Waiting Upon God
February 26th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Samuel 22-23
WAITING UPON GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1 Samuel 22-23
2-26-61 7:30 p.m.
Somebody said to me at the end of the morning service, “Well, pastor, you are doing good. After two solid months of preaching in the Revelation, we are finally now at the seventh verse.” I have found the same abundance, overflowing superabundance of things to preach, following the life of the king whose Son our Lord said should reign forever [2 Samuel 7:16]. This is the third time that I have announced the passage of Scripture reaching to the end of 1 Samuel, and we have not got to the end of 1 Samuel yet. And the sermon tonight I have broken up into two parts. And as I look at the abundance of the material that I have prepared for the sermon tonight, I cannot even begin to exhibit it, to expound it. The most I can do is just point out some of these things. And if you could keep a record of them and read them at home, it would bless your heart.
So for our Scripture passage tonight, let us turn to Psalm 27, Psalm 27. The title of the message is David’s Reward in Waiting upon God. And a summary of the spirit by which he waited before the Lord can be found in this Psalm, number 27, one that he wrote out in the wilderness. Now, if we all have it, let’s everybody read it together. Share your Bible with a neighbor and let’s all read it together, Psalm 27, now together:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock.
And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord will I seek.
Hide not Thy face far from me; put not Thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been My help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God, of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.
Teach me Thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
That is one of the psalms, one of the songs that David wrote in this time of trouble and trial that we’re following in these texts, Waiting Upon God.
In the twenty-second chapter of 1 Samuel—we left off last Sunday night at the twenty first chapter—in the twenty-second chapter of 1 Samuel and verse 5, it says, “And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold, in cave Adullam; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth” [1 Samuel 22:5], which is a tract just south of Hebron in the southern part of Judea.
Gad, he’s introduced here just like Elijah was introduced. And Elijah, the Tishbite, just suddenly he appears [1 Kings 17:1]; so the prophet Gad appears with David [1 Samuel 22:5]. He’s a young man here, and all of the rest of the life of Gad did he spend in the court and by the side of David. And Gad is a chronicler of the life of the great king. He outlived David, and he wrote down all of these things in David’s life. It was Gad, the prophet Gad, that came to David when David had sinned in numbering the children of Israel. And it was Gad who said to David: “Choose thee this day what thou shalt, so I may return thy answer to the Lord. Shall you seven years be faced with famine? Shall you three months flee before your enemies? Or for three days shalt pestilence waste the people?” [2 Samuel 24:12-13]. And it was Gad that was sent of the Lord to David to say—after the three days of pestilence that David had chosen, and he cried unto God to spare those innocent sheep [2 Samuel 24:15-17]—it was Gad that said to David, “Get thee up to Mount Moriah, and there build an altar to the Lord. And offer sacrifices unto God that the plague may be stayed” [2 Samuel 24:18-21]. And it was there that Solomon built his temple [2 Chronicles 3:1]. And it is there that some of these days that temple will be rebuilt [Ezekiel 43:1-12]. Gad the prophet who appeared unto David, just suddenly, and David hearkens, and he listens to the voice of the seer from God [2 Samuel 24:21]. The beautiful song services that were arranged in the temple for the Levites was partly done by this prophet Gad [2 Chronicles 29:25]. So David has with him one of the great prophets of the Lord.
Now turn to chapter 23, the next chapter and look at verse 6, “And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with the ephod in his hand” [1 Samuel 23:6]. You remember the tabernacle was at Nob, a little town named Nob. And eighty-six priests served before God at the altar in the little town of Nob. And you remember because of the fury of Saul, Saul slew every one of the priests, except Abiathar who escaped [1 Samuel 22:17-18, 20]. And he slew the families of all the priests, and he burned the town, and he plowed it up [1 Samuel 22:19]. And Abiathar was the only priest that escaped. And Abiathar came to David, and David was doubly glad to receive him because Abiathar held in his hand the sacred ephod that he had retrieved out of the burning, and the slaughter, and the sacking of Nob [1 Samuel 23:6].
Now for a look at that ephod. Not only did David have the prophet Gad to tell him the word of the Lord, but when Abiathar brought the sacred ephod, he had also a sure access to God through Urim and Thummim [Exodus 28:30]. Now, for us to understand that, I want you to look for a moment at the dress of the high priest. The high priest wore an inner garment made out of white linen. And above the inner garment he wore a robe made out of pure blue, and then over the robe of pure blue he wore the sacred ephod. It was a garment that was beautifully and curiously wrought. It was made out of white fine twined linen, and inwrought were colors of blue and scarlet and purple and gold [Exodus 28:4-6]. And affixed to the sacred ephod was the sacred breastplate that had in it twelve precious stones, and on the stones the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. And curiously inwrought and attached to that sacred breastplate were two glorious, resplendent white diamonds. And those stones were called Urim and Thummim, the intensive plural for light and perfection [Exodus 28:15-29]. And whenever one sought to know the mind of God, with the high priest, Abiathar here, and with that sacred ephod, Urim and Thummim, inquiry could be made of the will of God. And God would answer through Urim and Thummim [Exodus 28:30].
