God had put Saul at the mercy of David and, instead of killing him, David successfully proves his innocence to Saul. David was no more willing to kill Saul and take the throne by force than the man in the moon. He was less likely to take revenge or repay evil for evil than an Amish man. The level of patience David had to wait on God’s justice, his trust in God, and his respect for even his worst enemy worked together to humble Saul to the uttermost.
As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” 22 And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. ~1 Samuel 24:16-22
Saul calls David “son.” He cries. He praises David and puts himself down. He simply can’t believe the generosity and righteousness David possessed – even towards him – a wretch. Saul knows David will reign as king. He knows David’s day is surely coming. He even goes so far as to plead for mercy in that day. And then he leaves.
No fighting. No contest. Just like that, Saul quits his most fierce and fervent design and he goes home. Like a neutered dog, David’s amazing love and respect emasculates Saul’s most wanton desires.
Unfortunately, we all know how the story ends for Saul. He ends up committing suicide as he seeks still to murder David. All this proof only added to his fears. All this guilt only served to condemn him in the end. Where did Saul go wrong? I mean, it seemed like he actually got it, at least for a moment here. What’s wrong with this picture?
The problem is not that Saul didn’t know the truth. He knew it well. He even spoke it out of his own mouth. And it wasn’t that Saul wasn’t feeling guilty. He was guilty enough to sob in front of his entire army over his own wretchedness when he saw David’s goodness. He knew David was righteous, innocent, and deserving of the position that he was holding on to. He even knew how much grace and mercy he desperately needed from David in the future. But the real problem had nothing whatsoever to do with what he knew or didn’t know. The problem had everything to do with what he didn’t do with that knowledge.
Saul didn’t surrender his position to David, even though he knew he must. He didn’t prepare for David’s day, even though he knew it was soon coming. Saul did nothing to keep himself from being cut off from blessing and destroyed by God, yet he presumes upon the amazing grace he hopes David will continue to offer. Instead of submitting his crown and resigning to David’s reign, he goes to his own house and, doubtless, throws a pity party for himself.
Jesus’ day is coming, too. I guarantee that no one will be condemned by what they didn’t know. Condemnation will result from that which we did not do with what we did know. Things like refusal to surrender, lack of preparation, presuming upon the grace of God, and refusal to submit and resign to God’s plans in place of our own. We can be a victim and throw pity parties every day here on earth but apart from genuine repentance (turning from sin, not crying in front of other people and feeling bad for ourselves) we will live and die the same fate as Saul. We will self destruct despite God’s repeated examples of undying love, perfect justice, and amazing grace towards us.
Don’t know the gospel. Do it.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ~James 1:22