In this part, we looked at the first of two opportunities that David has to take Saul’s life. This is in 1 Samuel 24. Before we went there, we backtracked just a little bit because I believe the Holy Spirit gave me deeper understanding on something we discussed a while back.
In 1 Samuel 9:16, where Saul is about to be anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s first king, his purpose is stated. Previously we stated that his purpose was to destroy the Philistines. Technically, though, he was not destined to destroy the Philistines, but to “deliver my people from the hand” of the Philistines. There is a subtle, but important, difference. To deliver from the hand is more a defensive or reactive action. When you examine Saul’s life as king, you find that he never initiates conflict with the Philistines. He either reacts in defense of Israel when they are attacked or joins in the fight already started by his son Jonathan.
This is not only in line with his purpose as king but also with his being a type and picture of the Law. The Law was never intended to defeat sin. It was a defense against it until grace, the power to defeat sin, came. King David, the picture of grace, defeated Philistines everywhere he went. In fact, when we look at his appearance on the scene, we find Saul and his army powerless against Goliath. David shows up, goes on the attack and is victorious.
Law cannot defeat sin. Trying to make yourself not sin does not help you overcome it (though that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to have a little self-control). Only grace operating on the inside of you can change your heart so that you no longer desire to sin. Law is a defensive tool, and grace is an offensive weapon against sin.
There are 3 reasons law seeks to destroy grace. The first is jealousy. We have discussed this quite a bit. Law is jealous of what grace can do. The second is that law thinks grace is undoing all its hard work. The third is the opposite point of view on how to deal with sin. Law thinks grace is dangerous.
Now, let’s get to 1 Samuel 24. In verse two, it says that Saul was pursuing David with 3000 men. The number 3000, especially in relation to law and grace, is important. In Exodus 32:28, just after the giving of the 10 Commandments, 3000 people die. In Acts 2:41, when the Holy Spirit filled those in the upper room, Peter preached his first “Spirit-filled” sermon and 3000 people were born again – or received eternal life. Both events happened on the “Day of Pentecost.” In Exodus, that feast had not yet been established, but we can trace the day to 50 days after the first “Passover” as they were set free from Egypt. Of course, the coming of the Holy Spirit also happened on that 50th day after the true Passover Lamb was slain. The coming of the Holy Spirit was the true completion of Christ’s work. His death, burial and resurrection paved the way for the Holy Spirit to be able to come in power upon all believers. It is the sealing of the Covenant of Grace. In 2 Corinthians 3:3 and 3:6, the Law is called a ministry of death and the Spirit a ministry of life. What amazing pictures the Lord paints for us!
In 1 Samuel 24:2 it says that Saul is looking for David in the “Crags of Wild Goats.” Remember that Saul was a donkey herder. God saw that His people were stubborn and needed someone accustomed to dealing with donkeys. Goats are much like donkeys in their stubbornness. They require strict boundaries – i.e. LAW. David, the one who was a shepherd, was hidden in the caves along the way where the sheep grazed. Sheep are not stubborn but know the voice of their shepherd and obey. Grace leads sheep. We know His voice and do not need to be ruled by lists of rules, but His voice. These caves are where the sheep would be hidden to protect them when predators were near. This is also where Saul goes to “relieve himself.”
In 1 Samuel 24:4 David’s men tell him that Saul coming into this cave is confirmation that God was delivering his enemy into his hands. This is a great example of why it is so important to hear from God and not men. His men were getting it all wrong. First of all, the “enemy” God spoke of was not Saul, but the Philistines. Second, David was not called to destroy Saul. David sneaks up and cuts a corner off of Saul’s robe. A king’s robe was an extension of themselves. It was also symbolic of their victories. When a king conquered another king, it was common to take a piece of the robe of the defeated king and attach it to his robe, thereby growing the “train” of his robe. This is why the train of God’s robe fills the temple. He has been victorious over ALL!
Immediately after doing, so David is “conscience stricken” (verse 5). He realizes he had declared before Saul and God that he would never harm Saul, even though Saul was trying to kill him. His guilty conscience did what it is supposed to do and can do only under grace – deal with the problem. A guilty conscience, under law, will bring condemnation and separation. Law-mindedness would have cause David to declare he was no longer worthy to be king. Grace says your mistakes do not cost you your future – not if we bring them to God. David ends up apologizing for this in the end.
Hebrews 9:14 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from a guilty conscience. Hebrews 10:22 says much the same. Grace does not cleanse us from the need of a conscience all together, just a guilty conscience. Grace leads us to bring our failures to God, not hide in fear and condemnation. This is a hallmark of David’s life. He deals with his failures head-on before God and finds grace and mercy. Just as Saul did not provoke attack against the Philistines, David never attacks Saul. He continued to serve a king who wanted to kill him. Meanwhile, he continued destroying Philistines.
In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus talks about how He did not come to destroy the Law, but fulfill it. David did not destroy Saul, but served him faithfully (with Saul as a picture of the Law). Going on, Jesus says that not one “jot or tittle” of the law would pass away until all is fulfilled. The law-minded like to point to these words directly from Jesus as evidence that we must still uphold the Law. What is missed is the fact that He said that it was until all was fulfilled. He had just stated that He came to fulfill the law. He is saying this before He had finished that work. Praise God, He DID fulfill all the righteous requirements of the Law. The law is there for instructions about how to interact in life, but it does not rule us any more. He did what we could not. He delivered us from the ministry of death! Don’t ever let your failures disqualify you from your purpose. Continue to run to God with your failures and see what He will do with your life.