I don’t usually riff off sermons from my church, but 1 Samuel 24 is too chock full of good detail begging for extraction.
Quick background – David is on the run from a jealous Saul, who catches up in En Gedi. Saul chooses to relieve himself in the very cave David and his men are hiding in.
1. David’s men got the prophecy wrong.
Ever played the telephone game? One person whispers a phrase to another, and they to a third, and then a fourth, and down the row until the phrase is hilariously distorted.
This appears to be what happened to the prophecy that David would dethrone Saul. David’s men said this as, unseen, they (eww) watched a vulnerable Saul relieve himself:
…so they said to him, “Look, this is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’” Then David got up and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. (v. 4)
This is exaggeration. As best I can tell (and correct me if I’m wrong), no prophecy was ever given permitting David to do “whatever he desired” with Saul. The existing prophecies focused on David’s anointing.
It proves the importance of listening to God’s exact guidance. He doesn’t talk just to hear himself.
2. The robe scrap wasn’t necessary to prove David’s honor.
There was only one cave. If you think about it, David didn’t need the fabric to prove he’d spared Saul’s life (as he did the spear and water jug from Saul’s camp later). All he had to do was emerge behind Saul.
So it’s hard to nail down David’s motive in cutting the robe. Perhaps he intended an echo of the tearing of Samuel’s robe (15:27) – an act which symbolized kingdom movement.
Or perhaps David was just being a punk.
I lean towards the latter. Perhaps because I’m a young punk, but also because he was instigated, and because we know his conscience was smitten.
3. David feared even touching God’s things.
Once David’s conscience caught up, even touching Saul’s garment became abhorrent to him. But it wasn’t because it was Saul. It was because Saul was still the Lord’s anointed. David respected the office of king for the sole reason that God’s fingerprints were on it. His mentality was above the idolatrous Israelites, who worried more about “fitting in” amongst the power players of the world with their human kings.
4. David bowed to a tormentor whom he knew God had abandoned.
The humility here is insane. Even though the entire nation knew that the days of Saul’s rule were numbered, David needed to see God deliver the blow himself before his conscience would rest.
Do we have that kind of surrender? Do we trust God enough to wait for his timing, his conduits, his stamp of approval, even when opportunities are dropped in our lap?
5. David asked Saul for vindication, not the kingdom.
After emerging from the cave (and revealing himself to a superior military force), Israel’s future king passed up the chance to guilt the throne from Saul. Who knows if it would have worked, but David didn’t even try. Instead, he merely asked to be cleared of Saul’s slander (that David was the aggressor in the royal drama).
David’s trust was complete. There was too much of David, and not enough of God, involved in the possibility of ending Saul in that cave. Too much room for Israel to see it as a dramatic human act, rather than a divine sentence.
Let’s not cut corners in obedience. David paid attention to the details of God’s operations, refused to second-guess the progress, and trusted the “when God moves, you’ll know it” thing. When he fudged things, he took it seriously. He waited for an ending that only God could write.
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