November 14, 2021

Holy Restraint

1 Samuel 24:1-22

“You are more righteous than I,” [Saul] said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.”

—  1 Samuel 24:17

Movies about revenge are often top sellers. People cheer when villains get what’s coming to them. There’s something satisfying about getting back at someone who has done you wrong, especially if you did nothing to provoke it.

The writer of 1 Samuel gives us the “director’s cut” of the scene in the Desert of En Gedi. David has been living in exile, trying to hide from King Saul, who wants to destroy him. With three thousand men, Saul appears to have the upper hand in the drama.

But the king doesn’t know that David and his men are hiding in the cave where he goes in to relieve himself. Sometimes the Bible even includes a bit of humor as the plot thickens.

The setting is perfect. The unsuspecting king believes he is alone in the cave. So David can sneak up and kill Saul with the same sword he used on Goliath.

But, instead, David merely cuts off a corner of the king’s robe. David does not try to satisfy the thirst for revenge. He practices holy restraint, saying he could not do such a thing to his “master, the Lord’s anointed.”

Saul is humbled and says, “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.”

David has modeled something that Saul could never achieve. How about you?

Lord, stop me from nursing anger and seeking revenge. I need help in handing my pain and anger over to you. Vengeance belongs to you alone, O God. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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