I would guess that most of us have been there. Someone has made themselves our enemy. They torment us and make our life miserable when they are around us. Then one day an opportunity presents itself to get them back, to humiliate them in some way. After all they have done to us, they deserve it! (or so we reason). What do we do?
David faced something similar many times in his life. As you read through the Psalms, time and again he talks about his enemies being against him and doing things to him. One of those enemies was King Saul, who also happened to be David’s father-in-law.
Saul wanted David dead. Twice he had attempted to kill him when David served him. David had fled into the wilderness and soon had a following of several hundred men who were loyal to him.
The Judean Wilderness is vast and barren. Hiding in such an area, riddled with caves, was easy. Finding someone who didn’t want to be found was almost impossible.
“When Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, ‘David is in the wilderness near En-gedi.’ So Saul took three thousand of Israel’s fit young men and went to look for David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. When Saul came to the sheep pens along the road, a cave was there, and he went in to relieve himself. David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave, 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.”’” (1 Samuel 24:1-4 CSB).
What an opportunity! The one who had been trying to kill him was alone and defenseless – and unaware that David was even near. His men urged him: “This is your chance! Get up and kill him!”
David crept up on Saul unawares. He had his weapons. He could have easily killed him. Instead, he cut off the corner of Saul’s robe without being noticed. David returned to his men and Saul left the cave.
What followed next might surprise us, but it reveals the type of character David had.
“Afterward, David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, ‘I swear before the Lord: I would never do such a thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed. I will never lift my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed.’” (1 Samuel 24:5-6)
Saul was trying to kill David and David was bothered that he had cut off part of Saul’s robe! Why, after all Saul was doing to him? It was quite simple: Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David knew he should not lift his hand against him.
So David went out of the cave and called to Saul. When he saw him, David bowed down before his king and then asked him why he was trying to kill him. To prove to Saul that David wasn’t against him he told him what he had done. When he could have killed Saul he chose not to, although he had cut off the corner of his robe.
Saul then realized he was in the wrong. He gave up searching for David and went home…at least for a time.
So what do we do when faced with a chance to get even with our enemies? We need to do as David did. Forgive our enemies. Do good to them. Remember that vengeance is not ours to take. We are to do good to all men, always.
Photo: the Judean Wilderness near En Gedi
Readings for next week:
3 September – 1 Samuel 22; Psalm 52
4 September – 1 Samuel 23; Psalms 142, 54
5 September – 1 Samuel 24; Psalm 57
6 September – 1 Samuel 25; Psalm 6
7 September – 1 Samuel 26; Psalm 11