1 Samuel 26: Lessons on God’s Mercy From His Three Tests for David in the Wilderness

Introduction: To some people, 1 Samuel 26 feels like a repeat of 1 Samuel 24. In both chapters, Saul conspired with the Ziphites and sent 3,000 troops to kill David. In both chapters, David restrained his men and showed Saul mercy when given the chance to kill him. In both chapters, David used humility and kindness to convict Saul of his sins. In both chapters, Saul repented of his sins and blessed David. If David passed God’s first test with flying colors, why would He test David with a nearly identical test? The answer lies in 1 Samuel 25. God had just given David the same test with a man that David considered to be beneath him, the selfish shepherd Nabal. David felt no need to grant Nabal mercy. But for Abigail’s intervention, David would have killed him. God gave David this third test so that he could realize in humility his equal need for mercy. Through David’s testing, God prepared him for the mercy that David would need to show as king. Like David, God tests all believers to perfect their faith: “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:3). From God’s testing of David in the wilderness, He also reveals seven lessons for receiving His mercy that you also need.

First, Saul had promised on more than one occasion not to attack David. But when faced with a tempting offer from the Ziphites, he went back on his word and conspired to kill David. Many place their trust in leaders or in government for their deliverance. But God wants you to trust in Him alone and not in government or leaders for the mercy that you need. Second, God supernaturally placed Saul and his 3,000 troops into a deep sleep. This allowed David and his nephew Abishai to slip into Saul’s tent before dawn. Abishai offered to kill Saul for David. But David would not allow him to commit murder, even if Saul deserved it. From David’s example, God reveals that His mercy comes from following His ways and not the ways of the world. Third, David told Abishai to leave vengeance to God. Like David, God wants you to forgive your enemies and leave vengeance to Him. Fourth, after recovering Saul’s spear and his water jug, David showed Saul’s commander and his men that they had committed a crime worthy of a death sentence. In this account, everyone was a sinner. Everyone was in need of mercy. God also wants you to know your need for His mercy because sin is universal. Fifth, as he had done in the past, David confronted Saul for his sins in a humble and gentle manner. Like David, God also wants you to show your fellow sinners their need for His mercy in humility and with gentleness. Sixth, as he had done before, Saul confessed his sins when David confronted him. But Saul’s confession was even less sincere than before. Unlike Saul, God wants your confession of sin to also include a change in your behavior. Without a change in your behavior, your request for His mercy is insincere. Finally, David revealed to Saul the reason for his mercy. As a result of his attempt to murder Nabal, he realized that he was in need of mercy as well. God also wants you to be merciful to others because you are a sinner equally in need of His mercy.

1. Trust in God Alone and Not in Government to Receive His Mercy. 1 Sam 26:1-2.

  • Saul Succumbed to the Ziphites’ second offer to betray David. Saul had previously made peace with David after David spared his life at a cave. But Saul gave into his jealous temptations regarding David when the Ziphites presented him with a second opportunity to kill David. “Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is not David hiding on the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?’ So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having with him three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search for David in the wilderness of Ziph.” (1 Sam. 26:1-2). The Ziphites previously betrayed David to obtain Saul’s favor. “Then Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is David not hiding with us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon?’” (1 Sam. 23:19). Some believe that David’s marriage to Abigail and his inheritance of Nabal’s wealth may have caused the Ziphites to seek to eliminate David as an economic rival. David previously escaped death from their prior betrayal only after God used the Philistines to attack in a different area and draw Saul’s forces away from David (1 Sam. 23:24-29). This time, David would have to face Saul’s forces directly. The reasons for Saul’s decision to betray David are not stated. But Saul struggled with both jealousy and demonic possession. He also knew that his kingdom would not last if David lived. For this reason, he told his son Jonathan that David had to die: “For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore now, send and bring him to me, for he must surely die.” (1 Sam. 20:31). Satan would have also manipulated Saul in an attempt to destroy the line leading to the Messiah. Faced with this new temptation, Saul quickly abandoned his previous repentance for his many attempts to kill David (1 Sam. 24:16-21). Saul had tried many times to kill David. On three separate occasions, he used his spear. He had also sent David to fight hopeless battles. He even had David desecrate the bodies of dead Philistines soldiers by removing their foreskins to have the Philistines retaliate. God had repeatedly shown Saul he could not prevent God’s will. But Saul persisted and came after David with a force of 3,000 soldiers, most likely the same soldiers who pursued David the last time. “Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.” (1 Sam. 24:2).

