Darrell Cox is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Mocksville, North Carolina.
Take your Bibles and turn to I Samuel chapter 24. This message is a little unusual so you need to listen. I hope it will be a blessing. Starting at verse 8, “David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.”
Let me just stop to say that this is a good policy to learn. If God has put someone in leadership as a pastor in your life (and everyone who is saved ought to be a member of a local Independent fundamental Bible-believing church), the pastor is the Lord’s anointed. If a man isn’t doing everything right as a pastor, he is still God’s anointed. God placed him there and God will take care of that. That is what David is saying. In the Psalms we read, “Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:15) David would not harm God’s man even when Saul was not doing right, because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.
Let’s continue with verses 11-16 to see how tender David’s heart was. “Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea. The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand. And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.”
Look back at verse 14. “After whom is the king of Israel come out? After whom dost thou pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea.” Now I am going to talk to you for just a few minutes on this subject: When Kings Chase Fleas.
King Saul, as you know, was driven by jealousy and hatred. He got so infuriated with David, but where it really started was back in I Samuel 15 when he did not destroy the Amalekites and he brought back the sheep and the oxen. When Samuel heard the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen, he asked, “What’s this?” First Samuel 15:14, “And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” When Samuel saw Agag, he said, “Who is this?” “Oh this is Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” But God’s orders were to destroy Amalek and all that the had. First Samuel 15:3, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” They were to destroy Agag and the people. They were not to bring back people, sheep and oxen.
Samuel asked this question in I Samuel 15:22, “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? The answer to that is, “No!” The greatest thing you can do for the Lord is to obey the Lord. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. Samuel told Saul that God had taken His hand off of Saul and that God was going to anoint another king.
Sure enough, God told Samuel to go down to the house of Jesse. You remember the story of Samuel seeing all the boys, and having the sons of Jesse pass in front of him. Samuel asked Jesse if he had any other sons. Jesse said that he had one more, but that he was just a young shepherd boy tending to the sheep. Samuel said, “Let me see him.” As soon as Samuel saw David, the Spirit of God said, “There he is.” Samuel anointed David to be the next king.
Time passed and Israel went to battle with the Philistines in I Samuel 17. David was sent to the battleground to take his brothers some milk, cheese and bread. When David got up there, he saw the giant cussing God and cussing the army of God. David asked who that giant was. He was told it was Goliath and that no one had ever defeated him. David said, “Well one time when I was keeping my father’s sheep there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock. With the help of God, I killed that lion. With the help of God, I killed that bear. With the help of God, I’ll take care of that giant, too.”
King Saul took off his armor, his helmet, his coat of mail, and gave them to David along with his sword. But David wasn’t nearly as big as Saul. The Bible says that Saul was head and shoulders bigger than other men. David said, “I can’t use all of this. I haven’t proved this.” David got his sling and put five smooth stones in his shepherd’s bag. He prayed as he went to face the giant. He used his sling to kill the giant with a stone that sunk deep into the giant’s forehead. Goliath fell dead upon his face. David used the giant’s own sword to cut off his head. David carried the bloody head of the giant to the king and said, “Here he is.”
News got out. People started telling about David’s victory everywhere. The ladies of the city wrote a song, something like this, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Saul liked the first verse, but when he heard the second verse, attributing thousands to Saul, and tens of thousands to David, the Bible says that Saul eyed David. Jealousy set in. In chapter 24, Saul still wasn’t right because of the jealousy that welled up in him in chapter 15. Then he had an evil spirit, then Saul had wrath. He got to the place that he was going to kill his own son, Jonathan. He tried to pin him to the wall with a javelin. Saul loved David when David played the harp, but when the people began to say that David might be a good choice for king, Saul was eaten up with jealousy. The day came when David literally had to run from Saul. The mighty men who were loyal to David went with him. David spent a lot of time hiding in pits, caves and woods, living wherever he could.
That’s what is going on right here in the text we read from chapter 24. David was running, hiding from Saul. One night one of David’s scouts told him that Saul was camped just a little way from them. David took a couple of mighty men with him and went into the camp. There lay Saul asleep. David took his sword and cut off a piece of Saul’s garment.
