What would you do if you had your worst enemy cornered in a dark cave? Human nature relishes any opportunity to get the better of a bad guy. We might not actually resort to violence or commit murder; vengeance is sweet, but dreams of vengeance are still satisfying and much easier to get away with—or so it seems.
When King Saul stepped into a dark cave, in which David and his men were sitting, David recognized it as a test from God. “Do to Saul what you think is best.” How would David treat his guilty and vulnerable enemy? Saul had made several attempts on David’s life and forced him to live as a fugitive. What could be more justifiable than eradicating a deadly enemy? Who could be more vulnerable than a man using a dark bathroom?
David displayed astonishing loyalty to King Saul; he refused to take revenge. David felt guilty just for slicing off a piece of Saul’s robe. Twice David chose not to abuse the freedom God gave him. David knew there was something special in Saul being the Lord’s anointed and he allowed the Lord to deal with His own in His time. Instead, David prostrated himself before Saul and declared his loyalty.1
It was no outward show or political maneuver designed to win his way back into royal favor where he might get the opportunity to snatch the throne. When news of Saul’s tragic death arrived, David tore his clothes and lamented him, “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Sam. 1:17-19). David’s heart was thoroughly given to serving God’s anointed leader and trusting God with his own life. He might be the poster-child for Paul’s statement:
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:19-21)
David experienced God dealing with his enemies. Sometimes he had to wait, but eventually justice came. Sandwiched between David’s two opportunities to slaughter Saul, a foolish man called Nabal insulted David and his men. David was livid. He vowed to destroy every man on Nabal’s ranch. If it had not been for the intervention of Nabal’s wise wife and David’s willingness to accept her apology, there would have been a massacre. Shortly afterwards, Nabal developed a heart ailment and died. David recognized that as God’s judgment for Nabal’s evil.2
When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal and has kept back His servant from evil. The Lord has also returned the evildoing of Nabal on his own head.” (1 Sam. 25:39)
Where do we place the emphasis on God’s statement, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord”? Do we respond with a raucous, fist-in-the-air, “Get ‘em God!” Or do we hear the Lord restraining our cave-man nature, and allow Him to nurture humility and love in us. There are two sides to the coin of God’s vengeance: It is true that He does avenge evil; but He grows goodness in us too. Even thoughts of vengeance are poisonous in the long run; it’s hard to be good when revenge is on our minds.
Please share this devotion with others who might be blessed.