  • Satan will also conspire to kill God’s people out of jealousy. Acting under Satan’s influence, Saul tried to kill David because of his anointing. Centuries later, the Jewish leaders also conspired out of jealousy and under Satan’s influence to kill Jesus: “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:33; Matt. 16:21; Lk. 9:22). “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” (Matt. 12:14; Mk. 14:1). Out of jealousy, Satan will also conspire with his demons against you. David prepared for Saul with spies. Instead of spies, you have the Word and the Spirit to guide you and alert you. Using these resources, you must remain vigilant at all times for Satan’s schemes. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;” (Lk. 22:31). “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11). Are you aware of your weak areas where Satan is most likely to attack you?

  • Trust in God and not in government or mankind when you are under attack. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and those who are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28). Because of David’s suffering and betrayal at the hands of the Ziphites and Saul, we have some of the greatest psalms about trusting in God when others betray you: “For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, ‘Is not David hiding himself among us?’ Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” (Ps. 54:1). “Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your words.” (Ps. 119:161). “Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.” (Ps. 119:157). God also wants you to be assured that Jesus will deliver you as well. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tim. 4:18). Your trust in Him does not include trust in government for your deliverance from evil. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). Do you trust in God alone to deliver you? Or, do you place your faith in government?

2. To Receive Mercy, Follow God’s Way and Not the Ways of the World. 1 Sam. 26:3-8.

  • David’s second opportunity to kill Saul. God previously tested David when He delivered Saul into his hands in a cave in which David’s men hid (1 Sam. 24:2-3). This time, God would deliver Saul only after David acted in faith by walking with only one other soldier, his nephew Abishai (1 Chron. 2:15-16), into Saul’s sleeping army of 3,000 men: “Saul camped in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon, beside the road, and David was staying in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies, and he knew that Saul was definitely coming. David then arose and came to the place where Saul had camped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, and Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army; and Saul was lying in the circle of the camp, and the people were camped around him. Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, saying, ‘Who will go down with me to Saul in the camp?’ And Abishai said, ‘I will go down with you.’ So David and Abishai came to the people by night, and behold, Saul lay sleeping inside the circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the people were lying around him. Then Abishai said to David, ‘Today God has delivered your enemy into your hand; now therefore, please let me strike him with the spear to the ground with one stroke, and I will not strike him the second time.’” (1 Sam. 26:3-8). Previously, God brought Saul into a cave to relieve himself in which David’s men were hiding. At that time, one of David’s associates wanted to kill Saul (1 Sam 24:4). In the cave, David’s servant used almost the same words that Abishai used here: “4 ‘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.’”’ (1 Sam. 24:4). Faced with the last test, David did not want to face God’s judgment for murdering His anointed king. Thus, he merely cut a corner of the king’s robe, something which also caused him to feel remorse (1 Sam. 24:5). Here, Abishai gave David the chance to again kill the king without feeling any guilt. Abishai was willing to take the blame and even use the same spear that Saul had thrown at David on three prior occasions (1 Sam. 18:10-11; 19:9-10). Abishai was a loyal soldier of David who would in future offer to kill David’s enemies after he became king. “Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.’” (2 Sam. 16:9). Yet, thanks to God’s testing here, David would later show mercy as Israel’s king.

  • Don’t engage in the Devil’s tactics to do what you believe is right. David could have reasoned that God meant for David to kill Saul because He placed Saul’s soldiers into a deep sleep. Only God could have put 3,000 men into a deep sleep. “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.” (Is. 29:10). Yet, God does not condone murder. “You shall not murder.” (Ex. 20:13; 21:12; Gen. 9:6). And, He does not endorse the morality of the world. ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). Thus, you must “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). There are many people in life who will offer you ethical shortcuts. No matter what you may read from your circumstances, you must always follow God’s Word and the Spirit, not the ways of the world. When no one is watching, do you follow the Word or the ways of the world?

