2 Samuel 21 – Lessons from David on Spirit-Led Leadership

Introduction: As David’s reign came to a close, this chapter tells out of its chronological order some of David’s actions as a leader. From his good and bad examples, God reveals seven lessons on Spirit-led leadership. These include: (1) seeking God’s guidance, (2) restoration, (3) obedience, (4) compassion, (5) intercessory prayer, (6) delegation, and (7) mentorship.

First, at one point in David’s reign, God allowed Israel to experience a three-year drought because of Saul’s sins. In the third year of the drought, David sought God’s guidance, and God immediately told David the reason for the drought. From David’s delay, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader always seeks His guidance. Second, God informed David that He had punished Israel because Saul had violated a peace treaty with the Gibeonites that Joshua made more than 400 years earlier. David correctly responded by seeking ways to restore the Gibeonites. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader seeks to restore the victims of sin. Third, David allowed the Gibeonites to name the price of restoration. They responded by demanding the death of seven male descendants of Saul. Even though the law prohibited this and David swore an oath of protection to Saul’s descendants, David agreed to these terms. From David’s mistake, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader obeys God’s Word. Fourth, after witnessing a concubine of Saul mourning for one of the dead men, David was moved with compassion to ensure proper burials for all of Saul’s descendants. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader is compassionate towards others. Fifth, in response to the intercessory prayers of the people, God lifted the drought. David, however, is not credited with leading these prayers. From this account, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader should pray as an intercessor. Sixth, as David grew in age, he could no longer fight in hand-to-hand combat. He had to learn to delegate to others. From his example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader delegates to others to help lead. Finally, inspired by David’s example, other men had the faith to slay giants as David once did. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader mentors others to lead by faith.

1. God’s Guidance: A Spirit-Led Leader Always Seeks God’s Guidance. 2 Sam. 21:1.

  • David inquired of God after God punishes Israel with a three-year drought. At some point during David’s reign, God punished the nation of Israel because Saul violated a vow that Joshua had made with the Gibeonites: “1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”’ (2 Sam. 21:1). Many believe that these events took place earlier during David’s reign after he met Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and before Absalom’s rebellion (Pulpit Commentary on 2 Samuel 22). For thematic reasons, the story is told out of its chronological order here. Just as God had punished the entire nation of Israel for David’s sins, He also punished the entire nation for Saul’s sins when he broke a vow with the Gibeonites. David showed himself to be a man after God’s heart by inquiring about the cause of a famine in Israel (Acts 13:22). But he waited three years to make this inquiry.

David prayed for God’s guidance to end Israel’s judgment1

  • A broken vow or other promise profanes God’s name. By either your words or your conduct, you can take the Lord’s name in vain. When a person or a leader enters a Holy covenant, that person or leader makes a vow using God’s Holy name: “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” (Dt. 6:13). But Jesus warns us that the consequences of a broken vow are so serious that believers should not in many cases make them at all (Matt. 5:33-37). God, for example, warns us not to break a Holy wedding covenant. When we do so, we take the Lord’s name in vain. Thus, we are warned not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12). Isaiah warned about those ‘“Who swear by the name of the Lord . . . and call upon His name, but not in truth nor in righteousness.’” (Is. 48:1-2). For the unsaved, the penalty for profaning God’s name was not a quick and painless death. It was death by stoning: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16(a)). Before some casually dismiss this as an Old Testament penalty that only applied to the Jews, God makes clear that it applied to non-believers as well. “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16(b); Dt. 5:11). As the leader of Israel, Saul’s actions blasphemed God and impacted the entire nation.

  • Murders without justice pollute the land with sin. Under God’s law, Saul’s murders also polluted Israel with the blood of the innocent Gibeonites: “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” (Nu. 35:33). The same is true today. Murder that is not addressed will pollute the land with sin. This may cause God to lift His protection and bring disasters or wars to a nation.

