Mercy in the Morning
The king & the Kings: A Study in 1 Samuel
By Todd Stiles
Bible Text: 1 Samuel 11-12
Preached on: Sunday, February 26, 2017
First Family Church
317 SE Magazine Road
Ankeny, IA 50021
I should have received a ticket last week. I don’t know how many of you live on the southeast side. I see Jody over there. I think she lives near us and some other folks, but I live on the southeast side and I come up to work the long mile and a half, go west on Southeast Third, turn left on Trilein, hit Magazine, turn right and I’m there. That’s the drive sometimes, you know, it’s just that close, right? But when I turn left on Trilein and go south a bit, usually most school mornings there is a policeman who sits on the right of Trilein and he’s just got his, I’m not sure what of his lights are on but most of the time I remember he’s there and if you’ve driven that way you’ll probably nod and say, “I’ve seen him.” It could be a her but I don’t know, but all I know is forgot Tuesday or Wednesday, I’m not sure what day it was, and I had just turned left and I was thinking about what’s coming up that day and my foot was just getting heavy and I was going too fast already by the time I got just parallel with this policeman and I knew right then, “Man, I’m sunk. I’ve got to shell out some dough, I’m sure.” You know? I mean, I’m guilty. I was going too fast. He or she would do a good job and pull me over and they’d be right. As soon as I got parallel with the policeman, though, I realized what I had done so I did what you do, what do you do? You slow down and you get nervous, your hands get sweaty and then you look in the mirror. “Are they coming? Are they coming?” You know? And I knew I was dead in the water. I mean, I deserved actually to be pulled over but the policeman never pulled out, never turned the big lights on and I received a mercy. I did. I just received a mercy. I didn’t deserve it but I benefited from it.
You know, that’s what mercy is. Mercy is not getting what you actually deserve. Whereas grace is getting what you don’t deserve, mercy is not getting what you actually should get. Now, that’s not the only time I’ve received mercy. I’ve received mercy several times when I have actually been pulled over. Now, I’ve received a couple of tickets, one for a seatbelt violation years ago, and I’m sure I got one, I think, sometime near St. Louis or somewhere like that for speeding, but I’ve been pulled over several times in Ankeny but almost every time, they just showed mercy and, to be honest with you, every time I was actually in the wrong. I think a rolling stop. Just happens to be that the policeman is stopped at the other side. Sometimes you’re oblivious. So I’m thankful for mercy. Can somebody, another driver say amen to that? Because you’ve all done the same thing. You’re looking at me like, “Todd, man, we didn’t know our pastor had been pulled over and has gotten tickets.” Yeah, our membership has too, by the way, okay?
Let’s just be honest, though: I’ve received a mercy in something far more important than physical areas and I’ll testify in a millisecond that I’ve received mercy for my soul from the Lord Jesus Christ when he forgave my sins. Amen? I hope you have too. I hope you know that in the middle of sinfully disastrous consequences no one is outside of the reach of God’s mercy and grace. How do we know that? Because that’s your life and my life. We were in the middle of sinfully disastrous consequences, namely the largest one, h-e-l-l. We were doomed and headed for hell but God stepped in, didn’t he? And by his mercy and grace sought us, convicted us, regenerated us, justified us, adopted us, and is now sanctifying us all because of the mercy and grace of God.
We’re going to see this played out this morning in 1 Samuel 11 and 12. We’re going to see some snapshots of mercy. We’re calling this “Mercy in the Morning” because we’re going to see that’s actually what happens in the first snapshot. My goal today is to kind of break apart these snapshots for you. We’ll understand them. I’ll take a few questions. You’ll see the number behind me in a minute or two, probably in a second or two you’ll see it. Just dial that and text in questions there if you’d like. I’ll try to take a couple of them. But I want us to see this progression here of mercy in a couple of snapshots that I think is very motivating.
