Counsel About Life and Leadership
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
“Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” – 2 Samuel 23:1-3 (KJV)
The story of David is instructive about life and leadership. From the story in 1 Samuel 16 about how David was selected and anointed to be King of Israel we can see what he was not. He was not the eldest, nor was he favored by his father among his brothers. In fact, because he was the youngest and was tending sheep in the field, he was not even called in to the assembly meeting with the prophet.
When Samuel saw the first born, Eliab, he thought to himself “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But God said no. Why? Because “…man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV). After looking at all of Jesse’s boys, Samuel said, “Is this all you have?” As if to forestall the prophet, Jesse said there is one more, but he is tending the sheep.
As important as sheep were in the agriculture economy of that era, being a shepherd was not a vaunted role. It was a lonely, solitary and wandering job. The shepherds smelled like the sheep.
Nevertheless, David was summoned. Perhaps he had time to hastily bathe and freshen up before coming into the presence of the prophet. Maybe not. If not, can you see the brothers, whom God had not embraced grimace a bit at his odiferous and dirty presence when he came into the tent.
It does not appear that Samuel was offended by the affect of the shepherd boy. Rather, it is recorded that David’s appearance was tanned, he had beautiful eyes and was handsome. According to 1 Samuel 16:12 (ESV), “And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him for this is he.” Samuel ratified David as God’s choice to succeed Saul.
Perhaps David could be characterized as a young man with some bravado. After all, he had killed a lion and a bear, in his youth. We know that the young shepherd, David who became the King, also became a man of rapacious passion. He killed many men and loved many women. Yet, through it all he was chosen by God to be a leader because he had some positive character traits.
In 2 Samuel 9 is the story of the reflective King. After conquering the enemies at the borders and establishing protective garrisons throughout the kingdom, David, now the King, demonstrates the depth and breadth of his character. He asked, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Johnathan’s sake?”
He found Mephibosheth, Johnathan’s crippled son. In spite of his pre-existing condition and inability to work, David honored Mephibosheth’s humanity and promised him security, healthcare and reasonable subsistence for the rest of his life. Hmmm.
Though brutal in combat, his core values for life were kindness, loyalty, grace and generosity. These were the characteristics that made him “a man after God’s own heart” and endeared the nation to him, despite his flaws.
At the end of his life, the king who still enjoyed the company of young women summed up the essence of life and leadership. As happens with most people, knowledge is taught and wisdom is gained experientially through trial and error. David codifies his wisdom in 14 prescient and timeless words: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3, KJV).
The English Standard Version (ESV) says it in more cogent and contemporary language. “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth…”
As we watch and study leaders and those aspiring to leadership, apply this singular principle. Evaluate the politicians by their characters rather than their gravitas. Look behind the policies, charisma and debating skills. Look for character. Does it align with God’s character and revealed will?
People and nations who ally themselves with righteous leaders prosper.
Take my advice: Seize your responsibility as a citizen and chose leaders who are just and stand right before God.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.