1 Samuel 26 sees us back in familiar territory, with this chapter almost a re-run of 1 Samuel 24. David, hunted by Saul for so long now, once again has the opportunity to dispose of his enemy if he wants to (and Abishai, his loyal servant and nephew, is more than willing to take the decision out of his hands and do the deed himself.) But David refuses to contemplate laying a hand on the Lord’s anointed and absolutely refuses to harm Saul, taking a spear and water jug as proof that he was close enough to harm him if he had wanted to, but assuring Saul subsequently that harming him has never been on his agenda. Once again, David appeals to his actions and integrity and assures Saul that he has nothing to fear from him.

We might wonder why life is repetitive and tends to throw the same problems at us, but learning lessons often takes time. We see this in school; it’s why we have to tackle the same problems (maybe with different clothing!) over and over again before we truly master them. We see this so often in our daily lives. Learning to trust God, learning to rely on His power rather than our own, learning to walk by faith and not by sight are all lessons we find difficult to master, and so God often brings us back to the same kind of problem. In 1 Samuel 24, there was perhaps a part of David that would have liked to ‘sort’ the problem himself (hence the cutting of the corner of Saul’s robe); now, he is firmly of the opinion that God will sort Saul out: ‘“As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or 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.”’ (1 Samuel 26:10-11)

David was slowly learning that God was in sovereign control and that he needed to learn both patience and how to handle power. Both are vitally important to our spiritual growth. The impulsive, sort-it-my-way approach to power is not God’s way; even Jesus Himself did not come to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45) Dictating our timescales onto God also does not work, for there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun. (Eccl 3:1) David knew all about the agony of waiting (see Ps 13:1-2) but he was also slowly learning that waiting for God is not the same as simply being passive. Waiting and hoping are inextricably linked in the Bible, and as Eugene Peterson writes, ‘Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying.And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it his way and in his time.’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘The Journey’)


We may feel a sense of déjà vu about this chapter, but its lessons of patience, submission and humility are ones that definitely need to be grasped by 21st century disciples.