3. To Receive Mercy, Forgive Others and Leave Vengeance to God. 1 Sam. 26:9-12.

  • David passed God’s test by leaving vengeance to Him. David passed God’s first test of vengeance when he spared Saul’s life in the cave. Yet, but for Abigail’s intervention, he would have failed God’s second test by killing Nabal. When faced with his third test, David turned to God and refused to allow his servant to kill Saul: “But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt?’ 10 David also said, ‘As the Lord lives, surely the Lord will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed; but now please take the spear that is at his head and the jug of water, and let us go.’ 12 So David took the spear and the jug of water from beside Saul’s head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a sound sleep from the Lord had fallen on them.” (1 Sam. 26:9-12). Although Saul was a deeply flawed king, he was still God’s anointed king (1 Sam. 10:1). For this same reason, David refused to let his men kill Saul when he wondered into his cave to relieve himself: “So he said to his men, ‘Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’S anointed.’” (1 Sam. 24:6). Only God had the right to remove Saul’s anointed status. Saul had repeatedly breached his promises to David and his vows before God. God would soon judge him. But his sins did not justify David in engaging in his own sin of murder. After seeing how God dispensed justice to Nabal, David trusted God to avenge any wrongs against him (1 Sam. 25:38). But David previously took proof that he had spared Saul’s life by cutting a corner of Saul’s robe (1 Sam. 24:11). This time, he took Saul’s spear and jug to prove his mercy.

David stopped Abishai from killing Saul1

Forgive others and leave vengeance to God2

  • Forgiveness should be granted liberally and often. David could have said that Saul's repeated betrayals were too frequent to forgive. But Jesus warned that you should grant forgiveness liberally and often: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (Matt. 18:21-22). When you forgive the unforgivable, you too will be forgiven. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:26). Thus, if you are looking for God’s forgiveness, forgive those who hurt you.

  • Leave vengeance to God. Abishai was later remembered as a mighty man of valor for his skills as a warrior after his troops killed 300 men in battle (2 Sam. 23:18-19). But David would need to teach him that valor also includes mercy when it will bring peace. The duty to leave vengeance to God is one of the most repeated rules in the Bible: ‘“Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.”’ (Dt. 32:35). ‘“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”’ (Lev. 19:18). “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” (Prov. 20:22). “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men . . . Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:17, 19). “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9). “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will Judge His people.’” (Heb. 10:30). Like David, will you leave your vengeance against others to God?

4. Know Your Need For God’s Mercy Because Sin is Universal. 1 Sam. 26:13-16.

  • David reveals to Saul’s soldiers their need for mercy as well. After David previously encountered Saul in a cave, he provided Saul evidence of the mercy by showing him Saul’s cut robe. This time, David used Saul’s spear to convince Saul’s commander and Saul’s troops that they were sinners in need of mercy as well: “13 Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the mountain at a distance with a large area between them. 14 David called to the people and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, ‘Will you not answer, Abner?’ Then Abner replied, ‘Who are you who calls to the king?’ 15 So David said to Abner, ‘Are you not a man? And who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not guarded your lord the king? For one of the people came to destroy the king your lord. 16 This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, all of you must surely die, because you did not guard your lord, the Lord’s anointed. And now, see where the king’s spear is and the jug of water that was at his head.’” (1 Sam. 26:13-16). As the commander of Saul’s forces, Abner was responsible for Saul’s security. He took this duty so seriously that he slept next to Saul. His failure to guard Saul was a crime that could have resulted in his death. In fact, the entire force of 3,000 men bore responsibility for failing to protect their king. They had all sinned, and they all were in need of mercy.

  • All have fallen short and are in need of repentance. David almost sinned against Nabal. His servant almost sinned by trying to kill Saul. Saul had repeatedly sinned. Here, David exposed one of the likely many sins amongst Saul’s leaders and soldiers. Like everyone in this account, all have fallen short in God’s eyes: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ro. 3:23). “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20). “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous.” (Ps. 143:2). “Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:17). Instead of condemning the sinners around you, He wants you to confess your own sin because you are no better. When you confess your sins, He will cleanse you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Have you confessed your sins to receive His mercy?

