Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29, 2012, "Takes Two to Tango"

2 Samuel 11.1-5

“Where did you get that filthy story?” she asked - pounding her fist on the table.
“From the Bible,” I said.
I can still see it in my mind, plain as day … the church kitchen … adult Sunday School … gathered around a table.
The lady had never heard the story of David and Bathsheba.
A grim story, for sure.

We might well ask, “Why did Israel tell such a terrible story about it’s fabled king?
It helps to remember where most of this material comes from. 
The Babylonian Exile - Judah defeated, Jerusalem in ruins, temple destroyed, leaders hauled off to captivity in Babylon.
Who went into exile?
Not the factory worker.
Not the tenant farmer.
Nor the single mom.
But religious leaders, political leaders ... shakers and movers … bankers and business leaders.
A time for tough questions:
“Why are we here?
“Did we fail?”
“Did we go wrong in our attitudes?”

Sometimes great failure is the heart and soul of great learning.

Let’s take a look at the story … 
In the springtime of the year … all sorts of things a-poppin’ after the cold and rainy winter months.
When kings go out and make war … ironic humor here? 
Like flowers in the springtime, kings make war when the weather turns - for what purpose? - “Oh, I don’t know; thought it was a good idea at the time.”
David stays home … an ironic smile or two right here - “If only David had made war instead of love.”
David pacing in the cool of the evening on his palace roof … 
And there he watches a woman bathe in her nearby home.
An eye-catcher, she was!
Did she know it?
But it isn’t question about Bathsheba - her beauty, whatever.
It’s a question about David.
Who sees what he wants, and wants what he sees.
He commands war, but lets others do the fighting.
Was David bored on his palace rooftop that evening?
Was Bathsheba lonely when she bathed?
The point is clear: David should know better!
He’s the man.
He’s the king.
He’s the one blessed by God.
He’s the one with the power.
David should know better!
Those to whom much is given, much is required, says Jesus.

David watches Bathsheba bathe, wants to know more … when he learns who she is, he sends messengers to get her … what can she do?
Her husband’s in the army!
Can she refuse the king?
She pays a fateful visit to the palace.
They’re intimate - she conceives!
She tells David who brings her husband home for some R & R.
“It’s Uriah’s child,” folks will say, conceived when Uriah came home, because King David is a kindly man.
More ironic smiles and raised eyebrows.
But Uriah stays at the palace: I have no right to be home while my men are fighting and dying in the field.
Uriah is an honorable man!
What’s David to do?
Food and wine, lots of it, that’ll do the trick.
But after an evening of food and drink, Uriah stays at the palace again … even more ironic smiles here.
David is out of tricks.
He pens a note and seals it, gives it to Uriah to deliver to General Joab.
David knows that Uriah will carry the note unopened. 
Unknown to Uriah, he carries his own death warrant.
Put Uriah in the front lines, find a battle; when the battle rages, call a retreat; abandon Uriah … Uriah must die.
General Joab does as commanded.
Uriah dies.
News is brought back to David … David sends a congratulatory note to General Joab. Well done, sir; well done.
When the time of mourning is over for Bathsheba, David sends for her.
They marry; a son is born.
The Bible says: What David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.

How difficult it must have been for the leaders of Judah to tell this story about their fabled King David.
But Babylon requires truth … the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
National tragedies do that.
John F. Kennedy assassination … Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy … the Challenger explosion after launch … 9/11 … times that require deep questions, “Who are we?” and “What do we value.”
All was gone in Babylon … it lasted 70 years … that’s a long time to endure national disaster.
So they told stories, hoping to find some reasons for the suffering … maybe even some purpose … and hope.

The David story, sad as it is, isn’t about adultery, though adultery is wrong enough; the story isn’t even about murder, though murder is bad enough … this is a bigger story … the story of Judah - a nation having lost its way … when the blessings of God blinded them to God’s purpose … Judah gained the world and lost it’s soul.