  • God’s prior famine during the time period of the Judges. This was not the first time that God had punished the Jews with a famine for their sins. The book of Ruth began with God’s judgment upon Israel for its idolatry and rebellion during the time of the judges: “1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land.” (Ruth 1:1(a)). The generation of Jews who first entered the Promised Land failed to follow God’s instructions to drive out the Canaanites. They also failed to teach their children God’s law (Jdgs. 2:6-10). As a result, Satan was able to deceive the first generation of Jews born in the Promised Land with temple prostitution, idolatry, and other abhorrent religious practices (Jdgs. 2:11-12). The Jews’ rebellion against God caused Him to lift His hedge of protection over Israel. Living without God, the nation suffered (Jdgs. 2:13-15; 3:7; 10:6). Out of mercy and grace, He then sent them 12 deliverers to free them from their suffering. Yet, because the Jews’ hearts were wicked, they returned to idolatry each time a deliverer freed them from a foreign or domestic adversary (Jdgs. 2:16-19; Neh. 9:27; Acts 13:30). To create a genuine desire for change, God then allowed the Jews to suffer in their self-imposed bondage (Jdgs. 2:20-22). In addition to foreign wars and civil wars or civil conflicts, drought is one of the tools that He uses to bring a nation to repentance (Dt. 28:15-68). And He can still do this today.

  • God can also use droughts to discipline a wayward nation. Joshua once reminded the Jews that God had previously punished all of Israel because one man named Achan kept prohibited idols from the destroyed city of Jericho: ‘“Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel?’” (Josh. 22:20(a)). If a lay person’s sins can impact the entire nation, this is even more true with a nation’s leaders. The Church cannot ignore the sins of society or its leaders and expect to escape God’s judgment on the rest of society. God punished all of Israel in response to Saul’s sins and David’s sins. Israel would further continue to suffer as a result of the sins of the kings who followed David. The vast majority of the curses in the Bible are directed at nations and not at individuals. This includes the Christian nations: “and if [judgment] begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17(b)). If a nation as a whole is righteous, He can cause rain to fall on both the righteous and unrighteous within it. “[F]or He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45(b)). Conversely, if a nation as a whole is unrighteous, He can cause drought to fall upon both the unrighteous and righteous members within in: “23 The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.” (Dt. 28:23-24; Lev. 26:18-20). “Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no spring rain . . .” (Jer. 3:3(a)). “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Hag. 1:10-11; 2 Kgs. 8:1). Thus, to keep the land free from drought, the Church must become salt in the wound of sin and a light for sinners (Matt. 5:13-14). If the Church can lead the nation and its leaders to repentance, it can heal that land from the curse of a drought: “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14). Keeping the Church out of politics gives Satan a free hand to corrupt leaders. Thus, the Church is called upon to be salt and light. Is your Church praying and fasting for your nation and its leaders to repent?

  • Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the Word and prayer. David waited three years into the drought before seeking God’s will (2 Sam. 22:1). This was three years too late to prevent the drought and the suffering that the entire nation experienced. With the help of a priest, David would have sought to discern God’s will through two stones called Urim and Thummim (1 Sam. 23:6, 9; 30:7, 8; Nu. 27:21). Today, you can inquire of God’s will simply by reading the Word and by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you. David later recorded in a psalm that he would turn to God’s Word to guide his path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit will help you to remember the Word and apply it in your life. “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, 16; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit will also give you 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.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6; Prov. 2:6). Are you reading the Word and praying for the Spirit to guide you on a regular basis? Or, did you wait for a crisis to strike?

2. Restoration: A Spirit-Led Leader Seeks to Restore Victims of Sin. 2 Sam. 21:2-6.

  • David offered restitution to the Gibeonites. Once He learned the reason for God’s punishment, David immediately approached the Gibeonites to offer them restitution: “So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah). Thus David said to the Gibeonites, ‘What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?’ Then the Gibeonites said to him, ‘We have no concern of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.’ And he said, ‘I will do for you whatever you say.’ So they said to the king, ‘The man who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel, let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.’ And the king said, ‘I will give them.”’ (2 Sam. 21:2-6). God previously took away Saul’s right to be king after he refused to follow God’s order to kill the Amalekites: “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
    Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:23). Instead of repenting or killing the Amalekites, Saul apparently tried to regain God’s favor by trying to kill a different group of people, the Gibeonites. They are referred to here as Amorites (2 Sam. 21:2). In contrast, they were previously called Hivites (Josh. 9:1-7; 11:19). But their old identity did not matter because God had transformed them, and He made them part of the community of Israel. Not only had God not told Saul to kill these people, the Gibeonites were under God’s protection because Joshua had made a peace covenant with them more than 400 years earlier.

