One of the best illustrations of leadership in the Bible is King David’s refusal, twice, to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 24, 1 Samuel 26).
You don’t have to be well steeped in Old Testament history to know that Saul was the jealous king who had disobeyed God and took out his anger and wrath on David. For many, many years he chased David around the land of Israel, trying hard to kill this shepherd boy turned King.
Even Saul’s own son, Jonathan, knew his father was wrong and befriended David at the risk of his life.
And yet, when David had two chances to kill Saul, he didn’t.
Many interpret this as a warning for rebelling against God-ordained authority. I’ve even heard it abused this way to justify corrupt leadership. I do think it can be applied in this context and I do think an anti-authoritarian attitude conveys a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty.
However, there is another lesson here that is even more powerful, I think.
When you have been wronged or you have serious disagreements with a person or a movement, there is a temptation to not only disagree, but to nourish the desire to see your enemies pay.
David himself struggled with this desire, evidenced in the many imprecatory prayers (Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109 and 139.). In these appeals to God, David asked for the destruction of those who opposed him. I imagine he envisioned a portrait of King Saul in more than one of these prayers.
And yet, the scenes with David in 1 Samuel 24 and 1 Samuel 26 show us just what David did with those thoughts of revenge. He didn’t act on them.
The desire to get back, to go for the jugular, to have his pound of flesh against the man who had tormented him and ruined his life, this desire stayed where it always should—in the space between David and his God.
In other words, while David felt the urge to see real-world justice happen against Saul, David acted on the biblical truth that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:9 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)]). And apparently God had so moved in David’s heart that when he heard the news of Saul’s death, he grieved deeply (2 Samuel 1).
We could learn a lot of from David’s example, can’t we?