The Message of Saving Grace


Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 25:36-44
Sermon Audio: Click Here to Listen
Rev. Dr. Kwangho Song

Main Points:
I. The message of judgment (vs. 36-38)
II. The message of joy (vs. 39-44)

Having a winter day like today with rain and wind and low temperature is not too bad for most of us, and, in fact, some people – like me – enjoy it. But if this condition continues for a week or so, it would generally make many of us look forward to having a sunny day and sitting by the beach and enjoying pleasant breeze. Some might say, ‘I hate winter,’ and long for lovely spring days.

But we all know that rainy and cold winter days would soon bring pleasant spring days with numerous flowers and green leaves. Warm and dry winter days mean a spring season without abundance in many ways. So, winter days need to be like today and we need to endure this somewhat less pleasant weather. In this sense, news of cold, windy and rainy winter days is good news.

This is also true in the spiritual realm, especially on man’s salvation. For a person to be saved, he must hear bad news of his spirit’s death in sin. Moreover, he must hear of the coming judgment. It would surely be bitter news to hear and bear, but that begins a sinner’s salvation. Truth is, the more bitter it is to the ears and heart of a sinner, the merrier his restored soul will be in Jesus. As the bitterness of winter days is necessary for a good and abundant spring season, bad news of sin and ensuing judgment is essential for the joy of living in the Lord Jesus.

So, bad news of sin and judgment is the beginning of good news of salvation; bad news of sin and judgment is the first half of gospel grace, and the next half is the news of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross on our behalf, so whoever believes in Him may live. This is the message of Jesus’ saving grace. And the story of Nabal, Abigail and David recorded in our text passage from 1 Sam. 25:36-44 teaches us this true message of saving grace.

So, we follow this story and begin with the death of Nabal, and consider the message of judgment. We’ve read and meditated on this story of Nabal, Abigail and David over the past three Sundays.

But I’d like to raise one more point with this name, Nabal. It means ‘fool’ in Hebrew – as you know well – and that ‘foolishness’ and ‘wine’ with which he was intoxicated are closely intertwined. Prov. 20:1 points this out: “whoever is intoxicated by [wine] is not wise.” So, as the name implies being intoxicated with wine, Nabal the fool was intoxicated with it. Eph. 5:18 also teaches the same in these words: “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” ‘Wine’ in these verses means ‘worldliness’ or ‘the wine of this world’ and it is the opposite of godliness. So, the end of Eph. 5:18 contrasts this wine with the Spirit of God, and urges God’s people to be filled with the Spirit instead of ‘wine,’ that is, worldliness. But Nabal was intoxicated with the latter.

Then, his intoxicated heart heard the message of his sin and judgment. Nabal heard it from his wife, as you and I heard the same message of our sins and judgment from the mouths of God-sent messengers. And Nabal’s heart died within, and he became as a stone. But that was not the case for you and me – by God’s grace, our ‘sins’ died, and our souls were restored in the name of Jesus Christ!

Regarding our hearing of the message of our sins and God’s judgment, I wonder what sort of shock you had when you first heard that message of judgment and realised its seriousness. Whether you remember that moment or not, one thing that is sure for all Christians saved by grace is that we were terrified with the message of God’s impending judgment and our inability to escape from it. Some of you, if not all, might not recall any such reaction of your heart. But hear Rev Dr John Gerstner as he explains how fear of God’s wrath brings a sinner to faith in Christ: ‘The fear of hell is the ONLY thing most likely to get worldly people thinking about the Kingdom of God. No rational human being can be convinced that he is in imminent danger of everlasting torment and do nothing about it.’ After all, the beginning of our Lord Jesus’ message for the sinners was to ‘repent’ from their sins.

This is the message of judgment which all sinners first hear, and all those whom God chose to save hear the next half of His message of saving grace, that is, the message of joy.

II. THE MESSAGE OF JOY (vs. 39-44)
Nabal heard the first message, and his heart died within him. Truth is that our heart – yours and mine – died too within us when the message of judgment reached it. Then, unlike Nabal, something amazing happened to our hearts, that is, we received a new heart! Our heart of stone was removed and, as its substitute, a ‘heart of flesh’ God had promised for His people was given. Listen to what God promised in Eze. 36:26, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” God kills the heart of stone to give instead a heart of flesh through which God pumps His grace and mercy to flow through every part of the body, renewing every dead cell into a living and vibrant one.

This is the message of joy! This is the abundant season of spring the cold rainy winter days bring. The message of our sin and God’s wrath and judgment brings us to repentance, and this message of joy follows through faith in Jesus that we have received a new heart in Him!

Every verse in our text passage conveys this message of joy. Even in Nabal’s death, we hear about joy of saving grace. How? As the death of a foolish man recorded in the Bible is not to remember or commemorate a mere man’s death, but to point out the death of our old self, that is, our old, foolish and intoxicated self that deserved a due punishment and eternal damnation. Nabal’s death points us to see, first, the need for the death of our old self and, second, how God’s message of judgment kills our sinful, proud and arrogant stony heart to replace it with a new heart of Jesus! So, Nabal’s death is surely a part of the message of joy.

The story of Abigail becoming David’s wife also portrays the same message of Christian joy. This wedding is recorded in the Bible not to jot down a historical fact, but to remind us of how Christ accepts us, sinners, in His grace.

