February 20, 2012 Update: I noticed some areas for improvement in the titles and grammar of this post and have made them. Enjoy!
Today we will cover one of my favorite topics in our study of the life of David in his young years before becoming king. It is also is the most important of all the lessons we will learn from the life of David. We will learn a principle from David: "never hurt the LORD's anointed one." Our study of the life of David today is from 1 Samuel 24 and Psalm 142.
In the last chapter, we saw David barely escape from Saul because as Saul approached David, Saul received news that the Philistines were raiding Israel. Thus the Israelites needed Saul and his men to protect the city, so Saul and his men could not continue to pursue David and his men.
In chapter 23 we also see David looking to God for discernment on what to do. David does not look to his circumstances as the basis of God's direction, but David looks to God to tell him what to do. In chapter 24 we get to see a glimpse into why David does what he does. We get to know why he does not hurt Saul, the man who is trying to kill him.
Rarely when reading scripture do we get to read about what was going on in the mind of people are studying. When reading the Bible we mostly read about people's actions. Rarely do we get to read about what they were thinking. In this chapter we get to know what David is thinking which is very exciting.
In chapter 24 we find David hiding in a cave in the wilderness of En-gedi. At the same time David is hiding in a cave in En-gedi, Saul has selected 3,000 troops to go into the wilderness in search of David (with a plan to kill David).
While Saul and his 3,000 men are traveling, they stop to allow Saul to walk into a cave to "relieve himself" (1 Samuel 24:4). What happens next is hard to imagine because Saul walks into the same cave that David and his 600 men are hiding in.
This is David's chance to kill the man who is trying to kill him. The 600 men with David in the cave say, "'Now's your opportunity!' . . . . 'Today is the day the LORD was talking about when he said, 'I will certainly put Saul into your power, to do with as you wish'" (1 Samuel 24:4).
David has the opportunity to kill Saul. He creeps up to him and cuts off the end of his robe. Cutting off the end of Saul's robe was not necessarily an attempt to kill the king, but it was something that threatened Saul's role as the king because his robe was a sign of his kingship.
Then, something dramatic happens inside of David that gives us a glimpse into the thinking and heart of this amazing leader. We learn that David's conscience begins to bother him because he cut off the corner of Saul's robe. David knew it was wrong and because he had negatively affected the king, it bothered him, and he felt that he had sinned.
David says, "The LORD knows I shouldn't have done it ['it' being the cutting of Saul's robe]," . . . "It is a serious thing to attack the LORD's anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him" (1 Samuel 24:6).
David, realizing that he should not hurt the LORD's anointed one, allows Saul to leave the cave unharmed with the exception of the corner of Saul's robe having been cut off.
The major lesson we can learn as leaders from this encounter between David and Saul we can learn as leaders is that David did not hurt the LORD's anointed one even though Saul tried to kill him. You may be saying, "But wait, David had been anointed by Samuel in chapter 16 to be king. David was anointed to be king and was supposed to be king." That is true, but God had placed Saul as the king of Israel, and David was under Saul as king. David had been anointed to become king in Israel, not to be king immediately.
So, why did David not hurt the LORD's anointed one with Saul right there within reach? One swing of a sword and Saul would be dead and David would become king. Here are three reasons why I believe David did not hurt Saul.
3 Reasons David Never Hurts the LORD's Anointed One
- David's men perceived Saul walking into their cave as a God thing, but David did not.
- David was wise enough not to take action based only on circumstances. (Which, is something we can all learn from.)
- David still shows tremendous respect for Saul by calling him lord and king and father.
David faithfully follows Saul and refuses to hurt him.
David follows Saul and obeys him because Saul is the LORD's anointed one. God has chosen Saul to be king over Israel, and David is a servant of that king. It is against the law to kill the king, thus killing Saul to become the king would not be God's will.
God will not ask us to violate His laws and principles in order to fulfill His will. For me in my job as a fundraiser, God is not going to ask me to steal millions of dollars from wealthy people (which is, by the way, very against the law) in order to feed people who are hungry. He is not going to ask me to do something which is against the law and His will in order to fulfill His will in my life.
In other words, David sees the bigger picture than what is directly in front of him. He knows that God has called him to become king someday, and he is not going to allow himself to sin in order to be king. He is committed to doing what is right and allowing God to fulfill his promise.
David confronts and challenges the king.
Even though we are not allowed to hurt the LORD's anointed leader, we are allowed to confront the leader based on what he has done. We see this happen later in the chapter when Saul walks out of the cave. David following and confronts Saul about the things Saul has done to David. David calls Saul out, telling him that David has deserved none of the poor treatment that Saul has thrown his way.
As leaders, we are not allowed to hurt the leader above us, but we are allowed to confront and challenge the leader above us if we disagree with what he is says or does.
Don't hurt the leader we are supposed to follow.
There are many ways that we might hurt the leader we work under and follow. We might hurt him physically by touching or hitting him. We might negatively affect her by the words we say. We might hurt him politically by talking poorly about the leader. And we might hurt the leader spiritually if we treat her poorly. These are all easy things (that come naturally) so we need to be concious to not do them. Don't hurt the leader!
Here's a great quote which I think wraps up this chapter and summarizes how David navigates not hurting the LORD's anointed one.
He [David] does not treat Saul as an opponent, but as a threat from which to flee. David does not eschew using his popularity (1 Sam. 18:7-8) to undermine Saul’s position because he feels subjective pity for Saul. His heart does not smite him on cutting Saul’s royal robe because he feels that Saul has been dealt a cruel hand by God. He does not express the feeling that Saul is an unfortunate position, as a king whose authority the Lord has withdrawn. He shows reverence for Saul’s person because Saul, like Cain, bears the mysterious mark of “the Lord’s” protection. The sign of anointing was holy ground for him. . .
 Francesca Aran Murphy, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: 1 Samuel (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press: 2010), 235.