David looked over his shoulder. His men were hungry and ragged, battle weary and frightened. He didn’t blame them. The wilderness of Maon was sparse and desolate, with little cover. The only safe time to move forward was under cover of night, and hope they would make it to a safe hiding place before dawn. The final day of the chase had been the most brutal and harrowing of David’s life. They were scrambling up the east side of the mountain and could hear the enemy closing in. David hoped and prayed that they would be able to find a cave on the other side of the ridge, allowing Saul to overtake them before they doubled back. But no such cave existed. At the final turn they reached a sharp ledge. It was too steep for them to climb down. The ground reverberated with the sound of the footfall of 3000 men. David turned to his men, and saw the way their chests heaved from the exertion of running up a mountain that had turned into a death trap. The sound of the approaching army was deafening, and the ground was shaking under foot. “We will stand and fight”, David said. The men nodded, and formed a protective circle around David. David faltered. The faces of his men’s wives and children flashed before his eyes. The burden of their lives crashed his heart and made him feel physically sick. “It is too much, Lord, I cannot win this battle.”
The noise stopped. A voice yelled out, a responding murmur, and then the sound of footfalls began again, but inexplicably becoming fainter, not louder. A few men quickly glanced to David, who gave a sharp shake of his head. They stood, holding position and listened as the noise grew fainter, and fainter, and finally could no longer be heard. David signaled for one of the smaller boys to investigate. The boy ran off and came back within minutes gasping ‘They have retreated! They are gone!” The men gave a cheer, and slapped each other on the back. David fell to his knees and prayed. That was too close, Lord, he thought, and stood up. There was no time for complacency; they must find shelter.
David stared at the figure of his pursuer. Saul had ducked into the cave for some privacy and had no idea that just feet away, hidden in the shadows, was the man he had been relentlessly pursuing. David felt cold sweat run down his neck and his hands felt clammy. It would only take a moment to plunge his sword into the exposed skin at the back of Saul’s neck, push downwards and pierce his heart. This man had hunted David relentlessly for three years, but when David looked at him, all he could see was the mighty King of Israel who had taken him in and loved him as a son. He remembered the days in the palace, the when Saul’s face would light up every time David met him. Saul had taught him how to fight, to lead an army, read an enemy’s intention and plan a counter attack. David, who had never been able to compete with his six older brother’s for his father’s attention, focused all his attention and might into making his King proud. But then something changed. David had wracked his brain night after night, trying to work out when and how he had lost the King’s favour. All he knew was that now he was running for his life, pursued by the man who had been a hero in his eyes. He didn’t want to spend his days running and hiding and fighting. Anger flickered behind his eyes and he felt the muscles in his shoulders tighten. Innocent people were suffering because of the King’s vendetta against him. Their borders were unprotected, farms were being razed to the ground, and priests had been killed all because of the bitterness and petty jealousy of one man. Such a man does not deserve to live, David thought as he raised his sword…
The men watched David as he walked back towards them, white as a ghost and eyes like thunder. “Is it done, my lord?” one asked. “The Lord forbid that a King should die at our hands”, David murmured and lay down with his back to his men. In his hand he turned over a piece of cloth that he had cut from the cloak of his King and enemy.
2 Samuel 23:24-29 and 24:1-22
“And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer” 1 Samuel 16:21
“And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they ascribe thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom. And Saul eyed David from that day on.” 1 Samuel 18:8
“David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life” 1 Samuel 23:15
Saul’s role in David’s life had changed from father-figure, mentor and hero to enemy, pursuer and persecutor. Broken relationships can cause great pain, but with pain always comes a choice; whether to hold on to the pain, and allow bitterness to fester, or to grieve and move forward. Are there relationships in your past that you need to grieve and let go? Is there bitterness in your heart that needs to be released?
“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.” Psalm 59:1-2
“They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!” Psalm 57:6-7.
Seventy four of the one hundred and fifty psalms are ascribed to David, and in them we are given a window into David’s soul and the anguish he experienced when being pursued by Saul. What is interesting is that David took his emotions, his hurt, grief and frustration to God. David did not feel the need to edit or hide his feelings before God, but used prayer and worship as a means of processing the emotions that afflicted him during his time in The Waiting Place. Do you find it difficult to be open and raw before God? Why or why not?
“Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Nairoth” 1 Samuel 19:18
When someone who is close to us breaks our trust and actively seeks to cause us harm or distress; it is sometimes necessary to put distance between ourselves and that person. When David’s life was in danger he left the situation and sought help and guidance from a trusted friend. Is there someone in your life that is actively seeking to cause you harm? Do you need to distance yourself from that person for a time and seek wise counsel? Who could you seek wise counsel from?
“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” 1 Samuel 24:11.
“In your anger, do not sin…” Ephesians 4:26
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
If you were given the opportunity to seek revenge on the person who is persecuting you, would you do it? If the tables suddenly turned, and you held the upper hand, would you make them pay for what they had done for you? How do you respond to David’s decision to spare Saul’s life?
As we have discovered through this blog series, not all Waiting Places are the same. Some are a voluntary exile due to something in our past that we feel we cannot overcome. Some are a prison of injustice that we cannot escape. This week the Waiting Place is perhaps the most sinister of all; when we are thrust into The Waiting Place because someone is actively working against us to prevent us from achieving our full potential. It could be a sneer or snigger when you share your hopes and dreams with another person. It could be the lack of support and encouragement from someone whose respect and support you crave. Sometimes words from our past can bounce around in our consciousness, ‘You’ll never make it, you’re a failure, you’re stupid, lazy, and incompetent, there is nothing special or remarkable about you, why even try, you’ll only be laughed at?’ Sometimes because of jealousy and spite, small minded people may start spreading rumours about you, openly ridiculing you, trying to get you in trouble with your boss, sabotage your efforts and may even attempt to recruit people to join them in their nastiness. Perhaps it is someone who takes a stand against you and publicly attacks your character, relationships, business or integrity. There are people in the world who hate to see others succeed, who invest their time and energy into criticising and ridiculing those who are actively trying to make a difference in the world. The world is full of cynics, and they choke the life out of many dreamers. How many dreamers have been lost to The Waiting Place, because they have allowed the Sauls in their life overtake them and kill their dreams? How many of these dreamers then turn into Sauls, themselves becoming consumed by bitterness? When we are fleeing from the Sauls in our lives, it is easy to feel as if we have no control over the situation, but no matter the situation, we always have a choice on how we react and act. We can choose to protect our dream. To continue to pursue it, even if it is delayed, ridiculed and attacked. Most importantly, we can choose how we respond to Saul. David chose mercy over revenge, and consequently kept his soul sweet and his eyes on what mattered. Revenge is a temptation of distracted focus. We cannot put all our energy and passion into pursuing God’s call for us, if we are distracted by the pursuit of revenge. Notice the steps that David took in dealing with Saul: he put boundaries on the relationship, protecting himself from harm; he sought wisdom and support from safe people; he took his anger, fear, grief and pain directly to God, and refused to give into revenge and bitterness, but instead chose grace mercy. One day, you will walk out of The Waiting Place, but it is the choices you made during that time which is determine if you walk out as a David, or as a Saul.