Opening Prayer

Sovereign Lord, your clocks keep perfect time. Help me to keep the right pace when following your will.

Read 1 SAMUEL 24

David Spares Saul’s Life

24 [a]After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young 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[b] 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.

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 lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

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’? 10 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 lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 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. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 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. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 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.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 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. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

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

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  1. 1 Samuel 24:1 In Hebrew texts 24:1-22 is numbered 24:2-23.
  2. 1 Samuel 24:4 Or “Today the Lord is saying

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’1

Think Further

It can be hard to wait for the fulfillment of what we believe God has promised. It is even more challenging when there is an opportunity to take a short cut. David faces just such an opportunity and it looks like God has finally given him the chance to seize power (v 4). With it would come the end to persecution and the uncertainty of living from pillar to post. David will also make a much better king than Saul, protecting his people.

There is no time to think, Saul will not be in the cave for long and David’s men egg him on. The future king cuts off the edge of Saul’s royal robe as his symbolic claim to the throne,2 yet his conscience bothers him and he stops short of killing Saul. The end cannot justify the means. The Lord anointed Saul and he will have to remove him. God’s gift must be received, not grasped, in his timing and not before. David demonstrates the most important quality a king needs: not to abuse the power he has. His restraint gives Saul the chance to repent. David foreshadows Jesus’ willingness to set aside his privilege for our sake.3

In contrast, Saul cannot let go of power and his own desires and will. For the first time, he acknowledges that David is the better man and that he will be king one day (vs 17,20), but the tears Saul sheds are of anguish, not true repentance. Even now, his action is about self-preservation, asking David not to eliminate his family (v 21). He cannot stand aside and let go of what he wants, though in the end his grasping will destroy him. His story is the fate of humanity seizing the forbidden fruit,4 taking what God did not give (or, here, what God has taken away).


Lord, teach us to know when to move and when to wait. Help us to trust your will and timing.

Closing prayer

Dear God, waiting is hard, grasping what I want is so tempting. Forgive me Lord for times when I have run ahead of you and your will for me.

Prov 3:5,6 David G Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, Apollos, 2009, p257 Phil 2:5–8 Gen 3:6

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Last Updated on November 8, 2022 by kingstar

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