It begins in chapter 11 and so here’s what we’re going to see: we’re going to see, first of all in chapter 11, a physical rescue. It’s still mercy, it’s still God being gracious and merciful but it happens in somewhat of a physical way and I think it goes to show the larger picture of how the Israelites had received mercy. So as we begin let’s understand, first of all, here’s snapshot 1: a physical rescue by God. And what did he rescue them from? Her enemies, namely Nahash the Ammonite. It’s in 1 Samuel 11.
Before we begin to read some of these verses, could you circle a trifecta of words with me? Would you do that? I want you to circle the word “save” in verse 27 of chapter 10, and then I want you to circle the word “salvation” in chapter 11, verse 9, and then I want you to circle the word “salvation” in chapter 11, verse 13, and connect all of those with some lines. You may have somewhat of a triangular looking figure going on. It depends on how your margins are in your Bible, but just make sure you circle those words because we’re going to see that, really, this merciful physical rescue is a picture, it’s a symbol that God is working salvation in Israel in spite of them and their sin. In fact, you might even can circle the word “save” in verse 3 of chapter 11, and in some sense you may have a quartet of words here, so to speak.
So let’s read this story together. Essentially Nahash the Ammonite, which by the word Nahash was the leader, it means “snake.” He is attacking Jabesh-gilead, a city within the land area of the tribe of Benjamin. Who was from the tribe of Benjamin that we’re looking at? King Saul is, so that’s some historical thing you want to keep in mind about this story. And basically he threatens this area, Jabesh-gilead and says, “You know, if you don’t surrender to me, I’m going to come in and wipe you out,” and they say, “Well, give us time to think about it because we might want to surrender.” He then says, “Well, if you do surrender, I’ll just pluck out one of your eyes. I won’t kill all of you, I won’t kill everybody, I’ll just pluck out your right eye and you can surrender.” Almost like that’s a graceful way. I’m not sure who would make that bargain but they said, “Give us seven days to think about it.” And of course, the King Nahash, he was pretty smart, he plucks their right eye out that gives them, really, no kind of depth perception; that really reduces the chance they’re ever going to rise up and attack. I mean, I’m sure he’s being very strategic but they’re being strategic in that they are giving themselves a week, like they’re going to hold off this ophthalmologist work, right? So they say, “Give us a week.” They send word. Word gets back to Israel. They weep and word gets back to Saul and he’s angry, righteously so.
Let’s pick it up in verse 6. “And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words.” What words? That this foreign enemy was going to come in and either destroy Jabesh-gilead or if they were to surrender, he is going to still take out their right eye. “You can’t treat our people this way.” He’s angry.
“His anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, ‘Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!’ Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man.” Nice recruiting tactics, Saul.
“When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, ‘Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: “Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have,”‘” what? “salvation.” Fear not. You need a week to figure out what to do but by tomorrow morning, actually, you’ll be saved. Those enemies will not be a threat to you any longer.
“When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, ‘Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.’ And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch,” which is probably between 2 and 6 a.m., so kind of an attack by night under cover of darkness, “and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.” It was such a victory that there weren’t even two people who could say, “We’re still together.”
What a great victory for the Israelites under their new king which, by the way, this is what they wanted out of a king. You recall chapter 8, “Give us a king to fight our battles.” Well, his first battle, he does pretty good, wouldn’t you say?
“Then the people said to Samuel, ‘Who is it that said, “Shall Saul reign over us?”‘” Who said that? You recall back to verse 27ish of chapter 10, there were some folks that were called worthless fellows, they didn’t like Saul and his kingdom, his kingship, they didn’t like him reigning. Well, apparently because they had said, “You know, he can’t really save us,” but what did he do in chapter 11? Did he save them? He did, didn’t he? Pretty good battle here, pretty good victory. So he realized these guys had kind of mocked Saul and made fun of Saul, had doubted him and God’s ability in him and so they want to put them to death now.
“But Saul said,” verse 13, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” This is not a day to try to be vindictive and get revenge upon our own, this is a day to honor the Lord for saving us from our enemies.
“Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.’ So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal.” That’s not like they made him king for the first time, they had the last time done this, I believe it was Mizpah. So they’re probably just at different locations having another ceremony. They are just celebrating again, “Man, here’s the king we wanted. Even in our wickedness look what God is doing. Even in our sin look how God is being merciful to work in our favor in spite of our sin.” So they are celebrating, they are offering, they’re sacrificing.