David offered restitution for Saul’s crimes against the Gibeonites2

  • Joshua’s covenant with the people of Gibeonites. After the Jews entered the Promised Land, most of the nations of Canaan conspired to defeat the Jews in battle. Because God was with the Jews, the Canaanites lost to the Jews. Recognizing that they could not prevail in battle, the people of Gibeon decided that it would be better for them to trick the Jews (Josh. 9:3-6). God had previously commanded the Jews not to make any covenants or treaties with the people of Canaan (Ex. 23:32; Dt. 7:2). They could only make treaties with foreign nations (Dt. 20:10-15). The Gibeonites had spies within Israel to know their laws well enough to come up with a plan that would trick the Jews. They deceived the Jews into thinking that they were foreign refugees through false appearances, flattery, and false piety (Josh. 9:7-10). The Gibeonites’ deceit was enough to trick Joshua and the elders into signing a peace treaty with the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:11-15). The leaders knew that they could not break their vow before God to spare the Gibeonites. But they made sure that the Gibeonites paid for their deceit by forcing them to live a life of hard labor for the Jews as “hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation” (Josh. 9:19-21). Being a wood cutter and a water carrier was the most menial service available. Under the law, these were tasks frequently given to aliens living within the Promised Land (Dt. 29:11). As servants, they worked within God’s outer courtyard of the Tabernacle before the Jews built the Temple in Jerusalem. They did the tasks that no one wanted to do. But they were still blessed to work within His court as servants: “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:10).

  • Follow Jesus’ example by living as a lowly servant to others. Like the Gibeonites, Jesus lived as a lowly wood cutter. He was the son of a carpenter (Mk. 6:3). Although He was God, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7). As an example to all believers, He came to serve and not to be served (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). He did not even have a home or a bed to sleep in (Matt. 8:20; 2 Cor. 8:9). “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?” (Mi. 6:8). Have you followed Jesus’ example by living as a humble servant?

  • God blessed the Gibeonites after they used their second chance to serve Him. Because the Gibeonites became faithful servants for God, He cursed Israel with a drought when Saul broke the vow of his forefathers (2 Sam. 21:1-2). Although the Gibeonites made an oath under false pretenses (which is normally grounds to rescind a contract), the oath was still binding in God’s eyes because the Gibeonites also renounced their idolatry. The Gibeonites grew to become reliable servants of the Lord. Gibeon became a priestly city, and the Ark was kept there for a period of time (1 Chr. 16:39-40; 21:29). God also spoke to Solomon at Gibeon (1 Kgs. 3:4). One of David’s trusted men was also a Gibeonite (1 Chr. 12:4). Moreover, the Gibeonites later helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership (Neh. 3:7; 7:25). They later became known as the “Nethinims” and even replaced the Levites in the temple services (Ezra 2:43; 8:20). Their new name symbolized that they were a new creation. When the Jews later turned to idolatry, they remained faithful. Like the Gibeonites, you also have been given a second chance from your life of sin (2 Cor. 5:17). Have you used your second chance to walk with God?

  • Restore those you have wronged. David sought out the Gibeonites and asked them to determine what could be done to make things right. Restitution, or restoring those harmed by sin, was a central aspect of God’s law (Lev. 6:1-7). Restitution is also a central aspect of the New Testament: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.” (Matt. 5:23-25). When Zaccheus accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he promised to restore the victims that he defrauded four times the value of his theft in accordance with the law: “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”’ (Lk. 19:8). Jesus did not correct or rebuke him because restitution is also His law. Although restitution does not involve killing innocent people as the Gibeonites demanded, a believer should try to find other ways to restore those damaged by sin.

