1 Samuel 24-25: Two Trajectories
May 11, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Saul, back from his pursuit of the Philistines (he has run them off from their raid we presume), starts out again in pursuit of David (24:1-2). It is exhausting work running from God’s purpose—first one way, then another, each equally futile. Saul, in a moment that must have caused great hilarity to all, “relieves himself” in the cave where David and his men are hiding (24:3). The text puts it politely, but Saul was definitely exposed in more way than one. David sneaks up on him, cuts a corner off his robe, discarded to the ground or lying around his feet, and brings it back to show his men (24:4). Suddenly mortified by what he has done, the heart of David is shown again (24:5). He has touched the Lord’s anointed (24:6)! However badly he is being treated, God anointed Saul, and it is up to God to deal with Saul, not David.
David does however confront Saul once again about his behavior (24:8-15). He is, he says, “but a flea” (24:14), so why is he such a threat to Saul? Saul has no real answer, asking plaintively “is that your voice?” (24:16), perhaps unable to believe his eyes, or not wanting to look on him, or the text suggesting a sort of spiritual blindness still on the eyes of Saul. At any rate, somewhere deep down Saul knows that David will have the throne (24:20), as God has promised, and so in this moment of truth-speaking he asks David to protect his progeny (24:21). David promises to do so (24:22). However, David is no fool and realizes that this momentary gentleness does not mean much, so he goes back to the strongholds of Engedi (24:22).
Samuel has died. All Israel mourned the great man of God (25:1). David is still on the run. He comes up with an idea for some extra provision: he has been protecting the shepherds of a very rich man, so it seems appropriate for this man to provide them with nourishment for a feast day (25:4-8). Nabal, however, whose name means fool (25:25), will have none of it. He sends David’s messengers back, and disrespectfully and dangerously suggests that David is disloyal to his master and is not an anointed king in waiting (25:10-11). David cannot allow himself to be treated that way; it undermines his authority and is disrespectful. So David saddles up for war (25:13, 21-22)!
Nabal’s wife, a wise and beautiful woman (25:3), intervenes and pleads for David not to act foolishly (25:23-31). David is grateful for her intervention and relents from his wrath (25:32-35). She goes back and the next day—after Nabal has sobered up from the drinking of the night before—tells him how close he came to death (25:36-37). Nabal has some sort of stroke, and eventually dies (25:37-38).
Throughout it all, God is showing himself as sufficient protector: protecting David against attack from Saul, and against acting unnecessarily aggressively against a fool. David is also showing himself as a worthy king: not striking down the anointed king, and listening to a wise woman to not attack a foolish man. Saul is being revealed as more and more obviously not up to the task, while David is passing each of the tests in front of him.
Observe carefully the two trajectories. The one who trusts in God rises, while the one who attempts to rise in his own eyes falls. The one who follows God’s Word flourishes, while the one who rejects God’s Word diminishes. The one who is humble is exalted, while the one who exalts himself is humbled. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5), as one famous teacher, King David’s Greater Son, taught.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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