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1 Samuel 24:1-22

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Introduction

As we head to 1 Samuel 24 today, let’s catch up a bit with what’s happened
last week, in chapters 21 into 22, we saw David on the run
suddenly acting out of character
he has only been righteous in serving Saul, but Saul wants him dead
and even though David knows that he will be king, Saul still sits on the throne
and David’s actions show he may be at least questioning God’s promises
and we saw these interactions with Ahimelech the priest and with the Philistines
that showed David acting out of self preservation, rather than his trust of the Lord
At the end of last week, David made a shift, returning to Judah with his men
ready to pursue what God is calling him to do, ready to lead and face difficulty
because of his trust in the Lord
since then, Saul has found out about David’s interaction with Ahimelech
and had him and nearly all of the priests killed
this act only serves to further confirm Saul’s faithlessness and desperation to cling to the throne he knows that David will soon have
In chapter 23, David leads his small band of 600 men to free the city of Keilah from the Philistines
and he does this, knowing that Saul is pursuing him and that Keilah will turn on him and give him to Saul if he sticks around
So leading up to our passage, Saul’s son, Jonathan, and David meet up and reaffirm their covenant
pledging their faithfulness to one another, even while Saul is trying to kill David
now Saul has learned where David is and has brought 3000 men to find and kill David
taking us to chapter 24, starting in verse 1:
1 Samuel 24:1–22 ESV
1 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. 3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’ ” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way. 8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? 10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.” 16 As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” 22 And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
Of all of the unending revivals and reboots we’ve gotten of movies and tv from the 80s and 90s,
one of my favorites is Cobra Kai, which continues the story from the Karate Kid movies
more from the perspective of Johnny, the bully from the first movie
once you get past the whole idea that a local high school karate tournament from 35 years ago is somehow a life defining moment that everyone knows about and remembers
A major theme that pops up in both the movies and tv show is mercy
the motto of the Cobra Kai dojo is strike first, strike hard, no mercy
in the movies, we see examples of mercy resulting in reconciliation
Mr. Miyagi saves his enemy’s life in the 2nd movie proving
I am not your enemy
and they reconcile
one of the most powerful moments in the show, though, is in the middle of a fight one of the main characters decides to stop fighting and show mercy
and the other takes the opportunity to attack, hurting the other badly
showing there is not always a worldly benefit to mercy, sometimes it comes at a cost
When we love others by showing mercy, much of the time, we don’t know what will happen
reconciliation, or are we just leaving ourselves open to attack?
But going to our passage, we see David of showing mercy and love towards Saul
knowing that it will come at a cost
but because of his relationship with the Lord, he is trusting that no matter the outcome
the Lord will deliver him
that because he is loved, he is called to show that love to others
this, of course, points us to Jesus, who showed mercy and love towards his enemies to the point of death
his enemies, of course, being us, being his people
He loves us enough to die for us, to give himself for us
and so our love of others is not based on an expected reaction
it is a reaction to the love of Jesus
So let’s look at our passage, and see how David’s act of mercy
points us to Christ’s mercy for us
Verses 1-2:
1 Samuel 24:1–2 ESV
1 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks.
This helps to set the scene
David had been given a brief reprieve from being pursued while Saul was distracted by Philistine raids
the picture of Saul the text paints is Saul is obsessed with hunting down David
so much so, that it has led to him neglecting his duties as king, failing to protect the people from their enemies
So he comes back from dealing with these Philistine raids with a group of 3,000
5 times the size of David’s 600 men
and pursues David to these caves off of the Dead Sea
caves that provide great hiding, but if Saul finds whatever cave David is in and is able to surround it with his men, it’s over
David and his men would be trapped
verses 3-4:
1 Samuel 24:3–4 ESV
3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’ ” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
And in a reversal, Saul wanders into the very cave where David is hiding by himself to relieve himself
Saul is now completely vulnerable
David has the opportunity to end this conflict, all of this running now
he could quickly kill the man who has been unjustly trying to kill him
and then become king after that
his men around him are encouraging him, they want him to do this
they’re saying, look, God has opened a window or a door for you
take it
God wouldn’t present you with this opportunity unless you were supposed to do it
and they even reference some prophesy about God giving his enemy into his hand
a couple of things about this reference:
it is either a false prophesy
this quote does not seem to reference anything else we have in Samuel or the OT
or they are taking it out of context
one of the major points in this passage is David communicating to Saul
We are not enemies, I’ve done nothing but serve you
David’s enemies would be those that oppose Israel, those that oppose the Lord and his people, not the king of Israel, no matter how far off track he’s gone
How applicable is all of this for us?