3. Obedience: A Spirit-Led Leader Obeys God’s Word. 2 Sam. 21:7-9.

  • David spared Mephibosheth but gives over Saul’s other male relatives to the Gibeonites. Because David had made his own vow to Mephibosheth, he spared him. But he allowed the Gibeonites to kill seven other descendants of Saul as an act of restitution: “But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the Lord which was between them, between David and Saul’s son Jonathan. So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had borne to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had borne to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite. Then he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the Lord, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put to death in the first days of harvest at the beginning of barley harvest.” (2 Sam. 21:7-9). David was right to offer restitution. But he was wrong to allow the Gibeonites to insist upon the deaths of Saul’s grandsons. Not only did David allow these innocent grandsons to suffer, he allowed them to be hanged (2 Sam. 21:9). If they were left to hang over night, they were also cursed (Dt. 21:22-23).

  • David honored his vow to protect Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. David previously made a covenant of love with Saul’s son Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:3). As part of this covenant, Jonathan agreed to support David as king, and David agreed not to kill or harm any of Jonathan’s descendants (1 Sam. 20:15-17). After he became king, David discovered that a poor and crippled son of Jonathan named Mephibosheth lived in hiding from him (2 Sam. 9:1-4). David’s covenant only required him to spare the lives of Jonathan’s descendants. But David did more than was required of him. He also restored all the lands that Mephibosheth lost because of his grandfather Saul’s sins. (2 Sam. 9:9-10). David could have used this as an opportunity to eliminate Mephibosheth and his descendants as future rivals to the throne. Yet, just as it was wrong for Saul to break God’s covenant with the Gibeonites, it would be wrong for David to break his covenant with Jonathan and Mephibosheth. Thus, David correctly spared Mephibosheth’s life.

David made a vow to protect Mephibosheth3

  • David should have also spared the lives of Saul’s other grandsons. After David spared Saul’s life, Saul recognized David’s future right to be king in exchange for David’s vow not to kill any of his descendants: “Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. So now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household. David swore to Saul. And Saul went to his home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.” (1 Sam. 24:20-22). David was under the same obligations to uphold his vow to Jonathan as he was to Saul. David should have insisted upon other terms to restore the Gibeonites for the harm done to them. Breaking his vow to Saul blasphemed God’s holy name (Lev. 19:12). The penalty for David’s sins was death. (Lev. 24:16; Dt. 5:11). Yet, out of mercy and grace, God spared David.

  • Saul’s innocent grandchildren should not have died because of their grandfather’s sins. God may allow children to experience pain and suffering because of a father’s or a grandfather’s sins (Ex. 20:5). But He prohibited sons from being put to death because of the sins of a father or grandfather: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Dt. 24:16). “But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what is written in the book of the Law of Moses, as the LORD commanded, saying, ‘The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.”’ (2 Kgs. 14:6). “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” (Ezek. 18:20). “But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:30). By allowing Saul’s grandchildren to be killed, David failed as king.

  • David’s failure to be the instrument of God’s justice. As king, it was David’s duty to find a just solution to the injustice done to the Gibeonites. He was required to find a solution that conformed with God’s law and one that protected the innocent: “ 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). God appointed the kings to “do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kgs. 10:9). A king is supposed to sit “on the throne of justice.” (Prov. 20:8). As the King of Israel and the highest judge in the land, David was also required to judge according to God’s law: “In a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances.” (Ezek. 44:24). “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:8; Dt. 16:19; 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). David improperly allowed the Gibeonites to repay evil with evil.

  • Justice never allows evil to repay evil. David should never have allowed the Gibeonites to insist upon a solution that involved an evil remedy: “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” (1 Thess. 5:15). “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Ro. 12:17). “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9). David allowed the Gibeonites to offer a worldly solution to the wrongs done to them. But David was called upon to offer a Spirit-led solution. If he could not come up with a solution as king, he was required to seek God to find one.

  • Be obedient to God’s Word. David’s actions were well-intentioned. But he failed to obey God’s Word. Today, Christians are no longer “under the law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3; Matt. 5:17). But Jesus also says that, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Jesus is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Horeb (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the law out of love is also a test for whether you really know Him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3; 1 Cor. 7:19). Is there any area in your life where you are being disobedient to God?

