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DAVID’S FORBEARANCE TOWARDS SAUL
1 Samuel 24:4-6. And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.
KNOWING what we do of the depravity of human nature, we should scarcely conceive that men could attain to such heights of virtue as are recorded in the Holy Scriptures, if we did not know that those records are of divine authority. This observation is verified in the history of Abraham, of Moses, and of David also, who, though a very faulty character in some respects, was in other respects a star of the first magnitude. We are called on the present occasion to notice his conduct towards Saul; and to consider him under a three-fold relation;
As a subject towards his prince—
[Never had man more just occasion to withstand his prince than he: the inveteracy with which Saul laboured to destroy him was incessant [Note: See the three preceding chapters.] — — —Yet how did David act towards him? God had now placed Saul within his power; (for Saul lay down to sleep in a cave where David and his men were concealed:) but David would not touch him: yea, though importuned by his own men, and urged to consider Saul’s exposed situation as an indication of the divine pleasure, he not only would not smite Saul with his own hand, but would not suffer any one else to smite him: and even when, for the fuller discovery of his own innocence, he had cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe, his conscience smote him as having offered an indignity to his sovereign: so tenderly did he regard not only the life, but the honour also, of his prince.
In this he was a pattern to all succeeding ages: for though the different governments of the world give different degrees of power to the supreme magistrate, and of liberty to the subjects, yet in every country under heaven must the magistrate be considered as God’s representative on earth, and must be “obeyed, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake [Note: Romans 13:1-2; Romans 13:5.]” — — — Under circumstances of an unfavourable nature, there should be a readiness in us to palliate, rather than to expose and aggravate, his misconduct; and a willingness rather to submit to evils, than by violent resistance to endanger the welfare of the community. The character of Christian subjects is, that they are “the quiet in the land.”]
As a saint towards his oppressor—
[The injuries done to David were really “for righteousness’ sake.” Like Jesus, of whom he was an eminent type, “he was hated without a cause.” This consideration must have added ten-fold poignancy to all his afflictions. To be conscious that he was continually labouring to cut off all occasion of offence, and yet to find himself persecuted with unrelenting fury, was most distressing to his mind. Yet, as Saul himself confessed, he returned nothing but good for evil [Note: ver. 17.].
But such is the true line of every Christian’s duty. We should “not render evil for evil to any man [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:14.],” but rather love our enemies, and do them good [Note: Matthew 5:44.]. This is the true way to soften the hearts of our enemies, and to ensure a final victory over them [Note: Compare ver. 16 with Romans 12:20-21.]— — —]
As a believer towards his God—
[As to avenging himself, David knew that God was the Judge of all, and would in due time vindicate his righteous cause, and punish his unrighteous oppressor: to God therefore he left what belonged to God alone [Note: ver. 15.]. Moreover, though God had promised him the kingdom, he left God to fulfil his promise in his own time and way. Doubtless he felt great distress of mind under all his trials; but he committed himself to God in prayer, and looked for deliverance from him alone [Note: The 57th Psalm was written on this very occasion. See the title, and ver. 1–6. In ver. 6 he seems to refer to the very event in our text: Saul came to destroy David, and inadvertently exposed himself to be destroyed by David.].
Thus, however great and complicated our trials be, we should take no hasty step [Note: Isaiah 28:16.], but “commit ourselves to God as a faithful Creator [Note: 1 Peter 4:19.],” and expect assuredly the final accomplishment of all his promises [Note: Psalms 37:5-6.] — — —]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany