Working Salvation with Your Own Hand

Gospel is found all throughout the Old Testament. We see clear pointers to Jesus in the tabernacle, in the Passover, in Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac, or in Noah’s ark. But we can also find pictures of the gospel in places we do not expect as well.

I found myself thinking of the more subtle presence of the gospel when reading about three strange yet similar incidents in the life of David in 1 Samuel 24-26. In 1 Samuel 24, David has the chance to kill King Saul in a cave. David nearly does, but instead cuts off a corner of the king’s robe. And David feels guilt for stretching out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and repents. In 1 Samuel 25, David straps on his sword and moves to kill Nabal, a foolish man who insulted him. Abigail, a godly woman, intercedes with David and prevents him from killing the unworthy Nabal. In 1 Samuel 26, David will not allow Abishai to strike Saul down when they sneaked into the camp of Israel and took Saul’s spear and water pitcher.

Where do I see gospel in these incidents? Look at David’s response to Abigail.

1 Samuel 25:32-33 – 32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!

David thanked Abigail for keeping him from working salvation with his own hand. Tie that thought back to the incident with Saul in the cave or in the camp, and you will see that, in those incidents too, David did not use his own strength to accomplish his own physical salvation. And there is where I think the gospel pointer is found. In our salvation, the one thing that we cannot do is accomplish our own salvation by the strength of our own hands.

When we are lost, we have no hope of saving ourselves. The offense we have committed in sinning against the Lord is infinitely great. We could never pay the penalty for our own sin without spending eternity in hell. Also, the gap between our own righteousness and that required by God for us to be welcome in his presence is infinite. Thus, we cannot behave well enough, even were we to be perfect from today forward, to earn entrance into the presence of the Lord. No, we cannot accomplish our own salvation by our own hands. We must instead trust in the Lord to accomplish our salvation for us.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus, God the Son, has in fact accomplished our salvation for us. Jesus pays our penalty, a debt we could never repay. The Lord imputes to us Christ’s righteousness, granting us the ability to stand in God’s presence which we could never earn. And all of this comes to us, not by our works, but by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

The temptation to earn your way into God’s favor is a large one. And it is an anti-gospel. Thus, we should praise God for every picture he gives us to remind us that we are not to seek to work our own salvation.