  • Only disobey your leaders when they ask you to disobey God’s Word. God normally commands believers to submit to His appointed leaders. His leaders are supposed to “watch out for your souls.” (Heb. 13:17). But leaders like Saul and David make mistakes. Only when your authorities refuse to follow His Word can you ignore them (Acts. 4:19). First, you submit to Him through his Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), His Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and His church leadership (Matt. 18:17-20, Heb. 13:17). Second, you submit to Him through your civil authorities (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-2). Third, you submit to His family order (Eph. 5:22-25; 6:10). Are you holding your leaders accountable?

4. Compassion: A Spirit-Led Leader is Compassionate Towards Others. 2 Sam. 21:10-14a.

  • Saul’s family grieves and then David buries the deceased bodies. In response to a grieving woman named Rizpath, David sought to honor Saul’s family by granting a proper burial for Saul, Jonathan and the seven men: “10 And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until it rained on them from the sky; and she allowed neither the birds of the sky to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night. 11 When it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, 12 then David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the open square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them on the day the Philistines struck down Saul in Gilboa. 13 He brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there, and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged. 14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the grave of Kish his father; thus they did all that the king commanded, . . .” (2 Sam. 21:10-14a). After Saul died, most of Jews who served him did nothing when the Philistines desecrated his body (1 Sam. 31:8-10). Only the people of Jabesh-gilead were willing to risk their lives to retrieve Saul’s body and give him a proper burial (1 Sam. 31:11-13; 1 Chron. 10:11-12). When Saul walked with God, he rallied the nation to deliver the people of Jabesh-gilead in modern Jordan from mutilation and servitude to the Ammonites (1 Sam. 11:1-11). The people of Jabesh-gilead remembered and therefore acted to give Saul a proper funeral. David also mourned Saul’s death, even though they were enemies. (2 Sam. 1:11-27). He also thanked the men of Jabesh-gilead for honoring Saul (2 Sam. 2:4-7). Here, David honored Saul, Jonathan, and the seven hung men by giving them a proper burial in Saul’s Benjamin home city of Zela (2 Sam. 21:14).

  • Unrepentant sin can cause innocent children to suffer. Saul’s sins impacted his entire family and all of Israel. The Gibeonites were part of Israel and did not need to die. Likewise, neither Jonathan nor Saul’s grandchildren deserved to die. But Saul’s sins and now David’s sins brought suffering upon innocent children. Jeremiah warned that a leader who refuses to follow the law can bring judgment upon even innocent children: “They will devour your sons and your daughters;” (Jer. 5:17(b)). “My tent is destroyed, and all my ropes are broken; my sons have gone from me and are no more. There is no one to stretch out my tent again or to set up my curtains.” (Jer. 10:20). “Thus says the LORD, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’” (Jer. 31:15; 10:20). Examples of the sins of a parent causing pain on their children can be seen in the modern world as well. For example, an alcoholic parent will frequently cause his or her children to suffer. Are you engaging in sins that will hurt your family?

  • Forgive others who have hurt you. Because of Saul’s jealousy, David lost his first wife and his court privileges. He then spent 20 years as a fugitive barely escaping death on multiple occasions. David had every reason to ignore the mourning of Saul’s extended family. His mourning shows that David had forgiven Saul. Jesus commands you to forgive your enemies in the same way. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:26). If someone repeatedly sins against you, Jesus says that you must liberally forgive that person “up to seventy times seven” times. (Matt. 18:22). Is there anyone you need to forgive?

