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Minor Men With a Major Message: The Man Who Killed With A Whisper

I Samuel 21:1-3, 7; 22:7-23

I read for you verses selected from the twenty-first and the twenty-second chapters of I Samuel. This is the Word of God: “Then came David to Nob, to Ahimelech, the priest, and Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, ‘Why are you alone and no one with you?’ And David said to Ahimelech, the priest, ‘The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, “Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you and with which I have charged you. I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place.” Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever is here.’ Now, a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord. His name was Doeg, the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s herdsmen.

“David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him, and everyone who was in distress and everyone who was in debt and everyone who was discontented gathered to him, and he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

“Now Saul heard that David was discovered and the men who were with him. Now Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him. And Saul said to his servants who stood about him, ‘Hear now, you Benjaminites, will the son of Jesse, David, give every one of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me where my son makes a league with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me to lie in wait as at this day.’

“Then answered Doeg, the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, ‘I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, and he inquired of the Lord for him and gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath, the Philistine.’” Soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.

Let us pray. Now, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, oh God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

In your opinion, what is the ugliest word in the English language? What is the word which has broken more hearts, destroyed more homes, split more families, fractured more friendships, and started more wars than any other word? What is the word which is the softest in sound but the harshest in meaning? I would suggest to you that that word is the word “whisperer.” Now, the Bible speaks of whisperers. The Bible speaks of those who engage in whispering or gossiping. Proverbs 16:28 says a whisperer separates close friends.

There are those who are whisperers, are there not? I mean, you know, they are the people who say things like, “Well, you can’t prove it by me, but did you know that – ” or, “There’s a story going around that says that – ” or, “I would never want to be quoted, of course, but did you hear that – ” those are the tools of trade of the whisperers.

And the Bible has much to say about whispering, about gossiping. And I suppose there are many places we could turn in Scripture to address that subject, but for our purposes today, I want us to focus on these verses in 1 Samuel. I want us to focus on the story of Doeg, a man who was a whisperer. And the story of Doeg makes it unmistakably clear that there is great peril in whispering or gossiping, and that story brings to the forefront of my mind three great truths that I want to share with you. And I want to share them with you only if you will permit me to do so, and you will permit me to do so by opening your ears and your minds and your hearts.

The first truth is this: people who make trouble are invariably troublemakers themselves.

I want you to grasp what happened in this story. David, after he killed Goliath, was a great hero in the kingdom. And King Saul brought David to live with him as one of his own. He loved David. But something happened. That love turned to hate because you see, as David became more and more popular with the people of the kingdom, Saul became more and more jealous of him. And it came to the point where Saul said, “I shall rid myself of this rival.” And so it was then that Saul put a price on David’s head. Now, that word had not spread throughout the kingdom, but of course, those who were close to Saul knew about it. And there were those in the service of Saul who wanted very much to have that bounty for themselves, and so they went off in search of David.

David got word, and David fled for his life. Left so quickly, in fact, that he took no food, no supplies, no provisions at all. And it was while he was in flight that he came to the town of Nob, and there, he looked up an old priest named Ahimelech, a man whom he had known in years past. And he went to Ahimelech, and he knew that Ahimelech didn’t know what Saul had done. And so David decided that he would deceive old Ahimelech. He said to Ahimelech, “I’m on a secret mission for the king, and he has asked me if I will get some provisions from you that I may fulfill this mission.” Ahimelech didn’t know that that was a little white lie, didn’t know it at all. And Ahimelech knew that Saul had spoken so highly of David in times past, and so Ahimelech agreed right away. “Yes,” he said, “I’ll give you some bread, and I’ll give you a weapon.” And David then turned to continue his flight, but as he turned, he saw, leaning in the doorway, a man named Doeg. Doeg was a shepherd. As a matter of fact, he was the chief shepherd for the flocks of King Saul. And Doeg was one of the king’s men, and he saw it, and he heard it all.

It was later on that King Saul called all of his people to him. He was angry. He said, “Listen, I delivered the command that you were to bring David to me, and no one has done it. It’s as if you didn’t even care about me.” Well, of course, Saul was probably right at that point. David was quite popular, and I suspect that most of the people who were gathered there hoped secretly – oh, yes, secretly, of course, but hoped secretly that David would somehow manage to make his escape.

But not everyone hoped that. There was Doeg, Doeg, the Edomite, the shepherd. Doeg stepped forward, and he said, “Sire, Ahimelech has helped David make his escape.” Now, I suppose that in and of itself, that could be understandable. I mean, you see, Doeg was simply responding to the command of the king, but the fact of the matter is – what I want you to see is that Doeg, when he spoke to King Saul, did not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. No. He twisted that truth. Doeg left out a very significant detail in the story. He told King Saul that Ahimelech had assisted David, and he never said that David had deceived Ahimelech. Doeg was a whisperer.

And the king was enraged, and he commanded Ahimelech to be brought before him. You know, I wonder what David thought later on. I wonder what he thought when he heard how Doeg had whispered, had twisted the truth so that that old priest was trapped. I wonder if David had Doeg in his mind when he wrote in one of his songs, later on, “they make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s tongue, and under their lips is the poison of vipers.” I wonder.

