“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26:52).
Jesus could have called, the Bible says, over twelve Legions of angels. A legion was about 6,000 and the Bible says that Jesus could have called over 72,000 angels to deliver him from Judas his enemy and Calvary his destiny.
I come to one of my favorite Bible characters King David. Very few of the Bible characters appear to escape the expose of their sins and weaknesses in life. David along with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Paul, Peter, Samson, and other great Bible men have their feet of clay revealed in Scripture.
I am not advocating what David did that was wrong, but I am saying that in spite of those wrongs the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart!
I come to David! King David is old with his hair a hoary white, his hands tremble, his brow is furrowed, his face is wrinkled, his shoulders are drooped, his walk is unsteady, his eyes are dim, his ears are dull, his speech is slurred, his mind a tad slow, his hopes are now memories, his days are numbered, and his future is history.
I’m not talking to a young David holding a sling in his hand. I’m not talking to a David as he is anointed the first time as a lad to be the future king of Israel. Nor am I talking to David when he was anointed the second time, as king over much of Judah. Nor am I talking to the David who later on the third time was anointed king over all of Israel. I am talking to the aged David!
I see David as he comes to the end of his life. He has fought his last battle. He has hurled his last spear. He has used his last sling. He has felled his last giant.
He has seen his life pass in review. He has worn his last crown. He has ruled his last subject. He has given his last command. He has written his last Psalm. He has passed his last law. He has born his last burden. He has sat on his throne for the last time.
I walk up to David and I ask King David if he would let me interview him? David, you have fought a heap of battles in your lifetime. David, the battles that you fought were many and successful and I was wondering which in your opinion is the greatest victory you have ever won? Was it the Philistines in the west, the Edomites in the south, the Moabites in the east, or was it the Syrians in the north, or maybe it was that great final victory over the Ammonites? Sir, maybe it was when you conquered the revolt of Sheba? King David, what was your greatest victory?
King David, what was your highest hour? Was your highest hour when Samuel came and sought you out of the sons of Jesse and anointed you as king? David was your highest hour the time when you were anointed King over much of Judah or was your highest hour when you were anointed over much of Israel?
David, what was your highest hour? Was it the day you defeated Goliath and delivered all of the people of God from the Philistines?
David, what was your highest hour? Was it perhaps your friendship with Jonathan? Was it that marvelous relationship when Jonathan’s soul was knitted to yours? Was that your highest hour? Maybe your highest hour was when the Ark was returned?
Do you remember, David, when you made a nut out of yourself and you ran around the Ark as it was being returned? Remember when your wife Michael was watching you from an upstairs window and she called you a fanatic?
There you were a King acting like a Baptist evangelist! Was that your highest hour when the Ark returned from the Philistines? David, was your highest hour your marriage to Abigail? David what was your highest hour and what was your greatest victory?
THE VICTORY OVER SAUL
I see David rubbing his chin and pondering the question. Maybe he quickly relives his life in his mind before he answers and I hear him say, “I think my greatest victory was my victory over Saul.”
What? David, that cannot be? David, you never fought Saul? David, you never even attacked Saul let alone fought him and let alone win a victory over him. David, you were never in a battle against Saul. David, I don’t understand what you are saying? What do you mean your greatest victory?
You mean to tell me that a man you never fought is what you consider a greater victory than the victory over the Ammonites? You mean a greater victory than you victory over the Moabites or the Edomites?
David, I don’t understand, for you never fought Saul? No, says David, you’re absolutely right I did not fight Saul, attack Saul, and that was the victory. Did you hear that he said? Yes, and that was the victory! You mean the victory of not fighting and not attacking is your greatest victory.
David said, “I found Saul one day asleep in a trench. King Saul was attempting to kill me! He had in fact given his entire energy to my death. He was afraid I’d be the king someday.
“He knew I had been anointed to become the king someday and he thought if he’d kill me he could retain the throne. Saul was jealous because the ladies had been singing a new top ten hit, ‘Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands.’
“Saul was chasing me and I was running for my life. It’s not that I couldn’t have defeated Saul for I defeated Goliath. I could handle Saul, but he was still the king and I would not lift up my hand against God’s anointed.
“You see it’s God’s job to punish them not me. So, I fled not from being wounded by Saul but from being tempted to wound Saul.”
David continues, “and I found Saul in a trench one night asleep. I had the sword in my hand. I could have plunged the sword through the heart of the man who was trying to plunge his sword through my heart.
“I could have easily taken the life of the man who had given himself to taking my life but I restrained myself and held back the sword. I found it takes more power to hold back the sword than it does to thrust the sword.
