1 Chronicles 12: Lessons From the Mighty Men Who Served David in Exile Regarding Things the Holy Spirit Offers Believers

Introduction: For thematic reasons, 1 Chronicles 12 predates the events of chapter 11. Many of these events occurred while David lived in hiding from Saul or his son’s forces. This chapter reveals the role of the Holy Spirit as He guided David and his mighty men (1 Chr. 12:18). The men who served David were mighty because they responded to the Holy Spirit and served God’s anointed king David at great risk of loss to themselves. From the example of these mighty men, God reveals seven things that the Holy Spirit offers to all who step forward to serve. These include: (1) faith, (2) exaltation, (3) courage, (4) guidance, (5) victory, (6) unity, and (7) joy.

First, while David lived in exile, mighty warriors from Saul’s tribe stepped forward in faith to serve. The Holy Spirit then grew the faith of these men in battle. The Spirit will also grow your faith when you step forward to serve Him. Second, the mighty men left behind positions of power to serve David. The Spirit later exalted them because of their humility. The Spirit will also exalt you when you serve in humility. Third, the mighty men were able to face death and defeat with courage. The Spirit will also give you the strength or courage to serve. Fourth, the Holy Spirit guided and protected David as he screened the men who served him. The Spirit will also guide you as you serve Him. Fifth, David’s men were granted victory over their enemies. The Spirit will also bring you victory when you serve Him. Sixth, mighty men from all of the 12 tribes stepped forward with a united heart to serve God’s anointed king David. The Spirit will also bring you unity when you serve. Finally, the men who responded to the Spirit and served David experienced great joy. The Spirit will also bring you joy when you serve Him.

1. Faith: The Spirit Will Grow Your Faith When You Serve Him. 1 Chr. 12:1-2.

  • The men of faith who joined David had the faith to leave behind their lives of prestige. At a time when many Jews considered David a traitor, many men had the faith to stand by David as God’s anointed king: “1 Now these are the ones who came to David at Ziklag, while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men who helped him in war. They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul’s kinsmen from Benjamin.” (1 Chr. 12:1-2). After Saul’s many attempts to kill David, David fled with 600 men to live with the Philistines (1 Sam. 27:1-3). The Philistine king Achish in Gath in turn allowed David to live at Ziklag in the south near the Edomite border (1 Sam. 27:5-7). Saul would have tried to disparage David to his people as a traitor for taking refuge with the enemy. The people who stood to lose the most if David prevailed were members of Saul’s tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 9:1-2). Yet, despite risking being branded as traitors and losing influence, these men from the tribe of Benjamin stepped forward in faith and joined David in exile. These further were men who were greatly respected within their tribe before they left. They were ambidextrous, a highly esteemed trait (1 Chr. 12:2; Jdgs. 3:15; 20:16). These were renown warriors who would have enjoyed great prestige if they had stayed with their own tribe. But they found it more important to follow God’s anointed king than their own worldly success.

David’s mighty men of faith served with faith and bows, arrows, and rocks1

  • Serve God in faith or your works are meaningless. If these men had not stepped forward to serve out of faith, their works would have been meaningless to God: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Jesus will also rebuke many who believe that they are saved based upon their good works when none of their works were driven by their faith in Him: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”’ (Matt. 7:22-23).

  • When you trust God and step out to serve, He will grow your faith. When you step forward in faith, the Holy Spirit speaks to you. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” (Jo. 15:26). When you step forward in faith to receive God’s Word as the mighty men of Benjamin did, God’s Word will in turn grow your faith: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). Are you stepping forth to serve like the men of Benjamin to allow the Spirit to grow your faith?

  • Trust in God, not in powerful people. These men trusted the Spirit to let an anointed outlaw lead them. They did not put their trust in their strong king and tribal leader Saul. God also does not want you to put your trust in powerful people: “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). The men of Benjamin would have appeared foolish to the other members of their tribe. It would be like giving up a high paying job to serve God for little money. Frequently, God’s righteousness and His desire that you lean on Him will appear foolish to the world. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). Today, people regularly become filled with hope in their favorite candidate or political party with each election. Yet, these people cannot save you. Have you placed your hope in Jesus or in powerful people?

