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1 Samuel 26, the Reward of the Righteous – West Palm Beach Church of Christ


David continues to remain in the wilderness. In the past two lessons we noted the parallels to the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. The picture presented is that the anointed must go to the wilderness for a time of trial. David is enduring his time of trial right now. Saul continues to seek his life even though he learned that David was not trying to kill him (24:16-22). But Saul has been pictured as resisting the will and purpose of the Lord for the majority of his reign. Saul is the kind of king that the people wanted but not the kind of king that reflected the glory of God.

As 1 Samuel 26 opens we see David again betrayed by his own. The people of Ziph come to Saul in Gibeah and tell him where David is hiding. Yet again Saul gathers 3000 men to hunt for David. Before Saul can find David, David sends out spies and find Saul’s camp. So David takes some men and goes to where Saul is encamped. Saul was sleeping in the encampment with his army encamped around him. David asks two of his men who will go with him down into the camp to Saul. This is definitely a dangerous idea and a dangerous mission. Abishai, the brother of Joab, volunteers to go with David into the camp. So David and Abishai went to the camp at night where they see Saul sleeping with Abner and the soldiers sleeping in a ring around Saul. It is interesting to note that Saul has his spear stuck in the ground near his head. We have seen Saul constantly holding his spear even when in Gibeah, depicting the paranoia Saul has about someone trying to kill him.

What a moment to find Saul and his soldiers all asleep! Abishai tells David that God has given his enemy into his hand. Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear. He won’t have to strike him twice. This sounds very familiar to what we saw in 1 Samuel 24. Saul is going to the bathroom in the very cave where David and his men are hiding. One of David’s men says the same thing. The Lord has given Saul into your hand (24:4). At that time, David almost takes Saul’s life. He cuts Saul’s robe and then immediately regrets it because it is symbolic of seizing the kingdom from Saul. So now the same temptation is presented before David. The Lord has given your enemy into your hand.

But David has learned from his last experience. David tells Abishai in verses 9-11 to not put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Notice the faith that David now has. In verse 10 he says that the Lord will strike down Saul or his day will come when he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. Saul will die for what he is doing at some point. But notice verse 11: David will not be the one to raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed. David completely trusts in God now and has learned obedience through all he has suffered. But David is going to make a point to Saul. David and Abishai go into the camp and take Saul’s spear and water jar. They sneak back out of the camp completely unnoticed. Look at verse 12 as the reason why David and Abishai were able to do this: “…because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.” The Lord is with David and makes it possible for him to go into the camp unharmed. David taking Saul’s spear and water jug may represent Saul’s inability to protect himself and sustain himself. The Lord is clearly working through these natural events.

David and Abishai leave and go to the other side, on top of a hill, far from Saul and his army. David then calls out to Saul’s army and to Abner, the commander of Saul’s army. Abner asks who is calling for the king. David mocks Abner in verse 15. Aren’t you a man? Aren’t you a great commander? Why didn’t you guard your master, the king? But now David makes a serious point in verse 16. Someone came into your camp to kill your king and you did not protect him. You deserve to die because you did not keep watch over your master and guard him. Then David asks him to look around for Saul’s spear and water jar that were near his head. Saul recognizes David’s voice and calls out if it is David. David responds that it is him and asks Saul again why he is pursuing him. David proclaims his innocence before Saul. Saul seems to respond with repentance (26:21). But we have seen Saul offer this false repentance on a number of occasions. But David does not approach Saul. He calls for one of Saul’s young men to come over and get Saul’s spear back. Then David makes an important statement in verse 23. “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness.” The Lord gave Saul into his hand and he did not put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed. David deemed Saul’s life as precious and may the Lord see his own life as precious in the Lord’s sight and deliver him from all his tribulations. With this, Saul goes home and David goes his own way.

