How to Defeat Your Enemies
1 Samuel 24
A reporter was interviewing an man on his 100th birthday, and asked, “What are you most proud of?” “Well,” said the old man, pondering the question, “I don’t have an enemy in the world.” “That’s quite an achievement!” said the reporter. “Yep,” added the old man, “I’ve outlived every last one of them.”
Not many of us get through life without collecting an enemy or two. You try your best to get along with everybody, but some people just won’t cooperate. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and bad blood can put us at odds with others. Some people just plain don’t like you, and what’s more, they never will like you. You might not be too crazy about them, either, but somehow you have to face the fact that even good people have enemies.
Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.- Chuck Swindoll
How do you deal with your enemies? How can you handle someone who is out to get you, who would like nothing better than to get the best of you? This morning, I want to share with you a shocking secret, one that you might not expect to find in the Bible- I want to talk to you about how to defeat your enemies. I want to show you how to get the best of those who hate you, how to leave them speechless, how to send them packing. This secret unfolds in the story of a confrontation between two enemies: David and King Saul, found in 1 Sam. 24.
I. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW YOUR ENEMY MERCY (v. 1-8)
When World War I broke out, the War Ministry in London telegraphed a coded message to one of the British outposts in Africa which read: “War declared. Arrest all enemy aliens in your district.” The War Ministry received this reply: “Have arrested ten Germans, six Belgians, four Frenchman, two Italians, three Austrians, and an American. Please advise immediately who we’re at war with.”
The war here is between the forces of King Saul and David, Saul’s son-in-law. Saul is one of those enemies that just doesn’t give up. He almost got David back in chapter 23, but an attack by the Philistines sent him running home to defend his kingdom. As soon as that threat is taken care of, he regroups to pursue David. He tracks him to an area known as En Gedi= rocks of the wild goats, meaning rocks only a goat could navigate. He doesn’t know it, but he’s closer to David and his men than he realizes. Now prepare yourself: this story gets a little graphic here, but God tells it like it is, so I will too. Saul and his men arrive at some sheep pens near a cave, and Saul has to stop. Why? In v. 3 the KJV says he has to cover his feet. The NKJV =attend to his needs. Both of these are polite ways of saying that the King had to go to the bathroom, and since Port-O-Potties had not been invented yet, a cave was as good a place as anyplace. As Saul enters the cave to do his business, we find out that David and his men are already in the cave, keeping just out of sight in the darkness.
Do you get the picture? King Saul, going to the bathroom, surrounded in the darkness by his enemy’s army. Let’s just say this is not a good position for Saul to be in.
David’s men see a perfect chance to solve the Saul problem. Quietly, oh so slowly, David creeps up to Saul, who is totally unaware of what is happening. David takes out his knife, raises it, and then—cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. Wait a minute! David’s men whisper that’s not exactly what we had in mind! Let us get that close and we’ll take care of him for good! But David feels guilty even for cutting of the piece of cloth. This man is God’s chosen king! Nobody has the right to disgrace him, much less kill him. Nobody touches the king! David shows mercy to Saul not just for Saul’s sake, but for God’s sake. David defeats his enemy not through murder, but through mercy. Would Saul show mercy to David? No, but that just shows the difference between a man after God’s own heart and a man who has turned his back on God.
This is how you defeat your enemy- when he/she is at their weakest, most vulnerable moment- when they are helpless and unaware, when you have the opportunity to take revenge, to make them pay- show them mercy. Spare them; save them; forgive them. Why?
First of all, Jesus commands you to:
Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…
Jesus repeats a command found throughout the Bible: show mercy to your enemies.
Secondly, when you show mercy to your enemies, you rise above them, instead of sinking down to their level.
Luke 6:32, 35-36 32“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 35But love your enemies, do good,…and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Who won this battle? David , because he obeyed God, and did not violate his conscience.
During the Revolutionary War there lived a Baptist pastor in Ephrata, Pennsylvania named Peter Miller who was a close friend of General Washington. In that same town also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded man who did all he could to abuse and oppose this pastor. One day Michael Wittman was caught in a plot against the Colonial army and was arrested and sentenced to death. When the old preacher heard about Wittman’s arrest, he started out on foot and walked 70 miles to Philadelphia to plead for this man’s life. Washington said, "No, Peter, I cannot grant you the life of your friend." The preacher exclaimed, "He is not my friend--he is the bitterest enemy I have." Washington cried, "What? You’ve walked 70 miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon." And he did. And Peter Miller took Michael Wittman from the very shadow of death back to his own home in Ephrata--no longer as an enemy, but as a friend.
