Introduction: After setting up the spiritual leadership structure to guide the future kings (1 Chr. chapters 23-26), David established the military and civil governing structure for the future kings. Some might find little relevance to his structure in a modern democratic government. Some might even object to the underlying premise that the Bible should have anything to do with civil government. But the Spirit-led principles that David followed can and should apply to the way believers select their civil leaders. Failing to follow these principles frequently leads to the selection of leaders who act in a worldly, corrupt, or otherwise evil manner. From David’s government structure, God reveals seven principles to follow when selecting leaders. These include looking for leaders that: (1) follow God’s Word, (2) have faith, (3) have a shepherd’s heart, (4) trust in God, (5) have integrity, (6) seek God’s counsel, and (7) practice righteousness.
First, God established a military structure for David and the future kings to follow. David succeeded in defeating the Jews’ enemies because he followed this structure. The leaders who disobeyed God’s Word were frequently defeated. From David’s example, God wants you to select leaders who will obey God’s Word and the Spirit. Second, David selected 12 leaders who had shown their faith in battle or in leaving behind worldly power to follow God’s anointed king. God also wants you to select leaders with faith in God to govern His people. Third, David selected capable civil leaders from each tribe who would care for the people of their tribes. They were shepherds who would grieve at the prospect of any lost sheep. God also wants you to select capable leaders with a shepherd’s heart for God’s people. Fourth, at a point of weakness, David once tried to conduct a census when faced with a military threat instead of trusting God. Because David did not follow God’s law, this led to a plague. From David’s mistake, God wants you to select leaders who place their trust in God, not in the world or in their power. Fifth, David appointed leaders to ensure that the treasury and the economy were properly managed. God also wants you to select leaders with integrity who will be held accountable. Sixth, David selected Spirit-led counselors to guide him. God also wants you to select leaders who will be guided by the Spirit. Finally, David selected a general who failed to follow God’s righteousness. David failed to replace this general even after he committed acts of disobedience and murder. God wants you to select leaders who follow after His righteousness. When they fail to follow after God’s righteousness and engage in worldly or evil conduct, they should be replaced.
God’s divine order for organizing the army. God ordered the nation to be organized into divisions of soldiers who would serve Israel on a rotating basis: “1 Now this is the enumeration of the sons of Israel, the heads of fathers’ households, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all the affairs of the divisions which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, each division numbering 24,000:” (1 Chr. 27:1) Unlike other nations, Israel did not rely upon slave soldiers or mercenaries. Instead, every citizen of Israel stood ready to serve in the army when needed. During David’s reign, the standing army at one point totaled 288,000 citizen soldiers. Israel’s national guard was organized into 12 divisions with 24,000 men in each division. Each division served for one month during the year. The remainder of the year, they attended to their own businesses, farms, families, or other duties. In the event of a war, all of the citizen soldiers could be mobilized. Each leader obeyed the structure that God ordained through David.
God expects order and for you to know your place in His army. Our God is a God of order: “for God is not a God of confusion . . .” (1 Cor. 14:33). Because He is a God of order, He knows every hair on your head (Matt. 10:29; Lk. 12:17). He therefore expects you to follow the order that He ordains in your life: “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” (1 Cor. 14:40.) When the Jews were in the wilderness, God formed an army to conquer the Promised Land. Each person and each tribe had its assigned place (Numbers chapter 1). David’s army was also highly organized. The Bible also describes the Church as a body (Ro. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-15). A human body breaks down when the brain can’t communicate and direct each part. Each part also serves a separate and distinct purpose. Likewise, an army can’t function if the troops don’t stay in their assigned locations. Are you aimlessly drifting in and out of church? Or, are you in your assigned place in your church fighting for God?
