Summary: Saul was the anvil on which God pounded David for 13 years. Why? To remove the sinful impurities of self-sufficiency and pride.
The Japanese samurai sword is thought by many to be the best in the world. It can take 15 men, 6 months to make 1 sword—a sword that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! Why does it take so long and cost so much? Well you can’t just go out into the mountains where there are iron deposits and find samurai swords scattered here and there like so many diamonds that only need polishing. Such swords must be forged from two kinds of iron—one soft and one hard to get a blade that is both sharp and durable. One of the most arduous parts of making a samurai sword is repeatedly heating, beating, and folding the iron on an anvil until all the impurities have been removed. One sword maker compared that process to squeezing water out of a very hard sponge!
Just as samurai swords aren’t found in iron deposits already sharpened and ready for use, great people of faith are not born that way. They are forged by God on the anvil of affliction. Over the last few weeks we’ve pursued a sermon series entitled: Agents of Grace. It’s about the people God used in David’s life. We’ve seen how God used Samuel to mentor David, and how he used Goliath for the one-time purpose of catapulting David into fame. Today we’ll see how God used King Saul like an anvil on which he pounded David for 13 years. God’s purpose was to forge David into a sharp, durable leader. Let’s find out how David’s experience connects to ours.
The last time we left David we learned how he had been anointed king, but remained unkown until he defeated the giant Goliath when he was but a teenager. David didn’t take over as king at that point however. Saul was still in power, but just barely. The Goliath challenge had weakened Saul. For 40 days Goliath had defied the ranks of Israel, and every day Saul refused to do anything to counter Goliath, he looked more coward than king. But then David removed the embarrassment when he killed Goliath. Saul was glad about this (1 Samuel 19:5), and made David a commander in his army. But Saul’s joy quickly turned into jealousy when the people started to sing David’s praises more loudly than Saul’s.
But Saul couldn’t just dismiss David and send him back to the obscurity of shepherding sheep. Saul’s own son, Jonathan, had become David’s best friend. And then David married Saul’s daughter, Michal. It was as if God had tied David and Saul together at the wrist and threw them into a cage so the two would have to keep dealing with each other. For his part, Saul failed miserably in his relationship with David. Instead of nurturing and mentoring David to get him ready to take over as king, Saul let his envy of David build until it burst into petulant violence, like when a child angrily kicks at a piece of furniture he thinks has tripped him even though it didn’t. Only Saul didn’t kick at David, he actually tried to kill him by pinning him to the wall with a spear. David realized that he couldn’t hang around the king anymore, so he fled. At first David went to Samuel, his mentor, but when Saul continued to pursue him, David fled into the wilderness and remained on the run for 13 years!
But if God had already rejected Saul as king, why did he allow Saul to chase David at all, let alone for 13 years? Can you imagine a situation like that in the workplace? Your current manager is doing a horrible job. Everyone knows it. So the owner of the company has appointed you to take over the position, but doesn’t tell you when the change will take place. Instead, you continue to have to suffer under the current manager’s poor leadership. And to make matters worse, she is now out to make your life especially miserable because she knows you’re in line to take her job!
But perhaps God wasn’t so hands off about the matter in David’s life as it might initially seem. In our sermon text you heard how on one occasion when Saul was pursuing David, he ducked into a cave to relieve himself. Unbeknownst to him, David was farther back in that same cave hiding with his men! David’s men were certain that God had engineered this opportunity for David to kill Saul and rid himself of the menace. But David refused to do it. He even felt guilty for cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe to prove to the king that he could have killed him while he was in the cave.
Why didn’t David act? Because he took God’s Word seriously. You see, David knew how God said that we are to honor those in authority. For David, that included Saul because he was still the reigning king. It didn’t matter that Saul was wrong about David. It didn’t even matter that David had already been anointed to be the next king. David trusted that God would give him the throne when God was ready to do so. David believed that it would have been wrong to “help” God along in his plans to make him king.