2. Exaltation: The Spirit Will Exalt You When You Serve in Humility. 1 Chr. 12:3-7.

  • The mighty men who joined David also left behind power. Some of the men who left to serve David included tribal chiefs who gave up great power: “The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; and Jeziel and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth, and Beracah and Jehu the Anathothite, and Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty. Then Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Jozabad the Gederathite, 5 Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, Shephatiah the Haruphite, Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, Jashobeam, the Korahites, and Joelah and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.” (1 Chr. 12:3-7). Ahiezer and Joash were chiefs from Gibeah, Saul’s birthplace within the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 11:4). Thus, these were men of influence with Saul’s inner circle with everything to lose by siding with David. If Saul had caught these men, he would have most likely killed them. The other men on this list were also men of power from within the tribe of Benjamin. Many were from the city of Gibeon, a city belonging to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 18:25). The last city on this list, Gedor, was originally promised to Judah (Josh. 15:58). But Benjamin and Judah had territories next to each other. By Gedor’s inclusion on this list, the tribe of Benjamin appeared to have controlled it in Saul’s day. All of the men on this list gave up everything to serve God’s anointed king. They were part of David’s 30 advisors who supervised and led his 600 men. The members of his 30 closest advisors changed over time. When a leader died in battle, age, or illness, another came forward to serve.

  • Place greater weight in the things of God over the things of the world. Like the mighty men, Paul considered his worldly accomplishments as worthless next to the opportunity to serve Jesus (Phil. 3:8). Do you value God more than your worldly accomplishments?

  • Walk humbly and use God’s gifts for Him so that He can exalt you. Like these mighty men, God wants to exalt you. Yet, you must also walk in humble service to God and not yourself: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Prov. 29:23; Jam. 4:6(b)). If you walk with humility by serving God, He will exalt you either on Earth or in heaven.

  • When you follow the Spirit, God also promises to bless you with honor and respect. When you follow the wisdom of the Spirit, God will also bless you with honor and respect: “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.” (Dt. 28:3). Joseph is an example regarding how obeying the Spirit can lead to honor and respect. As a slave, Joseph was obedient to administer God’s wisdom for the benefit of others. As a result, God blessed Joseph and the entire Egyptian household that he managed (Gen. 39:5). Joseph showed that he was faithful and obedient in the face of the temptations of Potiphar’s wife. He was again faithful and obedient to God, even when he was thrown in jail on false charges and then forgotten. Because he showed that he was obedient and faithful in small things, God blessed him by elevating him to have power second only to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40-41). God’s many blessings in the Bible show that He wants to bless you. Like David’s mighty men and Joseph, are you showing yourself faithful and obedient to the Spirit so that He can bless you with honor and respect?

3. Courage: The Spirit Will Give You The Strength or Courage to Serve. 1 Chr. 12:8-15.

  • The mighty men who came to serve did not fear death. Among the mighty men who served David were mighty warriors from the tribe of Gad who fought without fearing death: “From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the gazelles on the mountains. Ezer was the first, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, 10 Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, 11 Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, 12 Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, 13 Jeremiah the tenth, Machbannai the eleventh. 14 These of the sons of Gad were captains of the army; he who was least was equal to a hundred and the greatest to a thousand. 15 These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing all its banks and they put to flight all those in the valleys, both to the east and to the west.” (1 Chr. 12:8-15). The men who came to fight with David from the tribe of Gad may have joined him while he hid in caves from Saul in wilderness of En-gedi (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14; 24:1). These were swift and agile warriors who faced death and overwhelming odds with “the faces of lions.” (1 Chr. 12:8). Because they had faith, God gave them a spirit of strength to face and defeat their enemy. The mighty men of faith from Gad who were captains of David’s armies included: (1) Ezer, (2) Obadiah, (3) Eliab, (4) Mishmannah, (5) Jeremiah, (6) Attai, (7) Eliel, (8)  Johanan, (9) Elzabad, (10) Jeremiah, (11) Machbannai (1 Chr. 12:9-13). These men supervised armies of men ranging from 100 to 1,000 men. Because David’s men in hiding totaled only 600 men, these men supervised David’s armies as they grew. These mighty men of faith believed so strongly in serving David that they crossed over the River Jordan into Israel at a time when it was overflowing (1 Chr. 12:15).

The captains of David’s mighty men of faith2

  • The Holy Spirit will give you the courage or strength to serve Him. Like the mighty men of faith, the Holy Spirit will also give you courage or strength to face your challenges or enemies: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Moses also encouraged the Jews not to fear their enemies: “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” (Dt. 20:1). “He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’” (Dt. 20:3-4; 31:8). The next time you fear, recite His promises: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). If you are facing trials, turn to God to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you.