“I honestly believed Saul when he said he would never try to take my life again. However, something happened, for I kept hearing rumblings of Saul’s jealousy, hatred, verbal attacks on me, and I held back the sword once, for I knew I had done the right thing.
“I wondered, why is he still after me, hateful toward me, and seeking my death? Doesn’t he realize I could have killed him slain him with my sword? Doesn’t he know that I restrained myself from doing so?
“I found King Saul in another vulnerable situation where he was asleep just inside of a cave. He didn’t know I was there and I was there with my men! He was at that time continuing his pursuit of me to take my life.
“Low and behold if I didn’t find Saul asleep again. I pulled my sword and my nephew Abishai said, ‘Let me cut his head off’ and I told Abishai no you can’t do that, so he told me to cut his head off. I took my sword and I cut just a little bit of the outer garment of King Saul. Although I wanted to plunge the sword into him I restrained myself.
“If I had killed him no court in the land would have convicted me of murder. Everyone knew King Saul had given his entire life to attempt to kill me. I grabbed the sword and cut just a piece of the hem of his garment off and it took more courage not to kill him than to kill him. That my friend was my greatest victory!
My desire to pierce his heart and body with that sword was great, but my restraint was greater. You see the victory I had was not a victory over King Saul but a victory over David.”
THE VICTORY OVER SHIMEI
“By the way I’d like to tell you about my victory over Shimei.” What? You never fought Shimei, attacked Shimei, or destroyed Shimei? “Yes sir, and that was the victory! Because, in the darkest hour of my life when my son Absalom had rebelled against me, I was fleeing to a place called Mahanaim. The throne was no longer mine, no longer did I wear the crown, no scepter. I left the throne, and my own son was anointed king in my place.
“I was on my way to Mahanaim in the darkest hour of my life with my own son in rebellion against me, my forces were fighting his forces back in the city of Jerusalem, and I continued on to Mahanaim.
“A little man named Shimei began to curse me and throw stones at me as I walked down the road. He cursed me, called me names, called me a dog, and I knew I was not guilty of anything.
“Abishai once again suggested that I let him cut his head off and so I lifted my sword but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. You see, that was a great victory for me. It was not a victory over Shimei, but a victory over David and not a victory of attack, but a victory of restraint.”
David I’m shocked at all of this! I thought you would have talked about Goliath. David, I’ll be honest, I like to hear stories of you cutting someone’s head off. That is the kind of preaching I like to hear!
I’m a fundamental Baptist and I like those bloody illustrations! I liked it, David, when you cut Goliath’s head off and then took it to the taxidermist where it was stuffed and hung up on your den wall.
David, when you felled Goliath with that sling shot and won the victory over the Philistines, wasn’t that your greatest victory?
“No, no, no, no, no! The victory over Absalom my son was one of my greatest victories!”
But, David. you never fought Absalom?
“Yes sir, and that is the victory! Not a victory over Absalom the son but a victory over David, the father!
You see I could have fought Absalom. I could have defeated Absalom. I could have killed Saul twice. I could have killed Shimei who made fun of me, hurled dust, threw stones, cursed me, ridiculed me, called me names. I could have pulled my sword killing him on the spot, but I didn’t!
My greatest victories were not victories over Absalom, not victories over Shimei, not victories over King Saul, but victories over David. My greatest victories were when I restrained my sword, not when I wielded my sword. My greatest victories were when I held back the spear and not when I hurled my spear. My greatest moment was when I refused to fight not when I fought.”
THE POWER OF RESTRAINT
This is called temperance! The greatest power in the entire world is restraint or temperance! The more times one restrains the less the restraint! The more times you exercise temperance the less temperance you exercise.
David the second time cut a piece of King Saul’s garment. Notice the less restraint. Notice with Shimei the second time he expelled Shimei from the land. Notice with Absalom the second time he let his soldiers bring his own son’s death.
In our Scripture “Put up again thy sword into his place” for Peter had done this before. It is so hard, difficult, and painful to have in one’s life a Judas, a Saul, an Absalom, or a Shimei.
God says the greatest victories you will have is not the victory over your Judas, Saul, Shimei, or Absalom but the victory over yourself!
It is hard enough to put the sword in its place the first time and get victory over vengeance, but to have to put it up again and again and again and again, etc.
Ladies and gentlemen, it does not matter who your Saul is, Shimei is, Absalom is, or Judas is for you and I are still commanded by God Almighty to put up AGAIN thy sword into his place. Don’t get in the way of God’s vengeance. You see, you want to get even with your Saul, Shimei, Absalom, and Judas. You want to scrap them while God wants to salvage them!
