1 Samuel 24 Bible Study - David's mercy to King Saul


Bible Study Series: Life of David 

1 Samuel 24 : David's mercy to Saul


by F Gordon


Hiding Out

1 Now it happened, when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, "Take note! David is in the Wilderness of En Gedi." 2  Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats.

In this chapter we have David still on the run, he’s going from place to place trying to avoid Saul and his men.  A report is given to Saul that David is hiding in the wilderness of En Gedi and three thousand men are chosen to hunt him down.

3 So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave.)

David and his men were hiding out in one of the caves.  Of all the caves in that region to enter it is this one that Saul finds.  It seems that Saul entered alone without his protectors to attend to his needs so this was a prime opportunity for David and his men.  Saul was handed to them on  a plate all alone in the darkness of the cave with four to six hundred men ready to be rid of their enemy.

A sign from God?

4 Then the men of David said to him, "This is the day of which the Lord said to you, 'Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.' " And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul's robe.

David’s men were the first to speak. They perceived this event as a sign from God, that it was God’s will to take the life of Saul.  They even quoted a saying or psalm that the enemies of David would be delivered into his hand.  From the natural man you can understand how they thought this, they were being persecuted, hunted, and were running from place to place.  To take Saul's life would end their suffering and would place David on the throne.  However, opportunity does not make a wrong thing right!  Just because there was a ship sailing to Tarshish did not make it right for Jonah to take passage.  Many christians think, as David’s men did, that opportunity is a sign from God but we must be careful that we don’t act in haste but trust God to reveal his will.  

David approaches Saul with a dagger in his hand, all he has to do is plunge it in and all his problems will go away.  David however chooses a different path to his men’s advice and cuts the corner of Saul’s robe instead.  

Love your enemies

There are 2 ways God tests David in this passage:

The first is what we do with those that mistreat us?  What was David to do with Saul who had continually mistreated him?  Should he react in the natural, get even, payback, revenge, or claim his rights?  We as Christians should expect to be mistreated. We are hated by Satan and the world because of our love for Christ and God uses these things to conform us to the image of Christ.

Matthew 5.44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. 

Romans 12. 17-21 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20  Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." 21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane knowing that he was going to be betrayed called Judas friend.  In the very act of utter mistreatment and betrayal he showed grace.  Peter on the other hand acted out of protection.  In the natural he didn’t understand God’s plan, that Jesus would be mistreated, rejected, crucified and rise again.  So Peter took out his sword and cut off the high priest servant's ear.  Jesus then showed grace and mercy in this act of betrayal and healed the man’s ear.  What would this man have thought?  Did his master hear of this event and resulting miracle?

Rest in the Lord

The second test for David in this event is that of waiting for God.  Will David wait for God to act and bring about his promises or will David act.  David had been anointed king yet he finds himself running, hiding, and persecuted by Saul.  Yet here in front of him is a choice; to rid himself of his enemy or to wait for God to act on his behalf.  We all have to learn to wait on God.  Abraham and Sarah learned to wait for the promised son and they failed when the opportunity of Hagar presented itself.  If David had listened to his men he would have seized the throne by murder and failed to wait for God to act.

The three steps to rest are commit, trust and wait, these are outlined in the Psalms.

Psalm 37. 5-9 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. 6  He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. 7  Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8  Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret-it only causes harm. 9  For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth.

1 Samuel 24.5 Now it happened afterward that David's heart troubled him because he had cut Saul's robe.

David’s heart convicted him, it was only a small piece of cloth that he cut but for David touching Saul’s clothing was touching Saul’s person.  This shows David’s heart toward God in the small things, that even the small acts we do are sin. This would have seemed small in the eyes of David’s men, but for David it bought conviction that he was in the wrong.  David’s heart was right, this is the Lord’s anointed and I am wrong.  We also need that instant conviction in the small things that they are sinful.  The words we use to cut down someone's character, cut them down and elevate ourselves.  Do we cut off little pieces of the people in positions above us?  All these acts are the flesh and are a sin. 

6 And he said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord." 7  So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way. 8  David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, "My lord the king!" And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down.

David restrained his men and came out of the cave.

Mercy and Grace

9 And David said to Saul: "Why do you listen to the words of men who say, 'Indeed David seeks your harm'? 10  Look, this day your eyes have seen that the Lord delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, 'I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord's anointed.' 11  Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it. 12  Let the Lord judge between you and me, and let the Lord avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you. 13  As the proverb of the ancients says, 'Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.' But my hand shall not be against you. 14  After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A flea? 15  Therefore let the Lord be judge, and judge between you and me, and see and plead my case, and deliver me out of your hand."

David pleads his case before Saul, don’t listen to gossip about me, may God be the judge over us, see I spared your life. 

16 So it was, when David had finished speaking these words to Saul, that Saul said, "Is this your voice, my son David?" And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17  Then he said to David: "You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil. 18 And you have shown this day how you have dealt well with me; for when the Lord delivered me into your hand, you did not kill me. 19  For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely? Therefore may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20  And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.

This shows the out working of mercy and grace.  Saul was convicted by David’s grace; he sees grace in action and mercy toward himself and declares “you David are more righteous than I”.  Saul then confesses the great truth that God had called to himself a man whose heart was after the Lord’s heart.  “David I know you shall be king and the kingdom established in your hand”.  Saul had seen righteousness in the actions of David.

Where is the cross in this passage?  Mistreatment comes to all God’s saints.  How do we respond to mistreatment from others?  David had to die to his self will, to get even, or pay Saul back, he had to die to self, to exalt himself and place himself on the throne.  He trusted God and allowed Him room to act in His time for His will in the life of David.

So this passage teaches us to live a crucified life.  Bless those that mistreat us and allow God to be the judge, trusting that His will and purpose will be fulfilled.

God Bless.