2 Samuel 23: Lessons from David and His Mighty Men of Faith on Spirit-Led Leadership

Introduction. This chapter continues a series of stories about David that are told out of chronological order for thematic reasons. This chapter begins with David’s final psalm. It then includes some of his battles from before he became king and a listing of his faithful mighty men. From the example of David and his leaders, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader acts through: (1) humility, (2) dependence, (3) obedience, (4) faith, (5) sacrifice, (6) unity, and (7) delegation.

First, the chapter begins by paying tribute to David’s humble origins. From this aspect of David, the Bible reveals that a Spirit-led leader serves God in humility. Second, in his final psalm, David gave tribute to the Rock of Israel in whom he trusted. From David’s psalm, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader should be dependent upon the Rock, Jesus. Third, David also encouraged others to be obedient. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader encourages others to be obedient. Fourth, David’s faith inspired his mighty men to have faith. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader inspires others to have faith. Fifth, David sacrificed his soldiers’ labors and treasures for God. From this example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader sacrifices his or her time, talent, and treasures for God. Sixth, David’s mighty men fought for the greater kingdom and not for themselves. From this, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader inspires service for unity for the Body of Christ. Finally, David delegated to others. From David’s example, God reveals that a Spirit-led leader delegates to other Spirit-led leaders.

1. Humility: A Spirit-Led Leader Serves God in Humility. 2 Sam. 23:1.

  • David is defined by his humble origins and his psalms. At the end of his life, David is identified as a man of humble origins whose greatest accomplishment was his love for God: “1 Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, the man who was raised on high declares, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel,” (2 Sam. 23:1). These verses are in marked contrast to David’s boasts of righteousness when his reign first began (2 Sam. 22:22-24). Sin separated David from God (Is. 59:2). But his humility and love for God always brought him back. Many believe that David’s final words are recorded in 1 Kings 2:1-10. Thus, many see these words as his final inspired psalm. Both likely happened at the very end of his life.

Arent de Gelder (1645-1727) “King David” (oil painting 1680-85)1

  • God picked David to be Israel’s humble shepherd. Here, David is called “the son of Jesse” (2 Sam. 32:1). Jesse was a humble farmer, and David was the youngest and least important of Jesse’s sons. He was so unimportant by even Jesse’s standards that Jesse did not think to call David in from the fields when the prophet Samuel came to meet with Jesse’s family: “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the children?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”’ (1 Sam. 6:11). God intentionally picked David as a humble shepherd so that he could apply those same skills to be Israel’s shepherd: “Now therefore, thus you shall say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel.”’’ (2 Sam. 7:8). “He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds;” (Ps. 78:70). God could have made David the first King of Israel. He also could have spared him from suffering under Saul’s reign. But if God had done either of these things, David might have become prideful from his victories. God only exalted David after humbling him. (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14).

  • God picked Jesus to be Israel’s humble Shepherd as well. In reference to David’s humble origins, Isaiah referred to the Messiah as the “stem of Jesse”: “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (Is. 11:1; Ro. 15:12). The Gospels later revealed Jesus to be the Messiah by His lineage through David: “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (Jo. 7:42). “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:” (Matt. 1:1). “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!”’ (Matt. 9:27). “All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?”’ (Matt. 12:23). “And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.”’ (Matt. 15:22). “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”’ (Rev. 5:5). “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Rev. 22:16).

  • David was a redeemed sinner. David is also referred to as “the anointed of the God of Jacob” (2 Sam. 23:1). The other patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac, are not listed. God is instead referred to the “God of Jacob” because David was most like Jacob. Both men received God’s anointing. But both men squandered that anointing. Both had multiple children through multiple different wives. Both at times walked according to the flesh by deceiving others. Both failed to raise the majority of their children in the ways of God. But God loved and redeemed them both. He also was faithful to both of them.

  • Jesus redeemed us by taking our sins. While David was a redeemed sinner, Jesus was his redeemer: “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;” (Ro. 3:25; 1 Jo. 2:2). Jesus took upon Himself everyone’s sins so that all who call upon Him as Lord and Savior can be saved: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). David sang a final song to pay tribute to his redeemer. How are you thanking Jesus for His death at the cross for you?

