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A wicked king and his righteous servant

By Scott Tibbs, January 9, 2013

I Samuel chapters 23 and 24 provide a fascinating look at wicked King Saul and his righteous servant David, who would eventually be king of Israel - something that provides lessons for us.

First, David hears that the Philistines are attacking the Israelite city of Keilah, and he goes to the rescue, routing the Philistine army and inflicting heavy losses. David is on the run from King Saul (who is unjustly seeking David's life) and is under no obligation to do this, but he loves God's people and does it anyway.

The one who should be doing this is King Saul, who is charged with protecting Israel against her enemies. Not only does Saul not fulfill his duty as king, he only goes to Keilah when he hears that David is there, to murder him. David discovers Saul is coming and it is revealed to him that the men of the city will hand him over to Saul - even though he had just saved the city from the Philistines.

In rescuing Keilah and in the aftermath, David shows great faith. First, he trusts that God will deliver the victory to him. Then, even though he is about to be betrayed, he simply leaves the city rather than expose them to a siege by the wicked king. He refuses to take his vengeance on the men of Keilah. This is in stark contrast to the paranoid Saul, who mercilessly slaughtered an entire city in the previous chapter because they had assisted David.

It is this backstory that makes David's actions in chapter 24 so striking. King Saul has murdered an entire city in his paranoia, did not come to the aid of another city being attacked by Israel's enemies, and instead marched on that city to get at David. Saul has been seeking to murder David for some time. David, though, refuses to kill Saul when Saul is within his grasp, because for all of Saul's wickedness he is still the Lord's anointed.

In doing this, David provides a lesson for us in dealing with authority when that authority is acting like a tyrant. David does not blindly submit to Saul's unjust pursuit of him and allow Saul to kill him, but he will not raise his hand against Saul. David resisted the unjust orders of a bad king while still respecting his position as king. As Christians, we are not to blindly follow a civil authority when that authority is unjust, but we are to respect that authority.

David trusted God's promise that he would eventually be king, and refused to grab the power for himself. Eventually, David was rewarded for his faith, as he became king of Israel. David, of course, was a flawed man, as he showed by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband to cover it up. But his life shows us many things that we can emulate in our own lives.