David and his men sat hidden in darkness, when into the cave came their would-be killer, vulnerable and alone. With a single stroke, David could save his life and the life of his men, ending his flight from the wrath of Saul’s jealousy. David’s men saw God’s hand granting them the sword of justice for the unfaithful and doomed king. But David would not have it, he would not kill “the Lord’s anointed.” Instead, he cut off a piece of Saul’s garment as evidence of his innocence and goodwill.
In a profound insight into the heart of David when humbled by difficulties, “David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe” (1 Samuel 24:5). Saul, unaware of his brush with death, rejoined his army to be greeted by the voice of his rival from the cave. The short distance from Saul offered David little safety; his life hung on the mercy and justice of his plea:
Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’ Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it.” (1 Samuel 24:9-11)
On hearing David, “Saul lifted up his voice and wept,” crying, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you…. Now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand” (1 Samuel 24:16,17,20). With this Saul called off the pursuit and returned home.
As the days wore on and the humility wore off, Saul reneged on his promise and resumed his chase, to again be confronted with the injustice of his cause. This time, David could have easily killed Saul in the midst of his own army. Entering Saul’s camp in the dead of night, he secretly gathered his evidence within an arm’s reach of his sleeping nemesis. The setting and circumstance changed, but David’s appeal remained the same. Trusting God and the mercy and justice of his case, David again called to Saul:
Behold the spear of the king! Now let one of the young men come over and take it. And the LORD will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the LORD delivered you into my hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 26:22-23).”
Pierced again by David’s loyalty and mercy in the face of his own wicked jealousy, Saul replied, “Blessed are you, my son David; you will both accomplish much and surely prevail” (1 Samuel 26:25). And prevail he did, Saul and three of his sons were soon killed by the Philistines and David became king. God richly blessed David’s faith and humility as Israel and Judah were united under his rule.
But something changed. The trial of the wilderness lacked the force of the trial in the palace. David grew comfortable and, like Saul, his humility wore off as the days and nights wore on.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” And David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.” (2 Samuel 11:2-4)
David sinned and Bathsheba conceived. And in an apparent concern for his reputation, rule, and the trust of his faithful servants, David attempted a cover-up by bringing Bathsheba’s husband to Jerusalem to stay with her. Yet, Uriah’s loyalty to his men would not allow him to sleep with his wife in the comfort of his home, not while his men slept in tents on the battlefield. Seemingly undone by the honor of his officer, David stooped to have his virtuous servant murdered in a desperate attempt to hide his sin.
What happened? The fugitive in the cave bears little resemblance to the king in the palace. How could the heart that spared Saul’s life, along with the conscience “bothered” by the cutting of Saul’s robe betray and call for the murder of one of his most loyal subjects? Was the mighty and conscientious warrior less equipped to handle the blessings of success, comfort, and power than the trial of running for his life?
We share much in common with David. Too often we respond to success, power, and God’s blessings with pride and complacency, to do things previously unthinkable. Indeed, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly” (Proverbs 18:23). And how the mighty have fallen in our day. David’s demise warns us to bow our hearts in thanks and dependence on God when we enjoy His blessings. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We stand by grace. Thorns and tough times may humble us before God and others, but when God gives success, influence, and an assortment of blessings, run to God as you would in your troubles. “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you” (Genesis 4:7), and too often finds a willing subject when things go well, when we least suspect its subtle treachery. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). In good times and bad, in the cave or in the palace, remember: “To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).
Unless noted otherwise, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission.
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