Saul has David on the run and when he hears where David is hiding, he gathers 3000 men to pursue and destroy David. Boys love this story because at the center of it we find Saul entering a cave to relieve himself. Very likely his men would have taken care of their business behind whatever bush they could find in the middle of the wilderness. However, the king must preserve his dignity and finds a place out of view of everyone. Saul has shown himself to be a good soldier, but this is a very unwise move. Removing himself from the view of his soldiers also means removing himself from their protection.
As it turns out David and his men are hiding in the same cave that Saul retreats to. David’s men encourage him to kill the defenseless Saul. David sneaks up on Saul, but instead of killing him he cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe that he has probably removed. Immediately, David’s conscience begins to trouble him, and he retreats back into the cave. David rebukes his men making it clear that it is not his place to end Saul’s reign. Saul was appointed king by God, and it is up to God to remove him from that position. As a result, King Saul leaves the cave unharmed.
Now David’s confidence in God is placed on display. David and his entire army are trapped in a cave. They are surrounded by an army that is probably ten times their size. Saul does not even need to attack. He and his men can just wait and starve David out. It would appear that David’s only defense is to remain hidden until Saul leaves, but David does not do that. Instead, he comes out of the cave and confronts Saul.
This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.1 Samuel 24:10-11 NIV
David provides us with a clear example of speaking the truth in love. His love for God and desire to see the best for Saul drive him to tell Saul the truth about what is going on. David presents his case to Saul and Saul is convicted. He takes his men and returns home. For the moment David and his men are safe, but they remain in the wilderness in places that are easy to defend.
For a deeper look at David’s attitude during this encounter read Psalm 57.
What About Us?
David understands something that is very challenging for us to apply. Submission to God means submission to God’s appointed authorities. In David’s case Saul’s anointing as king was known and accepted by everyone in Israel.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.Romans 13:1-2 NIV
When Paul wrote these words Nero occupied the position of Caesar. I may disagree with the policies of the current president, governor, or mayor, but I am very grateful that I do not live as a Christian under Nero. I am always concerned when I hear a Christian say, “The current president is not my president.” We do not get to choose what God establishes. Unfortunately, it seems that the spirit of rebellion is more common among Christians than the spirit of submission. Obviously, we must not disobey the law of God regardless of what our leaders command. David’s refusal to kill Saul demonstrated a better way to his followers. I would like to see what our country could become if more of us had the courage to speak the truth while leaving vengeance to God.
I often pray for greater courage, when I should probably be praying for greater trust in God, the kind of trust that David demonstrates. He does not make a tactical error when he exposes himself and his men to Saul’s army. Instead, he confirms his complete trust in a God who keeps His promises. Far too often my thoughts focus on self-preservation rather than God’s faithfulness. The results are anxiety and fear that too often keep me from expressing the truth in love. I understand our reluctance to trust other people. People have consistently failed us and are rarely trustworthy. David certainly did not trust King Saul, but he did not need to trust Saul. His trust in God far exceeded his distrust of Saul.
Our December sermon series has been focused on generosity. Words of truth are a gift and I pray that I might become more lovingly generous with them.