God is a God of order, and He calls upon His people to obey and serve Him1
Obey God’s appointed leaders. God also commands that believers submit to His appointed leaders. First, believers submit to Him through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20, Heb. 13:17). Second, believers should submit to civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, believers should submit to God’s family order (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Only when your authorities refuse to follow God’s Word can you ignore them (Acts. 4:19). Satan’s goal has always been to break down authority through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen 3:16). All of Satan’s rebellions in the wilderness sought to depose Moses as the leader of the Jews. Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:23). Upon His arrest, the disciples scattered. When the nation of Israel rebelled against God, it fought with itself and divided into two separate nations. Satan also tries to have people bring down their church, civic leaders, and family leaders through rebellion. Society has reaped chaos from its rebellions. When you have contempt toward God’s leaders, it is equivalent to having contempt toward God. (Ex. 16:8; 1 Sam. 8:7). Thus, God warns you not to speak ill of His appointed leaders: “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:15). Are you undermining God’s appointed leaders through murmur or gossip?
Select leaders who will obey God’s Word. Because every believer is expected to obey God’s appointed leaders, it is important for believers to select or elect leaders who will obey God’s Word and His Spirit. Are you voting for God-fearing leaders? Does your church speak out when leaders ignore God’s Word in governing the people?
God granted the Jews victory when they had the faith to obey God’s Word. When the Jewish leaders had the faith to obey God’s Word, God brought them victory: “the Lord brought about a great victory.” (2 Sam. 23:10, 12). Moses explained “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Dt. 31:8). If your faith is lacking, God calls upon you to build it up through reading the Word: “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). 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). “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Do you have the faith to follow God’s Word, even when the world might tell you to ignore it?
When you walk with God, your enemy will also flee from you. When you walk in faith and obedience, God promises to instill fear into your enemy and cause them to flee from you: “One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the LORD your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you.” (Josh. 23:10). “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). ‘“But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.’” (Lev. 26:7-8). When you take refuge in God, He also promises to be a shield to the evil attacks of the enemy: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). With His help, Jonathon killed 20 Philistines (1 Sam. 14:12). His power also allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). He does not want you to fear any enemy (Ro. 8:15). Are you walking in faith and obedience so that He can act on your behalf to cause your enemies to flee?
The 12 army commanders who served the king. To lead God’s armies, David selected 12 Spirit-led men who showed faith, valor, and integrity while serving under David when he lived as a refugee fleeing from Saul: “2 Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel had charge of the first division for the first month; and in his division were 24,000. 3 He was from the sons of Perez, and was chief of all the commanders of the army for the first month. 4 Dodai the Ahohite and his division had charge of the division for the second month, Mikloth being the chief officer; and in his division were 24,000. 5 The third commander of the army for the third month was Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, as chief; and in his division were 24,000. 6 This Benaiah was the mighty man of the thirty, and had charge of thirty; and over his division was Ammizabad his son. 7 The fourth for the fourth month was Asahel the brother of Joab, and Zebadiah his son after him; and in his division were 24,000. 8 The fifth for the fifth month was the commander Shamhuth the Izrahite; and in his division were 24,000. 9 The sixth for the sixth month was Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite; and in his division were 24,000. 10 The seventh for the seventh month was Helez the Pelonite of the sons of Ephraim; and in his division were 24,000. 11 The eighth for the eighth month was Sibbecai the Hushathite of the Zerahites; and in his division were 24,000. 12 The ninth for the ninth month was Abiezer the Anathothite of the Benjamites; and in his division were 24,000. 13 The tenth for the tenth month was Maharai the Netophathite of the Zerahites; and in his division were 24,000. 14 The eleventh for the eleventh month was Benaiah the Pirathonite of the sons of Ephraim; and in his division were 24,000. 15 The twelfth for the twelfth month was Heldai the Netophathite of Othniel; and in his division were 24,000.” (1 Chr. 27:2-15). The 12 divisions each had 24,000 men. Most of these men were the mighty men of valor who bravely served under David (2 Sam. 23:8-39; 1 Chr. 11:26-47). Seven of the army captains came from David’s tribe of Judah. This is likely due to the fact that the other tribes mostly refused to back David as God’s anointed king during both Saul’s reign and during the civil war following Saul’s death. Yet, unlike Saul, David openly embraced people from other tribes when they had the faith to support him as God’s anointed king. Two of the captains came from Saul’s tribe of Benjamin. Two of the captains were also from Ephraim, another powerful tribe that sought to control Israel. Finally, one captain was from the tribe of Levi. Each of these men were heroes of the faith. None prevailed because of their own strength or righteousness. Instead, God used their faith to bring them victories to fulfill His promises (2 Sam. 23:10, 12). Each was inspired and encouraged through David’s faith as a leader.
