Isn't it amazing that David grieved for Saul when he received the news that he had died in battle? (2 Samuel 1) Saul had set his heart on killing David ever since he realized that the LORD had left him and was with David in everything David did (1 Samuel 18). Jealous anger fueled Saul's pursuit of David, which forced David to hide in caves, as he continually cried out to the LORD to save him.
Twice David had opportunities to kill Saul, and his men even urged him to put a quick end to his enemy, for surely the LORD had put Saul into David's hands. David had responded with, "Don't kill him! For who can remain innocent after attacking the LORD's anointed one? Surely the LORD will strike Saul down someday, or he will die in battle or of old age. But the LORD forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed!" (1 Samuel 26:10-11)
David had already been anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16), but because he had a remarkable respect for Saul as the LORD's anointed, he was willing to wait for the LORD to bring an end to Saul's life. He would not choose the way that would have made his life easier because he believed it was wrong. David trusted that the LORD knew what was best, even when it must have been incredibly hard to make sense of all the difficulties that he faced at the hand of Saul.
I believe that these years of hiding from Saul were a significant part of the training period that the LORD used in David's life to prepare him to lead the nation of Israel, that enabled David to be remembered as the man after the LORD's own heart. Throughout all of the difficulites in his life, David was truly able to rest in the LORD's will for him. He steadfastly refused to take matters into his own hands, and the LORD blessed him with eyes to see the good in Saul.
David wrote many songs and psalms throughout his life, and he composed a significant funeral song for Saul and his son Jonathan, highlighting the good in both of their lives (2 Samuel 1). It is not difficult to imagine David finding praise for Jonathan, who had been his best friend in life. But, to praise the man who had tried for years to kill him is a very different story! Putting myself in David's shoes, I'm sure that I would have felt immense relief that Saul was finally gone and my years of hiding from him over. I can imagine that criticisms for Saul would have easily fallen from my tongue. David, however, wanted the Israelites to focus on the good as they remembered their first king.
Our family came up with a motto a few years ago: "In the Pine family we think the best of and want the best for each other." We are striving for this to be true, but it is a definite challenge for us to live this motto out!
We long to be like David who was able to think the best of and want the best for Saul. His perspective could only have come from the LORD Himself.