TEXT: 1 Samuel 24:1-22; 26:1-25
Believers have the responsibility to manifest God’s love to all people, whether the beneficiaries are willing to reciprocate the gesture or not. This lesson was properly captured in the preceding chapter where David fled Keilah because he was told by the Lord that the people, whom he rescued from being overrun by their enemies, would deliver him to Saul. Their revealed action of betrayal is similar to what our Lord Jesus suffered in the hands of the Jews. Despite His love for them, they still rejected Him. Having enjoyed God’s undeserved love, mercies and deliverances, David continued to manifest the same virtue in this study by sparing Saul’s life, not minding that he had been constantly on the brink of death.
DAVID’S TENDER RESPONSE TO SAUL’S PERSECUTION (1 Samuel 24:1-7; 26:1-12; Romans 12:17-20; Mathew 5:43-48)
Saul’s uncontrollable obsession to kill David manifested in expeditions to the wilderness of Engedi and Ziph. “And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi. Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats. And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon? Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph” (1 Samuel 24:1,2; 26:1,2). The cruel massacre of the priests and the inhabitants of Nob by Saul instilled fear of a similar punishment in people all over Israel and made them willing volunteers of information about the movement of David. It was however unfortunate that there were not the likes of Amram and Jochebed, Rahab, Obadiah and Ebedmelech who risked their lives by faith to preserve Moses, the spies, the prophets, and Jeremiah respectively (Exodus 6:20; Hebrews 11:23; Joshua 2:1-16; 1 Kings 18:3,4; Jeremiah 38:7-13).
In his bid to get rid of David, Saul assembled three thousand soldiers to search for him and his men upon the rocks in the wilderness of Engedi, and later Ziph. But as Saul and his men were in deep sleep in a cave, David and his men came and stood on the other side. Highly elated that the battle was over, his servants reminded him of the Lord’s promise to deliver his enemy into his hands (1 Samuel 24:4). Also, Abishai pleaded with him to allow him smite Saul with the spear (1 Samuel 26:8-11). Though God had delivered his arch- enemy into his hands, David declined to raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Instead, he cut a piece of the king’s skirt and took his spear and cruse of water to make Saul realize the absence of divine presence with him. It was to prove to the king that if he was wicked and carnal like him, he would have killed him.
The lives of the duo present us with a number of striking differences. One, Saul’s heart was obstinate, but David’s heart was tender. Two, David feared God, but Saul was driven by the fear of man. Three, David manifested a forgiving spirit but Saul harbored hatred (1 Samuel 24:19; Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:21). So, the virtues of love, mercy and kindness which were truly demonstrated by David were lacking in Saul.
David’s life should serve as a challenge to contemporary believers. He fulfilled the New Testament obligations that require all believers to forgive their enemies, pray for them and overcome evil with good. He understood well the teaching of non retaliation. God is not a murderer. His desire is for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, prayers and pronouncements of disaster and death on persecutors and perceived enemies are contrary to the teachings of the Scripture. Christ was emphatic when He said: “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matthew 5:44-46).
DAVID REPROVES AND COUNSELS SAUL (1 Samuel 24:8-15; 26:13-20; Hebrews 1:9; Isaiah 54:17)
It is clear from the Scriptures that Saul’s insistence on getting rid of David was baseless. However, David had to prove his innocence because he was falsely accused of seeking to hurt the king. In doing this, like a passionate preacher, he spoke to his conscience and reasoned deeply with him in the hope that it might lead him to repentance. “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? And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?” (1 Samuel 24:8,9; 26:18). The two separate encounters of David with Saul provide us with some vital lessons. First, David used the
occasion to prove to Saul that he was neither after his life nor his throne as people might have made him believe. Two, though he had been anointed king, he was still humble and respectful to Saul (1 Samuel 24:11; Romans 12:10; 13:7). Three, he was bold in telling Saul the truth. Four, he pointed out Saul’s faults and counselled him to repent and submit to God (1 Samuel 26:19,20). Five, he made him see the futility of fighting against God’s will. Though he had opportunity to deliver himself, he patiently waited for God’s time (Romans 12:17-21). Six, David was bold to declare his righteous lifestyle. If we want God to fight for us, we must eschew evil and live to please Him (Hebrews 1:9). Lastly, he affirmed his faith and trust in God to deliver him from the king. Persecution, trials and afflictions should not make us to descend to the valley of despondency. Like David, we should face every challenging situation with faith and confidence in God.
“And David said to Abner, Art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord” (1 Samuel 26:15). Although Saul went after David with three thousand-foot soldiers led by Abner, they could not overrun him and his men. Believers should not be afraid of Satan or his agents. Promises that affirm God’s sure victory and security for His children abound in the Scriptures. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of
me, saith the LORD” (Psalm 46:1; Isaiah 54:17). By scolding Abner, David proved to Saul and his army that it is only God who can provide adequate and unfailing security. It was also an opportunity to make the king see reasons for his failure: he had been cut off from the Source of his strength and refuge (Psalm 127:1). We are to put our trust in God and demonstrate unshakable faith in His unfailing promises. In moments of crises, we should maintain a resilient posture knowing full well that “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…” (Daniel 3:17).
THE TRIUMPH OF GOOD OVER EVIL (1 Samuel 24:16- 22; 26:21-25; Psalm 37:1-7,9-15; James 5:10,11)
“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. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil” (verses 16,17). David’s speech had a profound effect on Saul. The king realized that he would have been dead but for David’s kindness. He was, therefore, embarrassed by his personal vindictiveness towards David. Unfortunately, his remorse was short-lived as he proceeded to still pursue David after being incited by the Ziphites (1 Samuel 26:1,2).
Saul eventually discovered that his efforts to kill David were underpinned by folly. A similar scenario played out in the wilderness of Ziph with the same outcome. “Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21). But his confession fell short of genuine repentance because it was borne out of shame. He never confessed his sins to God. Under the New Testament dispensation, genuine repentance encompasses “…repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
When it became apparent that God was with David, Saul was forced to abandon his manhunt for him. Believers are commanded to “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men… live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath… Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17- 21). Through his godly attitude, David broke the heart of Saul who confessed: “thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil… wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day… I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand…Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail” (1 Samuel
24:17-20; 26:25). When it dawned on him that he could endanger his posterity with his vindictive attitude, he said, “Swear now
therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house” (1 Samuel 24:21). At the time both men parted, it was clear to David that he could not achieve the will of God by human strength and to Saul that it is futile to fight against the will of God. He conceded defeat by affirming that David would become king. God is always a winner (Psalm 33:11; Acts 5:39).