When Good Advice isn’t God’s Counsel (1 Samuel 24:3-7)
You can’t follow every bit of advice you hear. Charles McCarry wrote several books (mostly spy novels), served as assistant to the Secretary of Labor in President Eisenhower’s administration, and was a CIA operative. What makes him remarkable? He almost wasn’t born.
My mother became pregnant with me at the age of 39. She had nearly died while giving birth to my only sibling. [My mother’s] doctor, who believed the second pregnancy was a serious threat to her life, advised an abortion. The advice made sense, but my mother refused to accept it. Just before she died at age 97, I asked her why. She replied, “I wanted to see who you were going to turn out to be.”
Advice to take another’s life should never be followed. David, while he was running away from Saul, refused to follow the advice to take another’s life. We want to think about 1 Samuel 24:3-7 and learn this lesson: “People don’t always give the best advice.”
Scripture (1 Samuel 24:3-7)
Let’s refresh our minds with the context of this passage. God had Samuel anoint Saul as king, but after Saul refused to obey God in the king’s victory over the Amalekites, Yahweh rejected him as king. Then, Samuel, following God’s instructions, anointed David to be king. David was, of course, a military hero of the Israelites; women greeted David with dancing and singing: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam 18:7). Saul, therefore, became jealous and determined to kill the young king-in-waiting.
David was hiding in the Desert of En Gedi, and “Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men” (1 Sam 24:2).
Saul came to a cave at some sheep pens and “went in to relieve himself.” Sheep pens would have had shepherds, so Saul could have asked any of them if they had seen David. However, Saul needed to relieve his bowels so desperately—that’s what the Hebrew idiom to cover one’s feet means—that he didn’t take time to ask about David’s whereabouts.
David and his men were at the back of the cave Saul entered. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence but divine providence.
David’s men told him: “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” There is absolutely no hint that God said anything of the sort—David’s men have likely misconstrued what God has said about giving David the kingdom.
David cut off a piece of Saul’s garment. Like the high priest (cf. Ex 28:33-34), the king’s robe was likely unique and spoke of his role and authority.
David was upset with himself for what he had done and forbade his men from taking any vengeance upon Saul. David understood that Saul was God’s anointed—in other words, David recognized that God had put Saul upon the throne and only God could take him off the throne. David couldn’t follow the advice of his men; only God himself could do what they had mentioned. David, you see, knew “People don’t always give the best advice.”
How should the truth “People don’t always give the best advice” impact you?
Look at advice in light of God’s will.
David’s fighting men thought they knew God’s will—since God was replacing Saul as king, they believed David should kill Israel’s first king. But that was not God’s will.
Many folks will offer advice that they believe is right, but it’s not what God wants. God’s Word must always have the final say: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17). Scripture “thoroughly” equips you “for every good work”—if advice isn’t consistent with Scripture, it won’t help you in “every good work” and is a detriment.
Ask other friends if they find the advice valid.
David doesn’t do that here—he doesn’t need to do it here. Yet, David’s son Solomon reminds us of the wisdom of hearing others: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). If an idea sounds too good to be true, if something just doesn’t add up, or if some advice seems worrisome, there’s nothing at all wrong with asking a mature Christian for help.
Know who you are.
I’m convinced one of the reasons David didn’t fall into the trap of his friends’ advice is that he knew he was the future king—not only was Saul God’s anointed but David was also the LORD’s anointed. David further knew that political assassination wouldn’t serve him too well in the future.
You need to remember who you are—you have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and belong to Christ: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:8). Any advice from anybody has to be filtered through the truth of the divine ownership of your soul.
May God bless you as you seek to honor him!