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“(Saul and his army) came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave. The men of David said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’s anointed.”  David persuaded his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. And Saul arose, left the cave, and went on his way.” (1 Samuel 24:3-7)


This is the first of two golden opportunities which presented themselves to David to put his arch nemesis – King Saul – to death and thereby to end all his troubles (see also 1 Samuel 26:5-12). God had even foretold through a prophet (probably Gad), that Saul would soon be delivered into David’s hand to do to him whatever he saw fit. But David’s conscience wouldn’t let him kill King Saul, even though Saul was pursuing David to slay him. David viewed Saul as “the LORD’s anointed,” God’s chosen king. And David refused to believe that God would use murder as the way to bring him to the throne of Israel. So David, against the protests of his men, spared Saul’s life.

Yet, by letting King Saul live, David knew that he was seriously putting his own men at a disadvantage. For as long as Saul lived, he would hunt them down, along with David, with his army. Therefore, their loyalty to David was also being tested. By allowing Saul to live, David was forcing his own men to live as fugitives. So, they’d be tempted to abandon or betray David.

Hence, the pressure was on David to win his subordinates’ loyalty and support. The quickest and easiest means of accomplishing this was to kill Saul. But this would hurt David’s relationship with God – and God was everything to David. It was a tough choice: to do what was right or to do what seemed expedient.

If David was even the slightest peer-dependent, always needing the approval of his friends and companions, he would have caved to the wishes of his men. King Saul himself had crumbled under the same pressure and disobeyed the LORD (1 Samuel 15:24). But God was teaching David to lean upon Him for everything – including all the approval and acceptance he yearned for at such times.

This lesson, to lean upon God, became critical to David later in 1 Samuel 30:1-6. There his men, out of deep grief and anger, spoke of stoning David. It was the darkest day of David’s life and he stood all alone. If he had not learned to lean upon the LORD for all his needs, he would have melted at that critical moment.

But David knew how to find God in a crisis. He had long since gotten in the habit of seeking the LORD for guidance and help (e.g. 1 Samuel 23:2, 4, 9-12). And by recalling God’s many acts of deliverance in his life that David found faith to trust in God for every challenge (e.g. 1 Samuel 17:34-37). Because of his close walk with the LORD, David was able to find the inner strength to face his angry and disapproving men.

Every person in a leadership position needs to take this to heart. It can be very lonely at the top and when the chips are down many leaders will be tempted to seek the approval of subordinates. The temptation increases when the leader must make a decision that will greatly disadvantage his or her subordinates. To be a people pleaser at such times will be a torturous experience. But if we have learned, like David, to find love, acceptance, and approval from God alone, we will survive the test.

There is a glorious freedom to the person who’s learned to depend only upon God for love, acceptance, and approval. It gives them the power to stand alone against all the scorn and criticism of others. Let’s all seek a closer walk with the Lord, looking to Him more and more for all the needs of our hearts to be met. It will empower us to stand firm in a crisis and obey the voice of the Lord.


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, please wean me off of all the flimsy sources of love and approval among people, and teach me to lean more and more upon You. Put it in my heart, O God, to feast upon Your holy word and drink of Your Holy Spirit through prayer and intercession. Let me dwell in Your loving embrace where I can find the healing, love, and approval I yearn for. Fortify me, O Father, to stand firm in every crisis. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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