It might be hard to imagine one of the greatest heroes of faith in flight mode. Furthermore, it might seem impossible to find evidence of faith when he was on the run. Do the faithful retreat? Do those living by faith ever fear? Can you possess and demonstrate faith when you are not victorious?
These unanswered questions and these supposed impossibilities are cleared up in the life of David. Yes, the giant slayer ran away for safety. Despite his exaggerated exploits (1 Sam. 18:7; he had not really killed his “ten thousands”), David feared death at the hands of men. Yet, in these episodes, he demonstrated more faith than he did in some moments of victory and rest.
One of those events is recorded in 1 Samuel 24 and takes place in the deep recesses of a dark cave. There in the dark and on the run, David exercised faithful restraint and left us with an example worthy of being followed.
Upon the heels of defeating Goliath and saving Israel, David’s reputation grew within the nation. Keep in mind that David’s advancement came by the order and action of the king (1 Sam. 18:1-5). Similar to other Old Testament stories, David acted with integrity in his advancement and the Lord blessed him accordingly. However, Saul’s jealously over David’s popularity also grew at a rapid pace: “Then Saul was very angry…so Saul eyed David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 18:8–9).
After a series of illogical and ungodly events, David ended up on the run for his life. The same king that David saved and served was intent on killing him. Through God’s protective hand and with the help of those loyal to him, David successfully escaped the attempts on his life in Keilah (1 Sam. 23:1-14) and Ziph (23:15-29).
Still on the run, David ended up in a cave in the wilderness of En Gedi. It was there that his faith faced one of its greatest tests. While David and his men were hiding in the back of the cave, Saul came in “to attend to his needs” (24:3). With Saul in an unprotected position, one of David’s men reminded him that the Lord had said, “I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you” (24:4). Yet, David spared Saul’s life. The details of the story are of great interest, but the overall lesson is far more significant. David understood that Saul was a man appointed by God to sit on the throne. He was “the Lord’s anointed” (24:6) and it was not God’s will that David dethrone him.
Yes, this would have meant victory. It would have meant no more running. H. He would not have to flee any longer. However, David’s faith in God’s principles restrained him from lifting his hand against the king. David’s faith in God’s principles was stronger than his fear of death.
Sometimes Christianity is as much about restraint as it is about aggression. Some situations call for grace and not war. Some circumstances warrant inactivity over commotion. May God give us the wisdom to know the difference and the faith to practice restraint when needed.