The Better Thing

“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)

We piled off the tour bus and found ourselves sitting beneath the shade of acacia trees listening to a lesson from 1 Samuel 24 that occurred precisely in this location of Engedi just over 3000 years ago.

Saul and three thousand warriors were chasing David with vengeance, bent on wiping out his memory from the earth. David and his men were hiding in the innermost portion of one cave among dozens in the area of Engedi, and Saul chose to enter that particular cave for some private time.

David’s men were ecstatic! God had miraculously handed their enemy into their hands. They were eye witnesses to God fulfilling his promise to place their leader on the throne of Israel as king. Since Saul’s warriors were absent from the scene, no one would have known who committed the murder. David’s men whispered in his ear, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you’” (1 Samuel 24:4). Go for it, David! This is your chance!

Impassioned by the challenge, David crept forward and carefully snipped off a corner of Saul’s robe. Instantly he felt remorse. He could not strike down God’s anointed man, no matter how evil Saul had become. David restrained his men from lifting their hands to slay Saul, and allowed his enemy to exit the cave unharmed.

This event in David’s life reaffirms the title God bestowed on him: “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people” (1 Samuel 13:14). David did the better thing! He could have easily taken things into his own hands and fulfilled God’s promise in his own time by fixing this gigantic problem in his own way. But he did not. Rather than cut off Saul’s head, David only sliced a corner of Saul’s royal robe.

David showed us what trusting God looks like when circumstances present a viable alternative. He set the example for us to wait for God’s timing, to believe that God’s ways are best, to remember that God is ultimately in control and will work out our perplexing situations according to his perfect wisdom.

Although it is not noted as such, Psalm 27 appears to be a description of David’s absolute trust in God at this point in his life. Reading these verses seems like we are looking over David’s shoulder in the cave and reading a page from his journal titled “God’s Restraint at Engedi.”

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid. When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise against me, yet I will be confident…I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:1-3, 13-14)

Thank you, David, for mentoring us in waiting on God to work it all out, in trusting our Lord, in having a courageous heart to choose the better way, in confident expectation for all God will do, no matter what!

Elizabeth A Mitchell

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