Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 22-25
Today’s Reflection: 1 Samuel 24:1-7
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.
David had been King Saul’s right hand man: both as the boy who killed Goliath and the young man who led the armies of Israel to kill tens of thousands of enemies. David had been part of Saul’s family: part of his court, living in his palace, best friend to his son Jonathan and husband to his daughter Michal. And David had been a comfort to Saul in his later years, playing his harp to soothe Saul’s disturbed spirit. But even after being anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king, and a rival to Saul, it came as a shock to David when Saul began trying to kill him.
As David went on the run from Saul, accompanied by his loyal warriors, David prayed for God’s protection. In return God told David He would deliver Saul into his hands. And now that promise had been fulfilled.
What would you or I have done under these circumstances? Knowing you had been chosen by God to be king? Knowing the former king was trying to kill you for this, and this alone? Knowing you could end your ordeal, your time away from your home and family, by taking the life of the one who was unjustly persecuting you? After all, God had delivered him into your hands, right? Clearly God was telling you to exact justice, right?
But that isn’t what David does. He merely cuts a piece off of Saul’s robe to show what he could have done to Saul (and even this causes David guilt). Why doesn’t he kill Saul, or allow his men to kill him? It is because David is merciful. And I believe this aspect of David’s character is why God calls David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).
We serve a God who could have let mankind die after Adam and Eve made the choice to sin but instead had a plan to save us from our mistakes already in place (Revelation 13:8), and now pursues each and every one of us hoping draw us back into restored relationship with Him. We serve a God who does not desire to see the wicked punished or die, but would rather they repent and be saved (Ezekiel 18:23) and works to make this salvation available and apparent to us (Isaiah 45:22). We serve a God who at times seems to allow evil to run amok but who in fact has delayed judgment and justice so that people might have every opportunity to see the wrong of their ways and turn back to Him (2 Peter 3:9). And we serve a God who ultimately sent His own son to put on mortal flesh and die for our sakes that we might have eternal life (Romans 5:8).
We serve a God who is exceedingly merciful. And since God’s people are supposed to be reflections of Him, we should seek to also be merciful, as David was.
We often fear that being merciful means excusing wrongdoing or being seen as weak, but the examples of the warrior King David and Jesus Christ are far weakness or moral compromise. Instead mercy is about trusting justice and judgment to God’s hands and His divine timing. The battles we face in life are not ours but God’s. If we can trust the Lord to fight our battles, we can also trust Him with the fate of our enemies.
Ezekiel 33:11 – Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?