David and Saul – loving our enemies 1 Samuel 24:1-22

In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ says this:
Matthew 5:44 Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

There is no better example of obedience to these commands than today’s story of how David resisted the temptation to kill his enemy King Saul. A few weeks ago we heard the story of how the prophet Samuel had anointed David to become the next king of Israel to replace Saul. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Last week we heard how while still a young man David defeated the giant Goliath, the champion of the Philistines and so was entitled to claim all the rewards Saul had promised, including the hand of Saul’s daughter in marriage. This marriage would make David Saul’s heir and so give him a claim to the throne as the next King of Israel. But because Saul knew that God had appointed David to replace him as King, Saul became paranoid and insanely jealous of David. By this time Saul had already hatched half a dozen plots to kill David. He had slaughtered all the priests who had helped David by giving him food. And now we see Saul with a large army, vastly outnumbering David’s band of men, hunting for David out to kill him once again.

2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. 3 He came to the sheep pens along
the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to
you, `I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

What would you do if you were David, and you were presented with such an opportunity to get Saul out of the way once and for all? There in the cave David faced the kind of temptations we sometimes face in life. The way David acted gives us all an example of how we should act when we face similar temptations.

TEMPTATION TO MAKE ALL HIS PROBLEMS GO AWAY

Many people in David’s situation would find many excuses to justify killing Saul. “It was just self-defence, because Saul was out to kill me.” “This is a God-given opportunity and I should take it.” Or even, “I’m just so tired of running and fighting Saul. This can end all of that now.” But David refused to make any such excuses, He showed a radical, obedient trust in God instead. Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rm 12:21).

David wasn’t storing up bitterness and anger in his heart towards Saul. Even as Saul made David’s life completely miserable, David kept taking it to the LORD, and he received the cleansing from the hurt and the bitterness and the anger that the LORD can give. If David had stored up bitterness and anger towards Saul, he probably wouldn’t have been able to resist the temptation to kill him at what seemed to be a “risk free” opportunity. What would you have done – your mortal enemy in your grasp? Another preacher has put it like this.

Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? There and then David could have gotten away with murder.
Consensus asks the question: Is it popular? All his men were ready to kill Saul!
But Conscience asks: Is it right? And David’s conscience said, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”

Sometimes obeying God means we DON’T take the quick and easy way out. Sometimes obeying God means we DON’T do what anybody else would have done or what our friends are telling us to do, even if it is a hundred percent certain we could get away with it and nobody would ever know. Instead we should always do what our conscience tells us is right!

I don’t know anything about the kinds of problems you are facing in life at the moment. Maybe you have problems at home, with the family or with the neighbours. Maybe you have problems at work, or even with other people in the Church. Sometimes we see an easy way out, something which we could do which would make all our problems go away. It seems safe to do. Maybe our friends are encouraging us to do it. But we have to stop and listen to our conscience. Is it right? Is that what Jesus would do in my situation. Is that really what God wants me to do?

David resisted the temptation to make all his problems go away by doing something which was wrong – and we must do the same!

TEMPTATION TO TAKE REVENGE

David had every right to be angry at Saul. It would have been so easy to him to take his revenge there and then in that cave. Sometimes people hurt us. Sometimes people upset us, or make us scared. Sometimes it’s by accident. Sometimes it is deliberate. But them sometimes an opportunity comes along for us to hit back – to take our revenge. To hurt them or upset them or scare them.

The apostle Paul wrote this:
Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

A thousand years earlier, David was already obeying what Paul would command. He had the opportunity for revenge and he didn’t take it! Instead David loved his enemy!
David resisted the temptation to take revenge, and we must do the same!

TEMPTATION TO TURN A BLIND EYE

David could have just let his men kill Saul for him

4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, `I will give your enemy into your hands. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul.

David’s men were excited at the opportunity in front of them, and believed it was all a gift from God. They knew it was no coincidence that Saul came alone into that cave at that moment. So, they thought this was an opportunity from God to kill Saul. On a previous occasion, God had promised David: Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may to do him as it seems good to you. They believed that this was the fulfillment of the promise, and that David needed to seize the promise by faith and by the sword!

But David would not turn a blind eye and let his men kill Saul. Standing back and just letting somebody else do something which is wrong when we could have stopped them is as bad as doing it ourselves. “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” David resisted the temptation to turn a blind eye – and we must do the same!

TEMPTATION TO TAKE A SHORT CUT TO GOD’S PROMISE

David could so easily have said to himself, “It’s all right, because God promised me the throne anyway.” “It’s all right because I am in the right, and even Jonathan knows that I deserve the throne.” “This is a God-given opportunity and I should take it.”

