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David Spares Saul Again (1 Samuel 26) November 13

This is the second time the Ziphites attempt to deliver David into the hands of Saul. Saul's respect for David's knowledge of battle is evident as he takes 3,000 soldiers with him in his pursuit of David and his 600 men. After a 25-mile march south, from Gibeah to the wilderness of Ziph, where David is hiding, Saul and his troops make camp. It is here that God directly intervenes for David. Abishai, David's nephew (1 Chronicles 2:16), volunteers for what seems an extremely dangerous plan. In any given troop deployment, there are always sentinels who stand watch over an encampment. From 1 Samuel 26:12, we find that God causes a deep sleep to come on Saul and his troops, allowing David and Abishai unrestricted access to the campsite. As David has constantly been on the run from Saul, fearing for his life, this miracle no doubt greatly encourages David. But we should also observe that he resists the natural inclination to read it as license to take matters into his own hands.

As these scriptures are intended for examples (1 Corinthians 10:11), let's pause here for a self-evaluation of this incident. Would we have acted as Abishai, and assumed that the intent of God was to have Saul killed? Or would we have thought like David, a man who made many mistakes yet who is referred to as "a man after God's own heart"? It is important for us to ask the question in light of any given situation, What is God's will? David knows that Saul is king over Israel by God's direct decree, and he feels strongly that it will be God's hand that will remove him.

Indeed, Acts 13 says: "And afterward they asked for a king; so GOD gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when HE had removed him, HE raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will'" (verses 21-22).

So David does not take Saul's life, but he does take his spear and his canteen—symbolic of Saul's strength and sustenance—as proof of his venture. After returning safely from the campsite, David chastises Abner (captain of the guard and the one ultimately responsible for Saul's safety). This embarrassment may be instrumental in Abner's temporary refusal to acknowledge David as king after Saul's death.

But David's humility ("...for the king of Israel has come out to seek a flea," 1 Samuel 26:20) causes Saul to acknowledge his foolishness, at least for the time being. David still keeps his distance as he knows that Saul has a habit of quickly changing his mind and attitude. Though not yet written, we find here, in principle, Christ's admonition of Matthew 10:16 in use: "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

After this incident, it appears that David and Saul never see each other again.

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