Then David went back to his own camp. From a cliff, David shouted, “Saul! King Saul!” Saul arose, looking around and said, “Is it David?” David answered, “Yes, sir. Look at your garment. I cut a piece off your garment.” When Saul looked down he saw a big patch of his garment was missing. David said, “I could have killed you.” By the way, if David had turned those mighty men loose, they would have killed Saul. That is what they wanted to do, but David told them that Saul was God’s anointed and they were not to touch him. David told his mighty men that God will take care of Saul and not to fool with him. Let God take care of him.
Saul hollered back, “David, is it you?” David answered yes. David still respected Saul as king and actually bowed down and honored Saul when he answered him. The Bible says that when Saul thought about what David could have done, he wept. I’m no Bible scholar, but I want to tell y’all something else. I have had people tell me before that Saul wasn’t saved. Well, if Saul wasn’t saved, explain this to me. In the twenty-eighth chapter after Samuel has died and is with the Lord, Saul needs to hear from the Lord. He is so backslidden now that he disguises himself and goes to see the witch of Endor. She didn’t know it was Saul. He asked her to pull up an old prophet named Samuel. I don’t understand how except that God allowed it to happen, but old Samuel came up and said, “Why have you bothered me?” One fellow told me that it wasn’t Samuel. Well, bless God, the Bible said that it was Samuel. So I have to believe him or the Bible. The Bible says let God be true and every man a liar. I just have to go with what The Book says.
Samuel said, “Why have you bothered me?” Saul said, “I have to know about tomorrow when we go to Mount Gilboa. We’re getting ready to square off with the Philistines. What is going to happen?” Samuel said, “You and your boys are going to be with me.” This is how I know Saul was saved. Wherever Samuel was is where Saul went. You do the math -- there it is. You can say that was paradise and that was Old Testament and all that. But there was a great gulf. He didn’t say that you’re going to be on the other side. He said, you are going to be with me tomorrow. Saul lost his appetite and his knees were shaking. The next day they did die.
But back to our text, David asked a question, “Sir, you are the king! Why are you chasing after a dead dog and a flea such as I?” A flea… just think about it, Saul was the king of a nation and he got consumed with chasing a flea. David said, “I am nothing but a flea. What are you doing? Why are you wasting this time? Why are you in the shape you are in to be chasing fleas?”
That’s a good question. Saul was a choice man. The Bible says that he was a choice man, a goodly man, head and shoulders above other men. He was the best looking, the most athletic. Saul had it all, as far as people could see. “Why are you, sir, the man who was chosen by the people to be king, chasing a flea?” I am talking about a king who was head and shoulders above all others. I am talking about a king with a scepter, a crown on his head, and a throne. He could have been something great, but do you know what he did? He was a king who could have done great things, but he got caught up in chasing fleas.
#1 As a type, you and I are kings.
Did you know that? Do you know what the Bible says in the Book of Revelation? It says that we are kings and priests. A king wouldn’t have been allowed to go inside the tabernacle, but Saul tried that. He even got in trouble trying that. We have privileges that kings didn’t have in those days. We have the privilege of being kings because we are heirs to the King. John 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” Positionally, Preacher, you are a child of the King; Christian, you are a child of the King. Amen. I got into the family of God by trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior. We are kings and priests. Revelation 1:5-6 says, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
As kings we have power with men in our testimony and witness. As priests we have power with God through prayer. In I Peter 2:5-9, we are kings and we are priests. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”
If you remember, in the Old Testament, only the priest could go into the holy of holies. Aaron had to go in for the people. The great thing is that this morning I went in there and I didn’t have to have Aaron. I didn’t have to stand outside and wonder what was going on. I just went boldly like I was invited. The Bible says that we can come boldly before the throne of grace and we can have an audience with the King of kings because we’re priests. The blood of Jesus opened the way for us. We are a type; we are kings and we’re priests. Saul was a king, but you and I are kings by choice. We receive Jesus and we become royalty when we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior and are saved. Isn’t that right? According to the Bible we are kings.
#2 It is a tragedy when kings spend their time chasing fleas.
