And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.
Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’
-1 Samuel 24:5-10 (ESV)
David had an open opportunity to get his revenge. Saul literally walked right into his hands. In verse 4, David’s men shared how such a divine opportunity was laid upon David. Truthfully, David was within his right to take Saul out right there in that cave.
Saul had it coming. He had chased David throughout the kingdom. He hurt those who had helped David. He had killed others who had hidden or provided supplies or food for David. King Saul sought to kill David. King Saul hunted down his son-in-law, the husband of his daughter Michal, and desired to see him dead. He did all of that out of envy and rage, seeking to destroy David and forcing David to hide in caves.
David refused to take revenge. He had the opportunity. It presented itself to him. He saw the opportunity and neared it, daring to cut a slice from Saul’s robe as he relieved himself. David did not slit the king’s throat. He just cut part of the king’s robe. David exercised restraint rather than take revenge.
Do we do the same? Do we hold back or do we go for the jugular? Do we restrain ourselves when vengeance emerges as an opportunity? If not, we could. Better yet, we should. We should restrain ourselves.
The choices that we face can cause us some real agony. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves led by the wrong spirit and doing the wrong thing. Revenge does not do anything positive for us that will last beyond the immediate moment. Exercise restraint.