  • David’s greatest title was the psalmist of Israel. Finally, David is called “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1). He did not boast in his righteousness under the law as he did when he first became king: “22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, . . . For all His ordinances were before me, and as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. 24 I was also blameless toward Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity.” (2 Sam. 22:22-24). He knew that he broke the commandments against murder, adultery, lying, dishonoring his eternal father, the rule that he have one wife, and other statutes. As Paul once said, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law.” (Ro. 7:7). The Bible remembers David for his faith in battle (Heb. 11:32-33). Yet, his faith had failed him in times of peace and plenty as king. Thus, he is remembered here by the one thing that he never lost, his love for God by singing God’s praises. With any victory, he always gave the credit back to God. As one example, he wrote in a psalm: “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name.” (Ps. 30:1-4). Believers should never boast in their God-given victories or abilities. Instead, like David, limit your boasts to your love for God: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24). “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14). Do you boast about your accomplishments? Or, do you give the praise back to Jesus?

  • David’s love for God made him a true hero in the Old Testament. After studying David’s sins, it is easy to dismiss him as a failure. But He is not celebrated because of his personal righteousness. He is celebrated because his intense love for God always brought him back when he sinned. “In contrast to David, his son Solomon’s reign seemed perfect. Solomon enjoyed a reign of peace, great prosperity, prominence, and glory. Yet the Bible has nothing but praise for David and his reign, reflected in passages like Psalm 89:20, Isaiah 55:3-4, Romans 1:3, and Revelation 22:16. In contrast, Solomon is barely mentioned in the rest of the Scriptures and when he is, it is almost in a backhanded way (see Matthew 6:28-29 and Matthew 12:42). The difference between David and Solomon was found in their different relationships with God. David’s passion in life was simply to be with God (Psalm 84:10), while Solomon’s passion was personal improvement (1 Kings 3:4-15). We can also say that David endured to the end, loving and serving God in the final chapters of his life (2 Samuel 23:1-7), while Solomon forsook God in his later years (1 Kings 11:4-8).” (David Guzik on 2 Sam. 23).2

  • Like David, allow God to humble you so that He can also exalt you without pride. God humbled David as a servant before He could exalt him. He did this so that David would serve without pride. He also may humble you through your suffering so that He can exalt you in heaven without any pride. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5; KJV). Like David, God wants you to serve in humility so that He can exalt you in heaven. Are you staying humble so that God can exalt you without pride?

2. Dependence: A Spirit-Led Leader Should be Dependent Upon Jesus. 2 Sam. 23:2-5.

  • David defines his dynasty as “tender grass”, fully dependent upon God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David’s last words were a song of praise for the “Rock of Israel” who would rule over Israel and pour out blessings over it: ‘“2 The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. ‘The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain. Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and secured; for all my salvation and all my desire, will He not indeed make it grow?” (2 Sam. 23:2-5). David spoke as an oracle of God (e.g., Num. 24:3, 15; 1 Sam. 2:30; Prov. 30:1). Moreover, according to the Jewish commentary called the “Targum”, “these words a prophecy, and takes them to be a prophecy of the Messiah, and of things to come,” (Gil’s commentary on 2 Samuel 23).3 Thus, David’s prophecy was about Jesus. Peter also made clear that David’s prophecy was inspired: “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Pet. 2:21; 1:19-21; see also, Zech. 7:12; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Thus, we can study David’s final prophetic words as a revelation about what Jesus the Messiah offers and why we need Him. His believers are like tender grass. Believers need Jesus’ light and love to flourish. Without being connected to His light and His love, a believer will wither away. If you feel lost without Jesus guiding and sustaining you, you are exactly where you should be in your walk.

  • David found his dependence and salvation in the “Rock of Israel”. David celebrated the “the Rock of Israel” who spoke to him (2 Sam. 22:3). “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2). “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation,” (Ps. 18:46). “The LORD is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed.” (Ps. 28:8). Paul reveals that “the rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4). He is our Rock and the power or horn of our salvation: “And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant—” (Lk. 1:69). Like David, Jesus wants you to call upon Him as your Rock of deliverance.

