Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? 10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 15 May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.” ~1 Samuel 24:8-15
Notice how David speaks to Saul. Twice he addresses him as “my lord,” once as “the Lord’s anointed,” and once as “my father.” Knowing full well that Saul’s personal ambition is to kill him in cold blood, David even goes so far as to remove Saul’s guilt by suggesting that other men have convinced him to hunt him down as prey. The respect David is paying to his enemy is nothing short of amazing. Only grace can teach us to do the same.
Next, notice how David avoids guilt as well as taking revenge upon such a wicked man. Four times he cites “the Lord” and he quotes scripture once. Clearly, David is relying on God and His Word in this – his greatest provocation – and, in turn, God gives him the wisdom and strength not to forsake biblical truth in the middle of it.
Finally, notice how David speaks of himself when addressing his enemy. “After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea!” David makes himself nothing in the eyes of one who is extremely insecure about his own identity.
David could have killed Saul. He could have kept hiding. He even could have pretended not to see Saul when God placed him right in front of his face. But David had a purpose in what he did and what he said. He had a reason to approach this man and speak to him honestly. David sought to win Saul, prove his own innocence, and be reconciled in peace and unity as God would desire of him.
I fear we, as Christians, have much to learn from David’s approach in regards to winning those who oppose us – those who oppose God. It comes down to the three fail-safe principles that David used here:
1. Respect your enemies as fellow human beings.
2. Trust God and His Word no matter how you’re treated by other human beings.
3. Humble yourself and consider yourself no better than any other human being.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. ~1 Peter 3:13-17
“Though the dog bark at the sheep, the sheep does not bark at the dog.” ~Matthew Henry