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Our sermon meditation for today is part 3 of an 8 part series on the life of King David. So far in our study we’ve seen David testing the LORD, and finding him true.
David trusted that the LORD would fight for Israel, like he promised, so David went toe-to-toe with Goliath—and won.
David trusted that the LORD was watching over him, so he faithfully served in the army of Israel. And even though King Saul was bent on destroying David, the LORD made sure that all of Saul’s plans ended up blessing him instead.
David was successful in everything he did, and he became a household name in Israel.
But now we’re going to get into the part of David’s life when it seems like the LORD is the one doing the testing. We’re going to see the LORD placing David in all sorts of precarious situations. And what we’ll find is that when the LORD tests David, the LORD finds him true.
Our story today is going to reveal A LOT about David’s character, and how he really was a man after God’s own heart.
But first we have to get a feel for what has happened since we last saw David. The last time we saw David he was getting married. Saul had offered his daughter Michal to be David’s wife. And after David had defeated 200 Philistine soldiers as the bride price, they were married.
Saul was afraid of David, though, because the LORD was with David. And Saul thought that at any moment David might try to seize the throne. So, King Saul ordered his men to kill David. It should be noted that David hadn’t done anything to suggest that he wanted to be king. Whatever Saul asked David to do, he did. David was a faithful servant of the king. But all Saul could see was a threat to his reign.
And so Saul himself tried to spear David to death when David was in the palace one day. After he escaped, Saul sent men to wait for David outside his house. David only escaped this attempt on his life because his wife Michal let him down from a window during the night and pretended that he was sick in bed.
After that the pursuit became even more intense. As David fled from place to place with a small band of warriors loyal to him, Saul tracked him with an army in tow.
At the city of Nob, David received help from a group of the LORD’s priests. They gave David and his men bread to eat, and armed David with Goliath’s own sword which had been stored there at Nob. When Saul found out about this he had the 85 priests at Nob executed, even though they had not known that David was on the run from Saul. And for good measure Saul’s forces massacred the whole town of Nob—men, women, children, infants—even their livestock. The message was clear: help David, and you die.
At one point David and his men were fleeing on one side of a valley with Saul and his men on the other side. They had almost caught up with them when word came that Philistines forces were raiding in Israel. Saul had to turn back to face this threat, and David slipped away.
This is where we pick up the narrative.
1 Samuel 24 (NIV)
24 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.
3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ ” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.
8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.
14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”
22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
The amount of things that we learn about David’s heart and character in this account is astonishing.
First of all we learn that David was LOYAL. He was loyal to the LORD his God. And because Saul was the man the LORD had chosen as king, David was then conscience bound to be loyal to Saul. It didn’t matter that Saul was trying to murder him, David refused to stand against the LORD’s king.
David’s loyalty is like the loyalty of the Japanese samurai, who would sooner disembowel themselves than rebel against their emperor. If it came to a fight between David and Saul, I get the feeling that David would have let Saul run him through before lifting a finger against him.
We also see that David had a SHARP AND ACTIVE CONSCIENCE. It appears that when David crept up behind Saul in the cave he wasn’t thinking about killing him. It seems that he had it in mind to get proof that he really wasn’t a threat to Saul. But after cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe, David feels horrible. Guilty. Soiled. This wasn’t right to be sneaking around behind the king’s back. This was disgraceful.
And so David’s conscience leads him to sharply rebuke his men, and make sure that none of them are going to rush forward and do what David refused to do.
Beside being acutely aware of the goodness or badness of his own actions, David was also acutely aware of the LORD’s hand in his life. He doesn’t consider Saul’s entrance into THIS particular cave to be a chance happening. When David addresses Saul outside the cave he says,
“…the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave” (1 Samuel 24:10 NIV).
What is conscience other than awareness? Awareness of your own actions, whether they are good or bad. Awareness that the LORD is moving mysteriously in your life, and watching all that you do. David was aware. His conscience was honed to a razor’s edge.
And as a result, David was a HUMBLE man. Just imagine that scene outside the cave for a moment. Saul is walking away when suddenly he hears a voice address him as “my master the king.” When he turns, a man drops to his knees, and then bows before him, face to the ground. Only then does the man address his king with further words. Even though Saul’s recent behavior had been anything but honorable, David bows before him.
And David’s posture isn’t the only thing that shows his humble attitude. He says,
“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?” (1 Samuel 24:14 NIV).
These are the words David uses to describe HIMSELF. Next to the king of Israel, David considers himself worthless. A dead dog. A tiny pest of an insect.
