Monday, April 16, 2012

Repaying evil with good

King David has always fascinated me. What young boy sitting through a Sunday School lesson doesn't perk up whenever the story of David using a slingshot to defeat Goliath comes up? David is often portrayed as a mighty warrior and was very brave even when he was young. I found that inspiring. I wanted to be like David. As I grew up and started to read some of the less seemly stories of David I was further fascinated by the notion that someone with such flaws was still considered by God to be a man after God's own heart.

At our church we have been going through the Old Testament (for quite some time) in order to get a better overview of the story of Israel and how it still relates to us today. The last two sermons in the series (we did take a break for Palm Sunday and Easter) do a good job of highlighting the contrasting–and conflicting–sides of David. I covered 1 Samuel 24 a couple of weeks ago and our pastor covered 1 Samuel 25 yesterday. These two sermons covered the same basic topic with David playing opposite roles in each one. One of the lessons that we get from both stories is the importance of choosing to act properly towards other people.

In 1 Samuel 24, David is being pursued by King Saul. Saul has been chasing David with the intention of killing him for quite some time. David is hiding out in a cave in the oasis of Engedi. Saul needs to take care of some business and just happens to wander into the same cave that David and his men are in. David was faced with a decision that must have really stunk. And he decided to let Saul go. David spared Saul's life even though Saul was trying to kill David. David decided to repay Saul's evil actions with good actions.

In 1 Samuel 25, David is faced with another decision regarding how to react to someone. David and his men had shown hospitality towards the servants and shepherds of Nabal. Not only did David and his men treat the shepherds well, they went so far as to protect the shepherds and their flocks. But when it came time for Nabal to return the favor, he turned David away. It was a great insult towards David. In a stark contrast to his actions in chapter 24, David decided to repay Nabal's evil actions with some evil actions of his own:
"And David said to his men, "Every man strap on his sword!"
If it weren't for the quick thinking of Nabal's wife Abigail, David would have massacred Nabal and all of his men.

There are two verses that are a mirror of each other. In 1 Samuel 24:17, Saul tells David:
"You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil."
In other words Saul is telling David that David has returned good for evil. On the other hand, in 1 Samuel 25:21, David says the following about Nabal:
"Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good."
These back-to-back mirrored stories about David are a very good reminder to us that we can very easily get caught up in treating people poorly when we feel that we have been wronged. On the one hand David knew that had not done anything to Saul to justify Saul's desire to kill him. But on the other hand David felt that he had earned the right of Nabal's favor. It was David's perspective that had changed between the two events. I know that I often feel greatly insulted when I do not receive that which I have earned. What I need to remember is that God has decided to forgive me and to repay my evil actions with good. I need to go and do likewise and be willing to act in a God pleasing way towards others even when they wrong me.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment