Abishai's Request

The Justice and Mercy of God

       This Last Sunday we heard a beautiful reading from 1st Samuel giving us an insightful perspective of God’s Justice and Mercy. This reading takes place in the midst of the conflict between David and King Saul, and to understand the source of the conflict between these two men we have to go back further in the story. Early on in his kingship, Saul disobeyed the laws of sacrifice which the Lord had set before Him and so lost favor in the sight of the Lord. In response to this passage of events, God sends his prophet, Samuel, to anoint a new king in place of Saul. Samuel ends up anointing David at a young age as the new king of Israel, and with the Lord’s favor, David ends up becoming a great warrior in the army of Saul beating back the Philistines who are constantly invading the nation of Israel. However, due to jealousy of the Lord’s favor on David, Saul pursues David and attempts to kill him so as to preserve his own kingship over Israel. 


       This is where the 1st reading from last Sunday enters into the scene. Saul has pursued David and his allies to the desert of Ziph, and David is able to sneak into the camp without being detected. Up to this point, David has only acted justly with King Saul and Israel, and he has been anointed as the next King of Israel. So naturally, David’s friend, Abishai, requests to kill Saul for his acts of transgression against the Lord’s will for Israel and against the innocent David. According to the justice of men, Abishai’s request is reasonable, but David is a man after God’s own heart. He desires to act according to the Justice of the Lord who puts our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). David imitates the Lord’s Justice in showing Mercy to Saul, God’s first anointed king of Israel, by taking Saul’s spear and water bucket. This action shows Saul the condemnation that Saul had laid upon his own life by his actions, and David calls upon Saul to repent of his sin before it condemns him to spiritual death. The Lord still desires to save Saul from his wicked ways by using David as an instrument of His Love and Mercy.


       Though we like Saul continually deliver ourselves into punishment through our own sins, the Lord continually offers us Mercy in place of the punishment that we deserve in the hope that we will return back to Him with all our hearts. Yet, He never forces us to accept the Love and Forgiveness which He constantly offers to us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “we cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him,” which is why hell is the “state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed” since we only enter hell by our own free will (Catechism of the Catholic Church §1033). God’s Justice is one which respects the choices we make with our free will and the punishment that comes from our own sin. But, He is simultaneously offering Mercy that will free us from these punishments. David is a sign then of God’s Justice showing Saul that his sins are leading him to spiritual death, and at the same time, he is a sign of God’s Mercy by giving Saul a chance to repent of his sins against the Lord. May we be given the wisdom to act with justice to those who commit sins against God and neighbor yet treat them with Mercy so as to bring them back to the Lord our God. Amen.


The 1st Reading from Last Sunday - 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23


In those days, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph
with three thousand picked men of Israel,
to search for David in the desert of Ziph.
So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night
and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade,
with his spear thrust into the ground at his head
and Abner and his men sleeping around him.

Abishai whispered to David:
“God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day.
Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear;
I will not need a second thrust!”
But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him,
for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?”
So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul’s head,
and they got away without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening.
All remained asleep,
because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.

Going across to an opposite slope,
David stood on a remote hilltop
at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner, and the troops.
He said: “Here is the king’s spear.
Let an attendant come over to get it.
The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness.
Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp,
I would not harm the LORD’s anointed.”



Jameson Labadie

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