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Get Out From Under the Pomegranate Tree

Posted By admin On September 26, 2009 @ 4:37 pm In Casey's Sermons | 1 Comment

 

Ken Cooper’s double life ended in 1982. As he left a bank he just robbed, fire flashed from a sheriff’s pistol. Glass exploded into small pieces like a roadside bomb and flew into his flesh. The metal slug slammed into his chest, forcing him backward. People screamed. Ken’s chest burned as he faded into unconsciousness.

This respectable husband’s 13-year career as a bank robber was over. He was headed to “The Rock”, which according to the USA Today, is “Florida’s toughest prison, known for its murders, rapes and suicides.”

Ken was scared. He looked for something to bring him peace. He knew he needed grace and mercy. That search led him to Jesus Christ, whom he trusted as Savior in a county jail as he awaited sentencing. Ken had a radical change of heart.

Within four years after being released from prison, Ken had co-founded five prison ministry. These ministries have sponsored more than 2,000 men by helping them transition from life behind bars to productive life in a free society. Ken leads worship services and discipleship classes in prisons where he shares the Gospel and helps inmates find hope in the person of Jesus Christ.

Don’t you want God to use you like he is using Ken Cooper? Don’t you want God to do spiritual work through you? Know that God wants to use you to accomplish his purposes on Earth. He doesn’t need tens of thousands of mighty warriors to advance his kingdom. God can save people through the faithful service of just a few.

This morning we will answer the question, “What does God want to give his people?” As God continues to bring people into relationship with himself, he gives those who already know him tools to participate in his work.

Today we will read a Hebrew narrative that gives us insight into the heart of God. We want to learn something about God, specifically, what does he want to give his people. You are on the receiving end this morning. It is not selfish; it is being attentive to the heart of God.

Our text this morning is found in 1 Samuel chapter 14. Let’s turn there together. 1 Samuel 14. I will start by reading verses 1-15. We will pick up through verse 23 later in the message.

1 Samuel 14, verse 1. I invite you to follow along.

1 Now the day came that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.
2 Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron. And the people who were with him were about six hundred men,
3 and Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the priest of the Lord at Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.
4 Between the passes by which Jonathan sought to cross over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp crag on the one side and a sharp crag on the other side, and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.
5 The one crag rose on the north opposite Michmash, and the other on the south opposite Geba.

6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”

7 His armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart; turn yourself, and here I am with you according to your desire.”
8 Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men and reveal ourselves to them.
9 “If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you’; then we will stand in our place and not go up to them.
10 “But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hands; and this shall be the sign to us.”
11 When both of them revealed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines, the Philistines said, “Behold, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.”
12 So the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor bearer and said, “Come up to us and we will tell you something.” And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hands of Israel.”
13 Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armor bearer behind him; and they fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer put some to death after him.
14 That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armor bearer made was about twenty men within about half a furrow in an acre of land.
15 And there was a trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. Even the garrison and the raiders trembled, and the earth quaked so that it became a great trembling.

This morning we will walk through the text to learn what God wants to gives his people. As we move through this text, examine your own heart to see if you are willing to receive these things.

First, God wants to give his people vision. We see this truth in verses 1 through 5.

In verse 1, the story begins with the introduction, “Now the day came.” That sounds like a fictional account, something along the lines of “Once upon a time.” However, this passage is historical narrative. It tells us about events that actually happened in history. It is not fiction. If we were to go back in time we could participate in these events. We could find a rock upon a hill and sit there, watching this story unfold.

Here comes Jonathan. He is the son of Saul. OK… Who cares? Well, Saul is the king! There is fighting in the land between the Hebrews and the Philistines. Saul has gathered about 600 men and he is hiding out near Gibeah, the capital. One would expect Jonathan to be camping there with his father, waiting for the king to issue his next command. However, Jonathan tells the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines.”

That is a big deal. The only one who should utter such words is Saul, not Jonathan. Saul has 600 men at his side. Jonathan has one young man who is carrying his armor.

