Digging in Deeper: 1 Samuel 23:12

“Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.””  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Have you ever done something good only to have it blow up in your face? Have you ever given of yourself somehow to help someone else only to have them either throw it back in your face or else stab you in the back later? There’s an old adage that one good turn deserves another, but more often life seems to work out by way of a more cynical adage: No good deed goes unpunished.

This is certainly what David was facing. Even though he was on the run from Saul, he still loved his nation. When he heard that the Philistines (with whom he had tried to seek refuge not long before) were attacking the city of Keilah, David put his life and the lives of the men who had followed him on the line to save them. And how did they thank him? They betrayed him to Saul at the first chance they got.

What gives? How could they be so profoundly ungrateful for what he had done for them? The short answer is: We don’t know. Maybe they didn’t want David to save them in the first place. Maybe something went wrong during the rescue and they were upset with David and his men. Maybe lots of things happened, but the point is that they betrayed him. When you were betrayed somehow there may have been some reason that made sense at least in the mind of the other person, but there may not have been. In the end, the reason really doesn’t matter. You were betrayed and that’s what counts.

So what do you do in this situation? You’ve been betrayed after doing something good for someone else (for David, it was a good deed to which he was called by God). What comes next? How do you respond? Our twofold answer to this comes courtesy of David and Jesus.

First from David: When David learned that he and his men were going to be betrayed they didn’t somehow punish Keilah for it. In fact, they didn’t respond to them at all. Instead, they left. They ran to the next place and hid. They moved where they could not be betrayed by them again and stayed there. When we are betrayed, it’s tempting to seek revenge for it. We want to punish them somehow for what they did. We can take that path, but it will only ever make the situation worse. The better approach is simply to put ourselves where we can’t be betrayed again and stay there. We trust God for our vengeance and justice and keep moving forward.

Second from Jesus: When Jesus was betrayed by Judas into the hands of the Jewish leaders who were carefully engineering His death on the cross, He responded by forgiving them. He took their evil and responded to it with kindness and graciousness. The temptation when we have been betrayed and hurt is to respond in kind. That will never solve our problem. It will instead create a new one. The better approach is to respond with kindness. This will set us on the path toward resolution.

Sometimes betrayal happens in this life. As long as we are on this side of the kingdom with sin loose in the world it will continue happening. How we respond to it will make the difference. Will we respond with grace and kindness after the pattern of David and Jesus? Or will we respond and make things worse by seeking vengeance? The choice is ours, but only one will lead to life.

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