Not long ago, I was listening to an interview with an actor who had to play a truly despicable character. When asked if it was hard to play the role, the actor said, “What you have to do to play guys like this, is you have to figure out what, in their minds, makes them believe they are right. Figure out what twisted sense of justice drives them, and you can get inside their heads.”
Imagine you’re King Saul today as you read these verses. Not David. Saul. What, in his mind, justifies his venom? Maybe that’s not hard for you to do. Maybe you carry the burden of failing to live up to your calling. Maybe you feel you’ve been cut out of a deal that should have paid off for you. Maybe you are at war with God in your heart because you feel He owes you something, or has withheld something, or has favored someone else instead of you.
Candidly, I have been Saul in this passage many times—lashing out at others because there is a war in my heart against God. Can you relate?
Saul’s commitment to kill David had become so resolute that David had to go into hiding. His mighty men went with him. There were times when Saul got close enough to David that David’s men wanted to take the fight to Saul and end it, but David wouldn’t let them. As far as David was concerned, Saul, for all his venom, was still the king the Lord anointed over Israel. Who was David to depose God’s anointed one? (1 Samuel 24:1-7).
On this one occasion, though, David and his men came closer to Saul than he ever could have dreamed. Saul ducked into the very cave where David and his men were hiding. David’s men wanted to kill Saul, but David forbade it. Instead, he snuck over and cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.
When Saul stepped out into the daylight from the mouth of the cave he heard a familiar voice, “My Lord the King!” Saul spun around. David emerged from the darkness holding up the corner of Saul’s robe. He had spared the king, and Saul knew it (1 Samuel 24:16-22). Mercy for the bloodthirsty. David also promised to show mercy to Saul’s family when he became king.
The text describing this moment shows that Saul understood he had become David’s new Goliath. He knew the story was already written. He knew he would fall. And he knew that this was never really a fight against David. What must have chilled him even more was that he knew David knew this too. Saul’s fight was with the Lord. David rested in that. Saul could not. For the rest of his days, he wrestled with this.
My question for us all today is simple: where in our lives are we locked in a fight with God like Saul? The promise of the gospel is that for those whose faith is in Christ, there is only mercy. So why do I still fight? Why do you?