How did God answer through those resplendent, iridescent, beautiful gems? Nobody knows. When Josephus wrote his history, he spoke of it, but it was lost to him. Josephus had suggested that when the answer was yes, those diamonds glowed in splendor and in glory. And when the answer was no, the diamonds dimmed in their color and their light. But many of the things that were revealed through Urim and Thummim were not yes and no, they were long directives for David. The Talmud says that the way Urim and Thummim answered was by lighting up the different letters in the Hebrew alphabet that were written upon the stones of the breastplate and the name of Jehovah that was written on Urim and Thummim. But all of those things are farfetched, and they are human guesses. Nobody knows, nor shall we ever know, until we see David or Abiathar and ask face-to-face.
In the days of the wilderness wandering of the children, they were led by the divine wisdom of God in the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day [Exodus 13:21]. When the people came into the land, they learned the directive elected purpose of God through Urim and Thummim. As it says in Ezra, when some of the priests could not ascertain their ancestry, they were excluded from the priesthood until, and I quote, “until a priest shall arise with Urim and Thummim” [Ezra 2:61-63]. In the days of the land, of the possession of the land, the will of God was made known through those beautiful stones [1 Samuel 28:6]. Later, in the story of these people, the will of God was made known by prophets, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:21].
But I want to show you in the Book of the Revelation, how that thought is taken and how it is applied to us who are Christians today. The Lord says to the church, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh . . . will I give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth” [Revelation 2:17]. And the imagery back of what our Lord is saying to the church is this: that each one of us is given that sacred stone, that resplendent diamond of Urim and Thummim. God hath placed it in our hands, at our disposal. And as they used the stone on the sacred breastplate, as a part of the holy ephod to find the will of God [Exodus 28:30], so today, a stone, a secret white stone has been placed in each one of our hands. And to those of us who will, who so choose, we can find the will of God and the purpose of God for our lives, if we will take it to the Lord and wait upon Him [Romans 12:2].
God speaks to us in Urim and Thummim today in the Book, in the Word. And if a man, if a soul, will study and read the Word of God and ask the will of heaven for his life, for any decision, in any place, in any time, just like David—call for the ephod and with Urim and Thummim ask the will of God, and it was revealed in some mysterious way, undisclosed to us through those sacred diamond stones—so to us the will of God is revealed in the holy promise in this precious Book [2 Timothy 3:16]. And there is never any time that a man needs to stagger or to stumble at the will of God for his life. If you will wait on the Lord, as David did [Psalm 27:14]; if you will inquire of the Lord, as David did [Psalm 63:1-8]; if you will ask of the Lord, as David did, there will come a sure conviction in your heart. What is the thing God wants you to do? There is never any failing in it [Isaiah 40:31].
As surely as God lives there is an answer for your life and for every decision that you make in God. And circumstances will corroborate it. When the Lord speaks to your heart in a definite conviction, this is the thing that you are to do. All of the circumstances of life will conspire to affirm it. And to the man that believes in God, to the soul that is persuaded of the elective purposes of God, he is invincible. He is immortal. This is God’s will for me! This is God’s call for me. And the great sovereign choice of God is as for me!
And a man who has that in him is unbeatable, and unstoppable, and unquenchable, and undrownable, and unkillable! I don’t think there are any words like that, but there ought to be. So David had the prophet Gad, and he has Abiathar with Urim and Thummim. And David takes everything to the Lord.
Now, look at chapter 23, look at verse 2: “David inquired of the Lord saying, Shall I go?” [1 Samuel 23:2].
Now, look at verse 4: “Then David inquired of the Lord yet again. And the Lord answered him” [1 Samuel 23:4].
Now, in my Bible I turn the page—verse 9: And David said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring hither the ephod” [1 Samuel 23:9]. And then David said, “O Lord God of Israel” [1 Samuel 23:10]. And he laid his case before the Lord [1 Samuel 23:10-12].
