When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, "Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi." Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats' Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him, "Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, 'Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.'" Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe. And afterward David's heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul's robe. He said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed." So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.
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. And David said to Saul, "Why do you listen to the words of men who say, 'Behold, David seeks your harm'? 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.'
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. May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, 'Out of the wicked comes wickedness.' But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! 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."
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. He said to David, "You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 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. 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. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.
1 Samuel 24:1-20
It would have been the kind of story old soldiers love to tell. They must’ve imagined the telling even as the story unfolded. Hidden in a cave, outmanned and out of steam, the army rested out of sight. Then they heard the noise, maybe even a conversation. It was the leader of the enemy. And there he stood, in the cave with them. No one dared speak. No one dared breathe. He couldn’t see them, with the sun at his back and the deep cloak of darkness shrouding them.
Then he put down his weapon and took off his clothes. He was in the cave, where he was sure he was safe. The soldiers wanted to scream. They wanted to attack. “It must be a God thing”, they thought, “him in here with us, unaccompanied and unarmed.” Can you imagine what they imagined? Maybe the thought of holding up Saul’s head on a pike, or making him scream from torture? Victory had been handed to them. “Do it David. He’s ours, then you become king, and we get to go home to tell the story. Do it!”
But David was a man after God’s own heart. And he already knew about the breathtaking wonder of fighting God’s way. He had a Philistine giant’s sword to remind him. God would give him the kingdom, and he would reign as God’s chosen, but it would be on God’s terms and timing. God had promised. This wasn’t it, and he knew it. He cut a piece of the robe from the disrobed king and watched him leave the open trap. And then David confessed.
David called to Saul. The kingdom was the Lord’s, and Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David had been brash and disrespectful even as he had shown mercy. He would not forsake The Lord. David, the humble, soon-to-be ruler, showed honor to the dishonorable king.
And that’s our story to tell. We have been spared by the Son of David. When we deserved death, life was given. When we deserved condemnation, forgiveness came. When we were enemies of God Almighty, Almighty God sent His son to bear the enemies’ torture. God has won our unimaginable victory in a breathtaking way.
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." —Romans 5:6-11