Love Your Enemies

I Samuel 24

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
December 2020

Today, we come to a chapter that is extremely practical and relevant to the days in which we live.  It is also one of the strangest chapters in the Bible.  It requires a viewer warning, because of the content.  You are going to hear some things today that you have never heard in church, but everything here actually happened.

The chapters we have been looking at have focused on two men – Saul and David.  Saul was the king.  David was his son-in-law.  King Saul became jealous of his son-in-law and his jealousy turned into hared.  Hatred turned into violence.

Saul hated David so much that he wanted to kill him and tried to kill him kill David.  He tried every day.  He tried all kinds of different ways, but each time he was unsuccessful.  This time, he gets lucky.  He gets a lead.  He gets some intelligence.

He finds out where David is hiding, and he travels thirty miles to get him and he brings three thousand soldiers with him.  David only had six hundred men.  Saul not only knows exactly where he is, but he brings five times more troops against him.  David is now cornered and completely outnumbered.  The two have a confrontation near a cave in a place called En Gedi

It is an area in Judah that is on the west shore of the Dead Sea.  It is called Ein Gedi today.  Some locals there think they know the exact cave where it took place.  A lot of visitors go to En Gedi.[1]  A lot of tourists go there today.

There are a lot of caves there and there is some fresh water there.  It is an oasis.  There are a lot of mountain springs there.  It has become a nature reserve, sanctuary for various species of plants, birds, and animals.

Saul and David meet face-to-face.  They have a special encounter but even this does not work.  David survives again by the sovereignty of God, because nature calls.  In I Samuel 24, Saul has to go to the bathroom.  It is one of the funniest stories in the Bible.  How would you like to have a chapter in the Bible about you going to the bathroom?  That would be embarrassing.

After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 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. 3 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. (I Samuel 24:1-3 NIV)

This is interesting.  Saul comes after David with three thousand men.  He has him cornered.  It looks like David does not stand a chance.  Then, nature calls.  The Bible says that he had “to relieve himself” (I Samuel 24:3 NIV, ESV).

The Hebrew says that he covered his feet.  Most modern translations say something else.  The KJV is the only translation that follows the Hebrew literally. What does that mean?  Does it mean that his feet were cold, and he had to cover them?  Some seem to think so.

Gene Getz is a famous Christian writer.  He is a good writer.  He has written more than sixty books.  He is a former Dallas Seminary professor.  He is about ninety years old today.  He has written books on many bible characters.  He wrote a book on David and said that David went into this cave to go to take a nap.[2]  That is what it means to cover your feet.  When you sleep, you usually cover your feet.

The problem is that this is not what it means in the Hebrew.  In Hebrew, it means to take a dump.  It is a euphemism for pooping.  Saul needed to take a pit stop.  He is outside.  There were not a lot of restrooms around three thousand years ago, so Saul used a cave as an outhouse.  It is private.  It is secluded.  He probably did not bring any reading material because these caves are dark.

It just so happens to go into the very cave where David and his men were hiding.  Some of these caves in the area were huge.   They were gigantic.  Apparently, David and his men are in the back.  This shows the complete sovereignty of God.

Saul walks into a cave. David and his men can’t believe what they were seeing.  The first thing they probably said was “holy crap” (because they saw a king was taking care of business).  He is alone.  He is weak.  He is defenseless.  He is vulnerable.  The king has his pants down, squatting in a cave, sitting on his throne, taking care of business.

They told David, “Now is your chance.  You have the perfect opportunity to take out this deranged, demonized psycho king.  God has delivered Saul into your hands.  Let King Saul die in the bathroom like Elvis the King did.”

That is what it looked like on the outside.  Saul has been trying really hard to kill David.  He has tried fifteen or sixteen times, but he was not successful.  David has NOT been trying to kill Saul but then Saul just shows up.  He appears out of nowhere unexpectedly and now David has a chance to kill him.  It sure looked like God was delivering Saul into David’s hands He already gave David the promise that he would be the next king.  David’s men told him to do it.

David walks up behind him very slowly.  The text says, “Then David crept up UNNOTICED” (I Samuel 24:4 NIV).  How do you do that?  David would have made a good ninja.  How could someone walk up behind you while you were going to the bathroom, cut something off of your clothes without you noticing it?

Wouldn’t you hear the person coming up behind you or feel your clothes being cut up?  The truth is that Saul may have laid his royal robe down before he went to the bathroom.  He probably was not wearing it while was taking care of business.

