“Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’S anointed.’”
1 Samuel 24:10
The reminder is, “You salute the uniform, not the person wearing it.”
That principle is in line with God’s directive to respect and honor those whom God has placed over us. We learn, “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). As such, they are his representatives.
The apostle Peter put it this way. “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).
David, the former shepherd boy, knew this when he lived under the rule of King Saul. He gives us an example of doing this under trying circumstances.
Following his defeat of Goliath, David joined his older brothers in Saul’s army. Saul’s jealousy of the young soldier began as he heard women singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”
But Saul’s son, Jonathan, became close friends with David. Besides that, the Lord enabled David to become an accomplished warrior. Soon, he was in command of a thousand troops.
The king’s jealousy raged higher with every success the young warrior achieved. He decided to have David killed. But the murder dared not be obvious. David was much too popular.
Saul chose combat as his weapon. He set a trap by telling David he could marry his daughter if he came back with proof that he and his men had killed 100 Philistines. Saul expected that if he were foolish enough to try this, he would be mourned as a K.I.A.
David came back with proof of 200 enemy dead.
Scripture then records, “When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days” (1 Samuel 18:28,29).
Desperate, Saul simply ordered his troops to kill the warrior hero whenever they could.
Jonathan talked his father out of this plan. However, the spell of safety did not last long. Shortly after, in a fit of rage, Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his spear. David escaped. Saul sent men after him. But David’s wife tricked the men. David escaped again.
Saul kept hunting for David, and David kept eluding him. When Saul learned that some priests of the Lord had helped David, he killed 85 of them. Then, “He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (1 Samuel 22:19).
Who could have blamed David if he had killed Saul when he had a chance?
Who but David himself?
Once, he caught Saul in a cave with his guard down. The king didn’t know David was there. Instead of killing him, David crept up and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe without being seen.
Once outside the cave, David called out, “My lord the king!” and bowed down before Saul.
At this, Saul wept. He now knew David would take his place. He begged David not to kill off his family once he came to power.
This David promised. It was a promise he kept.
Saul became a scoundrel, a murderer, and a threat. But he held the office of king.
It was the office that David respected. His words to Saul catch our attention. He said, “Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’S anointed.’”
It gives us something to think about as we live our lives under people with authority. It doesn’t mean that we must do everything an authority figure orders. The apostle Peter made that clear in his day when he told an official who demanded he not speak of Jesus, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).
Yet, this directive still stands, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7).
We honor the Lord our God when we honor those whom he has placed over us.
David, the God-serving warrior, has set an example worth following.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the King of kings. You are our commander in chief. You are also the one who died that we might live. Give us good leaders and caring commanders. Give us the will to honor you by respecting the office they hold. Then give us the strength to follow through with that will. After all, what we pray is, “Thy will be done.” Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Why is it so difficult to respect the office when we don’t respect the person who holds it?
- Wasn’t David unnecessarily risking the lives of his men by allowing Saul to live?
- Was David grandstanding by showing Saul the piece of the cloak he had cut off?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.