David understands that such an action will be great sin in the eyes of God, so instead of removing Saul’s head, he cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. But immediately, following this action, David’s heart troubles him. Why? I believe it is because David senses he has not rightly honored the authority placed in office by the Authority. David has dishonored the king. He has not struck the king’s head, but he has struck the king’s robe, and he has struck the king’s honor, and now his heart now strikes him.
From a human perspective, David has every right to take matters into his own hands. Before him is a wicked man, filled with an evil spirit, hell-bent on doing him harm. Three thousand men are waiting outside the cave to heed Saul’s command to remove David’s head. Yes, at this moment, both justice and prudence seem to demand swift, decisive, and immediate action against the anti-Messiah. Then look at the opportunity provided by God. Saul is alone, in a cave, surrounded by David’s men, in a defenseless posture, relieving himself. It would seem to be a sin to waste such a divinely provided situation. This is surely a golden opportunity never to be offered again. One must “strike while the iron is hot,” for after all “God helps those who help themselves.” (By the way, this statement is not found in Scripture.) From a human perspective, assassinating the king seems to be the wise response.
Then consider the earnest counsel David is receiving from his most trusted advisors. With one voice they say, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give you enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Yes, ending Saul’s life is indeed the popular response.
David’s own heart and flesh must be prompting him in the same direction; for consider the benefits of ending Saul’s life. The anti-Messiah’s reign of terror will be ended. David will receive the throne. Jonathan will no longer be plagued with dual allegiance. The nation of Israel will prosper under righteous rule, and God’s stated desire and end-goal will come to fruition. Yes, this seems to be a win – win – win situation. Defending himself by taking Saul’s life appears to be the pleasurable response.
However, David understands that such an action will be great sin in the eyes of God, so instead of removing Saul’s head, he cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. But immediately, following this action, David’s heart troubles him. Why? I believe it is because David senses he has not rightly honored the authority placed in office by the Authority. David has dishonored the king. He has not struck the king’s head, but he has struck the king’s robe, and he has struck the king’s honor, and now his heart now strikes him.
Therefore, David takes the opportunity to repent and exhort his friends:
He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way. (1 Samuel 24:6-7)
Then consider David’s respectful proclamation before King Saul.
Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? 10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.” (1 Samuel 24:8-15)
David honors Saul with actions, words, and posture. David makes sure his leaders see him honoring the dishonorable one, and the Holy Spirit has made sure we have seen it as well. In this passage we are reminded to show honor to authorities installed by the Authority. We are to do so even when they are wrong, wicked, foolish, and dangerous. As worshipers of Jesus Christ who holds our lives and this world in his hands, we are to show honor even to the dishonorable.
Therefore, children and students, will you show such honor to your parents and teachers? Will you do so even when you think you are in the right and they are so foolishly wrong?
How about it employees? Slaves could not walk away from their place of employment, yet they were reminded of their duty before God to honor their masters. You are one who can leave your employment at any time and find work elsewhere. So while you stay, will you honor the man who takes the risk and writes your paycheck? Will you do so even when most of your friends are encouraging you to do otherwise?
Wives, will you honor the leadership position given by God and granted by you in your marriage vows? Even when you are the righteous one being done wrong by your husband, will you seek a way to worship God by honoring your spouse? Will you still worship Christ and show your confidence in him by giving honor to the dishonorable groom he has sent your way?
Church members, will you submit yourself and honor your elders? By your vote, you “elected” that God “selected” these men to shepherd your souls. Will you make it easy for them to lead you in the paths of righteousness?
Yes, this list can go on and on and on. Athletes should honor their coaches. Coaches should honor referees and officials.
And yes, another devotional thought needs to be written about those in authority being honorable.
However, let us end by focusing on the Christian’s response towards their current governmental leaders. At the present time, we have many in office who resemble King Saul. It is very clear to many of us that the Spirit of God has left these individuals be, and they are running roughshod over the rights of their God-fearing constituents. Should we work to establish better leadership? Absolutely! Should we pray that God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Yes! But as we do so, let us remember to show honor to those God has sovereignly placed in authority. May we be confident in our thinking, bold in our resolution, eager in our desire for church, active in pursuing godly leaders, busy in campaigning, tireless in “getting out the vote,” but let us also be humble and honorable in our actions, words, posture, and thoughts. May our hearts strike us when we honor not those men and women enthroned by the King. May we be people who honor the authorities installed by the Authority until the Authority chooses to grace us with the better leadership we desire.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.