It says, “there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.” What you see here, really, is just a physical example of mercy. You say, “What do you mean, Todd?” Well, let me just explain to you a couple of things. There is an internal bit of mercy going on in this chapter. I would encourage you in your small group, in your Lighthouse, or even in your family, to read Judges 19 through 21. It’s a pretty long portion of Israel’s history but it explains how at one point Israel went to war with Benjamin, the tribe of Benjamin, and for a while Benjamin was actually winning the war until the very end. Israel then won and it’s kind of a story of how Benjamin refused to help Israel. Benjamin was in Jabesh-gilead. That’s mentioned in Judges 19. And so what you have here is kind of in their past, Jabesh-gilead really was kind of this rebellious, “We don’t want to be a part of Israel,” kind of area, kind of tribe, and it made the other 11 tribes and those people mad. So there was this friction, this tension between these two.
I think it’s quite ironic that when news gets around that some enemies are now attacking the people that actually had been a thorn in your flesh, can I just be frank with you? It would have been easy for me to say, “Well, hey, that’s what they get.” You would have said that probably too, wouldn’t you? “Well, hey, they don’t ever help us! They’re never supporting us! We need help, they’re just always doing their own thing and now they want our help? Hey, good luck, buddy.” That’s just human nature, isn’t it? But did Saul and Israel look to Jabesh-gilead and say that? No, they said, “We will help you.” I think that’s a beautiful picture of mercy when Jabesh-gilead probably technically didn’t even deserve the help of their people because of the way they had treated them in the past. Israel responded with beautiful mercy to their own people to save them.
So you see some internal mercy, not only in how Israel treated one of their tribes, but you see it in how Saul treated these worthless fellows. He didn’t put them to death. He said, “That’s not why we’re here. We’re not here to strike revenge today.” But you also see some external mercy in how God saves the entire nation, specifically Jabesh-gilead, from her enemies. So just understand chapter 11 is just a beautiful picture of physical mercy from God toward Israel as he rescues her from her enemies.
You say, “Todd, is that the only point here?” Well, I think what he’s showing from a 30,000 foot view is this: that he will work through their king to save them, even in spite of them and their king. Did you catch that? He will work through their king to save them because he granted their wicked request. So he’s going to actually work through that to save them in spite of them and their king. Is that not an awesome God? I mean, things like this make me realize that he does not think like we think, that he’s not like us. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts because it seems like, you know, you’d want to be just even-steven, right? You get what you deserve. But here God is saying in some sovereign unique way, “I’ll grant you your request. This is a wicked request. It’s evil. You’ve rejected me and Samuel, but do you know what? I’m actually going to use this to actually show you that I’m in charge and will still save you through that.” What a merciful God, amen, church? What a merciful God to the children of Israel.
But it heightens as chapter 12 unfolds the second snapshot which I have termed a spiritual rescue by God. Now, what happens is this: there is such a beautiful attitude and a wonderful celebration of victory among the people that they are going to have this kind of farewell event for Samuel, he’s going to kind of give his last speech. They’re on a high even amidst the idea of getting a king, they’re kind of on a spiritual high right now, at least they think they are. It gets even better, by the way.
So Samuel gathers everybody together. He kind of gives his farewell speech and what it is is really a reminiscing of his integrity. Now, he didn’t raise good boys, we know that, right? But Samuel, from what we gather in Scripture, never once participated in their perversion and bribery, unlike Eli who participated with his sons. So Eli was part and parcel of their wickedness but Samuel somehow seems to have retained his integrity even though his sons were involved in bribery to justice and he kind of revisits that. He says, “If I have done anything to you people that was wrong or unjust or if I have taken anything outside of what was right, just talk to me.” They say, “No, Samuel, you have the highest of integrity.” And then he kind of does the very same thing with God. He says, “And God’s been this way with you as well.” He kind of reviews some of their history, how God has never let them down. He’s got the most impeccable character in relating to Israel. That’s what’s going on here, okay? They’re kind of on this high from this victory, Samuel is giving this farewell speech, he’s reviewing their past with God, with him.
