The Changing of the Guard 13 – Honorable Opposition

Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats. So he came to the sheep folds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave. Then the men of David said to him, This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” And David arose and secretly cut off a comer of Saul’s robe. Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe. And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way. David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, ‘My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down (I Sam. 24:2-8).

This was David’s big chance. With one swift blow, he could have ended it all. The pain and anguish of exile, the shame and torment of flight could have been over forever, then and there. No longer would he have to live out his days as a renegade, a wanderer, a refugee, an outcast, or a pariah. He could have claimed Saul’s crown and taken Saul’s throne. But he didn’t. David was an honourable man. Though Saul had pitilessly pursued him seeking his life (1 Samuel 19:2), though Saul had odiously oppressed him stirring up strife (I Sam. 24:16-19), and though Saul had deviously defrocked him stealing away his rights (I Sam. 16:6-13; 24:20), David refused all treachery. His opposition to the king was righteously restrained and heroically honourable.

God had called David out of the fields around Bethlehem into national prominence (I Sam.16:10-12).  He had anointed him with wisdom (Ps.119:97-104), strength (I Sam.17:50), and valour (I Sam.17:45). He had selected him to succeed Saul as the king over Israel (I Sam.16:13) and as the root of the Messianic line (Ruth 4:18-22).  He had given David favour with the fighting men (I Sam. 18:30; 21:10-22:4) and with the congregation of the Lord (I Sam.18: 6:7, 16).

With all that affirmation, verification, and confirmation, you would have thought that David would have moved with boldness against Saul, taking what was rightfully his. You would have thought that David would have utilized any and every means to overthrow the evil tyrant. You would have thought that David would have resorted, in desperation, to naked force, restoring the true seed to the throne. But he didn’t. David was an honourable man. 

Many years later, the Apostle Paul would exhort the Christians in Corinth to “be alert, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong, and let all that you do be done with love” (I Cor.16:13-14). In essence, he was telling them to demonstrate the same kind of attributes that David exemplified. He was telling them to face controversy, strife, division, and contention with the same kind of ethical honour that David had.
Alert, steadfast, brave, strong, and loving, David set the pattern for honourable opposition.

Be Alert

In all his dealings with Saul, David was sober, watchful, and alert (I Cor.16:13). He was alert to spiritual dangers (I Sam. 22:5). He was alert to physical dangers (I Sam. 23:15).  And he was alert to the implications of both together (I Sam. 18:10-11). He never took anything for granted. Thus, he was always one step ahead of the game. Unlike many Christians in our day— incognizant, ambivalent, and somnolent — David was aggressively aware of the people, places, and events around him. And thus he was able honourably to oppose the king. This alertness was not a special character trait unique to David. On the contrary, he was simply submitting to an ethical standard for all of God’s people:

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old (Isa.51:9). Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (I Thess. 5:6). Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming– in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning-lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mk. 13:33-37).

Each of us is to be sober, alert, and watchful (Rev.3:2-3). We are commanded to watch over our way (Prov. 16:17), to watch over ourselves (Deut. 4:15, 23), to watch over our relationships (Ex. 34:12), to watch over our heart (Prov. 4:23), to watch over our lips (Ps. 141:3), to watch over the path of our feet (Prov. 4:26), and to watch over our moral conduct (Rev. 16:15). We are to be alert to the call of Christ (Eph. 5:14), the judgment of Christ (Mic. 7:7), and the coming of Christ (Mat. 24:42-43). We are to be alert in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:18) and alert in prayer (Col. 4:2). We are to be alert to the snares of our enemies so that we fall into no temptation (I Pet. 5:8) and so that the flock of God is guarded (Acts 20:31).

Alertness in political action protects us against the assaults of wickedness. But it also protects us against the embarrassment of speculative spectacularization.  It protects us from having to do battle unprepared and unguarded.

Alertness means checking the facts, doing the footwork, laying the foundations, and counting the cost. David knew that. So should we.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (I Pet. 1:13-15).

