So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord ’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord ’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep. Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?” Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?” David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the Lord lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord ’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?” Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?” David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord ! They have driven me today from my share in the Lord ’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the Lord . The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.” Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord ’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.” So David went on his way, and Saul returned home. – 1 Samuel 26:7-25
David once again behaves honorably in response to a dishonorable man. Saul is camped out with his posse of 3,000 men and they are ready to kill David and his men. David and Abishasi sneak into Saul’s tent. There Saul sleeps with the weapon of his own destruction, a spear, right next to his head. Abishai wants to off him on the spot, but David is unwilling to usurp God’s authority by slaying God’s chosen king…even though by all measures Saul has abdicated this title through his actions.
Part of me wants to side with Abishai, why not kill him? He has made attempts on David’s life more than once. David knew that to give in to this temptation would push himself, and those who were following him, away from God rather than toward Him. In this instance, David passed the Meribah Test with flying colors.
David was practicing the art of loving his enemy. Something Jesus asked of His followers. When I was in college I was a big Mohandas Gandhi fan. Gandhi used the term Satyagraha to describe the seemingly illogical strategy of returning good for evil and loving your enemies. Gandhi applied this strategy with great success against the British to gain independence for India.
Jesus also tells us to love our enemies in Matthew 5:44:You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This teaching of Jesus is really hard. How do we put aside our hatred of our enemies and actually love them? I think the only way to do this is to have our eyes fixed so firmly on God and Jesus that we do not see an enemy anymore, but a child of God who has perhaps made bad choices. These choices may have even harmed us directly.
I am reminded of a book I read some time ago called The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal. His book recounts an incredible story of a Nazi soldier who asks for forgiveness from a Jewish man from a concentration camp (Simon Wiesenthal). The book is about what Simon should have done. He asks a variety of people what they would have done. Would they have forgiven him? Why or why not? David forgave Saul and gave God the power over both himself and Saul. This is the model for us. We need to give God the power over our enemies. Ultimately it is not up to us…God loves even our enemies and we should too.
Prayer: God help us to love our enemies as You love them, regardless of ways they may have hurt us.