Summary: David’s fight against the temptation of revenge produced positive three consequences we should all come to when today’s temptation is to put ourselves out in front of God’s will and get even with people.
Today’s Temptation, Tomorrow’s Triumph
Did you ever get in a fight when you were a kid? I mean a real fight, with fists and blood and crying. I did. More than once. Being small meant I got picked on more than once, so I became a scrapper and a bully sometimes just to protect myself. I didn’t often go looking for a fight, since most of my opponents were bigger than I was, but I didn’t try to back down from them either.
I don’t remember ever getting in trouble for fighting, especially if I was protecting myself, which happened sometimes. My dad told me never to start a fight, but if I had to fight I had permission to finish it. Hitting back seems the natural thing to do when you believe you have the power to overcome your adversary. If you don’t have the power, running away is always a good option!
The desire to hit back is usually nothing more than the desire for revenge, the perceived need to get even or settle the score. As a kid I would take revenge through my fists. As I grew older I discovered more subtle ways of getting even. That was when my mouth usually got me into trouble. And sometimes, it still does!
But what I could get away with as a kid doesn’t work well as an adult. First of all, I could go to jail for getting in a fight, and my wife says she’s not called to prison ministry. Second, the more I know about God the less He allows me to get away with. This, of course, is just another word for maturity. I may still be tempted to get even, but when I talk to God about the situation He always seems to recommend against it. Which is why He inspired Paul to write in Rom. 12:19, “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’” (Rom. 12:19, The Message).
Last week we talked about how we are to behave in a cave. We saw how David cried out to God, learned to depend on His Lord and practiced praising God even when he didn’t feel like it. Then, right when he was at his lowest, God starts to bring people to him. And not the popular people, either, but the discontent, people in distress and those in debt. When you think about finding people to help you in creating a new business, or planting a new church or establishing your new reign as the king of a nation, you don’t think about going out and finding the discontent, distressed debtors in order to establish your leadership base. But these are exactly who God brings to David.
After David left the cave at Adullam, 1 Sam. 23 tells us he traveled around a bit, got into a skirmish with some Philistines and then he and his 600 men began roaming the countryside. But everywhere he went people told Saul of his location and David had to move again. Finally, just as he is about to close in on David, word comes to Saul that the Philistines were raiding Israel again. So Saul quit chasing David and returned to fight the Philistines. David then went to live in the strongholds of En-gedi.
This is where we pick up the story in 1 Sam. 24, so let’s read it.
David’s fight against the temptation of revenge produced positive three consequences we should all come to when today’s temptation is to put ourselves out in front of God’s will and get even with people. The first consequence was that David –
1. Encountered a guilty conscience (vs. 5). I say that encountering a guilty conscience is a consequence because many people never conclude that their actions or attitudes are ever wrong. Instead, they find a multitude of reasons to justify their bad behavior by pointing the finger at the one who wronged them.
Some people wonder why David would even have a guilty conscience. He didn’t kill Saul. He didn’t even make a scratch on his body. So what is he guilty of? Not telling him this men’s room was occupied? Forgetting to offering him a towel to dry off his hands before he left the cave? Making his hemline a little crooked? What was he guilty of?
Of course, that is just the way we rationalize when we make excuses for our behavior. And people do it all the time. They get too much change back from their purchase and say, “Hey, they’re a big corporation. They can afford it.” We fudge a bit on our taxes and say, “I don’t like what the government is doing so I don’t think they’ll miss this.” We have thirteen pens in our drawer that all came from work and figure since we didn’t get that raise then they can certainly do without a few pens.