When God Shouts

First Samuel 24

That Samuel is often inspired in triads of chapters is never more true than with chapters 24, 25, and 26. This chapter and chapter 26 show David showing extreme mercy, extreme faith, and extreme wisdom toward Saul. Saul has the title of King but David is behaving as a beneficent sovereign toward an errant subject, even though he is officially powerless. His men surely came to realize that the giant killer was no ordinary champion – there was something truly royal about the son of Jesse.

Chapter 25 will show us the carnal side of David, and we will see that clearly in due time.

After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.”

So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

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.

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 (verses 1-4).

The footnote in the NIV offers an alternate rendering of the phrase, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when He said to you….” It is:

Today the Lord is saying … I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.” 

I strongly believe the latter rendering accurately reflects what the Lord is saying in this book about how a David heart interprets revelation.

David’s men were interpreting the circumstances to mean God was saying for David to kill Saul while he had the chance. Initially, David must have agreed with them. Otherwise he would have just remained still and hidden. I think he crept up on Saul to do him in, but at the last second he changed the direction of Goliath’s sword to the hem of Saul’s robe instead of his neck. I don’t think he planned it that way, but the piece of the robe soon proved priceless. And that piece was possibly his tallit, which represented a Hebrew man’s relationship with God. (Numbers 15:37-41;

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe.

He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way (verses 5-7).

David was genuinely grieved for what he had almost done. He was so incensed at them and at himself that he had to immediately address the breach in their integrity. David’s ability to discern the mind of God under those pressured circumstances is a splendid example of the David heart at its finest.

God is sovereign over all the events of our lives, but if we interpret a David out risking his neck to save a Keilah that we should be saving as God putting him in a walled city so we can kill him, then our hearts are corrupted and we are blinded by pride. A Saul heart will see any circumstance as indicating God is leading it to do something that any honest heart could see is for one’s own glory.

Saul failed a “no brainer” test at the city of Keilah. David aced a very hard test in the cave of the wild goats. Only the purest, noblest, most faithful heart would not agree that God had set Saul up to reap the murder he had been sowing. This was the acid test, and sparing the very vulnerable Saul was a greater act of heroism than laying low Goliath in the Valley of Elah.

A David heart humbly notes unusual circumstances and listens for the peaceful quickening of the Spirit to cue it when God is speaking and what He is saying through what is transpiring. This is usually quite difficult under pressure.

God can and does speak through anything He wants to, but many times what He speaks through is offensive to our religious spirits. I try to listen – not just to people, but to the voice of God in them. God speaks through people all the time, often in spite of themselves. David’s men were not bringing David a word from God, and yet his error in listening to them momentarily was the grace of God. Though David was wrong to cut off a piece of Saul’s robe, he knew immediately what the Lord wanted him to do with it. David could be repenting deeply one minute, and the next minute be moving on to the business at hand. His concept of God’s sovereignty was so enormous that he had no problem believing God would readily use the consequences of his sin, the cloth in his hand.

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.

He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’?

“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 lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’

“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. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.

“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.

“As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?

[When David confronted Goliath, he asked David if he considered him a dog.]

“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.”

When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud.

“You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.

“You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me” (verses 8-18).

Because of the dramatic extremity of these circumstances, even Saul could not fail to see that God had delivered him into David’s hands. He was having a temporary “fit of sanity”, and he could not deny the obvious.

The Judgment Seat will be the place where everything is ultimately open and laid bare before the eyes of God, men, and angels. God is merciful. He rebukes us by making the truth more and more obvious as our lives progress. If He has quit doing this for a person, they have been given over to a depraved mind. In such a case, judgment has already been pronounced. Pray that God will always chastise you. He chastises those He loves (see Hebrews 12:6). The rest are under His wrath.

Saul was still being wooed and confronted by God’s faithful love. To some extent, it is God’s judgment if we are hearing Him infrequently. God speaks to us exactly as much as we will let Him. As Paul Cain said, “We are all as close to God as we want to be.” If you want to hear God more, listen for Him to tell you to do something that involves risk. Then do it, and He will speak more loudly.

“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.

“I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.

“Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold (verses 19-22).

Why was it impossible for David to go home at this point? Was trusting God not a practical, real-world option? Was it the fact that he had 400 fugitives with him? Was it because David’s wife had been given to another man? What was God saying David should do? Did David ask? I believe another event had transpired at this point that we are not yet ready to consider, an event that made it impossible for David to return home.

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