, kind of show you the history of it a little bit where it's kind of bit part of our church and Christianity for a long time and give you some help there, okay?

As a rule, here's what providence is. I like the way J. Vernon McGee defines it and you can find many definitions in theological workbooks. I like this one. There are a couple I'll show you but I like this one. The means by which God directs all things both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil, toward a worthy purpose. And what's that worthy purpose? His will which is why his will will finally prevail. God will direct and govern all things towards that end, his will being done. He further says in his book that providence is like the glove that the hand of human events fits into. It's kind of a neat way to put it.

I also like the way Wayne Grudem writes about providence. Here's his definition. It's a little more seminary like, okay? It's God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them. So we'd call that preservation. He cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do. We'd call that concurrence. We won't get into all these things. Each one is probably weeks of teaching and understanding but just kind of see here's what providence consists of. And then, third, directs them to fulfill his purposes. That would be governance. So providence has three aspects theologically: there is preservation, there is concurrence and then there is governance. For our purposes here, just know that these men agree, they're saying God is directing all things: inanimate, animate, seen, unseen, good and evil. God is controlling things.

This is not something new to our church. We didn't stumble across this. It's been around before you were born. In fact, providence has been a bedrock doctrine of the church. Here's what is said about providence in the Westminster Confession, an ancient document that, maybe not ancient but an older document, for sure, that describes a lot of what we believe and in ways it's very healthy to read. Here's this part about providence. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least by his most wise and holy, what church? Providence, according to his infallible knowledge and the free and immutable counsel of his own will to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.  I like this part of the confession because it points to what God's purpose is. It's God's glory so everything is God-focused, God-centered.

Now, I realize again, you kind of looking up here like, "Man, if I go into that, if I dive into that, if I swim in those waters, will I survive? If my life takes a turn like 27, 28, 29, can I really say God's got this? Is he really in control? Well, I believe about providence and this whole thing we've kind of uncovered today." Let me recommend a book to you. Not only does Wayne Grudem in his book "Systematic Theology," he gives a chapter on providence and it's really good. You could pick that up. But here's a book, the whole book is about providence and it's called "Four Views on Divine Providence." I would say personally the last view in here, if you get this book and read it, I think the last view is heretical so they're not necessarily admonishing every view, they're just letting you know the different views. I like books like that. So I'd encourage you, this is a good book to read. It kind of takes you on a spectrum of what folks think about providence because what you believe – listen, church – what you believe about providence, and this can go both ways but I'll say it this way first, what you believe about providence says a lot about what you believe about God, and what you believe about God will actually say a lot about what you believe about providence. Is God sovereign? By the way, you don't have partial sovereignty. Someone is not almost in control.

So this book will walk you through and just kind of the whole spectrum. Be a little leery of the last view. I think it is heresy. Some would disagree on that, by the way, but I think it is. But this is a great resource for you. It's a little heady. It's going to probably teach you some words and you're like, "Oh, I'm not sure what that word means. I've never heard it before." It's kind of in the theological seminary circles but I would encourage you to pick it up as you kind of keep looking at this incredible doctrine of providence that is woven all through the Old Testament and New, but especially these nine chapters when David's on the run.

Before I connect some dots for you, let's see if any questions have come in about this. We have two. Okay, we'll take a shot at these. I'm nervous today most than most days, I'm telling you, because I'm over that with you. I'm about to be pushed in. I feel like that.

Question: How do we know the difference between providence and coincidence?

Okay, I'll try to answer that. We answered it last week a little bit with Travis. Providence is God seeing ahead, coincidence is us seeing in the moment. I think coincidence is just the human way of us realizing providence was in play. Have you ever said, "Oh, look what happened, what a coincidence." Like you catching that something is happening out of the ordinary, right, but you didn't know it in the moment. It's kind of like after the fact. I think coincidence may be the human moment we realize, "Oh, God's actually doing this." What a, and we should say, what a providence. It's like the word soveronic. I made that word up. It's like when something's ironic but it's actually God doing it so it's sovereign but is to us kind of ironic like, "I wonder why that happened?" So I just say a lot of times, "That's pretty soveronic." Like God's in it but to us that's pretty ironic.

