The relentless pursuit of growth

1 Samuel 24:1-15 SCC 3/29/15


In chapter 23, Saul seems to have David within his grasp. He is closing in on David when a messenger informs him that Israel is under attack, forcing Saul to give up his pursuit of David to engage the Philistines. We do not know how Saul fares in his confrontation with the Philistines, but we do know he returns in one piece, just as zealous to capture David. Someone has informed Saul that David is now in the wilderness of Engedi. The incident recorded in this chapter concerns cutting off v 4-5, 11, and 21. David had the opportunity and received encouragement to cut off Saulís life but chose to cut off only his robe hem. He ended up promising not to cut off Saulís descendants and name.



1. Saul pursued David with 3,000 of his finest soldiers, which gave him a five-to-one advantage over David, who had only 600 men v 1-2. There, Saul discovered a sheepfold that evidently encircled the mouth of one of the caves in those limestone hills v 3. The king entered the cave to relieve himself unaware of the mortal danger in which he was placing himself because David and his men were hiding in the recesses of the cave.


2. Davidís men interpreted Saulís vulnerable position as a divine provision whereby David could free himself from his enemy v 4. There is no record in the text that God had indeed told David what they said He had. He may have told David that he would overcome his enemy, but certainly He had not given David permission to assassinate His anointed, King Saul. Davidís advisers seem to have been resorting to pious language to urge David to follow their counsel.


3. A prophecy is recited to David in v 4. In the light of Davidís response, one must come to one of several choices. First, one might say this is a false prophecy, which should be rejected 1 Kgs 22. Second, this may be a prophecy related to someone (some enemy) other than Saul, and wrongly applied to Saul by Davidís men. Third, this prophecy may be genuine and related to Saul, but wrongly interpreted and applied by Davidís men.

PT: We must always evaluate the advice of friends in the light of Godís Word even when they claim divine authority. Their counsel moved David to take some action against Saul, which he soon regretted.

By cutting off this piece of Saulís robe David suggested that he could cut off Saulís reign just as easily. His act constituted mild rebellion against Saulís authority.


4. Almost immediately David realized that his clever trick was inappropriate v 5. Since Saul was the king, David had no right to tamper with his clothing. Furthermore, David realized that any attempt to take the kingdom from Saul, as he had taken the symbol of that kingdom, was contrary to Godís will. Since Saul was Godís anointed v 6 it was Godís place to remove him, not Davidís. In todayís terms, David might have slashed the tires on Saulís car. It is something like vandalism.

PT: David was acknowledging the Lordís sovereignty by submitting to His authority in setting Saul up as king. David refused to take revenge for the trouble that Saul had caused him.



1. By addressing Saul as his lord v 8, his king v 8, and his father v 11:

(1) David expressed respect (my Lord) submission (my King), and affection (my Father). David prostrates and bows to the ground.

(2) David called on the Lord to judge (respond to his actions) and to avenge (reward David for his dealings with Saul; v 12 and 15.

(3) He promised that he would not usurp Godís role by judging Saul or by rewarding him in kind for his evil deeds v 13.

(4) He may have compared himself to a dead dog and a single flea v 14 to help Saul realize that he viewed himself as harmless and insignificant, beneath Saulís dignity to pursue.

(5) David also voiced his reliance on God to defend and save him v 15.


2. The object lesson that David presented to Saul had a double application v 11:

First, David proved that he was not trying to kill Saul, because Saul was the Lordís anointed.

Second, he showed that it was inappropriate for Saul to seek to kill him because he, too, was the Lordís anointed. David modeled for Saul what the kingís dealings with him should have been. He appeals to the king to set aside the things others have told him, to listen to his words, to compare them with his actions, and then to judge his guilt or innocence for himself.

PT: Our tendency can be to say, Ďleave it alone. Itíll all work out.í But David didnít leave it alone. He addressed the injustice of the situation. The truth matters.



1. Davidís words and actions convicted Saul of his actions v 16, and the king wept tears of remorse.

(1) For the first time recorded in Scripture, Saul owns up to the truth of his own wickedness v 17-19. He referred to David as his ďsonĒ v 16, as David had earlier called Saul his ďfatherĒ v 11. Saul confessed Davidís superior righteousness v 17 and goodness v 18. Here was his chance to give it all up and wrap his arms around David. Instead he leaves having to admit his own selfishness and heartlessness.

(2) Saul even called on the Lord to reward David with blessing for his treatment of the king v 19. Saul acknowledges that God is taking his kingdom away from him and giving it to David v 20. He admits that Davidís ascent to the throne is a certainty. Saul then confessed Davidís ultimate succession to the throne of Israel was inevitable.

(3) Saul asked David not to cut off his descendants when he came to power v 21. It was customary for a new king to kill all the descendants of the ruler whom he replaced. This prevented them from rising up and reestablishing the dead kingís dynasty. David had already promised Jonathan that he would not kill his descendants, and he now made the same promise to Saul v 22. To cut off someoneís name meant to obliterate the memory of him. David even agreed to spare Saulís reputation in Israel.


NB: Saulís remorse was evidently genuine, but David had learned that it would probably be only temporary. Consequently when Saul departed and returned to Gibeah, David again sought protection in ďthe stronghold,Ē probably one of the refuges near Engedi v 22. All of this is the result of Saul looking for a pit stop, and finding it in the very cave where David and his men ďjust happenedĒ to be hiding.


The first factor in spiritual leadership is the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is one of the principle factors in Davidís thinking about leadership as well. God sovereignly raised up Saul as Israelís king. David believes it is God who will remove Saul and that this is not his task.

The second factor in spiritual leadership is suffering. From the time David is anointed king to the time he is appointed king, David endures a great deal of suffering. Most of his suffering comes from the hand of Saul. Davidís ascent to the throne is not in spite of his suffering, but by means of it. Suffering is the means by which God prepares David for leadership. Davidís men are tempting him to shortcut his sufferings and to hasten his rule as king by killing Saul.

The third factor in spiritual leadership is servanthood. Saul is, in a sense, Davidís enemy, and God has put his life in Davidís hands. But David believes that in order to do what is good in his sight, he will have to serve Saul, not slay him. And in order to serve Saul, he will have to endanger his own life.

So What?

1. We have to deal with the common temptation to get even. David began by threatening the king.

2. Instead we must temper our need for justice by trusting God and not retaliating.

3. We should allow God, in His own way and time, to secure what God has promised us. David let God determine how and when he would become king.

4. God rewards us with a clear conscience and peaceful spirit free of stress. God rewarded David for his trust and obedience by giving him a peaceful conscience immediately and safety from Saul.