something that we often pray for in the church is for God to open doors
and that’s not a bad thing to pray for
we’re looking for confirmation of what we feel God is doing or calling us to do
and sometimes he opens a door, and we recognize the Lord is in this
and we go through it
we were talking last week in our prayer time and discussion before church
about how God opened things up so quickly two years ago for us to come to this church
and from both sides, it was clear, this is what God is doing
he has opened this door, so we’re going to walk through it together and see what he does
Other times, God presents us with doors we’re not supposed to go through
it might be an opportunity with immediate benefit that is not in line with what you know your call is
Sometimes, the door or opportunity might even involve sin
God has opened this door and I would have to do this thing that’s not great, but look where we’ll end up
the end justifies the means
the philosophical question comes up, how much evil is permissible if the outcome is good
the Bible answers this and the answer is none, none evil
we are called to act righteously even if it means making things harder on ourselves which is the choice David makes here
David cannot treat Saul as an enemy, because he is his king
Remember, God has established intermediaries for his people in the law
these are how Israel related to God, and it’s how God led his people
those roles are prophet, priest, and king
to go against one of these was to go against God
there is no separation of church and state in Israel
they are one and the same
It’s important as followers of Christ to remember who our enemy actually is
it’s not people,
Paul tells us it’s the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is at work in the world in the sons of disobedience
we are never fighting against people, we are always fighting for them
our fight is that others would know Jesus
because no one is too far gone for God to intervene and change them
to turn them to himself
our enemy has already been defeated
there’s nothing Satan can do to keep God from accomplishing his purposes
So David’s act of mercy is an act of trust, that again, God will deliver him
not that he won’t face hardship, or even that it will make a difference with Saul
but trusting that God will bring him through it
So rather than killing Saul, David cuts off a part of his robe
this comes from a place of trying to prove his loyalty to the King
and his reaction to doing even this is guilt
verses 5-7:
1 Samuel 24:5–7 ESV
5 And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.
David’s heart is struck by what he has done
David cutting off a corner of the robe symbolizes a couple of things
by David doing this, he has made the robe unusable
it marks Saul as an illegitimate king
and it also foreshadows David’s future of tearing the kingdom from him
and then in verse 6, he helps us to understand his grief over what he has done
he says, how could I do this against my lord, the Lord’s Messiah?
Saul’s importance comes not from Saul’s actions
but, again, who God has declared him to be
what his role is for God’s people
Based on what Saul has done, Saul deserves nothing
he deserves to die
but David declares that because of the identity God has given him
he is not his enemy
even though he seeks to kill him
And he convinces his men of this, too
When we interact with others, those who know Jesus, and those who don’t
do we treat them based on what they’ve done to us?
or who God has declared them to be?
Going again to the Saul-Adam parallel
how Saul is an example of man’s best chance at being the right kind of king
When God made Adam and Eve, he made them in his own image
and that image is affirmed, even after the fall, for all of humanity
A call as God’s people is to honor that image, even when the person bearing the image is not acting honorably
even when they have declared us their enemy
Why? because that is what Jesus did for us
David gives us a picture here of God’s mercy in Christ
and while David spares the life of Saul here, but will walk away
Jesus goes so far as to die for us, his enemies, to spare our lives
those who have done nothing to deserve mercy
who have failed at every turn act like image bearers of God
who have rebelled against the very God we were created to reflect
trying to replace him, trying to elevate ourselves to his place
Paul says in Romans, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son
we were with Adam, we were like Saul, but we have been reconciled to God by now belonging to Christ, who David gives us a glimpse of in this passage
And now that we belong to Christ, we follow him in his actions
just as David’s men are following David
we are called to follow Jesus and love our enemies
as Paul says later in Romans, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
What would the world be like, what kind of impact for Christ would we be making in the world
if we were just to follow him in this?
We in the church keep reacting to the world in worldly ways
rather than showing the world Jesus
we are hated in the world as followers of Christ
are we hating back?
or are we showing love, are we showing Jesus?