  • Comfort those mourning the loss of any life. After learning of Saul’s defeat, David and his men mourned for him (2 Sam. 1:11-12). Here, he again mourned for the lost members of Saul’s clan (2 Sam. 21:12-14). Moreover, David was moved to mourn with the family in response to the mourning of Rizpah, who only held the title of a concubine of Saul (2 Sam. 3:7). Solomon later revealed that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecc. 3:4). Thus, you should never rebuke or undermine a believer mourning the loss of another person. Aaron and Moses each received a period of mourning of 30 days (Nu. 20:29; Dt. 34:8). Joseph and the Egyptians first mourned Israel / Jacob’s death for 70 days (Gen. 50:3). Joseph then mourned his death an additional seven days (Gen. 50:10). The typical Jewish mourning period is seven days. Like David, you should comfort those mourning any death, even a former adversary’s family. “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18). Failing to mourn shows a lack of love in your heart for others.

  • Celebrate the hope of being with Christ in death. The grief of Saul’s family is recorded to let believers know that it is healthy to grieve the loss of loved ones. But a believer’s grief today should also contain the hope of knowing that a fallen believer is only “asleep” until Jesus returns: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14; 5:10; Ro. 14:9; 2 Tim. 2:11). Knowing that your loved one is in a better place that you cannot see is the kind of faith that God expects from you (Heb. 11:1; 2 Cor. 4:18; Ro. 8:24; 2 Cor. 5:7-8). If you know someone is grieving the loss of a believer, let them grieve. But also encourage them that the believer is merely “asleep” until Jesus returns.

5. Intercessory Prayer: A Spirit-Led Leader Prays for Others. 2 Sam. 21:14b.

  • God responds to intercessory prayers to lift the drought. God eventually lifted the famine. But He did not do so because the Jews had followed His laws regarding restitution or providing a proper burial for the seven hung men. None of these seven men should have died at all. Instead, He lifted the famine because “God was moved by prayer for the land.” (2 Sam. 21:14b). David is given no direct credit for these prayers. Thus, we can assume that God responded to the intercessory prayers of ordinary people of faith.

  • God’s mercy and grace in responding to intercessory prayer to lift the famine. On a number of prior occasions, God showed His mercy and grace by sparing Israel from the curses that it deserved because of intercessory prayer. For example, God spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). He again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and then the 14,700 rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). He later spared the Jews in response to Samuel’s prayers (1 Sam. 12:16-22). What is remarkable about this chapter is that God does list an important person, like David, as being responsible for the intercessory prayers. Instead, He responded to the prayers from ordinary people. The message is clear. You don’t need to be a Moses, an Aaron, a Samuel, or a David to have God answer your intercessory prayers. When God’s people pray with faith, they have the power to even end droughts: “And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”’ (Matt. 17:20). Thus, you and your church have been given great power. Are you and your church exercising your God-give power to pray for people who are suffering from droughts, illnesses, violence, hopelessness, drug addictions, and other evils?

  • Make intercessory prayer an ongoing practice in your life. As a role model to us, Samuel promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins. He even said it would be a sin not to do so: “23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23). The apostles also continually prayed for others. “. . . I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Tim. 1:3). “. . . we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Col. 1:9). “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;” (Eph. 1:16). “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, . . .” (1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. But it doesn’t work if you lack faith. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, . . .” (Jam. 1:6). You also should not wait for a crisis to pray for others. Are you earnestly praying and fasting in His name for the nations to repent and be forgiven?

6. Delegation: A Spirit-led Leader Delegates to Others to Help Lead. 2 Sam. 21:15-17.

  • Abishai saves David from a Philistine attack. As his reign as king went on, David at one point realized that he was too old to fight on the front lines. At one point, Abishai saved him from death on the battlefield: “15 Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary. 16 Then Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant, the weight of whose spear was three hundred shekels of bronze in weight, was girded with a new sword, and he intended to kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah helped him, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, ‘You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel.’” (2 Sam. 21:15-17). Abishai was David’s nephew and one of his mighty men (1 Chr. 2:16). He went with David into Saul’s tent when God put Saul and his men into a supernatural deep sleep (1 Sam. 26:7-11). Abishai was also a leader of David’s forces in David’s civil war against Saul’s son Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 2:18, 24). When Amasa proved incompetent in stopping Sheba’s rebellion, David also turned to Abishai to stop Sheba. But Joab later took control of the army from Abishai (2 Sam. 20:4-7). Here, he rescued David from certain death at the hands of a Philistine soldier. David’s men then rebuked David for putting himself at risk when he was their guiding light as the King of Israel.