Here is the tragedy. It is tragic when kings waste their time and energy chasing fleas. By the way, there are a lot of Christians that do the same thing. They get on a flea chase. They waste all of their time chasing something that God never intended for them to do. It was degrading for Saul to do that. If you ran into Saul out there in the plains and asked him who he was, Saul would say, “I’m the King of Israel.” You say, “May I ask what you are doing out here?” Saul would reply, “Well, I am mad at a guy. One time they wrote a song that attributed more credit to him than to me. I am going to run myself into the grave to make sure that he is dead!” Right there, that was degrading. A king ought to be above that. It is disgraceful. It minimized his position. Chasing David was an outward symptom of an inward problem. Am I telling it right? You could see what the problem was outwardly, but the real problem was an inward problem, a heart problem.
Sometimes we put band aids on what needs surgery. I have a place on the back of my head that needs surgery next week. I’ve had it for years, but it got infected and started bothering me. I have had all the surgeries that I would ever care to have. I wouldn’t care to have another one, but when I went to see the doctor, he said that it has to be cut out. I said, “Don’t you have some antibiotics?” He said, “Yes, we’re going to give you some to help, but the antibiotics won’t take care of the problem. Sir, you’ve got to have it cut out.”
Let me tell you the problem. Saul put a band aid on a much deeper, much bigger problem. You can’t do that; it’s got to come out. The problem was that Saul never really got right about what happened in I Samuel 15. He should have just stepped down as king. He could have said, “I know that I can’t be king any more, but could you use a good janitor here around the palace? Could you use someone to run errands for the king? I know that I can’t be the king, but I would like to get right with God, stay in the ministry and do something.” But Saul was not willing to humble himself. Do you know how I know? Because Samuel told him, “When thou wast little in thine own eyes...” First Samuel 15:17, “And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?”
It doesn’t matter how others see you, as far as being big. You had better not see yourself as big. That was the problem with Saul. Saul saw himself as something big. When he saw himself as little, God could use him, but when he saw himself as big, Saul wouldn’t let the preacher tell him anything. Samuel tried to tell Saul, but Saul would not get right.
Instead, Saul called for a harp player. I love to hear Christian music. But there is a time for music and there is a time for preaching. Listen to what I am telling you. Saul needed a preacher worse than he needed a harp player. I can just see Saul lying in a recliner with a headset plugged into David’s harp, laid back with his eyes closed and his feet cocked up in the air while David played the harp. When David played that music on the harp, that music was the band aid.
What Saul really needed is what David got when David fouled up -- Nathan, the prophet. Nathan walked in to David and told him the parable. Then he said to David, “Thou art the man!” You are the one, buddy. You are the problem. David said, “I have sinned,” and got right with God. Even though the sword never did leave David’s house, David did get right with God. Look at Psalm 51. David humbled himself, but Saul never really did. When you don’t humble yourself, when you are not willing to admit that you have done wrong, when you won’t admit you have sinned, then you will spend your life chasing fleas. You can hardly see a flea. It’s a little speck. You will spend your life chasing something that is hardly even visible. I tell you what, you let that internal problem eat you up and you will just keep chasing fleas.
You and I are a type. We are priests and kings. The tragedy is when kings chase fleas. Hey, believers are just like Saul. We do the same thing, don’t we? We get jealous about something. We get mad about something. Do you know what the Bible says in Ephesians? These are some of the greatest verses in the Word of God. Ephesians 4:27-32, “Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Put that stuff away. Get rid of that jealousy. Get rid of it. People spend their lives chasing fleas of jealousy and pride and offense. We talk about the prodigal son and his brother, when we ought to talk about the prodigal sons plural. One just stayed at the house, but he was a prodigal. He was as backslidden as the one that left. Amen. One just said, “Give me my inheritance, give me my money,” and he put everything in his pockets that his dad gave him. He wasted it; he squandered it. He drank, he doped and he ran around. When all of his money ran out and he hit the bottom, and his buddies were gone, the Bible says that he came to himself. Luke 15:17-20, “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” He got right.
The other brother never left the farm, but he left God. When he heard the music, he asked, “What is that music?” He was told that his brother had come back and that his brother had gotten right with God. Others said, “Your daddy is killing that fatted calf and there is going to be a party. Your daddy says that we are all supposed to come in.” The brother who never left the farm said, “I’m not going in.” Do you know why? He was the king’s son too. He was his father’s son also, but he chased fleas. Chasing fleas kept the prodigal son’s elder brother out in the field instead of coming in and enjoying the feast in the father’s house.