The sins of Judah are detailed in the Prophets:
Wealth without responsibility.
Power without restraint.
Politics without compassion.
Religion without a conscience.
Disdain for the poor and the oppressed.
Unfair wages … scales and balances rigged.
Mortgage and banking systems tilted in favor of the wealthy; the poor couldn’t get ahead no matter what they did.
Sins of power and wealth destroyed Judah; Babylon was merely the instrument of God’s wrath.
Perhaps some said, “We should have had a stronger army!” … “We should have attacked first!” … “We should have spent more on defense.”
Others said, “Don’t worry. God will restore our greatness; we’ll be back home before we know it. This is a momentary blip in our story” [Jeremiah].
But no momentary blip.
No use crying over spilt milk and wondering what might have been.
This was a time for Judah to come face-to-face the sins of wealth and power … 

They told their stories with courage; they didn’t hold back or try to dress things up. They didn’t blink … and that’s why we have the Old Testament … and David’s tragic story.
Only in truth-telling, could they find hope - the God of salvation is the God of truth and the God of hope - God saves in the midst of our realities, not in some alternative universe.

Centuries later, the Son of David is born in David’s town of Bethlehem … angels sing to shepherds in the fields, and wise men follow a star.
The King of kings, the LORD of Lords; Jesus is his name … to finish the work; do it right.
Jesus gives his power away … and gives life to all.
No restless pacing in a palace, but walking the length and breadth of Palestine, preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus welcomes the poor and the outcast … chides the wealthy for heartlessness and scolds religious leaders for hypocrisy.
He heals the blind … restores hearing to the deaf.
Cares for the lonely woman at the well in Samaria … forgives the woman brought to him for stoning.
Sees Zacchaeus up a tree, calls him down; gives him a second chance to use his money well.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

On this, the 29th day of July, in the year of our LORD, 2012.
To God be the glory.
And to the Son of David, our thanks.
Because of him, we live. Amen and Amen!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22, 2012, "Promises and Prayers"

2 Samuel 7.4-9

How do the Ten Commandments begin?
Be careful.
Trick question.
Most folks think of a commandment … no other gods … don’t lie, cheat or steal … 
Which reminds me:
A religion teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds.
After explaining the commandment to "honor your father and your mother," she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"
Without missing a beat one little boy answered, "You shall not kill?"

How do the Commandments begin?
The Commandments begin with a declaration:
I am the LORD your God who brought you of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage … 
The Commandments begin with grace.
The bedrock of the Bible.
The cornerstone of faith.
The heartbeat of Calvinism.
We’re Calvinists … we belong to the Reformed Tradition; the Swiss Reformation in particular: Zwingli, Bucer and Calvin … we’re Presbyterians, because our spiritual forebears in Great Britain used the term, “Presbyterian” to describe our form of government - we’re governed by Presbyters, or Elders … I’m a teaching Elder; Lucy Ann Bristol is a Ruling Elder.
Grace is the heartbeat of Presbyterian life.
It is by grace that we are saved!

I went to a Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan … Dutch Reformed high school, Calvinist to the core, steeped in the language and life of grace.
Kids from other traditions attended, as well, and one day, in Bible class, a discussion between an Anabaptist student and the teacher. 
Anabaptist means rebaptism … infant baptism not good enough; baptism allowed for adults who confess their faith in Christ.
Calvin fought the Anabaptists.
Because believer’s baptism shifts the focus to the believer and compromises the glory of God.
Churches that practice “believer’s baptism” are Anabaptists. If we were to join an Anabaptist congregation, they would rebaptize us, because our infant baptism isn’t good enough.

Anyway, the student advocated “believer’s baptism.” 
The teacher said to the student - I’ll never forget it: Salvation is too important to be left in human hands.
Only a Calvinist can say that!
Salvation is from God, from the first inkling of faith, to the full blown faith of worship and love.
God builds the house - all of it, from the foundation to the roof, basement, living room and attic … all of it, built by God!
By grace alone we are saved! 
Dear People of God: We are people of grace!
Grace is the heartbeat of our hymns.
Grace is the theme of our preaching.
Grace is the strength of our prayers.
Grace alone.
God alone.
Pure gift - all the time.
A child in her mother’s arms, clings to mama’s dress with tight little fists … in the child’s mind, she hangs on to her mama; but we know the truth - mama holds the child.
Were mama to let go, what would happen?
The child would fall.
The child isn’t strong enough to hang on; it’s mama’s strength that holds the child.
That’s the story morning glory.
The story of grace.
Amazing Grace.
How sweet the sound.
That saved a wretch like me.
Once I was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.

