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Oct 21, 2018

“Unfinished Business” 10-21-18

I Samuel 28:3-19, Matthew 25:31-46 October 21, 2018 It has been 14 weeks since I last preached on the second Sunday after my retirement. That is the longest I have gone without preaching since 1975. So I guess today we all find out if preaching is like riding a bike, that once you learn how, you never lose the ability. I am glad to be in your pulpit once again to expound upon God’s word. But this time I am here in a different role. I am here as a guest at the request of your pastor and Session. Joshua Ward has noticed that I have not been wearing my robe lately. He seems to think that wearing the robe makes me more like Jesus. Bless his heart. Please do not inform him of the truth in this matter, he is a bright boy and he will figure it out on his own, with parental guidance, later on. So, as I stand here in this pulpit, wearing my preaching robe, Things might seem the same, but I am here in a different role. Never the less, I am sort of picking up where I left off. For the last several months of my ministry here, I preached from this marvelous book of I Samuel. But I did not finish. We covered the chapters of Saul being chosen as the first king of Israel, and we saw how he disobeyed the Lord and were told he was no longer God’s chosen king, that God would eventually replace him with King David. Then we saw that there was a break between David and Saul, and that Saul wanted to kill David. We missed the chapters that speak of Saul pursuing David with his army, and the two occasions when David had a chance to kill Saul, and declined because he understood that Saul had been made king by God and would be removed by God. This morning, as we take up our text in the third verse of chapter 28, I am taking care of some unfinished business. Here, we see Saul on the next to last day of his life. His life and his reign as king are almost over. The Philistines have regained strength and have attacked Israel once again. This time, they have attacked a different part of Israel, and that seems to have concerned Saul. He was seeking direction, guidance, as to how he should go up against the Philistines this time. Back in the old days, he had consulted the prophet Samuel in such situations. But Samuel had died years before. Then, Saul had consulted God through the High priest by using the lots carried in the back of the breast plate that the High Priest wore. But Saul later killed the high priest and most of his family when he suspected that the High Priest was helping David. The surviving son of the High Priest had fled to David and evidently taken the breast plate and lots with him. David had been using them to seek God’s directions for himself. So Saul, mostly as the result of his bad decisions, finds himself unable to find guidance in the familiar ways. So he seeks the only other guidance he knows of. He seeks out a necromancer, a medium, one who consults with spirits and the dead. I hope you noticed that this theme of the passage goes along well with the season of pre-Halloween in which we find ourselves. I thought it was rather clever myself. But there was a problem with Saul finding such a medium. Back in the earlier years of his reign, Saul had driven out of Israel or killed off all or most of the spiritists out of obedience to the law of God in Leviticus. But now he needed guidance and was informed that there was a medium in the village of Endor. In the King James Version, this woman is called not a medium, but a witch. Hence the Witch of Endor. Some of you may remember a TV show entitled “Bewitched” in which there was a witch named Endora. That was a clever reference to this passage. The geographical references and place names in this passage inform us of just how desperate Saul was for guidance. It seems that Endor was beyond the location of the camp of the Philistine army. In other words, Saul needed to sneak around the enemy camp to get to Endor to consult this woman. He tried to conceal his identity as he spoke to her. He told her he wanted to speak to the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel. She went through her rituals to call up the spirits, and seems to have been shocked when Samuel actually appeared to her. In that moment, she also recognized that her client was King Saul. She panicked when she realized this, but Saul beckoned her to continue. Through her, Samuel informed Saul that God was about to complete some unfinished business. Samuel had told Saul years earlier that he was no longer God’s chosen king, that he would be replaced by David. And now it was time for that to happen. Tomorrow, Saul would be killed, along with his sons. And eventually, David would become King, and his sons would succeed him. The next day, Saul was wounded in battle, and committed suicide to keep from being killed by the enemy. But the Philistines found his body, cut off his head, and fastened his body to a wall for public display. The bodies of his sons were also displayed there. Some Israelites from Jabesh-Gilead rescued the bodies of Saul and his sons and burned the bodies and buried the remains in their town. And that is the end of I Samuel, and that kind of ends our journey through it. But we see some other unfinished business here. God seems to allow the spirit of Samuel to take care of some unfinished business in allowing him to announce the completion of a prophecy he made earlier, that Saul would be removed from the throne of Israel with no successors from his family. And if you read through your bible, you will find that this is not the only time that a man of God came back from the dead to deal with unfinished business. The gospels tell us that Moses and Elijah came back from the dead to visit with Jesus and speak to him about his death which would fulfill some of the things they had said. The book of Acts tells us that the dead and resurrected Jesus came back to the road outside Damascus to handle some unfinished business with another Saul and turn him into the great Apostle Paul. Church history also contains some claims of Godly men and women returning briefly from the dead to handle some unfinished business. Most or all of those accounts may be dubious. But there is no doubt that God has used the words and works of his people to accomplish things long after they died. Calvin and Luther still lead us long after their deaths through their thoughts and their writings, as does Augustine, some fellows named Gregory, and many others. And as we follow the guidance of God in our words and deeds, we also may have influence on others after our deaths in the lives of those who remember us or hear about us. You see, we Christians are people who often live in the midst of God’s unfinished business. In the days of David the Psalmists wrote of such circumstances. They wondered why, in a world ruled by God, some evil people prospered and why some righteous suffered. Sometimes they wrote the answer to their own questions: that God wasn’t finished with them yet. During his ministry, Jesus prepared his people to live in the midst of God’s unfinished business. He told the apostles that they would all suffer in this life for the sake of his kingdom but that they would eventually reign on thrones in his kingdom. In our first lesson, Jesus started his saying about the final judgment of people he labeled as sheep and goats by saying, “When the son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.” Then he speaks about the final judgments of people who either treated well or mistreated the needy. In our world we, who follow Jesus and seek righteousness in ourselves and others, are often frustrated at the unrighteousness and evil that we see continuing without opposition. Sometimes we do see God bringing justice and even punishments in our time, but sometimes we don’t. We should praise God for the Justice and righteousness we see, and trust him to eventually take care of the rest in his own eternal time. We Christians are living as we wait for Jesus to return to finish the business of the nations and people of this world. And then when the Judgements of God are complete, we will be about the business of worshiping God and enjoying his presence forever, business which will never end. Pastor David Horner Faith Presbyterian Church West Lafayette, IN 47906