Call to Worship October 3 2021

Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 24

David, once again, was being pursued by Saul. Saul selected his choice 3,000 men to hunt for David, and his somewhat ragtag bunch of 600. Saul’s chase ranged far enough south that he needed a pit stop, so he entered a cave for a nature break. Strangely, he chose a cave that David and his men were using for refuge. As they were in the back recesses of the cave, Saul stopped somewhere closer to the front and had no idea who was behind him in the darkness (24:1-3). David’s men saw this as an opportunity to fulfill the Lord’s prophetic blessing for David’s future. So they put the matter in David’s hands. David only cut a piece of Saul’s robe and his conscience was pricked. They did no harm to Saul (24:4-7).

David waited until Saul was out of the cave to make Saul aware of what could have happened. He reminded Saul of his commitment to the LORD and to His anointed and that no sin was committed against Saul (24:8-11). Furthermore, David remembered the LORD would judge between both men and called Saul’s attention to that fact. David then questioned Saul as to the necessity of continuing this senseless chase. What purpose did it serve? Would not the LORD decide between them and deliver David according to His promises (12-15)? In a moment of common-grace lucidity Saul responded with some humility. He recognized his pursuit and position of anger toward David was untenable. The LORD of heaven and earth, covenant God of Israel, had already spoken. David was the chosen king. So Saul appealed for leniency from David concerning his descendants (16-22).

David recognized, by grace, that God’s promise to deliver him from his enemy and install him on the throne of Israel did not specifically state for him to take matters into his own hands. When David was told about the Philistines’ foray of violence against Keilah, he inquired of the LORD regarding his next steps. Then he only attacked upon the command of the LORD (23:1-5). In chapter 24 verse six he remembered God’s covenant to deal with His anointed (vs. 6). So, he did not take Saul’s life; he left him in the hand of God. From this we can learn it is better to follow explicit scriptural commands and recall the promises of God than to deduce from providence a method to interpret your daily actions. David was not perfect at this, but here we see an important context of the Christian life.

We are not infallible interpreters of the grand scheme of the world and most of its daily happenings. So we should primarily focus on the more obvious and explicit offerings of scripture. If we begin to look at every happening around us, thinking we can figure out God’s will of purpose and decree or his personal will for our lives, then trouble is surer to follow than peace. We are more likely to fall into anxiety and depression trying to interpret and control all of our circumstances. Obadiah Sedgwick wrote, “Whatsoever your condition may be, do not afflict yourselves with anxieties, fears, and worries. Instead bless the LORD for what you have, and pray for [what] you lack; then, leave it to God, and so in patience, possess your souls.”[1] We will do well in life if this is one of our main themes.  

Of course this does not mean that we are mentally and physically inactive. It does mean that we follow God’s express commands first and foremost. David did not cower in the cave, but he did not act in presumption either. Even though David had known for a while that Saul’s intentions were evil, he let Saul live, which was a conscious act of will according to God’s word, and then he reminded Saul of God’s word. He expressed his commitment to truth and he had acted in accordance to those truths, even regarding Saul. God would bring about David’s rise to the throne in His time. May we live seeking the right time and the right way to act in accordance with God’s word. May we trust Him to provide for us and control the matters of the universe seeking to follow what is most plain teaching in the Law and Gospel of the Triune God. Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Obadiah Sedgwick, Providence Handled Practically, (Grand Rapids, MI., Reformation Heritage Books, 2007.), pg. 39. Douglas Wilson has some good thoughts on this issue briefly stated in his book Ploducivity. Wilson deals with the issue of anxiety, worry and providence from the context of our work and trusting in the kingship of Christ. He reminds us that all our work is not in vain even when providence around us seems to indicate otherwise. Douglas Wilson, Ploductivity: A Practical Theology of Work and Wealth, (Moscow, ID., Canon Press, 2020.), 95-104. Both Dale Ralph Davis and Gordon Keddie, in their previously mentioned commentaries on 1 Samuel, expound some similar thoughts on being careful in using personal interpretation of providence to direct your action apart from clear scriptural mandate.