5. To Receive Mercy, Be Humble and Restore Others with Gentleness. 1 Sam. 26:17-20.

  • David’s humility in defusing Saul’s murderous rage. When David confronted Saul after cutting his robe in a cave, he appealed to Saul in humility. Although David had committed no sin toward Saul, he again approached Saul in humility to bring peace to the situation: “17 Then Saul recognized David’s voice and said, ‘Is this your voice, my son David?’ And David said, ‘It is my voice, my lord the king.’ 18 He also said, ‘Why then is my lord pursuing his servant? For what have I done? Or what evil is in my hand? 19 Now therefore, please let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If the Lord has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering; but if it is men, cursed are they before the Lord, for they have driven me out today so that I would have no attachment with the inheritance of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now then, do not let my blood fall to the ground away from the presence of the Lord; for the king of Israel has come out to search for a single flea, just as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.’” (1 Sam. 26:17-20). Out of mercy and grace, David made it easier for Saul to end his pursuit by blaming his advisors for bad advice. This was the same tactic that David used when he spared Saul’s life at the cave: “David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’?” (1 Sam. 24:9). God also wants you to convict sinners with gentleness. Even though he was right in his actions, David was also humble to resolve the conflict. At both the cave and here, David compared himself to a flea in Saul’s presence. “After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, a single flea?” (1 Sam. 24:14). Under God’s Law, any alleged criminal was entitled to a trial with evidence. David invited Saul to identify any wrong that he had committed. He further appealed to Saul as a one-time prophet not to force David to leave God’s Promised Land to live amongst the idol worshippers in the surrounding nations. David could have fled to Moab where his grandmother Ruth came from (Ruth 4:13-22). But this might have compromised his walk with God. He knew that his spiritual walk with God was more important than his safety.

  • Restore others in a spirit of gentleness. David’s kindness to Saul later brought about Saul’s conviction of his sins: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Ro. 12:20; Prov. 25:21). “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jo. 13:34). Like David, you are called upon to restore a sinner through love and kindness: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it, for still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.” (Ps. 141:5). “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Tim. 2:25). Like David, do you convict sinners with a spirit of gentleness? Or, do you scold them and bring them down?

  • Be humble, even when you are right. David’s humility helped to bring peace. His humility was also part of his preparation to become king. Like David, God wants you to allow Him to humble you through your suffering so that He can exalt you in heaven alongside Him without any pride. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5; KJV). Are you humble when you are right and others are wrong?

6. To Receive Mercy, Your Confession of Sin Should be Genuine. 1 Sam. 26:21.

  • Saul’s second confession of his sins. David’s mercy and humility caused Saul to repent of his sins in trying to kill David. “21 Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.’” (1 Sam. 26:21). But this was not the first time that Saul had repented to David for his sins. When David previously showed Saul mercy and humility at a cave, Saul also confessed his sins against David (1 Sam. 24:16-21). As he did previously, Saul referred to David as his “son”. Yet, unlike his prior confession, this confession was unemotional and insincere: “When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is this your voice, my son David?’ Then Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you.”’ (1 Sam. 24:16-17). Saul had also confessed his sins on other occasions without changing his behavior. For example, he confessed his sins to Samuel after he refused to wait for Samuel to come and perform a sacrifice. “Then he said, ‘I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” (1 Sam. 15:30). He invited David to “return” home and worship with Israel (1 Sam. 26:21). Yet, based upon his repeated false repentances, David had every reason not to trust in Saul’s repentance as genuine. God would guide David when the time was right for his return. David would continue to serve Israel in the wilderness. But he could not openly return until Saul’s death.

Saul’s second confession of his sins to David3

  • Confess your sins to those whom you have wronged, and then change your ways. Like Saul, God wants you to confess your sins to others: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (Jam. 5:16(a)). The confession of sin is a central principle of the Christian faith. John baptized believers only as they confessed their sins: “and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” (Matt. 3:6, 11). If you confess your sins, God will forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). But Saul shows that the mere confession of sin is not enough. You must also change the behavior leading to the sin. Without a change in your behavior, your confession of sin is not genuine. Nor is it worthy of God’s mercy.

