Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.
I Samuel 1
1 And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.
2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
3 And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.
4 And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.
5 And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.
6 And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.
7 So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.
8 David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.
9 ¶ And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?
10 Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.
11 Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.
12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
13 As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
14 After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.
15 The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.
16 ¶ And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
17 And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
18 And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not.
19 For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.
20 And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
21 Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
22 And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.
I Samuel 1 – J. Vernon McGee
1 Samuel 24:1-15 – Returning Good for Evil
Engedi is situated on the western shore of the Dead Sea. As Saul entered the cave, a very insidious temptation presented itself to David. Why not rid the kingdom of this cruel and oppressive monarch? Would it not confer a public benefit? Had not Samuel promised David the kingdom? Even if he himself did not strike the blow, why not let his men, who were not so squeamish, do so!But the man of God must not yield to such suggestions. He insisted on waiting the Lord’s own time. He would not anticipate, by a single hour, the fulfillment of the great word on which he had been taught to rest through these weary years. The sensitiveness of his conscience was indicated in his compunction at having cut off a piece of the royal robe.
Never forget that opportunity does not make a wrong thing right. That the ship was waiting to sail to Tarshish did not make it right for Jonah to take passage. Our actions must not be determined by the opening of the door of circumstance, but by conscience, faith, obedience, and the high sense of Christian honor.
I Samuel 24:5—And David’s heart smote him.
It is well to have a tender conscience, and to obey its least monitions, even when men and things militate against it. Here was an opportunity for David and his band to end their wanderings and hardships by one thrust of the spear; but though it was a very small thing that he had done, David was struck with remorse for having taken advantage of Saul’s retirement in the precincts of the cave, where his men and he were hiding, and cut off a piece of his robe.
It was a trifling matter, and yet it seemed dishonoring to God’s anointed king; and as such it hurt David to have done it. We sometimes in conversation and criticism cut off a piece of a man’s character, or influence for good, or standing in the esteem of others. Ought not our heart to smite us for such thoughtless conduct? Ought we not to make confession or reparation?
Circumstances seemed to favor it. Of all the scores of caves in the neighborhood, the king had happened to choose the very one, in the dark recesses of which David and his men were sheltering. What more natural than to obtain some token to convince the king how absolutely he had been in his young rival’s power? But favoring circumstances do not justify an act which is not perfectly healthy and right. Opportunity does not make a wrong thing right.
His men unanimously approved the act, nay; they wanted him to go further. Their standard was a very low one, not only in this case, but in others. How wonderful that David kept such a high ideal amid such comrades! We shall not be judged hereafter by the standard which obtained among our comrades.
1 Samuel 24:16-22 – Kindness Wakens a Better Spirit
David’s noble self-restraint, followed as it was by no less noble words, awoke the best side of Saul’s nature. Chords began to vibrate that had long been silent. The memory of happier days, before their intercourse had become clouded by jealousy and hatred, came trooping back, and Saul was himself again. Indeed, David’s appeal called forth from Saul a confession of his sin; and he went so far as to ask David to spare his house in the coming days, when David would assuredly be king. But, as the sequel proved, this better spirit was but temporary. It was a change of mood, not of will. Let us not form the habit of trusting in our emotional life. Nothing is permanent save the will that is energized by the will of God. Psalm 142 throws a light on David’s state of heart at this period.