Persecuted, But Not Forsaken

1 Samuel 19:10-11, 18; Psalm 59:1-17

"Saul also sent messengers unto David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning.." (1 Samuel 19:11)

This was the beginning of a very unhappy time in the life of David.
It was a dark and lonely experience which nevertheless played a tremendous part in the making of his character.

As we study Psalm 59 in this context, we can see that there is the presence of the gathering cloud
in the life of David.
Its approach can be seen clearly from 1 Samuel 16:21: "David came to Saul, and stood before him;
and he loved him greatly; and he became his armorbearer
."

Then we look at 1 Samuel 18:7-9 and see a problem on the horizon: "Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousand.
And Saul was very wroth… and Saul eyed David from that day forward
."

Another Scripture found in 1 Samuel 18:12: "Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him."
Then in 18:29 we read, "Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David's enemy continually."

Then at last we read in 1 Samuel 19:10-11: "Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin
… Saul also sent messengers to David house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning
."

We can see the pressure growing and the gathering cloud relentlessly rising over the horizon
until it reaches its bursting point.
If only Saul had drowned that first fit of jealousy in a bath of prayer, what a different story we would have to tell.
If you and I had done the same when attacked – what a different attitude we would have today.

But Saul didn't do it.
He allowed jealousy to increase in him until nothing but murder would satisfy it.
Remember that many attempts by Saul had already been made upon David's life.
Saul had made him a captain in his army which was over 1000 men in order that he might have him killed in battle.
He demanded that David kill 100 Philistines as the price to marry his daughter,
and David produced twice that many.

Twice Saul hurled a javelin that David to pin him to the wall, and finally, he sent messengers to his house to kill him.
The warning of David's wife enabled him to escape to a window, and run for his life.

Those were unhappy, miserable days for David.
He was separated from his home because of the pressure of Saul's hatred, and it was not David's fault
for he had done nothing to deserve it.
He was not conscious of any sin in his life which might have brought this attack upon him.
We see this in Psalm 59:3: "The mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression,
nor for my sin, O Lor
d."

Not that he would have claimed to be anything but a sinner, but on this particular occasion,
he knew that he had done nothing to deserve the pressure that threatened to kill him.

I am going to stop here, and ask if you are facing something like this?
The pressure is coming at you from one direction or another and is being applied until it has almost
overwhelmed you.
As far as you know, you are clear of any guilt; you have done nothing to justify the attack that is being made upon you.
And yet, this cloud has gathered.

You saw it coming, and you tried to avoid it; but you could not.
You find yourself in the middle of a tornado, and there seems to be no escape.
The pressure is real!

This is so true for those who are serving Christ.
There is the pressure of criticism.
There is the pressure of financial problems.
There is the pressure of a thousand and one details.
The gathering cloud that pressures upon you is very real.

The pressure may be in your home life.
The pressure may be that of sorrow or hardship or suffering or persecution.

At one time or another all of us have had the experience of the gathering cloud that we could not avoid.
The horizon which recently was perfectly clear has darkened until it is black and ominous,
and we find ourselves right in the path of a hurricane.

If we find ourselves in that setting, let us learn a lesson from David's reaction how we can triumph
in such a situation.

Particularly notice, what we can call beginning of a growing confidence.
Remember how David reacted to that pressure.
We may learn a lesson which will be a blessing to us for the rest of our lives.
It may also help us to understand why God allows the cloud to come at all.

David begins this Psalm by casting himself upon God for deliverance.
He prays himself out of his sense of helplessness into a quiet confidence, and then into a burst
of victorious song, although the situation had changed, and the enemy is still there.
He begins down in the depths, crying out to God to save him.
Then he moves into a calm, quiet assurance that God is in control before finally bursting into a song of triumph.

Traps and snares are all around him, but he seems to escape the panic and find rest in the Lord.
We see this in Psalm 59:5: "Thou therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel,
awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors
."
Notice what he calls God.

As a matter of fact, he adds all the titles that he can think of to call heaven to his aid in this crisis.
"O Lord Jehovah, Elohim of Sabaoth, Lord God of hosts!
Nothing less than all Thy resources are going to be adequate for me at this moment in my life.
Lord, I need all there is of Thee, every attribute of Thy power and grace, faithfulness and strength.
Lord, just at this moment – in the teeth of the wind there is now against me in the thick
of the clouds are engulfing me – I need every bit of Thine omnipotence
!"

That prayer is not presumptuous.
David knew that in this particular situation that he was innocent, and therefore he described his enemies
as workers of iniquity, heathen, wicked transgressors.
He was really sure that this was an attack of the enemy up on him because he knew
that Saul was really fighting against God.

Samuel had already told Saul that he was rejected from the kingdom, and that David had been anointed king.
So David knew that the pressure was coming from an enemy who was actually doing battle against the will of God.
In his attempt to take David's life, Saul was deliberately seeking to frustrate God's purpose.
He is not the last man who stepped into the arena of life to defy God, nor is he the only one
to be crushed in doing it.

Psalm 59:8: "Thou, O Lord, shall laugh at them; thou shall have all the heathen in derision."
That is how David expresses his conviction that his enemies are God's enemies.
Notice he doesn't say only his immediate enemies, but "all the heathen."
In other words, he is reasoning with himself and with God this way,
"Lord, my deliverance in this situation is but a part of Thy great plan for the whole world
to establish truth and righteousness."

The God who had placed a little dewdrop upon a flower in the morning is the same God who put the stars in place,
and created the path of every consolation in the heavens.
And if Jehovah God can care for all that, then He can surely care for me.
That was David's argument.