Be Steadfast in the Faith

In his dealings with Saul, David was not just alert, he was also steadfast (ICor.16:13). He never wavered. He held his ground. He was faithful to his calling in God.
Just as Josiah remained steadfast (2 Kings 22:2), just as Daniel was steadfast (Dan.6:5-11), and just as Job (Job 23:11), Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego (Dan. 3:18), Peter and John (Acts 4:19-20), and the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:24) were all steadfast, so David remained unmovable in his devotion to truth, justice, and righteousness (Ps.119:105-112).  It was his unswerving faith that enabled him to defeat Goliath (I Sam. 17:45-49). It was his unswerving faith that enabled him to defeat the Philistine (I Sam.19:8). And it was his unswerving faith that enabled him honourably to withstand the opposition of Saul.
Like his alertness, this steadfastness was not a special character trait unique to David. On the contrary, he was simply submitting to the ethical standard for all of God’s people:

Yet the righteous will hold to his way, and he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger (Job 17:9). Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (I Cor.15:58). Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1).

Each of us is to be steadfast in the faith (II Thess. 2:25). We are commanded to stand firm in the midst of suffering (I Pet. 5:9), in the face of strange teaching (Heb. 13:9), and in times of trying circumstances (James 1:12). We are to be steadfast in good works (Gal. 6:9). We are to be steadfast in enduring love (Hos. 6:4). We are to be steadfast in our conduct (Phil. 1:27), in our decision making (1 Kings  18:21), and in our absolute fealty to the Lord (Prov. 24:21).

Steadfastness in political action protects us from ideological bullies, both liberal and conservative, who pursue the ever shifting, ever changing whims of fallen men. But it also
protects us from our own doublemindedness. It secures us against doubt. Steadfastness means adhering to God’s standards, upholding God’s statutes, applying God’s principles, and enforcing God’s decrees.

David knew that. So should we.

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved (Phil. 4:1).

Be Brave

In his dealings with Saul, David was not just alert and steadfast, he was also brave (I Cor. 16:13). He was a man of valour. He demonstrated courage.

In the same way that Caleb stood fearlessly before the enemies of God (Joshua 14:12); in the same way that Jonathan exhibited great courage (I Sam. 14:6); in the same way that Jael (Judges 4:18-22), Ezra (Ezra 5:11), Nehemiah (Neh. 6:11), Daniel (Dan. 6:10), Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:8-9), and Esther (Esther 4:8, 16) showed undeterred bravery, so David was a man of
unquestioned valour. When all of Israel trembled in cowardice and fear before Goliath (I Sam. 17:24), David remained confident and fearless (I Sam. 17:32). He showed courage in his service in the king’s court (I Sam.18:1-14), in battle against the Philistine (I Sam.18:20-30), as a fugitive from Saul (I Sam.23:1-29),  and in his dying days (1 Kings 2:1-11). It was his courage that enabled him honourably to oppose the king.

Once again though, this courage was not a special character trait unique to David. On the contrary, he was simply submitting to the ethical standard for all of God’s people:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling (Ps.46:1-3). 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (II Tim.1:7).

Each of us is to be courageous, fearless, and brave (Isa.12:2). Because we know that God is sovereign, we are to be courageous (II Chron. 32:7). Because we know that God is ever present, we are to be courageous (Ps.118:6). We are to be brave in the face of our
enemies (Deut.31:6), and brave in the midst of chastisement (Job 5:17-24). We are to show valour in obedience to the Word of God (Joshua 23:6) and for the sake of His people (II Samuel 10:12). In all our service to the Lord we are ever to be courageous (I Chron.28:20), even when we are terrified (Ps.91:5) or dismayed (Joshua 10:25).

Courage in political action protects us from weak-willed and godless men who exploit our people and abuse our resources in exchange for mere token rhetoric. But it also protects us from retreatism and neutralism. Courage means standing against the tide, struggling for
right to the bitter end, and investing our all-in-all for the cause of the Kingdom.

David knew that. So should we.

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go (Joshua 1:6-7).

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