1 Sam 30
When I worked in industry, we had management training course one day on effective leadership. Two negative leadership styles were highlighted, one being the ‘Headless Chicken’ – the leader who constantly runs round causing lots of activity (and stress!) but lacks a strategic plan – and the other, the ‘Gorilla with a Machine Gun’ – the leader who instils fear and whose first response in the face of difficulties is to blame others.
In today’s passage we witness a transition in David, from Headless Chicken to Authoritative, Reflective Leader. David and his band of 600 men had been living in the Philistine area of Ziklag for over a year, staging raiding parties on towns in the nearby nations of the Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites (1 Sam 27:8) and pretending to Achish, their Philistine ally, that they were attacking Israelite areas. During the whole of this time, David had not once consulted God and was living a life of deceit. There seems to have been plenty of activity, but little in the way of strategic planning! Finally, David was pulled up short by two successive set-backs. The first when the wider Philistine army refused Achish’ plea to include him and his men in the battle against Saul, and the second upon his return home when he found the city of Ziklag burning and all the wives and children taken captive. As it transpired, the first apparent set-back was actually a blessing from God, because if David had gone into battle, the war could have raged for months and it would have been almost impossible to find the missing families. In the event, the smoke was still visible over Ziklag so David knew that the raiders could not be too long gone.
The initial reaction of David and his soldiers to the loss of their loved ones was deep sorrow. Verse 4 says, ‘Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep’. This is a normal response to such a terrible calamity. But then, David’s men became like gorillas with machine guns – they started blaming him for what had happened and ‘spoke of stoning him’ (v6). This is the turning point for David. He was ‘greatly distressed’, mourning for his wives and children and now in fear of his life. He had truly been brought low after the many happy months of camaraderie with his troops, substantial accumulation of livestock and peaceful living with his family. Now everything was gone! But David remembered God! Verse 6b tells us that ‘David strengthened himself in the Lord his God’! This was the moment that David transformed from the Headless Chicken he had been embodying into an authoritative and reflective leader. He got himself right with God and was no longer surviving on gut instinct. He rooted himself in the love of God, a love he had known from a young age and looked to God for deliverance from the situation he was in, remembering the deliverance he had experienced through God from his enemies so many times over the years. David would also, undoubtedly have reflected on the call on his life; that God had anointed him King over Israel. This call meant that David would not die at the hands of his followers! God had a plan and a purpose that involved him living to reign over God’s people!
David humbles himself before God by seeking his guidance and God’s instruction to ‘Pursue, for you will surely overtake them and without fail recover all’, in verse 8b, gives him the authority he needs to rally his troops and go after the Amalekites. As we see by the end of the chapter, David recovers what is lost AND MORE!
The takeaway for us is that no matter what we are going through, no matter how busy we get or how distracted by worldly endeavours, unless we stop, spend time with God and seek his counsel, we can risk living our lives like headless chickens. Far better to reflect on God’s will, live under His authority and enjoy His ‘AND MORE’.