David walked close to Saul with his weapon in hand very quietly and then did something unusual.  Instead of killing him, he just off part of his robe.  Why didn’t he kill him?  We don’t know. He may have changed his mind.  He may not have wanted to kill the dad of his best friend (Jonathon) and his wife (Michal).

After he did it, something happened.  David felt guilty.  The Bible says that his heart smote him.  Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. (I Samuel 24:5 NIV).  David didn’t hurt Saul physically at all.

He did NOT lay a hand on him, but his heart smote him.  David just cut off a little piece of cloth from a garment and he felt terrible.  He had a tender conscience.

That is one of the reasons he was a man after God’s own heart, not because he did not sin but when he sinned, he had a tender conscience.  He felt bad about his sin.

David did not do a big sin.  Does that ever happen to us?  Some people do big sins and their conscience doesn’t seem to bother them.  David did a little sin and his conscience bothered him.  What type of person are we?  What kind of conscience do we have?

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.” 7 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. (I Samuel 24:6-7 NIV)

Five Powerful Life Principles

What does this say to us today?  It is a great story in Scripture but how does it apply to us today?  Let me point out five very important applications from this chapter for today.  Let’s look at five principles.  Each of these five principles contradict what the world says today.

PRINCIPLE ONE: When someone wrongs you, do not respond in kind.

The first principle has to do with FORGIVENESS.  All of us have been wronged by someone.  We have been hurt by someone.  Some people have been mistreated and even abused by people.  How do we respond?

Saul treated David horribly.  Many people today treat other people terribly.  Some professing Christians treat other Christians badly.  David does not respond in kind.  When Saul tries to kill David.  David does not say, “I am going to kill Saul. I am going to get him back.  I am going to make him pay.”

David does not repay evil with evil.  He repays evil with good.  David had a huge problem.  The most powerful man in the country is trying to kill David.  He is not safe.  He is one the run.  He constantly has to move around.  He is tired.  He is hungry.  He can’t be with his wife.  He can’t be with his family. Now he has the perfect opportunity to kill Saul.

One single thrust of the spear and his troubles would be over.  He would be able to get rid of the problem.  He would not have to sleep in a cave anymore. [3] He could kill him and assume the throne.  He does not do that.  He does not treat Saul the way he treated him.  What David does here anticipate what the NT teaches thousands of years later.

Do not repay ANYONE evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18 NIV)

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21 NIV)

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:9 NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV)

Saul has been trying to kill David.  Now David gets a chance to kill Saul.  In fact, he gets two chances to kill Saul.  He gets a chance to kill Saul in I Samuel 24 and he gets a chance to kill him in I Samuel 26.  Both times he doesn’t kill him.

Are we like David?  Do we forgive people who sin against us?  It does not come natural to us.  Jesus calls us to a life of forgiveness.  He calls us to live the opposite of the way the world lives.

PRINCIPLE TWO: When the perfect opportunity to take revenge on your worst enemy arises, don’t take it.

The second principle has to do with REVENGE.  It has to do with taking matters into your own hands.  Revenge comes natural to us.  When someone hurts you, you want to hurt them back.  You want to make them pay.  Society tells us it is okay.  “Don’t get mad.  Get even” is the moto.

If you don’t respond that way, you are just weak.  You don’t have any backbone.  There are all kinds of movies about people getting revenge.  It makes really good entertainment for men, at least.  Men like a good martial arts movie.  Women do not usually like those kinds of movies.

What the Bible says is completely counter-cultural.  It is not what we want to do.  It is not what society tells us to do.  It is not what David’s own men advised him to do.  The Bible calls us to not act naturally but to act supernaturally.  The Bible says to leave revenge to God.  He will repay.  He can always repay a lot better than we can.

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NIV).

That is not just a NT teaching.  It comes right out of the OT.  Paul is quoting the OT (Deuteronomy 32:35).  This teaching runs all through the Bible.

PRINCIPLE THREE: When people over you are in a position of God-given authority, treat them with respect

This principle is also in direct contradiction to what the world teaches.  What do we hear in the world?  We hear people say to question authority and to reject authority.

Don’t trust your parents.  Don’t trust the church.  Don’t trust the police.  Don’t trust your government.  Don’t trust the president.  One sign of false teachers is that they “reject authority” (Jude 8).  It is one of the signs of the last days.

That is exactly what we see today.  People hate the police.  They want to defund them.  They hate the president.  They say “Hashtag, Not My President.”  They are part of the resistance.  They hate him, speak evil of him.  They mock him.  They tried to impeach him.  Even the press today shows no respect for the office of the presidency.