  • Jesus will rule with righteousness. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David paid tribute to: “He who rules over men righteously” (2 Sam. 23:3). David started off ruling as a righteous king. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” (2 Sam. 8:15). But David failed to rule with uniform justice as his reign continued. He treated himself as being above the law when he committed acts of adultery and murder. He also failed to discipline his sons when they committed acts of rape, murder, and rebellion. Yet, where David and his descendants failed, Jesus would be the one descendant of David who reigns with perfect righteousness. “Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.”’ (Jer. 23:5). David said that the Messiah would rule “in the fear of God” (2 Sam. 23:3). This describes a perfect rule without evil (Prov. 8:13). Jesus again meets this prophesy: “3 And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist.” (Is. 11:3-5). Jesus is our righteous judge (2 Tim. 4:8). “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (Jo. 5:30). “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.” (Jo. 8:16). While David sinned, Jesus never will. His reign will be perfect, just, and righteous. As your King, Jesus also wants you to depend upon Him.

  • Jesus will pour out His righteousness to leaders who seek His wisdom. In one of Solomon’s psalms, he prayed for God to give His righteousness and wisdom to allow him and his descendants to rule in holy righteousness. He further used many of the same themes of God’s light and water sustaining a tender grass of believers: “Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice. Let the mountains bring peace to the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he vindicate the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor. 5 Let them fear You while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon is no more.” (Ps. 72:1-7). Like Solomon, every leader should depend upon Jesus for wisdom.

  • Jesus is the Light who will also pour out His blessings upon those who depend on Him. Jesus’ blessings are not limited to kings and leaders. David praised the Rock who is “the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds” (2 Sam. 23:4). Jesus fulfilled this as the light of the world: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”’ (Jo. 8:12). David also praised how the Rock would bless “the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain.” (2 Sam. 23:4). Jesus will also poured out His blessings upon His believers: “Then the remnant of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on vegetation which do not wait for man or delay for the sons of men.” (Micah 5:7). “I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5). “In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.” (Is. 27:6). “May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.” (Ps. 72:6). As the Word who became flesh (Jo. 1:14), you can receive these blessings when you read His Word and depend upon them in your walk: “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb.” (Dt. 32:1-2). “It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing-- life forever.” (Ps. 133:3). Like tender grass, Jesus’ people will wither without His light and His blessings. Thus, you must fully depend upon Him.

  • God’s everlasting covenant was based upon mercy and grace. David knew that he did not deserve God’s “everlasting covenant” (2 Sam. 23:5). God previously promised David that: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.” (2 Sam. 7:12). “He gives great deliverance to His king, and shows lovingkindness to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” (Ps. 18:50). ‘“I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.’ Selah.” (Ps. 89:4). With verse five, the NASB begins “Truly is not my house so with God?” Yet, in the New King James Version, this same verse begins: “Although my house is not so with God”. With the New King James Version, David more clearly expresses that he and his family do not deserve God’s honor. He knew that God’s blessings were based solely on grace. His knowledge of God’s grace made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22).

  • Jesus fulfilled God’s everlasting covenant to show that you can depend upon Him. Jesus is the eternal King of Kings who came through David’s line to fulfill God’s “everlasting covenant” (2 Sam. 23:5) “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33). “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:7). “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14). Just as God was faithful to David, He is faithful to you as well. Thus, you can depend upon His promises and have faith in Him.

3. Obedience: A Spirit-Led Leader Encourages Others to be Obedient. 2 Sam. 23:6-7.

  • David’s warning of God’s judgment against the disobedient people who oppose God. David’s final words were a warning to those who reject the Rock of Israel: “But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns, because they cannot be taken in hand; But the man who touches them must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they will be completely burned with fire in their place.”’’ (2 Sam. 23:6-7). Those who reject Jesus will face judgment for their sins. All have sinned (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23). Thus, all should accept what Jesus offers and live in obedience to Him.