There are a lot of Christians who go to the house of God every Sunday morning, and they sit there as sour as a green grape. They are absolutely as sour as they can be. Everyone else is shouting and they can’t even grin. They have absolutely no joy. The reason is that they have set out chasing fleas, neighbor. They are chasing fleas of old bitter feelings. You have to get over all of that mess.
If Saul had just called David in one day and said, “David, you are God’s choice. I am not any good as king any longer. I have forfeited my right to be the king, but I will tell you some things that will help you not to get into trouble. I will tell you some ways that I messed up. If you ever need me, here’s my cell phone number. I would like to stay here. I would like to have a job, just cleaning the sanctuary or mowing the grass, weed eating, driving a bus, or doing anything that you need me to do. Use me anywhere you think that you can remotely use me.” But instead Saul chased the flea of jealousy. That is what got him. Then he chased the flea of pride. “When thou wast little in thine own eyes….”
Folks, it doesn’t matter what God does with us, it is still God that does it. It is Him. The further I go in this thing, I have figured out a few things. I know God blesses and uses people, that He puts His hand on people and uses people, but to be honest with you, we don’t need to get too caught up in ourselves because God has used us. We had better realize that it was God that did anything that is good or eternal. No matter how God chooses to use us, we don’t have any room for pride. It’s all because of Him.
Proverbs 13:10, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” Only by pride cometh contention. Do you know that it takes two people to fight? If one of them has absolutely no pride, there will be no fight. Somebody has to have some pride if there is going to be a fight. You can’t fight unless you have some pride. You say, “They can’t push me. I won’t let them talk about me. I will get them back.”
If you think that David was running because he was afraid, look here. If you had gone into David’s house and looked, there was a grizzly bear’s head hanging on the wall. David’s sling shot was hanging on the bear’s paws. You would say, “David, where in the world did that big old bear come from?”
David would say, “I was out there tending my daddy’s sheep and that bear just came out of the brush one day.”
David said, “God helped me and I killed him.”
David would say, “Yeah, but look over there. See that big old lion. That day I thought that it was the end of the road and God stepped in. God killed that lion and told me to just stand still. The battle is not yours, David. It is God’s.”
When David got up there to meet Goliath, I think David remembered that verse. That old giant was swinging that sword around and cussing God. God said, “David, you don’t have to fear him. Stand still; the battle is the Lord’s. Go on down there. I will show you what to do. I’ll take care of the giant.” And God did.
Did you notice what David called himself? He already knew that he was going to be the king, but he called himself a dead dog and a flea. It doesn’t sound like David had a bunch of pride in him at this point, but old Saul sure thought he was something, didn’t he? Samuel said to Saul, “When thou wast little in thine own eyes, then God could do something with you.”
I’ve got a sermon that I preach called “God, Leave Me Little.” Leave me little where I can remember. I remember where I got saved. I was nothing and I have nothing to brag about myself being saved except that God loved me and saved me and rescued me. There isn’t anything about me that is good. He saved me. He is the Savior! Paul said in I Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” He didn’t say, “I was the chief.” He said I am still the chief of sinners. Amen. I know that there is only one chief and Paul said that he was it, but I feel like I am up there pretty close. God saved me and it’s a miracle. I think sometimes, “God, I don’t know what you would want me for. I don’t even know why you would do anything for me, why you would bless me or use me in any way.”
But I will tell you what I don’t want to let happen in my life. I don’t want to get caught up in chasing fleas of jealousy, chasing fleas of pride, or chasing fleas of pouting. Do you know what pouting is? It’s babysitting for the devil. That’s all it is. You are just letting the devil run things. Pouting. Man, we’ve got people around the church who get to pouting about things. I’ll ask them what happened. They will tell me some little old something, and I can’t even see anything to be upset about, but they are pouting. Sometimes people pout when they aren’t asked to do certain things. They pout and say that Preacher won’t use me. I’m thinking of a boy right now who is pouting. As long as you keep that pouting attitude, God isn’t going to use you either.
