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In this series, where I aim to explore why David was called a man after God’s heart, I will today look at David’s complete trust in God -so complete in fact that he left it over to God to deal with his powerful enemy: King Saul. He understood that vengeance belongs to God when he was given an opportunity to kill Saul. David made a choice and he made the right one.
The slaying of Goliath proved to be a turning point in David’s life. Never again will he be an obscure shepherd boy from Bethlehem. From that day onwards, David became well-known and well-loved as a military champion.
The events of the Valley of Elah that day will thereafter make it impossible for Saul to ever again forget about the existence of David. He may have forgotten that David had before played the harp in the palace courts to calm his tortured mind, but never again after the slaying of Goliath will Saul be afforded the opportunity to ask, “Whose son are you, young man?”
Impressed by David’s courage and strength, Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family in Bethlehem. Instead, David now joined Saul’s army. David couldn’t put a foot wrong. Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that the King eventually appointed him as a commander in his army –a choice that pleased many, including the both the troops and commanders in the army.
However, given Saul’s insecure character combined with his already unstable mind, it wasn’t long before Saul’s admiration of David turned to consuming jealousy. He became paranoid and figured that if David continued to grow in popularity and remained successful in all his ventures , he may soon be dethroned and David made king. He was right to a certain extent. David was going to be king, but not because of his popularity and successes –because God had already anointed David as king long before his victory over Goliath.
Saul wasted all his time and energy trying to fight what God had already established will be. Saul wanted to cling to a throne that was never his to start with. He was only there because God allowed him. But Saul obviously didn’t understand this. God gave him something and then he owned it to the point where he was prepared to kill to keep it. Perceiving David as the enemy of his throne, he set out in callous and calculating ways to kill someone who was more loyal to him than any of his other men (see 1 Samuel 22:14). Saul’s hatred of David was fuelled not by the truth, but by his own paranoid ideas that came into his mind, which he declared as the truth to himself.
So, Saul’s distorted mind and his wicked intents turns David into a fugitive. He flees, finding himself hiding in caves in the wilderness, trying to escape from Saul who pursued him relentlessly. He wasn’t alone however. Soon he had a group of about 400 men joining him and being loyal to him –respecting him for the larger than life character that he had already displayed during his time in Saul’s army.
For all Saul’s resources, he couldn’t catch David. The Lord prevented Saul from finding him. God was on David’s side and Saul enviously recognized this. He feared David for that reason, but instead of causing him to reconsider his violent intentions towards David, it only fuelled his hatred. Saul did come close in one incident, but just when it looked that it was all over for David, Saul received news that the Philistines had attacked the land. He then had to return with his men to fight the Philistines. And so the Lord helped David in one remarkable escape after the other.
Then, twice David had the opportunity to kill Saul. And this is where we can once again see why David was a man after God’s heart. Even his men told him that this may just be it!
“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” (1Samuel 24:4).
As Saul lay there sleeping, David crept up to the king and cut off a piece of his garment. But he was immediately filled with remorse. This is how he responds:
But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul (1 Samuel 24:5-7).
David wasn’t satisfied with just that however. He still wished to win back Saul’s favour and as Saul was leaving the cave, oblivious of the danger he had just been in, David shouts to him and bows down before him –giving him the honour deserving of a king:
“May the LORD judge between us. Perhaps the LORD will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” (1Samuel 24:12-15).
And by leaving vengeance to God, David once again proves why he is a man after God’s own heart. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” David’s trust in God was so complete that he could wait for the Lord to judge his enemies at His appointed time. He did not waste his energies in trying to concoct all manner of schemes to “get back” at Saul. He trusted that His God will do that. He knew that vengeance belongs to God.
This reflects also the words of Paul to the Romans:
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good (Romans 12:19-21).
Had David given in to the opportunity to get back at his enemy, evil would have conquered him and he would have been no different from his enemy.
When we are hurt by the actions or words of people, especially when we know we are innocent and undeserving of such hurtful actions or words, it is human to desire that they should pay for their unjust behaviour. However, when we truly understand that God is just and that He doesn’t turn a blind eye to the wrongs perpetrated against us, we can rest in His love and leave vengeance over to God. When He repays, He does it in ways so remarkable and complete that we will be filled with awe. This does not mean we wish evil on our enemies, but it means that we know that God’s judgments against our enemies may also mean that they could repent of their deeds and turn to Him and be saved.
David expressed his hurting feelings openly before God in prayer and often prayed in the psalms that God will let the enemy pay for his deeds. This is only being honest about how he felt. He didn’t try to mask his true emotions. He understood that God knows exactly what lives in his heart. However, he left those emotions there in God’s hands and didn’t allow his pain to cause him to sin and allow evil to overcome him.