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The Point of the Spear

Jim Thompson - 4/30/2023


Have any of you ever been a part of an intervention? How did that room feel? It’s so hard to sit a friend or family member down and have a serious talk with them about some destructive pattern in their life. But the whole scenario is borne out of love. Everybody at the intervention is there because they love the person who needs help. Sadly, the person who needs help doesn’t usually receive it as a loving gesture. Often, they actually feel the opposite of loved. They feel ganged up on. They feel attacked. So, what does grace look like in that scenario? We shouldn’t enable them. We shouldn’t ignore them. What’s the move? What do you do when grace feels more like a spotlight on unworthiness than a light in the darkness? Saul being spared by David in 1 Samuel 26 gives us insight into these questions.


Three Observations:

  • The Lord’s Anointed (26:9, 26:11, 26:16, 26:23)
  • Saul’s Words (26:21, etc.)
  • The Spear (26:7, 26:8. 26:11, 26:12, 26:16, 26:22)

Three Questions:

  • How do you show grace to others who don’t deserve it?

When you feel helpless to help people, what do you do? You must begin with the fact that God continually gives you grace, so who are you to withhold it from someone else? It’s foolish to think you have a greater sense of justice than God. That’s the starting point: we’re never called to be the arbiters of who deserves grace and who doesn’t because we’ve already established – none of us really do. Beyond this, we also have to recognize that extending grace to others can look wildly different. Sometimes we want grace to be loud and boisterous. We want it to be a storm or a fire, and sometimes it is. But sometimes, it’s a still, small voice, a whisper, or a missing spear. And this grace isn’t general niceness or tolerance. It calls sin “sin” and forgives anyway. It’s willing to be patient and present, and we show grace to others by imparting the same grace God has given us.

Furthermore, sometimes we hold back on grace until we’re sure the person will be changed by it. This is not the way of Jesus. The night Jesus was arrested, he knew Judas was going to betray him, and he washed his feet anyway. And David shows Saul kindness, not knowing whether or not he’ll change. That’s not up to us. So, we pray and beg the Holy Spirit, “Please show me what grace needs to look like here so that I can love this person well so that they’ll trust and pay attention to Jesus.”

  • How do you receive grace from others when you don’t deserve it?

This is hard enough on its own, but it’s even more difficult with Saul’s bad example and him saying the right thing but not changing. So, what to do? First, realize that even if you don’t feel it. Stop and zoom out as far as you can, and be reminded that you don’t have it all together. Confess that you’re not omniscient, and that you can’t see everything perfectly, and that you have blindspots that others actually can see. Take a deep breath, and don’t defend yourself. Jesus is your defender. Don’t try to self-justify. Jesus is your justification. And sometimes, it might be a sustaining grace more than a forgiving grace, but go ahead and own the idea that there will never be a time when you don’t need grace from others. Furthermore, believe that the grace you receive from others is likewise grace from God. And in this all of this, cultivate gratitude. Gratitude creates adhesive grace receptors in the soul so that when you’re approached by someone you know loves you, you don’t immediately put walls up. Just like David to Saul, your life is precious to them and in the sight of the Lord, and they’re not trying to trap you. They’re trying to love, support, and encourage you. And the main way you learn to receive grace from others when you don’t deserve it is by learning to receive it from God himself.

  • How do you respond to the “grace upon grace” we have in the gospel of Jesus?

The point of the spear in these Samuel narratives is that the spear is a picture of death. And later in the Old Testament, the prophets look forward to a day when everything will be New Creation. Sin will be Vanquished. And all will be Kingdom Come and Eden Again, Royalty the way it should be. And in that day, the prophets say, people will take their swords and spears and hammer them into plowshares to cultivate God’s New World, and they will study war no more. Why? Because Death will be defeated. No more spears. But how will that happen? What will instigate and inaugurate that Kingdom Come?

Well, John starts his gospel by talking about the “grace upon grace” of Jesus, and he ends it with the only use of the word “spear” in the entire New Testament, plunged into Jesus’ side at his crucifixion. And this Jesus is the Christ, the Lord’s definitive Anointed One. The Messiah. He’s the Anointed One – not who used the spear for violence or dodged the spear for safety – but who shockingly took the spear of death into himself, the one that we all deserve somehow. The separation from God we deserve, he experienced at the cross. He is the Judge judged in our place, our Royal Representative at the tree. And this is what makes “grace upon grace” available. And we can only receive it by believing he did it to make us new, to save us. We can only live in that grace by trusting that he’s good to his word – unlike Saul. But rather, we can trust that, like he promised, he will forgive and heal and have compassion on those who come to him needy and dependent. And the single and ongoing response to the grace offered to us in Jesus is to embrace it by faith. There is no other way. “By grace through faith” is both the narrow gate AND the narrow path. So…

When grace feels like more of a spotlight on unworthiness than a light in darkness, we should recall the source of all grace – the cross of Christ. Here there is a fountain of endless mercy to be received from God and to be offered to others. And both the receiving and the offering are done by faith alone.

Some of you might be fighting receiving grace from God or others. Some of you might be holding back from sharing grace and love to others. But both require you to trust something more than yourself. Both call you to faith. And no matter where you find yourself, the gospel of Jesus repeatedly extends to you grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. If you belong to him, he doesn’t hold your sin against you. And his pursuing grace includes reminding you that those things about you aren’t the truest things about you. Instead, you are Royalty. You are his Family. You belong to him. He loves you. He loves loving you. And if you’re his, because of the cross, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you’ll dwell in his house forever.”

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.