Scripture: 1 Samuel 26
This morning our text is 1 Samuel 26, but before we read it, I want to remind us about what happened in chapter 24. Saul and his army were hunting David. Saul walked into a cave to relieve himself, not knowing that David and his men were hiding in the cave. David had the opportunity to kill Saul but spared his life instead. When Saul realized this, he asked David for forgiveness and went home.
1 Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?”
Remember that the Ziphites were from the tribe of Judah, same as David. These were David’s cousins selling him out again to Saul!
2 So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph.
Already this is beginning to sound like a re-run of chapter 24. Very, very similar…
3 And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, 4 David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come.
5 Then David rose and came to the place where Saul had encamped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.
6 Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.”
7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him.
8 Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.”
9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” 10 And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.
Again, David has the opportunity to kill Saul. Again, David’s friend interprets this as an opportunity for vengeance. And again, the text uses the word “hand” as a symbol of power. Abishai asks David for permission to pin Saul to the ground with his own spear the way Saul had tried to pin David to the wall twice. “Let me pin him to the ground,” he says. “I only need one shot.” But David refuses.
David trusts that God will kill Saul when God is ready. David understands that God has a lot of options and none of those options involves David. God may strike Saul down the way He killed Nabal. Saul might die of natural causes. Saul might die in battle. But David will have nothing to do with Saul’s death.
This is such an important theme in 1 Samuel and we need to hear it again. So often, we pray to God about our problems, and we already know what we want God to do about it. We just need God to heal us, or give us more money, or fix the relationship. But God has a lot of options. What we want God to do is only one of those options.
Faith is trust. Will we trust God to handle the problem when He is ready and in His way? Even if it looks like defeat? That’s a major theme in this book.
David’s men were likely frustrated with him. They’ve been running from Saul for years and twice David has had an opportunity to take the kingdom by force. How would you feel?
How do you think the disciples of Jesus felt when their Messiah allowed himself to be captured and crucified? It looked like defeat, but God knew exactly what He was doing.
But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water and let us go.” 12 So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.
David took the spear and the jar of water to once again prove that he could have killed Saul. But there is a deeper symbolic meaning, which we will consider in a moment. Instead, I want to pause and focus on the last sentence. God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Saul and his men.
This is only the third time in the Bible when God put someone to sleep like this. It happened to Adam when God took his rib to form Eve. And it happened to Abraham when God made the covenant with him. In both cases, God did something that only God could do. The deep sleep made it obvious. God’s doing something here and he doesn’t need your help. He’s creating Eve. He’s establishing a covenant.
But why does God put Saul and his men to sleep? What’s God doing?
Well, he’s protecting David, right? If any of these men caught David taking the spear, this story would have a different ending. But there’s something else to think about.
Three hundred years later, the prophet Isaiah wrote these words to the people of Israel:
9 Astonish yourselves and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind! Be drunk, but not with wine; stagger, but not with strong drink! 10 For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).
God said this to His own people. This is not a blessing, but a curse. The people were spiritually blind. But look closely. They were responsible for their own spiritual blindness, but they were still helpless because God made them that way. He gave them a “spirit of deep sleep”.
Why was Saul helpless in the story? Because God made him helpless. The writer didn’t have to tell us that. We would have assumed David was good at sneaking around. But that’s not what happened. For the second time, Saul was moments from death and had no idea. Why? Because God orchestrated his helplessness.
And not only does God leave Saul helpless – he leaves him and the whole army humiliated. How humiliating must it have been for someone to come and steal the king’s spear while he is surrounded by 3,000 of his best men?
This is where the story continues. David goes a safe distance away and yells back to the camp, waking the soldiers. He tells them they all deserve to die because they failed to protect their king. And he was right. How embarrassing!
The chapter ends very similar to the way chapter 24 ended. Saul repents. He confesses his sin against David. He promises not to chase David any longer. David returns the spear and they both go home.
But I want us to really wrestle with this idea that God intentionally made Saul helpless, humiliated, and humbled. He allowed David to remove two items from Saul that were highly symbolic.
First – the spear. Saul’s spear was a symbol of his power. It was his chosen weapon. It was always by his side. No one uses a spear more often in the Bible than Saul. And God took it away.
Second – the jar of water. There’s nothing special or unique about that in context… unless you consider the New Testament. Water was a chosen symbol of Jesus and His kingdom. His first miracle involved jars of water, which he turned into wine. With the woman at the well, Jesus described Himself as living water – a spring welling up to eternal life. We baptize with water.
And then in John 7, during the Feast of Booths, Jesus did this:
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Do you know what the Feast of Booths was? It was a harvest festival – the most joyful time of the year in every ancient civilization. It’s still my favorite time of the year. And just like we sometimes go camping in the fall, that’s exactly what they did. The people lived in tents for a whole week to remind them of the way God provided for them in the wilderness.
It reminded the people that their harvest was a gift from God, not something they produced alone. They gave up the comforts of their homes to remember God’s grace. It was a lesson about self-reliance.
Now, go back to Saul. God took away the spear and the water to show that Saul was completely helpless. It was a way to crush his self-reliance. It was a way to humble him.
And very often, God will do the same kind of thing to us. He will take away the things we think we need to remind us that we only need Him. We cling to our sin the way Saul clutched his spear. But God will gladly wrench the idols of his people away from our hands if that’s what it takes. He will make us helpless. He will even humiliate us if that’s what it takes to humble us.
And before you question His ways – let’s bring this full circle. Don’t forget that Jesus Himself was helpless, humiliated, and humbled – by choice, not because he deserved it.
Jesus hung on a Roman cross, crying out in thirst. They offered Him sour wine on a sponge to drink. And Jesus did not dodge the spear like David. They thrust a spear into our King’s side. Blood and water flowed from the wound.
If you feel helpless, humiliated, and humbled – you are in good company. Jesus became all of that so that we can be redeemed and received by the Father… so that we can drink the living water and be filled with His Spirit.
Think of all the things you value most in this life. It may be things you have, things you want, or things you dream about. What if you lost those things? What if you never get what you want? What if your dreams don’t come true?
In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul does this. He lists all the things he valued most before Christ. And then he says this:
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
May God give us the grace to think about our lives in this way.