Many modern evangelicals have a besetting error that leaves them more like a cat chasing his tail than a train blowing down the tracks. Surely I don’t need to defend the point that the steaming locomotive is better than the listless feline. Even if you are a cat-lover, you must admit that you do not want to be one. All of that running in circles makes one dizzy. You don’t get anywhere. And even if you do happen to snag your prize, you will only wish that you hadn’t.
This pesky error can be called video-game Christianity. I do not mean to say that those who fall into this error are not earnest about their Christianity. They are very serious about it. But they are serious about it like a thirty-year-old man is serious about playing Minecraft in his mother’s basement. He builds worlds and kingdoms in an imaginary space. But he eventually has to turn off the game and muddle his way through a boring and disconnected life where God is not at work. And thus he makes all sorts of mistakes, running himself around in circles. And, well, as the Apostle James has said, “my brothers, these things ought not to be so.” We are to work with God in the real world, in real-time. David shows us the way in 1 Samuel 26.
The Text – A Summary
In this chapter, we nearly have a replay of what happened in the cave a few chapters back. Saul was pursuing David then. And it so happened that the cave into which Saul went to go to the bathroom was the very same cave in which David was hiding. David had the opportunity to kill Saul. But would not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed no matter how badly his men wanted him to.
In 1 Samuel 26, Saul pursues David again. This time, the LORD sends a deep sleep upon Saul and his three thousand men. David and Abishai go down among them while they are asleep, and of course have opportunity to kill Saul. Saul’s spear and water jug laid beside him, the very spear with which Saul tried to pin David to the wall, twice. Abishai whispered to David for permission to pin Saul to the earth, saying that he would not strike him twice (v. 8).
But David responds as he did before, saying that he would not stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed. And the key to David’s actions are found in verse 10 where he says, “As the LORD liveth, the LORD shall smite him.” David and Abishai leave the sleeping camp with Saul’s spear and water jug. And after getting distance, David confronts Saul like he did after the cave incident.
Saul responds like he did after the cave encounter. And David responds in verse 24 saying that as Saul’s life was precious to David so let David’s life be precious to God.
Working with God in Real-Time
If we would work with God in real-time, then it starts with knowing that he works in real-time. Saul had given up on working with God. He took matters into his own hands. He offered his unlawful sacrifice a while back. He made his rash vow, forgetting that the battle belongs to the Lord. He failed to kill when God said to kill. And he went to killing when God said not to. But as much as Saul tried to ignore God, God did not ignore Saul. As much as Saul tried to take the steering wheel out of God’s hand, God kept driving just the same. We see him doing this in verse 12 when he puts Saul and his army into a deep sleep.
David, on the other hand, lived very much aware that God is at work in the world. He made the simple and essential confession in verse 10, “The LORD lives.” And David knew a thing or two about how this Living God operates for he added, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him.” David knew Saul was in a bad way. He could read the story God was writing. And David anticipated God’s next paragraph while refusing to take the pen out of God’s hand. If David thought the kingdom of God was merely was coming in some simulated metaverse, then he would not have made the right decisions in real-time. He would have killed Saul earlier in the cave. He would have pinned Saul to the ground while he slept. David however knew that the kingdom of God was coming on earth. He knew what King Nebuchadnezzar learned after many sorrows, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:17).