He gets to Nahash, the current thing that just happened. Verse 12, chapter 12, here’s the spiritual rescue by God. This is beautiful. “And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,'” they persisted in their rebellion, “And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you.” That’s probably a positive statement referring back to the victory. “You wanted a king in your rebellion? Well, do you know what? God chose one, he gave him to you and look what he did: he actually saved you from your enemies. Here’s your king.” So they’re kind of rejoicing, in some sense, that God has not forsaken them. He has shown mercy. And so Samuel, again, lays out the requirements of this covenantal relationship.
“If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well.” By the way, in the past it’s always been if you’ll follow the Lord, it will be well, because there was no human king, right? But now what does the command say? “If you and your king will follow the Lord.” So he’s letting people know there are some expectations, some covenantal expectations not just for you now but for your king, this one that you’ve wanted who, yes, God is using to save you. You must follow the Lord and fear him, the king and the people.
“But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes.” What is the great thing God is going to do? What is the great thing God is going to do to show them that if you rebel, he’ll turn against you and if you obey, he’ll be with you and bless you? What’s the great thing God’s going to do?
Look at verse 17, “Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the LORD, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for yourselves a king.” So something is going to happen to show them, “Wow, we have really sinned against God.”
So what happens is the Lord sends thunder and rain and the people greatly feared the Lord. Now, here’s what I think is unique about this: this wasn’t the time for the rains but God interrupted the normal course of events and actually sent rain and – watch this – more than likely as the rain and the thunder came, it probably decimated some of the wheat, some of the heads of grain probably fell off which would make for a bad harvest. What does God say? He said, “I can in the future disrupt the way you think things are and I can bring things to points of destruction if you don’t obey.” That’s what’s happening here. It’s a picture, a small picture of what God could do on a larger scale if they don’t obey. Does that make sense? It wasn’t supposed to rain, our crops are not going to be… everything, “Oh, my goodness, what’s happening?” And in a small way God is saying, “Obey me. Fear me. Follow me or this will happen on a larger scale,” which is why verse 18 says, “the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.” What an illustration that this same God who is merciful is also a God of judgment.
So their response after being greatly afraid of the Lord and Samuel is to ask Samuel to pray. So they say in verse 19, “Samuel, pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” I think for the first time in three or four chapters you finally sense deep true repentance.
Now, do you catch this phrase in here? “Pray to the Lord that we may not die.” Church, I need to lay this on you. Listen very carefully: if you think they were afraid of dying in chapter 11, I think that was suddenly minimized when they realized, “Oh, my goodness, we thought Nahash was tough. We’re messing with God.” And you can detect the level of someone’s repentance by who they are really actually afraid of, and when you’re only afraid of physical consequences, when you’re only trying to get away from what might happen on the outside, the external aspects, it’s shallow sorrow, but the minute you begin to realize, “I have sinned against God and I need – watch this, watch this, church, listen – I need God to save me from God,” that’s a level of repentance and understanding that’s life changing. And make no mistake, for Samuel this is what’s happening. God is rescuing them from himself. Ponder that.
You see, let me just pause here and say to you: when God saved you, he saved you from hell, yes, but he saved you more specifically from his wrath. God’s mercy saved you from his judgment. Is that exemplified by eternal punishment in hell? Yes, but hell is the result of people who don’t believe and so they eternally and unsatisfactorily pay for their own sin. It’s God’s judgment and wrath on sin so those who don’t believe, those who are rejecting Christ, those who are by the time they die have never turned in faith to the Lord, they don’t receive mercy and they are suffering the wrath of God. This is why as Christians we rejoice in the Gospel because who bore our wrath for us? Jesus did on the cross for three hours, forsaken by his Father. He would say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And yet in those three hours, the most incredibly supernatural historically changing event occurred, Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God for the sin of mankind once and for all in the three hours. High noon, Jesus said, “It is finished!” If you choose not to access God’s mercy via the finished work of Christ on your behalf, then you will pay under God’s wrath eternally in hell.