Grace is the hope we have for life in the midst of all the craziness … God doesn’t wait for a perfect world, or perfect people … God is on the move, here and now, in the world just as it is … 
Sorrow and violence.
Terrible things.
Jeremiah thrown into the well.
Jesus crucified.
Paul arrested and sent to Rome.
The crusades and the Inquisition.
Wars and rumors of war.
There is evil in the world.
The shocking events in Aurora, Colorado leave us bewildered and frightened.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …
Shadows of death, deep, dark and cold.
But the darkness isn’t dark enough to blind God … darkness is the same as light to God.
Where there is sin, there is grace all the more. 
For every killer, there is a visionary who sees a better world.
For every inhuman moment, there is a Mother Teresa wrapping the wounds of a dying child.
For all the powers of hatred, there is a Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Dag Hammarskjold, Albert Schweitzer.

A TV movie about nuclear war - my son was but 7 or 8, and it frightened him … that night in bed, we talked about it … he was upset and worried … and then I said to him, “Josh, don’t worry. For everyone who wants to make war, there are many more who work for peace.”
God sees to it there are people who love.
Who forgive.
Who work for peace.
Who make the room brighter when they enter it.
Who make life easier for all the rest of us.
People of Grace.
Gracious People.
Who chose the best, lift up hope, speak kindly, affirm and welcome, open doors, and love with the love of Christ.

We find grace on every page of the Bible.
Our passage this morning is filled with grace:
David, you got here only because I cleared the way for you.
David, I took you from the pasture to be the leader of my people.
David, I’ve been with you wherever you’ve gone.
Then come the promises … promises to David … promises for David’s family … David’s future … the people … the long haul … the whole world … you and me, here and now! 
It’s God who builds the house!
THEN David prays!
After the promises - comes the prayer.
Before we do anything, comes the grace.
The sequence is important.
How many times have I heard people say, “If only I could pray better. If only I had more faith. If only I knew what to say.”
But thank God we don’t have to think like that.
It’s not the words we use, or even the faith we have.
It’s always God, and God’s promises … God’s grace.

Prayer is a response to grace.
A response to the promises of God.
Listen to how David prays:
Who am I LORD to have such grace in my life?
You have me brought me this far, and that would have been enough, but it wasn’t enough for you … you have established a future for my family and the generations to come.
What more can I say, O LORD?
You are honorable and faithful … you are great.
And with your greatness, O God, we’ll be great, too.
LORD God, you are truly God. Your words are trustworthy!
John writes centuries later:
This is love: it is not that we loved God
But that God loved us and sent his son
As the sacrifice that deals with our sins.
That we might love - not first, because we can’t.
But at last, because God has loved us first.

When a friend started ministry, an associate pastor … every time he did something - preached, taught a class, took some kids on a mission trip - he would receive a hand-written note of thanks from a retired doctor, Fritz Schwartz.
My friend soon had a stack of notes.
Took them to a staff meeting one day, and they all nodded knowingly.
The staff had been getting these notes for years.
They all had stacks of them.
The pastor said, “You know why he does this?”
My friend said, “Because he knows the value of encouragement and gratitude.”
Then my friend heard the full story.
For more than 50 years, Fritz’s wife had written the notes.
When she died, he decided to continue her legacy.
To honor her and stay in touch with her love.
He took up doing what she had done all those years.
She loved first that Fritz might love at last.
God loves first that we might love at last!
To God be the glory.
Amen and Amen!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15, 2012 "Uzzah Dies for David's Pride"

2 Samuel 6.1-8

Finding good titles are a chore for me.
I’ve never been very good with titles.
So I have to work at it.
I’ve worked to find a title for today’s message.
When I first looked at the text several months ago, I titled today’s message, “Haste Makes Waste.”
We all know that to be true.
As the carpenter puts it, Measure once, cut twice; measure twice, cut once.
Haste makes waste.
But haste is not David’s problem.
To the contrary.
As I looked at the text, David works hard to make this day glorious.
To bring the ark to Jerusalem.
A new cart for the Ark.
Procession mapped out.
30 thousand soldiers.
Musicians marching and making a joyful noise.
Everything planned out.
To maximize the day.
David’s day.
His victory.
His glory.
His pride.
His way.