God HAD rejected Saul as King and Samuel had told him so. David HAD been anointed King by Samuel the prophet. God HAD given David victory over Goliath and all the rewards of that. So what made David decide, “I won’t kill Saul; instead I will just cut off the corner of his robe”? He knew that God’s promise said, “You will inherit the throne of Israel.” He knew that Saul was standing in the way of that divine promise. But he also knew it was disobedient of him to kill Saul, because God put Saul in a position of authority, and it was God’s job to deal with Saul, and not David’s. David wanted the promise to be fulfilled, but he refused to try and fulfill God’s promise through an act of his own disobedience.

Sometimes, when people have received a promise from God, they can think they are justified in sinning as they pursue that promise. If we ever think we need to sin in order to receive God’s promise, we are always wrong.

We know God wants to bless us. But when we see a way to grab that blessing for ourselves, to do so is always sin. We should never do wrong to bring about right. The end NEVER justifies the means! God will fulfill His promises, but He will do it His way, and do it righteously. We need to be like Abraham, who obeyed God even when it seemed to be at the expense of God’s promise, willing to sacrifice Isaac. We need to be like Jesus, who in his temptations in the wilderness rejected Satan’s offer to give him all the kingdoms of the world, because that would have meant allegiance to the devil! (Luke 4:5-8).

David knew not only how wait on the LORD, and he also knew how to wait for the LORD. We wait on the Lord by prayer, looking for God to reveal his will to us.
Then we wait for the Lord by patience and submission, looking for God to act on our behalf! David was determined that when he sat on the throne of Israel, it wouldn’t be because he got Saul out of the way, but because God got Saul out of the way. He wanted God’s fingerprints on that work, not his own. David wanted the clean conscience that comes from knowing it was God’s work that had fulfilled God’s promises.

Somebody said, “We win most when we appear to have yielded most, and gain advantages by refusing to take them wrongfully. The man who can wait for God is a man of power.”

David resisted the TEMPTATION TO TAKE A SHORT CUT TO GOD’S PROMISE. And we must do the same.

So now let’s see how the story unfolds. No easy way to make his problems go away. No revenge. No turning a blind eye. No short cut to God’s promise. David didn’t kill Saul. He just cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe. And then we read,

David . . . went out of the cave: David took a big chance here, because he could have simply remained in hiding, secure in the fact that Saul had not found him. But he surrendered himself to Saul, because he saw the opportunity to show Saul what his intentions were.

David showed great submission to Saul: My lord the king . . . David stooped with his face to the earth and bowed twice. We might think that David had the right to come to Saul as an equal. “Well Saul, we’ve both been anointed to be king. You’ve got the throne right now, but I’ll have it some day and you know it. From one anointed man to another, look at how I just spared your life.” That wasn’t David’s attitude at all. Instead, he said: “Saul, you are the boss and I know it. I respect your place as my leader and as my king.”

When David stooped with his face to the earth and bowed twice he was showing great trust in God, because he was making himself completely vulnerable to Saul. Saul could have killed him very easily at that moment, but David trusted that if he did what was right before God, God would protect him and fulfill the promise.

And then David produced the corner of Saul’s robe. What was the significance of that? The robe is a picture of Saul’s royal authority. Back in 1 Samuel 15:27-28, the prophet Samuel has condemned Saul for his hard-hearted disobedience to God. Samuel announced that God had rejected Saul as king. In that encounter, in his distress Saul tried to keep Samuel from leaving, and grabbed his robe, and a portion of the prophet’s robe tore away. When Saul was left holding the torn piece of Samuel’s robe, Samuel said to him: The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. Now, David confronts Saul with the corner of HIS robe torn off. God’s message to Saul was loud and clear. “I am cutting away your royal authority.”

But David did not kill Saul! And he promises that he never will!

12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, `From
evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

The Living Bible translates this way Perhaps the Lord will kill you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.

So Saul is brought to repentance. You are more righteous than I . . . you have dealt well with me . . . you did not kill me . . . the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day: What a change of heart in Saul! Every change David could have hoped for in Saul has happened, and Saul really seems sincere about it (Saul lifted up his voice and wept). Saul’s heart was melted by the coals of kindness David heaped upon his head

Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Here is the victory that David gained over Saul on that day, not by treacherous stealth, or by brute force but a moral triumph. But the most important thing for us to learn is that David first gained the victory over himself, before he triumphed over Saul. David resisted the temptations to do wrong. He was not overcome by evil. Instead he “overcame evil with good.” David truly loved his enemy! And this story of David and Saul gives us a wonderful example of how we should do the same!

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