Sermon preached on 1 Samuel 26 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 9/20/2015 in Novato, CA.
1 Samuel 26
“God Has Delivered Your Enemy Into Your Hand This Day”
We come now to the third chapter in a row that basically deals with how we must trust in God and in his ways to save us from our enemies. In other words when we are treated with evil by an enemy, we must not respond with another evil as a way to save us or vindicate ourselves. And so in chapter 24, we saw how David waited on God by not killing Saul in the cave when he had the chance. And then in chapter 25, we saw that David was about to take matters into his own hands with Nabal, and in an evil rage kill Nabal and all his men. But God restrained David, and instead God himself killed the evil Nabal in due time. And so now we come to this chapter and find a similar lesson for David to learn. Again, he has a chance to kill Saul. Will he do it? Well, the answer is again “no,” he will not. And so God thought this was an important scenario for David to face again. Three chapters in a row that deal with a similar subject. And so that means that this is also something God thinks we need to consider again. So then, we will do that. We’ll begin first by thinking in general about the value of such repetition. Then we’ll dig into some of the more specific points to learn that are unique to this episode.
So then, let’s begin with the first point and think about the value of repeating trials. The point here is that sometimes God has you repeat the same trial or test multiple times. David here had almost the exact same situation in chapter 24, as we mentioned a moment ago. There were subtle differences. In chapter 24, Saul unknowingly stumbles into the cave where David already was. In this chapter, David is actually actively scouting out Saul, and is able to sneak up on Saul while he and his men were all asleep. But in both situations, Saul is unaware of David’s presence, and David has an opportunity to kill his enemy. And in both cases, David is even encouraged to kill Saul by his men. In both cases his men even suggest that this is an opportunity that God has given David.
Well, David’s men are right in one regard. Yes, the opportunity for David to kill Saul does seem to be of the LORD, but that doesn’t mean God wanted David to kill Saul. Notice here in verse 12. The reason why David and his comrade Abishai could sneak up on Saul like this is because God has made a deep sleep fall upon Saul and his men. In other words, yes, the LORD was behind this opportunity that David has here. And yet though God ordained this opportunity, it was not so David could kill Saul. And so here David has a similar lesson like what we saw back in chapter 24. Just because God provides an opportunity or an open door, doesn’t mean that you should walk through it. What we have to do, is evaluate the situation and ask what righteous options are there, given the opportunity that is there. And so this becomes a test for David.
And we see David passes the test. David explains to Abishai that it would be wrong to kill Saul, who is particularly the Lord’s anointed. He says in verse 9, that someone would be guilty to do this. Instead David sees that this opportunity can be used to show undeserved kindness to his enemy. David knows that this would be a righteous action, and would make use of this God given opportunity in a good way. And so he takes Saul’s spear and water jug to use as proof to Saul that he could have killed him, but didn’t.
And so in many ways, this is the same lesson he learned back in chapter 24. It was a lesson he learned in a slightly different way in chapter 25. But now in this chapter it is especially similar to chapter 24. But what I love here is that we see continued growth by David. After struggling a bit to do the right thing in last chapter with Nabal, in this chapter he actually seems to have improved in his response from the first time he could have killed Saul back in chapter 24. Remember, then, he cut a piece of Saul’s robe and was cut to the heart about doing that. He thought it wrong to cut the robe of his king. We talked then about why he may have had that remorse. But this time he doesn’t do that. Instead he takes the spear and water jug instead which is presumably here a better thing for David to use to prove to Saul that he does not have any desire to harm him. My point then is that David not only learns again this lesson, but seems to improve in his response. He’s even able to very articulately explain his reasoning now to Abishai, as we see in verse 10. He explains that God can take care of Saul in all sorts of way, none of which involve David sinning. Surely that was a lesson David learned last chapter with Nabal, after God struck down Nabal for the evil he had shown David.
So, in this first point, I think of James 1:2-4. That’s one of my favorite verses and its excellent commentary here.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
And so this is what is going on here. God brings many trials and tests in our lives. They are not all easy. But they grow us in our faith. They mature us and complete us. David is repeatedly tested about whether he will wait on the LORD to vindicate him and save him from all his enemies. David keeps learning that when enemies treat him with evil, he must look to respond in righteousness. And so when faced with a providential opportunity to advance, he must determine the way to act that is not in sin but in righteousness. It’s like what it says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” David had to determine in the midst of this test of his faith, what the righteous way would be. And he did succeed, and he did continue to grow through this time of testing.
