“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. 4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said[b] to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 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.” 1 Samuel 24.1-7
David was honorable. When given an opportunity to kill his enemy Saul, he let him go free. He did not attack Saul when given the chance and honored the Lord by upholding God’s anointed king.
David was on the run in En Gedi, the Spring (or Crag) of the Wild Goats. I’ve traveled to this oasis in the wilderness of Judah multiple times and find it both inspiring and intriguing. It’s a valley with high cliffs and a natural spring of fresh water running down the middle. It forms multiplied pools and water falls. It’s surrounded by a desert and very close to the Dead Sea. En Gedi is not only where David went to hide from Saul but it’s also the location where he wrote many of the Psalms. It’s also the home to many wild goats who skirt the cliffs edge with impressive ability.
So David and his men (all 600 of them) were hiding in a deep cave. Saul is chasing David and has brought three thousand men to pursue and kill him. Saul just so happens to stop in the very cave where David is hiding to go to the restroom. Awkward. Upon seeing him David’s men encourage him to kill Saul. David crept “up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.” Shortly after he does this, David feels guilty about shaming God’s anointed king and says, ‘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.’ He then rebukes his men and does not allow them to attack and kill Saul. The text tells us that “Saul left the cave and went on his way.”
David could have easily killed Saul while he was using the restroom but only cuts off a corner of his robe. He shows honor by not killing the king but dishonor by shaming him by cutting off a portion of his robe. What an impossible situation to be placed in. Did God bring Saul into the cave so David could kill him or so that David could be tested? It would have been so simple to kill Saul, assume the throne, and begin his reign. But it wasn’t David’s time to rule. David did the correct thing in not killing Saul but allowing him to return to his men unharmed.
Discernment is not easy to come by. It must be given by the Lord and sometimes it takes trial and error to know which is the correct path to take. Sometimes we find wisdom in the counsel of others and sometimes they lead us astray. Only by listening to the Lord, honoring him with our lives, reading his word and abiding by His Holy Spirit can we truly make decisions that bring honor and glory to God.
“O Lord God, you are good. David’s story is one about honoring you. He knows he will be made king one day but to assume the throne prematurely would not be good. God has a plan and a place in store for each of us and his mercies are new every morning. Come now, Holy Spirit, help us walk with you in holiness and truth. Help us learn from David, a man after your heart, and discern the right path in which to walk. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen