Dozens of pairs of eyes peered through the dusty gloom at the rear of the cavern. Like wide-eyed owls they anxiously watched the cave entrance, where only minutes before a breathless sentry had rushed in to announce that hostile troops were nearby.
David, a hunted man along with his followers, was confident that they were all hidden from danger. Then they heard the sound of voices, hoofbeats and tramping feet. Soldiers came into view, passing by the mouth of the cave. Alarmed, the hiding fugitives saw the troop column come to a halt, right outside the entrance.
They would be trapped if they were discovered! What if cave bats were disturbed and flew out in alarm? What if a rock was dislodged and the sound echoed outside?
Then they saw the robed figure of King Saul silhouetted against the entrance as he walked into the cave, feeling his way through the gloom. Laying aside his garments, he attended to toilet.
With bated breath and pounding hearts, the hiding men were frozen, afraid that even the a lightest sound, a sneeze, cough or hiccup, would become a cavernous echo and expose them (I Sam. 24:1-3). As David watched King Saul, his mind may well have flashed back over the years reminding him of this king that had troubled him. His thoughts might have gone back to boyhood days when he tended his father’s sheep.
AN EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE
It began like any ordinary day. By the time the sun rose over the hills of Moab, David was on his way to lead a flock of sheep to pastures laden with dew. As the day wore on, he took time out to play his harp.
Suddenly, a servant burst upon the peaceful, pastoral scene with the news that the prophet Samuel had arrived at Bethlehem, and that Samuel had refused to east the hastily prepared banquet until the shepherd boy also joined the guests. Never before had David been sent for like this! Till then he had been just the “lad who kept the sheep.” What a pleasure to think that the great prophet Samuel wouldn’t eat until David also sat down.
Excited, David left his sheep to run full-speed home, anxious to see up close this holy man of God.
David was shocked when the prophet took a vial of oil, poured it over his head and said God had directed him anoint David the next King of Israel.
To be King! Strange, because the next day he went back to sheepherding, and stayed there until King Saul requested he come to the royal court as a musician. David thought this must be God’s way of training him, introducing him to the ways of the royal court.
And when Saul promoted him to commander of the army he was sure Samuel’s prophetic anointing was being revealed. What success he enjoyed – too much! He became compared in glory with the King. Things went badly after that. One day he was demoted to captain, without explanation. Even so, he still tried hard to be a good servant. Then Saul offered David his daughter, Merab, in marriage. Now he was sure this was how God was working out his ascension to the throne. He would be son-in-law to the king! But at the final moment before the marriage, Saul switched brides! He gave David his other daughter, Michal. At least Michal loved him. They married, but, again, things went awry. Michal warned him of assassination plans and he barely escaped one night by her lowering him from an upper window.
For years David’s life amounted to being chased from one stronghold to another, betrayed by informers, sought by bounty hunters. Then, just today, David’s scouts alerted him of Saul’s bodyguard marching nearby. He decided to hide in the cave and carefully covered all telltale footprints. He thought Saul would surely pass on by.
But would you believe it? Here was the king now in the cave! When would God work out His promise? Did God intend David to take over by force?
GOD TESTS DAVID
David’s reminiscing was interrupted by a nudge in his side and voices whispering: “Now is your chance, kill him! God has delivered him to you.
With his mind dwelling on the hurts this king had done to him, David instinctively clasped his dagger, crawled toward Saul’s laid-aside clothes and sliced off a piece of the royal robe (I Sam. 24:4). Just then the king stood up, retrieved his garments and walked out of the cave. David’s troops sighed with relief but also expressed frustration: “You had him. God delivered him to you and you let him go.”
Was this a godly test to see whether David would take things into his own hands? Even though his counselors urged him to strike. David had reservations. It didn’t seem right that the man God had chosen as king could be removed by any means other than God’s doing.
David even repented of disrespectfully damaging the king’s garment (v. 5). But he was frustrated from trying to convince Saul that he meant him no harm. Saul frequently behaved in a demented way now, and the king could not seem to understand that David was not a competitor for the throne.
It seemed to David that there was a time for courage, and a time to flee. With King Saul against him, he sought refuge in the wilderness (I Sam. 25:1).
Saul’s army was encamped near David’s new hiding place, a mountain retreat. High on a ridge, David watched Saul’s men make camp, the king’s royal tent protectively placed in the middle of his troops (I Sam. 26:1-5).
David announced to his men: “I’m going down there. Who will come with me?” Abishai volunteered. Together they crept down to Saul’s camp late that night (vs. 6-7).
Unbeknownst to them, God had prepared another test for David. He had caused a deep sleep to come upon the entire camp (v. 12). On finding the sleeping Saul, David was faced with the choice whether to solve his problems his human way, or to wait on God.
Again, David felt a nudge in his side and heard a voice: “Let me kill him. God has delivered him into your hand.” It must have seemed natural and lawful to Abishai that David should take the life of the man so infatuated with David’s destruction. And if David was squeamish about it, why object to Abishai doing it? Abishai was not personally concerned with their feud, and surely God’s will was being revealed (v. 8).
