Today I want to continue the series of leadership lessons from the Bible by taking a brief look at King David. Now, I freely admit that volumes upon volumes have been written about this man and a short blog post is not going to even begin to do him justice. Alas, I shall try anyway.
1. The first thing that I want to point out about David's leadership, and really his character in general, was his total dependence on God. As we look at his life as recorded 1&2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles and to a certain extent the Psalms, we see a man completely in love with God. One of the best examples of this is found in 1 Samuel 17 when David faces the Philistine Goliath. Two instances stand out among this narrative. The first is in verse 37 when David is explaining to Saul that he is willing and unafraid to fight this mountain of a man. He states quite matter-of-factly, "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine (All quotations in this post will be from the HCSB)." I have to wonder what the tone of Saul's reply really was because he simply tells David, "Go, and may the Lord be with you." Was his statement tinged with laughter? Was it one of dismay and defeat? Did he wonder if he was allowing a young man to charge headlong into his certain death? All we know is that Saul tried his hardest to make sure David was prepared to fight by giving him his armor and weapon. In the end David didn't even want those things because, in our parlance, "they cramped his style." The second instance is found in David's words to Goliath on the field of battle and these are some of the most powerful words in all of Scripture. He tells Goliath:
You come against me with a dagger, spear and sword, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel's armies-you have defied Him. Today, the Lord will hand you over to me. Today, I will strike you down, cut your head off, and give the corpses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the creatures of the earth. Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord's. He will hand you over to us.
Not one time in all of this does David rely on his own skills or abilities. There is never a sense that David is saying, "I will do such and such." He puts the outcome in God's hands and he is confident in God's delivering power. David doesn't even put stock in the might of the Israelite army because he knows that even their military success lies in the power of God and His faithfulness to His people. How many times in our lives do we expect that our skills and abilities will get us to a certain point and then God will take over when we can do no more? This isn't a backwards way of looking at things, it is the wrong way to look at things. Whether we say it or not our underlying belief is something like the old, false adage that "God helps those who help themselves." The Biblical truth is that God helps those who depend on Him. Even the best that we can do on our own and in our own power is like filthy rags to God. The lesson here is to dependently and obediently rely on God for all things.
2. This second lesson is similar to the last lesson from Numbers 16 and it relates to David's spiritual maturity. What happens after David slays Goliath and he is anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel, is that Saul repeatedly tries to kill David. For the next several years David is on the run and constantly trying to avoid Saul. The amazing thing is that David has a couple of opportunities to kill Saul during this time, yet he doesn't. The reason that he refrains from killing Saul when the opportunity arises is that David knows better than to strike the man of God. From the moment that David was anointed God's hand was on him and it was removed from Saul. Spiritually, he was now the true king of Israel but Saul remained the visible and effective king over the people but David didn't act on this truth. Even after the death of Saul and Jonathan, David still respected his position as "the Lord's anointed." In 2 Samuel 1 we see David ordering the death of the Amalekite who told him of Saul's demise and then his song of lament over their deaths. There are two things that I can see here. The first is that David had the utmost respect for God and the person that He anointed as leader of the people. This is something that we struggle with in the Church today as we think nothing of rejecting and rising up against the people that God has placed in leadership over us. It is true that if a pastor or leader is doing things that are clearly contrary to God's ways then we have a responsibility to confront them and if it is not dealt with then we must remove them (see Nathan's confrontation of David's sin with Bathsheba). However, if the hand of God is on a leader then going against them is going against God's anointed and that is a bad place to be. Secondly, David displays the New Covenant ideal of loving, not only our friends, but also our enemies. His mourning of Saul's death shows that even though this man was trying to kill him, he still loved him. Of course, Jesus will later tell us this very thing during the Sermon on the Mount.
3. Finally, David never wavered in his devotion to God. Yes, he fell into sin just like all of us do but when it became clear to him what he had done he said this, "I have sinned against the Lord (2 Sam. 12:13)." His repentance stands as a great example to each of us. Furthermore, he was not too proud to accept correction from Nathan the prophet. How many of us, as leaders, are too caught up in our position to accept the advise and reproof of the Lord or our associates? The truth is, if we are walking with God we will be open to His divine correction that can either come from His Word, the Holy Spirit, or those around us. This doesn't bring us down. On the contrary, it builds us up and makes us into better leaders, better husbands, pastors, businessmen or whatever. If we honor God and walk closely with Him, He will honor us and be faithful to us just as He was to David.
These are surely only a few of the many lessons that we can draw from the life of King David. He stands as a shining example of a man after God's own heart and as a true and righteous leader. I pray that we will all take these lessons from God's Word to heart and become the leaders that He wants us to be.