The 12 mighty men of valor who served as captains of the 12 divisions. The leaders whom David selected to lead the 12 divisions were each profiles in their faith.
David’s mighty men of faith2
 Jashobeam. During the first month, called Nisan or Abib, Jashobeam led the first of the 12 divisions. He was a descendant of Perez within the tribe of Judah (1 Chr. 27:2-3). He was a mighty man of faith. He killed: “eight hundred slain by him at one time;” (2 Sam. 23:8). In either a different battle or another version of the same battle, he killed 300 men (1 Chron. 11:11). Either miracle was only possible through his faith in God. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). If you have faith and follow the path Jesus sets for you, there is no accomplishment that is beyond Jesus’ power.
 Dodai. During the second month, Dodai the Ahohite led the second of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:4). Dodai was another name for Dodo (1 Chron. 11:12). He was a Benjaminite and one of David’s three mighty men. His successor was Mikloth (1 Chr. 27:4). His act of faith was not in the number of men that he killed in battle. It was instead leaving behind the promise of power that Saul offered him as an elite soldier within the tribe of Benjamin. He gave up his power, prestige, and influence to follow after God’s anointed king, even though that promised king lived as a nomad with a bounty on his head. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25). If you are unwilling to leave behind worldly success to follow after Jesus, your faith is not as strong as you might think it is.
 Benaiah. During the third month, Benaiah led the third of the 12 divisions. (1 Chr. 11:22; 27:5-6). He was from the Levite tribe, and he was a mighty man of valor with great faith. He killed two Moabites, a lion in a pit, and a giant Egyptian: “Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, killed the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. He killed an Egyptian, an impressive man. Now the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but he went down to him with a club and snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.” (1 Sam. 23:20-21). Being a Levite, he most likely lacked the training of the other soldiers on this list. Thus, none of these acts of valor would have been possible without his faith in God. Benaiah also taught his son Ammizabad to follow his example. Thus, David picked Ammizabad to succeed his father as a leader of one of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:5-6).
 Asahel. During the fourth month, Asahel from the tribe of Judah led the fourth of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:7). Asahel was Joab’s brother and another mighty man of faith who served David. Abner killed him during the civil war between David and Saul’s son Ishbosheth (2 Sam. 2:18-23). Because of his faith and loyalty, David also named him first within his 30 closest military advisors: “Asahel the brother of Joab was among the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,” (2 Sam. 23:24). Because of his faith, he was willing to give his life on the battlefield to serve God’s anointed king. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jo. 15:13). If you cannot think of something that you have sacrificed in your life to serve Jesus, the King of Kings, your faith again might not be as strong as you think it is.
 Shamhuth. During the fifth month, Shamhuth led the next of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:8). He was also from the tribe of Judah. He was called Shammah (2 Sam. 23:11) and Shammoth (1 Chron. 11:27). Shammah “took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines” (2 Sam. 23:12). God granted him victory because he remained faithful when others fled (2 Sam. 23:10). Faith does not look to the world as its source of strength. If Shamhuth’s strength was based upon what others were doing, he would have also fled. If you only follow Jesus when conventional or worldly wisdom says that it makes sense, your faith again may not be as strong as you think it is.
 Ira. During the sixth month, Ira led the sixth of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:9). He was one of David’s chosen warriors (1 Chr. 11:28). Little is known about his acts of valor. Whatever he did, he did for God quietly and with humility. “so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:4). If your faith requires public recognition, it is again not as strong as you think it is.
