We are continuing our series on David, and today, we are talking about leadership. Perhaps the greatest indicator of a person’s maturity is how they handle leadership, authority, power, and influence. In other words, how we respond when it dawns on us that we are the most powerful person in the room, whether it’s the classroom, the locker room, the boardroom, at home with your family; any time it dawns on us that all eyes are on me, that I’m the one in charge, I get to make the decision. What you do in that moment says so much about you.
Now it’s quite disturbing when we see somebody with power or influence or authority and they leverage it for their benefit, and neglect of the people that they’re responsible for, the people that have chosen to follow them.
But at the same time there are few things more inspiring than a leader who says no to themselves, and says yes to something for the sake of the people that they’re responsible for, the people that have chosen to follow them. Some of our favorite stories are of men and women of influence and power, maybe that’s someone of history, somebody we’ve worked for, someone that we work with, or maybe one of our parents who said no to themselves so they could say yes to us, yes to the people who’ve chosen to follow them.
I believe none of us really know which way we would go, what kind of leader we would be until we are actually in that position. We may have goals or dreams, but we won’t really know which way we would go until we actually have the authority. Or in David’s case, until we have the crown.
Now, when David was a young boy, an early teen, Samuel was a prophet who was the only other kind of authority other than King Saul. By this time, God was frustrated with King Saul, had rejected him and told Samuel it was time to anoint a new king. He said, “Fill your flask with oil and go to Bethlehem, find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.” (1 Samuel 16:1)
Now as we’ve discovered in the last couple of weeks, King Saul had quite a temper and becomes very protective of his seat as king. So if you are going to anoint the next king, who is not even the current king’s son, it would probably be good idea to not let Saul know.
So Samuel shows up, doesn’t even tell Jesse, David’s father, why he needs to anoint one of his sons. He just invites him and his whole family along for a sacrifice to the Lord, sort of as a coverup for the real mission. The idea was or so Samuel thought, “As soon as I see the son of Jesse that’s going to be the next king, I’m going to get the nod from God, then I’ll anoint him and done.” So Jesse invites his family to the special sacrifice and Samuel’s scanning the crowd to try and figure out which one of these sons is going to be the next king. And the text says,
1 Samuel 16:6–7, 11–12
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab (EIi-ab) (which was Jesse’s oldest son, first born) and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
He thought that was easy. Done. First born, first kid, we don’t even have to do the sacrifice. Mission over, I got this figured out.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance…..
Which is very difficult to do. When you meet somebody, the first thing you notice is not their IQ, it’s not their manners. First thing you notice is the way a person looks. And all of us, even in ancient times, assign value and sometimes authority and influence to people who look a certain way.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
In other words, it’s what’s in a man that makes a man. So ladies, don’t be fooled by that outward appearance. He may be handsome and well dressed, but have no heart. He may look a little dorky, and not be the best dressed man, but what’s in his heart, is just absolutely beautiful. And it goes the other way too. It’s what’s in a woman that makes the woman. So men, all I’m going to say is don’t get so wrapped up in the outward appearance.
So six sons later, still no king. He’s gone through all seven sons, they’re starting the sacrifice and Samuel’s looking around like maybe I missed something and so he finally says to Jesse, imagine this awkward moment,
11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
What a silly question if you ask somebody to invite their family. But Jesse looks around and realizes, “Oh, yeah. Wait, I do have one more.
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
And when David shows up, little shepherd boy David who’s probably 13 or 14 years old, Samuel gets the nod.
12 Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
And then this strange thing happens where Samuel walks over to middle school age David and pours oil on his head and gives him a blessing, packs up his stuff, and leaves. And the whole family’s standing there like, “What just happened?” Because there’s no indication that Samuel told Jesse what he anointed David to do, but here’s what we know.
Since he was a young boy, since he was a middle schooler, David knew God had something special for him. And about two years from that moment is when he kills Goliath. He becomes an overnight sensation, and then for the next seven years, David is in the good graces of the king. In fact, King Saul marries off one of his daughters to David. He becomes best friend with the king’s oldest son, Jonathan who’s supposed to be the next king. For seven years, things are great. Then as we saw the last two weeks, Saul gets threatened. He’s jealous and tries to kill David over and over. He puts a bounty on his head. And David becomes a fugitive from the law for eight years.
