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David Spares Saul’s Life Once Again

Three weeks ago, we read in 1 Samuel chapter 24 about how David spared the life of King Saul after Saul inadvertently stumbled into the very cave where David and his men were hiding. It was the perfect opportunity for David to kill the man that had been relentlessly hunting him, but David refused to harm the Lord’s anointed King and made a point of proving to Saul (by cutting off a corner of his robe) that even though he could have killed him, he didn’t. When Saul realized how merciful David had been to him, he humbly admitted that David was a better man than he and would one day be a great king over Israel. Saul then stopped his pursuit of David and went home very much humbled. 

That was all in chapter 24. Today, we find ourselves in chapter 26, although we might mistakenly think we’re re-reading chapter 24 because these two stories are strikingly similar. The details are different, but the storyline is almost identical.

In today’s chapter, Saul again resumes his pursuit of David, and again David has a perfect opportunity to kill Saul. But like in chapter 24, David refuses to kill Saul and makes a point of proving to Saul that he has no intentions of harming him in anyway. 

We begin this morning in 1 Samuel chapter 26, starting at verse 1. It reads like this:

Now some men from Ziph came to Saul at Gibeah to tell him, “David is hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which overlooks Jeshimon.”

2 So Saul took 3,000 of Israel’s elite troops and went to hunt him down in the wilderness of Ziph. 1 Samuel 26:1-2

Now if all of that sounds just a little bit familiar to you, that’s great – that means you’ve been paying attention! This is now the second time that the men of Ziph have come to Saul and have ratted out David’s hiding place. You might remember the first time they did that back in chapter 23. In that chapter we read:

19 But now the men of Ziph went to Saul in Gibeah and betrayed David to him. “We know where David is hiding,” they said. “He is in the strongholds of Horesh on the hill of Hakilah, which is in the southern part of Jeshimon. 20 Come down whenever you’re ready, O king, and we will catch him and hand him over to you!” 1 Samuel 23:19-20

That was the first time the men of Ziph betrayed David – and at that time, David narrowly avoided being captured by Saul at the Rock of Escape as Saul had to go home to fight off the Philistines. But now, here again in chapter 26, David has returned to his old stronghold on the hill of Hakilah and again, the men of Ziph have ratted out his location to King Saul. I don’t know what these guys had against David, but they sure seemed determined to sell him out.

As for Saul, when he hears where David is hiding, he gets right back into his old routine and he gathers 3000 of his best troops and heads out to hunt David down in the wilderness of Ziph.

But hold on a second. 

Hadn’t Saul learned his lesson and repented of his evil ways after David had spared his life back at that cave? Remember how Saul had humbly admitted that he was in the wrong to hunt down David and that David was surely God’s choice to be king? Do you remember that? Let me re-read those verses for you… This is back in chapter 24 again…

16 When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. 17 And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. 18 Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. 19 Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule.

1 Samuel 24:16-20

From what we read in these verses, Saul certainly seemed to be very sincere in what he said, right? He was in tears, acknowledging that David was a better man than he. He humbly stated that David would surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel would flourish under his rule.

But now, just a short time later, we see Saul right back on the hunt – trying to capture and kill David once again! So what do we make of this?

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David’s Darkest Days

If you haven’t been with us for awhile, we are currently working our way through the book of 1 Samuel – specifically looking now at the life of David. For the past several weeks, we’ve been watching as the tension between King Saul and David has simmered, stewed, and has finally come to a boil! Ever since David became a war hero after slaying the Philistine giant, Goliath, Saul has grown increasingly jealous of David and has determined to kill him!

At first, Saul tried to keep it subtle – secretly plotting and scheming to have David killed in battle. But after that failed, Saul ramped up his efforts and is now actively and openly pursuing David – looking to capture him and put him to death.

Of course, David has been nothing but loyal to Saul the entire time. Throughout all of Saul’s subtle attempts to kill David, David has constantly given Saul the benefit of the doubt and has never raised a hand or even his voice against the king.

But it’s come to the point now that David has no choice but to flee from Saul. So last week we watched David say goodbye to his best friend Jonathan, and David heads off to begin his new life as a fugitive.

Jonathan returns to town and David… well, I’m not sure he knew where he was going to go. He couldn’t return home to his wife Michal  Saul had already accused his daughter of helping David escape once — so I’m sure Saul had men stationed to carefully watch his daughter’s house, so David couldn’t go there. He couldn’t return to his father’s family – I’m sure that’s the 2nd place Saul would look. So where does David go?

Well, let’s find out! 1 Samuel chapter 21, verse 1 tells us that….

“David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest.”

1 Samuel 1:1a

As David tries to figure out where he should go to escape the grasp of Saul, he decides to make his first stop in the town of Nob. Nob was just outside of Jerusalem and was known as the city of the priests – likely because it was the current home of the tabernacle. Over the years, as a mobile tent, the tabernacle had moved from one town to another within Israel, but at this point in history, the tabernacle was located in Nob. And since the tabernacle was there, that’s also where the priest Ahimelech lived – and that’s who David wanted to see. Let’s read on…

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