  • Jesus will judge the disobedient people who reject Him. Jesus later followed up on David’s warning by explaining that: “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,” (Matt. 13:41). “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. . . .His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:10, 12). “but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” (Heb. 6:8). “And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day.” (Is. 10:17). “The peoples will be burned to lime, like cut thorns which are burned in the fire.” (Is. 33:12). For those who reject Jesus’ offer of salvation and fail God’s tests for judgment, eternal judgment awaits (Rev. 20:4-5, 11-15). But this judgment is not what God wants (2 Pet. 3:9). What are you doing to warn others?

  • Faith should produce the fruit of obedience, not rebellion. Because of Jesus, your salvation is not based upon your works. Like David, He will forgive you of your rebellions when you repent (1 Jo. 1:9). But believers are well-served to study David’s life to understand how Jesus’ forgiveness of sin does not always take away the consequences of sin on Earth. Even though he was forgiven, David, his family and all of Israel suffered terribly because of his many sins. Thus, David warned for kings to rule “in the fear of God” (2 Sam. 23:3). The “fear of the Lord” is defined in the Bible as hating the one thing that you are allowed to hate – evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). If you fear God, you will hate the evil things of this world and stay clear of them. This includes any form of rebellion against God, His will, His order, or His Word. To God, any of these types of rebellion are no better than witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23). Thus, Jesus states that you will want to keep His commandments if you truly love Him: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. . . He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; . . .” (Jo. 14:15, 21). Do you hate the evil things of this world and keep Jesus’ commandments out of devotion?

4. Faith: A Spirit-Led Leader Inspires Others Through their Faith. 2 Sam. 23:8-12.

  • David inspired his mighty men of faith on the battlefield through his own example. After recording David’s final psalm, the Bible gives tribute to the “mighty men” who faithfully served him: “These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was called Adino the Eznite, because of eight hundred slain by him at one time; and after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there to battle and the men of Israel had withdrawn. 10 He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword, and the Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to strip the slain. 11 Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. 12 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory.” (2 Sam. 23:8-12). A similar listing of David’s “might men” is recorded in 1 Chronicles 11:11-47. The first five men listed in this chapter, together with seven others, commanded 12 of David’s army companies on a rotating basis (1 Chr. 27:1-15). 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.

David’s mighty men of faith4

  • 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)).5

  • Jashobeam: Here, the Bible states that “Josheb-basshebeth” had “eight hundred slain by him at one time;” (2 Sam. 23:8). In the book of Chronicles, a mighty man of David with an almost identically spelled name killed 300: “These constitute the list of the mighty men whom David had: Jashobeam, the son of a Hachmonite, the chief of the thirty; he lifted up his spear against three hundred whom he killed at one time.” (1 Chron. 11:11). It is possible that these are different men (Pulpit Commentary on 2 Sam. 23:8). Others believe that this is a minor copying error between manuscripts. If so, this minor discrepancy does not in any way undermine Scripture. Whether this man killed 300 or 800 in battle, this was a mighty man of faith. God once used a judge named Shamgar to defeat 600 Philistines with only a sharp farming tool (Jdgs. 3:31). He also gave Samson the power to kill a 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Jdgs. 15:15). He used the female judge Deborah with no military training to help the Jews to fight a Canaanite king named Jabin and his commander named Sisera (Jdgs. 4:6-7). He also previously used Samuel with no military training to defeat the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:10-14). These men and women of faith show that, with God, the ordinary can do the extraordinary.

  • Eleazar and Shammah: Eleazar and Shammah remained faithful to David in his battles with the Philistines after other Jewish soldiers withdrew. Eleazar was so tenacious that he “arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword” (2 Sam. 23:9-10). Likewise, Shammah “took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines” (2 Sam. 23:12). One or both of these battles occurred at a place called Pasdammim. (1 Chron. 11:12-13). These conflicts are not recorded elsewhere in Scripture. More important than the locations of these battles is that God granted these men victory because they remained faithful when others fled. (2 Sam. 23:10). They trusted God in battle the same way that David did as their leader.