But God was testing David to see whether he’d usurp godly authority. God had placed Saul in a vulnerable position. He had decreed David to be Saul’s successor. But when? And how?
David passed the test. He refused to stoop to assassination. He refused the opportunity to pull the rug out from under his boss’s feet. He refused the argument that rebellion in God’s name is justified (v. 9). David summarized his thoughts this way: “Either he will fall off his horse, get sick, die of old age or die in war. Whatever way it happens, God forbid that it be by my hand” (vs. 10-11).
Here the future king of Israel proved to God that he would not usurp godly authority, no matter how seemingly unjust was the exercise of that authority over him. He would not retaliate or avenge his wrong. He refused to accept the tempting argument that opportunity meant permission. He quieted his frustrations and elected to wait on the slow unfolding of divine purpose.
David had come to see that he could not secure the kingdom by his own hand. God has promised and God had to perform. Whenever the moment came for him to sit on the throne, it would from a divine act.
We can learn much from David’s patient waiting on God. In our modern age of military coups and overthrows, Christians must avoid taking part in any acts of rebellion or conspiracy. If getting your way results in a battlefield of slain, wounded or hurt people, then you cannot biblically claim to be fulfilling God’s will.
David didn’t always wait on God. A dark side to David’s life emerges in II Samuel 11. Verse 1 says it was “at the time when kings go out to battle.” But David hadn’t gone! He was back in Jerusalem with idle time on his hands, eyeing another man’s wife. He was allowing an evil thought to enter his mind, adultery.
What was God’s will for David at this stage of his life? Certainly not the breaking of God’s law. But David did break it. Bathsheba’s pregnancy forced him to either seek God’s will and solution or take matters into his own hands. He opted to work matters out himself. He tried to cover up his sin, failed and then resorted to murder.
What could David have done? His could have explored his lawful options. He was king. If his current six wives weren’t enough, he had the power as king to have more. But taking another man’s wife was sin. He could have disclosed the problem to Uriah who, as an honorable, loyal man, might well have sought to protect the king’s reputation. Or, best of all, he could have repented and trusted God to preserve him as king. But he didn’t. Caught up in adultery, he resorted to another sin, murder.
Oh, yes, it solved the problem and made marriage to Bathsheba possible. But adultery and murder are not God’s ways. And though David got what he wanted, he also got more than he bargained for, a stiff penalty that would impact his family forever: “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house” (v. 10).
You can gain physical rewards in this life by unlawful means. But it is the reward of righteousness that will endure eternally. How, then, does a person come to know God’s will?
You are not left to grope in the dark. God wants you to know His will (Rom. 12:2). You need to ask God to reveal His will, and then in faith wait for Him to show you through these ways:
(1) Through Scripture, discover your lawful options. The Bible is a God-inspired handbook by which you can establish your life (II Tim. 3:16). A study of God’s Word will show you God’s mind and teaching. You might want to use a concordance or topical Bible to easily study all the scriptures on a particular topic. Put all the relevant scriptures together for a balanced, godly view.
(2) Through an ordained minister of God, seek godly lawful advice. A true ministry has been established by Jesus Christ to help perfect and guide true Christians (Eph. 4:11-12). For personal advice and needs, it is helpful to counsel with a man of God.
Be sure that any person teaching you from the Word of God does so faithfully and not deceitfully (II Cor. 4:1-2). Scripture warns of some who minister for physical rewards, or for power over the flock (Ezk. 34:2-4).
True servants of God do not promote their own opinions, prejudices, philosophies or solutions: rather, God’s ministers seek the Father’s will – as did Jesus Christ.
(3) Through prayer, seek God’s direct answer. God’s will in your life in personal matters may be revealed through answers to your prayers. He can convict your mind, open or close doors and work out circumstances. Be careful, though. Some people make decisions based on what they erroneously believe are signs from God. Before buying a car or home, or changing a job, some request a sign, like the sun shining through on a rainy day, an unexpected smile on a grouchy face or any number of other physical coincidences.
These signs can be misleading, even irrelevant to God’s purpose for you. On the other hand, they may turn out to be the confirmation you wanted. How do you discern the difference? Heed scriptural warnings of evil forces with the power to perform signs and miracles (Matt. 24:24). You would not want to be misled. Be sure that your decisions are based on the provable Word of God and sound, wise counsel.
Once you have discerned God’s will, act on it. Do not let fear or indecision hold you back. If you have studied God’s Word and found that what you want is within His law, if you have counseled with God’s ministry, if you have prayed for God’s direction and inspiration, you can have confidence that God will back you.
Learning God’s will requires submission to His laws and to His government. Often it requires the sacrifice of some desires, and lots of patience. David learned to depend upon God as his deliverer. He knew God’s will can only be accomplished His way and by His timetable.
In Psalm 27:14, David gave this positive encouragement: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”