If you really want to be used of God, you have to become usable. How do you get usable? You had better quit chasing fleas. That is how you get usable. Quit chasing fleas. Quit pouting. What about bitterness? Put away bitterness. Do you know what’s killing our churches today? Bitter people. I am talking about flat out wicked bitterness. You got hurt forty years ago and you’re still mad. You’re holding a grudge. Get over that. “Well, so and so did me wrong.” Get over it. Get over it, buddy. Don’t hold onto things and hold grudges in your heart. Don’t get to where you are mad at people and bitter in your heart.
I think about Paul in Acts 16. He and Silas were in Philippi. There was a demon-possessed woman following them in the streets. That woman had a spirit of divination. That isn’t of God, I can tell you that. She didn’t have a good spirit. She wasn’t saved. She was a fortune teller. She went through the streets and was saying, “These men are the servants of the most high God.” It grieved Paul that she wasn’t saved. Do you know why it grieved him? She had the right message, but she had the wrong spirit. Let me tell you something.
Here’s a secret not everybody knows. Do you know that you can be a fundamentalist and still love people? Do you know that you can be that you can be an independent, fundamental, right-wing, King James Bible-believing, bus running, missionary supporting, devil-hating, sin fighting preacher and still love people? You can still love people!
Watch your spirit. I’ll tell you how you can get a bad spirit – chasing fleas. A king who ought to be out here doing the King’s business and spreading the King’s message can waste all of his time chasing fleas. Preacher, how would you like to be in town somewhere and have someone ask you if you are a business man. You would say, “No, I’m a Christian. I got saved and God called me to preach.” He might ask you how the work is going. What if you said, “Well, I am busy chasing fleas right now.”
The person would look at you and say, “You’re doing what?”
“I’m chasing fleas.”
“That doesn’t sound like a job of any importance or significance for a king to be doing. What are you doing?” You’re chasing fleas when you ought to be chasing sinners. You’re chasing fleas when you ought to be chasing suffering people, when you ought to be trying to help someone and encourage someone. You have a grudge in you, so you can’t help those who are suffering, because you’re chasing fleas.
First I said, the type: we are priests and kings. Secondly, I said, the tragedy: he was chasing fleas. Thirdly, I said, the transgression: one little flea.
#3 The transgression is one little flea.
It was that one sin that got him into this. Saul did go to battle the next day and Jonathan was with him. If you ever get to chasing fleas, your family is going to follow you to Gilboa. They both died. If you get full of bitterness, you’ll start putting it into your kids. You don’t want your kids to die on Mount Gilboa with Amalekites killing them. Saul was really fighting the Philistines, but a Philistine didn’t kill Saul. Do you know who killed him? One flea and that flea was an Amalekite flea. He only left one. He only came back with Agag. He spared one too many Amalekites when he disobeyed God’s command. Had he completely annhilated them like God told him to, there would not have been any Amalekites to have killed Saul. When that Amalekite ran to David and said, “I got him; I got your enemy,” let me tell you how loyal David was. When he found out that the Amalekite had killed Saul, he told one of his mighty men to kill the Amalekite. David fell down and wept. Do you know why he fell down and wept over the death of the man who had chased him and tried to kill him for years? It was because he didn’t have any fleas to chase.
This isn’t a great message, but it is a powerful truth, something to really think about. If you as a Christian aren’t careful, someone will wrong you one day and you will start chasing that wrong. There is too much to do for a king to spend his time chasing fleas. You are a king. You have no business chasing fleas. Is that right? Don’t ever chase fleas. How do you do that? Let go of them. Let things go. If you keep holding on to things that people have said and done, soon you’ll be chasing fleas. Somebody made a little snide remark and you hold onto it. You had better let it go on by you.
Do you remember when Jonathan told David that he was going to shoot some arrows? He said if the arrows are over this way, come near. If I shoot them over your head, you had better run. Sometimes you just need to let the arrows go over your head and let God protect you. If they are going to shoot arrows over your head, just don’t let them stick in you. I just thank God that they are going over my head and not in me. Are y’all listening? I’m just thankful that the arrows are going over me instead of in me.
Don’t let pride and jealousy and bitterness run your life and destroy your usefulness to God. Whatever happened in the past, let it go. Don’t be a king chasing fleas.