Monday, December 19, 2016

A Tale of Three Kings – A Study in Brokenness

A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness by storyteller, pastor and evangelist Gene Edwards’ is a little book.
Separate recommendations: Chuck Swindoll (chancellor DTS) and Prof. Duffy Robins. Youth ministry consultant.
Not about the outward things of impression, but about the inward things of our hearts.
Hard being a Christian? Especially responding as a Christian? What I’m sharing tonight will help.
Hoping this message will help 1 or 2 of you tonight; seeds for others of you.
Saul, with little doubt, was a great leader—everything people today are seeking to be… but, despite Saul’s leadership prowess, God rejected him.
PART ONE – Saul and David (back story of 1 Samuel 18-31)
Two kings: the Lord’s anointed, Saul, who the Lord rejects, and the Lord’s newly anointed, David, who must suffer a mad king (Saul), who throws spears, until the Lord is ready to install David to the throne.
David is anointed with oil by Samuel, and the king-elect gradually grows in stature, but, and this is important:
“his [anointing] led the young man not to the throne but to a decade of hellish agony and suffering… On that day, David was enrolled, not into the lineage of royalty, but into the school of brokenness.” (p. 8)
David was set to learn many indispensable lessons about spear throwing, of all things, from an insane king… Saul.  David’s life was about to get painful.
David served the mad king, and the better David did, the more jealous the king grew.  Saul terrorises David.  Saul: haunted by thought he’s replaced. Saul is insanely jealous, paranoid, suspicious, raving, angry.
We talk in terms of bullying… Saul is the king of bullies to David.
David knew he was now the Lord’s anointed, so we must ask, when Saul threw spears, why didn’t David throw them back? 
David began to understand, that, in not throwing the spears back, God got what God wanted… the book says:
“God did not have — but wanted very much to have — men and women who would live in pain… God wanted a broken vessel.” (p. 12)
... again from the book
“God has a university.  It’s a small school. 
Few enrol; even fewer graduate. 
Very, very few indeed.”
(p. 15)
“… all students in this school must suffer much pain.  And as you might guess, it is often the unbroken ruler (Saul, in David’s case) (who God sovereignly picks) who dispenses the pain.” (p. 15)
“As the king grew in madness, David grew in understanding,” as if sanctified by what he suffered.  David chose to submit under an oblivion of lunacy, and thereby, in his brokenness, spiralled down into a deeper hell.
So David was perplexed… what am I to do when these spears whistle past my head?  Of course, any man or woman’s logic is to grab that thrown spear and throw it right back where it came from… an eye for an eye.
After all, David, you’re a warrior!  Are you chicken?  Goaded by men and by conscience, there did seem something amiss in his logic — to avenge the attack is to avenge one’s kingship.
Yet, David would not throw those spears back.  He was not a king after the order of Saul.  David had learned something absurdly counterintuitive; it is always better to pretend the spears didn’t even exist… and if they did hit, it doesn’t matter, even if they pierce your heart.
Now to change tack: we have to ask ourselves, continually and constantly, if we’re the Lord’s anointed… and, if so, are we after the order of King Saul.  If we are, we’re destined to miss the mark. 
“Am I someone who fights for my own justice?”  “Am I a spear thrower?”  “Do I retaliate?”
Something that pierces worse than Saul’s spear, however, is the searching eye of the Lord, from which nothing is hidden: Saul, he is in you and I!  And there’s nothing we can do about it unless we’re inculcated in the same curriculum as David was.
In that broken place, with spear wounds all over, we must leave the battlefield with not a single friend.  We must leave alone.  David fled Saul more than once.  He always left alone… it’s the only way to leave.
We leave that kingdom without defence… not one spear thrown… wounded… to enter the cave… a very inhospitable place… where we’re inclined to enter a season of bitter pity… pities given to God, in psalms of lament… psalms like 5, 59, 22, 64, 142.  We pour out our hearts to God… and to trusted others.
In our context, when we have the hearts of King Saul, we don’t leave alone; we leave with a posse.  Many churches have been destroyed through splits because the person who decided to leave retaliated… others in tow.
Not David.
For David it was preferable that Saul kill him than for him to learn Saul’s mad ways.  Page 36 has David saying, “I shall not practice the ways that cause kings to go mad.”  See the link between spear throwing and madness?
In David’s darkest hours, as if labour pains of suffering birthed in him humility only possible from brokenness, through being shattered, again and again, he led a band of hoodlums to sobriety.  Nobodies became better people through a peculiar type of leadership.
“David did not lead them,” but they were led by him, alright!  They were amazed, as are we, that true kingship comes when nothing is forced; when the leader submits to violence and allows what God will sovereignly allow.
David, the Lord’s anointed, has no defence.  He insists, there will be no defence!  He insists!!  Sounds crazy.  He trusts God.
Yes, God gives the unruly and the unworthy his power. 