So I think it's the same way with providence and coincidence. Coincidence is probably just us realizing, "Oh, wow. Look at what God's been doing." By the way, I'll show you this in a minute: providence for us, the realization of it is always, it seems like a rearview mirror situation. So I can say this with my mouth, "God's going to do something with this, but I don't see how it's going to happen." Have you ever been there? Like, "Wow, this is so great that God's going to do this and this and this and I'm so glad I'm in this trial, I'm under this weight. This is wonderful." We don't ever say that. Now, we may know it, we may believe it like, "Wow, I'm trusting God but I have no idea how he's going to use this." We say that, right? But after the fact we look back and we're like, "Oh, so that's what God was doing."

That's why I think rearview mirrors are a great thing in your life. Take some time periodically to stop, look back and say, "What was God doing?" and connect the dots. I'll do that for you in a minute with some things, kind of give you some practice at that, okay? But, yes, I think that's maybe a decent answer to that question.

Let's take one more, can we?

Question: If David was not honoring God, why was God still going to give David the kingdom?

Okay, I'm going to give you the answer that you're not going to like: because God was being faithful to his own word. Now, can I postpone the rest of this answer until I give you traveling tip #2 in a few moments? Can I do that? Okay, so let's keep the question in mind. I'll answer it more fully in a few moments. It's a good question but initially God's being true to himself, not necessarily true to David only. Alright?

Now, like I said, a lot of times, how do we connect the dots? How do we see this big hole of like, "Wow, what a doctrine!" It's something we should embrace, we should like this, it's not a license to sin or disengage but yet it is quite cavernous. What do we do with that? I started thinking through, okay, how has God's providence showed up just in the people I know? I was thinking about you guys. I was thinking about our family. So I just started trying to connect some dots and I didn't hardly get past our family.

Like for instance, Julie was not supposed to come to Tennessee Temple University but she did in 1984. She was probably trying to get away from a relationship that was going south where she was living and her mom said to her, "You know, maybe you ought to go and live with your sister." Her sister lived in Chattanooga where I was going to college. I was a junior. And Julie thought, "Well, I don't know. I guess I could." She goes, "It would be good for you." So she comes to a Christian college in Tennessee from Michigan, in some ways to kind of get away from some things there that she just needed some space from. I mean, it wasn't always her plan to go to a Christian college or move away from home. It was just kind of like, "That's probably a good idea. My mom is right about that."

So she goes and lo and behold, fine arts survey comes around, fall of I think it's 84 maybe. I'm a junior. She's a freshman. Mr. Kilpatrick's teaching and I see the girl in the third row. I'm like, "I'm asking her out pronto." So I get to the doors. This is probably weeks in the class. I get to the door and I want to make sure I get to the door so I could hold it for her and then I could say hello to her, you know. So I did that and it worked but it wasn't a conversation. I was like, "I've got to have a conversation with her." So I lied to have a chance to talk to Julie. Did you know that? I did. I'm not being facetious. I actually lied. I was thinking, "How can I get a conversation?"

So we were in chapel one day and she was on one of the rows there and I was coming in the door and I'm like, "I've got to talk to her." So I walked up to her and I said, "Julie." She goes, "Yeah?" I was like, "We're in fine arts survey together." "Oh, yeah. I think I've seen you in there." "Listen, Lord forgive me, I forgot my notes. I don't have notes. Do you have those I could get?" And she says to this day she knew I was lying, you know. I don't know. But I did have the notes but I was trying to find a way to talk to Julie so I'm just telling you, providence is awesome, amen? It happens in spite of us, not because of us. I was a liar.  She did give me the notes. The rest is history, praise God, right?

There were a few months in there in which I had moved down to Augusta and she went back to Adrian and we weren't talking at all. We just kind of broke up, whatever you'd call that. And she came to Chattanooga to visit her sister again and she just happened, as Chris likes to say a lot of times, just happened to run into my mom in a Burger King. My mom remembered Julie and she saw her and this had been years probably. Maybe not years but at least a couple of years. She saw her and she goes, "I think that's the girl that Todd dated." My mom always said, kind of like that video, "You should marry Julie." She'd always say that to me.

