DAVID’S SUCCESS 1 Chronicles 11–16
“You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will become their ruler” (1 Chronicles 11:2).Our greatest accomplishments may not be those noted by historians. Here the Chronicler reminds us of things which are important to the Lord.
The Chronicler left out three elements of David’s story found in 1 Kings: the seven-year gap between David’s rule in Judah and over all Israel, David’s sin with Bathsheba, and the events surrounding Absalom’s rebellion. The writer did not intend to gloss over David’s faults but to focus on David’s achievements, and reveal what was most important in David to the Lord.
As king of Israel, David established a new capital (11:1–9). Notable are David’s ability to inspire loyalty (v. 10–12:40), to reawaken faith (13:1–14; 15:1–29), to make Israel secure (14:1–17), and to lead God’s people in worship of the Lord (16:1–43).
Understanding the Text
“It was called the City of David” 1 Chron. 11:1–9. When David was recognized as king by the entire nation, he selected a capital that lay on the border of the northern and southern sections, yet was part of neither’s territory. A person who seeks to unite a people must be careful not to show favoritism to any one faction. Parents should remember this principle. Because each child is unique, and because of age differences, we can’t treat all our children alike. Yet we must guard against showing favoritism, and let each child know he or she is loved as an individual. “Warriors who helped him in battle” 1 Chron. 12:1–40. David was notably successful in recruiting a committed fighting force, and in inspiring their loyalty. One incident is particularly interesting. When David expressed a longing for water from a spring near his home in Bethlehem, three of his followers broke through the lines of Philistines garrisoned there to get it for him. David refused to drink the water, but poured it out “before the Lord” (i.e., as an offering to God). David’s act was not rejection of the gift, but instead an expression of the value he placed on the lives of his men. It was right for men to risk their lives for the Lord, but not right to risk their lives to satisfy a longing of their leader. David’s concern for his men was one of the things which made him a great leader, and inspired loyalty in his followers. “Do it in the prescribed way” 1 Chron. 13:1–14; 15:1–29. David’s first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem failed because he loaded it on a cart rather than have it carried by Levites, as the Law prescribed. When David learned of this regulation, he understood why God had struck Uzzah, despite that individual’s good intentions in trying to steady the ark. Israel, and David, were reminded that God is truly holy, and that all His commandments must be obeyed. As David launched his rule of a united Israel, God’s Word alone could provide a foundation on which king and nation might stand. This gold-covered box was the most holy object in Israel’s religion. It contained memorials of the Exodus journey—the stone tablets of the Law, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. Most important, once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest poured sacrificial blood on its cover, to make an atonement for all the sins God’s people had committed. In bringing the ark to Jerusalem, David made that city Israel’s religious as well as political capital. “Shall I go and attack the Philistines?” 1 Chron. 14:1–17 The extent of Philistine domination is suggested in 11:18, which notes that they had established a garrison in Bethlehem. Bethlehem lies about seven miles east of Jerusalem. The Philistines, with their monopoly on iron weapons, had outposts deep in Israel’s central highlands! When David was made king, and given international recognition (cf. 14:1–2), the Philistines decided to invade in force. If they could kill or discredit David their domination of Israel would continue. But why is this story found here, interrupting the story of David’s effort to bring the ark to Jerusalem? Very likely to show how well David had learned the lesson taught in Uzzah’s death. In military affairs as in religion, it was vital to seek God’s guidance. So, the text tells us, David “inquired of God” and, following the Lord’s directions, defeated the Philistines. David was able to make his people secure because he sought and did the will of God. “He blessed the people in the name of the Lord” 1 Chron. 16:1–43. One of David’s most important contributions to the life of Israel was his renewed emphasis on worship. This theme, developed later, is introduced here with the celebration held when the ark entered Jerusalem, and the psalm of thanks David wrote and gave to Asaph for use in public services. As in all true worship, David’s psalm celebrates the Lord, and honors Him for His many marvelous qualities. If you or I ever feel uncertain about how to come to God in prayer, meditation on this or another of David’s worship psalms can tune our hearts to sing God’s praise.
Inspiring Loyalty (1 Chron. 11–12)
One definition of a leader is, “He’s a person who figures out where everyone is going, and gets out in front!” A better definition is, “A leader is someone who knows where he or she is going, and inspires others to come along.” The ability to inspire loyalty in others was one of David’s greatest gifts. If you or I are to have a significant impact in our church or community, we need to follow David’s lead and inspire loyalty in others. What does this extended passage on David’s “mighty men” and his army teach us about inspiring loyalty? Note first the quality of the men who joined David (11:1–47). The Hebrew word gibborim, frequently translated “mighty men,” might be rendered “war heroes.” Each of these men was an ancient “Rambo.” But each, rather than run off on his own, joined David and served under him. To inspire loyalty, we need to appreciate others and give them opportunities to use their abilities. We shouldn’t be threatened if we work or minister with people who excel. David was generous in his appreciation for his war heroes, and gave them a significant role in his army. When we help others achieve, we earn their loyalty. Note the steady increase of loyal men as “day after day men came to help David” (12:19–22). The men who came to join David did so not only because of his reputation, but to help David “against raiding bands” (v. 21). Even before David was made king, he fought against the enemies of God’s people. To inspire loyalty we need to have a cause that motivates others to join us. Note that literally thousands of Israelites finally “volunteered to serve in the ranks” of David’s army, and to make him king (vv. 23–40). David’s reputation, earned over many years of struggle, won over the whole nation. If we want others to be loyal to us, we must first be committed to a cause. David had remained steadfast in his purpose, and won the respect of all people.
When God calls you to lead, seek others with ability, give them significant tasks, and be committed to your cause.