As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity" (1 Samuel 4:9)
In 2 Samuel 1 and in 2 Samuel 4 there are two stories of people who came before David with what they thought would be good news to his ears. However, when David heard the stories that they had told him his heart was grieved and the people were called to lament and mourn. David called these men wicked and had them executed because of their bloodguilt.
Let me make just a couple general statements as we begin. First, all men are prone to call good, evil; and evil, good. All men can call truth, error; and call error, truth. Or in this case, all men can come and proclaim what they think is 'good news' only to find out that it is not good news at all. In 2 Samuel 1 it is an Amalekite who brings the news. He was a sojourner in the land but not an Israelite. But in 2 Samuel 4 it is two Israelites who bring the news to David.
Secondly, all of these men had convinced themselves that what they did was good and that they were doing the right thing. In 2 Samuel 1 the Amalekite seemed to have many good reasons to do what he did. King Saul was wounded and in grievous pain and he had pleaded with the man to kill him. This man was convinced that Saul was going to die from his wounds but not before the enemy had come upon him. In some ways, it would seem like this man had done the right thing and the compassionate thing by killing Saul.
Not everyone was willing to act in such a way. At the end of 1 Samuel, Saul pleaded with his armor bearer to take his life saying, "'Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.' But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly." Both Saul and his armor-bearer died by falling on their own sword. Saul's armor bearer not only kept his integrity by refusing to kill Saul; but also by dying there with him. Integrity may cost a person their life but such a death will be rewarded by God. Proverbs 15:24 says, "The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from sheol beneath."
The two men in 2 Samuel 4 were commanders in Saul's army. They have seen the political winds changing and sought to make a move to get into the good graces of the future king, David. Therefore, they killed Saul's son, Ish-bosheth, while he lay resting in his bed. They thought that David would be happy that one of his political enemies had been removed. Why wouldn't they think this way, Saul would have been very pleased if he had been able to kill David, who he had come to view as an enemy. These men were used to seeing how a man like Saul would think; but they had never met a righteous man like David. Therefore, his response was unexpected.
I will admit, that as I ponder these things I see how Christians are prone to learn more from this world than they are to respond the way that Jesus would have them. If our attention is on the world, we will react like they do. If our eyes are on the LORD, and our minds are upon His Word, we will respond more like David. Jesus had to have a conversation with his disciples one day about these very things. In Mark 10 Jesus says, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you...For even the Son Of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for 'many'" (42-43) The temptation in these times is to fail to look at Christ and rest in Him as we experience this turmoil. We know that the Gentiles rule the way they do. We need not be shocked by it. We should, however, be shocked by the Son Of Man who came to serve. We ought to fix our gaze upon Him and do the same.
What made David respond the way that he did in all of this? I suppose the answer is far more exhaustive than I would wish to cover here; but let me briefly give a few things.
First, David had learned some valuable lessons in his life as he awaited the kingdom to be given to him. There was a time, which is recorded in 1 Samuel 25, when David almost took the life of a man. named Nabal He was angry and felt justified to take his life but Nabal's wife intervened and saved David from bloodguilt (32). David learned from this event and it tempered him against reacting in a similar manner in the future.
Secondly, throughout this time David prayed continually for the LORD to protect and to deliver him. He was learning not to work salvation by his own hand but to let the LORD deliver him. Consider what he tells Abishai in 1 Samuel 26:9-10, "Do not destroy him (Saul), for who can put out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?'" David continues, "As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish."
Those who seek to save themselves see only one option - wickedness. Those who trust in the LORD see many avenues through which the LORD might act.
Notice that David knows that the LORD lives. He prays and submits his life to the LORD and he has seen God deliver him day after day. He has trusted in the LORD and he has never seen the righteous forsaken. The LORD has always redeemed Him from every adversity. Therefore, when these men came and brought 'good news', David saw it for what it was. They had done evil in God's name. They had done wickedly and had not let the LORD work salvation and so they were guilty and their blood was on their own head (1:16).
David prays in Psalm 31:1-2, "In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!"
I often pray like this, but I am not sure that I always realize the implications of such prayers. If I want God to save me I will not take salvation into my own hand. Nor will I rejoice when someone else does it and lists many reasons why their action was appropriate.
We don't always learn this lesson unfortunately. David told Abishai of three ways that the LORD would deal with Saul. But in 2 Samuel 3 Joab and Abishai took judgment into their own hands and murdered Abner for revenge because of the death of their brother. To them David said, "I and the kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father's house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!"
Would you like some 'Good News' to consider? David was unable to take away the sins of Joab and Abishai. He said, "I and the kingdom are guiltless forever...". Then he pronounced the judgment that would come upon the house of Joab. David's son, Jesus Christ, is able to take upon Himself the sins of His people and to pay the penalty on their behalf. Therefore, we can truly say with David, "Surly as the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity." The LORD lives and by His life we have been justified and made righteous.