Another thing that we are told in the world is that respect is earned.  It is not given.  You aren’t obliged to respect someone, if you feel the person don’t deserve it.  That is not what David believed.  Saul did not deserve to be respected.  He did not earn respect, but David respected him anyway.  We could learn something from this.

Why did David respect him?  He respected him because he was the Lord’s Anointed.  He respected him because of his office.  He respected him because of his position as the theocratic king.

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.” (I Samuel 24:6 NIV)

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.’ (I Samuel 24:10 NIV)

The world teaches that if a leader is evil and you don’t like him, you can get rid of him.  You can assassinate him.  That is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer tries to do.  David respected the office, even though he did not respect the man in that office.  Saul was unworthy of the office.

What would we say today?  I know what I would have said.  I would have said, “God may have put you in that office, but he has rejected you as king.  Therefore, I do not accept you as my king.  If God rejects you, I reject you.  You are an illegitimate king.  You are a wicked king.”

How does this apply today?  We don’t have kings and none of our leaders are anointed with oil by some prophet.  They are still to be treated with respect.  I Peter 2:17 says “Honor the emperor” and in Peter’s day, the emperor was not a Christian.  He was a pagan emperor who worshipped idols. Even secular governments are ordained by God (Romans 13:1).

PRINCIPLE FOUR: When you are trying to do something, make sure you do it the right way.

The world teaches that the ends justifies the means.  If the outcomes is good, then you can take any measures to achieve that outcome.  The Bible does not teach that philosophy (cf. Romans 3:8).

David does not do that here.  David was told by God that he would be the next king, but he did not believe in any means to get the throne.  He did not believe that gave him the right to assassinate King Saul.

Saul was completely mad.  He was crazy.  He was a psycho king.  He was unstable.  He was violent.  He was demonized.  He sinned against God.  God even rejected him.

The Holy Spirit left him, but he was still chosen by God.  He was still anointed to be king.  He still functioned in that position as king by God’s sovereignty. The only person who could remove Saul was God.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: When you forgive someone, do not put yourself in danger.

That is one of the myths about forgiveness.  When you forgive someone, you give up resentment and bitterness.  You give up revenge, but you do not have to voluntarily put yourself in danger.  David does not do that here.

What happens after Saul walks out of the cave?  David calls his name.  He bows down to the ground.  He gives him respect.  He calls him “my lord.”  He tells him what he could have done but did not do, even though he was encouraged to do it.  He showed the proof.  He tells him that he has done nothing wrong against Saul and has not tried to rebel against him and says, “Let God be the judge between us.”

What does Saul do?  How does he respond?  He weeps.  He admits he has sinned against David.  He admits that David is more righteous that he is.  He asks God to reward him.  He says that he knows that one day he will be king.  They make an oath and then they leave but notice the last verse in the chapter.

So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, BUT David and his men went up to the stronghold. (I Samuel 25:22 NIV).

That is strange.  Saul wept.  He admitted he was wrong.  He admitted David was right.  He made an oath.  It looks like they patched up all of their differences but David still stayed in the stronghold.  He did not go home to his wife.  He did not go home where he was close to Saul.  Why?

David was not naïve.  He did not trust Saul.  He done this kind of thing before.  He made promises before and then he went right back to doing what he did before, so he wisely kept his distance from Saul.  He made some boundaries.  Sometimes, we have to go to the stronghold.  Forgiving people does not mean that you necessarily have to go back into an abusive relationship.

Four Signs of True Repentance

There are many people today who are just like Saul.  This raises a good question.  When someone says that they are sorry, how do you know if they really are?  What does true repentance look like?  What does false repentance look like?  How can you tell the difference?

1) True repentance leads to a changed life

It bears some real fruit (Matthew 3:7-10).  False repentance does not lead to a changed life.  Many people claim to repent.  They claim to be Christians but there is no change in their life.  True repentance involves confessing AND forsaking sin (Proverbs 28:13)

2) True repentance results in a change on the inside and on the outside

False repentance results in only an outward change.  Saul got emotional.  He wept.  He displayed some tears, but he only changed on the outside.  False repentance is only external.

3) True repentance hates sin

False repentance hates the consequences of sin.  People with a false repentance are not sorry they sinned.  When many politicians are caught in a scandal, they say that they are sorry but what they really mean is that they are sorry they got caught.

4) True repentance acknowledges sin without qualification

False repentance always minimizes sin or justifies it.  False repentance acknowledges sin but blame others for it. They will say, like Saul did, “I have sinned but” (I Samuel 15:24-25).  True repentance takes full accountability for what was done.


[2] Getz, Gene A. Men of Character: David (p. 115). B & H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] William Hixson, I Samuel 24 (Spoken Recording).

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