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Life of David

Christian Leadership

1 Samuel 30

When I was a young man just starting out in the business world, my late father took me aside to give me some good advice. The advice took the form of an Army Field Manual on Leadership. Most of the advice was not worth the hearing, but I noted that my father, a captain, had underlined two passages and written in the margins, "All NCOs will read and initial." Those two passages said simply this:

1.            Leadership is not a popularity contest.

2.            You take care of the troops, the troops will take care of you.

We're going to see King David's version of this in our lesson today.

(1 Sam 30 NIV) David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, {2} and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. {3} When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. {4} So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. {5} David's two wives had been captured--Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. {6} David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. {7} Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, {8} and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." {9} David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Ravine, where some stayed behind, {10} for two hundred men were too exhausted to cross the ravine. But David and four hundred men continued the pursuit. {11} They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat-- {12} part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights. {13} David asked him, "To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?" He said, "I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. {14} We raided the Negev of the Kerethites and the territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag." {15} David asked him, "Can you lead me down to this raiding party?" He answered, "Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them." {16} He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. {17} David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. {18} David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. {19} Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. {20} He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, "This is David's plunder." {21} Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Ravine. They came out to meet David and the people with him. As David and his men approached, he greeted them. {22} But all the evil men and troublemakers among David's followers said, "Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go." {23} David replied, "No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. {24} Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike." {25} David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this. {26} When David arrived in Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, "Here is a present for you from the plunder of the Lord's enemies." {27} He sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; {28} to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa {29} and Racal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; {30} to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athach {31} and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where David and his men had roamed.

Handling Adversity

If you are a leader in any endeavor, expect adversity. This is particularly true if you are a leader in the church. Do you think that David thought his life would be smooth sailing? So often we think ours should be; yet the Scripture warns us that this is not so. We sometimes think ourselves defeated by the power of Satan - when in fact we are defeated by our ignorance of the power of Christ. Let us examine the attack, and the defense of the Christian.

Satan's attack
  • Severe loss. The loss in this instance is both physical, in terms of possessions, and personal - those we love. We go through life blithely thinking that these things are ours forever - and we should know better than that. Satan then says, "Where is God now?"
  • Mental and physical strain. The men have been on the march for several days. They are nearing the end of their strength. We are amphibians; partly spirit, partly flesh. That which affects the flesh affects the spirit, and vice versa. Satan waits until the limits of strength are near, and then brings up a new demand for strength, saying, "See - you cannot go on. You're a failure."
  • Being alone. David and his men expected the warm fires of home; they got the burned ruins of their homes. David in particular, as leader, must have felt terribly alone at this time. So often we count noses instead of listening to God.
  • Reaction of others. The fabled Monday morning quarterback is ever with us. You can imagine someone telling David, "we should have stayed home." It's the leader's fault, whatever it is. If the group is large enough, there are always those who are willing to throw stones. Roast preacher, for example, is an old recipe.
The resource of the Christian
  • The presence of God. David found strength in the Lord. If you are alone, he is with you. Do others criticize? He is the one you need to please. Strength at an end? Mount up on the wings of eagles, and renew your strength. Your losses are severe? Who is the giver of all things?
  • The people of God. God knows that we are not built to handle things alone. David seeks out Abiathar, the priest. He goes to the man of God for counsel and help.
  • Prayer. If you acknowledge God, you should inquire of Him. If your path is not clear, ask him to clear it. Ask him explicitly to show you the way you must go. Often, this will surprise you (it certainly did me in coming to Eastside).
  • Relying on God. David not only listens to what God says, he relies upon it. He doesn't contemplate it, he acts. In so doing, he displays the calm which comes from God's peace - a calm which lets him rule over the souls of the anxious in his men.

In the Presence of the Enemy

The mark of a mature Christian is not how he treats his friends - it's how he treats his enemies. We are at war, like it or not. We are those who fight the Lord's battles, just as much as David did - and like him, we need to know which weapons to use. We must use the Lord's weapons, not the world's. All should see that there is a fundamental difference between the way a Christian treats his enemies and the way the world does.

The slave in this passage can see it. His master has left him for dead in the wilderness. This is the ruthlessness which is so prized in our business world - "looking out for the bottom line." The plunder was sufficient that they could have carried him along in one of those 400 camels. They threw away a human life - which God then redeemed.

There is a parallel to that today for the Christian leader. How many times have we seen someone come in who looks "hopeless?" We need to realize that God calls the hopeless to come to the Hope of the World. David is quickly rewarded for his kindness!

The sins of the enemy turned against them

It often appears that the world's way of doing things is much more profitable - but the books are not yet closed. Greed and ruthlessness seem to be unstoppable. In one sense they are. Left to themselves, they consume those who practice them. We see it here with the Amelekites - they're partying when they should be standing watch. So it is that the sin of the enemy is often his downfall.

God's weapons, God's way

We must remember that David achieved this victory against great odds - after all, the runaway survivors numbered as many as David's entire force! Most of us would be pleased at that point to think of ourselves as military geniuses; David has learned better. He gives credit for the victory to the Lord. How does he see that?

  • First, from his prior experience.
  • Also, he sees God's providence. That slave saved David's men an awful lot of tracking.
  • He can also see the principle that God's power is made perfect in weakness. The 400 were tired too; the Amelekites outnumbered them and were better fed. To God be the glory.

Taking care of the troops

David now shows us the reason he is one of the great leaders of Israel. We can see in his handling of the spoils of war the principles he uses.

Principle: Give God the glory

It would have been tempting to take the credit for the victory. After all, they were outnumbered. The men coming back refer to the spoils as "David's spoils." This is coming from the same mouths that wanted to stone him three days earlier.

By giving God the glory, David avoids all wrangling over credit, who did what, and other things that only give rise to damaged egos. God gave us the victory; we will use the spoil as He would intend. It helps to know your place.

Principle: care for the troops

David has a small bunch of malcontents to deal with. The unfortunate thing about malcontents is that they are also a vocal bunch. They tend to become an alternative to the leadership. They're easy to identify: just look for the ones who are causing divisions in the body of Christ. It won’t take long to find them.

How did David deal with this?

1.            There was certainly enough to go around. He recognizes the problem right away - it's greed, pure and simple. This is not a case of sharing something that is scarce.

2.            He emphasized that the victory belonged to God - and therefore the spoils did too. In so doing, he reminds one and all that fairness is required.

3.            He makes it a "lasting ordinance." It isn't just a decision, it's policy. We're not going to have this problem again.

It's not certain how the 200 left behind felt, but any team leader understands the problem. You're either on the team, or you're not. If you are, you share in the victory. In God's plan, there is a place for everyone.

Principle: fairness and wisdom

David's real problem is - what to do with all this stuff? He solves it this way:

  • He distributes it generously. There is more than enough to go around.
  • He distributes it fairly - with an eye to team harmony.
  • He distributes it to those who will benefit him in the future - and who have protected him in the past. (Those towns kept Saul in the dark).

This isn't rocket science. But it does require courage to stand up to the malcontents and say, "No, we will do it God's way."

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