Saul had entered the cave where David was hiding. Then Saul took off his coat. Quietly, David cut some cloth from the lower part of Saulís coat. Then he went back into the dark places where his men were hiding.
David had not hurt Saul, but immediately David felt guilty. David saw that he had a duty to be loyal to Saul. Saul was the king of Israel, so Saul was Davidís king. Saul was acting wrongly towards David; but that gave David no right to act wrongly towards Saul.
In addition, Saul was not merely a king; he was the king whom God had appointed. Godís Holy Spirit had come upon Saul in a powerful way. To oppose Saul would be to oppose Godís Spirit. Saul was behaving wickedly, but the Holy Spirit could still be working in his life (19:23-24). David had to deal with Saul as if Saul was still a holy man. That was the effect of the ceremony to appoint Saul king: the oil showed that God had separated him to do Godís work. So God made him holy (10:1).
So David told his men that it was wrong to oppose Saul. He warned them that they must not hurt Saul. David confessed that he himself was wrong to cut the piece of cloth from Saulís coat. If Saul was guilty, then God alone could act as his judge (24:15). David must not punish Saul; instead, David had to respect him always. It was wrong even to touch a holy man in a manner that opposed him (1 Chronicles 16:22).
Davidís decision probably caused shock among his men. They were ready to attack Saul. Saulís death would bring about a quick end of their troubles. However, David would not allow it. He respected God and so, he respected Saul as his king.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.