At the end of verse 1 the narrator adds a side comment: “But Jonathan did not tell his father.” I have this picture of a teenager sneaking out of his house at 11 pm on a Saturday night. Mom and Dad are tucked under their covers, ready for a good nights sleep before church on Sunday morning while Johnny sneaks out to have fun with the boys. Johnny is careful that he does not step on the cat or trip over the dog. If he had asked permission to leave, dad would have said, “no.” In our text, Jonathan expected he would have heard the same response. Rather than getting an answer he didn’t want to hear, Jonathan sneaks away from dad for noble causes. There is a sense of urgency in his gut. There is work to do and someone must do it. He can’t sit under the pomegranate tree sipping pomegranate juice. He is going to do something that only the grace of God could enable him to do. He is going to slay the Philistines.

That is vision. Vision is seeing something in your mind, something that can be better than it is today. Jonathan sees a future when the Philistines no longer oppress Israel. He sees a future when Israel would have the technology available to sharpen their own farm implements and to create their own defensive weapons. He sees a future when women and children enjoy the land God gave them without the fear of enemy attack. He has a vision of destroying the Philistines so that the people of Israel can live in peace.

Where did Jonathan get this vision? God gave it to him. It was part of God’s will. What a joy it is to dream so big that only the grace of God could enable you to succeed. What a joy to receive a God-sized vision from God!

Here’s a question: While Jonathan is heading to the Philistines, where is Saul? There he is, in verse 2.He is safe, still sipping pomegranate juice, surrounded by six hundred soldiers.

In verse 3 we see that Saul is with the priest of the Lord. The priest is wearing the ephod. The priest used the ephod to discern God’s will during that time. Who cares? Well, Saul is positioned to know God’s will. All he has to do is ask. “Come on Saul, exercise a little trust by putting down the pomegranate juice and asking God for direction.” Saul does nothing. He sits in the safety of six hundred soldiers and his sword – the only sword in the camp now that Jonathan has departed.

Jonathan isn’t the only thing that has departed. In verse 3 there is an unusual reference to Ichabod, which means, “the glory has departed.” Saul is now in the company of people who are out-of-favor with God. That includes Ahijah, who is part of Eli’s priestly house. Earlier in 1 Samuel, Eli’s house was cursed when his two sons acted contrary to God’s law. They died and so did Eli when he fell over backward and broke his neck in chapter 4. Saul’s company shows us that a shift is occurring in the kingdom. Just like Eli and just like Ichabod, Saul is growing out-of-favor with God. As he sits in the shade, he doesn’t even know how God is using his son.

In verses 4 and 5 we learn that reaching the Philistines is a difficult task. The terrain is terribly treacherous. There are tall cliffs that provide defensive measures for the Philistines. Try to scale the cliffs and the Philistines could throw rocks on your head. If you didn’t believe it when Jonathan left camp, believe it now as you stare up this steep cliff: God gave Jonathan a God-sized vision.

God has done the same thing for people in more recent history. Think back to the beginning of this nation. God brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to North America through Europeans who sailed west and began new lives here. Among the leaders who influenced the movement of Christianity from Europe to America is Alexander Campbell. He was an Irishman whose father was a Presbyterian minister. As a child, Campbell accepted Presbyterianism as his own religion. Yet, after more concentrated biblical study, Campbell moved away from Presbyterianism. He found the theology, polity and sacramental restrictions too confining. Simply stated, Campbell was fed up with denominations. He understood his move to America as the beginning of a liberated Christian faith. He became a leader in the “restorationist” movement that sought to take Christianity back to a simple, New Testament faith. He spent the remainder of his life on the PBBL, the Presbyterian and Baptist bad list. Yet, Campbell faithfully forged ahead, leading a movement through which God saved countless souls.

APP: Do you have a vision of what God wants to accomplish through you? Maybe it has something to do with your involvement at church. Or maybe God wants you to reach out into your community to point people back to a simple, New Testament faith just as Alexander Campbell did when he came to America. Maybe God has offered you a vision, but you have had your back to him. Make sure you are willing to receive whatever vision God wants to give you. Turn to God and ask him to give you a God-sized vision. Pray, “God, give me a God-sized vision.”

Second, God wants to give his people motivation. God wants to give you that extra push needed to get you going and to keep you moving forward. Most of you know that there are days when you wake up and you just don’t feel it. You don’t want to do anything other than roll over and go back to sleep. When God gives you a vision, that isn’t an option. God wants to motivate you as you pursue his vision.

