Green Reticle, Red Reticle: When to Fight, When to Ignore, When to Endure (1 Sam 17, 1 Sam 24, 2 Sam 16)

In an ever-changing sea of faster frame-rates, dramatically upgraded hardware, and technological upgrades there has been one constant in many of our gaming experiences… the targeting reticle.  This little icon on our screens has been a steadfast partner with us across galactic exploration, underwater worlds of wonder, and through just about every battle that has occurred through history, fictional or otherwise.  It is an unsung hero through most of our gaming experiences, providing an idea of what your character is looking at or targeting, as well as typically changing colors to identify the difference between friend or foe in the chaos of a firefight.   It often helps differentiate between items that can be interacted with in the gaming environment and supplies that can be picked up versus items that are just part of the background by highlighting these areas.  I can only imagine how much more difficult playing many titles would be without this handy little guide lighting the way.

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Imagine a gaming session or multiplayer match in which you could not identify your teammates from your adversaries.  Friendly fire would abound, objectives would become even more difficult to complete, and trial and error would become the new strategy as chaos would ensue.  Friendships would fray as you firmly plant one shotgun shell after another into the back of your buddy, and frustration would compound as you frantically search for which terminal out of all of these similar looking but non-functioning computers can actually be interacted with.  While it may hold our hand a little bit, I for one appreciate the way that the reticle has become a standard part of many of my favorite gaming experiences.

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Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little reticle in the real world?  Something that would highlight what is actually beneficial or mission critical around you and ignoring what is superfluous to your journey?  And most importantly to me, to have the ability to instantly tell the difference between someone who is truly aligned with your goals and on your side versus those whose dialogue may make them “seem” like a teammate, but their true motivations fill your reticle with the color red reserved for dangerous adversaries.  Imagine how many problems or pitfalls we could avoid if we were able to easily identify people and situations through simple reticle identification.

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Unfortunately, life is much more complex and relationships and circumstances very rarely present themselves in primary colors for easy translation.  And as our examples today will show, it is of critical importance that we are able to discern when we are facing a giant that must be toppled, when we are being pursued by an enemy that we are meant to endure, and those times when we should simply ignore adversaries because they truly cannot stop you from achieving your destiny unless you stop to address them.

Let’s start with the easy one.  In 1 Samuel 17 David enters the world stage in dramatic fashion in a story almost everyone should be familiar with.  A simple shepherd, David was making a lunch delivery when he crossed paths with the giant Goliath and immediately recognized this monster as a foe.  A rock from a slingshot later and David was standing over his fallen opponent victoriously as the Lord delivered a dramatic and shocking victory.  David did not come looking for a fight, but when he saw the people of God oppressed he responded to the call of God on his life to defeat this blasphemous barbarian.  Call this a clearly red reticle.  Oh, how I wish that it was always this easy.

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1 Samuel 17:45-50 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.  Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him.

Things get a little more complicated in 1 Samuel 24.  We find an older and more seasoned David on the run for his life from King Saul, the leader of the entire nation of Israel.  Saul had attempted to murder David on multiple occasions and was now concentrating his entire army on finding and killing the man who had once been the hero of the country.  Saul had pursued David and his band of followers and was closing in for the kill.  As a matter of fact, Saul was so close to David that he could practically smell him.  Saul had to take a break and use the little boy’s room, and the exact cave he chose to do his business in was the same place David and his men were hiding.  As Saul was… let’s just say distracted, David had an opportunity to end this feud once and for all against a defenseless enemy.  But the reticle did not turn red.

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1 Samuel 24:2-7 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats.  So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave.)  Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’ ” And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.  Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe.  And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.”  So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way.

David stubbornly refused to take the life of or even harm the man who would gladly gut him where he stood if the sandal was on the other foot.  David even had a second identical opportunity a few chapters later when he could have murdered Saul in his sleep.  In both of these situations, the reticle never changed colors from green to red and in turn David provided an incredible example of when we are to endure our adversaries rather than defeat them.  David did not know the whole story or how this would end, but he knew that the Lord had not given him permission to take Saul’s life or even do him harm.  So why was it acceptable for David to engage and slay the giant Goliath but when it came to the evil, murderous, and occasionally demonically possessed Saul the answer was to stay his hand?

