How willing are you to let God deal with your enemies? There is such a thing as “righteous anger.” There are times when we are clearly in the right according to scripture, as well as an obvious need for something to be done about the many wrongs that are perpetrated on those who are innocent. When it comes to circumstances that affect you personally, when do you act?
For example, what if you were falsely accused of a crime? Or if society labeled you as someone to be despised, silenced, and eliminated from public influence? Or if your actions were misinterpreted or misrepresented out of jealousy, fear, or hate? Humanity has been mistreating humanity since Adam and Eve left the Garden, and our reading today in 1 Samuel 19-26 is a good example. How should we respond when we are maligned or mistreated?
David has become a thorn in Saul’s side, not by his own doing, but due to Saul’s insecurity and jealousy. Jonathan has saved David’s life on more than one occasion by talking his father down from unreasonable fits of anger, and by warning David that he needs to flee for his life. Saul has made it his second job to pursue David and kill him so that the throne will go to his own son.
David is completely in the right. He was anointed by God to be the next king. He had not pursued the throne but served Saul by killing Israel’s enemies at the risk of his own life. He had been good to Saul’s son and daughter. He has no desire to hurry along the death of the present king, recognizing that Saul, too, was God’s anointed, and would serve as king according to God’s timetable, not David’s.
David has two opportunities to take Saul’s life. The first happens as Saul’s armies pursue David through the wilderness. David and his band of misfits have hidden in the recesses of a cave – the very same cave that Saul comes into “relieve himself.” (Scripture is so honest!) David’s men urge him to take the opportunity to strike his enemy down, but he refuses. He does, however, secretly cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. Even this small act causes David’s conscience to bother him.
1 Samuel 24:6 – Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed.”
Later, David lets Saul know what occurred. He makes it clear – if he wanted to hurt Saul, he would have, but his actions illustrate he has no animosity toward the king, and the king’s pursuit is wrong and unrighteous. Saul verbally agrees, apologizes, and for a time sets aside his vendetta.
Of course, like all those who have given over their hearts and minds to sin and rebellion, Saul soon forgets his promise to leave David alone and the chase is resumed. This time, David and his men steal into Saul’s camp at night and take his water jug and spear. The confrontation is repeated, and David again proves that he refuses to stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 26:23). In other words, “leave me alone; your persecution is unreasonable and misplaced.”
David had faith in God’s sovereignty. He did not trust Saul, but he did trust God to protect him from Saul. He knew that if God intended him to prosper and ascend to the throne as king over Israel it would certainly happen and nothing Saul could do would prevent it. He also knew, and surrendered himself to the possibility, that Saul may very well kill him, should God change His plans. He acted wisely to keep himself out of the way of harm, but ultimately, he had faith to let his fate rest in the hands of God.
Are you “in the right” but experiencing adverse circumstances because of others’ actions? Do you trust yourself more to fix things, or do you have faith to wait on God to act? What guided David was confidence in God’s laws. He knew it was wrong to kill a man that God had anointed and set in place. Obedience to the principles, statutes, and commands of God was more important than taking hold of what was rightfully his. While he did what was necessary to prove his innocence, he left the results in God’s hands. His allegiance was to the kingdom of God, not an earthly kingdom.
As followers of Jesus, we will suffer persecution according to scripture, if we are truly living in obedience to God’s commands. There are times when God instructs us to act, but never if it violates His greater, more authoritative Word. The end never justifies the means. Let us be willing, like David, to trust God’s timing, and keep our focus on God’s kingdom work, not the advancement or success we may find in this world. God knows what is true, and He will certainly carry out His sovereign plans for His people.