Lessons in Leadership: David Becomes King of a United Israel
July 8, 2018 – 2 Samuel 5:1-11
Did everyone have a good 4th of July celebration? There were lots of activities here in Harmony, with the parade being the main event. Greenfield Lutheran had a float advertising our Vacation Bible School. Thank you to Laurie Magnus for her hard work in putting that together. And thanks to Sandy Strozyk for organizing the Harmony Community Band. We had fun until it started to rain and we all got drenched. I’m sure some of you went out that evening to watch the fireworks. Others stayed home to watch the fireworks on TV from WashingtonD.C.
I wonder if you know the story of how Washington D.C. became our nation’s capital? It was founded in 1791 and created out of a need to establish a central location for the running of the government. The location was chosen by President George Washington and was a compromise between the Northern states and the Southern states. How do you create unity in a newly established country? You pick a central location for the head of the government so that everyone feels equally represented.
I saw the same thing when I was living in South Dakota. The state is divided into two halves by the Missouri River: East-River and West-River. Each half is different from the other with farming in the east and ranching in the west. So how do you bring these two halves together. You put the capital right in middle. Pierre is located right in the middle of nowhere, the geographic center of the state on the banks of the Missouri. But that’s how you bring the whole state together.
King David was facing a similar problem. He reigned as King of the two southern tribes with his capital city at Hebron. But when the Northern tribes came and asked him to be king over them as well, David knew he needed a new capital city, one that was located on the border between the south and the north. He chose Jerusalem.
The problem with choosing Jerusalem was that it wasn’t Israelite territory. It was occupied by a people called the Jebusites. The city was well defended and in the right location. In fact, the Jebusites were so confident of the city’s defenses that they boasted that even the blind and lame could defend it against David and his army. Part of that confidence was that they could rely on a water supply during a long siege. Just outside the city wall was the Gihon Spring, but underneath the city were a series of tunnels and sinkholes that gave the city access to fresh water without going outside the city wall. It was through one of these tunnels that David and his men were able to enter and conquer the city.
This is a troubling story by our modern standards and values. We don’t condone the taking of land or cities by war. Hopefully countries today can find more peaceful ways to resolve their conflicts. But war was standard back then. David was not only king, he was the head of the army. He was a man of war. There was a saying about David that people used to celebrate his prowess on the battlefield. “King Saul has killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” It was a violent world people lived in. In fact, later in the David story one of the reasons God said David couldn’t build the temple was that he had too much blood on his hands. So the first temple was built by David’s son, Solomon.
But there is something even more troubling about David in this story. It is the instruction that David gave to his soldiers as they were attacking Jerusalem to conquer it. “Whoever wishes to strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.” David seems like a bully here, so easily taunted and baited, lacking basic human empathy and compassion. If the Jebusites boasted that the blind and lame could defeat David, then that’s who David wanted to kill first, “those whom David hates.”
What makes for a great king and leader of a country? David may have been a great soldier who brought his people victory in war, but is that what makes a king great? Is that what makes a people or a country great? After David and Solomon, Israel and Judah had a series of mostly terrible kings. At some point the people began to yearn for a different kind of king, a perfect king that they began to call the Messiah. This kind of king wouldn’t serve just to get rich. This king would be led by God’s Spirit and bring righteousness and faithfulness to the country. This king wouldn’t be open to bribes, but would judge the people with justice. This kind of king has a moral center grounded in God’s values. This kind of king has a heart to serve and not just to line his own pockets.
Do you remember when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? The adoring crowds shouted out words that have a lot of meaning. “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:10. The people were looking for a leader like David who would make Israel great again. But Jesus was going to be a different kind of king. Jesus may have been a descendant of David, but he was totally different from David. It’s interesting that just before Jesus entered Jerusalem, he saw a blind man by the side of the road calling out. Jesus healed this blind man and restored his sight. If David is the one who hates the blind and the lame, Jesus is the one who heals them and restores them to health. Jesus came to establish a different kind of kingdom than David’s, a kingdom where he rules in our hearts through love, kindness and compassion. He comes to bring peace, not war. He comes to serve, not to be served. He rules from a cross, not a throne. And his death and resurrection brings forgiveness and hope.
Every four years we go through the process of electing a new leader of our country. One of the things that makes our country great is that we have a smooth transition of power from one leader to another. But it also means that we need to examine ourselves and our values. What kind of a leader do we want to have lead us? What kind of a person do we want our president to be? And how will we decide? Will we decide based on the economy and which leader is going to make us the richest? Or will we decide based on our faith? Will we be guided by the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, or will we give in to our fears or vote our pocketbook?
Jesus is not only an example for our leaders, he is an example for all of us of the kind of life we are called to live. Being a Christian isn’t just about having the right set of beliefs in your head. It is about what’s in your heart. It is about having a moral center. It is about seeking justice for all people regardless of their wealth or race or creed. It is about being a good neighbor, kind and compassionate. It is about having a special concern for those at the bottom, the poor and the victims of injustice.
The 4th of July is a reminder to reflect on the deepest values of our nation and to recommit ourselves to living by them. But the 8th of July, Sunday morning, is a time to remember that as Christians, we have an even higher allegiance to the Kings of Kings, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is him we follow in our daily lives as citizens of this country.