Faithfulness is unwavering even if it is imperfect. We can be full of faith towards someone or something even when we fall short of living up to, or being let down by, whomever or whatever we have pledged our faith. For in the end our loyalty, our faithfulness, is tested by whether, or not, we stay true to what we claim to believe.
Today’s message is from a short pericope about David and Israel being at war. David is now much older which causes him to tire more easily. His closest servants came to his aid in battle because they were loyal to their king. But their loyalty to their king is, in part, because he was loyal to his followers.
A Good Leader Is Loyal to His/Her Followers (2 Sam. 21:15-16)
Before David became king, he was a mighty warrior. The people once sang that Saul killed his thousands while David killed tens of thousands (1 Sam. 17:7). Now, as king, David followed the tradition of leading the army into battle. (Remember, the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah happened because he did not go to battle, 2 Sam 11:1).
- David went to battle with his troops. (v. 15)
- David grew weary, but his presence was noticed by the troops. (v. 16)
The key in these verses is to notice two words beginning with the letter “w” – “with” and “weary.”
- David was with his troops. He was among those engaged in the battle. Otherwise why would he grow weary? So, unlike the incident when David stayed behind and chose Bathsheba over battle, we now have a leader who is not only giving the orders, but is involved in the process of execution.
- Of course, David was no longer a young man, and he tired more quickly (became weary) than when he was a younger warrior. But the Philistines had been a constant challenge to the Israelites. (Remember, the first time we encounter David on a battlefield was against Goliath who was the Philistine champion.) So, David went and he fought until he became weary.
True leadership is a balancing act. A good leader is faithful to those who follow, but sometimes that means making a decision and letting others do the work. In fact, the main purpose of a leader is to make decisions. Decisions on what should be done, when it should be done, who should do it, etc. Sometimes that includes doing it with others, and sometimes that means releasing others to do the work themselves. As we will see in the remaining verses of this passage, this is just what David did. But such an approach is only possible when the leader and the followers trust one another.
A Good Leader Has the Loyalty of His/Her Followers (2 Sam. 21:17)
As David aged, he may have been a detriment on the battlefield because others had to watch out for him. A king on the battlefield was a prime target because if the opposing army could kill the king, it often demoralized the troops. But David’s leadership was still valued and thus, one (or many) kept an eye on David to protect him against the enemy.
- David’s men watched out for him when the enemy was on the attack (v. 17a)
- David’s men valued his leadership and wanted to keep him from endangering himself in the future. (v. 17b)
This is a great verse for us to review. It shows how much the army respected David. Not only did one of the mightiest of David’s mighty men come to David’s rescue, but the army valued him as the “lamp of Israel.” That is, he was the one who provided their hope as leader. Now, before we say that their allegiance was misplaced in favoring David over God, we must consider the words of Jesus as well. Certainly, some likely idolized David, but two statements of Jesus can provide clarity for us.
- “I am the light of the world.” – Jesus (John 8.12)
- “You are the light of the world.” – Jesus (Matthew 5.14)
I believe these two statements from Jesus capture the essence of what David’s men saw in him. He was their light because He had the light within Him. Just as we can light the world if Jesus shines in and through us, God shined through David and the people knew it.
Matthew 5.14 is another reason that I often say that all Christians are leaders. Our light is to shine in a way that allows other people to know Jesus. If we are to make disciples (Matthew 28.19), then people must follow our lead – thus we are leaders. But for those in positions of leadership, it is even more critical for us to reflect the light of Jesus in the decisions we make and how we lead others. Again, David’s men recognized the light emanating from David and were willing to do anything to protect him from the enemy.
Let me be personal for a minute. I don’t share a great deal personally, but as your leader, I need protection too. Earlier this Spring, I mentioned that several deacons were dealing with various issues and asked you to pray for them. Likewise, I need you to pray for me. The Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour. Those words are meant for everyone, but they come just a few verses after Peter has encouraged the leaders of the church to be faithful in their duties. So, as your leader, I pray I have your loyalty (especially in your prayers), not because of me, but because I seek to let the light of Jesus shine in and through me.
A Good Leader Trusts His/Her Followers When Loyalty Exists Mutually (v. 18-22)
Israel’s army faced further battles and now, at their discretion, they would do so without their king on the battlefield. Nevertheless, despite their leader not being physically present, they realized his importance in their success. Similarly, David trusted his army to win the battles, yet remain true to his leadership. The Bible records David’s name alongside that of those who fought because the victory was to be shared by all.
- David’s men continued to fight against the Philistines although they had sworn he would not go to battle with them any longer. (v. 18, 19, and 20 all state a new war begins)
- David’s men continually defeated the Philistines, but David received credit as well because he was their leader.
Leaders often receive much of the credit, and most, if not all, of the blame. Consider a football team. Announcers often speak of the leadership of the quarterback and give stats on how many come from behind victories he has. But without an offensive line or running backs or receivers, the quarterback can do little. And what about a pitcher in baseball. We measure pitchers by the number of wins. Twenty wins in a season is a benchmark as is 300 wins for a career. But last I checked, no pitcher has ever won a game without the rest of the team. And many times a pitcher wins when he pitches lousy but the rest of the team has a great game or the pitcher pitches great (maybe one mistake), but the rest of the team couldn’t score so the pitcher does not win. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Because in a team sport, every player is important.
The same is true in the church. Paul equates the church to a body which means that every single one of us is responsible for any success or failure we have as a church. And yes, the church needs a head, but ultimately that head is Jesus (Colossians 1.18, Ephesians 5.23). But just like some members of the body are more prominent (hands and face), the same is true within the church body. But as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth every part of the body needs all other parts to function naturally and healthily (1 Corinthians 12).
So, David needed his men. And the men needed David. Both sides trusted one another and thus great things were accomplished for Israel. Likewise, I need you. And you need me. And, if we trust one another to accomplish what God has for this church, then great things can happen for His kingdom.
Loyalty to tradition, to fellow man (whether friends, servants, or “co-workers”), and country, are a part of this short passage. The loyalty shown here is exemplary, but that is not always the case (consider the apostle Peter, for instance, who pledged loyalty at any cost but denied Jesus three times). But true loyalty, or faithfulness, will show itself in the end. The question we must each consider is when the end comes to what, to whom (or Whom) will we remain faithful? More importantly, knowing that our Leader will always be faithful to us, when our life ends, will we be found faithful to Jesus?
The JOURNEY letter for today is: U – UNITE.
Loyalty is best possible when trust is involved. Yes, people have a blind sense of loyalty in some circumstances. People will be loyal to the worst of teams in sports, to a particular political party, and often to family even when all the facts suggest that doing so might be foolish. But, if people trust one another then two-way loyalty is possible. And that loyalty is simply a reflection of a higher principle – unity. Unity is between people, whereas loyalty can be to anything. Furthermore, unity is commanded in Scripture (see, for example, Psalm 133.1, John 17.23, 1 Corinthians 1.10, Ephesians 4.3, 13, Colossians 3.13-14.) Thus, we must unite in our love for Jesus, our love towards one another and our purpose in serving Him.
NEXT STEP(S): LOVE
To be united requires love. To be loyal has an element of love. And, of course, the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. So, let us be learn to be loyal to one another and loyal to our God by loving better.
This week, we do that by seeking opportunities to serve those in our community on our upcoming Labor for the Lord Sunday. Keep your eyes and ears open so we can be prepared to go with the light of Jesus into Fairfax on September 2. Write down any ideas on how we can serve. Next week we will begin to compile those ideas and make preparations so that others in Fairfax can see what the Church is truly meant to be.