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  • Writer's pictureKristina Trott

How David's conscience helped him deal with revenge

May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you” (1 Sam. 24:12).

This record in 1 Samuel is a tense moment in David’s life. David has been fleeing King Saul as a fugitive because Saul was losing his power as a king and feared David would be his successor. David has 600 disgruntled men with him and is hiding deep in a cave in the desert of Engedi when Saul, accompanied by 3,000 trained soldiers, went to relieve himself inside the cave.

I suspect that David and his men had quickly hidden in the cave when they had seen Saul’s army nearby. They hadn’t used torches to light their way into the cave for to do so would have alerted Saul, by the smoky odour, that there were people inside.

Saul has had at least 10 earlier unsuccessful attempts to kill David and David’s men eagerly planned to kill their hunter. David, however, stealthily crept towards Saul over the crunchy limestone pebbles and quietly cut off a piece of the hem of his robe. The king’s robes represented Saul’s identity as a king and surreptitiously taking a piece from those robes was symbolic of David assuming the kingship.

The implications of this action on David caused him to be very sorry. The king represented God to the people and Saul’s anointing was from God Himself.

When Saul left the cave, David held the scrap of Saul’s robe aloft and pointed out that he had had the opportunity to kill him and he had chosen not to, and he never would. David then retreated to the stronghold and Saul continued to try and kill David until Saul died, at his own hand, on the battlefield.

David chose not to seek revenge on Saul because he saw his enemies as God saw them. David saw Saul’s identity in God but Saul saw David as something to be hunted and killed. Saul belonged to God and David, in humility, honoured that.

The message of the cross is that no one honours God as they should (except for Jesus). We are all sinners saved by grace but when Jesus looks at you He looks with love and compassion as towards a family member.

We can now view others as Jesus has commanded us, with love: ‘Love your enemies’ (Matt 5:44). An ‘enemy’ is anyone whose agenda conflicts with our own and these tensions pale beside the mortal tension that David had from Saul. Let us, when we interact with others whose agendas conflict with ours, be gracious and appreciate who they are in Jesus and pray that God’s name may be revered as holy though their actions. May God’s will be done in their lives as well as our own.


Who is your enemy?

Who do you need to pray for today?

*All quotes from NLT.

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