 Helez. During the seventh month, Helez led the seventh of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:10; 11:27). He was from the Ephraim tribe. Yet, nothing more is known about him except that he was a faithful servant who gave up worldly success to follow after God’s anointed king. With the exception of Saul’s reign, the tribe of Ephraim was the dominant power in northern Israel. The tribe of Ephraim had ambitions to rule all of Israel. Helez also left behind his power and ambitions to humbly serve David while David lived in exile. He would have been mocked and ridiculed by the members of his tribe, friends, and family. Jesus warns not to place your family above serving Him: “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;” (Matt. 10:35). If your family comes before Jesus and you are unwilling to put Him before them, your faith is again not as strong as you think it is.
 Sibbecai. During the eighth month, Sibbecai led the eighth of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:11). He was from the tribe of Judah through the Hushah clan (1 Chr. 4:4). He fought against a Philistine giant referred to as either Saph or Sippai. Because of his faith, he prevailed (1 Chr. 27:11). “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26). If your faith is limited to what seems possible, it is again not as strong as you think it is.
 Abi-ezer. During the ninth month, Abi-ezer led the next of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:12). He was from the Anetoth clan of the tribe of Benjamite (1 Chr. 11:28). Like the second leader Dodai, he left behind a life of power and influence as a member of Saul’s tribe of Benjamin to serve the king in exile. What have you given up for Jesus?
 Maharai. During the tenth month, Maharai led the next of the 12 divisions. He was from the tribe of Judah and also one of David’s mighty men (1 Chr. 27:13; 11:30). He quietly served with distinction. Do you boast of your accomplishments? Or, are you content if only God knows about your acts of faith and service?
 Benaiah. During the eleventh month, Benaiah led the eleventh of the 12 divisions. He was from the tribe of Ephraim and also one of David’s mighty men (1 Chr. 27:14; 11:31). Like the seventh leader Helez, Benaiah left behind his powerful tribe of Ephraim to serve a king whom few expected to succeed. He was not influenced by public opinion. If you are willing to follow Jesus when others reject you, your faith is alive and well.
 Heldai. During the last month, Heldai led the last of the 12 divisions (1 Chr. 27:15; 11:30). He is also referred to as Heled. He was from the tribe of Judah and a descendant of Othniel, Caleb’s son-in-law and Israel’s first judge or deliverer (Jdgs. 1:13). He again quietly served with humility. His accomplishments were known to David and God. That was enough for him. He did not seek the recognition of mankind.
A leader’s faith and courage sets the example for those who follow him or her. David’s mighty men served with valor and distinction in combat because they had David as their role model. As one commentator observes: “When Goliath mocked the people of Israel and their God, we do not see Saul stepping forward to silence him, nor do we find any of his followers willing to do so either. When Saul shrunk back from challenges, so did his men (see 1 Samuel 17:11, 24). Saul’s men seem more likely to desert than to stand tall (see 1 Samuel 13:5-7). David was a man of courage. When a lion or a bear threatened his father’s flock, he refused to allow any losses. When Goliath blasphemed the name of God, David did battle with him and killed him. David constantly proved himself to be a man of courage. Is it any wonder he attracted like-minded men? The man who stood up to Goliath was surrounded with courageous men who would gladly take on Goliath’s descendants (see 2 Samuel 21:15-22). Courage inspires courage, and David was a man of courage. No wonder we find so many heroes among those closest to him. The same is true today. Too often the people of God are intimidated by faint-hearted leaders, who are not willing to trust God and are frightened by any hint of opposition or adversity. What the church needs today, as always, is a company of “mighty men and women of valor,” through whom God will do great things, and through whom God will inspire others as well.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh 21. Profiles in Courage (2 Samuel 23)).3
Fear is “false evidence appearing real”. These mighty men did not fear their enemies, even when the other troops around them fled in fear. The Lord is the only thing that you are to fear (Prov. 1:7). When God wanted to reduce the size of Gideon’s army, the first thing He did was to dismiss every soldier who felt afraid (Jdgs. 7:3). God did not want any person fighting in His army who feared the enemy. Such a person had no trust in Him: “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). If you fear anything other than God your faith is lacking. Although David was the smallest man in his family, he feared no evil or any enemy because he had faith that God was fighting for him. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?. . . Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arises against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.” (Ps. 27:1-3). “I fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23:4). “How blessed is the man that fears the Lord . . . He will not fear evil tidings” (Ps. 112:7). “Say to the anxious heart, ‘take courage, fear not.” (Is. 34:4). Is there any person, thing or enemy that you fear? If so, Satan may use that fear to ensnare you and cause your faith in Jesus to falter. Without faith, you are of no use in God’s army. It will also be “impossible” to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Believers will also do foolish things when they let their fears control them. This includes fleeing from an enemy: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). The last time you felt fear, did you take your eyes off Jesus?
