“Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”
1 Samuel 22:22-23 (NIV)
I’ve always cheered for the underdog. I’m sure that this is wrapped up in my temperament. Throughout my life’s journey, the teams I ended up adopting are teams that never (or rarely) win the big one, the perennial losers, and the “less than” team in big rivalries. Perhaps this penchant for the underdog is the reason that one of my favorite classic tales has always been Robin Hood. I love the lone upstart who cares for the common man and takes on the prejudicial system. There’s a hint of Christ-likeness in the character and the story.
This came to mind this morning as I pondered today’s chapter. The saga of King Saul and to-be King David is, throughout, a story of contrasts. King Saul is on the throne. He has all of the authority and power. He is, however, a horrible leader. Today’s chapter hints at the fact that King Saul has stuffed his administration with friends and cronies from his own tribe, the little tribe of Benjamin. This could not have played well with the other 11 tribes. Instead of being concerned with the welfare of the nation, Saul is slowly descending into a personal, mad obsession to kill young David, who is anointed by God to become his successor.
Saul is an object lesson in a trifecta of deadly sins: pride, envy, and wrath.
David, in contrast, has all the gifts of a strong leader in the making. His courage, humility, and military prowess have made him popular with the people. David, however, has no nobility, social standing, or systemic power. Rather, he’s got a price on his head. The king is myopically focused on killing him. He flees into the wilderness.
David is an object lesson in the forging of a great leader through injustice, suffering, and sore trials.
In the wilderness, hiding first in a cave and then in a forest, today’s chapter states, “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.”
A rag-tag bunch of mercenaries, misfits, and malcontents who have no social standing becomes David’s merry band of followers hiding in the forest. Sound like anyone?
Meanwhile, the mad-king has the high-priest who gave David consecrated bread in yesterday’s chapter killed along with his entire family and the entire population of the town where they resided. One son of the High Priest, Abiathar, escapes to David in the forest to tell David what has happened.
What does David do?
He takes personal responsibility for the slaughter: “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family.”
He treats the young priest Abiathar with kindness, extends to him peace, and shows him loving hospitality: “Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”
Looks like Robin just got his Friar Tuck. 😉
Some people are thrust into leadership unprepared, like Saul. Without the requisite character qualities for learning quickly on the job, the position becomes a trap that brings out the worst in a person.
Some people become leaders through experience and trial, like David. All references to Robin and his merry band aside, David is not having fun. It is during this period of hiding that David wrote the lyrics to Psalm 142:
Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.
As I ponder these contrasting individuals, my underdog spirit whispers: “Forge me, Lord, into the person you want me to be. Amen.”
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.