LESSONS IN RESPONSIBILITY
Loving Lord, walk with me on the paths of living today. I pray for your will to be done in me.
Read 1 SAMUEL 26:1-25
David Again Spares Saul’s Life
26 The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?”
2 So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. 3 Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, 4 he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.
5 Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.
6 David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”
“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.
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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle … Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.’1
Confronted by Saul’s persecution, David again tries to prove his innocence, perhaps in the hope of bringing the king to reason. God continues to protect David (v 12) but, despite David’s heroic efforts, Saul will not change. Having seen God’s vindication in Nabal’s death,2 David is convinced that bringing Saul to book (by violence) is not his responsibility. The Lord will deal with the king in his time and by his means (v 10). David also understands that delegating the killing would not absolve him of responsibility (vs 9,11). This is an important lesson for a future king whose commands will be executed by others and one that will become tragically obscured years later when he commissions Uriah’s murder.3
Paradoxically, David’s reluctance to kill Saul leads to disarming the king, literally and figuratively. The taking of the spear, so often the instrument of Saul’s murderous intent, becomes the proof of David’s innocence and opens the way for the king’s confession of sin (v 21). As in David’s case, stating our position but refusing to retaliate in a quarrel creates space for repentance. David’s speech highlights the cost he will pay, cut off from the sanctuary where the Lord resides and is worshipped, driven out of the land and potentially dying there, away from God’s presence (vs 19,20). In David’s plight we may see Jesus’ suffering as he dies ‘outside the camp’ feeling forsaken, even by God.4
Such non-retaliation, however, should never become a mandate to stay in abusive relationships that are destructive mentally, emotionally, or physically. Despite our best efforts, some, like Saul, refuse to change and it is not our responsibility to play God and try to make them. David did what he could in court and in hiding but, tellingly, despite the king’s invitation for him to return (v 21), he would not.5
Pray for those in abusive relationships and for discernment for all in creating healthy boundaries.
Mighty God, I pray for those who are in unhealthy or abusive relationships. Grace them with wisdom and courage to deal with the situation.
1 Prov 27:22, NASB 2 1 Sam 25:39 3 2 Sam 11:15 4 Heb 13:11–13; Mark 15:34 5 1 Sam 27:1
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.