Well, she went over to Julie and said, "Hey, Julie, remember me, Mrs. Stiles?" And Julie's like, "Oh, yeah I do." And she goes, "Here's my son's address." Seriously. She gave Julie my address in Augusta and said, "He just got a new job and moved away. He'd probably love to hear from you."

Well, she sends me a card like a congrat for the new job kind of card. And sure enough, things went kind of south for me there. I called her one day and I said, "Hey, I just wondered maybe we could get together and talk sometime?" Augusta, Michigan isn't too far away, is it? Well, it worked out. We got married. Almost 29 years later, I'm glad God was providential in all of those happenstances, amen?

So I think about that. I thought about our son who really didn't choose to go to Moody Bible Institute. He did because it was the financially best option. Like, he probably wasn't real enthused. He told me this week, he said, "I didn't really want to go to Moody but I knew you and mom had said no debt. I knew you thought it was a good school. So I added up the pros and cons and it's like, yeah, I guess I'll go to Moody." But if it wasn't for Moody and him going there, he probably wouldn't have his job now and his job now is that he works for a company in Chicago but he gets to do it all remotely from Ankeny. I mean, you talk about a sweet gig to be 27. He's full time with a Chicago company right here in Ankeny. He works out of his house every day. Only goes there once every quarter. That's a pretty good deal, isn't it? But it was because he was in Chicago at the right time with the job opening and he only took that because it was the financially most reasonable solution but God was in it.

I think about Brianna. Excuse me, not Brianna but Bethany and Matt sitting right here. You see, God sent us the M. when these two were little kids. They helped us plant the church. I met them at Grace West and we thought God was sending us a couple of folks to help with the church plant. We were way wrong. God was sending us a husband for our daughter. That's what was happening in that. Are you with me? We didn't know that then.

All along the way there have been providential things that we say, "Oh, so that's what God is doing." In the middle of all of those, there were mistakes people made, there were sins people committed. There were good things we did. There were plans that succeeded and failed but guess what? God's will was going to be accomplished.

My sister and brother-in-law are back there. Their arrival in Ankeny is providential. I was at a funeral 600 miles away from here and they were there as well. I just leaned over to Steve and mentioned, I said, "Steve, there is a small Christian school in Ankeny looking for a principal." Now they live six blocks from us. God was in that.

So how do you figure all this out? I don't know if you can figure it out on the front end or even in the middle but often it takes a rearview moment when you look back and you say, "Oh, so that's what God was doing." Watch this church, listen very carefully, I'm being very transparent with you: so that's what God was doing when I sinned. I shouldn't have sinned. It was wrong to sin but God even used evil to accomplish a purpose. Yes. Oh, so that's what was going on when I was doing really well. Oh, so that's what's going on when they were sinning.

You see, I'll say this in a moment again but it's not your performance that determines God's will, it's his promise. Amen? And this is what providence is rooted in. God's commitment to his own glory to bring all of history to its ultimate desired end, regardless. Period. That's the providence of God.

He shows up in our leadership here. One of our elders, Brad, he's speaking at Bonderant today. He spent time in jail for an OWI. In fact, that's how God brought Brad to his knees to become a Christian. Isn't that awesome? Would you want to delete that from Brad's resume, take that from his record like, "Hey, Brad, don't want to talk about that." No. That's actually what God used to humble Brad.

I think about Carlos. He came to us from a couple of really rough church plants in California, a difficult residency in Michigan, and he didn't come to us as a preacher, he came to us as a lightbulb salesman. He shows us one day just like you, it's his normal job and he says, "I've just moved to town. I live on the west side. Heard about the church. Thought I'd visit." We got to know him. He's selling lightbulbs because, man, the church thing just wasn't really working well. He spent six years outside of ministry but God had used all that to bring him here so he could pastor our Bondurant campus. Amen? I like the fact that God brought him here to sell lightbulbs. Amen.

I think about Tim and Jennifer. They came here to us from Memphis. He had actually been let go of a church there that was declining. They didn't want to leave the area. There were some hurtful things that happened. This was a job that came up on the central campus. There's a job, let's take it and see what happens. And now they're in a situation, it's ideal for them educationally. Talk to Tim and Jen and they'll say, "Man, we're so glad God moved us here through those difficult circumstances."