In verse 6, we see that motivation came from truth. Jonathan and his young armor bearer are standing before this steep rugged cliff. Jonathan has a vision of getting to the top and slaying the Philistines. At one point he must have paused and thought, “What am I doing? This task is too big for me. The cliff is too steep. The Philistines will kill me before I even get near them. If I do reach them, I will be out numbered and out armed.” There must have been a point when Jonathan needed motivation.

Consider his companion. Verse 6 emphasizes, just as it did in verse 1, that this armor bearer is a young man. He doesn’t even have experience to offer Jonathan. Nor does he have weaponry to help fight, according to chapter 13, verse 22. If Jonathan doubted the sanity of what he was doing, it didn’t matter, because he knew God was on his side. If he paused, he didn’t pause for long. He addresses his young companion in verse 6 and says, let us, just the two of us, scale this steep rugged terrain and meet these heathens at the front door of their military installation.

What? He must have lost his mind. No, he acknowledges his trust in God in verse 6, “Perhaps the Lord will act for us. If he doesn’t, we are as dead as doornails; if he does, we will be delivered.” Yes, Jonathan trusts God. He is motivated to move forward because he knows truth. That specific truth is found at the end of verse 6, “The Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”

The theological truth that forms the basis of this entire passage is that God can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. When it comes to physical salvation, God can bring well-equipped armies to the front lines or he can empower one man armed with nothing but a jawbone. When it comes to spiritual salvation, God can use lots of people: parents, Sunday school teachers, pastors, friends and Christians in the workplace to influence someone for Christ over several decades. God can also use one person to accomplish the same purpose. God can use one person who shares Christ in a short email or phone conversation with someone on the other side of the world who is hungry for truth.

APP: Do you believe as Jonathan believed, that God can save by many or by few? Consider how God used Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Esther, Nehemiah, and the Apostle Paul. God used one person to radically change the course of history. Let God motivate you with the truth that he can save by many or by few. While you are only one person and while you may be a smaller fellowship of believers, God can do whatever he wants through you. Allow this truth to motivate you to keep going, keep pursuing the God-sized vision God gave you.

In verse 7, the armor bearer told Jonathan, “Do all that is in your heart. Go for it. I’ve got your back.” This is more than obedience to a master, as in a boss or supervisor. This is a deep conviction to participate in what God is doing. Notice that in verse 7 and beyond the armor bearer is no longer referred to as a young man. What difference does his age make? What difference does his experience make? What difference does his physical strength make? Those things don’t matter because God can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants.

APP: Are you motivated to tackle God-sized vision? Maybe you think you are too young, too old, too inexperienced, too weak, too few in number. Reflect upon the truth of verse 6, “the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few,” then ask God to motivate you for his work. Pray, “God, motivate me to pursue a God-sized vision.”

Third, God wants to give his people success.

Now anytime we hear the word success, our minds take us to riches, power and fame. Don’t go there. Think of success as the realization of God’s perfect will. Success is the advancement of God’s work accomplished through the agency of man according to God’s plan.

We see that God gives Jonathan success in verses 8 through 15.

In verses 8 through 10, Jonathan shares his plan with his armor bearer. He said they would move closer to the Philistines then position themselves in clear sight. He then shares two different courses of action based on the Philistines response. If they say, “Wait until we come to you,” then Jonathan and his armor bearer would stand right there. If they say, “Come up to us,” then Jonathan and his armor bearer would scale the cliff and slay the Philistines. It is likely that Jonathan had two different plans as a way to confirm his understanding of God’s will. Jonathan believed that his vision was from God. He believed God motivated him. If God were really the one orchestrating these events, then God would cause the Philistines to respond in such a way to confirm that God was the one doing what he wanted with whom he wanted to do it – in this case, Jonathan and his armor bearer.

In verse 11, Jonathan and his armor bearer show themselves to the Philistines. From the high place, these two look like prairie dogs that have come out of hiding. The Philistine guards probably thought they were Israelite deserters who wanted to join them.

In verse 12, the Philistines shout, “Come on up and we’ll talk.” Jonathan looks at his companion, “Come up behind me, for the Lord has given them into the hands of Israel.” The verb form “has given” tells us that Jonathan was certain that God was victorious. Jonathan hadn’t even climbed the cliff yet. He still has to exert energy to reach the Philistines, and then he has to defeat them. Victory? What presumption. Wait, Jonathan trusts God. God gave him vision, motivation, and he will certainly give him success.

