A popular saying goes, “I don’t get mad. I get even.” Another word for this is revenge. It is not unusual for people to want to see those who have treated them unjustly punished. Even those who are godly have sometimes prayed that the Lord would execute vengeance on the unjust (Jer. 11:20; 20:12).
David had an opportunity to take vengeance into his own hands when Saul decided to use the cave where David and his men were hiding as a public restroom (v. 3). The king was alone and distracted. Saul was so distracted that David was able to get close enough to cut off a corner of the king’s robe without being noticed. In addition to proving Saul’s vulnerability, this act may have symbolized the transfer of the kingdom to David (1 Sam. 15:27–28).
David’s men believed that God had delivered his enemy into their hands. They urged him to strike Saul down (v. 4). David, however, felt guilty about what he had done. He was “conscience-stricken” because of Saul’s position as his “master” and as “the Lord’s anointed” (vv. 5–6). After leaving the cave and relocating to a safe distance David called out to Saul, pointing out what he had done (and could have done) and reaffirming his loyalty to the king. “Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you” (v. 10).
Saul reacted emotionally to the event and wept aloud, saying to David: “You are more righteous than I” (v. 17). God, who had appointed Saul as king, would depose him in due time and bring David to the throne. But David refused to take the matter into his own hands. Payback is not ours. It is God’s prerogative.
>> David wisely recognized that circumstances are not always a clear indicator of God’s will. He also understood that vengeance is the Lord’s (Deut. 32:35). Has someone treated you unjustly? God knows your case. Trust Him to settle your accounts.