Begin to see a problem?
It’s David’s day, all right.
But Uzzah pays the price.
We’re all connected, are we not?
Every life impinges on every other life.
Students pay a price when teachers fail to teach.
A political leader makes self-serving decisions and thousands, even millions, suffer from hunger, unemployment or civil war.
A corporate executive decides that bottom-line stock performance is the only thing that counts - Wall Street cheers - while employees lose their pensions, benefits, jobs and homes.
Believers pay a price when pastors proclaim another gospel, as Paul notes in his letter to the Galatians [1.6].
Children pay a price when parents get it wrong.
With good reason, the commandment spells it out: if parents bow down and worship false gods, children pay the price.
These days, false gods are likely to be money, power, career, fun and games, or even severe strictness … I’ve seen children abused and hit because parents demand too much, give too little, and maybe those parents were abused when they were little, and the junk gets passed on, generation to generation.
Yet the Commandment makes grace clear: dysfunction goes through the third and fourth generation, because God puts a stop to it; and those who love the LORD and keep God’s commandments sow the seeds of faith that go on for a thousand generations.
A thousand generations.
The connections are huge.
We’re all connected to one another.
The greater our responsibility, the more lives we touch.
Great or small, a corporate executive or a parent, we all touch someone’s life.

I wonder if David knew Uzzah.
Uzzah was recruited to accompany the Ark … he was a priest, from a family of priests.
When the oxen stumbled, the cart tipped, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark, lest it fall.
The LORD is angry with Uzzah … God strikes Uzzah down.
What’s going on here?
Wouldn’t anyone have reached out a hand to steady the Ark?
Perhaps a wiser man might have said: “What will be will be … who am I to straighten things out? I will not touch the Ark of the LORD; that’s God’s business.”
Maybe we just have to let things fall, sometimes … can’t rescue everything that might fall down.
All of us can count moments when we should have kept our mouth shut … deleted the email instead of sending it … when we should have stayed home, stayed out of it, rather than interfering.
Police officers learn this with domestic problems - husband and wife fighting like cats and dogs .. the police show up, husband and wife turn on the police.
The police don’t always have a choice, but we all know those moments when it would been better if we had stayed home, kept our mouth shut, and did nothing.
Sometimes, we need to let things fall where they may, if fall they must.
Perhaps the Ark wouldn’t have fallen … and even if it had, so what? The earth is the LORD’S … the dirt of the roadway as well as the sky above.
God takes care of God’s things just fine.
Uzzah should have keep his hands to himself.

But there’s more to the story.
If David had done it right in the first place, Uzzah wouldn’t have died as he did.
Ultimately, Uzzah’s death is David’s fault.
David is the man with the greater responsibility, and David acted irresponsibly. 
David disregarded the LORD’S Word about the Ark.
Spelled out in Exodus 25. 
Four gold rings on each leg of the Ark; four acacia-wood poles, covered in gold, never to be removed - the Ark carried by the poles … hefted by Levites.
Only Levites can carry the Ark of the Covenant.
David should have known that. Someone should have reminded David … but no one wanted to rain on David’s parade … to Uzzah pays the price of David’s folly.
David get angry at God when Uzzah dies - that’s what we do when we flub and get into trouble; we blame God … or anyone else, for that matter … anyone but ourselves.
And then David got frightened … an important step in the right direction … the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
David learns a painful lesson - Uzzah’s death is David’s fault. 
It takes three months for David to recover.
And then David does it right!
In 1 Chronicles 15, David says to the priests, Because you did not carry the Ark the first time, the LORD our God burst out against us, because we did not give it proper care.
Three months later, David does it right.
The Ark is carried by the Levites, not trundled around on a cart.
Within six steps, the procession stops. 
Ox and fatling sacrificed.
This day belongs to the LORD.

