1 Samuel 26:7-25
February 26-28, 2011
8th Weekend in Epiphany
Pastor Don Sutton
1 Samuel 26:7-25
7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. 8 Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” 9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” 12 So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep. 13 Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. 14 He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?” Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?” 15 David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. 16 What you have done is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?” 17 Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?” David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” 18 And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? 19 Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have driven me today from my share in the LORD’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.” 21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” 22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” 25 Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.” So David went on his way, and Saul returned home. (NIV)
Wouldn’t it be nice if people were nice all the time? But they’re not, are they? Sometimes people can be schnooks, crooks and weasels in dealing with us. They can be downright cruel. What do you do when people are that way toward you? …Get mad? … Get even? Or, do you keep your cool? In other words, do you maintain God-pleasing control of yourself when someone is cruel to you? Today, using the account of David and King Saul, God challenges us to… “KEEP YOUR COOL WHEN PEOPLE ARE CRUEL” …respecting authority … leaving vengeance to God … being good to the cruel.
Does it seem to you that there is a decreasing respect for authority these days? Why is that? There are those who point that parents don’t make the effort to instill within their children respect for authority. It may, in part, be the result of the influence of people who themselves defy authority. Don’t some TV shows, movies, and songs portray defiance of authority as something that’s good? It appears that there are those who feel, “If I don’t like someone with authority or if someone in authority has been cruel to me, I have the right not to respect that person’s authority.”
But the account of David and Saul teaches us otherwise. In this relationship, Saul is the king and David, Saul’s subject. But prior to, and even in the account of 1 Samuel 26, we see that Saul is cruel to David. Saul tried to kill David even as David tried to comfort Saul with music. Saul offered his daughter Michal in marriage to David but told David that he would have to kill 100 Philistines and bring proof of it, figuring David would be killed in the process. Saul told his son, Jonathan – David’s best friend – to kill David. After Saul swore an oath not to hurt David, Saul tried to kill him anyway. As David indicated, Saul hunted him like an animal. Saul showed David great cruelty even though David showed Saul loyalty and cooperation. David had fought Goliath. He had commended Saul’s army with great success. He tried to calm Saul when he was vexed by an evil spirit. David never plotted rebellion against Saul.
What is truly amazing, then, is that David still showed Saul respect. When Saul lay asleep and vulnerable in the camp of Israel’s army and David and Abishai sneaked in among them undetected, they had the opportunity to kill or harm Saul. Abishai wanted to this with a spear. But David said, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” Or, when David had fled the camp and in the morning called out to the camp of Israel, when Saul responded asking, “Is that your voice, David, my son?’ David answered with respect, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” As for the Saul’s spear that David had taken, David respectfully returned that to Saul. David, in how he talked and acted, showed respect to Saul even though the king showed cruelty to him.
David did this because he knew that it was the will of God. According to Exodus 22:28 God said, “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” David also showed respect for Saul because he was touched by the love of God. For example, David knew that it was God who spared his life from the lion and the bear. David knew that it was God who gave him the victory over the Philistine giant named Goliath and spared his life. David knew that it was the Lord who would suffer as his Savior and spare him from hell. David showed great respect for authority even when that person in authority did lite to earn that respect.
Doesn’t this bring home to us that we don’t have the right, just because we don’t like someone in authority or because that person has been unfair or cruel, to disregard and disrespect that person in authority? Certainly we cannot condone the wrong-doing of those in authority nor must we obey any ungodly demands they may make. But in no way are we free from authority.
God’s directs, “Children obey your parents in everything for that pleases the Lord (3:20).” When it comes to government God commands, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established (Rom13:1).” This includes the police, the building inspector, the DNR, and teachers in our public schools. When it comes to God’s Church he directs, “Now we ask you brothers to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard because of this work (1Thess:4:12,13).”
This is a matter of showing love for God because of his love for you. As God, in his love, spared David, in love God has spared you from hell through the gift of his Son. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for your every sin including every bit of disrespect you have ever shown. Through faith in Jesus you enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Therefore, out of love for God and in respect for authority, keep you cool even when those in authority are unfair. Respect them for the authority they hold.
