David shepherded his father’s sheep. He saved one lamb with his bare hands out of the mouth of a lion and a bear. He put his life at risk for the life of one of the sheep his father had put into his hands. David later put his life on the line for Israel’s entire army and for the nation itself. He first killed Goliath with a single stone, and then cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword. What a wonderful picture David is of our Lord Jesus Christ! Christ laid down His life to save our lives out of the hand of our enemy. In cruelty, satan designed to kill us at the hand of God’s justice through deception and temptation. We should have perished under the wrath of God for our sin. But God made Christ sin for us. He bore the curse of God’s law to satisfy God’s justice. He cleansed us from our sin by His own blood. By His death, He delivered us from 'so great a death.' Christ destroyed satan by His legal victory in the court of heaven where He presented His own obedience unto death, offering His own blood. With these, He destroyed satan with the hand of God's justice -- that death that satan intended for us. In His death, our Shepherd-Savior triumphed over our arch enemy. He will soon carry out the sentence by casting him into the lake of fire, just as David first killed and then cut off Goliath’s head in defeat and triumph (Colossians 2:15).
When David killed Goliath, Saul quickly recognized that the LORD was with him. Saul put David over the army of Israel, to fight the LORD’s battles. David counted that his highest honor. In fulfillment, our Lord Jesus willingly and lovingly gave Himself for His people. He did not save Himself that He might save us from the hands of our enemies (John 18:8; Matthew 27:42).
Israel honored David for his victories. But Saul envied him. So much did Saul envy David that he made it his chief aim to kill him. In contrast, David never took matters into his own hands. He committed his cause and his life to the LORD.
The recorded drama in 1 Samuel chapters 24 and 26 is intense. It draws out our just anger against Saul. Saul mercilessly and untiringly pursued David to death. Saul made David number one on his most wanted list. He chose 3,000 men out of all Israel to hunt him down. But David and his men, though capable, did not fight. They fled from Saul like hunted criminals. David rolled his life upon Jehovah, entrusting His will, His justice and His mercy (Psalm 22:8). On two occasions, God put Saul's life in David’s hands. David’s men told him to kill Saul. What would David do? What would you do if the life of someone who offended you was put into your hand to judge? What would I do? Better yet, what did our Lord Jesus Christ do?!
In both cases, David reacts with the wisdom and the heart of God. In the second encounter, David says to Saul (paraphrase), “If the LORD stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering. But if men, then let them be cursed: for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the LORD’s inheritance, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods’” (1 Sam. 26:19). Saul hated David without a cause. Yet David humbled himself before Saul. He said (paraphrase), “Hunting me is like hunting for a flea when you intend to take a partridge” (1 Sam. 26:20). Saul was greatly moved by David’s humility and mercy towards him. He recognized that David spoke God’s wisdom, as a man after God's own heart, and did good to him for the evil he intended for David.
Though Saul hated David without a cause, David would not lift up his hand against Saul. Saul’s life was “much set by” in David’s eyes. David took this occasion to plead his own case before God. Saul was guilty. Justice demanded his life. Yet David valued Saul’s life and spared him for the LORD’s sake. David draws the comparison to himself in his prayer. David knows his own sinfulness. Yet he pleads that his life would be precious in God’s eyes. He pleads that the LORD would spare him from the death he deserved.
Mercy is the attitude of God’s own heart. We forgive as we believe God has forgiven us. The greatest injustices against us are in God’s hand to judge. If the life of your enemy were put in your hands, what would you do? Will we raise our hand against another with the wrath of God? Will we desire or pray or pronounce God’s wrath on them? Or, will we seek for them what God has given us: unmerited mercy to a guilty sinner with forgiveness for Christ’s sake alone?
The law is God’s law (James 4:12). All sin is against Him (Psalm 51:4; Luke 15:18). God is Judge (Psalm 50:6; 75:7). He will judge all outside the church (1 Cor. 5:12-13). It is neither our place to judge nor our prerogative to forgive in God’s place. He has already judged His people in Christ (John 8:11; Romans 8:1-4; 32-34). In ourselves, we are guilty. But God had mercy on us, putting our sin on His Son, judging Him in our place. While the earth remains, God has not made His people ambassadors to judge, but to preach the Gospel of His saving grace in Christ (John 3:17; Romans 14:13). In Christ, God is merciful. Outside of Christ, there is only judgment from God. That is our salvation. That is our message. That is salt and light. We neither wish nor pray for God’s eternal judgment on others, nor do we pronounce it or attempt to bring it on them. To do so is to sit as a judge of God’s law (James 4:11-12). Think what it would mean to judge in God’s place. If you are wrong in your judgment, you will be judged as guilty (Matthew 7:2). If you’re right, who are you to determine if God will show mercy? God’s mercy, both His mercy to you and His mercy to another, is His sovereign prerogative (Romans 9:15).
In our present state, we are incapable of judging others. We neither have the knowledge nor the wisdom to judge others. We don’t know the hearts of men and we don’t know all circumstances. Would we act differently if we were in the place of those we judge? Are we guiltless of the sin for which we judge others (John 8:7)? Do we understand the spirit of God’s law, that it requires complete, perfect, continuous obedience from the heart? Are men’s offenses against our law or our justice? Is God unable to uphold His own law and justice? Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? If we were the judge, wouldn’t men therefore honor us? It is for these reasons that God has committed all judgment to His Son (John 5:22). Do we ask Christ to call down fire from heaven as Elijah did (Luke 9:54-55)? Did not our God and Savior forgive us an immeasurable debt because of His infinite mercy when we were undeniably and justly guilty and indebted to His law? Abel’s blood called for vengeance. Christ’s blood calls for justification. Let us seek the glory of God and salvation of our neighbors through the preaching of His Gospel, through prayer to God for their salvation and through our own forbearance of one another’s faults (Acts 7:60; Luke 23:34; Galatians 6:1-2).
God has given the church the wisdom and spirit to settle small matters between brethren within the local congregation (1 Cor. 6). The Corinthians took disputes between one another to the civil courts for settlement. Paul corrected them for this. Civil courts know nothing of God’s sovereign mercy, His grace in Christ, and the forgiveness of sins as believers do. Christ instructed the church how to handle unresolved disputes and administer discipline in matters that would bring public reproach on God and His Gospel (Matthew 18:15-35;1 Cor. 5). Let us seek the glory of God and the salvation of others above our own fleshly impulses. Let us, with David, consider the lives of those who do us wrong as precious, and spare them for the LORD’s sake. Preach the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ. Warn men of judgment to come. Tell them there is mercy in Christ at the hand of the Judge of all the earth. Send them to the Savior and to His throne of grace with His word for faith to believe Him. Pray that God would be pleased to reveal Himself to them in Christ.