You see, the stakes are larger than you realize. Your eternal destiny hangs in the balance. This is why God’s mercy is so beautiful and this is why we understand, we need to understand really what’s happening here. When God reveals mercy to us spiritually, he’s actually, it’s mercy by God so that we’re actually saying from God and yet for God. Can anybody get that? But that’s what’s happening. We are saved by God, in one sense from God, and yet we’re saved for God. You see, mercy is actually a very divinely self-reflective act that God takes on our behalf. You’ll see in a minute he does it for his own name’s sake. So mercy is that moment when God exhibits incredible love and grace to us to not give us what we deserve in order to showcase his own character and might and glory. So in the end, who is praised? Not us but God.
I think they kind of get that in verse 19. “Samuel, pray for us that we don’t die!” “And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid,'” which is an odd phrase because in verse 18 they were afraid. He says in verse 19, “Don’t be afraid.” Then he says in verse 24, “Be afraid.” You ought to circle those phrases, by the way, and just rest in the fact that, man, you love the way that we should be fearfully unafraid of God, right?
Samuel says, “I will pray for you. Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD,” verse 20, “but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people.” That’s an amazing phrase. Samuel just said, “You’ve done great wickedness. You’re in this cycle of forsaking God and receiving mercy, forsaking God, receiving mercy.” Then he says, “Don’t worry, God will not forsake his people,” but why? It’s not because they had this incredible response or they’re this worthy people but he does not forsake us because “his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.” The reason God does not destroy Israel is because God’s own name is at stake. His character is involved. And God, watch this, God acts merciful to Israel because he is merciful. So this is what’s amazing, even in the middle of their wicked sin in asking for a king and even somehow God is sovereignly using that to save them, he stays true to them, holds them fast, doesn’t forsake them or throw them away. That’s a merciful God and he does this for his own name’s sake.
Samuel then affirms, “I will pray for you. I don’t want to sin against the Lord by stopping to pray for you and I will instruct you.” He says in verse 24, “Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” So here’s a beautiful picture of spiritual mercy, God coming in and actually now rescuing their heart and saving them from him, actually, from being swept away, from being made extinct.
Keep in mind, church, God’s mercy is always hinged to God’s name. And often we think, “Well, if I respond then God will see that and he’ll be merciful.” Well, I do believe that repentance is required for you to experience mercy but let me clarify something here: mercy doesn’t rest in your response, mercy rests in the character of God and he has committed himself to calling together a people for his own name’s sake. Do those people need to repent to experience mercy? Yes, but that response is not what prompts God to be merciful. What prompts God to be merciful is God’s own character and name. His, I’ll use this word, brand. That’s what’s at stake and God is impeccably faithful to his name, amen? And so he is perfectly merciful.
This is why I think some of the neatest verses about God’s ability to keep his people together, they are found in 2 Timothy 2. Notice how these four little couplets ring because you kind of get the sense when you read through it that he does something, we do something, and he does something, we do something, kind of back and forth but at the very end of it it changes. This is a beautiful set of verses here. Verse 11, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless,” watch this, “he remains faithful.” It’s like put the brakes on. If you are faithless, oh, that’s something God can’t do. His character and name require that even if you are faithless, he will remain faithful. He cannot deny, what does it say next? Himself.
This is the same principle here. God will be faithful to his name. His character drives his merciful actions. This is why we come back to our take-home truth that even in the middle of sinfully disastrous consequences no one is outside the reach of God’s mercy and grace. Amen, church? I mean, at our Lighthouse last Monday night, we just were at times speechless at how God could be working in the middle of such a sinful environment. I mean, they held onto their rebellion, they wanted a king, they would say, “Long live the king!” I mean, they were just headstrong. I got baptized, didn’t I? They were headstrong in their sinfulness and somehow in all that God kept saying, “I’ll be faithful. I’ll be faithful. I’ll persevere. I’ll hold you.” We kept thinking, “Why? Why?” It’s not because of anything they were or did, it was all because of who he is. Amen, church?