The chief officers from the 12 tribes. David also selected God-fearing men as civil leaders from the 12 tribes: “16 Now in charge of the tribes of Israel: chief officer for the Reubenites was Eliezer the son of Zichri; for the Simeonites, Shephatiah the son of Maacah; 17 for Levi, Hashabiah the son of Kemuel; for Aaron, Zadok; 18 for Judah, Elihu, one of David’s brothers; for Issachar, Omri the son of Michael; 19 for Zebulun, Ishmaiah the son of Obadiah; for Naphtali, Jeremoth the son of Azriel; 20 for the sons of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Azaziah; for the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joel the son of Pedaiah; 21 for the half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead, Iddo the son of Zechariah; for Benjamin, Jaasiel the son of Abner; 22 for Dan, Azarel the son of Jeroham. These were the princes of the tribes of Israel.” (1 Chr. 27:16-22). It was not enough to select priests and military officers who trusted God, David also needed to ensure that the civil leaders were honest men who would not govern corruptly. Although the Church is not called upon to run civil affairs, it should always be salt and light to keep civil administrators honest. The list provided is incomplete. It does not list the leaders from the tribes of Asher and Gad. These leaders obviously existed. The reasons for their exclusion are not stated.
A Spirit-filled leader is a light to others. God selected leaders when they were willing to be guided by Spirit (e.g., Nu. 27:18). When Moses prepared the people for his successor, he also stated that the people needed someone to “lead them out and bring them in.” (Nu. 27:17). This meant that the leader needed to be brave and willing to lead the troops into battle from the front and not the rear. When we have the Holy Spirit, we need not be afraid of any person (2 Tim. 1:7). Moses’ successor Joshua proved himself to be a man of faith, bravery, and a light to others. He previously defeated the Amalekites in battle (Ex. 17:8-13). He and Caleb were also God’s two witnesses who tried to encourage the fearful people to have faith that they could conquer the giants in the Promised Land (Nu. 14:9). Because the Jews would not listen, they would spend 38 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19; Ps. 95:7-11). Only Joshua and Celeb would be allowed to enter because of their faith (Nu. 14:24, 30). We may say that we would do the same as these two. Yet, the people responded to them by trying to stone them (Nu. 13:6-10). Is your light a beacon of faith to those around you? (Matt. 5:16). If you act out of anger, doubt, frustration, envy, or selfishness, what kind of a light are you?
Select leaders who seek to serve others, not themselves4
A Spirit-filled leader is a shepherd to his people. As an additional condition for being a leader, Moses sought shepherds for the people (Nu. 27:17). A shepherd cares about each individual member of the flock. He or she uses his or her staff to discipline those members of the flock that stray away (Ps. 23:4). David selected a civil leader from each of the 12 tribes. This ensured that they would care about the plight of the members of their tribe. This also ensured that each tribe had a voice and representation. The flock had no natural defenses against predators unless the flock stayed together under the shepherd’s leadership. Are you selecting leaders who care about people’s spiritual well being? If not, they may seek to govern at the people’s expense.
David stops an illegal census count. David initially started a census count but then realized that he needed to trust in God and not in the strength of the numbers of his army: “23 But David did not count those twenty years of age and under, because the Lord had said He would multiply Israel as the stars of heaven. 24 Joab the son of Zeruiah had begun to count them, but did not finish; and because of this, wrath came upon Israel, and the number was not included in the account of the chronicles of King David.” (1 Chr. 27:23-24). For reasons that are not stated in the Bible, Israel’s sins angered God and caused Him to withdraw His hedge of protection from Satan’s forces. Instead of turning to God, David took pride in his own strength and ordered a military census of the men who could fight (1 Chr. 21:1-2; 2 Sam. 24:1-2). God promised to multiply Abraham’s descendants like the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5; 22:17). David failed to trust God when he sought to count all of Israel’s fighting aged men over 20 years of age (1 Chr. 23:3, 24).
