Forming Faith Blog

A Godly Leader (Sort of) (October 20, 2019)

A crown lying on a table in dusty light. David is called to be king of Israel, a godly leader for them.
King Envy

Our story last week, of Ruth and her devotion to Naomi, was set in the time of the judges. That was the period after the Israelite’s conquest of Canaan, with less permanent leadership, leaders God called as needed. In the time of the prophet Samuel, the people begged God for a king (1 Samuel 8). Their argument? “But everyone else has one!” Really? They didn’t think that God being their King was enough? Samuel warned them of all the bad things that would happen if they had a king, but they persisted anyway. That’s what they asked for, that’s what they got. But what type of leader would they get?

Who’s the Leader?

God has Samuel anoint Saul as the first king. Was Saul a good leader, a godly leader? For a while he was. But eventually Saul screwed up and God gives the kingship over to David, the shepherd boy. Technically, there are now two kings, so it’s not surprising that all sorts of drama ensue, often with weapons. Eventually, Saul dies—and more tragic for David—Saul’s son Jonathan.

Part 1: Anointed Leader

David was already anointed as the king of Israel by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:12-13) and has been leading a group of outcasts while Saul remained in power. During this period, it can be roughly summarized as: David saves, Saul kills. But after Saul dies, the elders of the tribe of Judah anoint David as king of Judah. After almost all of Saul’s remaining family are killed, the rest of Israel is without a king. That is where our first passage starts.

Leader as Shepherd

Now, the elders of Israel also anoint David as king, so that he is now king of a united Israel and Judah. It’s not dwelt upon, but the elders quote God as saying David is to be a shepherd and rule over Israel. It’s significant that the word shepherd is used here, work David would have known well. It is the shepherd’s job to take care of the sheep and keep them safe. A shepherd doesn’t lord their power over the sheep. In connecting a king to a shepherd, God is teaching the people how a leader should be. A godly leader is one who takes care of and protects their people.

First Actions

After David becomes the officially recognized king of Israel, he goes about securing a capital. For this, he chooses Jerusalem, a fortified city near existing trade routes. Problem is, it’s occupied by the Jebusites. Despite some taunting, the Jebusites are overcome and Jerusalem becomes the City of David. Jerusalem can now be the political and economic center of Israel. Then, the Philistines attack, as they are wont to do. David consults God before engaging, and God gives the king the go-ahead.

Part 2: Movement of the Ark

The second part of our narrative marks the end of the sordid travels of the Ark of the Covenant, which began in 1 Samuel 4. Although our reading ends with the procession celebrating with music and dance, this parade ends in death as one of the bearers touches the Ark and dies. After three months, the parade restarts, and the Ark finally completes its travel to Jerusalem, making the city the religious center of the kingdom as well.

Part 3: Praising God

Praising God seems to be something that David is good at. There is no reason to believe that David wrote Psalm 150, but I’m sure he would agree with the sentiment. The basic gist of the psalm is a call to praise God anywhere and any way. As the way of a leader, it is better to focus on praising God than seeking praise yourself. To praise God is to bring God to the center of your attention and to respond with joy. For me, the purest praise is to focus on God to the exclusion of the self.

Our Turn: Calling and Praising

So, by looking at David, we can see what it looks like to be a godly leader. It gets complicated later on in the story, but from here, we can see that leadership is something that God calls us to. It is a responsibility to serve the people, not yourself. And, a good leader puts God at the center.

“But,” you might say, “I’m not a leader!” Even if you are not a leader at anything, we are still called by God to certain responsibilities, we can certainly serve others, and we can always put God at the center of our lives.

Far from Perfect

It’s important to keep in mind, as we are looking to David as an example of godly leadership, that David is very, very far from perfect. There are his crimes against Bathsheba and Uriah and his very dysfunctional family dynamics with his children. We can and should look to these as cautionary tales, but also note that David repents as well. Being able to admit your wrongs, repent, and accept the consequences are also characteristics of a godly leader. Next week, we will see an example of horrible leadership in 1 Kings 12.

Faith Formation: Hands-On

Last week, I wrote about the importance of engaging participants in their own faith formation. One important way to do so, I said, was to make your worship, class, etc. cover as many of the five senses as possible. Now I want to zero in on one sense, that of touch. Specifically, manipulating things with your hands. This will specifically engage your tactile learners (of all ages), but it will also provide better engagement with most of us. The most important thing is to move away from the traditional model where we (pastors, teachers, parents, etc.) talk at our audience and move toward engaging and interacting with our participants.

Free Resource

This week, you can download an activity called “David Becomes King” that uses manipulative objects to engage participants of all ages around our readings today and help them to connect with the people around them. This activity is from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship resource so it is intended to be used within a worship setting. However, it would be easy to adapt this to pretty much any other faith formation setting.

Go out and follow God’s lead!

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

If you would like to know more about our perspectives on faith formation and cross+gen ministry, you can check out the following links:

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our complete Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2019-2020 Planning Tool, NL Readings Overview, and Scope & Sequence