1 Samuel 24:20–22; 26:1–2, 7–12, 21–25comment (0)
July 22, 2010
By James Barnette
Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 24:20–22; 26:1–2, 7–12, 21–25
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Samford University
The Power of Loyalty
1 Samuel 24:20–22; 26:1–2, 7–12, 21–25
Treachery Intended (24:20–22; 26:1–2)
Unless Saul knew and acknowledged David as Israel’s future leader, the conflict and restlessness in the kingdom would never stop. Everyone else was aware of this reality. In 1 Samuel 23:17, Jonathan had reported to David, “Saul, my father, knows this.” But thus far, we have only Jonathan’s word for it. In verse 20, Saul finally uttered the words for which everyone had been waiting: “I know.” Saul acknowledged to David, “You shall be king.” The clause in Hebrew has an infinite absolute for emphasis (“being king you shall be king”), which means “You shall indeed be king.” Saul was the last one to authorize David; he knew that nothing could stop the coming rule of his son-in-law. Note the major concern of Saul’s request to David: The disgraced king was preoccupied with his own name and descendants, not the spiritual welfare of his people. Tragically Saul’s sins would destroy his family, all but Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, whom David adopted at a later time.
David won many battles but one of his greatest triumphs took place in the cave when he restrained himself and his loyal soldiers from killing Saul. This composure is a good example for all of us to follow, particularly those whom God has entrusted with positions of leadership. “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (Prov. 16:32).
Saul’s hollow confession was short-lived. As in Chapter 24, he received a report of David’s whereabouts and mobilized his troops to seek him out. The Ziphites were members of the tribe of Judah and should have been loyal to David. Hoping to gain the king’s approval, for a second time, they betrayed David by supplying Saul with intelligence reports.
Trust Applied (26:7–12)
Abishai, David’s nephew, accompanied him on a dangerous nocturnal mission into the very center of Saul’s camp. Making their way past the perimeter, they found Saul’s spear. The nephew requested the honor of killing Saul with the spear. However, David perceived the situation to be a divine trial, an opportunity to demonstrate restraint and goodwill toward a God-anointed leader, not vengeance toward a human foe. David’s fear of the Lord prevented him from laying “a hand on the Lord’s anointed.” However, David recognized the advantage of making off with Saul’s spear, the symbol of his power, and water jug, the symbol of his life-sustaining resources. Having stripped Saul of his significant emblems of authority and security, David and Abishai made their way back out of the camp undetected and unharmed. The “deep sleep” induced by Yahweh is of the kind that Adam experienced in the creation of Eve (Gen. 2:21) and Abraham experienced in the promise of God (Gen. 15:12). This act of the Lord signals the way that He is working out His ordained plans for David.
Loyalty Rewarded (26:21–25)
Once again, David’s words and actions brought Saul to a temporary point of repentance. But this time, the words rang hollow in spite of Saul’s strong words of self-condemnation. He promised never to harm David again. David recognized Saul’s words for what they were — sincere lies. David tacitly declined the invitation to return. Instead he asked for one of Saul’s men to come by and retrieve his spear. After issuing his gracious offer, David gave voice to the law of sowing and reaping. In ways that we might not always forecast or perceive, God rewards us for “righteousness and faithfulness.” David’s discourse proved a foreshadowing of Paul’s words in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” David’s brief speech amounts to the last recorded words spoken by him to his father-in-law. Saul’s last known words to David were gracious, offering blessing and predicting a triumphant future for him.
The two men parted with Saul headed for his demise and David headed for his glory. Soon David would sit on the throne and rule over God’s people. One day, he would look back at such trying times and recognize that God’s goodness and mercy had followed him through all of those days (Ps. 23:6).