Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the LORD who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the LORD, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’
- 1 Samuel 26:19
David was a man completely open to the Lord. He had no reservations. He had no doubts of who God was. He was honest with himself and honest with those around him. Here we see the openness of David in action. He crept in the darkness up to the camp where Saul and Abner are sleeping. Saul’s spear is at his head and David’s companion, Abishai, offers to take the spear and pin Saul to the ground. He promises to only strike him once, but intends to kill him. David says no. Not because Saul is friendly to him, because he’s not, and not because David isn’t the rightful king of Israel, because he is, and not because Saul doesn’t deserve to die, he does. No, David doesn’t kill Saul because he knows Saul as the Lord’s anointed. Though it seems as if the opportunity has presented itself for the very reason of killing his enemy once and for all, David instead listens to the will of God and stands against all worldly reason to command a firm “No.”
Instead, David and Abishai take the spear and a jar of water that was by Saul’s head and hop over to the top of the hill on the opposite side and yell back down at the camp. “And David called to the army, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, ‘Will you not answer, Abner?’ Then Abner answered, ‘Who are you who calls to the king?’ And David said to Abner, ‘Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy the king your lord. This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the LORD's anointed. And now see where the king's spear is and the jar of water that was at his head.’ (1 Samuel 26:14-16). David confronts Abner’s lack of protection. He shows Abner and Saul how close they both were to death.
Saul responds, “’Is this your voice, my son David?’ And David said, ‘It is my voice, my lord, O king.’ (1 Samuel 26:17). What David says next blows me away. I don’t understand it. I am not like this. I want to be, but I’m not. What David says next shows the openness he has to the Lord. David says, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the LORD who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the LORD, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’” (1 Samuel 26:18-19)
What strikes me in this passage are David’s words, “If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering.” David is saying to the man chasing him down, waiting for the chance to kill him, ruining his life, that he will accept it if it’s from the Lord. David is willing to accept what from all appearances is an unjust death if the Lord wills it. Years before, Samuel anointed David as Israel’s next king. David has spent countless hours in the wilderness with God in prayer. David has led men to great victory. David has been faithful to Saul. David has been a good man. David is a man open to the Lord. Since he’s open, despite all that he’s done, he’s not expecting things to go well for him unless the Lord decrees it. He is willing to accept even death if the Lord decrees it. David loves the Lord and because he loves the Lord he’s willing to take anything, and everything, from his hand. Like Job before him, David said in his heart, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).
Of course David is a type of Christ. David’s openness to the Lord foreshadowed the openness that Jesus would have for his Father while on earth. If anyone was open to the will of God, Jesus was. We see in Luke chapter 22 Jesus praying to the Father in the garden before he goes to the cross. He asks, saying, “’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:42-44)
Something happened in that prayer. Jesus began by asking his Father to remove the cup from him, if possible. Knowing that it wasn’t possible did not prevent him from asking. But it did prevent him from closing himself off to the Lord. What is one thing you know the Lord is asking you to do, but so far you’re hardening your heart against it? Jesus never did that. Though it drove drops of blood to appear upon his brow, he looked to his Father for the strength to continue on in his mission. He did not harden his heart, he opened it.
This passage always kind of made me wonder about something. Is this saying that Jesus maybe didn’t want to go to the cross? Did he hesitate? For years I worked it out in my mind that Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross but he did it anyways because that’s what he was supposed to do, and he was the kind of man who did what he was supposed to do. Well, yes, but it’s more than that. Hebrews 12:2 says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” How did Jesus go from, “Take this cup from me” to “the joy that was set before him”? One thing: complete and utter openness to the Lord. Jesus knew fully what David only knew in part. He knew that the all Holy God, his Father, wasn’t holding anything back from him. He could be open because only in openness like that can there be any true joy. Jesus didn’t go to the cross because it was what he was supposed to do, he did it because therein lie the very center of the joy in his mission.
Though it shook Jesus to the core of who he was, though it was more trying than we can ever understand, though it took a sinless life and a violent death to attain the calling, Jesus did it willingly. And joyfully. Not because it was only what he was supposed to do, though it was that, but because in following the Lord he came to the joy of salvation. He accomplished the work that was set out at the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
So, what is it that you’re hiding from God? What part of your heart is closed off? Where are you not completely open to the Lord? What forgiveness are you holding back on extending? What grace to another are you returning with bitterness? What call from God are you ignoring? What area of service do you deem to low for such a high person as you?
Of course, we can’t be perfect. Only Jesus was perfect. But we can look at a mere man like David and say with him, “If the Lord wills it to be, though I expected better, let it come as it will. And I will be happy to be a part in God’s story, no matter the part.” This is openness, this is obedience, and Jesus showed us that this is the path to true joy. To close ourselves off from the Lord because we’re expecting some path that will bring us honor on earth is a deadly course. Listen to the words of the Good Shepherd, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26) Let us all, together, follow him. And the Father will honor us, and there is no greater honor. Complete openness. Complete honesty. Complete joy.