And I haven’t time to follow it through his life, but all through the life of David—all the way through—there were those inquiries of the Lord. Shall I do this? Shall I wait? Shall I proceed? What shall I do? And the Lord answered David, and he waited upon God. And that’s why I had you read this psalm that came in those days of his trouble and his trial. “Wait on the Lord,” he closed it. “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” [Psalm 27:14]. We’ll go further on our knees than any other way. Pray the thing through. Ask God to help you through. Lay it before the Lord. Inquire of the high courts and tabernacles of glory. And the Lord will answer, and He will make a way for your feet. And He will send a light upon your path. And He will give you the desires of your hearts. “Wait, I say, upon the Lord” [Psalm 27:14].
Now that’s the first part of this sermon. Now the second and the last part of it: I want to show you out of these wilderness experiences—and I so wanted to follow them tonight, and I haven’t time—I want to show you out of these wilderness experiences, the songs that David sang. Did you know practically all of David’s psalms come out of these dark troubles, and dark sorrows, and dark disappointments in his life? Now let’s go rapidly and as I say, all I have opportunity to do tonight is just to point them out to you. If you have a pencil, in the margin of your Bible, you can easily read them. Or send word to me if you don’t have opportunity to write them down, and I shall tell you.
Now, in 1 Samuel 23, beginning at verse 10 [1 Samuel 23:10-12], this experience that he had at Keilah gave rise to Psalm 31, 31. And tonight I so wanted the long Psalm, I wanted to show you how his experience at Keilah resulted in his writing Psalm 31 [Psalm 31:1-24]. But I haven’t time.
Now, in 1 Samuel 23:19, the experience that he had with the Ziphites gave rise to Psalm 54; out of that experience he wrote Psalm 54 [Psalm 54:1-7].
Now, in 1 Samuel 23:, out of that experience at Maon and in the wilderness of Judah he wrote Psalm 63, Psalm 63.
Now in the experience that he had at En-gedi, chapter 24 of 1 Samuel [1 Samuel 24:1-22], out of that experience, he wrote Psalm 57 and Psalm 142; Psalm 57 and Psalm 142. It hurts my heart to pass over all this material, but I haven’t time to speak of it.
Now, in 1 Samuel 26, out of the experience that he had in 1 Samuel 26, look at verse 20: “Now therefore,” he says to Saul, “let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains” [1 Samuel 26:20]. David likens himself to a partridge, to a quail, that is hunted in the mountains. And out of that experience, he wrote Psalm 13, Psalm 17, Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and Psalm 64. And then out of all the experience of his wilderness wanderings he summed it up in the glorious and incomparable Psalm, number 37 [Psalm 37:1-40]. I repeat, it hurts my heart to pass over these experiences in these chapters and the birth of the songs that you have written in the Psalms.
Now, in closing the message and I must, in closing the message, I want to say a word about the songs of our hearts. And if I could characterize what it seems to me, I would say that the great and the moving songs of human life come out of the heartache and the sorrow of human experience. That’s a strange thing that out of sorrow should come our sweetest songs; it’s kind of like a contradiction. You think, “Why, we sing when we’re glad, and we sing when we’re happy, and we sing when everything is going my way!” Well that’s correct, we do. But the great songs, the moving songs, and the songs that reflect the great, deep experiences of humanity are almost always the songs that are born in tears and in sorrow. And the psalms of David, how many of them, how many of them as you read them—and I have mentioned just a very few of them tonight as I have linked them with these separate particular incidents—how many of the psalms and songs of David are the cries of his soul? Like the twenty-second: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” [Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46].
There is a purpose in human sorrow. And the more of the life God gives to me as a pastor—and it’s hard for me to realize, I’ve been a pastor thirty and two years—the more of my life that is given in this pastoral ministry, the more I can see that God has a purpose in the heartaches, and the tears, and the sorrows, and the disappointments, and the hurts that overwhelm our lives. Like the coal we dig out of the ground, embedded in it is the sunshine and the light of ten thousand times ten thousand sunny days. But it’s encased, it’s hardened, it’s blackened, until it is liberated in the flame, and the fire, and the fury of a furnace.
Human song is like that. It’s in nature. It’s in our souls. It’s in our hearts. But it never comes out, it never turns into music, and crying, and adoration, and exaltation, and pleading intercession, until the fire burns and the soul is cast into the furnace. If I had an hour, I would expatiate upon that. “He shall fit as a refiner of silver” [Malachi 3:3], that is, God puts His people in the crucible—that He might burn out of us the dross of our life—that we might be, as David said in his psalm, seven times purified in the burning of God [Psalm 12:6]. And out of those trials, and out of those sorrows, and out of those disappointments, come our greatest songs:
Sometimes through the fire,
Sometimes through the flood,
Sometimes through the waters,
But all through the blood,
Sometimes through deep sorrows
God leads His dear children along.
