During stressful times other temptations can rear their ugly heads. Personal pain and frustration can cause unexpected character traits to surface.
The temptation to retaliate
It would have been easy for David to retaliate, to cry out in his cave against what he was experiencing, ‘It isn’t fair! I haven’t done anything wrong. Why should I be going through this?’
David handled himself magnificently. Even though he knew that Saul was the guilty party, David refused to speak against him or to retaliate in any way. Once, when Saul unwittingly came into the cave where David was hiding, David refused to take advantage of the situation and kill him. Instead, he cut off a piece of Saul’s robe – and was later conscience-stricken even about that mildly insubordinate act. What a tender heart this fearless warrior had!
There in the cave, David came under considerable pressure to respond wrongly to the situation. He was the leader of a group of men who had not yet been disciplined in godliness and who were urging him, ‘Come on, David. Saul deserves to die. God has given him into your hand. Now’s your chance to finish him off!’ Devotion to David drove them to say these things, but David refused to listen.
How do you deal with the pressure to take matters into your own hands? There are sometimes dear friends who, out of loyalty, want to see justice done and urge you to take action to vindicate yourself.
King Ahab wanted to buy a vineyard from Naboth, who didn’t want to sell it. At this point, Ahab’s wife intervened. She wanted to act for her husband, to make sure he was given the recognition due his position. ‘You’re the king, aren’t you? Well, it’s about time people came to terms with that. Come on, pull some weight!’
A wife may not be wicked like Jezebel, but she can be anxious to see her husband esteemed and urge him into taking steps that he shouldn’t take. She knows how kind and generous he is, how hard he prays and how little recognition he gets. She wants to protect and encourage him, so she says, ‘It’s not fair! You should have been honoured.’
Under this sort of pressure it is easy to react by uncovering the shortcomings of others, to speak poorly of them and expose their weaknesses. ‘Oh, he’s a fine fellow, of course, but did you know about…?’
A right response
God is waiting to see how you respond to the temptation to retaliate. ‘Will you accept my discipline, my pruning? Will you prove yourself worthy of “pulling my carriage” or do you only want to run free on the hillside and do whatever you like?’ David faced a powerful temptation. Would he give in to the pressure from his followers and take revenge on Saul? No. He triumphed over temptation; and God could say, ‘I have found David a man after my own heart.’
Did David ask himself, ‘Why does God allow Saul to remain on the throne? Why doesn’t he have him killed in battle?’ Whatever his thoughts, he realised that God was sovereign and refused to complain. Not only that, he also overcame the temptation to act in God’s place, to ‘do God a favour’ by getting Saul out of the way for good.
Maybe you don’t understand what God is doing in your life. Maybe your heart is crying out, ‘Lord, it isn’t fair! Why do I have to suffer while the guilty get off so lightly?’ Resist the temptation to react. Fear God and leave things with him. Say to him, ‘Father, your ways are past finding out, but I’m going to trust and worship you in the midst of this.’ Then imagine God in heaven with your report card in his hand, saying, ‘You passed with flying colours.’
‘Ultimately, God is the One who will right all wrongs. Vengeance is lawlessness because it does not recognize the lawful and righteous execution of God’s judgment, which he will bring about in his time. In other words, vengeance amounts to being impatient with God. You must remember that wrongs cannot always be righted immediately.’
Lou Priolo, The Complete Husband, 1999 Calvary Press