Let us take one by one in this wedding to see how it is so. First, who is David? He is the anointed one of God; he’ll be a king of Israel; in fact, he is already a king because God has ordained him for that office. Furthermore, he foreshadows the Lord Jesus the one and true King to whom all power and authority is given. Then, second, who is Abigail? She represents Jesus’ bride. Yet, she isn’t a virgin; she had a husband; she previously belonged to a foolish man. And this points out who we were at the time the Lord called us and received us as His own. We once belonged to the ruler of this world, Satan, the father of lies. He used to be our ‘husband.’ As Abigail is chosen and called by David to be his wife, we’re called to be the members of Christ’s bride, His Church. Despite our spots and wrinkles and defects, Christ presented us to Himself as His church and bride, adorning us with His righteousness. About this, the words in Eph. 5:27 are so graphic: “[Christ presents] the church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” This is the message of joy we hear through the wedding story of Abigail and David. What a joyful message this is!

Then, let us think about how ‘joyful’ this message is. Its depth and breadth and height are well described in Abigail’s reaction to David’s invitation. Hearing that message, she rises and bows with her face to the ground. She calls herself as ‘David’s handmaid.’ By that, she means that David’s invitation is a noble and honourable message, and she is delighted to hear it and receive it. With all her heart and joy, she is saying that she accepts this invitation. So, she quickly rises and mounts a donkey and follows David’s messengers to become his wife. Her heart is filled with joy as this message she received is the message of great joy!

Some people might be tempted to consider Abigail’s reaction as a sign of her unfaithfulness to her former husband. She quickly arose and went to a new man, they might argue. There was no hesitation in her response. She heard it and accepted it straight away. At least she would’ve expressed grief over her dead husband. But nothing like that is found from her deeds and words. So, was she an unfaithful wife? Was she a mean person?

In the world’s viewpoint, she could’ve been, but in God’s eyes, no, she wasn’t at all unfaithful. Rather, she was and still is a blessed person because, by God’s grace, she saw and understood which husband she must follow and to whom she must belong. It is not the fool, that is, the father of lies, but the righteous One, the Father of truth; it is not the ruler of this mortal sinful world, but the eternal Ruler and King of the eternal kingdom of righteousness. The husband we must follow is not the one whose name is ‘fool,’ lawless one, murderer, thief, wicked one – that is, the devil. Instead, we must follow the One whose name is the Truth, Way of Life, Purifier, Redeemer, Rock, Great Shepherd and eternal God! We must immediately cut our relationship with our former husband, and without hesitation, quickly rise and run toward the One who truly loves us and cares for us, namely, Jesus Christ! Abigail did it and ran to David.

And Abigail’s run to David is commended by many parts of the Bible – for example, Jesus commends such an action as He teaches in Mt. 13 about the kingdom of God with the parables of finding a hidden treasure and a pearl of great value. The Lord says, “[having found that great treasure – in another word, the true husband] in … joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field [and the pearl of great value].” Eph. 4 and 5 we’ve read earlier this morning is another example; especially vs. 23-24 talks about how urgently and without hesitation we must run from the false one, and come to the true and real one, Jesus Christ. Hear the blessed words from Eph. 4:23-24, “[you] be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” V. 27 of that chapter adds a conclusive remark, “[in all these] give no opportunity to the devil.”

These words from Ephesians urge Christians to cut our former relation at once only to be fastened and faithful to our new relation with Jesus because becoming Jesus’ beloved is inexpressibly joyful, because dwelling in Him and His kingdom is the only treasure that gives eternal joy!

So, everyone who hears this message of joy should and must rise quickly and come to Jesus and be His beloved. Do not hesitate; do not disregard this grand invitation; do not linger about your false husband. But with joy, follow Jesus who has already proven His love for you through His death on the cross on your behalf!

A preacher said, ‘You can’t preach the message of repentance to people; it hurts them – the innocent ones. You should only preach them Jesus’ love and acceptance of people as they are; and repentance can be taught later when they’re ready to hear of it.’ A Christian thought, ‘Oh dear, if I say to my brother ‘you must repent of your sins and believe Jesus,’ it would surely offend him, and he’d refuse to come to church with me. So, I’d better not talk about his need of repentance in order to start believing in Jesus.’ Still another believer discusses with fellow believers and says, ‘Why should we be cruel to non-Christians and visitors by talking about their sinfulness? And give them an impression of church as a group of people gloomy, sobbing and whining, rather than happy, celebrating life?’

Brothers and sisters, my fellow Christians, the message of saving grace we heard and received from the beginning is not a message of one ‘J’ but of two ‘J’s – the message of judgment and joy. Every sinner must hear his sinfulness and the due judgment so that his sinful heart of stone may die within him. Then, the Holy Spirit would replace that dead stony heart with a heart of flesh God promised to give to His chosen ones. This new heart brings to the sinner a spirit of repentance, and through the blood of Jesus, his sins are cancelled and the judgment aborted.

And through this new heart, all forgiven sinners receive the message of joy in Jesus. They believe in the Lord Jesus; they receive His saving grace fresh every moment! And with this new heart, they look to their Lord, run to Christ, and dwell in Him, rejoicing and praising Him.

So, we shouldn’t be afraid of sharing the first half of the gospel message. We shouldn’t think that the second half of the message alone could make an appeal to a sinner’s ears because it never works. As the full message of gospel grace – that is, both of judgment and of joy – delivered to you and me changed us and saved us from sin and death, we should also deliver this gospel of Jesus’ saving grace to all others who are lost in darkness. ***

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