7. To Receive Mercy, Be Merciful to Others. 1 Sam. 26:22-25.

  • David showed mercy in order to receive it. David had just played the fool himself after he almost killed Nabal out of vengeance. He knew that he needed God’s mercy. Thus, he confessed that he showed Saul mercy in order to receive it for himself: “22 David replied, ‘Behold the spear of the king! Now let one of the young men come over and take it. 23 The Lord will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord delivered you into my hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. 24 Now behold, as your life was highly valued in my sight this day, so may my life be highly valued in the sight of the Lord, and may He deliver me from all distress.’ 25 Then Saul said to David, ‘Blessed are you, my son David; you will both accomplish much and surely prevail.’ So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.” (1 Sam. 26:22-25). Saul had now blessed David twice for his mercy. He previously blessed him after David spared his life at the cave. “May the Lord therefore reward you with good in return for what you have done to me this day. 20 Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand.” (1 Sam. 24:19(b)-20). This would be the last time that Saul and David would ever see one another. But David would continue to receive the blessings as Israel’s future king because of the mercy that he showed to Israel’s current king.

Trust God to be faithful and righteous4

  • The importance of God’s testing in David’s spiritual growth. David had already passed God’s test by sparing Saul’s life. At the end of the last encounter, David told Saul that he would trust God to avenge any wrongs against him. “May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.” (1 Sam. 24:12). But his encounter with Abigail and Nabal showed him that he was in need of mercy as well. As one commentator explains: “For David, the events of this chapter are a high water mark for David’s grasp of God’s truth, and for the application of it in his life. David stood tall outside that cave in chapter 24, but he stands even taller here in chapter 26. He is confident of God’s protection and care, and of Him as the one who will reward his righteousness and judge his accusers. If in chapter 24 we see David gently rebuking his king, in chapter 26 we see him rebuking those who have set the king against him. David now sees his flight from his enemies in terms of its spiritual implications. If David has grown spiritually after the events of chapter 24, and this growth is evident in chapter 26, we must conclude that Abigail plays a significant role in this. The things David affirms as true in chapter 26 are the very things about which Abigail assures him. If David has any doubt that he will become the next king, Abigail assures him he will reign over Israel (25:30). Though David wants to take vengeance on his enemies (i.e. Nabal), Abigail reminds him that God will better handle such matters, and that leaving this to God will keep David from any regrets (25:31).” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh “23. The Second Time Around” (1 Samuel 26:1-25).5 God wants you to learn from David’s testing so that you will also be merciful to those around you.

  • Mercy is given to whom it is shown. David learned from his testing to be a merciful king. Just as God shows you mercy, He wants you to show mercy to others. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6:36). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:37). “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2). “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:13). “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10). Are you merciful to your enemies? Will you show mercy even if you have nothing worldly to gain for it?

  • Although your salvation is not based upon works, Jesus will still hold you accountable. Many believers fall into the trap assuming that works do not matter because they are not a test for salvation. But Jesus will still hold you accountable for every good and bad act: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Ro. 14:10). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). Thus, David’s fear of the Lord including the assurance that he would also be held accountable for his actions. “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me . . . Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes.” (Ps. 18:20, 24). “The LORD judges the peoples; vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.” (Ps. 7:8). “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.” (Ps. 18:20). “And men will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!”’ (Ps. 58:11). ‘“But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”’ (2 Chron. 15:7). Although your salvation is not tied to your works, without works your faith is dead (Jam. 2:26). Jesus says that a believer should be recognizable to others by his or her fruits (Matt. 7:16). Is your faith visible through your mercy and love towards your enemies?

  • God tests you to show you where your faith is lacking or where your heart is evil. God tested David to show Him his need for mercy. God will also test you. He tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). He also tests you to show you where your walk with Him is lacking. When He does, rejoice in knowing that His testing is designed to build up your faith: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Ja. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). David was a sinner. But he invited God to search his heart to expose his sins “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you inviting God to test your heart and learn from your mistakes?