I think of Travis over here. Travis' previous church, their no was actually our yes. Before he even asked for it, before he was even offered, none of that was even occurring, there was a position available as youth pastor and he thought maybe that would be something he would do. He didn't ask, we just came to him and said, "Hey, by the way, if you're thinking, you're not our man. You can't be youth pastor here." So they told him no, but guess what? That means he was available for us to say yes. I think it's awesome that he's here. I think it's a great fit for our church but it took a no for this to be a yes.

Does that make sense, guys? It's when you look back and say, "Oh, so that's what God was doing." Yeah, that's providence. And I admit to you, looking into this hole and you see it played out in the narrative format, when you see it in your life and you see the doctrine, that's a lot to look into and you're right. You do wonder, "Man, can I breathe in waters this deep?" A lot of questions, I agree. Can I just as we close give you maybe three traveling tips as you plod under providence because this is how we're walking. We're walking as one of those ones under God's control. All creatures great and small.

So here's three tips, we'll call it, for traveling well, for plodding well under providence.

First of all, realize that providence doesn't minimize planning or remove responsibility. It isn't a loophole for laziness. In fact, church, listen very carefully: you can trust and try at the same time.

I love Proverbs 19:21, do you know why? Because it's the quintessential verse about trusting and trying. Here's what it says, "Many are the plans of a man's heart, it's the Lord's purpose that prevails." Now what I like about that is this: it doesn't actually negate or minimize planning. A lot of us read that like, "Oh, it's God's purpose that matters so don't plan." That's not what the verse says. The verse actually says nothing negative about planning. The verse just makes a statement. Go ahead and plan but plan with this confidence, God's purpose will be done.

You see, that's why the doctrine of providence is not a license to sin or a reason to disengage, it's a comfort to embrace that God will do what he wills. So this means your planning and your responsibility is all part of a picture. Some of you are ordained means by which God accomplishes that is actually planning and scheduling and working. If you don't think trusting and trying can fit together, talk to a farmer who works the fields, digs the holes and plants the crops and knows he can control that to the best of his or her ability, but he knows something else: they can't make it rain.

So there's this idea of, "I'm going to trust but I'm going to try," all with the right motives that we depend on the Lord. So I would just encourage you don't see providence as a way to minimize planning or remove your responsibility. Don't use it as a loophole for laziness. James 4:15 says that it's okay to go to a city, to make plans to visit there and to make a profit, but you can't do that assuming God's will isn't part of it. That's why James says what you should say is, "Lord willing, we'll go to a city and make a profit, stay there a year or two." Here's what James is not saying, James is not saying, "Oh, if you're saying that you'll go to a city and you'll make a profit and stay a year or two, don't say you'll go to the city." He doesn't say that, does he? He says, "Go ahead and say it, go ahead and plan it, go ahead and be involved in entrepreneurial things and business and making money. That's fine, just do it underneath the umbrella and authority of God's will."

That's what's happening and sometimes in the church we seem to have extremists, those who are like, "Do you know what? It doesn't matter what I do. God's got it so I ain't gonna do nothing." You know, it's terrible English, I know, but we just kind of have this hands off laissez faire attitude. That's unbiblical.

And then there are those that feel like they've got God on a string. They control him and they're the key player and that's unbiblical. Instead we should realize that God ordains planning and work and diligence and uses it to accomplish his will.

So that's first travel tip #1. The second travel tip for plodding well in your providence is this: it isn't rooted, providence is not rooted in our performance but in God's promises. This is back to the second question. So concern yourself with direction, not perfection, okay? After all, it's his perfection that steers our direction. You see, the reason – watch this, church – the reason will pull his children all the way safely home, Jude 24 and 25, is not because you deserve it. Listen with every ear you've got: the reason he will not let you stumble, the reason he will not let you fall is not because you're worthy, it's because Jesus Christ has got a hold of you. You are righteous in him and he will be faithful to his own name. Does that make sense? That's why I love Jude 24 and 25, it speaks of a people who would stumble if it weren't for God's promises.

