A SENSE OF GOD’S TIMING
Two leaders locked in a death struggle—with one refusing to fight
1 Samuel 24:11–12 “I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me.”
In the winter of 1777, America had two armies. One lived in comfortable homes in Philadelphia. The other camped in the snow in the hills to the northwest, at a place called Valley Forge. One showed impeccable discipline. The other tried desperately to keep its untrained recruits from deserting. One was supplied by ship with every luxury. The other fought frostbite because its soldiers had no boots.
In sum, one army had everything it could want to weather a cold winter and a war, while the other hung by a thread. Who could have thought, seeing the two, that within three years the army with nothing would defeat the army with everything?
The impoverished American army could never go head-on against the crack British forces. But it could always outwait them. George Washington’s army had the support of the American people, while the British army, for all its strength, was far from home. The British had to win decisively, putting an end to the rebellion. The Americans merely had to survive and outlast them.
Washington was a military genius not at battle tactics, but at a more fundamental necessity: encouraging his men to fight on. One-quarter of them died of cold and disease that bitter winter at Valley Forge. Only his personal strength held the miserable army together. That was the key to victory.
Two Kings in Israel
David and his followers lived in a similar situation. Saul was the right and proper king, living in luxury. David had been secretly anointed as his replacement, but he lived in the desert, scrabbling to survive. Saul had a professional army, David a small band composed of family members and an assortment of outlaws.
Twice Saul accidentally fell into David’s hands, but David refused to kill him. He felt that would violate God’s will. He would not use his sword to become king. He fought not to win but to survive.
Survival was not easy. You can read between the lines of 1 Samuel 21—31 and see a great drama unfolding. Saul is clearly deteriorating. Can David hold on long enough to outlast him?
At first David ran from one place to another, alone and completely vulnerable. Then, after a few hundred supporters joined him, the local people turned the rebels in twice (see 1 Samuel 23:19; 26:1). Perhaps they feared that Saul would slaughter them the way he had the Nob priests (see 1 Samuel 22:6–23).
David survived and managed to keep his army intact. He even built popular support by providing military protection to his neighbors. But eventually he saw that his position was impossible. “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul,” he thought (1 Samuel 27:1). He left Israel and became, with his army, a hired soldier for one of the Philistine kings.
Sooner or later David’s double-agent act would have been found out. In fact, when the Philistines planned a major military effort against Israel, David barely escaped having to fight his own people.
Time on His Side
David believed God’s promise even when his situation looked very bad. He would wait for God’s timing. God had anointed him king, and he trusted God to vindicate him.
A sense of timing, people say, is essential to leadership. You must know when to act boldly and when to wait patiently; when to bend and when to stand firm. David had that critical sense of timing because he trusted God’s control of events.
What makes you impatient? What can you learn about patience from David’s life?