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.t 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.
8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage.9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’?10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you.t I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you.14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea!15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.” (1 Sam 24:1-15 ESV)
David exercises tremendous restraint in not taking Saul’s life in the cave, and tremendous strength of leadership not to allow his men to kill Saul, for their lives too were in danger. What was it that kept David from taking revenge? He had the prophecy of Samuel to fall back on, that he would one day be king. But his kingship would be established by God through his faith, and the faithful thing to do was to leave it to the Lord to take vengeance. As you tie this event to Psalm 11 that we looked at yesterday, we can see how this act amounted to “heaping burning coals” on Saul’s head.
May we have such confidence in God.
Chronological Reading Plan plus Psalms: 1 Sa 21-24, Ps 103