4. Guidance: The Spirit Will Guide You as You Serve Him. 1 Chr. 12:16-18.

  • The Holy Spirit guided David as the mighty men served him. While David faced a constant threat of betrayal, God guided him to protect him in accepting the correct men: “16 Then some of the sons of Benjamin and Judah came to the stronghold to David. 17 David went out to meet them, and said to them, ‘If you come peacefully to me to help me, my heart shall be united with you; but if to betray me to my adversaries, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look on it and decide.’ 18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was the chief of the thirty, and he said, ‘We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, and peace to him who helps you; indeed, your God helps you!’ Then David received them and made them captains of the band.” (1 Chr. 12:16-18). While David was in hiding, other men from Benjamin and of Judah approached David to serve. But David had been betrayed many times. Thus, he was wary of immediately accepting anyone who came to him. The Holy Spirit then supernaturally came upon Amasai to assure David that his men were loyal and would not betray him (1 Chr. 12:18). One commentator explains, “Then the Spirit came upon Amasai: Literally, this ‘The Spirit clothed Amasai.’ This Old Testament phrase is only used in Judges 6:34 and 2 Chronicles 34:20, but it may have been in the mind of Jesus when He promised that His followers would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49).” (David Guzik 1 Chr. 12).3 David was a man of faith. Thus, he accepted God’s Word, and he made Amasai a captain of the guards. Some believe that “Amasai” is another name for “Amasa,” whom David later made his commander (2 Sam. 19:13).

  • Consult the Holy Spirit through the Word and prayer regarding all major decisions. David did not presume that God would automatically fight for him and guide him. He needed to first make sure that he was acting according to God’s will. God had previously rewarded David when he consulted with God before he attacked the Philistines. “So David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and deliver Keilah.’” (1 Sam. 23:2). Believers are also warned against the sin of presumption whereby they simply presume to know God’s will (Jam. 4:13-17). “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). Today, Jesus has left you with His Word to guide your feet: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23). “I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jer. 10:23). He has also left you the Holy Spirit to apply His Word: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” (Jo. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Ro. 8:26). He will also guide you in prayer when you seek wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Ja. 1:5). “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.” (Prov. 16:13). Are you seeking His guidance through the Word and prayer?

5. Victory: The Spirit Will Bring You Victory When You Serve Him. 1 Chr. 12:19-22.

  • The men of faith allowed God to defeat the Jews’ enemies. When David was in hiding, mighty men of faith also came from the tribe of Manasseh to serve him. God first directed them away from fighting the Jews and then granted them victory over their enemies: “19 From Manasseh also some defected to David when he was about to go to battle with the Philistines against Saul. But they did not help them, for the lords of the Philistines after consultation sent him away, saying, ‘At the cost of our heads he may defect to his master Saul.’ 20 As he went to Ziklag there defected to him from Manasseh: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu and Zillethai, captains of thousands who belonged to Manasseh. 21 They helped David against the band of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor, and were captains in the army. 22 For day by day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army like the army of God.” (1 Chr. 12:19-22). While in exile with the Philistines, David served King Achish for 16 months (1 Sam. 27:7). During this time, the Philistine armies gathered together to fight the Jews at Jezreel. David’s men followed in the rear with King Achish (1 Sam. 29:1-2). God first stirred up the hearts of the Philistine commanders to drive David from the battle against the Jews (1 Sam. 29:3-5). When David refused to leave, God then used King Achish to drive David from the battlefield (1 Sam. 29:6-11). As a consequence of David’s sins, the Amalekites were able to burn David’s men’s homes in Ziklag and steal the wives of David’s men because they were not where they were supposed to be (1 Sam. 30:1-6). During this time, captains from the tribe of Manasseh came to serve David. They included Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu, and Zilthai (1 Chr. 12:19-22). After the Amalekites attacked, David turned to God for guidance (1 Sam. 30:7-8). David and 400 of his 600 men, including these mighty men from Manasseh, then obeyed God’s command to fight the Amalekites and free their prisoners. God gave these brave men victory. This in turn inspired others to serve God (1 Sam. 30:9-20; 1 Chr. 12:21).

  • The Holy Spirit can strengthen you to defeat your enemies. The Holy Spirit will give you the strength to defeat your spiritual enemy: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). When you trust the Spirit and follow Him in faith-led obedience, God promises to protect you from those who may try to harm you: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). “But the LORD your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed.” (Dt. 7:23). “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7). “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, . . .” (Prov. 28:1). When you are under attack, trust the Holy Spirit to protect you by submitting to Him.

