Have you ever pursued something with such an intense drive and unwavering persistence that people around you said you were “all in”? Have you ever been in a sticky situation where you can say you and a group of others were “all in the same boat”? Consider for a moment the beauty and power of Niagara Falls or the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon, you cannot help but stand back and “take it all in”. We are often “all in” when the stakes are high, when we have nothing else to lose or in some circumstances everything to lose.
1 and 2 Samuel describe a man who was “all in” when it came to living life. Known as a shepherd boy, courageous warrior, devoted friend, king and most notably a “man after God’s own heart”, David was a visionary leader who lived his life under the direction of the Lord. When I read through the life of David in scripture one of the things that grips my attention is how many times I read the words “David inquired of the Lord.” David, blessed by God, went to Him for direction and decisions in life trusting that He would provide for his needs and the needs of his people. With the confidence in knowing that God had a plan, David was able to lead his people through some incredible obstacles and unbeatable odds with God’s help. I want to say that David never lost sight of his vision, but he did, he was human just like you and I. David, despite his shortcomings stood in the light of a great and powerful God who was the foundation that his vision was built on. David had success in his leadership because he was focused on God, he knew where he was going and what he was doing because he was following God.
When the Lord sent Samuel to call on David we learn something about David even before he enters the scene. David was different, it was not physical appearance or stature that set him apart, it was what was in his heart that pleased the Lord. As leaders today we can’t take this point lightly, we need to examine what is in our heart. What is at the heart of our leadership? What as leaders in the church today is the foundation of our mission and vision? Without God, without a passion to lead with God’s direction, our vision is empty and fruitless. Being a Godly leader means being “all in”, the stakes are high, we are fighting a battle for lost souls. We have everything to lose but so much more to gain when our hearts and lives follow that of God’s will.
Do you wear glasses? Did you have to take your glasses off to read this text? It’s possible your spectacles are sitting precariously on the tip of your nose. Maybe your one of the lucky people who don’t need glasses, if that’s the case there is a good chance you under the age of forty. (Just wait, you could be joining the “four-eyed” club sooner than you think.) I am a year or two over the age of forty and never dreamed that the day would come when I would need glasses, yet as I write these words I am wearing my optical aids. Our vision changes, it’s a fact of life.
Good leaders have vision, I’m not talking about the 20/20 vision that your ophthalmologist tests for, but a vision that defines a direction that leads and guides a group or an organization into the future. I have never really considered the person of Saul in 1 Samuel to be a visionary leader. When we are introduced to him in chapter 9 he is described more for his “looks” than his leadership ability, “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” (9:2) It doesn’t stop there. In fact, when Samuel called out to have Saul come before the people to be named king, he runs and hides. “And the Lord said, yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” (10:22) So, we have what we can assume through the word is a good-looking guy who likes to hide behind stuff, this is not something we usually equate to a visionary leader or king.
1 Samuel introduces us to an ordinary guy that was chosen by God for a special reason and specific time. “God changed Saul’s heart”, I believe at this point God gave Saul the gift of leadership and discernment to live out the vision that Samuel lays out for Saul and the people of Israel. He tells the people to fear God, obey his commands and you will be “good”, if you do not obey, if you rebel “his hands will be against you… if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” Saul, after 42 years of leadership begins to mislay the vision of following the Lord with his whole heart. The lines between true obedience of God’s commands and doing what he thinks is right become blurred, leading to what scripture describes as “the Spirit of the Lord” departing from Saul. Our lesson from this portion of scripture is clear: trust, listen and obey what God asks of us. Our vision, our direction as leaders in the church can only move forward when God is in the lead. God inspires vision, he calls ordinary people, gives them incredible gifts and changes lives so that we can be a part in advancing His kingdom here on earth.
There is something fascinating about an echo. I remember a time when we would drive through the “cow tunnel”, a car sized round culvert under the highway. I remember how when passing through, the blast of the horn would bounce around the interior walls of the tunnel sounding louder and longer than normal. There were times we would stop and shout into the tunnel only to hear our voices call back at us.
As I read through the book of 1 Samuel it “echoed” some very familiar ideas, feelings and events that I would say “sound” like much of what is happening in our culture today. 1 Samuel draws us into the story of Saul, David and Johnathan, a story of family, jealousy, hatred, love, betrayal and most importantly the greatness of God’s promises that were never to be broken. Living in biblical community is defined by the love and kindness that we should have for one another, the same love that God has for us. Much the same, our culture today and the stories we read in 1 Samuel echo each other. The people wanted an earthly king, someone who would lead them forward, giving them what they wanted. The people wanted someone who in the end made them promises that could not be kept. Today in many ways we still do the same thing in our own way, we just don’t call them kings anymore. Here and now, like then, God is often removed from the picture, and this is the one place we truly need to put our faith and trust.
The nature and function of biblical community has been overshadowed by the wants and expectations of people’s hearts, which have been influenced by worldly things. The true nature of biblical community is love, a sacrificial other-serving love, it is love in action. The primary function of biblical community is worship; it is recognizing that God is our Father. It is knowing and living according to His will so that He is honoured and glorified. David was flawed and often failed in the eyes of the Lord because of sin, but he was described as a man after God’s own heart. He was a man living in a loving relationship with his Heavenly Father and experienced the true meaning of community.