David’s story of mercy, justice

Published 9:01 pm Friday, May 29, 2015

By Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Although I love Suffolk, it is sometimes helpful to travel and experience what God is doing in other places.

Last Sunday I was in New York City, and attended church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One of my favorite preachers, Tim Keller, pastors Redeemer Presbyterian Church in that great city. Tim wasn’t there Sunday morning, but one of the associate pastors gave a powerful message from 1 Samuel 26 about mercy and revenge.

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This chapter tells us that David had a golden opportunity to kill his enemy, King Saul. A jealous Saul had turned on David and attempted to pin him to a wall with his spear. David managed to escape, but found himself on the run, an innocent fugitive being pursued by Saul and his army.

But one night as Saul slept, David crept up on him. Saul’s spear was right beside him. David has the opportunity to kill Saul with the very spear Saul had hurled at David!

This was his chance to take revenge. He could have said, “You tried to pin me to the wall. Now I am going to pin you to the ground.”

But rather than kill Saul, David simply takes Saul’s spear and leaves. Rather than choosing the route of revenge, David chooses the path of mercy.

What about us? What about when someone insults you, lies about you, gossips about you, or betrays you? Do you long to take revenge? Why grant mercy?

We can learn from David’s example. He was calm and steady and controlled, and refused to exact revenge. What made him like that? What can make us like that?

First, David had confidence in God. David knew that only God could bring about real justice. He was confident that God had the power, the knowledge, and the right to deal with Saul.

So David decided not to jump into God’s role. Rather than take matters into his own hands, he trusted God to do the right thing with Saul.

This is precisely what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:19, when he says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Second, David understood his own need for mercy. When we read the Psalms of David, we see that David is acutely aware of his own sin. He knows that he deserved God’s judgment, but received God’s mercy.

This is why Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

In other words, who are we to ask for God’s forgiveness while withholding forgiveness from others?

Ultimately, we become people of mercy by understanding God’s mercy, which he has shown us in Christ.

You see, one day a descendent of David, one named Jesus, was going to allow himself to be pinned to a cross for our sins. Jesus was going to allow a spear to pierce his side for us. He did it so that we would be able to receive God’s mercy, not his judgment.

The next time you are tempted to take the path of revenge, look to the cross and think about how much mercy you have been shown.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.