For several weeks now, we’ve been following the story of David. Not King David, but young David on his way to becoming the King. We’ve been with David on this roller-coaster ride, from his earliest days as an unknown shepherd, to his fame as giant-slayer and leader of King Saul’s armies, to his dismissal from Saul’s court and his exile in the wilderness, in the cave of Adullam.
Today’s scripture passage is the turning point for David on his journey to the throne. It is also the last in our sermon series, and so just as Israel is saying hello to their new king, we’ll be saying goodbye. But before we do, there are still a few things I think we can learn. This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible (and some of you may have already heard me give this message in a devotional or a bible study). But on the surface, it doesn’t really seem like a story. It seems more like a list, an inventory, or a catalogue of people. And it is all of those things–it’s an accounting of all the tribes and peoples of Israel as they turned away from Saul and began to flock to David. But there are a couple of important stories buried in there, too.
1 Chronicles 12:1-15
1The following are those who came to David at Ziklag, while he could not move about freely because of Saul son of Kish; they were among the mighty warriors who helped him in war. 2 They were archers, and could shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right hand or the left; they were Benjaminites, Saul’s kindred. 3 The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, both sons of Shemaah of Gibeah; also Jeziel and Pelet sons of Azmaveth; Beracah, Jehu of Anathoth, 4 Ishmaiah of Gibeon, a warrior among the Thirty and a leader over the Thirty; Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Jozabad of Gederah, 5 Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, Shephatiah the Haruphite; 6 Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korahites; 7 and Joelah and Zebadiah, sons of Jeroham of Gedor.
8 From the Gadites there went over to David at the stronghold in the wilderness mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and who were swift as gazelles on the mountains: 9 Ezer the chief, Obadiah second, Eliab third, 10 Mishmannah fourth, Jeremiah fifth, 11 Attai sixth, Eliel seventh, 12 Johanan eighth, Elzabad ninth, 13 Jeremiah tenth, Machbannai eleventh. 14 These Gadites were officers of the army, the least equal to a hundred and the greatest to a thousand. 15 These are the men who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it was overflowing all its banks, and put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.
Lesson 1: Johnny Come Lately
- These are men of great valor and skill.
- But where were they when David was being hunted by Saul?
- The majority, the status quo, come after it’s safe.
- Still, David doesn’t turn them away.
1 Chronicles 12:16-22
16 Some Benjaminites and Judahites came to the stronghold to David. 17 David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come to me in friendship, to help me, then my heart will be knit to you; but if you have come to betray me to my adversaries, though my hands have done no wrong, then may the God of our ancestors see and give judgment.” 18 Then the spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said, “We are yours, O David; and with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, and peace to the one who helps you! For your God is the one who helps you.” Then David received them, and made them officers of his troops.
19 Some of the Manassites deserted to David when he came with the Philistines for the battle against Saul. (Yet he did not help them, for the rulers of the Philistines took counsel and sent him away, saying, “He will desert to his master Saul at the cost of our heads.”) 20 As he went to Ziklag these Manassites deserted to him: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu, and Zillethai, chiefs of the thousands in Manasseh. 21 They helped David against the band of raiders, for they were all warriors and commanders in the army. 22 Indeed from day to day people kept coming to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.
Lesson 2: Trust but Verify
- Forgive your enemies, trust them, put your worries in God’s hands.
- Contrast: David extends trust, the Philistines do not.
- David’s army grows; the Philistines recede.
1 Chronicles 12:23-37
23 These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops who came to David in Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of the Lord. 24 The people of Judah bearing shield and spear numbered six thousand eight hundred armed troops. 25 Of the Simeonites, mighty warriors, seven thousand one hundred. 26 Of the Levites four thousand six hundred. 27 Jehoiada, leader of the house of Aaron, and with him three thousand seven hundred. 28 Zadok, a young warrior, and twenty-two commanders from his own ancestral house. 29 Of the Benjaminites, the kindred of Saul, three thousand, of whom the majority had continued to keep their allegiance to the house of Saul. 30 Of the Ephraimites, twenty thousand eight hundred, mighty warriors, notables in their ancestral houses. 31 Of the half-tribe of Manasseh, eighteen thousand, who were expressly named to come and make David king. 32 Of Issachar, those who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, two hundred chiefs, and all their kindred under their command. 33 Of Zebulun, fifty thousand seasoned troops, equipped for battle with all the weapons of war, to help David with singleness of purpose. 34 Of Naphtali, a thousand commanders, with whom there were thirty-seven thousand armed with shield and spear. 35 Of the Danites, twenty-eight thousand six hundred equipped for battle. 36 Of Asher, forty thousand seasoned troops ready for battle. 37 Of the Reubenites and Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh from beyond the Jordan, one hundred twenty thousand armed with all the weapons of war.
Lesson 3: The Tribe of Issacar
- One of these things is not like the others…Issachar is tiny.
- Total of 340,822. Issachar accounts for 0.05% of the combined armies.
- Issachar has no discernable skill in battle, no swords or shields.
- They had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.
- There will always be those who are bigger, stronger, more skilled.
- But Issachar were the only ones who brought their particular gift, and I’m convinced it made a difference.
1 Chronicles 12:38-40
38 All these, warriors arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with full intent to make David king over all Israel; likewise all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king. 39 They were there with David for three days, eating and drinking, for their kindred had provided for them. 40 And also their neighbors, from as far away as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen—abundant provisions of meal, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, wine, oil, oxen, and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.
Lesson 4: Feasting at the Table
- When change is in the air (and when it isn’t)…we gather around the table.
- People of Israel traveled far, bringing much to the table.
- What do you bring to the table? What are you willing to sacrifice for there to be joy in the land?
- Jesus brought his body and his blood to the table, his very life.
- Come to His table today.