“He sometimes gives unworthy vessels a greater portion of power so that others will eventually see the true state of internal nakedness in that individual.” (p. 41)  Spear throwers: not clothed in God’s love within. They appear naked where they should appear clothed in compassion.
In the fact of wicked leadership all are able to see that God is poorly represented.  Selfish leaders are highly conspicuous.
But, remember Saul. Remember where he is… He is in each of us!  We think we’re Davids.  But, in fact, unless we act as David acted, and the vast majority of the time we don’t, we are kings after the order of Saul.
See, David never minded if he was about to be dethroned. 
David had authority, but in that very fact, that fact didn’t ever occur to him.  He who had all power, acted as if he had none.
That’s what the school of brokenness taught David: if you don’t attack from a position of weakness, when you have strength, power is nothing to misuse. David learned a lot in the cave… the King Saul type crushed out of his heart.
Power is the greatest thing abused in this world.
Remember, Saul — he’s in me and you.  We’re kings after his order if we flunk God’s school of brokenness.  It’s our biggest test.
But we’re only halfway through the story…
PART TWO – David and Absalom (story behind 2 Samuel 15-18)
Two kings are profiled: the king in residence, David, who is about to be overthrown, and Absalom, the king-elect in the fashion of his own making.
The reverse of the situation of part one takes place in part two. 
Absalom is usurping the kingship.  Will David treat Absalom like Saul treated David?  And, if so, will Absalom respond in the same way as David did to Saul’s treatment?
In a man who seemed noble and pure, Absalom, a “rebellion was ignited.” (p. 60)
Absalom had the numbers, the ascendency, the favour of the people.
Joab was sought and he and David pondered the imminent rebellion.
Was David to mount a defence?  He only had his experience of youth to draw on.  “What course [of action] was that?” asked Joab. 
“To do absolutely nothing,” replied the king. (p. 68)  Wow.
Alone.                     When you’re about to be overthrown, you’re alone.    Sauls fight that feeling… and retaliate… not Davids… they’re brave enough and broken enough to be still and resist retaliating even if that’s what they’re tempted to do.
David ponders, this time with Abishai: “Shall I be a Saul to Absalom?” to which was the reply: He has been no young David to you.” (p. 70)
Absalom has minor grievances with David, whereas David had major grievances with Saul.  David had never been unfair to Absalom.  Yet David was losing a kingdom.
David refused to learn the ways of Saul, a second time,
given a second temptation. He refused to unlearn the ways of brokenness he learned with Saul.
Absalom, on the other hand, promised to make a splendid Saul.  He was already a Saul, for he had no understanding of the wisdom extant in David’s brokenness.  In Absalom, rebellion had been dormant in his heart for years.  He seemed so faithful until he wasn’t.
“The motives of the heart will eventually be revealed.
God will see to it.”
(p. 86)
Then David reflected over Moses: “At the age of forty, Moses was an arrogant, self-willed man…  What he might have done at forty, I cannot say.  At eighty, he was a broken man.  He was…
“The meekest man who ever lived… [whoever] carries the rod of God’s authority should be.” (p. 87)  David said that.  And Moses had an Absalom in the person of Korah and his 250 followers (Numbers 16).
Absalom claims the kingdom!
David said, “The throne is not mine.  Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep.” (p. 94)
The book finishes saying, “the true king turned and walked quietly out of the throne room, out of the palace, out of the city.  He walked and he walked…
“Into the bosoms of all men whose hearts are pure.”
Now to Jesus:
Jesus never threw spears.  Much like His ancestor, David, He never even contemplated it. 
On the Mount of Olives, Jesus taught about it.
At Gethsemane, Jesus lived it.  Jesus never threw spears.
Now, this is a Christmas message… the Father gave us His Son, born Incarnate of God; an unconditional offer of reconciliation… that required of Jesus, brokenness… against a humanity that so often rejects His love.
God’s school of brokenness is hard to graduate from, because none of us like submission when we’ve been betrayed.  This school is a sacred school. 
It is a school in the line of David.  It is a school in the line of Jesus.
God used Saul in David’s life.  God used Absalom in David’s life.  David would have hated it, but God used it…  Just like God used the Pharisees, Herod and Pilate in Jesus’ life. 
Consider Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 12:7 and following:
“… in order to keep me from becoming conceited, proud and arrogant, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, a devilish prod, a teasing goad, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord, I begged Him, to take it away from me; to relieve me of it. 
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, it is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… my power begins when yours ends!” when you stop fighting and stop retaliating…
Therefore—in my flesh I cannot say this—I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, I, Paul, for Christ’s sake… I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-10.
Indeed, more than once Paul said words like:
“When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously.”
— 1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a (HCSB)
God uses the things that would normally make us conceited, and He uses them to produce in us humility, often through bearing humiliation.