The two begin climbing the cliff. The Philistines go back to their business, not concerned one bit about what they think are two tired deserters. Jonathan reaches the Philistines and wastes no time. He knocks down about twenty men in a small, half-acre field. His armor bearer follows his steps, finishing off those who gasped for air.

In verse 15 we learn that the earth quaked. With dead bodies spread upon this small field, God made his presence known. Yes, God, you can do whatever you want with whomever you want.

APP: It was probably easier for Jonathan to believe that God gave him success than it is for us to believe that every good thing we do is a gift from God. The earth trembled under Jonathan’s feet, reminding him that success was God’s doing, not his own. We have pride, ego, and the praise of men that makes us think we did this and we did that. Let’s not go there. Just as God gives vision and motivation, he gives success.

Let’s talk a bit more about success. Is it true that God wants to give his people success today, in the church age? John the Baptist was beheaded. Jesus Christ was hung on a cross. The apostle Paul was arrested, tortured and beheaded, according to Christian tradition. Peter was crucified upside down. How about missionaries who spend their entire lives sharing the Gospel without seeing one conversion? Or, what about the Christian who doesn’t cook the books or go along with illegal business practices, thus losing his job. Is that success?

If success is being where God wants you and allowing him to do with you whatever he wants, then yes, that is success. It is the success God offers. Accept it. If you must, ask God for the grace to accept it. “God, whatever success looks like in my life, I accept it knowing that it is for your glory.”

Fourth, God wants to give his people support. Let’s continue the story by reading verses 16-23. Remember that Jonathan and his armor bearer have just killed about twenty Philistines and God has shaken the foundation of the Earth.

16 Now Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude melted away; and they went here and there.
17 Saul said to the people who were with him, “Number now and see who has gone from us.” And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armor bearer were not there.
18 Then Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God was at that time with the sons of Israel.
19 While Saul talked to the priest, the commotion in the camp of the Philistines continued and increased; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”
20 Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and came to the battle; and behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion.

21 Now the Hebrews who were with the Philistines previously, who went up with them all around in the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.
22 When all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines had fled, even they also pursued them closely in the battle.
23 So the Lord delivered Israel that day, and the battle spread beyond Beth-aven.

In verse 16 we see that Saul’s watchmen see what has just happened. They see Philistines melt away. Watching the men scatter from a distance is like watching snow melt away on a warm, sunny day.

When Saul received word of the news, he knew someone must have left his camp to take care of business. He has his men counted and discovered that Jonathan and his armor bearer are missing. At this point, Saul consults the priest. Commotion in the Philistine camp continues to increase. Saul and his men finally rally and join the battle. When they arrive, they see that the Philistines are going mad; they are confused. They are even killing each other with their swords.

In verse 21 we see that even the Israelite deserters turn away from the Philistines and turn back to be with Saul and Jonathan. News about the Philistines’ melting away spreads across the land and more Israelites who hid in the hill country of Ephraim join the battle.

This is a beautiful example of community. God’s people are joined together to accomplish God’s work.

Verse 23 tells us that on this day, the Lord delivered Israel.

What has just happened? I mean, what started as Jonathan and his armor barrier in a small field has turned into hundreds, maybe thousands of men, pursuing the Philistines. God gave Jonathan support.

When God is behind a God-sized vision, he brings people to provide support. When you make the decision to trust God by leaving the safety of the pomegranate tree, then scaling the cliff to face opposition, you can trust God to give you success, whatever that looks like in his mind, and to give you support. It all begins by trusting God enough to receive what he wants to give you: vision, motivation, success and support. God wants to give you these things because he is a gracious God who accomplishes his purposes through people willing to trust him.

You may be in the midst of a big decision that seems too much for you to handle on your own. That’s a good place to be. Ask God to motivate you to keep moving forward. Trust him to give you success. Trust him to give you the support needed to keep moving forward.

Conclusion

Earlier we talked about Alexander Campbell. After many years of preaching the Word, editing and publishing journals, writing books, composing hymns and raising a family, he died. As he passed from this life to the next, his wife encouraged him. She said, “The blessed Savior will go with you through the valley of the shadow of death.” Campbell replied, “That he will! That he will!”

Will God go with you through this life, giving you vision, motivation, success and support, if you trust him?

“That he will! That he will!”


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