Meditations in 1 Samuel 51. The Lord’s Anointed (2)
1 Sam 26:2,3 The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?” So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search there for David.
There is a sense of déjà vu about these verses because in chapter 23 we found almost exactly the same thing, these self-serving, treacherous Ziphites running to Saul to tell him where David was hiding in their territory. On the previous occasion David had only escaped Saul because Saul was called away to fend off the Philistines, but now here he comes again.
It may be worth while just pausing to note the number of times Saul came after David to get a clearer picture of the thorn in the side that Saul was to David. He had prepared to chase David in Keilah (23:7,8), had searched for him in the desert of Ziph (23:14), was told by the Ziphites where David was (23:19,20), only failed to catch David because of the Philistine distraction (23:27,28), came back and followed David across to En Gedi (24:1,2) where we saw the incident in the cave (24:3-) and now again the Ziphites go to Saul to tell on David. We should also remember that the last time he gave up pursuing David because David had spared his life in the cave.
But now, presumably time has passed, the Ziphites come again and tell Saul where David is and so Saul starts after him once more. But David is now a canny desert warrior: “Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.” (v.3,4) Having established where Saul was, “David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.” (v.5). Presumably in the moonlight, perhaps looking down on them from a high crag, David recognizes Saul sleeping in the camp.
It is at this point that we see the mischievous warrior side of David as he puts a challenge to those who have come scouting with him: “David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” (v.6) Now at this point one can only think this is David responding to his natural urges as a desert fighter to sneak down and overcome his enemy as they slept. Note I used the word ‘natural’ because we are going to see something that is not natural.
Abishai takes up the challenge and so “David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.” (v.7) There is the ideal opportunity to finally get rid of this thorn in the side and Abishai makes that suggestion: “Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice.” (v.8) Yes, that seems the obvious thing to do but Abishai has forgotten David’s previous response when Saul’s life was in his hands. And thus suddenly it strikes David again what they are about to do: “But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” (v.9-11)
There it is again, a recognition that Saul was still the Lord’s anointed and now David adds to it, if anyone is to remove Saul it must be the Lord. Others may kill Saul but David won’t for he recognizes the spiritual reality here – the Lord put Saul there and the Lord must remove him. He may die of old age or in battle but David will not contribute to Saul’s death. It is a remarkable declaration of faith. Oh, that we would see it more in the church today. Those the Lord has put into spiritual leadership, only He can remove. Now He may remove by death or He may send one of His anointed ministries to do it. I have known a prophet come into a situation where a leader was committing adultery, which no one else knew about, and stood him down. The adulterer was wise enough to know not to reject the word of the prophet and is still alive and has restored his life elsewhere.
The Lord may do it by a sovereign act or by an anointed word of authority, but not by gossip and innuendo. Again, if we have question marks over the spiritual authority, pray for it and seek its correction and restoration by God. Unless you are called to be a ministry by God with His authority, take no other action. Leave it to the Lord. The one exception I would put to this rule is that of child abuse. If there is a vulnerable child or children at risk, and you are absolutely sure about it, then that is a ground for going public, but I would suggest only after confronting the person with their sin, and their refusal to repent. Then is the time to act. Perhaps one final word. If your church leader is part of a hierarchy and you are worried about something you see him doing you feel is quite wrong, then pray and if you still feel it is right, make an appointment with whoever it is above him and go and speak to them. Rest in their decision.