1 Samuel 24 The Lord Vindicates
1 Samuel 24
1 After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. 2 So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.
3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.‘” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.
After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 8 David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. 9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the LORD placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king- he is the LORD’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.
12″ May the LORD judge between us. Perhaps the LORD will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. 13 As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. 14 Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? 15 May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power! “
16 When David had finished speaking, Saul called back,” Is that really you, my son David? “Then he began to cry. 17 And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. 18 Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the LORD put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. 19 Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the LORD reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. 21 Now swear to me by the LORD that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!” 22 So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold.
Saul returns to resume his hunt for David in the wilderness of En-gedi. Saul enters a cave unaware that David and his men are hiding inside. It is not hard to conclude that the opportunity to kill Saul is divine and justified. This divine providence can be interpreted either as an opportunity to prove David’s innocence or to annihilate his enemy. David’s immediate instinct is to follow his conscience while resisting the temptation to take the path of least resistance. This incident is pivotal in vindicating David from being labeled as usurper of the throne. His decision has won him respect from both camps and forces an open confession from Saul regarding his righteousness and kingly destiny. Today’s passage teaches that the only way to enduring glory is the way of truth and integrity.
Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish – Saul continues his relentless pursuit of David as soon as he is done with the Philistines. Having received news of David’s whereabouts he immediately musters 3000 elite troop towards the wilderness of En-gedi. Saul goes into a cave to relieve himself only to find himself in the same place where David and his men were hiding. From being hunted and endangered, now David finds Saul in his mercy. The hunter has now come under the mercy of the hunted. The strong has now taken the place of the weak. It is not too hard to be convinced of this divine opportunity that has presented itself. To let it go would amount to utter stupidity and incompetency. No one would have to think very long of what the next logical step should be. Compelled by the unmistakable providence of God and the overwhelming support of his men, David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. An underwhelming move to the surprise of his men, and they take it upon themselves to pounce on Saul. But David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul; he reasons and warns them against hurting the man that God has anointed.
Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! – David comes out after Saul and calls out to him holding up what is in his hand a piece of the hem of his robe. David’s goodwill towards Saul is now indisputable: I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you. David gives his reason for sparing Saul: I will never harm the king- he is the LORD’s anointed one. However, David subtly puts forth a warning of God’s judgment if Saul should continue to pursue him: May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. David displays his true strength through his dependence on God to protect him from an opponent much bigger than him: He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power! By sparing Saul, he renounces the way of personal revenge, rather, to allow God to act as his Vindicator through which he has gained for himself respect and favor before God and man.
You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil – Saul at this point is emotionally stirred by David’s kindness and righteousness in sparing his life. Saul openly acknowledges David’s righteousness as being greater than his: You are a better man than I am, because David did not repay evil with evil but with good by sparing him. At this point Saul reluctantly acknowledges David’s high kingly destiny: and now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and pleas for clemency when David ascends to the throne: Now swear to me by the LORD that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants! David, upon Saul’s request makes an oath not to cull his line of descendants when He ascends to the throne.
- A man commands true respect not by his great wealth or power but by the purity of his heart. God and man alike favors and honors those who persevere in doing what is right when exposed to various temptations (see Romans 2:7). When a man’s ways are pure, even his enemies honors and respects him (see Proverbs 16:7). Saul is a case in point, where he yields to David in deference for the throne because David is more righteous. A rich man may be respected for his business acumen, but true respect and honor belongs to those who give their lives towards a cause to make a better world. David took the more difficult and dangerous route to the throne by doing what is right in sparing Saul, and that earned him great respect and favor before God and man. This incident explicitly reveals the true state of David’s heart; whose desire is not for power, but to make Israel a better place. If you are in a position of power, it is difficult to tell if people obey you out of fear or out of true respect. But if people start to rally behind the leader even though they find little personal benefit, it shows great trust invested in the leader. Respect and trust is the product of a righteous heart proven consistently over time, through various trials and temptations of life.
- Before you entrust greater responsibilities to another, you must test the nature of his heart, commitment, and discipline through smaller responsibilities. If the person is found unsuitable, it may create unnecessary setbacks for the organization at large. Interest and enthusiasm is often mistaken for loyalty and commitment. People in their enthusiasm to contribute bring with them their personal goals and motives that need realignment with the vision and ethos of the organization. Similarly, God will expose you to various trials and temptations to test the quality of your heart and motives before promoting you to a higher level of authority. In the process, He will also realign your motives and agenda with His. Christ, prior to being launched into the ministry must be tested in the wilderness by Satan of His faithfulness towards God. David’s desire for power and his true intent in regards to the throne are tested when Saul presents himself unaware by divine providence in the cave. God realigns David’s heart with His by sending him to protect Keilah. If David yields to temptation and kills Saul, he would have become another Saul and lose the calling that God has ordained for him.
- The true test of a person’s readiness for a higher calling is his response when being hurt by others. The true intent of the devil is to detract a person from his true calling. Physical suffering and setback is never the end game but a means to wound his soul and wipe off precious years from a person. Through his agents of destruction, the devil sows seeds of injustice, distrust, and doubts concerning God’s faithfulness. Put in a nutshell, the devil’s end game is to steal your glory and calling. David has to confront his own disappointment towards people and God’s faithfulness when he has to flee and give up everything he possessed including his family. However, his wounds did not stop him from trusting Jonathan and spare Saul’s life. You may be wounded by people you respect and trust, but did that cause you to stagnate or did that cause you to grow in your resolve to uphold truth and serve others with love?
- The world has learned to give credence to an appearance of wealth and power. Some culture gives credence to a certain skin color, some to appearance of wealth, some to wisdom, yet more to capabilities and power. It is no wonder that the world despises those who are meek and humble. However, the kingdom of heaven gives credence and favor to those who are pure at heart. As there is an ongoing shift of authority from the agents of evil to the righteous, persevere in doing what is righteous in the midst of a perverted generation, and you will be rewarded in due time. Jesus says concerning the day of judgment, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16.
- Are you easily swayed by people who could put up an enticing front, who would play to your desire for assistance and loyalty? Do not be foolish, but test the true quality of his heart by observing the way he interacts with others especially those who are weak. Test his motives of service by allocating to him a less “significant” role instead of a more glamorous position.
- Do you have a tendency to look for shortcuts to success rather than staying faithful on the tasks that God has entrusted? The tasks at hand are foundations on which God will build for you an enduring ministry.
Dear Lord, I understand that true respect is earned when I act and speak the truth in love regardless of circumstances. Help me to respond in love and truth despite being unjustly treated as God is my Vindicator. As I have proven myself faithful in smaller tasks, entrust to me greater responsibilities to serve your purposes. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.