King David is a fabulous character in the Bible. He is the "man after God's own heart", the recipient of the Davidic covenant, a type of Christ, and certainly one of the most faithful and laudable persons in human history. But there was a time in his life when all of that probably seemed very distant and unlikely. David starts well in the service of King Saul as a musician and armor-bearer, and even earns high praise as the one who saved Israel from the Philistines by single-handedly downing their champion, Goliath. But that is where things start to go south for the brave, faithful youth. One day, as the army is coming home, Saul overhears the women singing, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands," and from that moment on there is great strife between David and the jealous king.
The years that follow on the heels of the split between David and Saul are frustrating. David is pursued as a fugitive all through the wild places of Canaan: up hills and mountains, through the wilderness, and into caves. On a couple of occasions, David even hides in the service of Israel's enemies - once going so far as to feign madness!
During this time, it is easy to imagine that a person so pursued would experience a large measure of depression, discouragement, and anger over his plight. And yet, we consistently find David content to wait on his God to settle things in His own time.
On two occasions while Saul is chasing David down through the wilderness in order to kill him, David is given open access to his enemy to score a quick kill that would end the entire pursuit. Both times, however, the faithful youth spares the life of his lord, citing as the reason both times, "Who can put out his hand against Yahweh's anointed and be guiltless?" (1 Samuel 24:6 & 26:9)
We see a more full description of what is going on in David's mind during times like these in the episode with Nabal and Abigail in chapter 25 of 1 Samuel. There David and his men are slighted and dishonored by the foolish Nabal, but before David can descend of the man and his family to kill them all, the fool's wife comes to meet David with a large gift of food and with a humble apology and entreaty for David to stay his hand. To this David responds, "Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand" (1 Samuel 25:33). And later on, when Nabal's heart dies within him and he becomes as stone for ten days before finally dying completely, David rejoices by saying, "Blessed be Yahweh who has avenged the insult I received from the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing" (25:39).
And we know that David had to feel this exact same way in all of his dealings with Saul. Everything that Saul did to him was unjust (even giving away his wife at one point!), but David refused to put out his hand against God's anointed, knowing that, "As Yahweh lives, Yahweh will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish" (26:10). And so, he was content to wait, but we must never imagine that the waiting was easy. He probably thought, on more than one occasion, that the best years of his life were passing him by while he was hiding in caves or pretending to be insane in the court of the enemy. But God knew the plans that He had for David, and ultimately David knew that God knew!
David was faithful to His God, knowing that "Yahweh rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness" (26:23). He would later write songs that would declare the rich blessings of waiting on Yahweh to avenge and to bless in His own time: "Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (Psalm 27:14), "Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off" (37:34), "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him" (62:5).
We all need a good reminder of these truths from time to time. When we are treated unjustly - and the Bible promises that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) - we should not allow our enemies to rile us up to the point where we become guilty for taking vengeance into our own hands. Let God take care of that. He says, "vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Romans 12:19). A true faith in the awesome supremacy of God will tell you that He can do it far better than you ever could anyway, so don't let your enemy get off easily by repaying him yourself.
In a similar vein, we can often serve God in faithfulness for a long time before we see bountiful blessing. Oh, there are surely a myriad of smaller blessings all along the way, but I mean the big "fruit-bearing" kind of blessings that are unmistakable - even to the blinded eyes of unbelievers. Once again, though, it is a true faith that has to see the "treasure in heaven" as being greater than immediate rewards here on earth. Think on David's life and how long and how often he did the faithful things that he did before God established his kingdom. Think on these things and take heart. "Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; and you will look on when the wicked are cut off."