If you want to defeat your enemy, show them mercy. Another way to defeat your enemy:
II. MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO COMMUNICATE (v. 9-16)
A man was having difficulty communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of hearing. So he decided to conduct a test without her knowing about it. One evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room. Her back was to him and she could not see him. Very quietly he whispered, “Can you hear me?” There was no response. Moving a little closer, he asked again, “Can you hear me now?” Still no reply. Quietly he edged closer and whispered the same words, but still no answer. Finally he moved right in behind her chair and said, “Can you hear me now?” She turned around responded with irritation in her voice, “For the fourth time, yes!”
One of the things that often keeps people at odds with one another is a lack of communication. Disagreements escalate into feuds all because two offended people will talk about one another, but never get around to talking to one another. But David teaches us that if you want to defeat your enemy, you must make every effort to communicate with them. No sooner does Saul come out from the outhouse than David takes his life into his hands, calling out to Saul, reaching out to communicate with his enemy.
He communicates humbly. David bows to the ground before Saul, not in worship, but in humility. He wants Saul to see that he respects his authority as God’s anointed king, and has no desire to fight against him.
He communicates tactfully. When David show Saul the corner he cut off his robe, he discreetly reminds the king that he does not want a fight, even if Saul does! David gently reminds Saul who is hunting who, and how David is trusting God to save him from the king’s clutches. David speaks the truth to Saul carefully, presenting his innocence, and trying to appeal to Saul’ sense of justice to end this conflict.
He communicates sincerely. David is not just trying to pull one over on his enemy: he is sincere. He wants Saul to know that he has nothing to fear from him, and that even though Saul has done evil to David, David will not repay evil for evil. David speaks from his heart, because he doesn’t want to be at war with Saul. He is trying to defeat his enemy talking to him from his heart.
One of the surest ways to defeat your enemy is by taking the time to talk to them. More times than you realize, if people would just keep the lines of communication open, there would be less conflict, and more understanding. But how you communicate with your enemy makes all the difference in the world.
You cannot expect your enemy to listen to you when you have an attitude of arrogance. That’s like throwing fuel on the fire, because proud angry words only stir up more trouble.
Instead, you must speak truthfully, but tactfully. Remember that not only what you say, but how you say it can lead to peace.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Finally, if you want to defeat your enemy by communication, be sincere. Don’t offer empty flattery, or deceitful words. That doesn’t mean you tell them everything that’s on your mind or in your heart, but it does mean you must be real. Pretending will never mend fences, and it may eventually make things worse.
If you want to defeat your enemy, you must do as David did- run the risk of speaking humbly, tactfully, and sincerely to your enemy. It will amaze you how often just talking things out can disarm even the most hostile foe.
A Christian lady owned two chickens that got out of their coop and busied themselves in the garden of an ill-tempered neighbor. The man caught the hens, wrung their necks, and threw them back over the fence. Naturally, the woman was upset, but she didn’t get angry and rush over and scream at him. Instead, she took the birds, dressed them out, and prepared two chicken pies. Then she delivered one of the freshly baked pies to the man who had killed her hens. She apologized for not being more careful about keeping her chickens in her own yard. Her children, expecting an angry scene, hid behind a bush to see the man’s face and hear what he’d say. But he was speechless! That chicken pie and apology filled him with a burning sense of shame. But she wasn’t trying to get even. Her motive in returning good for evil was to show her neighbor true Christian love, and maybe even bring about a change of heart.
Could you do something like that? With God’s help, you can. God will help you defeat your neighbors by communicating with them, not in anger or pride, but in humility and love. Is it easy? No, but neither is it impossible. In fact, communication is necessary if you want to defeat your enemy. Are you willing to reach out to your enemies and communicate, or would you rather let your wounds fester, and grow worse?
David teaches us one more lesson about how to defeat our enemies:
III. MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO BE RECONCILED (v. 17-22)
Two little brothers, Harry and James, had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow, Harry hit James with a stick, and tears and bitter words followed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as mother prepared them for bed. The mother instructed, "Now James, before you go to bed you’re going to have to forgive your brother." James was thoughtful for a few moments, and then he replied, "Well OK, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I don’t die before I wake, he’d better look out in the morning."
