After the anointing had dried off King Saul’s head, (never mind that he still commanded the Armed Forces of Israel), David was the next anointed king in line. However, nobody was willing to risk his life to accommodate David, for anyone found associating with him stood a chance of being killed by Saul. David, therefore, became a fugitive, so to say, to keep his dear life.
This is one long write-up set to address leaders on the need to review our disposition to issues of followership. Leadership, herein called, Lead-a-sheep, has to do with a leader being able to interact, teach and bring or make the best out of the sheep following him.
With David as a study case, there was a time in his life he had no option than to keep running from one cave to another mountain. Though he was, at this time, the anointed king of Israel, but as long as Saul lived, David could not get to sit on the throne. This time was so critical that out of confusion, he attempted to take refuge in Gath, a Philistine city. By this, David concluded that one could find a friend in an enemy outside when the friend within turns to an enemy.
He fled to King Achish of Gath, thinking he would not be recognised, but the servants of the king identified and exposed him. To get out of Gath alive, David had to feign madness. (I Sam. 21:10-15) He left Gath disappointed and using the Bible word, “He escaped to the cave of Adullam.” (1 Sam. 22:1).
I wouldn’t know how long he got to the cave that people got wind he was there. He had barely pitched his tent in the cave; I want to imagine, when he was informed that four hundred men were waiting to see him.
From his cave-closet, he wondered in his heart who could the four hundred men be. “Were they spies from Saul or even from the Philistines? Were they visiting as friends or enemies? Remember, he was the most wanted man in Israel, with a million dollar price on his head, so you wouldn’t blame him for being suspicious.
Wondering why these men would risk their lives coming to him, David stepped out to receive them. His suspicion was, however, expunged when he found out they were his brothers and men from his father’s house. It was pleasing to know they weren’t strangers, spies or enemies. They heard (How? I don’t know) that David was there and they felt like going to pledge their allegiance to him.
As they settled, David, very happy now, made a fast calculation in his heart. He was glad to see that those on his side had increased by 400 soldiers. It was relaxing receiving these 400 able men, but his nerves didn’t relax for long.
I was not present in the cave, but in my mind, I saw David trying to ask these ‘great men’ their areas of specialty. He wanted to know the area of strength of each of them to be able to place them rightly in the various departments he had in his army. For where? David was, however, shocked to his marrows when he realised that these were discontented men in distress and debts. They were not soldiers at all!
Oh no! These were not the kind of men David needed at this trying period of his life. My God! If for anything at all, he needed soldiers, qualified men that could fight with the least of instructions. David needed MEN and not a bunch of failures who could not even manage their finances and other aspects of their personal lives. No! He did not want men without vision.
He sank into his seat and went into a brief, but a deep thought – “Oh my Lord, how will these men move forward my course? I thought my burden was heavy enough, but with these men, how will they not add to the burden in my life?”
My dear reader, these are not friends you wish to have in such a situation David was. The idea is, when down, you need men to pull you up and such men should at least be in better positions than you are. David needed men with sound mind and not those careless enough to run into debts and now that they are on the run from their debtors, he will have to protect them, pay their bills, feed and clothe them, yet this same David had his personal overwhelming problems.
He must have prayed for moneybags and soldiers, but when God would answer his prayers, he was not sent ready-made men, but men he must have to build up from the scratch. He didn’t get spirit-filled associates from the LORD, but men the Bible later referred to as wicked men of Belial. (I Sam. 30:22).
Lord, as a leader, I pray for the grace David had to see beyond the obvious in men you have sent to labour with him.
That they were in debts and discontented, even with life, was obvious. Nevertheless, David saw beyond the obvious. He saw the greatness and the might that were buried in them and although it would take him a long while to unfold these potentials in them, he wouldn’t mind sharing his life, bread, joy and sadness with them.
He accepted them warmly and enlisted them as part of his team. They weren’t the best hands in town, but David was ready to bring out the best from their hands. They weren’t trained to fight, but David knew that as long as he could fight and kill Goliath without having to go through Israel’s Defence Academy, these men could also become great warriors in a matter of time.
Those concerned may not even have seen this and more about themselves. They probably associated with David because they wanted his daily fish, but instead of David giving them this, he saw he could train and bring out the fisherman potentials in them.
Today, they may appear as liabilities, but as the LORD opens your eyes, may you behold His great deposits in them. Someone, you to be precise, must lead the sheep and bring out the best in them. It is time to stop looking for ready-made hands and start working towards making hands ready for the things of God.