This is what we must root ourselves in is God’s character. So when you look at his mercy here physically in 11, 12, spiritually, we must understand first and foremost it is from his character that he acts this way. So even in the middle of sinfully disastrous consequences sometimes, God will extend mercy and save to the uttermost those who are lost. He’ll redeem that which seems unredeemable. He’ll take the most atrocious pile of ashes and turn it into something beautiful. He’ll take the tears that would just fill up a room with mourning and he’ll turn it into a room of dancing. How does that happen? Because God is a merciful God.
I hope right now your mind is thinking back to the time that God showed mercy to you and I know we’re all on a spectrum here. Some of us, we don’t have a past that would make a great video, you know? Saved as a young kid, Christian home. Some of us would have a past that would sell a million copies, you know? But can I say to you it took the same amount of grace to save every one of those people regardless of where they are on that spectrum. The same amount of mercy. Every cup of blood that Christ shed was for every single sinner regardless of how much they expressed it or denied it. In all of our self-righteousness or in all of our blatant wickedness, it is all God’s grace and mercy. This is why we rejoice in what we see in these two chapters, that in the middle of their sinfully disastrous consequences in which they were adding to their sins, somehow God said, “You’re not out of reach and for my own name’s sake I will claim you.”
Two mercy reminders for you and then I’ll take a couple of questions. It’s never too late to repent. Amen, church? I don’t know where you are in the middle of your sinfully disastrous consequences, I don’t know where you are in your sins, but you are never beyond the reach of the long arm of God. You are never too far away from the hand that saves, the ear that hears. It’s never too late to repent. “But you don’t know what I’ve done.” I don’t. “You don’t know where I’ve been.” I don’t. “You don’t know who I’ve hurt.” I don’t. God does and he loves you and it’s never too late to repent. Would you say that with me? It’s never too late to repent. Would you turn to God this morning and say, “God, I have been just headstrong in my own way, but if you really will save me, if your mercy is bigger than all of my sins, then I will turn to you even in the middle of these situations and I will ask for your mercy and grace.”
And it’s always too early to quit praying. Amen, church? So maybe you’re born again here this morning, you know that you’re saved and you’re living a life of gratitude for God’s mercy but you’re thinking of folks who, “Man, they just seem like they’re so far gone.” Hey, it’s always too early to quit praying so pray away. Amen, church? Every day in multiple ways at multiple times. What did Paul say? “Pray without ceasing.”
One of my favorite spots in our office is just outside my office door. It doesn’t get a lot of attention and I know it didn’t a ton of attention here with you guys, it’s not like everyone filled them out, but there are these little cards called White Harvest Cards. You may remember them. A few years ago we asked folks to put names of folks that are lost and it was a perforated card and you kept half and we kept half and we said we’d pray for those names and we do. Do you know that? I don’t know if you have a set time of the week but I come out of my door every single day when I come out of that door, I see that posterboard of white cards with people who don’t know the Lord and I remember it’s never too late to repent and it’s always too early to stop praying.
Let’s see if there are any questions first and then I’ll make one final observation with you. No questions. Okay.
I want to make one final observation with you that I think would probably, I hope this settles with you. I was thinking this through Tuesday and I got back from some study time and I told Julie, I said, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do with this Sunday.” You know, and I’m usually like several weeks ahead. That’s kind of the way I operate and I use most of the week prior to the message and the actual week of just for digestion to let things kind of almost soak in, bathe it in for a while because I just want to be here passionate for the word of God and you can’t get that if you’re just kind of wrapping things up Saturday. Like, “I think I’ll say this.” You need some time to let this kind of weigh on you so most of the week I’m just digesting what I’ve been studying.
But it was overwhelming Tuesday as I thought about God’s faithfulness to us for his own name’s sake and how that they actually were afraid of God and I began to realize something: there is a prioritized perspective to these snapshots and you cannot miss this. Chapter 12 matters a whole lot more than chapter 11. Can we just voice that? Like, if they lose an eye, okay, that’s tough but if you lose your soul, that’s far worse, people. Do you see the last words in verse 25, “if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away.” The Hebrew ambiance here is that of extinction. It’s like you’ll be wiped off the face of the earth. The map will have no remembrance of you being here. You have no land allotment, no name. This is what God can do and he said to Israel, “If you continue to do wickedly, if you rebel, I can sweep you away.” I mean, it kind of makes the whole gouge the eye out thing take perspective, doesn’t it?
But what is it that we often get most upset about? These physical things in which we might lose something and we love mercy in physical situations but can I say to you: that’s not near as important as mercy for what matters most and that’s mercy for your soul. And some of you are more concerned with your body, physical body and your external situation and a rescue from that, than you are with what really matters and that’s your soul. This is why Jesus would say in Matthew 10:28, these are astounding words. We should wrestle with these. We should grapple with these. He said, “Do not fear those who kill the body.” They can’t kill the soul. That would be like Nahash and the Ammonites, okay? “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Like, “Don’t fear someone who can gouge your eye out, fear him who can sweep you away.”
I was so overwhelmed with what do we need? We need – watch this – we need to realize that God has actually saved us from himself. I don’t know how you process that. You can balk at that but I think it’s the deepest understanding of what happened when Jesus bore the penalty of our sin because if you had to stand up against God, you would last zero time. I would last zero time. God would sweep us away.
That is of far greater importance to what happens to your body or your house or your bank account or your car or your truck or your hobbies and this is what makes the Gospel so delightfully beautiful, that Jesus stood in for us and for three hours bore the wrath of God on our behalf. When I see that mercy, then I want to run and repent and ask the Lord, “Thank you.” Just say, “Thank you for your grace and mercy that draws me to God.”
This is what Robert Robinson experienced. He experienced the weight of realizing, “I’ve offended God and I need God’s mercy to save me from God’s wrath.” You’re like, “Who in the world is Robert Robinson?” He’s the one who wrote the hymn, “Come thou fount.” Lizette is going to come and join me for a minute and she’s going to play this. I thought we’d sing this together as we close. Here’s why: it contains words that describe today. He talks about streams of mercy. He actually uses the word “Ebenezer” in this song. Remember Ebenezer? It’s a place of help. I know it’s a word you don’t say much but, man, I’ve got some Ebenezer’s, do you? A place where God said, “I will help you in spite of yourself.”
When Robert Robinson wrote this song, he was just a young, like 20 maybe, 25, and his past was horrible. He had pretty much been raised without a dad. This is the 1700s, by the way, which back then, who knows what the welfare system was like, the church system like. I don’t know how they did it but he was without a dad, started working very early, just kind of randomly would find places to work and food and stuff. He made some bad friends and so they went one day to hear George Whitefield preach, one of the greatest preachers in the history of America, the history of Christianity, really, he’s just a fabulous preacher. He went to hear him preach to mock him. They were going to make fun of him. Well, he spoke that day on, “Oh, you generation of vipers,” and Robert Robinson says that day as the word of God hit him in that who he was really offending, he said, “I’m not here to mock a preacher,” he said, “I’m not here to get under his skin. I’m actually mocking God. I’m offending God,” and he said he fell under great conviction, he repented and even in spite of all of his terrible past, drunkenness, debauchery, just unrestrained living, he said, “I knew God’s mercy was the only way to be saved.” He said, “I just asked God to save me.” God saved him, put him into the ministry later on and that’s where this hymn comes from. A man who went to mock a preacher and laugh at God and left a saved individual. Why? Because God even in the middle of sinfully disastrous consequences can save anyone. No one is outside of his reach. Amen?
So this song kind of sums up this text. I think it brings some things back from other chapters. I sat down this week at the piano just to kind of play and sing a little bit on some old hymns and I stumbled on this one and I thought, “That kind of says what we’re saying.” I went into the story on it and I thought, “We’ll sing it together.” So do you want to sing this with me for a little bit? It goes like this, maybe you can kind of follow along and you may know it. If not, sing with me.
“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace.”