You can find it very encouraging to believe that this is our argument with God whenever there is the pressure
of the gathering cloud for which, before Him, you know that you are not responsible.
You are in that position in life, whatever it may be, because God has put you there.
You know that you can lay hold of all His power to see you through, for your surrender to God in Jesus Christ
means that He has guaranteed to deliver you from all your affliction because that is only a small part
of His great delivering purpose for His people.

If God can care for the whole universe, then He can care for you and your little needs, today.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills," David sang at another time, "from whence cometh my help?
My help cometh from the Lord.
" (Psalm 121:1, 2)

I know that God watches over His people, but then I must also watch for the coming of His strength and His power.
He looks down to care for me in the midst of the cloud, but I must watch for Him to pour out His blessing
upon me in my need.
If we fail to receive strength for the pressure of the cloud, it is usually because we are not looking for it.

To put it in a simple allegory, I wonder how many ships pass in the night packed with heavily reinforcements
of grace and patience, strength and courage, love and power, understanding and sympathy?
They come with their heavenly cargo and dock at my wharf, but they go out again
because I'm not there to unload them.

We pray, but we don't wait.
We ask, but we don't expect to receive.
We leave from heaven's door before it is opened to us.

If you are overwhelmed with the pressure of some cloud, it isn't God's fault.
The fact may be that your hands are too full of other things to receive His strength and enabling.

"My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning:
I say, more than they that watch for the morning
." (Psalm 130:6)

Have you ever waited for the morning?
You have had a restless night, and you tossed and turned, and tried every possible position.
Then you stand up, and then you lie down.
You go to the window and sigh: "Oh, I wish the morning would come."

After a night of agony, you longed for the morning.
"My soul, wait! Watch for the dawn!"
That is the language of David.

The help of God does not come to us when we are indifferent.
It comes to the person who is depending on God in the thick of the fight.
It comes to the one who believes that he who waits upon the Lord shall never be confounded.
It comes to the one who rests upon the promises of the Word.
It comes to the one who believes that before he calls, God will answer.
It comes to the person who lives by faith as if he is already in the actual possession of the answer to his prayer,
although the enemy is still around him.

It is faith which turns distress into slinging.
Observe David's secure anchor.
Who is this God to whom David went?
How does David describe Him?

He does it in these words:
"My strength and my high tower."
"God is my strength" means "God within me."
"God is my high tower" means that "God is all around me, protecting me."

God-possessed and God-encompassed – such was David's anchor in the cloud
David asks, "When then have I have to fear?"
"I put God my Saviour between myself and all my enemies, and I lie down in peace."

He is my strength, and He is my strength in my weakness.
"Hidden in the hollow
of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow,
Never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry,
Not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry
Touch the spirit there."

Now let us look at the praise of a genuine conviction which is revealed in the last two verses of this Psalm.

Notice that David is beyond simple calmness now.
David is beyond just resting.
He is joyfully praising the Lord.
With the enemy still on the attack all around him, he is living in absolute victory in the middle of the battle.

There are many Christians who have learned to put the Lord Jesus between themselves and the enemy,
and start singing!
Have you learned that?

Notice also that David has found yet another name for the Lord here.
In the moment when he is calmly waiting, he said: "Thou art my defense; Thou art my high tower;
Thou art my strength
."
Now notice that he said something else.
He says, "Thou art my mercy."

What a beautiful thought!
This Psalm reminds us of the building of a skyscraper.
There is so much confusion at the beginning.
You look down into the deep cavity of the earth, and you see men with great bulldozers
pushing around dirt and mud which is indescribable.
But when the building is completed, you see it's towering head up in the sunshine.
What a marvelous marvel it is.

Somehow this Psalm begins down below ground as deep cries unto deep, but the climax is up in the sunshine of the presence of the Lord.
There is where His glory fills the whole picture.
Here is a man under the pressure of a threatening cloud, but his heart is right with God,
and therefore he is full of praise and joy.

He is saying, in effect, "Lord, I called you my strength when I was so weak, and I meant it.
I thought of you as my fortress when I was surrounded by my enemies, and I meant that also.
I know that you are still all those things to me, with my foes all around me and no relief from the pressure.
You are still my strength and my high tower, but, Lord Jesus, you are something more.

You are my mercy.
The pressure of this gathering cloud has shown me your tender pity.
Lord, I never knew how much you loved me, until you allowed this pressure to teach me
to watch and wait for You
."

Like David, you may have thought you were besieged by enemies who were crushing you to pieces.
Instead, you find yourself in the grip of a loving, nail-pierced hand, that is using the cloud
to teach you God's way that He has with his children.

Long ago, in a covenant of mercy to His people and to the world, God said to Noah,
"I will put my bow in the clouds."

Never do you find the rainbow in the clear blue sky.
You will find the mercy of God in the very thick of the cloud.
The pressure of the gathering cloud that is upon your life today is in the hands of God and under His control.
God knows when to say, "Thus far and no further."

You will get to that place in your life from the start of the growing confidence:
My Lord, my strength, my defense!
You are possessed by Him because by His Spirit lives within you;
and you are protected all around by God from all your foes.

Therefore, while you are still under the cloud, do not be asleep when He calls at your dock
with heavenly reinforcements.
Do not be busy with other things, when your hands so full and when you are attempting to meet the pressure
in your own strength so that when the ship comes with grace, patience, and love, you are not there.

Wait and watch as a person who watches for the morning, and your waiting shall become the praise
of a genuine conviction that this cloud is the mercy of God, and it has taken the pressure of it to drive you
for shelter into the wounded side of a crucified Saviour.

"Ye fearful saints, fresh currents take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head."

Sermon adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White