Holy logic, Batm- …er, David! (@UnShaunSheep)

Reading through 1 Samuel, I was struck by the number of occasions that David trusts God. Above all, David trusts that God has anointed Saul as King and so will do nothing against Saul out of sheer obedience to this fact. This is even in the face of repeated attempts by Saul to put David in harm’s way or hunt him down and kill him.

batmanThere were many occasions in his life when David could have taken the initiative, done his own thing, and have every expectation of winning the day.

What I am particularly struck by are the clear occasions when killing Saul would have been easy, had apparently no negative consequences (in terms of getting away with it), and to all intents and purposes is the logical thing to do. They’re in 1 Samuel 24 and 26.

On the first occasion, David and co are hiding in a cave and Saul pops in to answer a call of nature, leaving himself very vulnerable to attack. On the second occasion, Saul is asleep, unguarded and completely at David’s mercy. In each case, David gets proof of how close he’d been to Saul and confronts him afterwards with this proof of his goodwill and his assurance that he is not Saul’s enemy.

That is illogical, Captain

It befuddles those around him: why does David not kill Saul on the occasions where, clearly, it would be easy to do so and keep David safe from further attempts on his life? You can even imagine the “holy logic” of this approach: look, Saul’s helpless, nobody’s guarding him, and here we are with weapons which would make swift work of killing him – obviously God has delivered Saul up to be bumped off and all your problems are solved. What on earth are you waiting for?

This kind of “holy logic” can be beguiling: it’s an easy win, so obviously must be God’s will.  Our reasoning can so easily be: a door has opened, so it must be a door to be gone through.

Let’s be clear: God does answer our prayers. But, like David, we must weigh opportunity against the other things we know of God. The trick is knowing how to tell the difference between being a true follower of God, or a wishful-thinking opportunist, beguiled by a spurious “holy logic” argument.

So what questions should we be asking?

A door opens. A golden opportunity to solve a problem presents itself.  It’s an easy fix, and may well be how God has answered our prayers. There are many questions we could ask ourselves when we’re presented with an apparent answer to a problem, but let’s just look at the examples of David in 1 Samuel 24 and 26 in which he doesn’t take advantage of the golden opportunity presented to him. What questions might we ask, taking David’s reaction as our inspiration?

Does this fit with God’s values?
David tells Saul, having spared him for a second time, “The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.  As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” 1Sam 26v22-24
Righteousness and faithfulness are correctly recognised by David as being God’s values and have informed his response to the situation.

Is there a bigger picture to consider?
Solving David’s problem of a homicidal King was weighed against the bigger picture of God’s relationship with his people and his anointing of Saul as their King. David accepts Saul as God’s anointed. For him, that is sufficient to rule out killing Saul.

Who is affected by this, apart from me, and would the impact on them be consistent with God’s love, holiness and justice?
David’s answer to those urging him to take advantage of opportunities to kill Saul always reminds them of the bigger picture: trusting that God has a plan and accepting that God has anointed Saul as King. This is God’s plan for the people.

If it’s an “easy win” – what have we won?
For David, the prize of killing Saul could, at the very least, have been an easier life, freed from the constant threat of death at Saul’s hand. He might even have anticipated being made King himself – after all, he had been anointed by Samuel – but this was not the prize David truly sought. As David explained to Saul: “May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”.

The prize for David was knowing he had chosen not to do evil, a decision he knew to be consistent with God’s holiness. And then, straight after this David drives his point home: he trusts in God, whom he knows to be just and true: “May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

Winning sees to be all about trusting God for David.

About Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan, Church of England ordinand based at a welcoming, bijou-sized northern Cathedral. Writer and composer. Tweets as @Unshaunsheep