Mercy or Vengeance – In human depravity, justifiably you plunge in the knife. In Christ, you say, ‘Father, forgive them. They just don’t know what they are doing.’ Which do you do? It’s all according to how badly you want God, how badly you want God’s mercy, and how badly you want all God has for you.
DAVID THE KING
By Delbert Young
Mercy or Vengeance
Mercy or Vengeance
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 23:14, 1 Samuel 24:2-4, 1 Samuel 24:4, 1 Samuel 24:5, 1 Samuel 24:6, Luke 17:2-3, Job 5:2, 1 Samuel 24:7, Proverbs 16:7,1 Samuel 24:8-9, (TMB) 1 Samuel 24:16-22
1 Samuel 23:14 And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And SAUL SOUGHT HIM EVERY DAY, but God delivered him not into his hand.
Saul tried to destroy David every day. Have you ever lived in “survival mode?” It seemed someone was dogging you, wanting to destroy you every day. Were you thinking mercy or vengeance? What if every day there was a new attempt to destroy you. It’s a bad and stressful way to live. What’s the way we respond? Should we try to destroy them before they get us? What’s not only the godly thing to do, but the best thing to do to survive? We can learn from David how to respond in the correct way. Is it Mercy or Vengeance?
David moved from the barrenness of Adullam and lived in the wilderness caves of Engedi with several hundred loyal people who loved and respected David. Engedi is a series of limestone cliffs David used for his refuge in those days. It’s an oasis of fresh water. God will move us from barrenness to oasis when he is our refuge. Engedi sort of sounds like what a church should be – a place of refuge from those things out to destroy us providing us with fresh living water. David was dwelling at an Oasis and Saul was consumed with David and hunting David every day. Already, we should see something. While your enemy is consumed with hate for you, you go on and enjoy the oasis of life with the people who love and want to be with you.
1 Samuel 24:2-4 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. 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. The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands FOR YOU TO DEAL WITH AS YOU WISH.'” Then David crept up unnoticed….
We need to envision the picture? Saul is leading 3,000 soldiers. He needs to seriously go to the men’s room and “relieve himself.” Saul stoped his army, dismounts his mule, explains his need for privacy, and goes into a cave to relieve himself. He obviously faces the light of the entrance of the cave with his back to the darkness and prepares himself. He is oblivious to the men in the dark, lining the walls of the cave behind him only yards away. It’s truly being “caught with your pants down.” No one wants the person who loves them the most in the world to see them in this position, much less wants their enemy to see them in this position.
Remember, David and his men have been training to fight and kill. Their minds say attack and kill! They say to David, “This is the Lord’s will. He said, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands FOR YOU TO DEAL WITH AS YOU WISH.” To them, that meant kill Saul.
Charles Swindoll, in his book Man of Passion and Destiny, David, wrote “If you ever want to test the carnality of a person, ask him (or her) what you should do when your enemy is vulnerable. Unless they are men or women of God, they’ll tell you to strike every time.”
What would you say? Your enemy is vulnerable. He or she is in an extremely compromised position. God has them there for you to deal with as you will. What would you do? David’s men said get em.’ Was it going to be mercy or vengeance?
I get amazed at Christians interpreting their will as God’s will. They say, “Well, this happened and that happened, so it must be God’s will.” Is it really?
David drew his knife and began silently moving toward Saul. Widened eyes watched to witness the knife slice and slit Saul’s throat, or plung into Saul’s body. Ears listened to hear Saul gasp and take his last breath.
Have you ever had someone who cared for and loved you come speaking about someone who was hunting you? It was a vulnerable time. You were free to attack. It seemed like you should. Your news bearer anticipated your sticking and thrusting the knife into your enemy. Their eyes waited to see and their ears anticipated your plunging in the knife. This is your moment. Get em.’ What did you do? What do most people do? Is it mercy or vengeance?
1 Samuel 24:4 …Then David crept up unnoticed AND CUT OFF A CORNER OF SAUL’S ROBE.
Cut off a corner of Saul’s robe!??? That’s it? It must have been a sharp knife, for Saul had no clue. David crept backward into the darkness of the cave holding the piece of Saul’s robe. David’s men COULD NOT BELIEVE what they saw. They thought he did too little. David knew he did too much. David’s heart did not reflect their hearts. Does your heart reflect the heart of most people, or the heart of God? Is it mercy or vengeance?
I want to give us a few lessons from David about handling those out to get you.
(1) David’s conscience struck him. It didn’t only “convict” David. David knew his doing “just a little” was wrong.
1 Samuel 24:5 AFTERWARD, DAVID WAS CONSCIENCE-STRICKEN for having cut off a corner of his robe.
The KJ version says, “…David’s heart smote him.” What? Why? It was just a little piece of Saul’s robe. We say, “I just said a little about him/her. It was just a little piece of what I could have done. I could have cut their throat and taken his/her head off, but I just said a little piece.”
After you said “just a little piece,” how did you feel? I can’t tell you the times I have done this. I knew better. I determined not to say a thing, but I caught myself seeing how by assassinating a little piece of a person’s character was assassinating the person. When I do this, it only takes a moment for my heart to smite me. I walk away from the ungodly conversation with my conscience asking me, “Why did you say that? You know better. The Lord is not happy with you right now.” So I ask, “What does my cutting off just a little display about my heart?” It displays much. Was it mercy or vengeance?
I know exactly what David felt when the Bible says, “David’s heart smote him.” I hope your heart smote you too. If not, then you have a hard heart and a seared conscience. You’ve been slicing up people too much and too long. You really need the Holy Spirit to circumcise your heart. David’s conscience struck him. We all must decide if we are living in mercy or vengeance.
(2) David focused on the LORD, not the person’s actions.
1 Samuel 24:6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”
“…The anointed of the Lord”? There are many terms of endearment David could have used to describe Saul – idiot, lunatic, maniac, etc. Instead, he referenced him only as a child of God – someone the LORD was working with. “The anointed of the Lord” means God is using the person for something special.
David focused on the LORD, not Saul. “The LORD forbid…” “…the LORD’S anointed.” “…the anointed of the LORD.” When we are frightened, upset, and angry, it’s difficult to remember the person targeting us is a child of God. Even if they are not a “church goer,” God still loves them. Jesus said…
Luke 17:2-3 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck than to face the punishment in store for harming one of these little ones. I am warning you!
Millstones are not small. They weigh hundreds of pounds and crush grain by simply rolling over the grain. Having it tied around your neck and thrown into the sea is better than harming someone. Do we believe that? See, it always comes back to mercy or vengeance.
Job 5:2 Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.
Resentment and vengeance fixes our attention at life’s ugliest. Will rehearsing and reliving hurts and anger make us a better person? It’s foolish and simple minded to fix our attention there.
David forgave and forgave and forgave Saul. Over and over David found some reason to forgive Saul. But, isn’t this God’s heart, right? How many times has God forgiven you or me? Remember though, forgiving is not excusing. God’s not done with your enemy yet. Their pulse is proof God is not done with them yet. He or she may be out of God’s will, but not out of God’s reach. You honor God when you act like God. The bottom line is if we want forgiveness, we must forgive (Mat 6:14-15).
David focused on the LORD, not on Saul’s actions. If David wanted God’s mercy, David must give God’s mercy. Would it be Mercy or Vengeance?
(3) David rebuked those who wanted to hurt others.
1 Samuel 24:7 WITH THESE WORDS DAVID REBUKED HIS MEN AND DID NOT ALLOW THEM TO ATTACK SAUL. And Saul left the cave and went his way.
The word translated rebuked is the Hebrew word shaca` meaning to split or tear. David tore his men apart with his words.
How do you feel when you have been blasting someone and the person you are talking to says something like, “I’m not going to talk about them”? Don’t you feel rebuked – torn apart? Usually we “craw fish” backwards, apologize saying something like, “Oh, I’m not talking about them.” Yes we were! What we should say is, “Yes, you are right! Forgive me. Thank you for tearing me apart.”
We need to not only keep our knives in its sheath, but rebuke those who want to stab others and I mean tear them apart. We have a tendency to stand by and watch people butcher others – with their tongues. We wouldn’t do this in the natural. Imagine someone slaughtering someone an you simply stood by and observed. Why do we allow it in the spiritual? David rebuked those who wanted to assassinate others. He tore them up!
Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.
It doesn’t say the Lord makes them like each other and be best of friends. It simply says HIS ENEMIES (you will have enemies) will LIVE AT PEACE with him. They leave you alone and you leave them alone. You can enjoy your life not consumed by them.
Saul finished his business and went his way. Next verse…
1 Samuel 24:8-9 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’?
I like when “Saul looked behind him.” I love to look behind me and see where people and God gave me mercy or vengeance. David allowed Saul to leave the cave, but not too far. I am sure Saul was closer to David and his men than to Saul’s soldiers in case this backfired on David. David told Saul people were not saying the truth concerning David’s wanting to harm him. Here is the proof, the piece of Saul’s robe. Had David wanted to harm Saul, he had his chance. I imagine Saul grabbing his robe to see if what David was holding was from his robe. It was! David did say a few choice things to Saul such as, I’m not a dog or a flee. God will decide between you and me. I wish he would do it right now, etc. I mentioned that to show you David wasn’t all peaches and cream about Saul. David had issues with Saul too. David was not trying to “kiss up.” He was letting Saul know it was mercy or vengeance and David selected mercy.
(TMB) 1 Samuel 24:16-22 When David had finished saying all this, Saul said, “Can this be the voice of my son David?” and he wept in loud sobs. “YOU’RE THE ONE IN THE RIGHT, NOT ME,” he continued. “You’ve heaped good on me; I’ve dumped evil on you. And now you’ve done it again—treated me generously. God put me in your hands and you didn’t kill me. Why? When a man meets his enemy, does he send him down the road with a blessing? [how would Jesus answer that?] May God give you a bonus of blessings for what you’ve done for me today! I KNOW NOW BEYOND DOUBT THAT YOU WILL RULE AS KING. The kingdom of Israel is already in your grasp! Now promise me under God that you will not kill off my family or wipe my name off the books.” David promised Saul. Then Saul went home and David and his men went up to their wilderness refuge.
“I know now beyond doubt that you will rule as king.” Saul said this event proved to him who David really was – God’s anointed. How you handle your enemy proves who you are in God.
When we are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even our enemies live in peace with us. So, someone did you wrong. Imagine that! Now what? Cut their throat? Stab them in the back? No. Don’t take vengeance when you have the chance to cut their throat or stab them in the back. Don’t kill their children by stabbing them. We forget about the innocent during vengeful times. Everyone will know you could have hurt them, but didn’t, especially God. At some point, maybe alone in bed at night, they will say, “He/she treated me generously. They are a better person than I.” Maybe, in their way, they will say, “May God give you a bonus blessing for not taking me out when you had the chance.”
David didn’t go back with Saul. He knew Saul too well and though Saul was in his right mind now, tomorrow, again, Saul will be dominated by the evil spirit and try to kill David. David did not avoid the issue that Saul was after him, but he did avoid Saul. That’s the way to handle it. Forgiveness is not foolishness. You can forgive, but keep your distance. Give the child molester a second chance, but keep him or her off the playground.
David went to the refuge. Forgiveness is to move on in God’s refuge and God’s plan for you. Saul went back to his torment.
Revenge has three steps. First, we are injured. Saul injured David in every way possible. Second is vulnerability. Your enemy will one day become vulnerable. You will have the opportunity to plunge in the knife. Third is revenge. In human depravity, justifiably, you plunge in the knife. In Christ, you say, “Father, forgive them. They just don’t know what they are doing.” Which do you do? Let me tell you which you do. It’s all according to how badly you want God, how badly you want God’s mercy, and how badly you want what God has for you.
Let me end with this. You will never regret not stabbing someone who deserves it. You will never regret forgiving someone who does not deserve forgiving. When that happens, your conscience smiles and you hear the Lord say, “I am proud of you! You are acting like me, your Father.” Welcome your conscience striking you. Focus on pleasing the Lord, not on the person’s actions. Rebuke those who assassinate others. You will find yourself becoming a man or woman after God’s own heart!
Other Related Sermons:
Charles Swindoll, A Man of Passion and & Destiny, David; p 84