Today’s reading continues with Saul pursuing David. Several factors come into play here and many of Saul's troubles are self-inflicted. He chose to not make the Lord the center of his life. He chose to act impetuously in not waiting for Samuel, offering a sacrifice he had no business offering. Saul took on priestly duties that were not his to perform. He was not proactive in his military leadership, but reactive. It was as though he wanted to be king, but he didn't want to be bothered with all the work that leadership requires. After Saul offered up the sacrifice Samuel told him he had once again been disobedient, and he would continue to rule but he would be the last of his family to do so. God would choose a different king, one who would be obedient. Saul was grieved but it was too late. He continued to rule but he was not effective, and many did not want to follow him.
Once Samuel anointed David the Spirit of the Lord left Saul and filled David. As they returned from battle the people sang a song about Saul and David. Saul had killed many, but David had killed many more. It angered Saul and he asked the question...what more can he take from me but the kingdom. Little did Saul know, that had already happened. We read when the Lord's spirit left Saul it was replaced by a harmful or troubling spirit. This spirit tormented Saul as a form of judgement for his turning against the Lord. Though God Himself never does evil, He sometimes uses evil agents to accomplish His purposes. Saul is jealous and resentful of David and he resolves to kill him. Saul's response to David is exactly the opposite of John the Baptist when he was told of the great success of Jesus: He must increase but I must decrease. Jealousy and envy are dangerous enemies, a cancer that slowly spreads and eats our inner life. Envy leads us to do horrible things. Proverbs 14:30 calls it the rottenness of the bones. I love this quote. ”Envious people max out their credit cards to buy things they do not need to impress people who do not care.” Envy leads to anger and anger is often the first step toward murder. We see that here in Saul's life.
By this point in the narrative David and his men have stayed in many places trying to avoid Saul. David has 600 men at most, but Saul comes after him with thousands of men. So, either Saul wants to do major damage to David, his men and the people who have helped him, or Saul is afraid of how good a warrior David is...or both. Twice in this reading God tests David. The first time is in the desert of En Gedi, near the crags of the Wild Goats. David and his men were Hiding from Saul in a deep cave and Saul came in to relieve himself. He was a sitting duck and there were enough men to take him with no problem. David crept forward and got close enough to cut off a corner of Saul's garment. His men encouraged David to kill Saul. It seemed like God had given him into David's hand. But David knew Saul was still the anointed king of Israel. He was God’s hand-picked ruler and David would not harm him; no matter how much he may have wanted to. Cutting off the corner of a garment typically signified disloyalty and rebellion, but David remained loyal. He just needed to prove to Saul he had been given the chance to harm him and he didn't.
Once Saul left the cave so did David, calling out to Saul and asking why Saul was trying to kill him. He wondered aloud what he had done wrong that made the king want to kill him. Saul acknowledged David had been the better man and promised he would not try to harm David again. But Saul had already broken that promise numerous times and David had no reason to believe him. David wrote Psalm 54 on this occasion, asking for salvation and vindication from the Lord. He wanted the Lord to give him an opportunity to prove to Saul he wasn't an outlaw who was trying to kill him in order to seize the throne.
The second time David is tempted to harm Saul is much more dangerous to David. He was actually in Saul's camp. The Lord had sent a deep sleep on Saul and his men and David and his nephew Abishai were able to walk into the camp. Abishai was certain this was God's will, and they would be able to kill Saul and leave the camp with no one knowing. David stopped him, again telling one of his men that they were not to harm the anointed king of Israel. He knew it was wrong to lay hands on God's anointed, even if he was not serving as God wanted him to serve. David still respected the office. Once again David put himself in a safe spot and called out to Saul, asking again why Saul was trying to kill him. Saul called David my son, but David refused to call Saul my father. He and Saul's daughter were no longer married so David was no longer his son in law. AND Saul was not treating David like a son. David tried to reason with Saul to no avail. The last words David would speak to Saul come in 26:25. This is a statement that affirms the greatness of David's deeds and the certainty of his kingship.
In between these two incidents David knows sorrow, anger and revenge, and happiness. Samuel died, perhaps while David was at En Gedi. God's timing was impeccable because Saul had just acknowledged David as the next king. Samuel’s popularity was clearly evident in that the whole nation of Israel assembled at Ramah to honor him at his burial. From here David and his men had traveled to Maon which was in the Judean hill country. There they had been a wall of protection for a man named Nabal’s flocks. Nabal was a very wealthy man but he was not a generous man. When David returned to the neighborhood it was sheep shearing time. That was always a festive occasion, and David hoped that Nabal would reward he and his men for their protection of his flocks. Common courtesy would dictate Nabal invite David and his men to share his food at the feast, but that was not the case. Nabal is described as churlish and evil, and his name means fool. He pretended not to know David and suggested he might be just another run away servant. Nabal’s own men testified about how David had treated them but Nabal had no time for David. Perhaps Nabal was a supporter of Saul. David wrote Psalm 54 at this time.
When David's men returned to him and explained what had happened with Nabal, David was furious. He put on his weapons and ordered his men to do the same. As David was headed towards Nabal's camp, his servants were speaking to Nabal's wife Abigail. They explained the situation and she immediately gathered a generous collection of provisions and headed out to find David. She was the mistress of the house and could distribute provisions as she saw fit. Only the hand of the Lord could have arranged the meeting between Abigail and David. She bowed low to the ground when she came to David and over the course of their conversation, she called David lord 14 times. Abigail admitted her husband was cruel and evil and deserved to be judged but she wanted him to be judged by the Lord and not by David. David honored her request. Abigail was prophetic for David. She reminded him that the Lord had given him a lasting dynasty, so he did not have to fear the future. No matter what Saul tried to do to David the Lord would keep His promises and make David the ruler over Israel. Then David would be glad he hadn't shed blood in order to avenge himself.
Abigail waited to tell Nabal what she had done until he had sobered up. The news so stunned him he had a stroke and lay helpless for ten days and then died. Maybe it was anger or perhaps it was shock at how close he had been to death at David's hand. When David heard the news, he praised God for avenging him and for preventing him from doing it himself. David's concern was the glory of God and the advancing of His kingdom. David was so impressed with Abigail he sent messengers to ask her to be his wife. She was more than happy to marry him and by doing so David took possession of all Nabal's wealth and property which was situated near Hebron, where David would later establish his royal residence.
Saul’s saga is nearly over, and David will finally be installed as Israel's king. But there is still fighting to be done and Philistines to deal with. God is still sovereign and watching over his anointed, David.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W