David Shows Mercy – I Samuel 24


Whenever a sin is committed against us, we can choose between 3 options in the way we respond. 1) We can get revenge by making the sinner feel the same pain s/he caused us – maybe even more! 2) We can administer justice by punishing the sinner appropriately for his/her sin. 3) We can show mercy by withholding the punishment the sinner deserves and can show grace by extending forgiveness, goodness, and blessing to the sinner that s/he doesn’t deserve.


The Bible reminds us that we serve a God who is perfectly just. So, we know that God will always demand from us sinners exactly the punishment we deserve for our sins. Unfortunately for us, that punishment is death! The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus stepped in and took that punishment in our place; He died on the cross for us. Now that Jesus has satisfied God’s justice, God can choose to extend to us His mercy and grace instead of His wrath! Wow!!


Today’s story depicts this concept of extending mercy instead of judgment. Saul’s days as king are numbered. Saul and his heir, Jonathan, and, of course, David all know that one day David will be king. “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands” I Sam. 24:20 & 23:17. But this knowledge doesn’t stop Saul from trying to kill David. Saul pursues David into the desert with 3000 men, and immediately Saul makes an almost-fatal mistake. 


Saul steps into a cave “to relieve himself” – go to the bathroom, the very same cave where David and his men are hiding. Saul is completely vulnerable; he has most certainly removed his armor and his royal robes. David’s men are encouraging him to administer the final blow, even telling David that God has placed Saul in his hands. David creeps forward and cuts the corner off Saul’s royal robes, but then, the Holy Spirit begins to act. 


The Bible says David is “conscience-stricken. The Holy Spirit begins moving on David’s heart, directing him to act according to God’s heart. The Holy Spirit directs David to step back and let God handle ALL the details of making him king. Even though it doesn’t make sense on a human level, David obeys immediately, and in his obedience, David depicts for his men and for us what it looks like to become instruments of mercy and grace. 


What are some practical applications we can take away from this story?

  1. 1) When we experience God’s mercy towards us, we can choose to respond with mercy to those who hurt us. We can choose to forgive others and leave vengeance to God. 
  2. 2) As believers, we must each attune our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit and obey His voice alone. Sometimes even our friends will encourage us to act in opposition to God’s will. We must be strong enough to stand up to those voices as much as to any other evil input in our lives.
  3. 3) As believers, we can STOP in our sin and turn away from it. (David was in the midst of cutting Saul’s robes when he stopped and changed course). The Bible tells us that those who haven’t given their lives to Jesus are enslaved to sin, so they don’t have the ability to turn from sin. 


Activity – Response Brainstorm – Talk about the idea that mercy is withholding a punishment that is deserved and grace is giving a blessing instead of the punishment; justice is giving a punishment that is deserved; and revenge is trying to hurt a person because he or she hurt you. In a bowl, drop 3 cards, one each for “grace and mercy,” “justice,” and “revenge.” Read each of the following scenarios and have kids draw a card and tell how they could respond in either grace & mercy, justice or revenge.

  • Your younger sibling broke one of your favorite toys while playing with it without permission.
  • Your friend at school called you a mean name and wouldn’t sit with you at lunch.
  • A kid on your baseball team is being picked on by other kids.
  • You cut in line to stand closer to your friend, but the person you cut told you to go to the back of the line. 
  • Your older sibling told you to go away, and you punched him on your way out of his room. 


Additional questions:


What did you like about this story?


What didn’t you like?


What did you learn about God/Jesus?

  • God is a just God, so He MUST punish sin.
  • Jesus paid for the penalty of our sin when He died on the cross.
  • Because Jesus satisfied the payment of sin, God now extends mercy and grace to us even though we don’t deserve it.
  • God is delighted when we also extend mercy and grace to people.


What did you learn about people?

  • People, even Christians, will sometimes encourage friends to do things that God doesn’t want them to do.
  • People, who belong to Jesus, must obey the Holy Spirit more than they obey anyone else.
  • People can bring blessing to many by responding with mercy and grace.


What did you learn about yourself?

  • I want to delight in God’s mercy and grace so that I can extend it to others.
  • I want to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me.
  • I want to bravely obey God immediately when He tells me something.