Sometimes, when I look at the situation in the US, I feel like it is an impossible situation. Every day there’s another news story about Democrats and Republicans intentionally thwarting each other, and this animosity between Liberals and Conservatives trickles down into the culture at large. I sometimes wonder if there is hope for our country to move forward, past the bickering and divisions and into our calling as a nation – to be a beacon of hope and liberty.
I was recently reminded of a time in ancient Israel’s history when that nation was divided but managed to reunite. Most know the story of King David: he was anointed king as a shepherd boy, later served under King Saul, and eventually fled for his life before being crowned king of all Israel in the end. However, were you aware that David’s first several years as king were over the tribe of Judah only?
We find the story at the beginning of 2 Samuel. Upon the death of Saul, David moved to the city of Hebron and was crowned king by the tribe of Judah, his home tribe. Saul’s son Ishbosheth was crowned king over the other tribes in his father’s place. These two kingdoms did not coexist peacefully; there were several battles and revenge killings that occurred during this period. After the assassination of Ishbosheth, the leaders of Israel approached David and “anointed David king of Israel” (2 Sam. 5:3). After all the conflict, how was this possible?
What made the difference was David’s reaction to the deaths of his so-called enemies.
- When David was informed of Saul’s death, and particularly the manner of his final demise at the hands of the messenger, he had the messenger executed (2 Sam. 1:2-16). He later rewarded those who took Saul’s body to bury it (2 Sam. 2:4-7). In this way, he showed respect and honor for King Saul.
- When the general over Israel’s armies was treacherously killed by one of his own men, he gave the general a proper burial and mourned over his death in sincerity, showing all that he had not wished for this man’s death (2 Sam. 3).
- When the assassins came to David with Ishbosheth’s head, expecting a reward, they were executed as murderers instead (2 Sam. 4). He wouldn’t reward those who killed their king and leader, whatever their reason.
In that day and age, David was completely within his rights to seek the deaths of Saul, his sons, and his generals in order to establish his own kingdom. However, David refused to look on these people as his enemies, and he acted as though he were still serving under Saul’s leadership. It was this attitude of humility and his sincere sorrow at their deaths that won the hearts of the leaders of Israel, resulting in his being crowned king over the entire nation.
I believe that it was David’s consistency in mourning the deaths of those most would call his enemies that built the trust and confidence of his people. In so doing, he earned their respect and was able to lead them effectively during the 40 years of his kingship.
These stories demonstrate that David was determined to achieve God’s promise by following God’s plan, doing things God’s way, and not by following the conventional wisdom. Perhaps it is time we do the same.