Does the End Justify the Means? – part 2

Does the End Justify the Means? – part 2

In “Does the End Justify the Means: part 1” we saw in 1_Samuel 24 that David had the chance to kill Saul and take the throne.  God had anointed him as king, so he would certainly take the throne at some stage.  Saul had been trying to kill David.  Now Saul was handed to David on a platter.  Should he not kill him and take the throne?

David did not kill Saul.  He was conscience-stricken and refrained (1 Sam 24:5-6).  However I think he was not entirely clear on why this was wrong.  But in the next chapter, in a seemingly unrelated incident, the foolish Nabal, a wealthy cattle baron, refused to share his good fortune with David and his men, even after David’s men had protected him.  David was furious at this slap in the face and took his men with him to attack Nabal.  However Nabal’s wife Abigail, knowing the wrong her husband had done, went to David to appease him.  Her speech is all important (1 Samuel 25:26-31):

Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.  …  For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live.  If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.  And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel,  my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord taking vengeance himself.

Shortly afterwards Nabal died (1 Sam 25:38-39).  David learned the lesson well.  God would make him king, but in his own time.  David was not to do wrong himself by taking the throne with bloodshed.  The end did not justify the means.

The following chapter (1 Sam 26) shows that David has clearly learned this lesson.  A second time he has the opportunity to kill Saul.  However this time he says (1 Samuel 26:9-11):

“But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?”  And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish.  The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.”

1 Samuel finishes in exactly this way: Saul died in battle.  When we come to 2 Samuel the opening chapters make it clear that although there was bloodshed involved in David taking the throne, none of it was David’s doing.  Saul’s general Abner is murdered by David’s general Joab (2 Sam 3), but completely against David’s will.  Saul’s son Ish-bosheth is murdered by two scoundrels, who think that this will please David (2 Sam 4), but David has them punished.  2 Samuel 1-4 makes a clear point that David would not take his throne in the wrong way.

Many of the psalms were written during this period of David’s suffering (eg Psalms 52, 54, 57, etc).  These psalms speak of the suffering of God’s anointed.  For before David could take his throne as Messiah he would suffer and learn to trust in God.  Isaiah 53 about the suffering servant almost seems to be a meditation on this period of David’s life.  The servant of the Lord, like Joseph, like David, would suffer before entering his glory.  Of course Jesus taught the disciples that this was ultimately fulfilled in him (Luke 24:25-27).  Although he could have called down 12 legions of angels to defend him (Matt 26:53), he trusted his Father and suffered even death on a cross in obedience to God.  He would not take his throne, through force, in the wrong way.

The ends do not justify the means.  God is sovereign.  He will achieve his ends.  We must trust him and obey him in reaching the right ends he has set before us.  For example, we know we must share the gospel and that only by trusting in Jesus can anyone be saved (Acts 4:12).  However we also know we must not use wrong means to do this (2 Cor 4:2):

But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

In our world, in our ministries, in our lives, the ends never justify the means.


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