  • God granted the mighty men victories because their faith allowed them to trust God. These men each had the same secret to success as David, each had faith in God to fight when others around them fled. In response to their faith and trust in Him, “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). Faith is like a muscle. It can atrophy if you don’t read the Word. Are you reading the Word and praying to build up your faith? Do you trust God in faith to fight your battles?

  • 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 in 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?

  • Let the Spirit encourage and strengthen you. God also knows when your faith is weak. When you let His Spirit lead you, He will encourage and strengthen you: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” (Eph. 6:10). “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” (Ps. 138:3). “He said, ‘O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!’ Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, ‘May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”’ (Dan. 10:19). “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Ro. 8:14). If you are feeling weak or depressed, are you praying in faith for Him to strengthen and encourage you?

  • 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?

5. Sacrifice: A Spirit-Led Leader Sacrifices Labor and Treasures for God. 2 Sam. 23:13-17.

  • David sacrificed to God the fruits of the labors of his mighty men. At a different point in time when David lived as a fugitive from Saul, David’s men again showed faith and valor by fighting the Philistines and seizing water from the well of Bethlehem as a sign of loyalty to God’s anointed future king: “13 Then three of the thirty chief men went down and came to David in the harvest time to the cave of Adullam, while the troop of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 David had a craving and said, ‘Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!’ 16 So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord; 17 and he said, ‘Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?’ Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.” (2 Sam. 23:13-17). When David fled as a fugitive from Saul and from the Philistines in Gath, some of the future heroes of the faith came to him while he hid at the cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1). This was during David’s time living in the wilderness. This conflict likely took place when David used this cave as a launching point for his raids against the Philistines while they occupied his hometown of Bethlehem. Even while they lived as fugitives, David and his men fulfilled Saul’s role by fighting against the Philistines. David did not direct these men to engage in a daring raid simply for a drink of water. But in response to his nostalgia and at a time when they were thirsty (1 Chr. 11:17-18), these three men took it upon themselves to engage in this raid as an act to demonstrate their devotion and love to David. From the cave of Adullam to Bethlehem and back again the three loyal soldiers marched approximately 24 miles through enemy-controlled territory. David recognized that their devotion was really to God. He also recognized that he was completely unworthy to receive this honor. Thus, he made the water a “drink offering” and a tribute of gratitude and devotion to God.

David’s three captains amongst the mighty 30 men6

  • In battle, David sacrificed what he received to God and not for himself. After defeating his enemies in battle, David always showed himself to be a man after God’s heart by dedicating the things he received as either tribute or plunder back to God. “King David also dedicated these to the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued.” (2 Sam. 8:11). King Solomon later used these gifts to build the Temple and the holy furnishings inside of it: “Thus all the work that King Solomon performed in the house of the LORD was finished. And Solomon brought in the things dedicated by his father David, the silver and the gold and the utensils, and he put them in the treasuries of the house of the LORD.” (1 Kgs. 7:51; 1 Chon. 18:8(b)). Thus, David’s devotion was not a one-time act. As one commentator observes, David in this account “poured out the water as a drink-offering to the Lord.” (Matthew Henry on 2 Sam. 23). In response to God’s mercy and grace, Jacob made a similar drink offering to God. “Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.” (Gen. 35:14). Thus, David’s connection to Jacob (2 Sam. 23:1) is again emphasized here. Their drink offerings both symbolized their gratitude to God (Nu. 28:31; Lev. 23:13). Both men sinned repeatedly. Neither deserved to give birth to the line leading to Jesus. But God forgave them both. Both responded by giving thanks for God’s mercy and grace.

  • Let your life be a sacrificial drink offering of gratitude. Jesus is the vine of life that you drink (John 6:53). Your life should be in communion with Jesus. What you do should also always honor Him. Your drink offering should further be filled with joy for others to see. This is what Paul meant when he said: “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” (Philip. 2:17). Is your joy a light for others to see? (Matt. 5:14).

