King Saul and future King David are a study in contrasts. Both of these men are born to the same nation, during the same period in history, influenced by the same culture etc. yet, they could not be more different in their paths in life. One of these men trusted in himself while the other trusted in the Lord. This trust manifests itself in all kinds of different ways. The prophet Jeremiah uses a great illustration to explain the differences between people who trust in themselves vs. people who trust in the Lord.
5 Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6 “For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. (Jeremiah 17)
The man who trusts in himself instead of in the Lord is like a bush planted in the desert on top of a rock covered in salt. It shrivels up and blows away. Jeremiah then contrasts this with the man who trusts in the Lord instead of in himself.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.
8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17)
Having shared these two illustrations, Jeremiah leaves us with a choice, “are you going to follow your heart or are you going to follow the Lord?”
“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Now that we have this picture in our minds, let’s turn to I Samuel 24 and examine King Saul’s choices vs. future King David’s choices.
I. David is not easily influenced
Future King David has been on the run from current King Saul. The Lord had rejected King Saul because King Saul had rebelled and revolted against the Lord. But, the Lord allowed King Saul to reign for over 40 years because he was being used by the Lord to allow the people to experience the promised consequences of their rebellion. David has to trust the Lord as he awaits the time when he will be made King in Israel. David is tired of running but, because King Saul is jealous of David, he continues to peruse David in order to take his life.
2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.
3 He came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave.
4 The men of David said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’ ” Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. (I Samuel 24)
It seems that the Lord has given a gift to future King David. His enemy is vulnerable. David has a chance to end the running and make it possible for him to become King sooner rather than later. Remember, David does not trust in himself. Instead, David trusts in the Lord. Therefore, when David’s men try to influence him to do evil, David does not give in to their attempts. Instead, David uses the moment to cut off the edge of King Saul’s robe to prove just how vulnerable King Saul really was.
It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. (I Samuel 24:5)
David had a tender heart (teachable spirit) and was ready to receive correction from the Lord at a moment’s notice. The Lord began to rebuke David in his spirit. Because of this, David influences his men instead of being influenced by them to do evil. David recognizes the teaching moment and he uses it to teach his men.
II. David sets the example for others
When we trust in the Lord, we are influenced by Him to do the right thing. This puts us in a position to influence others for good. David recognizes the teaching moment and influences his men for good.
So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’S anointed.” (I Samuel 24:6)
David confesses to his men why he did not murder King Saul. David respected God’s authority so much that he even felt guilty for cutting the robe of the Lord’s chosen leader. David made the connection between respect for the Lord and respect for authority figures. We would do well to do the same almost 3,000 years later. In contrast, King Saul did not respect the Lord and as a result, he did not show respect to the Lord’s anointed authority figure. When we trust in the Lord, we acknowledge God’s authority and His chosen authority figures. When we do not trust in the Lord, we have a very hard time submitting to authority.
David persuaded his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. And Saul arose, left the cave, and went on his way. (I Samuel 24:7)
So, David was an example to his men in his attitude toward the Lord and His chosen authority figure. David also taught his men to follow his example. David influenced them to follow his example of doing what was right instead of evil. This action on David’s part meant that he was still on the run and that his life still hung in the balance.
Now afterward David arose and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and prostrated himself. (I Samuel 24:8)
David had already demonstrated respect for his men in his attitude toward the Lord’s authority figure, as well as in his actions toward the Lord’s authority figure. Now, David continues the teaching moment by showing respect to King Saul in his words. This is what respect looks like, in attitude, words, and actions. David is a great example for others to follow. He is a natural teacher, practicing what he teaches others to do.
9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’?
10 “Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’S anointed.’
11 “Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it.
12 “May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.
13 “As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness ‘; but my hand shall not be against you. (I Samuel 24)
David even respectfully confronts King Saul. The actions of King Saul merited being confronted. He is the Lord’s chosen leader yet he is not respecting the Lord with his own attitude, words, and actions. In fact, because King Saul does not respect the Lord, he trusts in himself, instead of in the Lord. As a result, King Saul is influenced by others to do evil. King Saul is a direct contrast to future King David. King Saul trusts in himself and as a result, he does not influence others, instead, he is influenced by others. David’s men learn a great lesson because of these events. Praise the Lord that we also get to learn the same lesson. As we learn and apply this lesson, God also wants us to extend this picture of His mercy and grace to those around us. David was always quick to extend God’s mercy and grace to others.
III. David extends God’s mercy and grace
Through all of this, King Saul is still thinking about himself. He wants to assure the fact that his legacy will continue on after he is gone.
20 “Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand.
21 “So now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household.”
22 David swore to Saul. And Saul went to his home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. (I Samuel 24)
Future King David had no problem extending God’s mercy and grace to others because he had experienced both of them. He was going to continue to experience them all the days of his life. This is true of people who experience the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of God. They want to extend God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness to others. Jesus addresses this same idea in one of His parables that He told while leading the people.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’
27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’
30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’
34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18)
When we experience mercy from God, we want to extend it to others. When we experience grace from God, we want to extend it to others. When we receive forgiveness from God, we want to extend it to others. This also in contrast to King Saul. He did not want to extend mercy to future King David. He did not want to extend grace to future King David. These are the attributes of people who trust in themselves and people who trust in the Lord. In whom do you place your trust? What do your actions, words, and attitude say about in whom you place your trust? Are you influencing others for good or, are they influencing you for evil? Are you quick to extend mercy, grace, and forgiveness to others, or not?