David ordered a census with the wrong motives and without following God’s Word. Conducting a census was not by itself unlawful. Moses took a census of the men of fighting age at the beginning of the Jews’ journey through the wilderness (Nu. 1:1-4). He then numbered the priests (Nu. 4:2, 22). He also took a census at the end of the Jews’ journey in the wilderness (Nu. 26:2). When done correctly, numbering was a sign of accountability and careful stewardship of God’s flock. The failure of most churches to keep track of their members is the equivalent of a shepherd failing to keep track of his sheep. Thus, David’s census was not by itself sinful. Instead, there were four parts to his sin. First, he failed to seek God’s guidance. Second, he responded to Satan’s military threat with pride by counting his soldiers. Third, his actions showed a lack of trust in God. “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). Fourth, even if David had ordered a census for a proper reason, he was still required under God’s law to pay a “ransom” to God for doing so. Failing to do so would cause a plague to fall upon Israel (Ex. 30:12, 14-16). Because God is just, He had to impose a punishment for David’s actions. Yet, as an act of grace and as a test, He allowed David to choose from three plagues. David selected a plague that would put him in the same risk as his countrymen and then pleaded for mercy. Because God is filled with both mercy and grace, He then lifted the plague (1 Chr. 21:9-13; 2 Sam. 24:11-14).
Trust in God and not in human leaders or your own strength. God’s point in revealing David’s census sins is to show that people cannot place their trust for salvation in human leaders or in their own strength. “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). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). 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). God was the Jews’ one true king. “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.” (Ex. 15:18). “The LORD is King forever and ever; . . .” (Ps. 10:16(a)). “The LORD sat as King at the flood; yes, the LORD sits as King forever.” (Ps. 29:10). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jer. 10:10(a)). God only allowed for earthy kings because the people lacked the patience to wait for the Messiah (Dt. 17:14-15). 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 your elected leaders or in the King of Kings?
The king’s overseers of the treasury and agriculture. David also selected capable Spirit-led men to manage God’s money and the economy: “25 Now Azmaveth the son of Adiel had charge of the king’s storehouses. And Jonathan the son of Uzziah had charge of the storehouses in the country, in the cities, in the villages and in the towers. 26 Ezri the son of Chelub had charge of the agricultural workers who tilled the soil. 27 Shimei the Ramathite had charge of the vineyards; and Zabdi the Shiphmite had charge of the produce of the vineyards stored in the wine cellars. 28 Baal-hanan the Gederite had charge of the olive and sycamore trees in the Shephelah; and Joash had charge of the stores of oil. 29 Shitrai the Sharonite had charge of the cattle which were grazing in Sharon; and Shaphat the son of Adlai had charge of the cattle in the valleys. 30 Obil the Ishmaelite had charge of the camels; and Jehdeiah the Meronothite had charge of the donkeys. 31 Jaziz the Hagrite had charge of the flocks. All these were overseers of the property which belonged to King David.” (1 Chr. 27:25-31). Without Spirit-led men running the royal treasure and the economy, Israel would drift into the corrupt systems used by the pagan nations where bribes, embezzlement and kick-backs were common.
The laying of hands upon a future leader should never be done in haste. Making sure that a leader is qualified is an important part of any selection process. Thus, any leader must be carefully selected. Great harm can come to an organization or nation that selects a leader who is not ready or qualified. Paul warns: “do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim. 5:22). A prospective leader must be content (1 Tim. 6:6-9). He must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2). He also must not be “addicted to wine or be pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:6-10). He must also manage his own household well (1 Tim. 3:4). A leader must also not be a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6). A leader must also lead by being a servant to others (1 Tim. 6:2). In short, you will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16, 20). We are all leaders as a nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5). Meditate on this list of leadership attributes and ask God to show you where to improve. Also pray for your leaders when they fall short.
