Summary: David, Pt. 5
FOR BETTER AND NOT WORSE (1 SAMUEL 24:1-22)
One day Francis was speaking with a member of Assisi’s nobility. The count was bewailing the chaos and scandals that were spreading throughout the region. “Your lordship need not grieve for these things,” replied the saint, “for there is a remedy for these problems.”
The count quizzically asked, “What remedy can there be for such evils?”
Francis said, “It’s actually simple. You and I must first be what we ought to be, then we shall have cured what concerns we have. Let each individual do the same and the reform will be effectual. The worst is that everyone talks of reforming others, without trying to correct one’s own area of chaos and scandal. In this way evil remains as disorder everywhere.” (Appleseeds.org)
When David was on his own, he had the opportunity to make a fresh start, chart a new course, distinguish himself in leadership and distinct himself from Saul. David assumed responsibility for his brothers and parents and the outcasts of society (1 Sam 22:1-2). Everyone saw and knew that David was different from Saul. David treated the downtroddden and rejects like friends and family, but how would he treat his equal or his opponent? Nothing but the best of his knowledge and ability. The title of this message centers on the Hebrew word for “good” that looms large and appears five times in the passage (vv 4, 17, 18, 19, 19).
How do you treat others when you have the upper hand? What would you do to your enemies, rivals and critics given a chance to prove them wrong?
Use Your Better Judgment
24:1 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. 3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. (1 Sam 24:1-7)
A man who complained that he had been libeled by a newspaper sought the advice of Edward Everett, the great American orator and statesman of the 19th century. The aggrieved man asked the great statesman what action, strategy and attitude to take.
Everett told the man not to worry and gave the man this reliable formula: “Do nothing! Half the people who bought the paper never saw the article. Half of those who saw it did not read it. Half of those who read it did not understand it. Half of those who understood it did not believe it. Half of those who believed it are of no account anyway.”
Bob Dole in his eulogy to Richard Nixon, quoted from the fallen leader who sought to rehabilitate his damaged reputation. The former president said, “I just get up everyday to confound my enemies.”
Saul’s and David’s obsession about what others said couldn’t be any more different. The king welcomed a false and evil report concerning David from Doeg (1 Sam 22:9), but David weighed the pros and cons of his men’s advice. Saul was obsessed with the thought of killing David, but David was troubled by the idea of killing Saul. At the first word of David’s whereabouts Saul stopped everything he did. He sent 3,000 men, not just regular soldiers but chosen men, to hunt down David and his men that grew from 400 to 600 men (1 Sam 22:2, 23:13). The unnecessary danger of cliffs, the sacrifice of lives and the waste of time, staff and resources did not bother the king. Saul was as foolish and reckless as the wild goats (v 2) that brave the cliffs when he risked the lives of his choicest men and best fighters to hunt and kill not the Philistines, but fellow Israelites.
On the other hand, when David had the opportunity to get rid of Saul once and for all he used his better judgment to restrain his men, to reject their argument and to resist their actions. The men quoted a verse out of context to persuade David to lay his hands on Saul. The original promise that God gave to David in 1 Samuel 23:4 was “I am going to give THE PHILISTINES into your hand,” but David’s men generalized and broadened the warranty to say “I will give YOUR ENEMY into your hands” and included the next line - “for you to deal with as you wish.” They did not make the suggestion so bad and evil that David would reject it outright, but they made it appear that David still had a choice of what to do to an enemy like Saul. In fact, the tempting option offered in Hebrew was “that you may do to him as it seems GOOD in your eyes” (v 4).