How Do We Treat Our Enemies?

Visiting En-gedi in 2010 and the cave where David and his men hid.


1Sam. 24:1 ¶ When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.”
1Sam. 24:2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.
1Sam. 24:3 He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, 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.
1Sam. 24:4 The men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.
1Sam. 24:5 Afterward David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.
1Sam. 24:6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the LORD’S anointed.”
1Sam. 24:7 So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way.

1Sam. 24:8 ¶ Afterwards David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
1Sam. 24:9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm’?
1Sam. 24:10 This very day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you into my hand in the cave; and some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.’
1Sam. 24:11 See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life.
1Sam. 24:12 May the LORD judge between me and you! May the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.
1Sam. 24:13 As the ancient proverb says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you.
1Sam. 24:14 Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea?
1Sam. 24:15 May the LORD therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.”

1Sam. 24:16 ¶ When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Saul lifted up his voice and wept.
1Sam. 24:17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.
1Sam. 24:18 Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands.
1Sam. 24:19 For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.
1Sam. 24:20 Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.
1Sam. 24:21 Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.”
1Sam. 24:22 So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.


This is such an interesting story from the Old Testament.  David is in a situation where he could have easily killed Saul, and yet he chooses not to.  Although he knows the man is determined to kill him, he continues to have respect for who he is and the position that he holds.  When Saul discovers that David has spared him, he is overwhelmed and realizes that David is more righteous than he is and that he has repaid evil with good.  Saul turns and leaves David and his men. 


David's response found here in this scripture is not typical for that day.  Normally one would have killed Saul and his men.  Instead, David brings about a foreshadowing of the new kingdom which will be ushered in with Jesus Christ.  David was a man after God's own heart and therefore in his behaviors and responses we see glimpses of the future coming Messiah.  Jesus would come later and preach peace; and love of enemies. 

The United States has had a very difficult week.  The bombings in Boston have left us staggering with grief and wondering what is in store for the future, not just of the US but for the world.  How do we, as ordinary Christ-followers, respond to the tragedies around us?  We may find ourselves on the run like David, and yet, even when his enemy continued in pursuit, David did not change his character.  He continued to call on God and ask God for guidance.  Instead of simply reacting in the corner of a dark cave where no one would have seen his actions, he chose to be faithful to God and to respect his leader.  His action was not destructive, but was life-giving.  We know the end of the story and Saul does eventually die, but not at the hand of David. 

As hard as it may seem we must seek the face of God in the midst of these tragedies. Not only in these tragedies but in the face of others who may be enemies to us in this world.  This may be right here on a daily basis in our personal lives.  We must ask God to give us leadership and guidance in our response.  We may need to show grace to some whom we feel have wronged us.  This is because we are ambassadors of his kingdom, the new kingdom in which Christ reigns supreme and no enemy can ultimately be the victor!  Jesus is already victorious and we are on his team.  So, how do I treat my enemy?  It seems that Jesus faced his silently and on a cross.  May God help us.


Lord, please help me to love those who would believe they are my enemies.  Amen.


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