4 points to make:
1.              The Insult of Brokenness borne brings in the Ingress of Blessing
Brokenness is a state.
Brokenness is a state of being, blessed from heaven exacted below, throbbing in pain, yet purposed for growth, as brokenness is from God.
Brokenness of being is a state of place in this world, of acceptance, here, so something abundantly better is being forged for later, and certainly in eternity.
Bear the insult of brokenness which brings the ingress of blessing.
2.             Brokenness is only learned when it’s practiced
“There was a time in my life when I would fight and work hard at vindicating myself, [but] through a process of years and the dregs of painful experiences, I have learned that I’m unqualified to do that, furthermore I do not learn when I’m busy about defending myself.  It also distracts me from my calling, which is all part of the enemy’s plan.” 
— Charles R. Swindoll
But, of course, it’s easy to forget all that when there are spears coming your way.
The sentiment of Psalm 37:5-6.
“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.” 
— Psalm 37:5-6 (NRSV)
We have to learn to stop fighting and defending ourselves.
We have to pray, “Vengeance is Yours, Lord,” (Deut. 35/Romans 12).
God loves us all, but He can use the broken, and, because the broken give Him glory, because His glory is visible through brokenness.
We only learn the value of brokenness—to God—when we practice it.
3.             Brokenness is like a Graduate School
Brokenness is the Hardest Thing to Learn
“… solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
— Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)
Brokenness is solid food. When James said, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds” he was referring to being in Graduate School.
It’s for those Christians who have already attained their Bachelors degree in the faith—those who know all their theology, who have the right foundation, and who believe in Jesus beyond any doubt.
Brokenness is a Graduate training—it’s a Master’s degree.  God is removing from us every crutch… every reliance apart from Him.
4.             In Our Brokenness and Trust, God’s Sovereignty and Compassion are Made Known
Experiences of momentary brokenness, where we have nothing left to hold from God, where our lives are held open in perfect submission, draw to us the golden experience of compassion only possible in the heart of God’s Presence.
As soon as we’re able to trust God’s sovereignty, wholly and absolutely, we are a testimony of restoration. 
See how God’s sovereignty takes us from brokenness to restoration in a single moment?  Ah… that’s the Abundant Life.
When we trust God, because we believe in His sovereignty, we trust our brokenness to Him, and then we experience God’s compassion.

Review Questions:
·      God’s prophet had anointed David when he was a boy, but for years David saw only hardship and danger. How can a person remain faithful between the promise and the payoff? What might make it difficult to remain faithful even after the payoff has arrived?

·      Are you clinging to God’s promises or to God Himself?  What is the distinction (if any)?

·      In this story, David considered the throne to be God’s, not his own to have, to take, to protect, to keep. He asserted that he desired God’s will more than God’s blessing. Could you say the same about what God has given you? How would you respond if your job, your home, your family were all taken from you?
Let’s Pray:
Thank You, Lord, that You    are the Exemplar of Brokenness; that You show us, even through the life of David, that there is no Kingdom point in spear throwing.
Thank You that, through Your Spirit, we have Your power; Your strength in our weakness, and Your grace     through eternity.
Help us to know how to avoid being hit by spears that would turn us a deep shade of bitter, and, as per David’s example, help us to never     let a spear touch us, even if the spear thrown were to pierce our hearts.
I pray for each one here, in their broken situations both now and coming, that You’d empower them by their cognisance of these truths we’ve pondered tonight. AMEN.

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