And I wonder what Doeg’s problem really was because you see – it’s true – people who make trouble are almost invariably troubled people themselves. Psychologists have proven that. They have proven that those who engage in whispering, those who engage in gossiping, those who love to sling mud over other people, those who love to carry tales about other people’s problems and misdeeds, psychologists have proven that people who like to make trouble for other people are almost invariably troubled people themselves. So look at those people who go about packing tales, look closely at their lives, and I promise you, you’re going to find there some deep discord within or some ugliness in the family or some hurt, some sin, some shame, some sorrow. You see they are sick, and being sick, they simply seek to infect. That’s why Jesus found it so necessary to say, “Why is it that you can see so clearly the little speck that’s in your brother’s eye, but you cannot even see the log that’s in your own eye? If you are so interested in removing the speck from your brother’s eye, then you had better first remove that log from within your own eye.” Do you hear what Jesus was saying? People who make trouble for other people are troubled people themselves.

Back in 1864, during the presidential campaign, Abraham Lincoln was running for reelection. And there was a story that was being circulated about the public, a story which was highly critical of President Lincoln. It was being circulated in a deliberate attempt to undermine his effort at reelection. And that story originated with a man named General George McClellan. Now, as McClellan told the story, he said that Abraham Lincoln had visited the battlefield at Antietam just after the battle was finished. And as McClellan said, Lincoln’s carriage went right down the midst of the battlefield. There was still the young soldier boys all over the ground, more than 20,000 of them killed in that battle, and McClellan said that they were still not buried yet. And as the President’s carriage made its way through the battlefield, that suddenly Lincoln turned to one of his aides, and he commanded the aide to begin singing a song for him, a comic, humorous song. And this aide began to sing that song, and McClellan said it was then that he, McClellan, turned to Lincoln and said, “Mr. President, we’ll have no such music here.” That’s the way George McClellan told the story, and that story was circulated far and wide.

Many people believed that story, but you see, the story wasn’t true. George McClellan was a whisperer like Doeg. He twisted the truth. What actually happened was that Lincoln rode through the battlefield at Antietam, but it was two weeks after the battle, and those who were killed there had long since been buried. And yet even then, as Lincoln’s carriage moved through the battlefield, as he suddenly began to think about what had happened in that place just two weeks before, he was so overcome with emotion that he began to weep. He wept unashamedly. And as the tears rolled down his face, he turned to one of his aides, and he asked his aide to begin singing him a song. It was a ballad which was popular in that day. It was called “Twenty Years Ago.” It was the story of a man who returned home after a twenty-year absence, only to discover that all of his family and all of his friends had died. He was utterly alone. It was a song of heartbreaking sadness and sorrow. And yet that was the song the president requested, and that was the song that was sung because that was the way the president felt, heartbreaking sorrow and sadness, and the tears flowed down his face. But you see, that’s not the way George McClellan told the story. He told the story in such a way as to make Lincoln appear cold and heartless and cruel in the face of great tragedy.

But then I ask you to look at George McClellan himself. George McClellan was the most conspicuous coward of the Civil War. He finally had to be removed from his position of command because of his lack of courage. And it was this man, this sick and cowardly man, he it was who told the story. He it was who whispered this story about the president in an effort to undermine Lincoln’s reelection. George McClellan was a whisperer. George McClellan wanted to make trouble for other people because he was troubled himself.

That’s the first truth that arises out of this great story, that people who want to make trouble for other people are troubled themselves, and so our ministry to them must not be one of condemnation. No. It must be one of loving concern and understanding. So when there are those about you who are whisperers, gossipers, those who make trouble for others, please understand that they make trouble for others because they are troubled themselves. I wonder what Doeg’s problem was. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but he must have had some deep problem to want to make such trouble for old Ahimelech.

But there’s a second truth in this story. It’s this: people who listen to troublemakers are troublemakers themselves.

That’s true. People who listen to troublemakers are also troublemakers themselves. You see, for there to be a whisperer, for there to be a gossiper, there has to be someone who will listen. In this case, it was Saul. Saul was willing to listen. He was willing to listen to all of the lies that Doeg poured out upon him. And because he was willing to listen to a whisperer, he wound up destroying an innocent man because you see, Saul ordered Ahimelech to be brought to stand before him. And they brought him, and there, Saul accused Ahimelech of treason. Imagine that. Here was an old priest who for years and years had loved Saul. He’d supported Saul. He’d encouraged Saul, and yet here, King Saul accuses him of treason. The old priest said, “Sire, I didn’t know that you and David were enemies. I only did for David what I thought you would have wanted me to do for him.” And Saul didn’t believe him. Saul listened instead to Doeg, the whisper, and Saul cried out, “Kill Ahimelech.”

And what the Bible says is that no one moved. Imagine that, the king’s order – kill him – and no one budged. You see, they all knew this old priest. They knew him to be an honorable, truthful man. They wouldn’t rise up against him. None of them moved. And then Saul said to Doeg, “You kill him,” and Doeg pulled his sword and killed Ahimelech and then killed all of those who served with Ahimelech. Behold, Ahimelech slain by the sword of slander, killed by a whisper.