Oh, the grace in David! These men were really problematic, but I tell you, David had an enormous abundance of grace to manage them. He had a heart to accommodate their excesses.
You will recall a chance came for David to kill Saul, but because of the fear of God in David, he spared him. Before this, David’s men told him in 1 Sam. 24:4, “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’”
In their hearts, they saw an opportunity for David to finally put an end to Saul. You can imagine them quoting ‘the mind of God’ to David. They were eager to push David to kill Saul and what better way can you move a man of God to do a thing than to quote him the word of God, rightly or wrongly. “Thus saith the Lord – This is the day of which the LORD said to you,” they quoted to him. However, David knew what God wanted and he did not rely on their scripture-coated words. (Tell me, were they there when God spoke to David?)
Nevertheless, they eventually succeeded in getting David on his feet, but thank God that instead of him rising up to kill Saul, he merely cut off a part of Saul’s robe. At least, true to what his men told him, David did to Saul as it seemed good to him. They could have prompted him to kill, but at the very last minute, instead of going for the life, he went for the robe. Even at that, David felt sorry and repented of his actions.
Brethren, the sheep you are leading may ignorantly or willingly suggest you do things that are against your peace in God, but in such a period, I pray you will have beyond the grace of David to do the right thing.
You will expect these men to be as sorry as their master, but instead, they saw him as a foolish leader, incapable of capitalizing on an opportunity to rise to stardom and greatness. They called him names and although you won’t find these names in the Bible, the quoted scripture in the next paragraph suggested to me they were displeased with David for not killing Saul.
When the pressure became too much on him, David took his stand and voiced out: “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.” So David restrained his servants with these words and did not allow them to rise against Saul. (I Sam. 24:6-7)
How easy can it be to lead a flock of sheep as this? In this, David pushed on. He did not give up, because as I mentioned earlier, he had seen beyond their present state of immaturity in dealing with spiritual matters.
In another occasion, Abishai, one of David’s men, had a great opportunity to end Saul’s life once and for all, but again, David prevailed. In Sam. 26:8-9: “Then Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand this day. Now, therefore, please, let me strike him at once with the spear, right to the earth; and I will not have to strike him a second time!” But David said to Abishai, Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?”
Dear leader, while you may have an understanding of God’s heart concerning the vision at hand, men with you may not. Since they saw David as being too weak in striking down Saul the first time, Abishai was willing to stand in David’s place.
Abishai saw Saul as an enemy of progress and truly, Saul was a pain in David’s flesh. Again, Abishai saw rightly too that God was behind how Saul was constantly falling into David’s hands. However, Abishai did not have the understanding of David that you do not have to kill to get to the throne. You do not suppress a life to have yours elevated. You do not terminate the vision of others to have yours established. For Abishai the sheep, he saw a chance to prove to his master how proficient he had become with the use of spears. “I will not have to strike him a second time,” he boasted to David.
When the sheep are stopped from displaying their so-called skills in the wrong way, they really can get frustrated and see you as a stumbling block to their progress in ministry or wherever they believe they must get to in life. All they desire is to prove to you that they can do what you are not ready to do. Lord help you, because once you advise against this, they conclude you are not happy seeing them grow. They may even say that you are jealous of the grace of God in them. In such periods, I pray the grace of God to see you through.
There is this occurrence in I Sam.30 in which I am so sure David almost gave up, but for the grace of God.
David had made another futile attempt to sojourn in the land of the Philistines. Yes, leaders are prone to making mistakes and whenever they do, they should apologise and move on. As David and his men returned to base in Ziklag, they discovered that the Amalekites had invaded their camp and had taken their wives and children as captives; setting ablaze the rest of their properties.
It was indeed a terrible day for David and his men, but especially for David, the leader. Men wept as babies for their wives and children, but David, being the leader, bore the brunt of the day.
“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all people was grieved; every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. I Sam. 30:6.
Those David gave his life to protect; those who dined at his table, those he provided for and those he shared his time with, must now hold him responsible for what the enemy brought upon them all. They actually wanted to stone David as though he too did not suffer any loss. For heaven’s sake, David’s wives were also captured!
Dear leader, may you find strength in God when men you serve with your life, time and energy suddenly turn against you. If not for God who was on David’s side, they would have ‘deleted’ him from the surface of the earth.
However, great leaders are known to bounce back quickly from their shocks. David, having found a way out and his strength renewed in God, immediately picked himself up and went after the Amalekites. He thought he was leading a determined and purposeful recovery team of 600 men, but they didn’t travel far before he realised that 200 of those who were crying some hours back and who sounded so determined to recover their losses, were actually not serious-minded men.