But in the night season,
He gives us a song.
[“God Leads Us Along”; George Young, 1903]
One of the greatest, most blessed of all the sermons that were ever preached was by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and it is entitled from one of the psalms, “Songs in the Night.” “He giveth His beloved songs in the night” [Psalm 42:8, 77:6; Job 35:10]. It’s an amazing thing what sorrow does to a man!
Some of these experiences that I had when I was a young preacher linger in my soul forever. I had a man in my church, in my little country church; I had a man whose daughter became the mother of an illegitimate child. I had another fine deacon in that church; you should have heard him speak, you should have heard him talk! When this man in the church—and his daughter became the mother of an illegitimate child—oh! this deacon, what he had to say, and he led in a movement to turn the girl out of church! What he had to say, it was fierce, it was terrible, it was caustic, it was critical! I want you to know upon a day that deacon’s daughter became the mother of an illegitimate child. And I don’t ever forget that deacon as he met me upon a time, and put his hands on my shoulders, and cried like it was showering rain, and said, “It wouldn’t be so hard, and it wouldn’t be so bad, had it not been for those terrible things I said about my brother.”
You see, as long as the sorrow and the hurt and the heartache were in this life, somebody else’s life—that man’s life—it was easy to be pristine, and caustic, and superior, and critical, but when it came to his home and his life, “Oh, pastor!” He was a different man. Sorrow does that to you. Whereas we are inclined to be imperious, and contentious, and superior, and proud, and hard, sorrow bends you down, puts you in the dust, bows your soul before God. And it’s a remarkable thing how the world changes when you’re down on your knees and looking up, when you’re in the dust of the ground and calling the name of God. All sorrow is like that.
If you’ve never been sick and if you’ve never had sickness in your home, it is easy to be unsympathetic with illness unto death. But if you’ve known what it was to look upon members of family that struggle on the brink of death or if you’ve struggled there yourself, there’s a marvelous understanding and sympathy in illness when it comes; and so with death, and so with loss of property, and so with failing vision, and so with hearts that break, and so with all of life. And out of these things come God’s infinite blessings; that’s why you have the Psalms. They were born in tears and in sobs, in heartache and despair in calling upon the name of God.
I lay at ease in my little boat, fast moored to the shore of the pond,
And looked up through the trees that swayed in the breeze, at God’s own sky beyond.
And I thought of the want and the sin in the world and the pain and the grief they bring,
And I marveled at God for spreading abroad such sorrow and suffering.
Evening came creeping over the earth, and the sky grew dim and gray
And faded from sight; and I grumbled at night for stealing my sky away.
Then out of the dark, just a speck of a face peeped forth from its window bars
And I rejoiced to see it smile at me: I had not thought of the stars!
There are millions of loving thoughts and deeds, all right for a wakening
That never would start from the world’s cold heart, but for sorrow and suffering.
Yes, the blackening night is dark and cold, and the day is warm and fine.
And yet if the [day] never faded away, the stars would never shine!
[“The Stars,” Robert Beverly Hale]
This is the purpose of God for our lives: some of it filled with joy and gladness, some of it with heartache and sorrow, some of it with tears and disappointment, some of it with answered prayer, and all of it in His loving presence and infinite goodness. And so David hunted like a partridge on the mountains, he says [1 Samuel 26:20]. And out of it, the songs that we sing and the psalms that shall live forever because they reflect our own soul’s deep experience.
Now, while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give his heart to Jesus. Somebody you put your life with us in the fellowship of the church. Finding in our Lord the answer, yielding all decision and destiny to Him, just looking to God, would you give to Him your soul in faith and in trust? May not understand it, but He understands it. May not have all the answers, He has got the answers. May not be able to see to the end, He can see to the end. “I yield to Him all the destiny of my days and in Him rest.” “Wait, I say, on the Lord” [Psalm 27:14]. Would you take Him as Savior tonight and give the pastor your hand? “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.” Or a family to put life with us in this wonderful and beloved and precious congregation, however God shall send you, come, come, come. If you’re in that balcony, down one of these stairways, come, on this lower floor, into one of these aisles and down to the front, “Here I am and here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, would you make it tonight? While we stand and while we sing.
WAITING UPON GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
I Samuel 22-23
The prophet Gad
Erupts on the scene like Elijah, appears to a young David
Gad outlives David and wrote about David’s life
Abiathar escapes with Ephod, Urim and Thummim
Urim and Thummim
Priests wore on breastplate for special answers from God
Overcomers receive a white stone
God speaks to us now through God’s Word
upon the Lord now just like in the past
David wrote several psalms
Wilderness psalms were psalms of sadness