The book of 1st Samuel largely tells the story of David, Israel’s greatest king, and how the Lord raised him up out of obscurity into the conquering king that he would become. There’s a whole lesson in that, but I’ll save that for another time.
There is an incident that occurs towards the end of that book that I would like to highlight. Saul has been anointed king of Israel but, because of his refusal to follow the Lord’s commands, God rejected him as king. David goes to work for Saul and the Lord elevates him in the sight of Saul and all of Israel, becoming a great warrior in Saul’s army. So much so that Saul becomes jealous of him and tries to kill him on a couple of separate occasions.
God commanded Samuel, Israel’s prophet, to anoint David as the next king, which Samuel does in chapter 16. Word must have gotten out that Samuel had anointed David to become Israel’s next king, but Saul would have none of it. He decides to take his army and pursue David and kill him, opening the door for Saul’s son, Jonathan, to be declared the next king of Israel. Although that would have been quite an honor for Jonathan, he recognizes David as the truly anointed king and, instead, aids his close friend to escape his father’s wrath. Again, that is another story for another time!
David is clearly in the right in this situation. Saul, out of envy, jealousy, and hatred, wants to kill his loyal servant. God puts David to the test and gives David the opportunity to kill Saul, which would secure his position in Israel, making him the next king.
While in pursuit one day, Saul felt the need to “relieve himself” in a cave, unwittingly choosing a cave where David and his men were hiding. David had the opportunity to take care of Saul and end this threat. In fact, his loyal followers encouraged him to do so. They said in 1st Samuel 24:4, “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.’” Nowhere in scripture do we hear those words from the mouth of the Lord, so we are not sure if that is what God said or if that is what David’s followers wanted to hear God say. But David would not lay a hand on him. He crept up to Saul, cut off a corner of his royal robe, but did not harm him. Even the cutting of Saul’s robe brought guilt to David. 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 one of the Lord.” He later declares to Saul directly, “My hand will not touch you.”
This is a great lesson to all of us. Yes, Samuel anointed David to become the next king of Israel but, in fact, Saul was still king. If David killed Saul, it would have been for selfish reasons – to speed along the process and make his life more secure in his way. He instead chose to allow God to set a timetable for Saul’s demise and chose to remain secure in the hands of the Lord. This decision illustrates David’s heart. Earlier in chapter 13, Samuel tells Saul that “Your kingdom will not endure, the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people.” Truly David was a man after God’s own heart.
There will be many times when you will be tempted to take matters into your own hands. You may even have close family, friends, and associates telling you that “the Lord has given you this opportunity.” My advice is to not follow that advice. Just like God was able to take Saul out of the picture in His way and in His timing, God can remove your “Saul” the same way. He does not need you to do it. Allow the Lord to be your deliverer and your protector. Refrain from vengeance, give the situation over to the Lord, and declare “My hand will not touch you.” In this way you will keep yourself pure and demonstrate that you, too, are a person after God’s own heart.