Now, lest you think that that’s just an archaic, outdated story that has no real relationship to the time in which we live, let me remind you of something that happened not very long ago. I find this hard to believe, but it’s true. I can document it. It’s true. Not very long ago, a real estate developer from Seattle, Washington was addressing a realtors convention. And in the midst of that address, he made this statement: listen, always keep at least one scandalous couple in every apartment complex because that will give the other residents someone to talk about, and the gossip will make them happier. Ah. That’s a lie, and that fellow ought to have been branded for what he is, a vicious troublemaker. And over against his misguided statement, I place the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the day of judgment, everyone will render account for every word he or she has ever spoken. You see, the plain and simple truth is that if we listen to those who are troublemakers and, by our listening, encourage them or if we do anything to encourage them in their troublemaking, then we are troublemakers too. Doeg was the troublemaker, but Saul listened to him, and Saul wound up being a troublemaker too. Saul wound up destroying an innocent old man.

But there is a third truth that comes to my mind from this story: people who are Christians do not make trouble, nor do they encourage troublemakers.

You see, the story of Doeg reminds me that we as Christians must repent for the whispering that we do in our lives. Yes. That’s right. I mean, have you ever said something that was unkind about someone else? Have you ever repeated something about someone that you heard from someone else? Have you ever listened to someone who was carrying tales and by your listening, encouraged them? Ask yourself those questions, and then place over against that what Paul says in Corinthians, that “love does not take account of evil, and it does not gloat over the sins of others.” My friends, I know of what I speak. Just this last week, I found myself whispering, saying something that did not need to be said, something that I didn’t have to say, something that was not kind and uplifting, something that I wish to God now I never had said. And that’s why I plead with you to join me in repentance in confessing to Christ that our tongues are sometimes like blazing fires. James said in his New Testament letter that the tongue is the hardest member of the body to control, and so it is. But you see, we have a Savior. We have a Christ who will help us to control our tongues if we will simply surrender them to him. The story of Doeg reminds me that I need to repent for my own whispering.

And the story of Doeg reminds me that as Christians, sometimes we will be hurt by those who whisper. Yes. That’s true. Are you aware of the fact that the persecutions of the early Christians were initiated by whispered rumors and gossip? That’s right. Do you know how those persecutions came to be? Because people said that the early Christians were cannibals. You know why they said that? Because the early Christians talked about partaking of the body and the blood of Jesus at the Lord’s table. They said that the early Christians were immoral. Do you know why they said that? Because the early Christians would go around, men and women who were not married, and they would talk about how they loved one another in Jesus Christ. And there were whispers, and there were Christians who died on flaming crosses because of those whispers.

And the same thing happens today. Oh. No. We don’t die on flaming crosses anymore. It’s much more subtle now. But the same thing happens because you see, when we take our stand for Jesus Christ in life, when we try to live what we believe, there are going to be those who whisper about us. There are going to be those who ridicule us. Young people, especially, please hear what I’m saying to you. If you dare to stand for Jesus Christ in your life, if you dare to live a life that is pure and clean and moral, if you dare to demonstrate in your life that you can have a good time without drugs or alcohol, if you dare to categorically refuse to engage in physical intimacy outside the bonds of marriage, if you dare to do that, then I promise you, there will be whisperings, and there will be snickerings, and there will be ridicule, and there will be those who attack you and reject you. But please stand firm. Stand on what you know is true. And please remember the great word of Jesus, the Jesus who says, “Blessed are you.” That’s what he says: “Blessed are you. Happy are you. Happy are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account for,” Jesus says, “great is your reward.” Remember. Please, my young friends, remember.

And then the story of Doeg reminds me that we as Christians, if we must gossip, ought to gossip about the things of God. That’s right. Do you know the origin of the word gossip? It comes from the old English word Godsib. And do you know what Godsib meant? Godsib meant one who is related to God, one who speaks for God. That’s the original meaning. Gossip, one who speaks for God. You see, gossip is a good word gone wrong. It’s such a tragedy that we’ve taken such a beautiful word and such a beautiful thought and corrupted it so badly in our time. But the meaning of the word is simply this: that if we are to gossip, yes, let us gossip for God. Let us gossip about the things of God.

John Bunyan once overheard three women sitting on a porch gossiping. He listened in, and what he heard was that they were gossiping about what it means to come to know Jesus Christ. They were gossiping about what it means to grow in Christ. And do you know that what John Bunyan overheard that day from three gossiping women was the trigger that ultimately led to his conversion, and he went on to become one of the greatest of all Christian saints? If we are to gossip, my friends, then for Heaven’s sakes, let us gossip about the things of Christ.

Well, that’s the story, and on the basis of that story, I call us to never engage in whispering or gossiping. I call us to speak only those things which are kind and uplifting and merciful. I call us never to listen to those who are whisperers. I call us to make the prayer of the Psalmist the hallmark of our lives, not only praying the prayer every single day but living the prayer every single day: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh God, for you are my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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