Be a person of integrity in all your dealing. God wants His people to act with integrity. Thus, the Jews could not accept bribes or act in any way that is not just or right before God: “8 You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” (Ex. 23:8). “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Dt. 16:19). As our example, God is always impartial and fair in all that He does (Dt. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). On various occasions, the Pharisees tried to find evidence to kill Jesus (Mk. 11:18; 14:1; Lk. 19:47; 22:2; Jo. 10:31). They later bribed Judas to betray Him (Matt. 26:15; 27:3, 9). Later, many of these same men judged Jesus during His trial. By giving a bribe, they were just as guilty under God’s rules as Judas was in accepting it. The Pharisees allowed their jealousy and rage at Jesus to undermine their own integrity. The true test of integrity is what you do when no one is watching. Are your business practices and your private conduct an example to others?
Be faithful with God’s resources. A nation’s resources all come from God (Jam. 1:17). In response to God’s faithfulness, He wants leaders to be faithful in managing his resources. “for we walk by faith, not by sight—” (2 Cor. 5:7). “A faithful man will abound with blessings, . . .” (Prov. 28:20(a)). “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Tim. 1:5). “but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1 Tim. 3:9). Ensuring that a nation faithfully manages God’s resources requires accountability and oversight. When a nation fails to follow these principles, corruption, and embezzlement soon follow.
The counselors who advised the kings. To ensure that he followed God’s Word, David also surrounded himself with God-fearing counselors: “32 Also Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, a man of understanding, and a scribe; and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni tutored the king’s sons. 33 Ahithophel was counselor to the king; and Hushai the Archite was the king’s friend. 34 Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar succeeded Ahithophel;” 1 Chr. 27:32-34a). Jonathan was David’s uncle. He was a wise counselor (2 Sam. 21:21). Ahithophel was one of David’s counselors who sadly betrayed David and joined Absalom's rebellion against David. Hushai pretended loyalty to Absalom during Absalom’s rebellion against David. But he stayed loyal to David. His advice protected David and later led to the defeat of Absalom’s coupe (2 Sam. 15:31 - 17:23).
A leader must always consult the Holy Spirit. During Old Testament times, the priests and leaders sought out God’s will through a rock called Urim and Thummim (Lev. 8:8; Ex. 28:30; Nu. 27:21). Today, when God’s Word on a subject is not clear, He has given us the Spirit to discern His will (Jo. 16:7; 13). A good leader must constantly seek out God’s counsel by reading the Word, praying, and seeking godly counsel.
Like David, wait on God by submitting to His guidance. From his experience, David learned to wait patiently upon God to guide him: “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1). “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14). “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.” (Ps. 43:4). “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:5). “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” (Ps. 37:7). Like David, will you trust God and submit to His guidance in times of crisis?
The commander of David’s army. Finally, David had a general to command his army: “and Joab was the commander of the king’s army.” (1 Chr. 27:34b). Yet, unlike David’s mighty men of valor, Joab was a man of the flesh who served his own interests.
Joab’s self-centered service as head of the army. Joab committed many sins. He committed murder when he killed a general named Abner after Abner switched sides in Israel’s civil war to support David (2 Sam. 3:6-11). Joab could not forgive Abner and was filled with vengeance because he killed Joab’s brother Asahel in battle (2 Sam. 2:18-24; 3:26-30). Joab later participated in Uriah’s murder and the coverup of his death (2 Sam. 11:14-25). He later again violated David’s orders and murdered his son Absalom after he was caught hanging by a tree (2 Sam. 18:11-15). Driven by jealousy, Joab later deceived and then murdered his rival Amasa (2 Sam. 20:8-10). He even once used a fake widow’s deception to trick David (2 Sam. 14:1-121).
Select leaders who practice righteousness. Instead of selecting a leader like Joab, David should have picked a leader like Joseph or Joshua. They both followed after God’s righteousness, and they were unstained by the sins of the world. “To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3) “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). If your leaders fail to practice God’s righteousness, they should be replaced. David’s failure to replace Joab led to unnecessary deaths and sorrow. Are you selecting leaders who are righteous?