Pictures of the Anointed

Again we see a number of pictures of God’s anointed that people were to look forward to when Jesus, the Lord’s Anointed, arrived. We see for a second time that the anointed will not avoid suffering as a way to take his place on the throne. The anointed will rely on the Lord to appoint him king. The anointed will trust in the Lord to handle his enemies and will not avenge himself (26:10). But the big picture is that we see David being made perfect through his suffering. The last two chapters reveal David being tempted and on the brink of sinning, first against Saul and second against Nabal. But now when the temptation arises to seize the throne, David appears ready for it. When Abishai tells him that he can go and kill Saul and the Lord is giving Saul into his hand, David immediately rejects the temptation. He does not go down the path of temptation. David immediately responds that he will entrust himself to the Lord (26:10-11). This is exactly what we see in Jesus during his temptations in the wilderness. Jesus does not entertain the temptations put in front of him. Rather, he quickly dismisses Satan’s temptations with scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11). The writer of Hebrews establishes this as a key point regarding Jesus.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14–15 ESV)

The writer of Hebrews even goes further in teaching us about the suffering of Jesus.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:9–10 ESV)

Jesus became flesh, experienced temptations, and endured suffering even to death so that he could completely understand us and relate to us. The king we serve in King Jesus is not a king who does not understand our condition. Think about how many political leaders seem to have no idea what the common person goes through in life. I think it was during one of the presidential elections in the 1990s that the candidates were asked the price of milk and they failed. They do not understand our condition. They do not share our life. Think about how amazing it is that the anointed will share in the suffering of the people he rules over. He will live his life with the outcasts. He will not live his life in a home with all the comforts of life. He will go through great difficulties so that he can be our perfect king and understand us and he rules over us and for us.

Life Message

Now what is the message for us? We have already noted in past lessons that we also will have to go down the path of suffering because that is God’s will to test our faith and grow our faith to be stronger in him. But think about what we see in David. David learned from his temptations and trials so that he was ready for when the trials came upon him again. It is so important that we do not waste our suffering and difficulties. God wants us to learn from our past trials and temptations. God uses trials to teach us about ourselves and to teach us where are spiritual weaknesses are.

One of the things we are to learn from our trials and temptations is to wait for God’s timing. When God’s promises appear delayed, we must resist the temptation to force the issue. When life is not going the way we want, we can be tempted to sin by forcing the issue. We want our spouse to act a certain way toward us, so we force the issue. We force the issue through anger, manipulation, or control to try to get our spouse to do what we want. We force the issue by divorce. We force the issue by having an affair. Rather than waiting patiently through what God is teaching us, we want to speed the trial or temptation up so that we can get what we want. We sing a song called In His Time. The lyrics are quite true for us to consider. “In his time, he makes all things beautiful in his time.” Do we believe this? Will we wait for God to change our circumstance or will we force the issue? You see that David learned that he does not need to force the issue. In verse 10 David proclaims that Lord will eventually deal with Saul. David’s time will come in God’s time, not his.

This requires contentment on our part. Not only must we learn to be content in our present circumstance because God has put us where we are, we must learn to be content with God. God knows what he is doing in our lives. God knows the training and transformation we need. But David learned something that allowed him to be content while in the wilderness. Look again at verse 23.

The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness. (NRSV)

We can wait for God’s timing because we know that the Lord rewards our waiting. The Lord rewards our righteous acts in the face of evil. The Lord rewards our loyalty to him. Listen to what Jesus said:

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35 ESV)

Jesus says to do good now, not looking for your reward now, but to God’s reward that will come later. We will wait for God to work out our circumstances and we will not sin in the midst of our difficulties. We will have faith that God is in control and he will prove to be true and vindicate our good works. The writer of Hebrews made the point that this is the essence of our faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

Faith is believing in a later reward. Faith does not look for a reward now or for our life circumstances to be fixed now. Faith endures suffering, waiting for God to act, looking to God to vindicate, refusing to take matters into our own hands. This is what David does in this chapter. This is what Jesus did in his life. This is what Jesus’ disciples must do also. Learn from the failures of your past trials and temptations. Learn to wait for the Lord. Learn to not act for your comforts now. Learn to look for the reward that the Lord will give that is far greater than any reward we can have in this life.



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