At the close of this first encounter with Saul, which saw David deliver him from certain death by his own hand, Saul says, “The Lord delivered me into your hand, but you did not kill me. Now if a man finds his enemy, does he send him on his way in good shape?... Now look, I realize that you will in fact be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. So now swear to me in the Lord’s name that you will not kill my descendants after me or destroy my name from the house of my father” (1 Samuel 24:18b-19a,20-21).
Casting our thoughts rearward, again, to the plagues and the exodus and to Moses’ encounters with Pharaoh, we look to chapter twelve of the book of Exodus and to the words of Pharaoh after the carrying out of the plague of death against the firstborn. There, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, ‘Get up, get out from among my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, serve the Lord as you have requested!’” (12:31) With these words, Pharaoh, like Saul, is admitting to the fact of the Lord’s power. Pharaoh, like Saul, can see that he is being spared, though it is certainly not beyond the power of Israel’s God, at the word of Moses, to take his life. Pharaoh realizes that Israel must be freed, and that they will be established as a nation, and that Moses will be their king. Pharaoh then gives voice to a statement echoed by Saul, saying “take your flocks and your herds, just as you have requested. But bless me also” (12:32). Saul asked for David’s blessing and mercy upon him and his family, as did Pharaoh to Moses.
We can stay here in Exodus, moving forward to learn that “When it was reported to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people, and the king and his servants said, ‘What in the world have we done? For we have released the people of Israel from serving us!’ Then he prepared his chariots and his army with him… the lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he chased after the Israelites” (14:5-6,8a). Israel had been rescued from foreign subjugation, but their former oppressors wanted to re-subjugate them, turning exodus back to exile. How is this related to David? It is related in that the sentiment of the words that Saul spoke to David, which seemed to be words of peace and release, in recognition of the Lord’s faithfulness to David (like those of Pharaoh to Moses), seemed to be short-lived. A short time after the cave incident, “The Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Isn’t David hiding on the hill of Hakilah near Jeshimon?’” (26:1) Rather than recalling David’s mercy and the Lord’s faithfulness to David, “Saul arose and went down to the desert of Ziph, accompanied by three thousand select men of Israel, to look for David in the desert of Ziph” (26:2). Following a report, Saul’s heart is turned. This sounds remarkably like Pharaoh’s reaction to the departure of the people, after his previous recognition of the power and faithfulness of Israel’s God.
Pharaoh reversed his assertion and set out after Moses and Israel, and Saul would do the same. What happens? David confirms that Saul is pursuing him again, reversing the exodus, previously granted by Saul, from the subjugating and exile extending pursuit, but he does not respond in either fear or anger. Like Moses at the Red Sea, when learning that Pharaoh and Egypt were once again in pursuit in order to subjugate and bring Israel back to exile, David knows that the Lord is fighting his battles for him. He says, “Who will go down with me to Saul in the camp?” (26:6b) Naturally, this was not for the purpose that his men expected, which they hoped was to kill Saul and thereby end their exile, but rather, for David to take another opportunity to make yet another point to Saul, and function, yet again, as a deliverer in the eyes of Saul, Saul’s men, his own men, and ultimately all of Israel as well.
When Saul is approached while sleeping, the man that went with David, Abishai, said, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands” (26:8b). Quite rightly, he speaks of God’s blessing upon His faithful servant, David. David, however, does not necessarily focus on what God has delivered to him, but rather, God’s delivering of him from his own exile, and with being a deliverer, and a light, and a reflection of the glory of the God that has anointed him to be his ambassador in this world. It appears that David does not see deliverance coming through the striking down of his enemy, but rather, in loving his enemy, and sparing his life again, in what is going to be, for David, because his own exile and subjugation will continue for the forseeable future, a costly act of sacrificial love.
“David said to Abishai, ‘Don’t kill him! Who can extend his hand against the Lord’s chosen one and remain guiltless?’” (26:9) Pharaoh had attempted to do this, and things had gone poorly for him. David, of course, was not in the same position as Pharaoh (who was not the Lord’s chosen one), as it is Saul that, as far as David is concerned, still stands in that role. He said, “may the Lord prevent me from extending my hand against the Lord’s chosen one!” (26:11) David continued to rely on the faithfulness of his God, choosing to endure hardship and suffering, rather than enter in to the establishment of his kingdom by raising his sword against the one that was persecuting and subjugating him. He trusted that he would eventually be lifted from his exile and set upon his throne, with the requisite glory and honor and dominion that would be attendant upon that enthronement. In this particular instance, we see David bearing the image of the One from heaven.