Temperance is the controlling of strength, the restraining of strength. When you could win when you are not supposed to win. When you choose not to win that is the greatest victory of mankind.
The power to not wrongly use power is the greatest power known to mankind. Temperance is a fruit of the Spirit. So, as one grows in the Lord one grows in restraint and in temperance.
The more you use restraint and temperance the less restraint or temperance is required. Our fruit of the Spirit is not smoking, not drinking, not dancing, not listening to bad music, males not wearing earrings, males not having long hair, females not wearing pants, not watching movies, and not being a Sodomite. That is the average fundamentalist’s fruit of the Spirit, but it is not God’s fruit of the Spirit.
Just as fruit grows and is grown so should temperance and restraint grow? If you want to measure your spiritual growth to see if you are growing in the Lord check out your temperance or check out your restraint.
Check out your level of vengeance. Is it less or is it more? May I remind you that the same God that is Omnipotent and all-powerful is a God that restrains his power? If not we are all going to Hell.
This same Omnipotent God is a longsuffering God, a patient God, a merciful God, a forgiving God, and our God restrains his power more than he uses his power.
Jesus said on the cross if I wanted to I could call over 72,000 angels and they could kill all of my enemies and destroy the angry mob, but I didn’t!
When Jesus refused to use that power and restrained that power of calling 72,000 angels that was restraint and that was temperance and that is the greatest force known to mankind.
The levy is more powerful than the flood. The damn is more powerful than the river. The brake is more important than the accelerator. The faucet is more powerful than the water pressure. The anvil is more powerful than the hammer. The switch is more powerful than the electricity. The jet is more powerful than the gas.
Restraint is blessing those that curse you and not cursing them back. Restraint is praying for those who despitefully use you and not trying to hurt them. Independent Baptists need a revival of fruit of the Spirit.
The older some people become the more cynical and vengeful they become. The more times your King Saul, Shimie’s, Absalom’s, or Judas’ betray you if you do not watch it the less restraint you will exercise.
The first time David would have never thought of touching Saul’s garment let alone cut a piece of it off. The first time David would never have exiled Shimei. The first time David would have never allowed Absalom to be killed.
I’m not speaking about restraint in defense of others I’m speaking about restraint in defense of yourself! Forgive me but I kind of liked what Peter did when they came to arrest Jesus for he chopped the ear of the servant off. I like that!
I think it would have been a whole lot more fun if he had never ducked! However, Peter was not defending himself he was defending his Master and though he made a mistake in doing it and Jesus rebuked him I can’t help but feel Jesus smiled at him a little bit.
One Sunday night in our Longview Baptist Temple auditorium, while I was preaching, a man stood up in the back and cursed me. A church member sitting in front of him stood up turned around and cold cocked the guy.
The man slumped to the floor and the ushers’ drug him out into the hall through the double doors. I’m not speaking of defending someone else I am speaking about restraint when you are attacked.
Here comes your King Saul, your Absalom, your Shimei, or your Judas? I would suggest you “put up AGAIN thy sword into his place.” The question is, are you growing in this area of temperance and restraint? It is apart of the fruit of the Spirit. It is loving your enemies, returning good for evil and not evil for evil, doing good to those who hate you and not doing bad to those who hat you. When you have the power to retaliate and seek revenge, but you withhold that power.
I promise you, it’ll take a heap more power not to do than to do or not to seek revenge than to seek revenge. It is when smitten on one cheek you turn the other. When someone takes away your cloak you give him or her your coat also. It is recompensing no man evil for evil. It is not going to court with a brother who has wronged you.
It is feeding your hungry enemy rather than wanting him to starve. It is giving water to your thirsty enemy rather than wanting him to die of thirst. It is overcoming evil with good, refusing to seek vengeance, and sinning not when angry.
One is a real leader when one restrains his power! It is called self-control! It is called using anger only when it is needed to help not hurt. It is the boss not acting in haste to fire an employee. It is the preacher not lashing out just to hurt someone. It is the stronger giving in to the weaker to help the weaker. It is the offended spouse staying pleasant when mistreated and not fighting back.
It is the parent disgusted with a child’s behavior withholding unscriptural abuse in favor of proper and measured discipline. It is the perplexed teacher not over reacting. It is the hurtful words you want to say but are left unsaid. It is the stronger boy refusing to fight the weaker boy. It is your forgiving a debt that someone refuses to pay.
It is God for 120 years holding back before he sends the flood hoping to avoid the flood. Hey, how do you feel toward your enemies? Are you getting tired of the King Saul’s, Shimei’s, and Absalom’s, and Judas’?
Please be careful! Do not let up now on your level of restraint and temperance. Put up AGAIN thy sword into his place.