So for eight years, David is on the run, hiding with his band of merry men, trying not to side with the Philistines, but at the same time, trying to stay away from King Saul and everyone who supports King Saul, all the while knowing God had chosen him for something special.
Now we know that David learned some extraordinarily lessons in this time. Perhaps, the most important lesson that he learned in the wilderness years was: That it’s not about me. It’s God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time.
And the interesting part is that on two occasions, David had an opportunity to kill King Saul, his enemy. Which as a warrior, David was very good at. One time, which is probably the more famous story, is where David is hiding in a cave and King Saul’s men are passing by. David’s decides he’s going to wait for King Saul’s men to pass by, then he’ll come out of the cave with his men, and they’ll go in the other direction. But King Saul has to relieve himself. (I think this is the only reference in the entire Bible of someone going to the bathroom.)
Anyway, so Saul has to go to the bathroom, he stops, he gets off his donkey, goes in the cave, David’s hiding in the cave with his men, their eyes have adjusted, Saul’s eyes have not, Saul stops in the mouth of the cave just beyond the point where anyone outside could see, and he begins to do his business.
He is in the most vulnerable position possible and some of David’s men turn to him and say,
1 Samuel 24:4–6, 8–13
4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’”
This is it, David! This is the day you told us about. So David had told them, “God has something special for me. I’m not sure what it is, but even though things are rough now, stick with me and we’ll likely be ok.
David almost falls for this, creeps up on King Saul, about to kill him and then walk out of the cave victorious, knowing that everyone in Saul’s army would immediately surrender and declare David as king. Yet as David is about to kill King Saul, he realizes, “No, no, no, no. I have already done this wrong once. I’ve already learned this lesson the hard way. I will not take matters into my own hands.”
Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”
Saul finishes, leaves the cave, is walking towards his donkey, just as they’re about to leave, when David appears in the mouth of the cave. Everyone in Saul’s army knows David could have just taken the king’s life, yet he chose not to. Listen to why.
8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself (laid flat on the ground in respect and submission) with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.
In other words, I’m not going to be the judge, therefore I won’t touch you. Although everybody behind me and in front of me knows I have every right to take your life to defend my own.
Then there’s a second opportunity where David could have taken the king’s life. A few months later, Saul and his army are in the desert of Ziph, (Ziff) which is just a wide-open plain with rolling hills and virtually no trees. David sent spies out to track Saul’s progress, as he always wanted to know where Saul was so he could stay at least one step ahead of him. The report comes back that Saul and his men are in the desert camped out for the night not too far from them, and David just cannot resist.
As the sun goes down, King Saul did what kings did and spent the night right in the middle of his army. He was completely surrounded by a circle of 3,000 men. As the sun went down, David turns to his friend Abishai (A-bi-shi), and says, “Abishai, I have a really bad idea. Would you be willing to join me in my really bad idea?” Abishai says sure. So here’s what happens.
1 Samuel 26:7-11
7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night, (crept past the guards right into the middle of Saul’s camp. What were they thinking?) and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner (who was the chief of the king’s bodyguard, who is responsible for protecting the king) and the soldiers were lying around him.
8 Abishai said (whispered) to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands.”
‘Now David, we missed this opportunity once. Now’s the time to power up, now’s the time to take what’s yours. God wills it. How else can we explain the fact that we are standing in the middle of King Saul’s army, and no one has detected us. Now I know you’ve got all these religious convictions, therefore you can’t lay your hand on the Lord’s anointed, but God hasn’t told me I can’t.’ And he says…
8 Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”
9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”
This is so big. David refused to violate the will of God in order to gain the blessings of God, the promise of God, of him being king. He refused to violate the will of God to get what he deserved. Remember, this is the time when it’s eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth. But David knows, this is not about me…..However, he says let’s have a little fun.
11 “Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”
They creep out of camp, go up on a hillside a safe distance away, and wait for the sun to rise. As the sun is coming up and just as they are a silhouette, David just cannot resist the temptation and he begins to yell out, “Abner, Wake up!” Remember Abner is chief bodyguard of the king.
