David was now an outlaw. He found himself traveling from place to place, knowing that Saul wanted to get him, even though he had done nothing wrong. Many people in Israel realized that David would become the next king. He had been anointed by Samuel, and Jonathan, the heir to the throne, had given David his royal robe as a sign that even he accepted him as his next ruler. But Saul could not accept God’s will. He was determined to choose the next king himself, and still believed David would try to take the throne from him before his time was up.
David’s life was now more similar to how he had spent much of his childhood as a shepherd: alone in the mountains, without a soft bed or house to live in, but closer to God as he relied daily on Him for protection. He wrote many songs to God at this time, pouring out his heart to the Lord.
One day, while chasing David, Saul went into a cave to go to the bathroom. Little did he know that David and many men who had decided to follow him, were already in the back of that cave.
“Look!” one of the men whispered to David. “It’s Saul! What are the chances he would come into this cave? It must be God delivering him up to you. You can attack him now while he is unprotected.”
But David did not want to attack Saul. Instead, he silently snuck up behind him and cut off a piece of his robe.
But David felt guilty for even this. “How can you suggest that I attack Saul?” David asked his followers. “Even if he is out to get me, I will do what is right. Saul is still my king.”
After Saul left the cave, David waited a few minutes for there to be some distance. Then, he walked out of the cave and shouted after him, “Your Majesty!”
Saul turned around, confused to hear a voice coming from the cave where he thought he had been alone. And there was David, bowing in respect for his king and holding a piece of his robe.
“Why are you so convinced I’m trying to take over your job?” David cried out, with pain in his voice. “Even when you’re chasing me, I’m still loyal to you. Look at this piece of your robe! I got close enough to attack you, but I didn’t.”
Saul began to cry as he realized that he had been mistrusting his son-in-law for no reason.
“David, my son—is that you?” Saul asked through his tears. “Oh, David! You are a much better person than I am. I have been so cruel to you, but you treat me with kindness. God has given you this chance to prove your loyalty. You could have captured me, but you chose not to. God has clearly chosen you to be the next king.”
Saul went home, but David knew he could not trust Saul yet. Samuel the prophet died, and now there was no one Saul felt he had to answer to. Once again, Saul grew jealous and chased after David.
David and one of his soldiers, Abishai, snuck into Saul’s camp while everyone was asleep.
“Now is your chance!” Abishai said.
But David refused. “I will be king when Saul dies naturally or from his enemies in battle,” he insisted. “I will not go against God’s plan.”
So, David took Saul’s spear and water jar, then they crossed the valley and climbed a hill.
From the hill, David shouted out to Saul’s bodyguard, Abner.
“Why didn’t you do your job, Abner?” David shouted out. “Look how close I got to the king!”
Saul recognized David’s voice. “Is that you, my son?”
“Yes! Why do you continue to chase me? I have committed no crime.”
Again, Saul promised to leave David in peace. But Saul continued to disobey God. While trying to protect Israel from the Philistines, Saul and his sons died.
David cried for Saul, his king and father-in-law. He cried for Jonathan, his best friend and brother-in-law.
Then the leaders of Israel met David at Hebron.
“You have always served Israel,” they told him. “You helped protect us from the Philistines when Saul was king. God has promised us that you will rule over Israel and take care of us like a loving shepherd.”
David and the leaders came to an agreement, and they poured olive oil on his head to show that he was the new king. He was thirty years old, and ruled Israel for forty years, first in Hebron, and then in Jerusalem. David would become Israel’s most famous and loved king, and he had God’s blessing because he waited for God’s timing, rather than trying to become king when it felt convenient for him.