  • The importance of praise and gratitude in avoiding sin. If you have backslidden like David or Jacob, having gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice for you on the cross is an important way to keep yourself free from returning to your sin. If you don’t care about His sacrifice or if you don’t internalize the price He paid for you, you are more likely to backslide again. One way to remain grateful is to constantly thank Jesus for His sacrifice: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). As an example to follow, David regularly thanked God through songs of praise (e.g., Ps. 18:49; 26:7; 30:4, 12; 50:14; 69:30; 75:1; 79:13; 92:1; 95:2; 97:12; 100:4; 106:1; 107:1, 8; 116:17; 118:1, 119:62; 140:13; 147:7). Another way to be thankful is to offer your life as a living sacrifice of gratitude: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:1-2). Is your life a living sacrifice of gratitude?

  • Encourage one another in spiritual warfare. David encouraged his soldiers to act with faith and to know that their acts of valor were for God and not him. As a believer, you are commanded to encourage others each day. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13). “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Ps. 31:24). Are you encouraging others?

6. Unity: A Spirit-Led Leader Inspires Service for Unity for the Body. 2 Sam. 23:18-23.

  • David’s mighty men served for the greater good without seeking honor or recognition. The Bible also celebrated the faith and courage of two other mighty men of David in battle. These included his commander Abishai and the leader of David’s guard, Benaiah. These men served for the greater body without demanding self-recognition: “18 Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief of the thirty. And he swung his spear against three hundred and killed them, and had a name as well as the three. 19 He was most honored of the thirty, therefore he became their commander; however, he did not attain to the three. 20 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. 21 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. 22 These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and had a name as well as the three mighty men. 23 He was honored among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David appointed him over his guard.” (2 Sam. 23:18-23). Abishai was the brother of David’s general Joab. Both Joab and Abishai were the sons of David’s sister Zeruiah (1 Chr. 2:16). Abishai showed faith to venture into King Saul’s tent with David when God had put Saul and his men into a deep sleep (1 Sam. 26:6-12). Along with Joab, he also helped lead the Jews into battle against the Ammonites and caused the enemy to flee (2 Sam. 10:10, 14). Here, he is celebrated as a hero of the faith for killing 300 enemy soldiers (2 Sam. 23:18). In the civil war against Absalom, he, Joab, and Ittai each commanded a third of David’s soldiers (2 Sam. 18:2). He also initially led David’s troops during Sheba’s rebellion before Joab reasserted control over David’s army (2 Sam. 20:6-9). He also commanded David’s troops at the Valley of Salt were they killed 18,000 Edomites (1 Chr. 18:12). He had also faithfully served David on a number of other occasions in battle (e.g., 2 Sam. 3:30). Benaiah was a hero of the faith because he killed two mighty Moabites, a lion in a cistern, and a mighty Egyptian (2 Sam. 23:20-23). He showed the faith of Daniel in facing off against a lion (Dan. 6:17-24). He also showed the skill of David after he took away the Egyptian’s spear and then killed the man with his weapon the way that David used Goliath’s sword to finish him off (1 Sam. 17:50-51). He was the son of a priest (1 Chr. 27:5). He was also a skilled commander. David appointed him as his chief officer over his gentile soldiers, the men who stayed with David when others rebelled against his rule (e.g., 2 Samuel 20:23). “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief ministers.” (2 Sam. 8:18). Benaiah used his faith and his skills for God’s glory. More importantly, even when God blessed him, he humbly served for the greater good.

  • Both men served for the kingdom without receiving the same honors as the other men. Some might wonder why the military exploits of Abishai and Benaiah (2 Sam. 23:18-23) are told separately from the first three mighty men, Josheb-basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah (2 Sam. 23:8-12). The Bible is clear that God alone was responsible for the victories of the first three mighty men (2 Sam. 23:10, 12). Thus, the first three mighty men had no reason to boast. Their stories are told separately because the two served with the same faith and commitment without “attain[ing] to the [stature of the] three” (2 Sam. 23:19, 23). Thus, they served in humility without the need for honors or recognition.

  • Serve others for the good of the Body of Christ. Like these Spirit-led men, believers in Christ are also commanded to “fight the good fight of faith . . . ” (1 Tim. 6:12). Believers are also called upon to fight in His army (2 Tim. 2:3). As members of Jesus’ army, you must fight for the greater good of 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). Do you serve for the good of Body or for your own glory?