To understand this we have to dive a little deeper beyond the events and into the subtext.  In the case of Goliath, the giant was not an actual enemy of David, except by circumstance.  We see in 1 Sam 17:26 and again in verse 36 that in this challenge David was standing up for God against an enemy that threatened both the people of God as well as dared to defy the Lord Himself.  David was not fighting a personal war because he was defending himself from a vendetta or personal attack, but was acting as an ambassador of the Lord similar to the way Jesus Himself created whips and drove the corrupt businessmen out of the temple many generations later (John 2:15).  This was not the case in his period of running from Saul, in which David stated clearly that despite his mistakes Saul still was the Lord’s chosen and anointed king for that time and David had not been authorized to harm him.  In 1 Sam 24:8-15 David explains to Saul the reason why he did not attack him when he clearly could have ended things was because he identified that it is the LORD’s place to judge and avenge, not ours.  The Lord delivered Saul into David’s hands twice, but in each instance David understood that when it comes to our own personal battles and grievances, these are best left to the Lord.

And finally, some enemies are simply meant to be ignored, and even pausing to give them your attention would be a mistake. In 2 Samuel 16 an even older and wiser David is on the run yet again, this time from his rebellious son Absalom.  On his way to safety, a man named Shimei takes this opportunity to follow David and pelt him with rocks while hurling insults at the fleeing king.

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2 Samuel 16:5-9 Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came.  And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.  Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue!  The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!”  Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!”

When David’s loyal men ask permission to settle this annoyance, David shuts them down cold with an incredible response:

2 Samuel 16: 10-11 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ ” And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him.  It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”

That’s… well… frankly that is a response that is hard to fathom.  And this gives us huge insight into why David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  In all these circumstances, from the giant Goliath to the scheming Saul to the shifty Shimei, David never viewed his situations from his own personal perspective, but from GOD’S.  Instead of seeing Goliath as an evil enemy soldier, David saw someone who was blaspheming God and had to be stopped.  When he could have viewed Saul in a similar light, David looked at the situation from God’s eye view and realized that only the Lord could choose when his anointed king was meant to be dethroned, regardless of his evil intentions.  And when it would have been easy to take out one lone griefer who was insistent on trolling David during one of his darkest days, David saw that even this was both permitted and possibly even guided by the Lord, and most importantly recognized that the Lord is his defense.

If he had chose to slay Saul, he would have shown himself to be no better than the man he was slaying.  If he chose to silence Shimei, he would have lowered himself to the level of his insults and ironically proven him right in those actions.  In each of these circumstances, David found that it is the Lord who defends us from wrongdoers.  He alone avenges us, He alone clears our good name, and when the time is right He and only He will resolve our conflict.  Enemies and adversaries come in many forms, but through the Spirit of God we can properly identify when we are meant to slay the giant and when we are meant to ignore or endure the threats and the insults until the fullness of time has come.

Don’t let the griefers distract you… they aren’t worth it and are only trying to slow you down from reaching your destination.  And don’t give in to the temptation to fight your own battles… the battle is always the Lord’s.  He will guide you when it is time to do battle on His behalf, and it will always be a battle you never intended to take on and it will be done in a way in which He and He alone will receive the glory for the victory.  Easier said than done, I know.  It can be almost impossible to discern the difference between Goliath and Saul unless we bend our desires for justice and vengeance to the will of the Lord and allow Him to fight for us.  And in the world we live in this has become even more difficult than it ever was before.  But the message is clear… engage Goliath when the Lord leads you, spare Saul even when the Lord delivers him into your mercy, and for goodness sake don’t waste another breath on Shimei.  The truest test of what is in our heart is in how we treat our enemies.

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