In an age of valor and victory, they journeyed to the highest city in the land to join in the most noble task a man could serve. Brave and mighty warriors, they came to help their leader become the greatest king on earth-a man who was compassionate, skilled, courageous, and worthy of full devotion. He had been chosen by God to be first in a royal line destined to lead to the ideal, eternal King of all the universe.
What were these men like? And how can we serve our King in the same way?
These are the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said.
men of Judah, carrying shield and spear…
men of Simeon, warriors ready for battle…
men of Levi…
men of Benjamin, Saul’s kinsmen…
men of Ephraim, brave warriors, famous in their own clans…
men of half the tribe of Manasseh, designated by name to come and make David king…
men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…
men of Zebulun, experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty…
men of Naphtali…
men of Dan, ready for battle…
men of Asher, experienced soldiers prepared for battle…
and from east of the Jordan, men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, armed with every type of weapon…
All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king.
“David has been anointed king at Hebron!”
As word spread, men began pouring into this town of Judah to attach themselves to David and his cause. They were special men, raised up by God to install David as king over all Israel.
Their dramatic story is told in 1 Chronicles 12:23-38. What can we learn from these men? I believe we can learn about three distinguishing qualities which all of God’s people should possess.
The first characteristic of David’s men is that of commitment. They helped David “with undivided loyalty.” They were also “fully determined to make David king over all Israel.” Their commitment was singleminded and wholehearted.
God is looking for such people, those who possess one heart and mind to make Jesus king over their lives and the lives of others. Unreserved commitment to Christ is essential. As Dawson Trotman said, “God can do more through one man who is 100 percent committed to him than he can through a hundred men who are only 90 percent committed.”
Notice, however, that David’s men were not only committed to him personally. They were also committed to the objective-to see him installed as king over Israel. One cannot be fully committed to his commander without being committed to his commander’s cause. Every good soldier is well aware of this fact.
This truth is exemplified in Jesus’ post-resurrection meeting with Simon Peter. Peter was fishing with the other disciples when Jesus appeared unexpectedly. On shore, he questioned Peter three times regarding his devotion.
Each time Peter asserted his love for Jesus, the Lord responded, “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Commitment to Christ is demonstrated by commitment to his cause-a fact Peter never forgot.
We all face two choices regarding personal commitment. Initially we must choose between the pursuit of comfort or a cause. If we prefer comfort, we eliminate ourselves from Christ’s service with its demands and hardships.
If we desire instead to live for a cause, another choice presents itself. We must decide between the cause of Christ and all the other causes which the world affords.
Are we like David’s men in our commitment? Do we give undivided devotion to our King and his mission? Let us be careful to heed Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “No soldier on active service gets himself entangled in business, or he will not please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:4, Phillips).
A second outstanding characteristic of David’s men was their competence in battle. They were experts. We are introduced to men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” These troops were “ready for battle.” They were “fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks.”
These were the kind of people you would want to have around when going against the enemy. They were proven, competent warriors who knew what to do and how to do it.
One of my boyhood heroes was the Revolutionary War guerrilla fighter named Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox.” Marion waged an unrelenting campaign against the British in the southern colonies. His biographer Hugh F. Rankin wrote, “He rarely had many men under his command, and he was continually short of weapons and ammunition. But he was a genius at making the most out of whatever was available…. He was a constant menace to the British, who could never feel entirely secure while he ranged within their lines.”
That is how the forces of darkness should feel about each of us-never secure while we range within their lines. Men who are competent in the battle make Satan very uneasy. He realizes that they are a danger to his plans.
Unfortunately, many Christians are raw recruits when it comes to spiritual warfare. Our ranks are rife with those who are unable to inflict serious damage upon the enemy.
We must recognize the profound difference between merely being in the army and being skillful in battle. According to 2 Timothy 2:2, God uses men who are faithful and able.
In the list in 1 Chronicles 12 of the fighting men who came to Hebron, my favorites are the men of Zebulun. We are told three things about them. First, they were “experienced soldiers prepared for battle.” This doesn’t just happen. It requires discipline and drilling, and the ability to work with others. A united team effort is required in the cause of Christ. Loners won’t make it. Those who are competent in the battle have learned this truth.
The men of Zebulun were also proficient with “every type of weapon.” God has put the most powerful weapons in the world at our disposal. These are described in Ephesians 6:13-18. It is the privilege and duty of every Christian to wield these weapons in the service of our King.
Finally, the men of Zebulun served “with undivided loyalty.” If our hearts are divided, it is only a matter of time before we will drop out of the daily struggles that every soldier for Christ faces.
A third outstanding characteristic of David’s men was their courage. They were called “mighty men of valor” (1 Chronicles 12:25, New American Standard Bible). This word valor is synonymous with courage. Courageous men of God are greatly needed today.
Lorne Sanny, president of The Navigators, once commented on the bravery of servicemen he knew personally who fought in our recent wars, and who faced dangerous episodes and sometimes gave their lives. “And they were only battling for their country,” he wrote. “Why is it so hard to get people into the battle for Jesus Christ when there are eternal issues and lasting rewards at stake?”
One reason is fear. People are afraid of the cost and consequences of the battle. They lack courage. They are fearful of what God might require of them. They are worried about what others may think. They are paralyzed by the fear of what they may forfeit if they join in the battle. Or they are afraid of the battle itself.
As the Reformation progressed, Martin Luther lived out the courage of his convictions time and again in the face of persecution and peril. Luther refused to take a peripheral position on the battlefield. He affirmed, “Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.” He said a soldier’s loyalty otherwise “is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” Are we where the battle rages, or fearfully watching from a distance?
To those of us who may lack valor, God’s words to Joshua ring out across the centuries: “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life…. I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you…. Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-9).
The God who made this promise has not changed. He is still seeking ordinary individuals whom he can transform into mighty men and women of valor. They will go forth into battle and win the nations for the King of kings.
In view of the example set by David’s men, we would do well to evaluate our commitment to Christ, our competence in the battle, and our courage. May we grow in each of these areas for the glory of God. It is up to us to take God at his word and courageously launch out by faith.