6. Unity: The Spirit Will Bring You Unity When You Serve Him. 1 Chr. 12:23-37.

  • The soldiers loyal to David from the 12 tribes of Israel were united in the Spirit. The victory that God gave over the Amalekites inspired Jews from every tribe to come to serve David: “23 Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord. 24 The sons of Judah who bore shield and spear were 6,800, equipped for war. 25 Of the sons of Simeon, mighty men of valor for war, 7,100. 26 Of the sons of Levi 4,600. 27 Now Jehoiada was the leader of the house of Aaron, and with him were 3,700, 28 also Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father’s house twenty-two captains. 29 Of the sons of Benjamin, Saul’s kinsmen, 3,000; for until now the greatest part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. 30 Of the sons of Ephraim 20,800, mighty men of valor, famous men in their fathers’ households. 31 Of the half-tribe of Manasseh 18,000, who were designated by name to come and make David king. 32 Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command. 33 Of Zebulun, there were 50,000 who went out in the army, who could draw up in battle formation with all kinds of weapons of war and helped David with an undivided heart. 34 Of Naphtali there were 1,000 captains, and with them 37,000 with shield and spear. 35 Of the Danites who could draw up in battle formation, there were 28,600. 36 Of Asher there were 40,000 who went out in the army to draw up in battle formation. 37 From the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites and the Gadites and of the half-tribe of Manasseh, there were 120,000 with all kinds of weapons of war for the battle.” (1 Chr. 12:23-37). These men came to serve David while he reigned in Hebron during Israel’s civil war. The tribe of Judah fought for David while most of the other tribes fought for Saul’s son Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. Chapters 2-5). The members of the 11 tribes mentioned above had the courage to follow God’s anointed King David when the leaders of their tribes refused to do so.

  • Act with one accord, yet under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Like the mighty men of faith who served David, each person in God’s army should work together with one accord using the gifts of the Spirit: “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Cor. 12:20-21). Are you acting with one accord with your brothers and sisters in the Spirit?

  • Through the Spirit, seek help from your brothers and sisters. God calls believers “sheep.” (Jo. 10:27). Sheep have no natural defenses. When you act alone, you put yourself at risk for the enemy’s attacks (1 Pet. 5:8). To obtain the protection offered from God’s flock, you must stay connected to others in Church: “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25). When united by the Spirit, believers in Christ are also commanded to “fight the good fight of faith . . . ” (1 Tim. 6:12). When you feel persecuted or under attack, are you seeking Spirit-led help from your brothers and sisters?

7. Joy: The Spirit Will Bring You Joy When You Serve Him. 1 Chr. 12:38-40.

  • The mighty men of Israel celebrated in unity David’s anointing as king. As guided by the Spirit, these men were united in their heart behind David. They celebrated in joy to serve God’s anointed king. “38 All these, being men of war who could draw up in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one mind to make David king. 39 They were there with David three days, eating and drinking, for their kinsmen had prepared for them. 40 Moreover those who were near to them, even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought food on donkeys, camels, mules and on oxen, great quantities of flour cakes, fig cakes and bunches of raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep. There was joy indeed in Israel.” (1 Chr. 12:38-40). After Ishbosheth’s death, Abner lobbied the remaining 11 tribes to switch their allegiance to David (2 Sam. 5:3). Ishbosheth’s death and the end of Saul’s line finally caused the remaining tribes to accept what God had decreed long ago (2 Sam. 4:7). An army of 340,000 came to Hebron to anoint David as king. The leaders from the tribes celebrated David’s coronation (1 Chr. 12:39). This foreshadowed the celebration of the Messiah as king (Is. 25:6-8; Rev. 19:9-10; Ps. 16:11).

  • Be filled with the joy of the Spirit. Jesus offers you an abundant life: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jo. 10:10). The abundant life that He offers includes the peace and joy that only the Holy Spirit can provide: “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Ro. 14:17). “[I]n Your presence is fullness of joy;” (Ps. 16:11; 21:6). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Ro. 14:17; 15:13). Living your faith and walking with Jesus also involves sharing the joy of the Spirit with others: “ . . . I rejoice and share my joy with you.” (Phil. 2:17(b)). “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Phil. 2:2). When you suffer setbacks, do seek out the joy of the Spirit?