Another verse says this: God is faithful. He called you and he also will do it. I mean, he's the original Nike brander, you know? God called us, he will do it. Why? Because you deserve it? You're worthy? You have potential? You did it? No, because God will be faithful to his own name. God will make it happen. He will bring you all the way safely home. He is working all of history to this desire ultimate end of his will which is some of every nation, language, tribe and tongue worshiping around the throne. This is what God is doing and it is not rooted in how well you do something or how well you don't do something, how poorly you do, how well you do. It's in God's character and promises.

That's why we travel best under providence when we realize it's not about our performance. What I found is this: the more I realize that and I'm going to say it this way and I'll probably get some criticism but let me just kind of voice it, the more I realize that, the better I perform because I just feel relaxed. I mean, can I just be really transparent here? I feel like in the last 7 to 8 years my fervency for evangelism has grown exponentially deep and yet so has my understanding of election and predestination. I am more emphatic than ever to reach the nations with the Gospel, to be a church that has a sending mentality, and yet I'm more convinced than ever that God's got a people he will bring to the throne. How do those relate and coincide? I don't know but I'm thankful that my fervency is growing brighter and hotter and deeper than ever before and I love lost people. I want to talk to them as I can. I want to witness to them, be friends with them. Yet do I think that God has to have me to make sure someone gets saved? I don't. I find such an incredible relaxation and no pressure in plodding under providence, that God's got it to the point that sometimes I just want to serve my guts out, you know? So I don't know if you can hear that well but I find that when you kind of grasp this, you do kind of perform better. There's not this pressure. So take that for what it's worth. If you don't like the way I said that, email my kids or something instead of me, okay?

The last travel tip to plod well under providence: it should cause our hearts to rejoice in our Creator's divine simplicity, not reject him due to man-made complexity. Here's what people do: they see what's happening and so they just, "Well, I can't figure all out about God so it must not be true." But just because you don't get it doesn't mean you should ditch it. In fact, be thankful you don't get God fully yet. He's God, we have a finite mind with a limited understanding and so let's be thankful that in his providential wisdom and sovereign power he has made all things, all things come through him and all things are to him. It's really not about you and me, it's about God.

Let's rejoice in that divine simplicity. Everything is headed for God's glory. I'm a part of that, I'm glad it includes me, but it's really not about me. I think that kind of simplicity is one I can embrace and then admit where I don't understand or I can't figure it out. I just admit that, embrace that, and I'm thankful that God's got it. I don't let complexity be an excuse to reject him and I would encourage you to embrace this divine simplicity as well. God is moving everything to his ultimate purpose of glory to his name forever.

I need to close, I need to wrap up. I'm over time. As we do, I trust your motivation to live under providence to travel well, to plod under this doctrine, will be motivated by one picture that I think sums everything up best. In fact, I can summarize the picture for you in three digits: 2:23. Will you say it with me? 2:23, just remember that one number this week and you'll get providence. Acts 2:23 is the first one, that God decreed and planned his foreknowledge knew and delivered up Jesus to be crucified. Did you know that? Acts 2:23. Yeah, God was in that but it was the men who killed and murdered Jesus. So how does all that work together? Here's the three words I'm saying today a lot: I don't know exactly, okay? But God was in it. 1 Peter 2:23, here's the second one, that when Jesus was in it, he trusted him who judges justly. He didn't revile back. He didn't fight back. He allowed God's purposes to be brought to their full completion. He trusted God who judges justly.

So Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 2:23. Two verses that show us how providence had the cross in view and so what we look horizontally at while the cross is the worst picture of God's plans going wrong actually it's the opposite. The cross is the greatest picture of God's providence power on display, that he could take the wicked, heinous, evil acts of men and from that bring eternal life to all who believe. 2:23, that'll guide you as you plod under providence.

Let's pray.

Series Information

Israel's biblical history is more than military conquest in chronological sequence. It is messianic prophecy in narrative form. This is especially and beatifully seen in the books of 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles. Prepare to enjoy the adventure of the Old Testament in our 2017 series, "The kings and the King," and appreciate anew the anticipation of Christ woven throughout each of these historical books.