When he had the chance in that cave at En Gedi, David did not kill Saul. You would expect 1 Samuel 24:4 to say, “David crept up unnoticed and cut Saul’s throat.” Or maybe, “David crept up unnoticed and cut Saul’s kidneys out” or “…cut Saul’s heart out through his back.” Instead, surprisingly, the text says, “David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”

And he felt bad for doing that. He regretted it immediately.

“David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ With these words, David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul.” ~1 Samuel 24:5-7

There’s all kinds of symbolism here with the cutting of the robe. What really fascinates me, though, is why David didn’t kill Saul. It’s so uncharacteristic for David not to kill Saul. It goes totally against David’s nature. As a boy, David killed lions and bears to protect his sheep. He began his military career by killing Goliath. He began his marriage by killing 200 Philistines. He killed hundreds and hundreds of Philistines, Geshurites, Girizites, Amalakites, Kenites, Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites. David had killed his tens of thousands. They wrote a song about it and it went viral.

David was a killer. But he didn’t kill Saul. Saul is the one man out of the tens of thousands David had the most motivation and the most reason to kill. Saul’s hunting David down like a wild pig through the canyons and wadis of the desert. But David let him go. “The Lord forbid.” Why?

Because Saul is the Lord’s anointed. He’s anointed by God, he’s established by God. He represents God. David’s men see their ruthless enemy in a vulnerable position and they want to take him out. But David sees the king anointed by God. This King Saul–the man and his position–belongs to God. He represents God.

This is not about Saul, this is about God. David turns this crude scene in a dark cave in the Judean Wilderness into a beautiful act of faith and worship to God. This is true faith and total trust in the protection and provision of the Lord, no matter what.

And it’s not about David. This is all about David’s faith in God and in God’s ways and God’s timing. If David had doubted for one second that God was protecting him, he would have killed Saul. If David had been concerned about his own reputation, he would have killed Saul. If pride were motivating David, if he was moved by his own instincts of right and wrong, if David was worried about protecting his rights or securing his safety, if he were compelled by the world’s sense of fairness and revenge and power, he would have slashed Saul’s throat. But David is motivated solely by his faith and trust in God and in God’s ways and in God’s timing. The very idea of killing Saul is unthinkable to David. He regrets even the insult of cutting his robe. Not because of Saul, but because of God.

Trusting the Lord is a lot more than just going to church a couple of times a month, reading your Bible, and not cussing. Faith in the Lord to protect and provide means faith in the Lord to protect and provide in every single situation. God is in charge of “this thing,” whatever “this thing” is for you right now.

Jonathan had told David earlier that this kingdom thing is going to work out. This thing God is doing in you and through you–he’s going to make sure it happens. David professed that same faith and it controlled David’s thoughts and actions. In the cave at En Gedi, David refused violence. He refused to employ a violent solution to his problems, even when his best friends were telling him it was God’s will. Yeah, the kingdom was falling apart. Yeah, David was being falsely accused and treated unfairly. But Saul is the Lord’s anointed. Saul bears the image of God. Period. And David is going to let the Lord take care of it.

We are living in a world we’ve never lived in before. Right now, in the United States, in 2024, today, almost everything feels messed up. We are living in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-truth world and it feels wrong.

As disciples of Christ, nobody’s threatening our religious freedoms or our physical safety–that’s not the problem. Things feel messed up and wrong for Christians because Christians are no longer in control. Christians don’t have the cultural power or the societal authority we once had which, it seems to me, we were never intended by God to have in the first place. But as our culture and our society increasingly line up against the Church and the Kingdom of God, we can be tempted to take matters into our own hands with the bloody and violent methods of the world.

And I say, to borrow David’s words, the Lord forbid!

We don’t slash the throats of our lawmakers and politicians with angry emails and insulting Facebook forwards and posts. Young people who think differently, older people who act differently, migrating people who dress differently, outsiders who speak differently, people who vote differently, people who believe differently and live differently–we don’t cut out their kidneys with an accusing finger in their face. We don’t take out their knees with out harsh words and bitter complaints. We don’t rip out their hearts with bumper stickers and boycotts and T-shirts and flags. The Lord forbid.

All these people are created by our God. And loved by our God. And they bear the divine image of our God.

If we’re trying to kill them, we’ll never save them.

This Kingdom thing is going to work out. His perfect time frame. His perfect ways. His perfect plan.

May we trust in him.