Abishai saved David from a Philistine attack4

  • A Spirit-led leader must delegate to others. Through his close encounter on the battlefield, God taught David the importance of delegation. Centuries earlier, God used Jethro to rebuke Moses for attempting to resolve all of the people’s disputes on his own (Ex. 18:13-18). Through Jethro, God advised Moses to select God-fearing men who loved the truth and hated dishonest gain (Ex. 18:21). In the New Testament, such a leader is referred to as either being full of the Spirit or Spirit-led (Acts 6:3). God does not call you to serve alone. Instead, you are called upon to serve with others (Ro. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:20). Thus, David was right to delegate the responsibilities of fighting to others.

  • Fight together within the Body of Christ. God did not call upon David to be a lone ranger for Him. David grew old like any other person. As he aged, he needed to trust others to fight while he led the fight. Just as David needed to learn to trust his men to fight, believers are called upon to trust each other and act with one accord as the Spirit leads the body. “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). “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). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). God regularly calls new leaders like Abishai to step forward and help those who can longer lead. Are you preparing yourself for service and then responding for duty when God calls you to lead?

  • Find protection within the Body of Christ. Just as David’s men protected him, God also offers you protection when you are connected to fellow believers: “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). Satan acts like a roaring lion. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). Believers are also called “sheep,” animals without natural defenses. (e.g., Jo. 21:16, 27). Lions usually attack animals that stray from the protections of the herd. Believers cannot claim to be accountable if they float in and out of a mega church or only watch sermons online. Believers must also be accountable to a small group of believers. Are you in any type of small church group? Or, are you a lone ranger for Jesus?

7. Mentorship: A Spirit-Led Leader Mentors Others to Lead. 2 Sam. 21:18-22.

  • The Jews defeat the Philistines at Gob and at Gath. Even without David on the front lines, his men of faith were still able to defeat giants as David had once done: “18 Now it came about after this that there was war again with the Philistines at Gob; then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant. 19 There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 20 There was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also had been born to the giant. 21 When he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David’s brother, struck him down. 22 These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.” (2 Sam. 21:20-22). David learned to delegate, inspire, and lead. His faith once allowed him to kill a giant (1 Sam. 17:45-51). Here, he inspired other men to fight giants as he had done. David is an example of how leaders must build up others to serve when they step down one day: ‘“Saul’s ‘leadership’ could not produce one man who would take on Goliath, including Saul himself. But David’s leadership produced many mighty men of war. Was David no longer able to fight? No problem! Men were lining up to take on all the Goliath’s the Philistines could put up against them. And these offspring of Goliath were all killed and the Philistines defeated. What a way to end David’s military career. The people no longer needed a king to do their fighting for them; they were willing to fight themselves, even against the offspring of Goliath. Now this is what I call a great way to retire.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh 19. Promise Breakers and Promise Keepers (2 Samuel 21)).5

  • Guide those who serve under your authority. David demonstrated that he guided the development of the leaders under him. Jesus said: “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Lk. 6:40). This suggests a close relationship between the leader and the person the leader is training. If you have people who serve under you, you must mentor and guide them. The shepherd carried a staff to keep the sheep together and safe from predators. If you don’t use your staff to guide others, can you expect them to stay by your side? (Prov. 23:12).

  • Trust in God and not in human leaders. David’s men did not need him to fight or pray for them. They could be just as effective on the battlefield when they put their faith in God. Believers are warned not to place their trust in human leaders. “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). “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3; 60:11). Many place all their hopes in their leaders at every election. Have you placed your trust in your government or in God?

  • All things are possible with God when you have faith and rely upon His strength. David was a great leader because he built up others in their faith. Jesus once revealed that “‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26(b); Mk. 10:27(b); Lk. 1:37). “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14(a)). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27). “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). But a believer’s faith is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). David’s faith was also perfected by his weakness as he got older and needed help. Despite his many sins and flaws as a leader, David had the wisdom to lead by his own example of faith by depending upon God and teaching others to do the same.