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1 Samuel 21-24

Lawrence Boadt provides this summary of this section of 1 Samuel….
Saul proves himself a valiant warrior and manages to rescue the Israelites of Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonite army, and to win a number of battles against the Philistines, but he never manages to gain that final victory he needs to unite Israel. Meanwhile his own moody, rash temperament and lack of organizational ability become his undoing. He turns Samuel against him by his arrogance, he almost executes his own son Jonathan because of a rash oath he took, and he persecutes his own most promising young follower, David. This proves to be a fatal mistake. David first appears as a young aide of Saul’s, his armor bearer and musician. David quickly reveals that he has both a winning personality and great skill as a warrior. He kills the Philistine hero Goliath with a slingshot in a single combat. This makes David very popular with the people, and provokes Saul to rages of envy. As 1 Samuel 18:7 puts it: “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands!” Saul becomes the victim of black moods and violent rages, mostly directed against David.
The second half of the book, 1 Samuel 16-31, traces David’s rise to power as Saul’s fortunes decline. Samuel transfers his blessing and anointing from Saul to David; as a result, David is forced to flee. At the same time he begins to build his own power base in the desert areas of Judah, even serving as a mercenary army leader for the Philistine king of Gath. But he does protect the southern tribes from desert raids and from Philistine attacks while making his Philistine overlord think that he is completely loyal to him. Meanwhile Saul wastes his resources and energy searching for David while the Philistines regroup their forces.[1]
In 1 Samuel 21-24 we see the cleverness of David, acting like a crazy person in the presence of King Achish of Gath in order to convince the king that he is not a threat. David must have been quite an actor! We also see David making strategic and compassionate moves such as harboring his father and mother with the king of Moab. One wonders how David pulled off that alliance. We also see David’s compassion expressed to Abiathar, the son of the high priest Ahimelech who is slain, along with 84 other priests by Saul’s henchman Doeg. David takes personal responsibility for this disaster because it was his visit to Ahimilech that led to the high priests' undoing.
This time of hiding out in the rocky desert areas of Palestine is what leads David to view God as his rock of protection and to write so many eloquent psalms on this subject. We have already seen David’s musical ability expressed in playing the lyre for Saul. Obviously, David was talented enough to write lyrics as well. Perhaps his writing of poetry served as a source of comfort during this difficult time. As C. S. Lewis once said, ink is a drug for writers.
David also had the comfort of Jonathan who came to visit him in the desert (1 Samuel 23:16 ff.). Jonathan was certainly risking his own life by going to visit David like this. We read that Jonathan strengthened David’s hand through the Lord. Sometimes even the greatest leaders need the encouragement of other human beings. Once again, at this time, David and Jonathan renewed their covenant with one another. Still, we are not told the nature of this covenant.
Finally, in 1 Samuel 24, we see the great respect that David shows to “the Lord’s anointed”. He refuses to kill Saul when he has the chance, despite the urging of his followers. David refuses to take this step because he believes that Saul is still God’s anointed king over Israel and therefore only God can take Saul out of that position. Certainly, in David, we see something of what it means to love one’s enemies.
C. S. Lewis has this to say on the subject….
We must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves—to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.
I admit this means loving people who have nothing lovable about them. But then, has oneself anything lovable about it? You love it simply because it is yourself. God intends us to love all selves in the same way and for the same reason: but He has given us the sum ready worked out in our own case to show us how it works. We have then to go on and apply the rule to all the other selves. Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves. For really there is nothing else in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco.[2]
It is quite striking that Lewis would write these words and speak them over BBC Radio to over 600,000 of his fellow British subjects during World War II when England, naturally, wanted to do everything to destroy its enemy, Germany. It is truly hard in such situations to love one’s enemy. Lewis suggested that for him it would be as hard as giving up beer or tobacco, two things that he loved. 

A sidelight on this: J. R. R. Tolkien once commented in a letter to his son, Christopher, that he found it humorous that the Daily Telegraph had referred to Lewis as "ascetic". Tolkien then said, "I ask you! He put away three pints in a very short session this morning, and said he was 'going short for Lent'." (Letter of J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter #56, p. 68.)
Getting back to the topic at hand, loving our enemies: we should not be surprised when we find it difficult. Jesus knows how difficult it is for he had to love his enemies as well. Furthermore, Jesus can enable us to love our enemies if we ask for his help.

[1] Boadt, Reading the Old Testament, 229-230
[2] Mere Christianity


Ron Whitney said…
We used this lesson about David and Saul from 1 Samuel 24 to illustrate self-control as a part of our "Fruit of the Spirit" series. You'll find it here:

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