This is a difficult time to act out of love in our country
how would things change if Christians everywhere stopped demonizing the opposition?
stopped buying into tactics of fear-mongering,
worried less about worldly power or winning
and started treating people based not on how they treat us, but on how Jesus has treated us?
we all grow up with the golden rule
treat others the way you want to be treated
but this takes things further
love those who hate you, because you are loved
this is not based on an expectation of if I treat others well they will treat me well
this is because I have already been treated this way by the only one that matters
this is how I will treat others
Loving because we are loved, overcoming evil with good
1 Samuel 24:8 ESV
8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage.
So David comes out, and he bows, calling after Saul
he’s going to use what has happened, the mercy he has shown, as a plea for reconciliation
a plea for repentance
David declares what he has done, he makes it known, emerging from a cave
Christ did it emerging from a tomb
The resurrection confirms Jesus’ act of mercy
Jesus lives and now we are free to go to the king who lives
to be counted with him
it proves that what Jesus did for us was effective, the Cross doesn’t matter without the empty tomb
Jesus tells us in his resurrection, look at God’s mercy
see what has been done
and what follows is David’s longest speech in Samuel
followed by Saul’s longest speech in all of Scripture
The author is putting a big spotlight on this scene, telling us it is central to what he is trying to tell us in the book
here’s the true king trying to reconcile with the failed king
asking the audience: who do you want as your king?
will you reconcile with the true king, with David’s son?
ultimately with Jesus, the one who suffered judgment in our place and conquered death?
Let’s take a look at David’s plea
to see what it looks like to seek reconciliation from a place of love
to see what Christ says to us
1 Samuel 24:9 ESV
9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’?
David tries to minimize the Saul’s responsibility for his actions
rather than coming at him from a place of judgment to convict him
here are all of the ways you have wronged me
he continues to show grace and mercy
David just emerging from the cave and calling to him is convicting enough
Saul knows what he has done, reminding him is not going to help
the book makes it clear that Saul is fully responsible for his actions
there was no one else there poisoning his mind towards David
he recognized David as a threat all on his own and turned on him
Christ calls us from a place of grace and mercy
not from a place of judgment
when we share Christ, we follow that
it’s not always helpful to point out all of the ways we’ve wronged him
because when we focus too much on our sin, we take the focus off of Jesus
he desires restoration, he wants us to turn to him
his mere presence shines enough light on who we are
we know what we’ve done, we know our failures and who we are and where our heart is pointed
verses 10-11:
1 Samuel 24:10–11 ESV
10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.
David now recounts what just happened
he had every opportunity to avenge himself in the cave
to overcome Saul as his enemy
but he didn’t do that, because to David, they are not enemies
again, this is because of what God has declared, not because of the way that Saul has treated him
David is here to serve Saul
David is saying, there should be no doubt that my motives are pure towards you
that I have always and will always act righteously towards you
that I have not and will not turn against my king and my people
In Christ, we need only to look at the Cross
God’s ultimate act of mercy and love
taking the judgment we are due for turning against the Lord
for rebelling and serving ourselves rather than him
for being like Saul, turning on someone who has only acted out of love and righteousness towards us
because we want the power
we want to take God’s place
But because of Jesus’ love for us, he gives himself for us
note, that is the order
Our king loves us enough to die for us
God loves us enough to take the judgment on himself
he doesn’t die so he can love us
he dies because he loves us
Jesus only acts righteously
He doesn’t wait for us to clean ourselves up, make ourselves worthy, or even say we’re sorry
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
verses 12-13:
1 Samuel 24:12–13 ESV
12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you.
David is calling Saul to repentance here
he is saying that what’s happened is before God
he’s pointing to who Saul should be going to now for mercy
Turn to the Lord and go to him
David is not avenging himself, he is leaving that to God and in the process offering the opportunity for repentance
he is fighting for Saul, not against him
This is Christ’s call to us
a call to repentance, to respond to what Jesus has done
to turn to him and follow
he has only acted out of love towards us
this is the free offer that is available to everyone
turn to Christ, trust in the one who has shown his love for you
turn to the true king
Christ is not against us
Jesus shows on the Cross that it is the Lord who judges, he avenges
so did Jesus suffer the judgment for our unrighteousness
or will we?