What we learn from all of this is simple and profound.
Uzzah reminds us to be patient and thoughtful - never be the proverbial fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread.
The next time we see something teetering, perhaps we might just think of Uzzah and hold back … trust God to take care of God’s things.

And from David:
To learn - we’re all connected … every decision we make … rear our children, behave at work, live our private lives, what we do in public - everything is connected to everything else.
David learns a hard lesson … to ignore the LORD always brings disaster.
Which is why David writes some years later, I’ve sinned against you, O LORD - you alone! When David disregards the LORD, people around him pay the price.
Live and learn.
We learn what Jesus says so eloquently: those to whom much is given, much is required.
If David is going to be the king, the king of God’s People, David has some mighty big lessons to learn … 
Much has been given to David.
Much is required.
So it is for all of us.
To God be the glory!
Amen and Amen!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8, 2012, "Violence and Grace"

2 Samuel 5.1-4

The news is all around us.

The evening news, a mid-day report on our favorite radio station, the LA Times, the internet … journals and magazines …
No end to the stories, and most of them sad:
  • Giant corporations manipulate stock prices.
  • Famous movie star gets a divorce.
  • Unrest all around the world.
  • Muslims blow up a church.
  • Christians burn down a mosque.
We shake our heads.
Shed our tears.
Offer up a prayer:
Have mercy on our troubled world, O God.
Bear with us, we pray.
Keep loved ones safe.
Bless our leaders with patience and vision.
Deliver us from evil.

An excellent book about Los Angeles in the 20th Century … L.A. Noir … by John Buntin … weaves a tale of violence and grace around two characters: Chief of Police, William Parker and Mobster, Mickey Cohen (some of you remember their names and the headlines they generated).
My daughter gave me the book because she knows how much I’m interested in the places where I live … I’ve always made an effort to understand how and why a town looks and feels and lives like it does … and every place is different … and every place has its story!
Yet there’s a common thread to every story; certain themes emerge all the time: violence and grace … the dark side of life, and the bright light of hope … things going to hell in a handbasket and folks joining hands to make things better.

Violence and grace.

Mobster, Mickey Cohen, would kill without a second thought - it was a part of doing business.
He said in an interview years later, I killed no men that in the first place didn’t deserve killing.
Cohen’s nemesis was Chief of Police, William Parker. If you drive downtown, you may well pass the Parker Center, named after Chief Parker.
Cohen and Parker battled for the soul of the city.
As I read Buntin’s book, I kept saying to my wife, What a sad story.
At every turn of the page, graft, corruption, greed, people playing for power.
Movie studios and actors, mobsters, reporters, politicians, attorneys and bankers, and the police - everyone in someone’s pocket … everyone buying or selling influence … no one clean.
Mickey Cohen was kind to friends, generous with folks who worked for him, and he loved dogs. 
Chief William Parker was often mean-spirited, bigoted, and given to heavy drinking.
Even the worst are not always bad … and even the best are not always good.

But here we are.

I love Los Angeles … I ride the trains and take the bus … an amazing city of many cultures and languages, hopes and dreams.
From the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier to the tall pines in Big Bear - we live in an amazing city.
I suppose we could say It’s a miracle that Los Angeles survived as it did.
What with all the violence, grace abounds!
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

In 1853, seven years before the Civil War, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Parker, an abolitionist working to free this nation from the evils of slavery, wrote: I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
These words were likely the inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

The Bible is honest … 
And always hopeful.
Images of hope abound:
  • Let my people go.
  • The Promised Land.
  • The lion and the lamb lay down together.
  • A child leads them.
  • Justice rolls down like water.
  • The new heaven and the new earth.
  • Perfect light and no more tears.
Paul the Apostle writes to the Christians in Rome: where sin increased, grace abounded all the more [Romans 5.20].
God is not going to be defeated!
God’s purpose prevails.
The arc of history bends toward justice … to what is good and true and right … that which sets us free and gives us life … out of the house of bondage, out of the land of Egypt … through the wilderness, mana in the morning, water from a rock … until we find our way home!