And David shouts out, “You are a poor excuse for a bodyguard. I came in in the middle of the night, which means I could have killed the king. Abner, you deserve to die for being such a poor excuse for a bodyguard. And I’ll prove it. Are you missing anything?” And everybody recognizes David’s voice and they look, and there he is silhouette, and he’s holding up a spear and a water jug. Abner looks around and King Saul’s spear and his water jug is gone.
Then David and his men slip off into the desert because David refused. David refused to replace what God had put in place. David knows it’s got to be God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time.
Sometime later, King Saul and his son Jonathan are killed in battle with the Philistines, the two men that stood in the way of David becoming the king. And the interesting thing is that the text tells us that David actually mourned the deaths of both King Saul and Jonathan. I get Jonathan. They were best friends and had the most beautiful love I’ve ever seen between two men. But Saul? Instead of throwing a party, David mourns his death too.
Now Israel had 12 tribes, and the tribe of Judah, which David comes from, they declare him king. But Abner, the king’s chief bodyguard, declared Ish-Bosheth (Esh-bo-sheth) king, who was one of King Saul’s other sons. So Ish-Bosheth claims to be king over 11 tribes. David is now king over one tribe. And for seven more long years, there’s a conflict between the house of David and the house of King Saul.
Throughout this conflict, David essentially just tries to stay out of the way and people continually say to David, “Claim what is yours, claim what is yours.” But over and over, David says, “No. It’s God’s will, God’s way, in God’s timing. I will not lay my hand on the Lord’s anointed, and if Ish-Bosheth (Esh-bo-sheth) has been declared king by those 11 tribes, then he’s king. I just need to stay out of his way.”
For seven years this goes on. And then finally, two brothers sneak into Ish-bosheth’s house while he’s taking a nap and murder him in his sleep. They think they’ve done a great thing for David because now, think about it, now they have removed the last obstacle for David to be able to be king over the entire nation of Israel.
So they cut off Ish- Bosheth’s head and they take it to David to give him the good news that the last obstacle has been removed. Here’s what the text says,
2 Samuel 4:8–12
8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”
Now, when we hear beheading, we think that sounds terrible. But the Old Testament and ancient times was full of beheadings, and just so you don’t think the men of this day were savages, here’s why they beheaded people. They didn’t have iPhones. Nobody had a camera. The only way to prove that someone was dead was to show up with their head. I mean, the only other option is to lug the entire body around, and who wants to do that?
So to prove that Ish-bosheth was in fact dead, they show up and present his head to David expecting that they’re going to get praise, but….
9 David answered Rekab (re-cab) and his brother Baanah, (ba-na) the sons, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
People around David were probably saying, “How can you say Ish-bosheth is an innocent man? He was claiming the kingdom that belongs to you.” But in David’s mind, that’s not how it works. It’s God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time.
12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron (which was a sign of honor).
After Ish-bosheth was dead, the other 11 tribes finally declared that David would become the king of the entire nation. After being a fugitive for eight years, after being at war for seven more years with the house of Saul the text says this,
2 Samuel 5:1-4
All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”
David, we all know who had the influence, we all know who had the power, we all knew who deserved to be the king.
3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.
This was no mystery. Everybody understood that David was destined to be king, they just couldn’t understand why he didn’t just grab it, why he didn’t just seize the throne when he had so many opportunities. And when all the elders of Israel from all 12 tribes had come to King David at Hebron to crown him, to hand him the power, in this moment, David shows his true greatness. In this moment, David applies everything he’s learned in the wilderness, all the difficult lessons he learned while hiding and running from King Saul. He shows extraordinary maturity, maturity he would not have had at 15 or as we saw, certainly not at 22.
Think about this, they hand him the power, he’s holding all the cards, his word is law, he already has the influence, he is the most powerful person in the room, and in this moment, King David made a covenant with them.
Now, a covenant is like a contract or an agreement. A covenant in this context is, “I’ll do this if you’ll do that, and if you’ll do this I’ll do that.” It was promises to the people which was completely unnecessary. He did not need to do this. He was now the king, so why in the world after being mistreated all those years, and again, he is facing a group of elders who did not support him when he was on the run, he could have taken vengeance on every single one of those elders, except for those who were part of the tribe of Judah, but he didn’t. Instead, he made a covenant with these people. Why? Three words that David says explains it all, and this is the point of this story.
3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.
In this moment, David recognized in public that he would be a king under authority. In this moment, he submitted himself to God’s law, not mans, which meant as a leader, he was submitting himself to the people he would rule. This was his way of saying, I am A king, but I am not THE king.
As we said in the first part of this series, with all of David’s ups and downs, and with all of his flaws, David never confused himself with the King of Israel. Now, we’re going to pick the story up right there next week and take it to the end. You’re not going to want to miss next week, but here’s the point for today.
David waited 15 years for God to give him what He had been promised. Not an easy 15 years, but a hard years. And during that time, he learned the extraordinary lessons that would make him a good and the right king. He learned that leadership is always a stewardship, and that even kings are accountable. I think if you’re a leader of any type, (boss, team leader, parent) when you read this story there’s something very inspiring about it.
As I said in the beginning, whenever we see a leader say no to themselves so they can say yes to the people they’re leading, it’s always inspiring. But if you’re a Jesus follower, it’s not enough for us to just be inspired, that kind of greatness is actually required. And here’s why I say that.
A thousand years later, 20 miles north of Hebron where all this took place, in the city of Jerusalem, Jesus would model this kind of greatness in the most unusual way. John, who was there, an eyewitness of all these things, who lived to be an old man and gives us some of the greatest literature about Jesus ever, wrote about this incredible moment.
Just before the Passover festival, when the Jewish people celebrated that God led the nation out of Egyptian slavery, Jesus gathered in what’s referred to as the upper room for what would be His last Passover meal with His disciples. As they are finishing up the Passover meal, John says that somehow Jesus knew in this moment that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.
Jesus knows that in just a few short hours, He’s going to be arrested. He’s going to be tried. He’s going to be crucified, after being chased through Judea and Galilee for the last three years, by the people that were supposed to identify the Messiah, but who missed it.
And like David, He’s been anointed by God but not recognized, and like David, during this meal He would instate a brand-new covenant. In fact, it’s called the New Covenant, and it’s why we call the second half of our Bibles the New Testament. But it’s not a covenant just between God and the twelve tribes of Israel. No, He would initiate a brand-new covenant between God and all of mankind, but not through the blood of an animal, this time, through His own blood. And John says in this moment that Jesus recognized that the end had come. Here’s what John recorded.
John 13:1, 3–5, 14–15;
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
In this moment, Jesus has the power without the crown, the authority without the title. He’s holding all the cards. He recognizes that God has put all things under His authority. Now here’s the question. What do you do when you’re king? What do you do when you’re the most powerful, influential person in the room? John says Jesus…
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
They couldn’t believe it. There’s so much emotion in this room, there’s moaning and groaning. In fact, Peter’s says, “No, no, no, no, you’re not doing that! We have servants for that. You’re a rabbi. You’re our teacher.”
Jesus just smiled and ignored all of them and washed their feet. Then He put on His robe that showed, yes He was a rabbi, that yes He had authority, and He sat down.
And I imagine that nobody said a word, because they didn’t need to say anything. He had just preached the most powerful, obvious lesson that He would preach, and He didn’t have to say a word, but he did. Maybe He said it for our benefit. He said,
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
In other words, if I am not too good to wash your feet, you are not too good to wash one another’s feet. In those moments when you think you’re something, when someone hands you the keys, when they show you to the corner office, when you get the opportunity of a lifetime, when they set the crown on your head, in that moment look for more feet to wash.
Because perhaps the thing that says more about our maturity, than anything else, is what we do when we have authority, power, and influence. How we respond when it dawns on us that we are the most powerful person in the room? And let’s be honest, for many of us, at some level, in some capacity, somebody’s already handed us the keys, haven’t they?
Because you’ve got a title. For somebody you wear a crown, you’re a father, you’re a mother, a husband, a wife, a manager, an owner, you’re a captain of the team, you’re the big brother, big sister, you’re a board member, you have authority.
We would all do well to embrace the greatness that David learned the hard way and that Jesus modeled for us. And if you are a Christian, this is required of you. Because after all,
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Imagine if all of us lived that way. History tells us that that kind of selflessness changed the world once, so perhaps it would again. When it dawns on you that you’ve got the power, the authority, the influence, look for a way to wash more feet, look for a way to leverage that power, authority, and influence for the benefit of the other people in the room.
That’s what your Savior did for you and me.