For the last month or so at my congregation, we've been studying the book of 1 Samuel. I'm a little bit of a keyword fanatic-- I love finding key words and marking them in my Bible. One that's popped up everywhere is "hand." I've seen everything from "the hand of the LORD" to David simply reaching his hand into a stream to pick up five smooth stones. But one use of the word "hand" has really struck me: the idea of taking one's life in one's hands.
Take a look at 1 Samuel 19. (No, really, go read it. That'd be great). At this point, King Saul is waffling back and forth between wanting to kill David, seeing him as his rival, or respecting him. At the moment, he's livid, so his son Jonathan, David's best friend, is going in to defend the future king. Now that we've got some background, take a look at verses 4 and 5:
"Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?"
This is important. Want me to prove it? Other key words in the book include "king", "servant", "LORD", "hear", "speak", and "deliver." Yeah. There are 5 key words in these two verses. When that many key words are clustered together, it's like God highlighting an important point. "He took his life in his hands." Let's quickly take a look at what exactly what "taking your life in your hands" is and what it can do.
Taking your life in your hands involves action. Look at the very first part: "He took his life in his hands and struck the Philistine." This Philistine was, of course, Goliath. If you have another minute or two to spare, go back to Chapter 17 and read the account of David and Goliath, particularly verse 26. Outraged, David exclaims, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?" This guy has been terrorizing the Israelite armies all day. Nobody's stepping up, and yet David, who is still a very young man, doesn't hesitate. He's ready to go fight him right off the bat.
Taking your life in your hands involves trusting God. David never saw "taking his life in his hands" as taking CONTROL of his life. He knew it was all in God's hands. Check out verses 45 through 47 of Chapter 17. David in calling out Goliath uses "the LORD" four times and "God" twice! And look at the way he uses it: "I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts" (45), "the LORD will deliver you up into my hands" (46), "the battle is the LORD's" (47). David had no trust in himself, but he knew God had more power than he could possibly imagine. Because of this, God was able to use David's life to bless others. Jumping back to Chapter 19, we see that through David, "the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel" (5). It's kind of ironic; by taking his life in his hands, David was putting his life in God's hands.
Taking your life in your hands garners respect. Right after David slays Goliath in Chapter 17, Saul asks his commander Abner whose son David is (verse 55). Right away, he's interested. In Chapter 18, we find out that "David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war" (5). David took the opportunity to do something great for God, and as a result, he gained some favor with the king and prospered. (It wasn't until Saul began to see David as a threat to his own power that he began to hate him.) Even in Chapter 19, when Saul wants to kill David, Jonathan's reminder of this great deed of David's changes his mind, if only for a little while. Verse 6 tells us, "Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, 'As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.'" When you're courageous and take the initiative to be great for God, the people around you can't help but respect you, even those that hate you!
Naturally, we can learn a lot from looking at this side of "taking your life in your hands." However, I'm not quite telling you the whole story yet. Flip over to Chapter 28 and read the whole thing through. Saul is, of course, sinning by consulting the medium at Endor, and that's usually what we focus on. But what was the medium's response to the entire situation? Take a look at verse 21: "Behold, your maidservant has obeyed you, and I have taken my life in my hands and have listened to your words which you spoke to me."
So there must be a bad way to take your life in your hands. This woman was sinning, and she knew it. Before she calls up Samuel for Saul (whose identity is yet unknown to her), she hesitates, saying, "You know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?" (9). However, being reassured of that she will not be punished, she goes through with it.
Both David and the medium took their lives in their hands. Both took some sort of action. However, where David put his trust in God, the medium put her trust in Saul. While David received respect from both God and men for his actions, the medium had to carry out her action in secret, and the Lord certainly wouldn't have applauded her actions.
So, dear Reader, it's up to you. Life is full of opportunities. You can trust God, or you can trust yourself. You can live a life of spiritual glory, or you can live a life of shame. Your life is in your hands. What will you do with it?