… leaving vengeance to God
But what would you have done if you were David right next to a sleeping Saul in the camp of the army of Israel? You are the hunted. You are the wronged. But you have done nothing wrong. Would you seek revenge or show respect?
Is there a part of you that would have said to Abishai, “Stick him?” If so this is the inclination of the sinful nature within. This is what wants to get even when someone is cruel to us. This is what makes the person who is pushed or punched to push or punch back. This is what makes the person who is the object of verbal abuse to become a source of verbal abuse. This is what makes the spouse hurt by a spouse, to hurt the spouse in return; that makes those who being taken advantage of, to want to get even.
But while this is the way of the Sinful Nature, it’s not the way of the Good Lord. Vengeance is God’s business and not ours. David made this clear as he emphasized to Abishai, “As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.” Even if by the standards of the non-Christian world David had the right to get revenge, by the standards of God he did not. This is the way God wants it. The Bible bears this out in Romans 12 – “Do not repay anyone evil for evil …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 (v.17,19).”
We are not equipped to properly take revenge; but God is. We don’t know all the facts. Sometimes we overreact; at other times we under-react. But God is all-knowing. He knows when to act. He knows how to act. He knows how much to act. There may be times when God leads those who have been cruel to us to repentance so they are saved. So if vengeance were left up to us, we might cut off a person’s time of grace that God is bringing to repentance. When God does take revenge, he can do it in any number of ways that we can – crime, catastrophe, sickness, set-backs or using the government as an agent of justice. Even if God chooses not to take revenge in this life on the sin-hardened person who has hurt us, God will take revenge when and after that person dies. He will do it in hell.
People of God, it is not for us to determine how, when, where or upon whom God is taking revenge. Otherwise we may find ourselves among the three friends of Job who assumed Job suffered because he was taking revenge when he was not. It is for us to trust that the Lord takes revenge. So when people are cruel, keep your cool. Leave getting even to the Lord.
Also remember your Savior. The apostle Peter wrote, “…Christ suffered for you, leaving you’re an example, that you should follow in his steps. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness …(1Pe2:21-24).” Rather than getting even with his enemies, Jesus did good.
…being good to the cruel
So did David. Not only did David show Saul respect and forgo getting even, David did good to Saul. Certainly he spared Saul’s life. But he also lovingly pointed out to Saul the sin in his attitude and actions. David returned Saul’s spear. David left in peace. David repaid Saul’s evil with goodness.
This is God’s will for his people. God directs, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink! … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom12:20,21).” In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You have heard it said, “Love you neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt5:43,44).” We don’t pray that God blesses these people in their wrong-doing; but we pray that God leads those who are cruel to us to see their sin and turn from it, see their Savior and turn to him, and be saved. In the Book of Jude we are encouraged, “Snatch others from the fire and save them (v.23).”
When someone wrongs us, even an authority figure as was the case with David and Saul, God calls on us to do what we can to humbly, lovingly and tactfully confront those who have been cruel to us. For example, when a teacher has wronged a student, the student does not have the right to talk back, dishonor or disobey that teacher. But the student does have the right to humbly and respectfully go to the teacher and say, “I make mistakes and at times deserve to be treated harshly, but this is not one of them. I have been treated unfairly and have been hurt. I hope you see the wrong you have done. I forgive you; so does God.” We have opportunities to do something similar in other settings. The reason we do it is to lead people to repentance when it is appropriate as well as to build bridges where possible.
Doing good to those who are cruel to you have a way of affecting them. David’s goodness pricked Saul’s conscience. Unfortunately Saul’s repentance was short-lived. The Lord reminds us that when do good to others so do bad to us, “In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you (Prov. 25:22, Rom 12:20).” In other words, you will make the cruel fee uncomfortable with their actions. This may lead to repentance. This may lead people to look into why you acted the way your did. This, finally may lead to the Lord.
So when people are cruel to you, keep your cool! Respect authority. Leave vengeance to God. Do good to those who are cruel to you. Amen.