If you have been able to be with us for the majority of the King David sermon series you have noticed how often world and national events in the week prior to the Sunday message have been spot-on relevant to the David epic. This week the topic is leadership, in this case, David's role as a national leader for his people. And once again, it has been a preacher's dream for material.
Leading up to the 4th of July, there have been many newspaper, TV, and online articles about the Founders of the nation and the writers of the Declaration of Independence. But at the same time there has been even more coverage about the Minnesota State Supreme Court declaring former Saturday Night Live comic Al Franken the winner of the contested Senate race, the surprise resignation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and closer to home, Rich Crotty's Fourth of July family cruise to decide whether to run against Alan Grayson in 2010. Suffice it to say, we might be sufficiently primed to think about leadership today! But the most amazing moment in recent politics has been South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's response to calls for his resignation following the revelations of his extra-marital affair and the abandonment of his duties for a week. He actually cited King David's affair with Bathsheba and the fact that David did not hand over his crown because of it. (That incident, by the way, is the topic for the next two weeks of sermons.) As I said, it's all a preacher's dream!
First the Cliff Notes on David's career to this point. He was secretly anointed as God's choice for king in his home town of Bethlehem by the prophet Samuel. After defeating the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath, he was taken to the royal court by King Saul. There he forged a relationship with Saul's son, Jonathan. When King Saul became paranoid about David's growing popularity among the people, he tried unsuccessfully to kill him, and with Jonathan's help, David fled to the wilderness. When both Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, the people turned to David to confirm what Samuel had done years before. David was made king of all Israel, and reigned for 40 years.
The single point I want to make about leadership is that while there is a lot all of us can learn about it, I think it fundamentally begins with valuing who we are, what we know and do best, and living into the strengths that are inherent in how God has uniquely created each one of us. Now, even though we are using David's position as a king as the starting point, all of us find ourselves as leaders at some time, be it in our work, our play (coaching sports, being Cub Scout den mothers or Girl Scout leaders) in our neighborhood associations, service clubs, ministry teams, Bible studiesâ€¦you get the idea. Even being a substitute, last minute Sunday head usher demands leadership skills and effectiveness. There are a whole lot of post-modern rules about leadership, but I think there is a lot to be learned from the ancient tools.
As I had been thinking about this topic this week, as I sometimes do, I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that the greatest leaders in the Bible all led from the strength of what they knew or did best. Think of it with me.
Moses spent 40 years of his life tending flocks in the barren wilderness of Sinai, which was where he saw the burning bush and was called by God to return to Egypt to rescue the Israelites. They were like a huge flock, and he led them into the wilderness place he knew to receive the commandments. They ended up staying in the wilderness for forty years, and when it was time for them to finally enter the Promised Land, Moses was not to be their leader. God called Joshua.
What were the people going to need as they went into the land? A military leader, a soldier. Joshua was just that. Her had been one of the 12 spies who first saw the Promised Land with their own eyes. And he alone with Caleb believed that the power and strength of God were sufficient for the people to defeat the Canaanites who were already living in the land. They were overruled by fear, but a generation later, this courageous soldier would inspire the people to victory after victory.
In the New Testament, a common fisherman, Simon called Peter from the fishing village of Capernaum was told by Jesus that he would be made a "Fisher of Men." His net would be the Gospel, but he already knew how to fish. Jesus called him to leadership from what he already knew. The same was true for Paul. It was Paul who started churches all over Asia and Europe. But do you know what Paul's trade was? He was a tent-maker. The very first worship structure of the Jews was the tabernacle, a movable tent. Paul knew how to make structures that gathered and sheltered people. He was also a trained theologian, who had studied with one of the greatest Jewish teachers of the time, Gamaliel. The tent-maker was also a thinker and a writer, and God used him to provide for us half of the books of the New Testament.
Do you see where this is going? David was a shepherd. He knew how to tend a flock, defend it, and lead it. It should come as no surprise then that when God chose to define the style of leadership that was needed for the people of Israel, God said, "It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel." David used ancient tools: a sling, a rod, and a staff. Sermons have been written about what those tools were used for and how they equate to leading like a shepherd of people. You can find them through an internet search. My point here is a more comprehensive one.
With Moses, Joshua, David, Peter and Paul (and others we don't have time to consider) God used who they were, what they knew, and even where they had been for effective leadership in the Kingdom; not just the kingdom of Israel. Give a little thought yourselves now about how God might be using who you are, what you know, and where you have been in life to lead and serve.
David writes in Psalm 139 verse 14, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." You are wonderfully made. And God needs your leadership in both the Kingdom of Humanity and the Kingdom of God. Begin with claiming and building on what you already have. On who you already are.