You cannot defeat your enemy by just calling a truce- you must do what you can to be reconciled. David demonstrates his willingness to be reconciled to Saul in these verses.
Saul is genuinely touched by David’s mercy towards him. In between sobs, he admits that David is in the right, that the Lord has given David the kingdom. He even prays for God to bless David, and begs David to show mercy to Saul’s family after he dies. David has conquered his enemy by his kindness, and Saul offers to be reconciled with David.
How would you have responded to Saul’s offer? Would you have let bygones be bygones, or would you have been a little more suspicious, a little more cynical? I’m glad you’re sorry Saul, but I still don’t trust you. Let’s see how things go for awhile before I make any commitments here. That is not what David does. David’s oath is a sign of his reconciliation with Saul. Through reconciliation David has defeated his enemy.
But wait a minute. If these two men are reconciled, how come they still go their separate ways? Why doesn’t David go back home with Saul? There may be a lot of reasons, but one of them is that David wants to be sure this reconciliation is real. Saul and David have said the right words, but is Saul serious about his desire to be at peace with David? Time will show that he is not. He will again pursue David, trying to kill him. His remorse will be short-lived. Though David is sincere about his commitment to reconcile with Saul, Saul’s commitment to reconcile with David will not stand the test of time.
The only real way to defeat your enemy is to make them your friend. Only when a right relationship is restored can two enemies become two friends. That ought to be your goal in reaching showing mercy and communicating with your enemy- to make him/her your friend.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all people,…
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
When you choose to seek to reconcile with your enemies, you may be surprised to find many of them becoming your closest friends. But even if they don’t, do all you can to reconcile with them, because that is how the peace is won between enemies.
But it doesn’t always work out that way. Not everyone wants to be at peace with you. Some of your enemies call a truce just to get a chance to sharpen the knife they want to put in your back. You ought to be loving, and forgiving, but not foolish. Jesus told His disciples:
Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Jesus is saying that while we ought never to be too suspicious, we ought always to be cautious. Be quick to reconcile with your enemies, but be wise enough to be make your reconciliation is real. You can’t just gloss over conflict, and pretend it isn’t real, because it will always erupt again, perhaps doing more damage than before. David defeated his enemy Saul because he sincerely wanted to patch things up; but Saul soon forgot his tearful words. You and I must be wise about reconciliation, too.
This story sounds crazy enough to be true. An Israeli man and his wife prove that love conquers all. Even after he pumped 13 submachine gun bullets into her, they were married for the second time. The couple, who had already divorced once, were courting again when the husband suspected his ex-wife of being unfaithful and shot her. After recovering, the woman visited the man who shot her in jail, pending his trial for attempted murder. The man told a district court judge, “She forgives me and we love each other.” Guarded by 2 plain-clothes policemen, the two were wed. Then the groom was escorted back to his cell.
I wonder if this man will succeed the next time he shoots his wife? That’s not love- that’s foolishness. If you want to defeat your enemy, you must seek to truly reconcile with one another, not just pretend that your conflicts don’t matter. Only when you truly reconcile can you be sure you have defeated your enemy by showing them love, and not hate.
Well, that’s the shocking truth about how to defeat your enemy. David’s attitude and actions are a vivid illustration of the words of the apostle Paul, who gives this advice:
Romans 12:17,20-21 17Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 20Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
According to the AP in September 1994 Cindy Hartman of Conway, Arkansas, walked into her house to answer the phone and was confronted by a burglar. He ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered her into a closet. Hartman dropped to her knees and asked the burglar if she could pray for him. "I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you,’’ she said. The burglar apologized for what he had done. Then he yelled out the door to a woman in a pickup truck: "We’ve got to unload all of this. This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can’t do this to them." As Hartman remained on her knees, the burglar returned furniture he had taken from her home. Then he took the bullets out of his gun, handed the gun to Hartman, and walked out the door.
What about you? Are you ready to try this strategy? Who are the enemies in your life, who need to be defeated by mercy, by communication, and by reconciliation? David is proof that it works. And so is Jesus. The Bible says this about our Lord,
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners [enemies of God] , Christ died for us. …10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Jesus didn’t die for you because you were God’s friend, but because you are His enemy. His death on the Cross makes it possible for you to be truly reconciled to God. Have you received His gift of salvation?