Are we fighting for people or against them?
are we pointing others to Jesus?
are we showing the love and mercy that has been shown to us to those who have declared us enemies?
verses 14-15:
1 Samuel 24:14–15 ESV
14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”
I love David’s perspective here
who am I? I’m nobody, I’m a dead dog, I’m a flea
I don’t matter, I have no real power, I’m no threat
who should be mattering for Saul is the Lord
David says the Lord judges and delivers, he is who has delivered me from you
and will continue to do so
he is our judge
We have no real power in and of ourselves and neither do those who have declared themselves our enemies
all power and authority have been given to Jesus
he delivers now, and he judges
verse 16:
1 Samuel 24:16 ESV
16 As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept.
And here we have Saul’s response
he has been convicted of who he is and how he has failed
and everything in this indicates that Saul believes what he says
that this is not some ploy, he is being sincere and speaking from a place of conviction
and it starts with how he addresses David
for the last several chapters, Saul’s contempt won’t even allow him to say David’s name
just calling him the son of Jesse
but here he says, my son David,
and he weeps, he shows remorse for what has happened
verses 17-18:
1 Samuel 24:17–18 ESV
17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands.
Saul knows the truth, he recognizes David for who he is
he knows that David has done nothing wrong
he has only been faithful in serving him
and he even acknowledges that he has only repaid David with evil
and that David is more righteous than he is
and that this one act of mercy proves that Saul has never been right to suspect David
David’s mercy has stripped away any pretense of buying into those lies
and any excuse for Saul’s hatred
verses 19-20:
1 Samuel 24:19–20 ESV
19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.
Saul blesses David for his righteousness
and he acknowledges what he knows to be true
that David will be king
and that the kingdom will stand or be upheld in his hand
so he knows the truth now and he knows what will be
verses 21-22:
1 Samuel 24:21–22 ESV
21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” 22 And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
and we get this request at the end of the speech
it was a common practice in the culture that when a new dynasty takes over a kingdom
that the entire household of the prior dynasty would be wiped out
but Saul is asking that David would not do this when he becomes king
so we go to Saul’s speech, and we ask, is this true repentance?
judging from what happens after this, we know it isn’t
because Saul will continue to hunt David
and we even end up with kind of a repeat of this scenario in chapter 26
but there are indicators in Saul’s speech that he is not repentant
while Saul speaks the truth throughout and even acknowledges David’s future as king
there is no change, there is nothing to indicate that he has turned to the Lord
he is not crying tears of repentance, the tears are coming from a place of clarity
he cannot deny the truth, and there’s nothing he can do to stop what he knows will happen
he is crying because he is condemned, and he knows it
and he is resolved to stay the course, even though he knows how all of this will end
that he has no hope
and both Saul and David’s actions in the last verse back up that no real repentance has taken place
it’s a moment of truth, an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and condemnation
and Saul goes back to his place and David goes back to hiding
they know that nothing has really changed
In his acknowledgment and plea, Saul stands again in contrast to his son Jonathan
Who has acknowledged the same thing and entered into a covenant with David
rather than just a plea, like Saul
Jonathan and David’s love for one another leads to a pledge of faithfulness
Jonathan embraces David as king, he turns to him,
it is a good thing for Jonathan for David to rule
and he knows that David will be faithful to not cut off his family
going to Jesus is not just an acknowledgment of the truth
it is a relationship, we go to him as our king
we rest in his continued grace, love and faithfulness,
we follow him, serve him
he bought us out of death on the Cross, we belong to him
without going to him as our king, without turning to him and embracing him
we are left like Saul, seeing Jesus for who he is, knowing what he has done
knowing that he does reign and will reign forever
and letting it drive us to hopelessness
because we have bought into the lies of the world, and even when we know where we are headed, we stay our course
in the world today, there is a lot of weeping like Saul
weeping that the world is broken and we can’t fix it
pandemics happen, there is unrest over injustice, there is division and antagonism
everyone dies
that no effort we make will truly make a difference
don’t be caught in that hopelessness
we weep over brokenness, yes
but all of these things are reminders that this world is not the way it’s supposed to be
our king does reign, and he will make all things new
and he has pledged to not cut us off
we go to him, and rest in him
tell others about him
tell others that there is no reason to weep like Saul
because Jesus reigns, and that is a good thing
How do we react to the truth of Jesus?
is it a source of condemnation?
or a source of hope?
because it is one or the other, there is no third option
Let’s embrace the one who loves us, who has shown us mercy even while we were his enemy
and show that love to others
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