“So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him and came to the Brook Besor, where those stayed who were left behind. But David pursued, he and the four hundred men; for two hundred stayed behind who were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor. I Sam. 30:9-10.
I may be wrong, but I think it is good to have this Brook Besor incident in our lead-a-sheep experience. It will at least help us to separate the men in our team from the boys. How terrible it is for any leader to think he has 600 determined soldiers, not knowing that 200 out of the 600 are men without purpose.
Imagine the joy in Gideon’s heart when he realised, by obeying God’s word that 22,000 out of the 32,000 soldiers he boasted he had (Think of this great number) in his Army were actually fearful and afraid.
“Now, therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead, And twenty-two thousand ofhe people returned and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3.
These men joined the army for the fun of it. Had they got to the battle ground, they would have endangered Gideon’s life and those of others. It is a terrible experience to take such men to war or to work.
In lead-a-sheep, large figures or numbers can be deceptive. A lot of people sign up for assignments for different reasons, but for the real reason. God help you if you rely on that large figure on your attendance sheet. How many of them will eventually see the work to the end? They don’t get far before they back out!
Anyway, with the available 400 men with David, they recovered all without a single loss. The story, however, remains a sad one. Immediately the 400 men calculated the spoils, they came out with a strange sharing formula against the 200 men who didn’t go with them.
“Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said, ‘Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart,”
But David said, “My brethren, you shall not do so with what the LORD has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us. For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike. 1 Sam. 30:22-24.
If not for their sharing formula that betrayed them, we would never have reckoned, not to talk of addressing them as wicked and worthless men. We thought David had influenced them well enough to be good and kind. When they found and fed that dying Egyptian in I Sam. 30:11, we never knew they were fooling us into believing they had been well trained and had become spiritually matured.
Thank God for gold and prosperity. When gold and silver surfaced, their true persons jumped out – hearts were immediately revealed. Can you truly define a man’s character until you see him handle gold? Gold is a revealer of intents.
How did David feel knowing he had been keeping company with wicked and worthless men? Yes, they may have enrolled as worthless men, but after years of staying together with David, should they not have changed for good? They boasted they recovered the spoils by their strength, but David corrected the notion. It was God who gave them victory and therefore, everyone must stand equal.
Surprise, I have come to accept, is part of lead-a-sheep. Just when you think you know your sheep so well, they have surprises rolled up their sleeves. One day, an act or a saying from them will throw you off balance. In any case, you should not give up on them, because they still have this beauty lying in them to be revealed.
“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known Me, Philip?’” John 14:8-9. Jesus was surprised that after spending so long a time with His disciples, Philip (and others who kept quiet pretending they knew the Lord), could still be ignorant of the person of their Master.
“…’Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of: For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. Luke 9:54-56.
They had been with Jesus for a while now, yet they still had this fiery spirit to destroy – a spirit they never saw in Jesus in their daily interaction with Him.
“So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.’” Mat. 17:16-17. The inability of the disciples drew out a question from Jesus. “How long do I have to be with you before you get things right and start living with me? Jesus, however, did not quit.
Eventually, David’s men got things right. Although they came in and lingered as weaklings, with time and with a mindful brooding and interaction, the Bible referred to some of them as becoming David’s great men.
“Now these were the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel…Now three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David into the cave of Adullam…” (I Chro. 11:10;15)
Maybe not all, but some did eventually become strong and mighty. They eventually saw that David was right in not having to kill to get to the throne. They saw, through his life that the word of the Lord will surely come to pass without having to push or back it with natural ideas. At last, they played their roles in the right way in making David the king of Israel. Kudos to David for the manner he accepted and transformed these men. Through the toils and pains they stood and rose with him from the cave to the palace.
In Acts 4:13 the high priest and the elders of the land, seeing the boldness of Peter and John, concluded rightly that they must have been with Christ. These were the same disciples who were initially frustrating, but as Jesus laboured on; their lives eventually reflected His person.
The sheep can be demanding, but with the perseverance and the grace of God in a leader, things will eventually work out. If you are, therefore, reading this piece as a leader, in whatever capacity, don’t just pray for a ready-made followership, but pray for the grace to nurture and bringing out leaders from those following. Let the glorious end, which is around the corner, drive you.
Go back to work with the hands sent to you by God with the knowledge that He does not always send leaders ready-made hands to work with. God bless you.
Burning Bush Boy