That’s the story Samuel tells - grace, like a golden thread, woven into the dark tapestry of history … grace, like a cold beer on a hot day … grace, like a loved one’s smile at the end of a tough week … grace, like the love of our LORD Jesus born into dangerous times.

The opening chapters of 2 Samuel are neck-deep in blood.
The death of Saul.
The young mercenary killed by David’s servant.
War between Israel and Judah.
Abner murdered by Joab.
Saul’s son, Israel’s king, murdered by his own men.
They bring his head to David, and meet the same fate.
2 Samuel 3 says: The war between Saul’s house and David’s house was long and drawn out. 
Is there is any hope in any of this?
Any light?
Any grace?

2 Samuel 3 … a grace note: David kept getting stronger, while Saul’s house kept getting weaker.
It has to be David.
He’s not perfect … far from it … David sins with the best of them.
But he’s a man after God’s own heart.
David remains a man of deep loyalty.

If ANYTHING can be said about God, God is loyal.
Loyal to the creation God loves so dearly.
Loyal to the creature that bears God’s image.
Loyal to the dream that one day this creature will get it right.
So loyal, that God will do anything to make it work … even die on a Roman Cross, despised by his enemies, abandoned by his friends.
In the long and terrible drama of redemption, the loyalty of God … 
God doesn’t give up, no matter the cost.
God’s loyalty on every page of the Bible.
We call that loyalty Grace.
Amazing Grace … the purest grace of all.

When the Son of David is born in David’s little town … angels sing to shepherds in the hills; wise men from the east follow a star … the Anointed One is born.
The Anointed One renders unto the Father a great loyalty … the loyalty of love … a love rich and pure, a love big enough to fill every dark hole in the universe with light.
A love I can never give to the Father, so Jesus gives this love to the Father on my behalf.
For all of humanity … every last one of us - and even more: for all creatures, great and small … 
The Leviathan of the Deep, and the creepy-crawly critters of the night … 
The hawk flying high in the morning sky, and the zebra dancing across the plain … 
For all of creation - the Son of David is born.

Yes, there is violence, and plenty of it.
And there is grace, even more.
Grace, mercy and peace.
Glory to God.
And to the Son of David, eternal praise.
Amen and Amen!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1, 2012, "Make the Most of a Mess"