But David’s character is revealed to be still more complex. For while he is humbly addressing the LORD’s anointed, David also expresses his hunger for truth and justice. While respectfully speaking to the king, David also rebukes the king. He says,
“Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you? …See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion…” (1 Samuel 24:9, 11b).
“May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me...” (1 Samuel 24:12 NIV).
David was a humble man, but also a man who hungered for TRUTH AND JUSTICE. But even so, he was no vigilante. He would not take the law into his own hands and strike Saul down. David knew that vengeance belongs to the LORD. If justice doesn’t come through the LORD’s representatives in the government, then it will come from the LORD’s own hand in good time.
In this David reveals his strong TRUST IN THE LORD’S SOVEREIGNTY over all things, and his TRUST IN THE LORD’S JUSTICE. David trusted implicitly that the just God would settle all accounts sooner or later. Justice WOULD be served by the LORD. David didn’t need to do it for him.
David bears his soul here as he bows in the dirt before Saul. And as a result, Saul is deeply moved by David’s pure character. For the time being Saul is convicted of his wrongdoing and decides to stop hunting David. He even expresses that he knows that David will be the king someday. And then Saul also asks for a favor. He asks David to swear that he will not wipe out his family after David ascends to the throne.
This was common practice in the ancient world. When you rose to power, you secured your throne by wiping out any possible threats to your rule. That meant any sons of the last king, any close relatives, and anyone that showed ambition to wear the purple, and so on. Saul wanted David’s promise that this won’t be his plan of action later on.
It’s kinda sad that Saul asks this favor. He apparently didn’t know David very well. It wasn’t in David’s heart to do this kind of thing. This was more like something Saul would do. And so David freely gives his promise, and reveals that he was NOT POWER HUNGRY man, and he WASN’T A GRUDGE KEEPER. He was a man of God who made it his practice to shun evil.
The Bible says that after a person comes to trust in Jesus as their Savior from sin, the Holy Spirit begins remodeling that person on the inside. Through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit molds and changes our character to more closely mirror God’s character. We see this in David. He trusted in the LORD’s promises, and by the Holy Spirit’s power David began to take on the character traits of Christ. You know, all the things that we’ve seen in David today, were shown in purest form in Jesus Christ.
Like David, Jesus was LOYAL to the LORD. He praised his Heavenly Father, and paid taxes to the government God had established.
Like David, Jesus had a SHARP AND ACTICE CONSCIENCE. He prayed to his Father in heaven often, and, unlike David, Jesus succeeded in never sinning.
Like David, Jesus was HUMBLE. He left his throne in heaven to become the human son of a poor Galilean girl named Mary. But Even though he was the very Son of God, Jesus wasn’t a showy bragger. Instead, the world barely knew he existed for the first thirty years of his life.
In his words Jesus was also humble. He was patient with sinners, and with his disciples—who were constantly misunderstanding him and doing foolish and arrogant things.
Like David, Jesus was a SEEKER OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE. He stuck up for the poor and oppressed. He denounced the Pharisees for obscuring the true way to heaven, which was through faith in God’s Messiah. And he even rebuked his closest friends when the need arose.
Like David, Jesus also TRUSTED IN THE LORD’S SOVEREIGNTY over all things. Jesus willingly went into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. And on the night when he was going to be betrayed to his enemies, Jesus prayed that the Father’s will, not his own, might be done.
Like David, Jesus was NOT A POWER HUNGRY MAN, and he WASN’T A GRUDGE KEEPER. He gladly set his powers as the eternal Son of God on the shelf, and gave himself to suffer hell on the cross. And he did this for people like you and me who have sinned against him time and time again.
And here’s the amazing thing. When we compare ourselves to David, or to Christ, we find that we are nowhere near their level of faithfulness or goodness. But because the Holy Spirit has moved us to trust in Jesus as our Savior from sin, God imputes Christ’s character TO US. Let me say that again. Through the faith connection we have with Jesus, we are covered with Christ’s character. It blankets our true sinfulness, and makes us pure and holy in the sight of the pure and holy God.
In David we have an role model to look up to. A man to model our own lives after. But as we seek to be “people after God’s own heart”, let’s ALWAYS remember, that because of what Christ did in our place, we ALREADY stand forgiven and holy before our Creator. We are already pure in God’s eyes, because of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise you today. We praise you for giving us the example of David’s pure character to aspire to. But more than that, we praise you for taking our sins on your back, and spreading your holiness and worth on us. Continue to hold our hearts in your hands. Help us always to trust in you as the one who took our sins away and brought us into the Father’s family. By your Holy Spirit, continue to remodel us to be more like you. And as we struggle to live in ways that honor you, comfort us and empower us with the gift of your unconditional and eternal forgiveness. Amen.