“When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.”Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks.And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.”So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.
Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage.And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’?Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you.After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.””
(1 Samuel 24:1–15 ESV)
“The Lord warns, ‘Don’t touch my anointed. Do my prophet no harm.’ I think that you are trying to do harm to the work of God. I surely wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.”
That quote is from the late Chuck Smith in regard to questions he didn’t appreciate from a Christianity Today reporter.
As I was an adviser on that story, he was indirectly addressing me as well.
That verse has been used by Smith and multitudes of other leaders in the church to to deflect hard questions and honest inquiry with the implication being that the inquirer was invoking the wrath of God on themselves for asking.
Does that verse mean that God stands like a junkyard dog behind His leaders, willing and eager to smash any who cross them?
No…and those who use it that way are using the word of God in such a way as to bring holy discipline on themselves.
Let’s look at the passage in context and see what it is saying.
It’s found in two other places as well as the passages above … 1 Chronicles 16: 22 and Psalm 105: 15.
“When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!””(Psalms 105:12-15 ESV)
“When you were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!””(1 Chronicles 16:19-22 ESV)
First, note what these passages are…they are part of songs of thanksgiving for what God had done, not dire warnings to those who question authority.
They are remembrances that as the people of Israel had passed through hostile lands the Lord had protected them and delivered them from harm by warning other kings to ‘touch not his anointed”…His people…all of them.
Second, these songs of praise would have been sung by the whole congregation, not just at a “pastors conference”.
The “Lord’s anointed” designation applied to the whole assembly and in later years would be sung by a people who had no king at all to encourage themselves in the faithfulness of God.
Calvin: “The Psalmist proceeds farther, affirming, that when God made war against kings for the sake of his servants, they were defended by him, not only as he is accustomed to succour the miserable and the unjustly oppressed, but because he had taken them under his special guardianship. God protects his people, not only upon a general ground, but because he has declared on account of his free adoption, that he will maintain them.
If you are in Christ you are the “Lords anointed”.
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”(2 Corinthians 1:20-22 ESV)
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:19-27 ESV)
The passage in question is not an implied threat against questioning religious authority or leadership.
It is not a sword for insecure leaders to wield against those who dare question them.
It is a song of Gods care for all His people when they are weak and few in number and in hostile territory.
Now…please note that while David didn’t cause physical harm to Saul, he publicly rebuked him.
He shouted at Saul in front of his men and called on God to judge between them.
There was a difference then between the public rebuke of sin in leadership and sinfully “touching the Lord’s anointed” and there is today.
We just shout with better tools.
If you’re in Christ you’re one of His anointed… and may God judge between you and leaders who try to harm you in His name.