2 Samuel 1.16-19

Last Sunday … those who live by the sword … die by the sword.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the mob appears, led by Judas, to take Jesus away … a disciple draws a sword.
Jesus says: Put it away. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
The young man who reported to David the news of Saul’s death  is an opportunist, a soldier of fortune, a mercenary - Have sword, will travel.
When the tide of battle turns against Saul and Jonathan, Saul is mortally wounded.
The young solider flees for his life, and comes upon the dying Saul; Saul begs him to end his life.
Without a moment’s thought, the young man dispatches Saul’s life … takes the crown from Saul’s head and a bracelet from  his arm.
The young man sees an opportunity to be a king-maker.
He flees to the south to find David.
When David hears the news, David rips his clothing - David’s soldiers do the same - Saul has been ripped from their life; their hearts ripped with grief … and Jonathan, Saul’s son, David’s beloved friend, is dead, too.
There is grief in the palace!
Saul reigned 42 years … a long time … very few could have remembered a time before Saul … Saul was Israel, and Israel was Saul.
In spite of his many missteps.
Saul stumbles over his own feet … miscalculates and chooses the wrong course.
Yet God grants him 42 years on the throne.
Is God patient?
God is very patient!
As is David … for David is a man after God’s own heart!
Early on, David comes into Saul’s palace as a musician … it doesn’t take long for David to realize that Saul is unbalanced … fits of anger explode without reason … jealousy warps Saul’s mind and heart … Saul has no better friend than David, but Saul imagines David to be an enemy.
David flees from Saul’s palace.
But that’s not enough for Saul.
Saul’s jealousy takes root and grows: resentment, anger … as long as David is alive, David poses a threat.
Saul goes after David … the chase is on … and, then, two remarkable moments - when David has Saul in his hands … two times, when David could have killed Saul.
Two times, David’s soldiers tell him, Kill Saul … get on with it … be done with it … our lives are in jeopardy … he’ll kill us if has the chance; don’t take any more chances, kill Saul!
Two times, David could have taken up the sword.
Two times, David refuses.
Remember, David is a man of the sword … a skilled tactician … a man who knows how to fight … even as a young shepherd boy, he knows how to kill predators and defend the flock … when it comes to Goliath, David knows how to sling a stone with lethal force, and if that isn’t enough, David sever’s Goliath’s head, and brings Goliath’s head to Saul, a trophy of war … enemy defeated … battle won.
David is a man of the sword!
But when it comes to Saul, there will be no sword.
But David is clever. 
In each instance, David secures proof of the moment.
You remember the stories:
When Saul is in the cave to “relieve himself” - David and his men are far back in the very same cave; David creeps to where Saul has laid aside his robes, and with a swift cut of the knife, David cuts off a piece of the garment.
After Saul leaves the cave, David steps to the mouth of the caves and calls out to him; holds up the piece of Saul’s robe … Saul is overcome with remorse … Saul relents and goes home.
A second time, Saul and his army are sleeping soundly in camp, weary from battle … the LORD’S hand helps them sleep well.
David and a companion sneak into the camp - the companion says, Let me take Saul’s spear and pin him to the ground.
But David stays the man’s hand … No one can lift a hand against the LORD’S anointed and go unpunished.
Yet again refuses the way of the sword, but David is smart enough to prove his presence - David takes Saul’s spear and Saul’s water jug, and only after leaving camp, and climbing a bluff high above the camp, David calls out, awakens Saul’s encampment … everyone can see how close Saul came to death … David returns the spear and the water jug.
Saul is remorseful and apologizes to David … David goes on his way, and Saul returns home. 
It’s the last time Saul and David will see each other.
David bides his time!
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to wait.
To wait upon the LORD.
David himself writes in Psalm 37:
Be still before the LORD and wait for him.
Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead - someone who invents evil schemes.
David will never make himself king.
Only God can make David king.
The Amalekite mercenary expected David to rejoice at the news.
How stunned the young man must have been … no jubilation, no dancing, no celebration … only tears and sorrow, mourning and grief.
David asks the young messenger a few more questions.
David learns the young man is a mercenary, an Amalekite.
How ironic.
While Saul was up north fighting the Philistines, David, deep in the south, wages war against the Amalekites.
No love lost here.
What is David it do? The palace watches and waits!
David refuses the trophies of war offered to him by the young man.
How easy for David to grab the crown and the bracelet … would anyone have cared? 
But David will not make himself king, or be made king by the fortunes of war!
There can be no self-serving in the kingdom of God … a thousand years later, Jesus says, I come, not to be served, but to serve … to give myself … to lay down my life.
Jesus echoes David’s sentiments: I’ll not make myself king; only my Father can do that.
For David to receive the kingship by the power of the sword would have been a failure of faith … a betrayal of his own values … David has waited this long for God to make him king; to turn now would have made all the years of danger and prayer a waste of time … it would been a bad beginning  … and things will be bad enough for David … but here and now, David refuses the easy way, as did our LORD when tempted by the Devil in the wilderness … no easy way for the servants of God.
David makes a hard decision … 
This young man who finished off King Saul, in the hopes of a quick profit, gains nothing, and loses everything … in a world of quick profits, big corporations sacrifice thousands of employees for the sake of Wall Street … the powerful tell the weak to take a hike … the successful condemn the poor and make life harder for millions - it would be well for all of us to remember that quick profits profit us nothing … a thousand years later, Jesus would say, What good does it do for a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?
David could have the crown, the crown and the glory … but he would lose his soul in that moment. 
Everyone would tell stories about the young mercenary who won the day for David, and brought home the spoils of war.
David knows it would be a bad bargain.
David commands one of his servants to strike the young man down … a hard decision in hard times.
Those who live by the sword … die by the sword.
David remains loyal … loyal to Saul and Jonathan, and loyal to the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel.
David doesn’t grab the crown; he waits for the LORD.
David is a man - after God’s own heart.
Amen and Amen!