“A Kingdom Provided”: David Showed Mercy
Grace and mercy are not the same, although they are closely connected. Grace is giving someone something good which they do not deserve. Mercy is withholding from someone something bad which they do deserve. Grace, then, is God giving us blessings which we do not deserve while mercy is Him withholding the rightful judgment we do deserve. And in light of God’s glorious grace and mercy to us, we are to be a people compelled by gratitude to extend both grace and mercy to others.
But let’s be honest. It is hard to extend grace to others, isn’t it? It’s difficult to give good things to those we believe do not deserve it. But as hard as that is, extending grace seems easy compared to extending mercy. Mercy goes against the very fiber of our souls. We are a people who delight in justice. We love seeing the villain—the evil—get what is due them. We want vengeance, especially when it is on our behalf. Doubt this? Consider the narrative structure of most movies. Consider how audiences cheer at the end of the movie when the bad guy finally gets what is due him. Mercy is not in our nature; wrath is.
We jump ahead a little in this week’s session. After David defeated Goliath, his fame spread throughout the land and women began to sing his praises—literally. This blatant adoration of David did not sit well with Saul. Gradually, the king became overcome with jealousy and paranoia, leading him to try to kill David on more than one occasion. Saul had sinned greatly against God as he began his reign and here we see that sin continued to plague it.
As a result, David, along with some faithful men, fled into the wilderness. But Saul wasn’t content to evict David; he wanted to vanquish his foe. So Saul took 3,000 warriors with him and chased after David and his outnumbered band of faithful men.
This week’s session picks up there, with David and his men hiding in a cave from Saul’s army. The exact cave that Saul “happened” to go into by himself to go to the bathroom. I put happened in quotes because we know that God works all things providentially. The men who were with David knew that too.
4 so they said to him, “Look, this is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’ ” Then David got up and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. (1 Samuel 24:4 CSB)
The response of David’s men made complete sense. God had promised that David would be king and here was the perfect opportunity for David to kill Saul and claim his rightful place on the throne. This seemed to be the perfect provision of God, a situation supported by God’s revealed word. David could defeat Saul and rule over Israel and these faithful men, who were risking their lives, could return home safely to their families. It all seemed to be too good to be true.
Because it was.
5 Afterward, David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “I swear before the Lord: I would never do such a thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed. I will never lift my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 With these words David persuaded his men, and he did not let them rise up against Saul. (1 Samuel 24:5-7 CSB)
David realized that while all the externals supported this as his God-given opportunity to strike down Saul, God had not explicitly instructed him to do so. Justice would be delayed with mercy taking its place.
What a sobering reminder to us. Many times we will navigate life and make decisions more on instinct. We don’t stop and consider God’s will in so manys things—even important ones. I know I am guilty of this. But then, even when we do, we may not go far enough. We might search the Scriptures and seek godly counsel, but we still need to be careful that we do not misinterpret what we discover in that process. There will be times when God’s Word seems to allow a certain action and that action is supported by faithful friends—but God still does not desire for us to act. My personality rebels against this; I like to delineate precisely. But following Christ is not like that at times. The Spirit does not always lead us in that way. There are times, like here with David, when all the signs are not pointing in the way we should go and the only way we will know is by being in close fellowship with our King.
Our Two-Step Application
I hope that last take-away is helpful, but here is another, one that is more closely connected with where we want to lead our kids. This session gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk with our kids about the beauty of mercy based on the mercy David displayed.
We love to see ourselves as the hero—it’s a pride thing. So our natural inclination in passages like this one is to see ourselves as David. Like we hit on in last session’s blog post, that’s not wrong to do, but we circumvent the fullness of what God wants to teach us when we rush to do that. This week help your kids identity with Saul first—the recipient of mercy. Our kids need to grasp deeply within their hearts how they sinned against their King and yet how God extended mercy to them. Then, with that sense of humility, awe, and gratitude, they will be able to shift to identify with David and consider how they might extend mercy to others. It’s a two-step application, as it always should be. First, we bask in the gospel. Then, and only then, might we be able to consider how we can live as a response to the gospel.
Mercy is hard to extend, except when we understand deeply within us the mercy God has given to us.
Love all men, even your enemies, not because they are your brethren, but that they may be your brethren.” — Augustine (354-430)
Preschool Tip: Grace and mercy can be challenging for preschoolers because they are abstract concepts. As you prepare to teach this session, consider how you can illustrate these truths in simple ways they can understand. They will be familiar with punishment for doing wrong things, so frame mercy in that context—not getting a timeout they deserved. They will also be familiar with birthday presents, so consider framing grace along those lines. We don’t do anything to earn a birthday gift—that is an example of grace.
Kids Tip: This session, along with David and Mephibosheth coming up, provides a great opportunity to teach your kids about the two-step application process we need to use when applying the Bible. Remember that we are discipling these kids—it is not a matter of giving them information, it is about helping to train them on how to live for Christ. Don’t just give them a fish this week—although that is a good thing to do—teach them how to fish too.
 Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, in St. Augustine: Gospel of John, First Epistle of John, and Soliloquies, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 7 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series (New York, NY: Cosimo, 1888, reprint 2007), 524.