Summary: Saul continues to disobey God, this time by resorting to witchcraft. But God never abandons his people. He has a king prepared who’s a man after his own heart, who’ll restore the fortunes of Israel: David, the shepherd boy, who’s become a great warrior th
What we find as we read through the books of 1&2 Samuel is a mix of battle narratives and character studies. The action sequences are important because they show how the nation of Israel emerges as a force to be reckoned with, but often it’s in the character studies that we find the points of interest for us who live so far away from the circumstances of Saul and David’s time. What we find is that the characters that make up this history are a mixed bunch. Some are godly people, people of faithfulness and wisdom, while others are faithless, foolish, flawed. Yet overarching it all is the faithfulness of God and his intention to create for himself a nation that will reflect the realities of his kingdom even in this fallen world.
So what I thought we’d do today is to look at 4 or 5 different passages that paint pictures of the various characters who take part in this living drama. In fact we’ll look at 4 pairs of characters who interact as the story unfolds.
1. David and Saul I (24) and II (26)
The first pair is David and Saul. Now we’ve been looking at them for a few weeks now so we won’t spend an enormous amount of time on them, but we do need to quickly look at their interaction as the tension between them escalates.
David is in on the run, with Saul in hot pursuit. These are David’s wilderness years. This is the period when I imagine he would have penned the words to Psalm 121. "I lift up my eyes to the hills-- from where will my help come? 2My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."
As the heat of the pursuit builds up Saul almost has David within his grip a number of times. Saul behaves like so many military leaders over the years. He’s ruthless when it comes to eliminating his enemies and their supporters. He kills the priest Ahimelech who’s given David and his men bread to sustain them. He gives David’s wife, Michal to someone else as his wife. He pursues David relentlessly through the desert. Until one day he has David cornered (24). Then he makes a mistake.
He doesn’t realise just how close to David he is. David and his men are hiding in a cave. And it just so happens that Saul picks that particular cave to use as his bush toilet. He’s squatting there, relieving himself and David creeps out, knife in hand, and silently cuts off a piece of his robe. But he doesn’t harm him, nor does he let any of his men harm him. And notice why not. (1 Sam 24:6 NRSV) ’He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed."’ As I pointed out last week, David has a very high view of the Lord’s choice of king. Even if he is trying to take David’s life, he’s still the Lord’s anointed one.
But David doesn’t just leave it there. When Saul has come out of the cave and is about to leave, David calls out to Saul and shows him the piece of cloth he’s cut off Saul’s robe. He wants to demonstrate to Saul that he bears him no ill, nor does he pose any danger to him. And this earns him a reprieve for a short time. Saul is touched by David’s integrity and calls of the hunt.
But then a little later Saul is again in pursuit of David. The people of Ziph, near Hebron, report his whereabouts to Saul and Saul decides to go after him again. But this time, as they come near, David doesn’t wait for them to catch up. He goes and finds their campsite, and in the middle of the night, he creeps down to where Saul is sleeping and steals his spear and his water bottle.
Again, he could easily have killed Saul as he slept. In fact his companion offers to do it for him. But again, David points out that this is the Lord’s anointed one. No-one but the Lord can take his life. So they leave with Saul’s spear and water bottle to show Saul once more that he offers no threat to his kingship.
You have to admire David, don’t you? It would have been so easy for him to take the simple path. He didn’t even have to get his own hands dirty. But he’s an example to all of us of someone who has an implicit faith in God. He trusts God to do what he’s promised. He’s willing to wait for the time when God will give him the kingship. He’s willing to trust God to deal with Saul in his own time.