Let me offer a side note here, however. As much as this was a repeated lesson for David, who grew through this, we remember that Saul also got this repeated test too. But unfortunately, Saul does not seem to be growing through it. Twice he claims sorrow over trying to kill David, but neither seems to result in a lasting change in Saul. And so what a difference ultimately between those who truly know the LORD and those who don’t. For a Christian a repeated trial can hopefully be a source of continued growth. For the lost, however, the repeated lessons can serve to time and again condemn then for their wickedness.
So we’ve talked a little about the value and use of repeated lessons. Let’s continue to think about this passage now by honing in on a couple particular details that are unique to this passage. You see, when God brings manifold trials, sometimes a lot of them are very similar. But usually even the similar ones have little nuances of difference. And often when God brings such repeated similar trials, it’s in the little nuanced details that we can learn a lot. So this is true here. I want to draw our attention then in our second point to verse 23. David says there, “May the LORD repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness.” When David says this to Saul, there is a bit of implied contrast that David is making here. It seems that David is probably contrasting himself her with Abner. Abner is the commander of Saul’s army. And when David is able to take Saul’s spear and jug without any difficulty, David immediately proceeds to first confront Abner. Even before David confronts Saul, he confronts Abner. He basically tells Abner that he has done a great evil for falling asleep on the watch. Look at verse 16. David tells Abner that what he has done is not good, and that he is worthy of death. And so in contrast to Abner, who is charged with protecting Saul, you have David, who people have charged him as wanting to kill Saul. And yet, David is the one who spared Saul’s life, and Abner’s the one who negligently put Saul’s life at risk. In this David acted righteously, and Abner did not. So then, as David says, “May the LORD repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness.” David should be rewarded here. Maybe Saul should make David the commander of his army!
Of course, if we compare David versus Abner here, we really should compare David with Saul. David once again has shown a kindness toward his enemies, and that was righteous of him. He counted Saul’s life as precious. Saul on the other hand has to admit his sin here. He had sinned against David. So, who should be rewarded by God here? David, not Saul. And so, when you compare David here to either Saul or Abner, David is seen as the righteous one deserving divine reward, and the other two as deserving judgment from God.
And yet when we step back and think about this from a bigger picture, we know that ultimately God does not judge on a curve. Each man will have to stand before God and answer for his sins. David acknowledged this in some regard in verse 19, that if he has offended the LORD in this matter, then he would need to seek atonement for such sin via an offering. And that’s the bigger point and bigger application for us. As we think about comparing David to Saul and Abner, and as we think about this idea of God rewarding men for their righteousness, we then think of where we stand. Yes, we can compare ourselves to others. But on our own merit, I wouldn’t want to say, “May the LORD repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness.” I wouldn’t want to say that and then stand on my own merit, because I know how badly I would not measure up. Yes, I may look better than some people, maybe even than many people. But I would certainly not be counted righteous by God simply on my own merit. And so I’m thankful that as I hear these words from David that we can again point to Jesus Christ. Whatever righteousness David showed here, we know he too is a sinner and needs his sin atoned for. And we know that is true for all of us. And so we are thankful that this is why Jesus came. He came to die on the cross as that offering for sin. And his offering is applied to us as we turn to him and trust in him through faith. Let us then hear these words of David and think of Christ. May the LORD repay us not for our own works, but for the works of Jesus Christ. These have been imputed to us by faith, praise the LORD!
So then, the last point I’d like to draw out attention to, is from verse 24. David tells Saul that he has treated Saul’s life as precious. In other words, David didn’t kill Saul when he had the chance, because he showed value to Saul’s life. Saul himself had affirmed this in verse 21, that David had treated his life as precious. I love the language here of treating a life as precious. I love it, because I want people to treat my life as precious. And I know God has put in my heart a desire to treat others’ life as precious too. But look especially at how David words this in verse 24. Verse 24, David says, “And indeed, as your life was valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much in the eyes of the LORD, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.” I find David’s words there a little unexpected. When he tells Saul that he valued his life, and starts to talk about some reciprocation, I expect David to say therefore may Saul value his, David’s, life. You know, like the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. David treated Saul’s life as precious, so you would think he would in turn want Saul to treat his life as precious. Well, that may be true, but that’s not what David says. David instead wants the reciprocation to be that God treats his life as precious. David puts a twist to the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have God do unto you.