7. Delegation: A Spirit-Led Leader Delegates to Other Spirit-Led Leaders. 2 Sam. 23:24-39.

  • David succeeded by delegating responsibility to Spirit-led men of faith. David’s reign succeeded because he always surrounded himself with the thirty mighty men of faith: “24 Asahel the brother of Joab was among the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 25 Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, 26 Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, 27 Abiezer the Anathothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite, 28 Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, 29 Heleb the son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the sons of Benjamin, 30 Benaiah a Pirathonite, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash, 31 Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, 32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan, 33 Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Ararite, 34 Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maacathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, 35 Hezro the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite, 36 Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite, 37 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, armor bearers of Joab the son of Zeruiah, 38 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 39 Uriah the Hittite; thirty-seven in all.” (2 Sam. 23:24-39). The beginning of David’s list of administrators identifies 30 mighty men (2 Sam. 23:24). The end of the list concludes with a total of 37 mighty men (2 Sam. 23:39). Some of the people on this list died and were replaced. Thus, the members of the 30 elite men changed over time. Some have acts recorded elsewhere in the Bible. Some are never mentioned anywhere else. One was even betrayed by his master. All, however, received God’s special recognition.

  • Select Spirit-led leaders to lead the fight. When Moses tried to lead the nation on his own, his father-in-law Jethro rebuked him and advised him to select God-fearing men who loved the truth and hated dishonest gain to help lead: “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.” (Ex. 18:21). In the New Testament, such a leader is referred to as either being full of the Spirit or Spirit-led: “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3). God also wants you to seek the help of others as you serve Him. Are you looking for help from Spirit-led people to help you be a leader for God?

  • The laying hands upon a leader should never be done in haste. Selecting leaders to help run a ministry or organization is critical to success. But great harm can come to an organization that selects a leader who is not ready or qualified. The leadership selection process is not concluded until a senior leader publicly laid hands on the new leader (Nu. 27:19). This symbolized the transfer of authority (Lev. 1:4). But 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). The Bible provides several tests to make sure a leader is ready to lead. First, the person must be an honest God-fearing and Spirit-led person (Ex. 18:21; Acts 6:3). Second, a person must be content (1 Tim. 6:6-9). Third, the person must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2). Fourth, the person 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). Fifth, the person must also manage his or her own household well (1 Tim. 3:4). Sixth, the person must also not be a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6). Finally, the person 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). Every believer is part of God’s nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5). Ask God to show you where to improve as a leader.

  • God is faithful to remember those who faithfully served Him in humility. Many of these men did not start off as warriors. Many were the rejects of society who followed David when no one else would take them: “Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them.” (1 Sam. 22:2(a)). Some of the people on this list, like “Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah,” (2 Sam. 23:36) are also mentioned only on this list and nowhere else in the Bible. Three did not even come from a Jewish lineage. For example, “Zelek” was an “Ammonite,” one of Israel’s many gentile enemies (2 Sam. 23:37). As another example, “Uriah” was a “Hittite,” another enemy nation (2 Sam. 23:39). They all faithfully served God’s appointed king in humility and without a need for recognition. God was faithful to record and remember the service of each of these individuals. “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10).

  • God is faithful to remember your faithful service to Him, even when people fail you. The list of David’s mighty men is notable for the fact that it includes a family that David betrayed for the selfish desires of his flesh. Uriah the Hittite was one of David’s mighty men (2 Sam. 23:39). David engaged in his adultery, even after he was told that Uriah was Bathsheba’s husband (2 Sam. 3:11). David murdered this loyal soldier to cover up his adultery (2 Sam. 11:14-17). Eliam, another one of David’s mighty men of faith, was Bathsheba’s father (2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34). David betrayed him as well through his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:3-5). Ahithophel, one of David’s advisors before Absalom’s rebellion, was Bathsheba’s grandfather (2 Sam. 23:34). Although David betrayed Uriah and his family, God did not forget their faithful service to His king. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13).