That’s an amazing thought. But it makes sense. Man’s faithfulness and righteousness can be fleeting, fickle, and inconsistent. So David wants a greater security than just Saul’s pledge that he’ll treat David’s life as precious. He wants God to treat his life as precious. And of course, the LORD did. Of course as we think about applying David’s idea here, I think of how Christ did this in reverse for us. Christ dies on the cross for us, and shows us forgiveness, and then calls us to show that to others. In other words, Jesus takes the initiative and then tells us to go and treat others the way Jesus has already treated you.
Or maybe to say it another way, in terms of application to us: Jesus has shown that he has found our lives to be precious, by coming to save our lives. Jesus endured much suffering and shame, and ultimately the wrath of God as he died on the cross, all because he treated our lives as precious. That we could be saved from the guilt of our sin and eternal damnation.
What an interesting concept, for God in Christ to value our lives; to see them as previous. What a wonderful desire David had here. What a wonderful way it comes about in Jesus. Continuing with this idea of our lives being precious in God’s sight, I think of Psalm 116:15. There it actually says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Interesting! We know that our lives are precious in God’s sight, because our deaths are precious in his sight. And the reason why our deaths are precious is because it’s the entrance into a resurrected life.
But not everyone’s lives are counted as precious in God’s sight. That psalm just applied it to the saints; to God’s people. God’s people are those who belong to Jesus Christ through faith and repentance. I love how it’s put in 1 Peter 2:7, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.” It’s talking there of Jesus. This same idea about counting a life as precious. Jesus has counted our lives as precious, even when we were sinful rebels against God. And he has called us to repent and believe and receive the gift of salvation. And as his Spirit opens our eyes to realize how wonderful his offer is, we come to love Jesus. We come to see him as so very, very, precious. Jesus is precious to us. And so Jesus had treated our life as precious. He wooed us by his Spirit to see how precious he is. And in all this, we find that we are now highly prized by God the Father. As 1 Peter 2:9 goes on to say, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are God’s special, precious, treasured, people. What grace. What love. What mercy. Praise the Lord!
In closing, let me bring this message all together in this way. Point one, we need repetition. We need repeated lessons from God, so that we can grow even in righteousness. Point two, God rewards the righteous, but our problem is that on our own we are not righteous; despite many opportunities, apart from the Lord, we seem to keep not learning the lessons of righteousness; we can be like Saul in that regard. And so, point three, Jesus Christ has counted our lives precious and reached out to save us; so that we are not repaid according to our lacking righteousness, but according to Christ’s righteousness. So then, in turn, and by grace, we’ve come to see how precious Jesus is. We’ve repented of our sins and put our faith in him, and become Christians.
So then it all comes back to the first point. As Christians, you are precious in God’s sight, and that means he will train you and teach you. And repetition is one way God will do that. Repetition is one way God will do that. Repetition is one way God will do that. Specifically trials. Trials that test you and challenge you. Trials that call for discernment and seeking the Word. God may repeat those trials with subtle differences in your life. Look to learn from these. Grow from these, by the grace of God. Count them all joy as you see God’s training you, because you are precious in his sight. Get excited that God cares about your actions, and especially your heart. That you would be refined and purified, that you would grow to have a heart like his more and more.
You know, as far as we know, David never asked to be anointed as king. If God hadn’t chosen him, David wouldn’t have had all the troubles that he did. But then again, he would never have all the glory that is yet in store for his future when he begins to reign as king. How true this is for us too. It was the case with Christ. Christ had to suffer and then to receive the subsequent glories. And in Christ now, we experience sufferings and trials. God’s the one who even chose us and he’s the ultimate reason why we are going through them right now. But how wonderful that is! We are growing through them. And they will all end in glory. And the trials are but momentary and fleeting in comparison to the weight of eternal glory that is in store for us.
And so thank you Lord for choosing us. Thank you for counting our lives as precious. Thank you for saving us. And thank you for training us, even now, through the various and sometimes repeated lessons of life. Help us, Oh Lord Jesus, to grow through these, and to watch and pray, staying alert through it all; that we won’t be in some deep sleep when you come, but that we will be awake, ready, and awaiting your coming. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.